Fighting in the Civil War a man accidently kills his friend. Returning to Abilene after the war he finds his former sweetheart about to marry the brother of the man he killed. To pay his ...
See full summary »
Fighting in the Civil War a man accidently kills his friend. Returning to Abilene after the war he finds his former sweetheart about to marry the brother of the man he killed. To pay his debt he not only refuses to win her back but takes the job of Sheriff, a job he doesn't want, when the brother asks him. Still haunted by the killing he refuses to carry a gun. But there is trouble between the ranchers and the farmers and when he finds the brother murdered he straps on a gun and heads after the killer.Written by
Maurice VanAuken <email@example.com>
The battle scene in the beginning of the film is footage from the 1965 movie, Shenandoah. See more »
When Slade kills Grant with the last two shots, he stands over him and lets his pistol hang limp from his hand while he pulls the trigger. The pistol doesn't kick at all, it barely even moves, proving that it's firing blanks. A loaded gun would have kicked out of his hand, being held that loosely. See more »
Besides one other Western, Journey to Shiloh' (1968) and the obscure early effort Lonnie' (1963), William Hale has worked principally in TV since the start of his career. This is a shame as from the evidence of Gunfight in Abeline' at least, he is able to work comfortably in a major genre with none of the small screen inhibitions which seems to affect directors who cross over.
The present film was received indifferently by critics upon its first appearance and it is hard to see why. While no masterpiece, it is a solid, engaging piece of work, offering Darin one of his finest and most dramatic roles. When one remembers the dull screen impression made by his nearest equivalent in Westerns, that of Audie Murphy (another actor who died relatively young), Darin's considerably more interesting screen persona seems to have been badly wasted. Add to his acting abilities as a vocalist and songwriter - as evidenced by the memorable ballad Amy' over which the credits of this film play out Darin's versatility is very interesting. In fact he was briefly marketed by the ever hopeful studio as the "new Sinatra".
In Abeline' Darin plays Cal Wayne, a man haunted by two accidents: that of the injury of Grant Evers' arm when they where children, and of the death of Evers' brother during a skirmish during the Civil War. Evers' arm is a constant reminder of Wayne's incipient guilt, as well as suggesting the cattle magnate's unfeeling morality. But Evers is no simple black hearted villain. He has behaved with perfect honour towards his intended bride Amy and, although a ruthless businessman, initially at least strives to avoid confrontation and violence with the farming lobby. Far more reprehensible is his henchman Jack Slade, and the mutual distaste between the two is always evident. (The difference is particularly noteworthy when Slade upbraids Evers for his weakness in paying compensation to the farmers for his early trespassing and crop destruction.) Even Evers' final act of violence towards Wayne is one generated through impulsiveness, as the now-sherriff confesses how he killed his employer's brother.
Abeline' builds a compact and satisfying Western drama, albeit small-scale, around the Wayne-Amy-Evers-Slade relationships, and Hale's widescreen compositions, his dollying and tracking are very effective without drawing attention to themselves. Most noticeable is the final showdown. Here he employs some off-centred camera angles to frame the boastful Slade, while the montage of facial shots accompanying the ultimate draw anticipates some of the flamboyance of Leone.
This is a film which is entirely successful in its own rewarding and modest terms, and only fails being memorable by an absence of more colourful supporting actors. Neilsen too (acting straight here, long before the days of 'Airplane!')lacks a certain charisma and some of the film comes across as being slightly glum. If Hale had been able to add a Brennan or a Devine into the mix, them the results could have been marvellous. Instead we have a Western drama well worth seeking out, as a traditional, effective genre outing.
12 of 16 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
| Report this