Gun The Man Down Blu-ray Review

James Arness and Angie Dickinson headline this solid Western thriller

James Arness of Gunsmoke fame stars in this gritty Western drama filmed in black and white. Gun the Man Down might be more notable today for being Angie Dickinson’s first film role, released several years before her breakthrough in Rio Bravo.

Released in 1956, James Arness hadn’t yet become the television icon he would eventually become as Marshal Matt Dillon. Gunsmoke was the longest running drama in television history with its twenty seasons, but the show had just hit the air in 1955. In Gun the Man Down, Arness plays Rem Anderson. Rem loves Jan (Angie Dickinson) and robs banks with two scheming partners. After their next successful score, Rem plans to settle down with Jan and run a cattle ranch.

Rem and his partners end up stealing $40,000 in cash from a bank. Rem is shot in the robbery and his callous partners decide he’ll be a hindrance to their escape. The partners make a break for it with the loot and force Jan along, leaving Rem to be captured and imprisoned. After serving a year in jail, Rem tracks down his former partners in a game of cat and mouse. He’ll cross paths with a gun-for-hire outlaw played by Michael Emmet and a crafty sheriff played by Emile Meyer.

The same story could have been told in a shorter, more concise format.

Running a short 76 minutes, Gun the Man Down offers a solid screenplay and tense drama in the Western tradition. The cat-and-mouse game played between Rem and his ex-partners has its moments, especially when Jan is implicated in a love triangle. It moves beyond the expected television melodrama of the era with it careful portrayal of Jan. She’s a complicated female character for the 1950s, conflicted over two men for different reasons. Angie Dickinson would go on to have a huge career and stardom in the Sixties, though she’s less recognizable in this role. Having already cut her teeth on dozens of episodes on television, Dickinson is an experienced actress by the time of this debut movie role.

Despite its brevity, the direction tends to pad out Gun The Man Down’s narrative with duller moments. It’s possible this screenplay by Burt Kennedy was originally intended for an hour-long television slot and was then expanded for theatrical release. The same story could have been told in a shorter, more concise format. The drama has less action than some Western fans may like, frequently relying on the romantic tension between Rem and Jan. Consider this movie a suspenseful drama built off anticipation rather than a pure Western shootout.

Gun the Man Down Blu-ray screen shot 8

Video

Olive Films licenses Gun The Man Down from MGM’s vaults. The 1956 black-and-white film receives an ordinary, unrestored film transfer with occasionally erratic grain structure. The main feature runs 76 minutes in AVC. Included on a BD-25, the AVC encode runs at extremely high bitrates. The film is shown at a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.

Going off the reduced clarity and inconsistent film grain, the transfer appears to be one of MGM’s older efforts. The opening reel is especially soft with mushy, noisy grain. The video is definitely serviceable but there are scenes with definition residing below most high-quality Blu-ray transfers. The elements look unrestored but in decent condition. A few scratches are evident in some frames. This isn’t a beautiful, pristine 2K restoration by any stretch.

Some crushing strangely appears in a few scenes, affecting shadow delineation. The contrast is steady but on the duller side. Definition improves in the latter acts with sharper video. Gun The Man Down doesn’t look great in this Blu-ray presentation but does show modest picture quality improvements over DVD.

Audio

The mono soundtrack is heard in adequate 2.0 DTS-HD MA audio. Recorded on the Westrex system popular in movies at the time, dialogue is mostly clear with some minor harshness found in the upper registers. It has a boxy, chunky sound quality with decent but less than perfect fidelity. The audio recording has its limitations in bass and dynamics.

Optional English subtitles display in a yellow font.

Extras

Gun The Man Down Theatrical Trailer (02:08 in HD)

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process. Patreon supporters were able to access these screens early, view them as .pngs, and gain access to exclusives.