GUN FEVER. United Artists, 1958. Mark Stevens, John Lupton, Larry Storch, Jana Davi, Russell Thorson, Iron Eyes Cody. Director & co-screenwriter: Mark Stevens.

GUN FEVER Mark Stevens

   Back in 1958 “adult” TV westerns were all the rage — Gunsmoke, Have Gun Will Travel and many others. And in many ways, that’s what I think Mark Stevens had in mind when he put so much effort into this movie: an “A” (for adult) western movie; what he also had was a “B” (for budget) expense account, and it shows.

   From the opening scenes on, however, this is one of the grimmer westerns I’ve seen in a while. The interior backgrounds, the homesteaders’ shacks and so on, all are stark and barren; outdoors it seems as though the wind in always blowing: with the incessant tumbleweeds and eternal sand in everyone’s faces, it makes you grit your teeth even to watch.

   Storywise, there’s not much to it. A young lad splits from his father’s gang when he decides the bloodletting has gotten too much for him. Six years later, he goes on a trail of revenge with his mining partner when the other man’s parents are brutally murdered — instigated by the outlaw he knows is his father. Confrontation is inevitable.

GUN FEVER Mark Stevens

   Several other deaths occur along the way, most with guns, some with knives, some at the hands of Indians. Jana Davi, whom I don’t remember ever seeing before, plays an Indian married to a white man, a sympathetic role, but as a Native American Indian, I don’t think so. (And it did surprise me a but when I discovered that Larry Storch was the man behind the serapes of the Mexican bandit, Amigo.)

   Overall, though, no more than moderately interesting. The highlight for me was seeing at last (as far as I know) the man behind Russell Thorson’s voice. I’ve heard him many times on the radio, but while in 1958 he was quite a bit older than when he played the capable, easy-going Jack Packard on the old I Love a Mystery radio series, he still looked much as I’d pictured him.

— Reprinted from Mystery*File 37, no date given, slightly revised.

[UPDATE] 01-14-14. From IMDb: “Maureen Hingert [aka Jana Davi] was born on 9th of January 1937 in Columbo, Ceylon, of Dutch ancestry, the daughter of Lionel Hingert and Lorna Mabel del Run.”

GUN FEVER Mark Stevens