In one of Forty Guns’ standout scenes, gunslinger-turned-lawman Griff Bonnell (Barry Sullivan) and cattle baroness Jessica Drummond (Barbara Stanwyck) flee a tornado that’s tearing across the Arizona plains. It’s a technically impressive sequence, with resourceful camerawork and cuts belying the film’s B-movie credentials and creating a palpable sense of jeopardy.
But more than that, the vortex acts as a conspicuous metaphor, signifying not only the passions and violence barely bottled inside its protagonists, but also the winds of change about to blow through the old west. “This is the last stop,” purrs Jessica as the pair shelter in a tumbledown shack. “The frontier is finished.” Such sentiments identify Samuel Fuller’s undervalued western as an early example of genre revisionism, but the tone isn’t always so serious thanks to some of the most overt innuendo ever put on screen. Watch how you handle Griff’s pistol, Jessica; it’ll go off in your face. [Chris Buckle]