SHOOT OUT is the perfect companion film to the original TRUE GRIT (1969). Both are directed by Henry Hathaway and produced by Hal B. Wallis. In addition they share the similar setup of a hard nosed aging gunman reluctant to welcome a younger female along with them on their mission.
Gregory Peck stars as Clay Lomax, a bank robber who’s just been released from a seven year stint in prison and hell bent on finding his former partner that left him for dead. Lomax heads to a train station to acquire a sum of money that a female companion was keeping watch over. Upon his arrival he is greeted by something that he wasn't expecting. A young girl named Decky.
It turns out Decky was accompanying Lomax's female companion when she passed away a few days prior. Clay attempts to find someone else to watch over the girl but is unsuccessful and the girl ends up joining him on his vengeful quest to hunt down the man who left him for dead. Meanwhile a posse has been dispatched to track Lomax and stop him from hunting down his former partner.
This film is notable for the debut performance of famous character actress Susan Tyrrell as a saloon girl who gets continually beaten and abused by the posse tracking Lomax. Tyrell had a truly unique and captivating quality. She displays a genuinely tortured persona that makes for fascinating viewing and it was fun to see her first foray into film acting.
Tarantino is known to have enjoyed this film and once remarked about its comparisons to PAPER MOON which would be released a few years later. He noted:
“In both movies a shady man is left, against his will, in charge of the daughter of a deceased former flame. He may or may not be the father."
I myself find it ironic that both TRUE GRIT AND SHOOT OUT have a sweetness and sensitivity that most Westerns of that period lacked considering Hathaway was infamous for being one of the most insensitive and difficult directors in the business. A famous quote attributed to him reads: “To be a good director, you've got to be a bastard. I'm a bastard and I know it.” It’s an archaic paradigm that may have made some sense during a much different time. I can say confidently that there has never been any evidence that in order for a director to be effective they must be abusive to the actors and crew.
The disc features an extremely informative commentary by film writer Nick Pinkerton. Pinkerton shares loads of facts about the cast and their careers along with anecdotes about the making of the film.
FUN FACT: The railroad featured in the film is the same one from the opening prologue sequence in INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE.
Notwithstanding Hathaway’s theory on moviemaking, SHOOT OUT is a surprisingly sweet and fun western that is well worth checking out on Kino’s new Blu-Ray. SHOOT OUT is available to purchase on Amazon here