DEATH OF A GUNFIGHTER [1969] movie review

December 31, 2011 · Print This Article

Not set in the old west, but rather the turn of the century (1900 that is), DEATH OF A GUNFIGHTER shows how painful the transition was for western towns from those ruled by the gun, to those ruled by so called civilization. Caught in the middle is the town marshall who has been on the job for 20 years learning everyone’s secrets and who has not outgrown his welcome as the town decides he is doing his job too well.

Marshal Frank Patch is a relic. The Texas town of Cottownwood [sic] has benefited from his services for two decades. The town is now linked to the railroad, has electricity and even a few cars. Members of the town council want eastern investors to feel welcome there. Cottownwood is to be a civilized town. The days of the gunfighter and the old west finished.


However, bars still serve whiskey by the bottle-full, prostitution is still legal and men, as always, have guns.


GUNFIGHTER has a very unusual score. It sounds modern and melancholy and such a soundtrack I have not heard paired with a western before.


The marshall draws the ire of the town council when some drunkard bushwhacks him taking two shots at his back. The marshall is skilled enough to evade the attack and has the drunkard dead to rights and says throw down your gun. He does not. The marshall ends him. What irritated me is that he did not more forcefully explain to the town council why he had to. I guess he figured even if they all witnessed it themselves they would still look for any excuse to get rid of him. It’s just that none of them is man enough to do it. Even in a group with some weak formal town complaint on paper, the marshall is too much man and makes all of them cower slapping one fool to the ground who dares put a hand on him.


There is real tension in the third act of GUNFIGHTER and the only thing stopping me from giving this movie an even higher recommendation is what happens at the very end. It seems there was absolutely no need for it and just ruined the character arc of the marshall.


Got something to say?