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Forty Guns (1957) (Bilingual)
Forty Guns is the most rampantly sexualized Western ever made, and the most outrageous of Samuel Fuller's late-'50s B movies. Fuller's original title was "Woman with a Whip," referring to the hard-riding range baroness--Barbara Stanwyck, sporting silver hair and (most of the time) black, skintight man togs--who's "the boss of Cochise County" and a law unto herself. The forty guns are an army of pistoleros who accompany her just about everywhere, and Fuller misses no opportunity to exaggerate their macho assertiveness in black-and-white CinemaScope, whether thundering along the horizon or formed up on either side of a preposterously long dinner table with Stanwyck at its head. Barry Sullivan costars as a Wyatt Earplike gunfighter who both threatens Stanwyck's empire and awakens her lust for something besides power. As one of his brothers, Gene Barry (soon to star in Fuller's mind-blowing Vietnam movie China Gate) enjoys a passionate liaison with a gunsmith's busty blond daughter (Eve Brent) whom he romances down the bore of a rifle--an image Jean-Luc Godard would memorialize in Breathless. In the relentlessly double-entendre dialogue and the blocking of scenes, everything takes on sexual overtones: power and impotence, political advantage and exclusion. Fuller and cameraman Joseph Biroc capture many sequences in single, minutes-long takes that often end in a death--and in one perverse instance, the revelation of a death that has occurred midway through without our knowing it. (It's a T.S. Eliot moment, though we won't insist on it.) Style is all in this movie, which will leave you either astonished or aghast. More likely, both. --Richard T. Jameson
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Top Customer Reviews
attempts to be a western , with Southern Belle tragic love on the plantation which is now a huge ranch instead , and even
has some ballads where none are needed. Barbara S. is the owner of the ranch , and rules the area with her 40 range
hands. The local lawman is in her pocket , and shes in his head/heart. She is not evil , but her younger brother , the
princeling , just can't stay out of trouble. The supporting cast is extensive and includes Dean Jagger, Barry Sullivan , and Gene Barry. When some strangers show up in town Gene Barry falls for the local gunsmiths daughter. Most classic line of the movie ;
Gene Barry talking about the gunsmiths daughter - She is built like a 44-40; I'd love to clean her guns! ( Note : 44-40 is
a large caliber rather powerful rifle / The Rifleman uses one too. ) Tragedy follows as Gene Barry is murdered at his
wedding when he kisses the bride , he dies in her arms. Eventually Dean Jagger hits bottom and leaves the action.
Barry Sullivan will dispatch the brother bad guy , and he and Barb ride off towards California.
I am a searcher for old movie gems , but let me say that I don't find Gone with the Wind to be a movie of any real
importance ; indeed I have never managed to watch the whole thing ; frankly Scarlett your movie is a big stupid
spectacle. Forty Guns seems to be an attempt to make a western that echos Gone with the Wind. It doesn't make it.
I am a big fan of Barbara Stanwyck ; she took on many different roles in her career , from comedy to drama , and
she does an outstanding job , but she can't save this one . Recommended only for fans of the western genre and/or
fans of the various actors involved.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Barbara Stanwyck is rougher than rawhide as Jessica Drummond, the high-riding "Woman With a Whip" (the film's pre-production title) in writer-producer-director Sam Fuller's movie about the female ruler of rugged Cochise County, Arizona. Armed with determination, wiles, and a savage lash, Drummond has firm control over the territory ... and she's backed up by a gang of forty sharp-shooting killers who follow her orders without question. Everything's going her way until a former gunslinger turned marshal (Barry Sullivan) arrives with his two brothers and begins to chip away at Drummond's power by attempting to restore law and order to the territory. Soon enough the lady and the lawman are engaged in a deadly battle of equals that will eventually engulf the entire community.
It's hard to believe that "Forty Guns" proved to be Stanwyck's last big screen appearance for five long years, a period in which she didn't make films because, in her own words, "no one asked me." Her performance is simply astonishing, and superbly nuanced: her voice and physical bearing communicate all too clearly that Jessica is not a woman to be trifled with. Stanwyck's triumph is even more complete when one realizes that the fifty-year-old actress performed all her own stunts in the film --- including being dragged by a horse during a harrowing tornado sequence! The rest of the cast is excellent throughout: Sullivan pulls off the difficult task of matching Stanwyck's energy without attempting to steal scenes; and nice work is also turned in by supporting players Gene Barry, John Ericson, and Dean Jagger. However, this is Stanwyck's movie all the way; her presence infuses every scene, even when she's off-camera.
