Forty Guns (1957)

Forty Guns (1957)

“I need a strong man to carry out my orders.”

A lawman (Barry Sullivan) and his brothers (Gene Barry and Robert Dix) attempt to arrest the reckless brother (John Ericson) of a whip-wielding rancher (Barbara Stanwyck), who relies on 40 hired hands and a lackey sheriff (Dean Jagger) to help keep order in her territory — but when Sullivan and Stanwyck fall in love, and Barry becomes deeply enamored with the daughter (Eve Brent) of a local gunsmith, the situation quickly gets even more complicated.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Barbara Stanwyck Films
  • Dean Jagger Films
  • Ranchers
  • Romance
  • Samuel Fuller Films
  • Strong Females
  • Westerns

Writer-director Samuel Fuller makes excellent use of CinemaScope in this action-packed western, featuring 49-year-old Stanwyck in a prototypical “strong female” role. The storyline is fairly standard western fare — fitting within the sub-genre of a “marshal story”, in which “the lawman and his challenges drive the plot” — but handled with Fuller’s typically quirky eye for composition, some unusual pacing choices, and strikingly bawdy language (“I’d like to stay around long enough to clean her rifle!”). Memorable scenes include a dead body placed upright in a coffin for all to view through a window (as a sign of impending revenge); Stanwyck and Barry caught in a tornado; a graphic minor death (complete with a foaming mouth); and Stanwyck doing one of her own dangerous stunts as she’s dragged on the ground by a horse.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Fine CinemaScope cinematography

Must See?
No, though it’s worth a one-time look. Listed as a Cult Movie in the back of Peary’s book.


One thought on “Forty Guns (1957)

  1. Agreed. Not must-see, though Sam Fuller fans will certainly find it of interest.

    I remember when I watched this some years back with my best bud Tom. We were very amused by the running theme song…”She’s a high-ridin’ woman…with a whip…”. We were also envious of Stanwyck having 40 men at her beck-and-call. You GO, girl! 😉 …whether it makes real sense or not. (40 men at the dinner table every night? No other women around? I mean, I like it…a lot…but it smacks of pure fantasy.)

    Overall, the film is, as stated, a little too “standard”. And some of the dialogue is a bit much: “There’s only one man who walks like that.” Really? You mean, in a straight line? What do most other men do? …It also gets rather gooey when Jagger ultimately, and in slow detail, reveals his love for Stanwyck…followed by Stanwyck going all girly over Sullivan.

    Putting up with Ericson also gets tiresome – not because of his acting (though it’s a tedious role) but it’s hard to buy Stanwyck’s character’s devotion…just because he’s her brother. He’s insufferable.

    Still…it’s not a bad picture, with enough complication in the script to keep things interesting. (I do like the time frame of the story – that transition period when The Old West was becoming obsolete.) It’s probably not Stanwyck at her best (through no fault of her own) but she’s always worth watching.

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