Samuel Fuller’s FORTY GUNS begins with a roar and ends with a sexist joke.
The roar is an impressive 40 horsemen riding along a dirt road, behind Barbara Stanwyck, for the length of the opening credits.
Then they race on either side of a wagon containing the 2 U.S. Marshals and their kid brother. Its a dusty, thundering, awesome cinematic display of the sheer power of the title’s 40 guns – another one of Fuller’s brilliant visual triumphs.
Fuller’s story is flimsy at best. Something about the Marshals coming to arrest some hired gun who robbed the federal mail. The hired gun is in the employ of Barbara Stanwyck, who is the boss of this little town and whom all the men are lusting after. One of the men even wrote a little song about her that no one is allowed to sing anywhere near her because: it is a terrible song; it objectifies the tough as nails businesswoman.
Hijinx ensue. Guns are fired. Love is followed. But that is neither here nor there, really. Let’s get back to these jokers known as the Forty Guns.
The first twenty minutes or so of the movie really moves the extras around. Aside from the striking opening images, there are two more scenes with the gunmen before they basically disappear from the screen.
One is when they all ride into town. The whole gang is seen coming in, then standing in front of the sheriff’s jail. Its an intimidating group. It drives home the unmatched power and brute influence of the Stanwyck character.
The second is a near surrealist scene. Alluding to the long tables of Knights in Shining Armour movies, Fuller lines a banquet table with the well coiffed mugs mugs of the hired gunmen with a sparklingly dazzled Stanwyck at the head. She playfully dismisses them, which takes a good amount of grunting and shuffling to get them into the adjoining room.
These are troop movements. The parade of men – dangerous, absurd, and powerful. These are true movie moments. I loved them.
I give this 5 out of 7 Giddyups because there was some damn fine shooting at the end.