NO NAME ON THE BULLET [1959] review

August 21, 2011 · Print This Article

I am very glad to be able to still find totally surprising great westerns like NO NAME ON THE BULLET.  This is a psychological western in the style of HIGH NOON.  The tension gets ratcheted up with the supposed villain just sitting around drinking coffee and playing chess.

The Netflix description says Audie Murphy as the character John Gant plays against cast in BULLET, playing an assassin with an enormous reputation.  This is a reputation so powerful that it can put an entire town into panic and cause men to lose their minds just thinking Gant was sent for them.  Like the title of the movie suggests, on Gant knows who he has been hired to kill.

The movie goes to great lengths to make the existence of a killer like Gant as airtight as possible.  You may ask if a man has killed so many men why is he not immediately arrested?  Well, he provokes whoever he has to kill into trying to kill him first so all his assassinations are actually self-defense, technically.  You might also think, “why doesn’t the town just get a group of 12 men together to face him with guns, he cannot kill them all.”  How Gant handles that situation is perhaps the best scene of the movie.

Gant’s adversary is the town doctor, an “honest man,” Gant says.  The men have respect for each other and their scenes together are all quality.  The doctor thinks Gant should be given the benefit of the doubt at first.  In actuality, Gant is only staying at a hotel in town, the violence that happens to others is not his doing, but everyone knows Gant is still the underlying cause.

This is my favorite kind of western.  It is a very shot movie, clocking in at just 1 hour and 15 minutes, but it does not feel short because the tension and psychology of the movie are unrelenting.  I believe BULLET has entered my current top five all-time western list, which is roughly, in no particular order at the top of my head is:  RIO BRAVO, HIGH NOON, THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE, FISTFUL OF DOLLARS.


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