Reviewed by JONATHAN LEWIS:         

THE STRANGER WORE A GUN. Columbia Pictures, 1953. Randolph Scott, Claire Trevor, Joan Weldon, George Macready, Alfonso Bedoya, Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine. Director: André De Toth.

   Given how top notch the cast is, you’d expect the Harry Joe Brown-produced The Stranger Wore a Gun to be much better than it actually is. Directed by Andre de Toth, the film is an early 3-D Western that has some great moments and memorable scenes, as well as skillful use of color to convey meaning, but overall falls flat. It’s not so much that it’s a terribly made film, as it is a rather humdrum affair with a plot that’s far too weak for such a set of skilled actors.

   The film stars Randolph Scott as Jeff Travis, a former member of Quantrill’s Raiders. Former, because he left the outfit for service in the Confederate Army upon seeing the Raiders recklessly and maliciously raid the city of Lawrence, Kansas, during the Civil War. But the past has a funny way of catching up with a man, and Travis is no exception.

   Upon suggestion from his apparent love interest, Josie Sullivan (Claire Trevor), Travis flees the Deep South for Prescott, Arizona, where he ends up in the service of conniving gold thief, Jules Mourret (George Macready) who has big plans to rob the stagecoach business run by the father-and-daughter team of Jason Conroy (Pierre Watkin) and Shelby Conroy (Joan Weldon).

   From the get go, Travis, has no love for Mourret’s two primary henchman, Dan Kurth (Lee Marvin) and Bull Slager (Ernest Borgnine). The palpable tension between the characters portrayed by Scott and Marvin is actually one of the highlights of the film. Rounding out the cast of villains is Alfonso Bedoya who portrays a Mexican bandit, Degas. His performance, almost certainly designed to be comical, ends up nothing less than cringe-worthy.

   In a not unfamiliar plot twist, Travis (Scott) has second thoughts about joining forces with Mourret (Macready) and ends up siding with the Conroys against his former employer. There’s just not all much to the plot besides that. The potential love interest between Travis and Shelby Conroy (Weldon) is never developed. As far as the supposed love between Travis and Josie, it’s hardly anything of note given that the chemistry between Scott and Trevor barely registers.

   All told, The Stranger Wore a Gun definitely has its moments, such the final showdown between Travis (Scott) and Kurth (Marvin) and a harrowing saloon-on-fire sequence. But the film ends up feeling like a bit of a disappointment, especially when watching it in standard 2-D. If you’re a De Toth fan, it’s probably worth watching just to compare it with his other Westerns. That said, most everyone would likely agree that Scott, Macready, Marvin, and Borgnine have all been in much better Westerns than this one.