Like the reviewed concurrent Warner Archive DVD release of the awesome Western/juvenile delinquent flick hybrid "The Young Guns," the more traditional 1965 Western "Son of a Gunfighter" shows that dreamy "West Side Story" star Russ Tamblyn is at home on the late 19th century frontier as he is dancing about with a switchblade on the mean streets of New York. "Son" additionally is special in that it is filmed in both Cinemascope and Metrocolor.
The following clip, courtesy of YouTube and Archive, of an important early scene in "Son" both depicts the aforementioned terrific cinematography and nicely sets the stage (pun intended) for the primary action in the film.
Similar to the plot in "Guns," the character whom Tamblyn portrays in "Son" comes under immediate suspicion on being found traveling through the Old West. Another similarity is that Tully Rice of "Guns" and Johnny (who apparently is a man with no last name) of "Son" have enormous chips on their shoulders and troubled pasts. One difference is that Johnny has specific malice in his heart and mayhem on his mind. He is out to gun down the man whom Johnny holds responsible for the death of Johnny's mother.
The good folks at Archive share that modern appreciation for "Son" includes Quentin Tarantino casting Tamblyn as Son of a Gunfighter and Tamblyn's daughter Amber as Daughter of a Son of a Gunfighter in "Django Unchained." This shows that, once again, Tarantino has excellent instincts.
Direct conflict regarding the quest for vengeance on which Johnny is embarked comes in the dual form of the pursuit of Deputy Mace Fenton for the bounty on the head of the quested outlaw Ace Ketchum and the agenda of Mexican bandit Morales.
Indirect conflict arises regarding Johnny becoming near and dear to the hearts of ranch owner Don Pedro Fortuna and daughter Pilar, who become enamored with Johnny in their own ways on providing him shelter and care. Seeing great character actor Fernando Rey mahvelously nail the role of the kind and generous Don Pedro greatly adds to the fun of the film.
The plethora of well-staged gun fights is the reported element that garners the regard of Tarantino; the awesomely developing relationship between Johnny and Pilar and the full story behind why Johnny wants to plug outlaw Ace Ketchum add nice substance to the film. The latter additionally propels the uber-awesome final moments of the film, which provide a still highly relevant morale.
This wonderful melange of elements additionally supports the theory that those among us who dismiss Westerns as nothing more than a boring series of shootouts are depriving ourselves of some great films and shows. The performances and substance in these productions can equal the quality of many well-regarded films and series from other genres.
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