Posse From Hell (1961)

Posse from Hell poster.jpg

Even if it’s not vintage Audie, it’s better than none, right? Four Death Row inmates escape and ride into a town called Paradise, shooting it up, and taking Helen (Zohra Lampert) hostage after she tries to take her alkie uncle home. But gunfighter Banner Cole (Audie) has already been deputised by the wounded sheriff and he leads a posse to rescue the hostages. Amongst the random inexperienced gathering is a bank teller Seymour (John Saxon) who makes the best coffee around and former Army captain Jeremiah (Robert Keith) who mistakes four cowhands for the gang and nearly kills them. Helen’s shame at being raped means she doesn’t want to return to the town. Then they track down the gang to a house and all hell breaks loose… Damned fine coffee!

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Gunfight at Comanche Creek (1963)

Gunfight at Comanche Creek poster

Audie plays a lawman with the National Detective Agency who’s fond of the ladies. The first time we see him he’s in the arms of a showgirl whose jealous beau turns up and winds up head first out a window. Business must however, so he’s off to infiltrate a bad gang who have busted a convict out of jail to commit robberies on their behalf. And then his cover might be blown while in their lair. Can he trust the youngest of them with his secret and turn him back to righteousness? He has to watch his best friend get murdered and find out who’s really behind the crime spree. Colleen Miller provides the sweet stuff as the saloon proprietress, there’s a Voice of God narration but it all looks like a TV episode even with DeForest Kelley as the gang leader. Shame.

Drums Across the River (1954)

Drums Across the River poster

Audie Murphy and pop Walter Brennan are living a pretty decent life until smiley-faced Lyle Bettger decides to make some money by fomenting a war with the local Ute tribe to open up their lands and mine some gold. Audie’s got an Unreasonable Hate as his pop tells him because a young Ute brave killed his mama. Now there are bigger things at stake so he sorts out a peace deal with the tribe only for Bettger to renege on his word – as villains always do. It’s the hanging block for Audie when he’s wrongly accused of a heinous crime, all to get his pop from the gang’s clutches. There’s some gorgeous scenery at Barton Flats in the San Bernardino Mountains with Mara Corday providing a little bit of romance. Directed by noted art director Nathan Juran.

The Duel at Silver Creek (1952)

The Duel at Silver Creek theatrical poster

The first of two westerns Audie Murphy made with Don Siegel, here he’s a good guy, for once.  He’s the Silver Kid, a sharpshooter with a penchant for gambling who’s enlisted to deputise for injured marshal Lightning (Stephen McNally) when a gang of no-good claim jumpers start taking over Silver City. Audie falls for tomboy-ish Dusty (Susan Cabot) while Lightning gets mixed up with Opal (Faith Domergue) supposedly the sister of the head honcho (Gerald Mohr) in the Acme Mining Company – who is, of course, our culprit. The lookalike women get good roles, the men do what men do albeit with terrific tension between them in their uneasy alliance, and there’s some good photography to liven things up.

The Quick Gun (1964)

The Quick Gun poster

Audie Murphy was not an ordinary man but sometimes he made quite ordinary westerns, usually with quite a strong moralistic message. Here he’s Clint the titular sharpshooter, exiled from his hometown after killing two brothers before they killed him. When he returns to reclaim his late father’s ranch and to protect his old friends from a marauding gang led by Spangler (Ted de Corsia), he’s not welcome. Sheriff Scotty (James Best) tells him there are easier ways to commit suicide, old sweetheart schoolteacher Merry Anders says it’s too late as she’s now engaged to the Sheriff. The invariable confrontations occur as the father of the dead boys has a bone to pick but you’ll probably not see the twist ending coming, and very satisfying it is too. Sidney Salkow is on directing duties.

The Cimarron Kid (1952)

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This is the first western Audie Murphy shot after working with John Huston and here he’s directed by Budd Boetticher, himself an accomplished filmmaker who would make several classics in the genre, particularly in his Randolph Scott cycle. We have a story by Louis Stevens and Kay Lenard (one of those admirable women who wrote for the screen) about the Dalton Gang. One of their sidekicks is released from jail after serving time on trumped up charges and he is led to returning to the gang after being framed again. He gets involved in a double bank raid that goes tragically wrong with three of the brothers killed and is on the run, chased by a dozen posses in the Five Nation territory. He falls for Carrie, daughter of a former sympathiser, rancher Pat, and the two remaining gang members and himself need to get money to get free. There are deceits, betrayals and eventual entrapment. What has a man got to do after he’s made so many mistakes? Murphy’s acting was improving and his screen persona as a simple guy trying to do the right thing was finessed here and sent up rather sympathetically by the Coen Bros in their last outing, Hail Caesar!

Destry (1954)

Destry 1954 poster

My heroes have always been cowboys – and Audie Murphy was a real-life hero who carved out a terrific career after showing up for John Huston in The Red Badge of Courage. Here he’s in a remake (by the same director, George Marshall) of the Max Brand novel Destry Rides Again. As Tom Destry the guy made deputy sheriff who arrives and demonstrates he believes in law without guns he’s the exception in a town run by Lyle Bettger as the nasty Decker who solves everything by shooting everyone in the back. Thomas Mitchell as former drunk turned man with a star Rags Barnaby is disappointed in the son of his old mate acting cowardly … But as things heat up, Destry finds out what killed the last Sheriff by early forensics and Mari Blanchard keeps us royally entertained with proto-Folies Bergere singing and dancing in the saloon even if Dietrich is an impossible act to imitate. And that’s Lori Nelson as the good girl who eventually will get her man – by shooting up a storm. Great fun and a decent remake to boot!

No Name on the Bullet (1959)

No Name on the Bullet poster

The most highly decorated of American World War 2 heroes, Audie Murphy had an amazing career in mid-range westerns. Here he’s directed by sci fi maestro Jack Arnold as a killer who rides into town and nobody knows who he’s here to kill. The screenplay was by Gene Coon, who was making his way up through television series like Bonanza and Wagon Train and many episodes of Schlitz Playhouse and would also translate Hemingway’s The Killers, the terrific Don Siegel production, a few years later. In the sci fi world however he is renowned for his work on Star Trek – where he devised the Klingons,  the ‘Prime Directive’ and was instrumental in developing the humorous banter between Spock and McCoy. He fell out with cast members but continued to write some of the great episodes and usually included an anti-war allegory as a topper. The dialogue here is superb – ranging from spare, brittle, brutal to pithy, sharp and philosophical. He produced the wonderfully entertaining series It Takes a Thief, which starred Fred Astaire and Robert Wagner. He died horribly young aged 49, in 1973, just a week after being diagnosed with cancer. Murphy himself scored Universal’s biggest hit with the film of his autobiography, To Hell and Back (1955), a record unbroken until Jaws in 1975 and he too had a tragically early end, two years earlier than Coon, when, aged 46, he dided in a plane crash in heavy fog in Virginia en route to a business meeting. Only President John F. Kennedy’s grave at Arlington has more visitors.