“Revelatory... a rare classic”
Phil Karlson’s Gunman’s Walk is one of the most underrated westerns of the late 1950s, and also an important touchstone for Quentin Tarantino’s recent Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood. Featuring a script by Frank Nugent (The Searchers), it examines the changing values of a quickly gentrifying West and reflects on contemporary issues of race, juvenile delinquency and the battle between the generations. It also provides a showcase for a pair of stellar performances by Van Heflin and Tab Hunter (you can also hear his 'I’m a Runaway' on the soundtrack).
But Gunman’s Walk is also notable for its widescreen combination of the vast and the intimate (it is not a B-movie), its ability to stage deeply felt emotions in a large landscape, and its almost Shakespearean (rather than Freudian) sense of family tragedy. Like many of Karlson’s crime movies it also provides a bracing study of ingrained corruption and injustice, while extending the range of his work to include moving and nuanced character studies of its deeply conflicted all-male family. As Wheeler Winston Dixon claims in his profile of Karlson in Senses of Cinema, it is an unjustly neglected film that “is more than ripe for a reappraisal”.