The DVD presentation of this film is a credit to 20th Century-Fox Home Video. Both widescreen (Cinemascope) and pan-and-scan versions are included on the disc, and although it's not mentioned on the packaging, the DVD also includes the film's Original Theatrical Trailer. Picture and sound quality are superb throughout ... even the trailer is beautifully transferred. Overall, this is a magnificent release of a rarely screened film, enthusiastically recommended for fans of Samuel Fuller, Barbara Stanwyck, and the Western genre.
FORRTY GUNS has received good critical comment in the past. But what is most notable in this film is the reworking of previous westerns such as THE GUNFIGHT AT THE O.K CORRAL and THE FURIES into a Fulleresque cinematic battleground. The Bonnell brothers (led by Barry Sullivan now reluctant to kill) are reworked versions of the Earpps while Barbara Stanwyck's sexually assertive Jessica Drummond is Fuller's masculinized version of Vance Jeffords from Anthony Mann's THE FURIES and her previous "Cattle Queen of Montana." Stanwyck, of course, personified the strong woman on screen in the pre-feminist era and this is one of her best performances. In this film, all conventions are overturned resulting in one of the most iconoclastic endings ever to appear in a Western. I will not spoil it for those who have not seen it but merely point out that Fuller directs the studio's "official climax" in a deliberately unbelievable manner. This is one of the best westerns of its kind directed by one of the major artists of Hollywood cinema. Cliches are absent and Stanwyck's character represents one of the most amazing inversions of classical Hollywood gender stereotypes ever to appear outside "film noir."
Companies should now follow Criterion's DVD release of PICK UP ON SOUTH STREET (1952)by releasing restored widescreen versions of Fuller's early Vietnam War entry CHINA GATE (1957) and MERRILL'S MARAUDERS (1961). In this current age of Hollywood creative bankruptcy, a return to the legacy of one of its greatest exponents is long overdue.
Right from the opening scene, Fuller presents an impressive, expansive vista: a wide open plain with a lone horse and carriage. There is a sudden, jarring cut to a close-up of many horse hooves thundering across the plain. It is 40 men on horseback being led by landowner Jessica Drummond (Stanwyck), clad all in black. They head straight for the men and their carriage only to go flying past them, surrounding them on all sides with no intention of slowing down. And then they're gone. Welcome to a Sam Fuller western.
Fuller uses every opportunity to show off the widescreen format while employing extensive use of close-ups and one of the longest tracking shots ever done at Fox's studio at that time. Forty Guns is one of the most dynamic westerns ever made and this is due to Fuller's infectious energy as reflected in his pulpy prose and kinetic camerawork. It's not enough to say that they don't make westerns like this anymore - they just don't make movies like this anymore.
Set in Cochise County, Arizona "Forty Guns", quickly introduces us to the unofficial ruler of the whole area in tough, non nonsense landowner Jessica Drummond (Barbara Stanwyck),who controls the running of the area with the help of her gang of "forty guns" who are paid to do whatever it takes to make sure Jessica remains in control. Local sheriff Ned Logan (Dean Jagger), is a spineless law provider in the town who secretly loves Jessica but doesn't have the power to control her or her hired thugs who pillage and murder as they please. When U.S Marshall Griff Bonnell (Barry Sullivan), a former gunslinger rides into town with his two brothers Wes (Gene Barry), and Chico (Robert Dix), to resore order a head on clash of wills and fight for power rises between Jessica and himself. Surrounded by weak willed men that do her bidding Jessica however begins to develop a passion for Griff especially when he wont buckle under her strong will like most of the men she knows do. While riding together out on the barren plains Jessica almost loses her life when she is thrown from her horse and dragged when the pair find themselves having to escape a tornado that suddenly blew. Forced together when they seek shelter in Jessica's old cabin nearby she and Griff begin to find out a bit more about what made both of them the people they are today further cementing an emotional bond between them. Meanwhile Jessica has a hard time controlling her younger brother Brockie (John Ericson), a hot head who is always getting into scrapes with the law usually over a girl and when Wes is shot dead on his wedding day to local gun maker louvenia(Eve Brent),Griff must bring in Brockie for trial which will undoubtedly see him hang. On the day of his trial however Brockie has other ideas and taking Jessica as hostage he attempts to shoot his way out of town however Griff temporarily abandons his newly acquired peace seeking ways, and using his expert shooting skills manages to shoot Brockie while only injuring Jessica. Now wanting to get away and move on to California Griff prepares to then leave town however Jessica has plans of her own realising that he is the man she truly loves who did what was best concerning her reckless brother. She pursues his wagon as he leaves and jumps aboard in order to join him in a new life together in California.
