Forty Guns (1957 76min.) [Film4 5.05pm &+1]
Western starring Barbara Stanwyck. The powerful influence exerted on Cochise County, Arizona, by domineering rancher Jessica Drummond and her 40 hired cowboys is challenged by the arrival of Marshal Griff Bonnell, a reformed gunslinger, and his two brothers.
It's interesting that, while in most Hollywood films of the 1940s and 1950s women in leading roles were usually only allowed to be objects of romantic attention or damsels in distress, in the western genre there were plenty of roles for women that allowed them to be of equal stature (in terms of toughness, skill with a gun etc.) as their male counterparts.
This film, along with Joan Crawford's blistering turn in Johnny Guitar, are very good examples of this anomaly; although there is about forty seconds of romantic sloppiness in the final reel!
Directed by genuine mainstream maverick Samuel Fuller Forty Guns grips right from the astonishing title sequence and opening shot as the forty gun hands of the tile thunder across the screen led by Barbara Stanwyck; who's clearly having a whale of a time throughout.
It's light and witty in tone with just enough moments of action and tension to keep the hardcore western fan entertained ; but it's tight running time and skillful direction allows it to reach out from the genre confines and become an entertaining watch even for the non-fan of horse operas.