During the closing days of the Old West (people ride horses and form posses but they also use hand-crank telephones), a notorious bank robber (played by Warren J. Kemmerling) escapes from prison. Everyone fears that the outlaw is heading for his home town, where he’s sworn that he’s going to get revenge on all of the people who he blames for his imprisonment. It’s up to Sheriff Chuck Morton (James Brown, not that James Brown) and Deputy Sam Freed (John Clarke) to alert all of the outlaw’s potential victims and to put together a posse to ride into the desert and hopefully end his reign of terror once and for all. Complicating matters (though only slighly) is that the sheriff and the outlaw grew up together and used to be friends.
Yet another B-feature from the very active director Edward L. Cahn (he was credited with having directed 127 films, 11 in 1961 alone!), Gun Street plays out like a lesser episode of Gunsmoke. Imagine High Noon, just without the red scare subtext and no Gary Cooper. James Brown and John Clarke are both believable as western lawman and they have a good rapport. Sandra Stone plays the outlaw’s sister, who now owns the local “dance hall” and, in her scenes with Brown, I thought it seemed as if the film was suggesting that she and the sheriff were once more than just friends. Unfortunately, that’s one of many potentially intriguing subplots that the film suggests without bothering to explore. Obviously made to be a second feature on a double bill, Gun Street is barely over an hour long, which doesn’t leave much time for anyone else in the film to make much of an impression. The short running time also means that the film moves so quickly that certain plot points go unexplained. Probably the most disappointing thing about Gun Street is that, after all of the build-up about how tough and dangerous this outlaw is, the film ends not with a bang but with an anti-climatic whimper. Did they run out of money during filming? Did Edward L. Cahn have to leave so he could go direct another film? We may never know.
If you’re looking for a good western about one town awaiting the arrival of an outlaw, rewatch High Noon.