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The Man Behind the Gun
IMDB Rating: 5.9/10 from APPROVED votes
Release: 31 Jan 1953 /

The Man Behind the Gun

Genre: Western
Director: Felix E. Feist,
Stars:
Synopsis: An undercover government agent battles insurrectionists whose want Southern California to secede and become a slave state.

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Critic Reviews


Randolph Scott is Major Ransome Callicut, who goes undercover as a school teacher in 1850s California to hopefully thwart separatist plotting as secessionist fervour starts to boil over.

The Man Behind The Gun is directed by Felix E. Feist and adapted to screenplay by John Twist from a story by Robert Buckner. It is shot in Technicolor by Bert Glennon (Wagon Master) out of Bell Ranch, Santa Susana, California. Joining Scott in the cast are Patrice Wymore, Dick Wesson, Philip Carey, Lina Romay & Alan Hale Jr.

It's true enough that material such as this, well more the themes and basic story, deserves a better movie than what this ultimately is. Yet to shout down this film for not being a finely tuned politico piece is a touch harsh one feels. This is after all, a modestly budgeted Oater out of Warner Brothers that comes at a time when Randolph Scott was knocking out Oaters for both WB and Columbia at a rate of knots! Scott was three years away from starting a run of films with Budd Boetticher that would finally realise his talents, whilst simultaneously giving the serious Western fan some gems to shout about from the saloon rooftops. So where does The Man Behind The Gun sit in the pantheon of 50s Westerns? Well a better director than Felix Feist would have helped since the material called for someone interested in the more psychological aspects of the characters. The afore mentioned Boetticher is a given of course, while another of Scott's 50s directors, André De Toth, would have enjoyed the intrigue and underhand core for sure.

Still, given its short running time, Feist does manage to craft an action packed movie that's led by Scott's protagonist playing it rugged, sneaky and tough to get the job in hand done. There's gun fights, whip-cracking, chases, explosions; and even pretty gals scrapping it out in a crash of chairs, tables and pottery. For an 82 minute movie it doesn't fall short as an action piece. If viewed on those terms it holds up very well, even if there's so much going on it can be hard to follow at times. There's even nice dashes of humour, none more so than with the entertaining turn from Wesson. Be it whipping off some saloon gal's dress or playing it in drag, his Sergeant 'Monk' Walker gives the piece a lift when it threatens to be bogged down by good guy-bad guy character turns that come and go all too frequently. Scott is as ever straight backed and as cool as a cucumber, while Hale Jr, Carey and Wymore each leave a favourable impression.

Yes it could have been a deep and potent piece, but that it's not does not make it a bad film. It's a ripper of an action movie backed up by a couple of strong turns from Scott & Wesson, even if the film that surrounds them is just a little chaotic at times! 7/10

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