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  Showdown at Boot Hill Thorn In Their Side
Year: 1958
Director: Gene Fowler Jr
Stars: Charles Bronson, Robert Hutton, John Carradine, Carole Mathews, Fintan Meyler, Paul Maxey, Thomas Browne Henry, William Stevens, Martin Smith, Joe McGuinn, George Douglas, Mike Mason, George Pembroke, Argentina Brunetti, Ed Wright
Genre: WesternBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Luke Welsh (Charles Bronson) is in Boot Hill for a reason: he is a bounty hunter and is tracking a man with a price on his head. He is quite prepared to kill this outlaw, he has done so before in the name of the law, but he has reckoned without the townsfolk being quite attached to this miscreant, so when they finally meet in the local hotel restaurant, it sparks a series of incidents that cause him to be stuck there. It seems those locals do not take kindly to having one of their number gunned down for profit, no matter what he had done, and when Welsh tries to secure the proof of his actions, he comes up against a brick wall of legal and social ramifications...

Charles Bronson was the man of action for a good three decades or so, from the sixties to the eighties, who audiences flocked to see across the globe, but he had to start somewhere, and in those early years after he had decided to become an actor, he toiled in bit parts and supporting roles - until, that was, Showdown at Boot Hill and its contemporary Machine Gun Kelly, where his unique star quality was recognised. It was not a huge production by any means, it was simply a Western B-movie of the kind that littered the theatres of the nineteen-fifties, but it did demonstrate his ability to carry a film almost singlehanded when everyone else was a character actor of some description.

Well, almost everyone, Bronson did get a leading lady who understood his character's issues and provided him with the moral support no one else was interested in, and she was waitress Sally, played by Fintan Meyler, a forgotten TV actress who dabbled in big screen efforts before settling down with a family. Not to make the claim that she was a great, neglected talent who brought out the best in Bronson, but they were a nice couple in the plot, and after Sally has been introduced being sexually harassed by the target of Welsh's endeavours (her mother is the local madame), we can tell that they are destined to be together since he has the ability to take her away from all this.

Before that, there was a curiously observational quality to the piece, as if we were invited to chew over the narrative at a leisurely pace rather than be on the edge of our seats at what could possibly happen next. There were bursts of action nevertheless, as when Welsh finds nobody is willing to sign a document to the effect that his quarry was actually in the town, he resorts to paying the local photographer to take a picture of the corpse for identification - when suddenly a well-aimed bullet or ten smashes the plate and the camera it was used in, destroying more evidence. Even the deceased's name in the hotel register has been blacked out. Reluctant to relinquish the financial reward that is rightfully his, our hero hangs around in the hope that he can catch a break and get the proof he needs.

There was one element that was hardly ever referred to in Bronson movies once he became a star, which was his height. He stood around five foot eight but played his protagonists as if he were twelve inches taller, and nobody mentioned how short he was, yet here it was a plot point, as if the producers were nervous at presenting a movie with a leading man they regarded as fairly titchy, no matter that the history of Hollywood was littered with male stars up to that point who were around Bronson's size, or smaller. But mostly you were impressed that he essayed the role of the guilty conscience of some very immoral men so well, not going anywhere if he could serve to remind them just how malevolent and criminal they were behaving as they had gotten accustomed to their way of life. If there was a sparse tone to this thanks to a lower budget spacing out the bursts of activity, it remained worth seeing for Bronson fans to witness his granite-faced, imposing presence already in full effect. Music by Albert Harris.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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