"Gunman's Walk" is another obscure Western gem that has been given new life through a Blu-ray release by German-based Explosive Media. The 1958 production was filmed in CinemaScope, the widescreen process that studios relied on to combat the newly-evolved threat of television. Director Phil Karlson makes the most of the format and captures the grandeur of the open plains of Arizona and mountainous regions of California for a story of a dysfunctional family that manages to fracture even further despite the abundance of wealth it enjoys. Van Heflin plays Lee Hackett, a one-time pioneer who endured every kind of hardship and struggle to establish a ranch in hostile Indian territory. Over the years he became a state-wide legend by triumphing over adversity and by building a modest cattle ranch into an empire. Lee also helped establish the town which has now grown appreciably. Consequently he carries a lot of weight and political power with the locals. The story opens with Lee as a middle-aged widower who has two grown sons. Davy Hackett (James Darren) is the younger, a quiet, relatively shy young man with a thoughtful disposition. He is the polar opposite of his older brother Ed (Tab Hunter), an arrogant, mean-spirited person who is constantly getting into trouble. Lee prides himself on being a strict disciplinarian over his boys but in reality they realize that his bark is worse than his bite. (He even encourages them to call him by his first name.) Much to Davy's frustration, Lee constantly uses his influence to get Ed out of trouble. If he can't do it legally, he'll use bribery or intimidation.Even while Lee dotes over his eldest son, Ed has plenty of "daddy issues" with his father. He resents that he has been handed everything on a silver platter. He also is fed up with Lee's ego and constant self-aggrandizement for having endured Indian battles, gun fights and the extremities of nature in order to build and protect his business. Ed also accuses his father of wanting him under his control so that he'll never have the opportunity to become his own man and possibly exceed his Lee's achievements. Despite this tense relationship, Lee continues to spoil his eldest son even as he hopes he can exert a positive influence on him.
When Lee and his sons lead a major cattle drive into town the family relaxes afterward by living it up a bit. Lee and Ed don't adhere to the local sheriff's (Robert F. Simon) edict that no one can carry a gun in town and the sheriff is too intimidated to challenge them. Almost immediately Ed gets into trouble by getting drunk, frequenting prostitutes and insulting people- but things are about to get worse. On the prairie Ed and a local ranch hand who is a Sioux engage in what starts as a good-natured race to see who can rope a much-desired white stallion. When the other man threatens to win the prize, Ed shoves him and his horse over the side of a cliff, resulting in the man's death. Ed claims it was an accident but two other Sioux secretly witnessed the incident and report it to the sheriff, who finds his backbone and arrests Ed for murder. However Lee rides to the rescue again and gets his son off the hook by bribing a stranger to say he witnessed the incident and it was indeed an accident. But Ed doesn't learn his lesson and continues to cause trouble- this time with deadly consequences.
Despite being saddled with a "B" movie title, "Gunman's Walk" is a highly compelling, intelligently written drama that is packed with tension thanks to the able direction of Phil Karlson. The script addresses a number of hot-button issues such as abuse of wealth and the ugliness of racism, which were topics not usually covered in Westerns of the period. The film also affords Tab Hunter a role that has far more depth than the one dimensional hunks he was often saddled with playing. As Ed, he is a tragic figure- a man to be despised, yet pitied. Hunter gives a fine performance, at times managing to be charismatic and almost likable before spiraling back into villainy. He's more than matched by old pro Van Heflin, who gives a wonderfully nuanced performance as a man who created his own living hell by over-indulging the son he loves so much. James Darren is capable but rather unexciting as the younger brother, but the part doesn't have much meat to it to begin with. Katherine Grant is fine as a young woman who Darren is trying to romance despite the fact that she is half-Sioux and is looked upon as inferior by his brother and father. As with most Westerns of this era, the cast is peppered with fine character actors. Among them: Mickey Shaughnessy, Robert F. Simon, Ray Teal and Edward Platt. In all, "Gunman's Walk" is a truly fine Western that has been unjustly overlooked for decades.
The Explosive Media Blu-ray is top-notch, as is generally the case with this company's releases. It includes both English and German dubbed versions of the movie along with an interesting stills gallery accompanied by Tab Hunter crooning the Western song "Runaway", which he sings in a pivotal sequence in the film.
(Explosive Media titles are primarily available through Amazon Germany. However, you can often find imports available on eBay and other Amazon sites around the globe. Explosive Media Blu-rays are region free.)
Chomsky is widely regarded as one of the preeminent intellectuals in the
world. As the Institute Professor
Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where he currently
works, he has also written over one hundred books, among them Power and Terror: Conflict, Hegemony, and the Rule of Force, Profit
Over People: Neoliberalism & Global Order, and the forthcoming The Culture of Terrorism which he co-wrote with Brian Jones. A seemingly tireless octogenarian, it is Mr. Chomsky’s Weltanschauung that director’s
Peter D. Hutchison, Kelly Nyks, and Jared P. Scott recorded over a period of
four years as the subject of their new and, unfortunately, quite timely
documentary, the elegiacally-titled Requiem
for the American Dream. The
film, which runs a mere 73 minutes, focuses on what Mr. Chomsky refers to as the
Ten Principles of Concentration of Wealth and Power, which essentially are the
methods employed by the wealthy and powerful (or the “One Percent” as they are
so often referred to) to keep themselves rich and everyone else not rich. These methods, he contends, consist of reducing
democracy, shaping ideology, redesigning the economy, shifting the burden,
attacking solidarity, running the regulators, engineering elections, keeping
the rabble in line, manufacturing consent and, ultimately and most
significantly, marginalizing the population. The current state of life in America seems to be a result of corporate greed and public insouciance, or more
specifically a feeling that nothing can be done about it. There are, obviously, movements afoot to
combat these inequalities, Occupy Wall Street (OWS) being the most fervent and
obvious example by far. Over the course
of the film’s duration, Mr. Chomsky goes into detail on where America once was
(manufacturing being the predominant method of income during the 1950’s, the
most prosperous decade in the country’s history) and where it is now (in the
hands of financial institutions, which represent a select few), which is such a
far cry from how life used to be that he explains how the corrosive effect of
greed and class inequality has had such a negative effect on both the working
class and middle class collectively.
Fascinating to watch and never boring, the film matter-of-factly
uncovers the methods that businessmen, specifically those at the top, employ to
make sure that their interests are well cared for, regardless of the deleterious
effects they have on those near the bottom of the social ladder. In actuality, however, this is no different
than the methods that were used by the owners of the manufacturing giants that
built America in the first place. Cornelius
Vanderbilt (with his fleet of steamboats and later on, railroads), John D.
Rockefeller (oil, kerosene and, later on, gasoline), Andrew Carnegie (steel),
and J.P. Morgan (finance, electricity and steel) did not amass personal
fortunes ten times that of Bill Gates and Warren Buffet by being nice
guys. Influencing presidents and doing
what needed to be done appeared to be viewed as necessary business tactics, and
what is happening in the country today
does not appear to be all that different than what has occurred in the past,
despite the passing of laws and legislation designed to protect workers from
tyrannical bosses. The major difference
is that today there are more people than ever before, and the size of the level
if inequality is tremendous and, as Mr. Chomsky points out, unprecedented. Although he never says it, the feeling that
you get from Mr. Chomsky is that unless there is a major public uprising (i.e.
revolution), it is unlikely that the current state of affairs will shift in the
national public’s favor anytime soon.
for more information on the film and locate screenings that will be rolled out
over the next few months.