Gunfire (1950, directed by William Berke)

Years after the death of his brother Jesse, Frank James (Don “Red” Barry) has settled down in Colorado and is living a peaceful life as a rancher.  He is even friends with the town’s sheriff, John Kelly (Robert Lowery).  Unfortunately, it’s not always so easy to escape the past, especially when you are one of the few surviving members of one of the Old West’s most notorious gangs.  A former member of the James Gang, Mundy (Claude Stroud), shows up at Frank’s cabin and tries to talk Frank into joining up with him, the Ford brothers (Gaylord Pendleton and Roger Anderson), and their new leader, Bat Fenton (Don “Red” Barry, playing a second role).  When Frank refuses and makes clear that he still wants revenge on the Ford brothers for the murder of Jesse James, the gang goes on a crime spree.  Because he and Fenton look exactly alike, the entire town thinks that Frank is responsible.  Can Frank clear his name and avenge the death of his brother?

There were a lot of poverty row B-westerns produced in the early 1950s and most of them are pretty bad.  However, occasionally you come across a diamond in the rough and that’s the case with Gunfire.  Gunfire tells an interesting story, it has exciting gunfights, and it also features not one but two good performances from Don “Red” Barry!  Barry is equally convincing as both the good Frank and the bad Fenton and the movie uses the double plot as a way to illustrate how difficult it is to escape the sins of the past.  Frank has been “born again” but every time he sees Fenton, he sees not only who he used to be but also who many will always believe him to be.  Gunfire is a good western that shows that you don’t need a huge budget to tell an engaging story.

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