In 1876, the rare and coveted ’73 Winchester rifle was the “gun that won the west,” and when our hero Jimmy Stewart -- er, I mean Lin McAdam --wins one in a shooting contest (one of many great scenes in this classic western), you know there’s trouble ahead.
The gun is stolen, and what follows is a series of tense standoffs and misadventures between McAdam and a dirty, rotten character named Dutch Henry. Son K points out: “Like most westerns, you got your good guy, your bad guy, a tough girl,” (Shelley Winters) “... attacking Indians, some gun fights and fast horse riding.”
Yeah, that about sums it up. But it’s superbly acted, tightly directed (by Anthony Mann, who also directed El Cid, Spartacus, and The Fall of the Roman Empire, among many others), and the story goes easy on the depictions of boozing and hard livin’ women. (Winters does play a former “dance hall” girl, but there aren’t any scenes too racy or difficult to explain to the kiddies regarding her past.)
Of course, there’s some violence. People get killed, and some of the villains are oustanding examples of the dark side of humanity.
Just put on your best Jon Lovitz impression, and remind the kids, “It’s just ... acting!”
(Oh, a warning: do not read the summary on Netflix! They have a huge spoiler in their brief description of the film. Also, have fun finding a young Rock Hudson and a young Tony Curtis in the movie. One plays an Indian chief. Hilarious. )
- Scene during a night ride, Lin and his partner, High-Spade Frankie Wilson, know they’re surrounded by Indians on the war path:
Lin McAdam: Yeah, I hear 'em.
High-Spade Frankie Wilson: I told you night riding wasn't smart.
Lin McAdam: I guess you did.
High-Spade Frankie Wilson: Now we're smack in the middle of 'em.
Lin McAdam: I guess you're right again.
High-Spade Frankie Wilson: Being right ain't gonna do us any good. What do we do now?
Lin McAdam: Well, keep riding.
High-Spade Frankie Wilson: With injuns all around us?
Lin McAdam: Maybe you'd feel better if we stopped?
High-Spade Frankie Wilson: Ah... no.
Lin McAdam: Well, then maybe we better just keep riding...