Written, produced and directed by Samuel Fuller, "Forty Guns", is unique in that it displays a strong central female character which gives it a unique and most welcome change from your traditional western lead character. Barbara Stanwyck is just the actress to do this strong female lead role total justice and she doesn't disappoint. From the opening scene where we see her galloping down the hillside full speed at the head of her band of "40 Guns", we just know we are in for something totally different. Barbara Stanwyck was superb at playing these tough as nails characters who are made that way by circumstances and for a western story a lot of time is actually spent on showing the development of her character. Stanwyck brings her usual non nonsense professionalism to the role of Jessica Drummond and for a woman already in her fifties at the time of filming she is amazing in her energy and in her ability to handle a horse. She even did her own stunts in the famous tornado scene where she is dragged by a horse over rough terrain believing that it would be more effective and believable on screen that way. Barry Sullivan up against the Stanwyck powerhouse does as well as expected as the new law enforcer in town who comes up against the female land baron only to find himself falling for her. His is a largely passive role however he works well with Stanwyck and has some interesting contradictions to his character having been a killer turned law enforcer. While "Forty Guns", is dominated by the fierce Stanwyck performance the supporting cast is also an interesting one with the standouts being the always good Gene Barry fresh from his recent triumph in the classic "War of the Worlds", playing Sullivan's younger brother Wes, John Ericson as Jessica's hot headed brother Brockie and Dean Jagger in a very uncharacteristic role as untrustworthy and weak willed sheriff Ned Logan. Another interesting and non traditional role is also created for another female character in "Forty Guns", where Eve Brent takes on the part of the gun making Louvenia who loses her husband Wes on her wedding day. Her's is a most unusual female character for the 1950's and the western genre in particular which she plays very well and she has a great scene when Barbara Stanwyck comes to pay her condolences. Of course the great look and feel present on screen in "Forty Guns", is very much the result of a collaborative effort between Samuel Fuller and his main production staff. Special credit needs to go to Oscar winning cinematographer Joseph Biroc for his stunning photography of the Arizona region captured beautifully in breathtaking cinemascope, the renowned Charles le Maire for his authentic 1860 period costumes for both sexes in the story, and especially to the team of L. B. Abbot and Norman Breedlove for their stunning special effects efforts work. Their recreation of the savage tornado sequence in particular is amazing in its realism and even today it is still quite rightly regarded as a benchmark for such efforts on film.
Disappointment has sometimes been levied at Fuller's supposedly sell out ending that follows the conventional course of having former land baroness Barbara Stanwyck chasing after Barry Sullivan's wagon as it rolls out of town. While that could be viewed as conventional in the movie sense of how many similiar stories conclude Samuel Fuller still manages to illustrate the ever present strength of the Jessica Drummond character here where she is willing to risk everything for something that she knows she wants but still on her terms. When critically looking at "Forty Guns", the story, cinematography, and for the most part non stereotyped character construction makes it an exceptional western which strangely is not well known and not often revived nowadays. Samuel Fuller really provided Barbara Stanwyck with one of her last strong film characters here and the film is a worthy addition to any retrospective of the amazing body of work achieved by both Barbara Stanwyck and Samuel Fuller in their exceptional careers. Highly recommended viewing for western genre enthusiasts.
The B&W transfer for a film of this vintage is excellent which is a real plus.
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