Outlaw Matt Ringo (John Dehner) escapes from prison and reunites with his old gang. Riding out to Tombstone, Matt tracks down his son, Chip (Tab Hunter). Chip is now living with his uncle, Billy Ringo (George Montgomery). Billy was once a member of Matt’s gang but he’s gone straight, he’s given up his guns, and he now has a ranch of his own. Billy tries to keep the naive Chip from idolizing his father but Chip is bored with life on the ranch. Matt not only works to turn Chip against his uncle but he also frames Billy for a bank robbery. With the town convinced that Billy has returned to his outlaw ways, Billy has no choice but to reach out to the most honest lawman in town, Wyatt Earp (James Millican).
The most interesting thing about this western is the way that it blends real people, like Wyatt and his brother Virgil (Bruce Cowling), with characters who were obviously fictionalized versions of the participants in the gunfight at the OK Corral. The Ringos are obviously based on Johnny Ringo who, as anyone who has seen Tombstone has seen you, never went straight in real life. Meanwhile, the head of the gang is named Ike Clinton. Did someone misspell Ike Clanton’s name while writing the script or was the name really changed for some unknown reason? Ike Clanton wasn’t around to sue over the way he was portrayed in the movie.
Beyond the mix of a little truth with a lot of fiction, Gun Belt is a traditional western with bad outlaws and upstanding lawmen and a naive cowpoke who has to decide whether he wants to follow the path of good or evil. George Montgomery has the right presence to be a believable as both a retired outlaw and rancher and James Millican brings quiet authority to the film’s version of Wyatt Earp. Western fans will be happy to see Jack Elam in the role of one of the gang members. The only really false note is provided by Tab Hunter, who comes across as very young and very callow and not believable at all as someone who could work on a ranch or successfully pursue a career as a professional lawbreaker.
Seven years after it was released, Gun Belt was remade as Five Guns To Tombstone.