Sam Fuller’s Passionate Pulp Western Leads With Its Hips


Why hasn’t this 1957 Sam Fuller frontier epic—his most ludicrously passionate, faux-muscular, putting-the-whip-back-into-pistol-whip pulp western—been transformed into a Broadway musical? Husky, middle-aged, platinum-perm Barbara Stanwyck lords over the range with a small army of criminal lackeys and goes hips-first for unflappable super-lawman Barry Sullivan, as the townspeople convene in public bubble baths and dodge gunfight ricochets—if the movie is unrecognized as diesel-powered camp, perhaps it’s because Fuller’s ironic-yet-sincere vulgarianism is still hard to pigeonhole. In any case, this ferociously hormonal oater stands beside Johnny Guitar and Rancho Notorious in the annals of hyper-feminized genre freaks. This overdue DVD release—sans extras—comes in a mini-archival shelf-sweep of 20th Century Fox westerns, including In Old Arizona (1928), a fascinating antique, co-directed by Raoul Walsh, that let Warner Baxter scarf up the first talkie Best Actor Oscar; William Wellman’s Buffalo Bill (1944), a boisterous hagiography of the self-promoting frontiersman/exploiter that’s as stuffed with pleasantlies as a real Wild West show; and Henry King’s The Bravados (1958), a despairing revenge tale, starring a grief-poisoned Gregory Peck, that descends from Ford’s The Searchers and leads directly to the emergence of the anti-western a few years later.