A Western that's thoroughly urban in its outlook, Sam Fuller's Forty Guns was made at the height of his most fertile filmmaking period in the 1950s - he released China Gate and Run of the Arrow the same year - and represents a studio director working at the peak of his form: fast, vicious, and cutting all necessary corners. The forty guns of the title are the passel of mercenaries backing up Jessica Drummond (Barbara Stanwyck), a rancher who's the unofficial boss of a whole Arizona county and packs more of a wallop on her own than all her hired guns. At this stage, a few years past her bombshell prime, Stanwyck still cuts a mean, black-clad figure whipping her white horse into the horizon. (No stunt rider for this actress.)
Justice arrives in the laconic form of Griff Bonnell (Barry Sullivan), the federal marshal who comes to town with his two brothers, Wes (Gene Barry, grizzled) and Chico (Robert Dix, resembling a young Robert Vaughn), ready to clean things up. This interferes with the desire of Jessica's wastrel brother Brockie (John Ericson) to do things like get drunk and terrorize the town with the forty guns, and so the big showdown is set up. Jessica gets stuck right in the middle, torn between wanting to protect little Brockie and falling in love with Griff, a legendary gunslinger who's just about as granite-hewn as she is; an impressive feat.
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