FIVE GUNS WEST. American Releasing, 1955. John Lund, Dorothy Malone, Touch (Mike) Connors), Bob (R. Wright) Campbell, Jonathon Haze, Larry Thor. Screenplay: R. Wright Campbell . Director: Roger Corman.

   A highly formulaic, but nonetheless perfectly watchable gritty Western, Five Guns West is perhaps best known – if it is known at all – as the first movie Roger Corman directed. Despite occasionally languid pacing, the movie has enough on screen tension and action sequences to keep the viewer engaged for the duration of the proceedings.

   Although Corman’s direction in this low budget production is hardly on par with Western auteurs such as Budd Boetticher and Anthony Mann, it’s perfectly competent and as good as, if not occasionally better than, the output of the numerous Hollywood craftsmen who churned out oaters throughout the 1950s. If you go into the movie not expecting anything particularly creative or inventive, then it kind of works for what it is; namely, a slightly better than average B-Western.

   The plot isn’t particularly inventive, but it works. When Confederate leaders, already in tough straits, find out that one of their top operatives is about to turn state secrets over to the Union, they decide to “hire” a ragtag group of convicts to conduct a daring mission to intercept the would-be turncoat. Enter a bunch of criminal outlaws on horseback, each with their own agenda. There’s the authoritarian Gaven Sturges (John Lund), the scheming Hale Clinton (Mike Connors), the aging J.C. Haggard (Paul Birch), and the perpetually feuding Candy brothers (R. Wright Campbell and Jonathan Haze). One of them, it will be revealed, is not a criminal at all, but a Confederate officer in disguise tasked with keeping an eye on the men.

   When the five outlaws – or more accurately, the four outlaws and the spy among them – stumble upon a homestead run by the aging Uncle Mike and his beautiful niece, Shalee (Dorothy Malone), you just know that trouble is going to ensue. Just when it seems that Gaven is developing romantic feelings for the young lady, the men get word that the California stage carrying the would-be Confederate traitor is en route with a good amount of gold in his stead.

   As you might well imagine, since outlaws will be outlaws and Confederate officers will be gentlemen, there’s going to be a final showdown and a fight to protect young Shalee from the ravages of a nation torn by war.