'The Hired Gun' Is a Disposable B-Western Shot in Cinemascope

Although The Hired Gun may be of interest for those who like its lead actors, on its own terms it's a forgettable B-picture.

The Hired Gun

Director: Ray Nazarro
Cast: Rory Calhoun, Anne Francis
Distributor: Warner Archive
Year: 1957
US DVD release date: 2015-04-21

The Hired Gun opens with a shot of a noose hanging over a scaffold in the early morning of a dusty "one-horse town" as the voice of Ellen Beldon (Anne Francis) informs us that today, for the first time in Texas, they'll hang a woman for murder -- herself. She assures us she's innocent, and hardly are her words finished when a tall, black-suited preacher (Chuch Connors) comes to offer solace... by busting her out and racing her across the border into New Mexico.

After this moderately interesting beginning, the story settles into a routine plod, about which the best can be said is that it doesn't take more than 64 minutes. Ellen's angry father-in-law (John Litel), whose son she supposedly killed, deputizes gunslinger Gil McCord (Rory Calhoun) to force her back to Texas. By journey's end, he'll naturally seek new evidence before she's strung up. If you're wondering too hard about why Ellen's ornery brother-in-law (Vince Edwards) is so gung-ho to see her hang, perhaps you've never seen a movie.

Shot in California's Lone Pine region (without much resemblance to Texas), this unexciting affair is advertised misleadingly with "Even the tough gun-slinger wasn't safe with the blonde wanted for murder!" The poster's image plays up the very mild tease of Ellen taking off her blouse (behind a rock) before bathing; it's fair to wonder if this scene was made strictly for distortion in the poster, and if Francis was cast strictly for her fitted jeans. No matter what, it's a disposable B-western, shot gratuitously though handsomely in Cinemascope; black-and-white widescreen is its own art, though in this case I suspect color would have improved it. The film's primary appeal is for fans of Calhoun and other stars who would become better known on TV.

Calhoun was taking his career in hand, producing this item for his own Rorvic Productions (co-produced with famous agent Victor Orsatti). All three of the Rorvic westerns were directed by Ray Nazarro, who spent most of his career in B-westerns. One year after The Hired Gun, Rorvic launched Calhoun's very profitable TV series The Texan. It was the same year Connors became a star as The Rifleman. Edwards was a few years away from the medical series Ben Casey. Although Francis made this only one year after the hit Forbidden Planet, from which The Hired Gun a major comedown, she too would find her lasting fame on TV, especially as private eye Honey West.





How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.


From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?


The 50 Best Songs of 2007

Journey back 13 years to a stellar year for Rihanna, M.I.A., Arcade Fire, and Kanye West. From hip-hop to indie rock and everywhere in between, PopMatters picks the best 50 songs of 2007.


'Modern' Is the Pinnacle of Post-Comeback Buzzcocks' Records

Presented as part of the new Buzzcocks' box-set, Sell You Everything, Modern showed a band that wasn't interested in just repeating itself or playing to nostalgia.


​Nearly 50 and Nearly Unplugged: 'ChangesNowBowie' Is a Glimpse Into a Brilliant Mind

Nine tracks, recorded by the BBC in 1996 show David Bowie in a relaxed and playful mood. ChangesNowBowie is a glimpse into a brilliant mind.


Reaching for the Sky: An Interview with Singer-Songwriter Bruce Sudano

How did Bruce Sudano become a superhero? PopMatters has the answer as Sudano celebrates the release of Spirals and reflects on his career from Brooklyn Dreams to Broadway.


Inventions Conjure Mystery and Hope with the Intensely Creative 'Continuous Portrait'

Instrumental duo Matthew Robert Cooper (Eluvium) and Mark T. Smith (Explosions in the Sky) release their first album in five years as Inventions. Continuous Portrait is both sonically thrilling and oddly soothing.


Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch Are 'Live at the Village Vanguard' to Raise Money for Musicians

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch release a live recording from a 2018 show to raise money for a good cause: other jazz musicians.


Lady Gaga's 'Chromatica' Hides Its True Intentions Behind Dancefloor Exuberance

Lady Gaga's Chromatica is the most lively and consistent record she's made since Born This Way, embracing everything great about her dance-pop early days and giving it a fresh twist.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Street Art As Sprayed Solidarity: Global Corona Graffiti

COVID-19-related street art functions as a vehicle for political critique and social engagement. It offers a form of global solidarity in a time of crisis.


Gretchen Peters Honors Mickey Newbury With "The Sailor" and New Album (premiere + interview)

Gretchen Peters' latest album, The Night You Wrote That Song: The Songs of Mickey Newbury, celebrates one of American songwriting's most underappreciated artists. Hear Peters' new single "The Sailor" as she talks about her latest project.


Okkyung Lee Goes From Classical to Noise on the Stellar 'Yeo-Neun'

Cellist Okkyung Lee walks a fine line between classical and noise on the splendid, minimalist excursion Yeo-Neun.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.