The film begins in the old west with a woman and her son travelling by horse. When strangers approach, they exchange words resulting in the woman and her son being attacked. Thankfully, the young boy manages to escape into town safely and seeks help from his father, Matt Morgan (Kirk Douglas), the town’s Marshal. Naturally, the Marshal rides as fast as possible to rescue his wife, but sadly, he is too late and discovers her murdered body. Based on the evidence around the crime scene and what the young boy saw, the Marshal is confident he knows who did it. The only catch is that the criminal is the son of the Marshal’s old friend, Craig Belden (Anthony Quinn).
Now, the Marshal will travel by train to a town known as Gun Hill and, with determination, will arrest the man responsible for murdering his wife and return home, where the criminal will receive sentencing for his crime. But as one might expect, when Craig receives word of this, he decides to stand in the way of the Marshal, doing everything he can to protect his son from being arrested and taken away.
Last Train from Gun Hill is a western revenge tale. There are many moments that are quite suspenseful, none more so than when our leading hero has a challenging confrontation with a man he once called a close friend. There’s a sense of suspense and urgency throughout as the Marshal is attempting to meet a deadline- he must survive the day and make it to the last train out of town so he can carry the criminal to justice.
Kirk Douglas is incredible as Marshal Matt Morgan. There’s a strong sense on-screen that he is dealing with various emotions; after all, he just lost his wife and is now seeking revenge, but he also has to confront a close friend, which is not an easy choice. Douglas nails all the emotions and various confrontations wonderfully. As a character, he is deeply likeable, and audiences will find themselves cheering him on, hoping he will survive. On the flip side, I must also praise actor Anthony Quinn as villain Craig Belden. His character is in a challenging position; while he sympathises with the loss of the Marshal’s wife and accepts that his son has done the horrific crime, as a father, he has to protect his son because that’s what fathers do; right? These two strong characters both deliver an understandable point of view, making this film edgy and engaging.
Pacing is great. I never felt bored by this film but was highly invested and wanted to know the outcome. The finale was highly rewarding and unexpected, and as the credits rolled, I felt like I was left on a high after sharing the experience with the leads. As for any negatives, there isn’t much here I can overly say I disliked other than one side performance from Carolyn Jones, which felt slightly annoying and perhaps even a little unnecessary. From time to time, her character interacts with the Marshal and assists him in surviving in various ways, but the conversations they exchange and her dialogue felt slightly displeasing to witness.
Overall, like a stick of lit dynamite, this film is a blast that goes off with a bang. I was highly engaged and entertained by this unpredictable story. Leading performances from Kirk Douglas and Anthony Quinn were strong, convincing and likeable. The pacing is enjoyable, as is the storyline, and there are many moments of solid suspense like a ticking clock. Audiences will be excited to witness this western revenge tale.