Last Train from Gun Hill is a 1959 Western directed by John Sturges (The Eagle Has Landed, Chino, Joe Kidd, The Great Escape, and The Magnificent Seven). It was shot in VistaVision and Technicolor. It had lots of the same crew from 1957’s Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. It’s based on “Showdown” by Les Crutchfield (Gunsmoke). It was written by James Poe (They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, Riot, The Big Knife, and Toys in the Attic). It was produced by lead actor Kirk Douglas (Tough Guys, Posse, Cast a Giant Shadow, A Gunfight, The Devil’s Disciple, The Vikings, Ride Out for Revenge, and Paths of Glory). Dell Four Color did a comic book adaptation in 1959. It grossed $2.5 million at the box office.
Two old friends, Matt Morgan (played by: Kirk Douglas from The Final Countdown, Eddie Macon’s Run, Greedy, Oscar, Tales from the Crypt, and The Fury) and Craig Belden (played by: Anthony Quinn from Mobsters, Jungle Fever, Revenge, The Don Is Dead, and The Guns of Navarone) now find themselves on opposite sides of the law. Belden, a rich cattle baron is the ruler of the town of Gun Hill. He has power over everyone there and they all fear him, Morgan is a U.S. Marshal living in another town with his Native American/Indian wife (played by: Ziva Rodann from The Private Lives of Adam and Eve, The Story of Mankind, The Story of Ruth, and Macumba Love) and young son Petey. Two young drunken cowboys rape and murder Morgan’s wife while she is returning with their son from a visit to her father. The boy escapes on one of the killers’ horses which bears a distinctive and fancy saddle. Morgan sets off to find the killer. His one clue is the saddle, which he recognizes as belonging to Belden. Assuming it was stolen from his old friend, Morgan travels to the town of Gun Hill to pick up the trail, but once there he quickly realizes that Belden’s son Rick (played by: Earl Holliman from Forbidden Planet, NightMan, Sharky’s Machine, Giant, and Wide Country) is the killer. Belden refuses to turn over his son. This forces Morgan to go against the entire town to carry out this justice. Morgan vows to capture Rick and get him on that night’s last train from Gun Hill so he can pay for his crimes. Morgan takes Rick prisoner, holding him at the hotel. Belden sends men to rescue his son, but Morgan manages to hold them off. In the meantime, Belden’s former lover (played by: Carolyn Jones from The Addams Family, Batman, Invasion of the Body Snatchersm and Color Me Dead) decides to help Morgan. The second rapist Lee (played by: director Brian G. Hutton from Gunfight at the O.K. Corral and Carnival Rock) sets fire to the hotel to flush out Morgan. Morgan presses the shotgun to Rick’s chin on the way to the train depot, threatening to pull the trigger if anyone attempts to stop him. All hell breaks loose for the lone gunman, can he survive this night and vengeful town???? In 1959, Last Train from Gun Hill was one of the highest quality films shot. The production value was top notch in every department. The story and concept is a classic, it’s been done so many times after this one. The script for Last Train from Gun Hill is one of the best when it comes to 50’s cinema. Kirk Douglas gives one of his best performances here as a man looking for justice and not out for blood thirsty revenge. This was a rare twist when it came to westerns and action flicks back in the day. The lead had morals and he tried to do the right thing no matter what. Anthony Quinn is amazing as the conflicted and powerful villain. He tries his best to fix the situation with his old friend but he’s not willing to sacrifice his son. Being a father takes over and he does everything in his power to save him from his former best friend. The chemistry between the two leads is great here. It has a talented supporting cast that includes Ziva Rodann, Earl Holliman, Brian G. Hutton, Carolyn Jones, Bing Russell, Val Avery, Walter Sande, Eric Alden, and Brad Dexter. Last Train from Gun Hill starts out a little slower than most westerns but it rewards you for it’s last act. The tension, build up, and character development really shines here. This one still looks amazing and better than ever with this brand new home video release from the Paramount Presents line. The replay value is very strong on this classic, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!! Let’s talk about the high definition presentation from Paramount Pictures! This 1080p (1.78:1) transfer is fantastic, this VistaVision and Technicolor shit western is still one of the best looking films from the 50’s. It has a few different audio options which includes English: Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Mono, German: Dolby Digital Mono, and French: Dolby Digital Mono on the disc. This one sounds much better than expected for an older movie and it lives up to those classic western standards. All of the dialogue is very clean, all the action is elevated, and the music has a killer boost to it. It has English, English SDH, French, and German subtitles.
Let’s discuss the special features from Paramount Pictures! “Filmmaker Focus — Leonard Maltin on Last Train from Gun Hill” is a little over 7 minutes. Film historian and critic Leonard Maltin goes over the history of the film here. He chats about the director’s career including him starting out as an editor and his successful features. He talks about the two leads not getting along, having a mini rivalry, and a troubled past with each other. He goes over some of the supporting cast. He says this one wasn’t as successful as they hoped. He brings up Paramount creating VistaVision to bring back movie lovers to theaters after the television at home craze. He compares normal film to Vistavision, it’s not even close. Projectors could change the aspect ratio during their screenings for this new format at the time also. It still holds up as one of the greatest looking westerns ever shot. It has a “Trailer” for the film. It has “Trailers” for the O.K. Corral, The Furies, and The Black Orchid. It also includes a really cool slipcover that folds out to the original poster & a clear case with additional photos. I really dig the unique packaging for this blu ray. This is from the Paramount Presents line. It actually has a digital code also. This is the first time that it’s ever been available on blu ray in the states. It’s available everywhere right now, CHECK IT OUT!!!!