THE GUN HAWK Rory Calhoun

THE GUN HAWK. Allied Artists, 1963. Rory Calhoun, Rod Cameron. Ruta Lee, Rod Lauren, Morgan Woodward, Robert J. Wilke, John Litel , Lane Bradford. Director: Edward Ludwig.

   Over the years, Monogram, the 1930s and 40s Poverty Row motion picture company, morphed into Allied Artists, and by the time of The Gun Hawk they were making B-westerns in color, but they were still very much B-westerns.

   This has the usual stigmata of the genre: bad script, bad acting, low budget … but it’s lifted out of the ordinary by Rory Calhoun’s ghoulish portrayal of a dying gunman determined to go out on his own terms.

   He’s counseled by veteran good-guy Rod Cameron and hounded by veteran bad-guy Robert Wilke, but this is basically Calhoun’s show, and he makes for fascinating viewing as he prowls about the screen, obviously dead from the moment he walked on; such a finely honed performance, one really wishes there were a decent movie somewhere around.

   The Gun Hawk also offers a small part from an actor who specialized in them, Lane Bradford. Bradford came on in the waning days of Republic serials and series westerns, and he never did anything especially noteworthy. (Well, he did try to blow up the planet while dressed in purple sequins for Zombies of the Stratophere, which was something of an anomaly.)

THE GUN HAWK Rory Calhoun

   But in the days when the once mighty outlaw gang had dwindled down to two or three henchmen for reasons of economy, he could always be seen somewhere in the background, looking formidably evil with his lantern jaw and broken nose, and getting punched out by Rocky Lane or Whip Wilson.

   Here he has a good time bullying the town drunk till Calhoun steps up, and it’s nice to see Bradford, after all these years, still dealing out his brand of special nothingness.