It’s always interesting to see a supporting player step up and show what they can do in a leading role. Robert J. Wilke gets this chance in GUN THE MAN DOWN.
Wilke,Don Megowan and James Arness rob a bank. Arness is injured and his two partners leave him behind as the posse catches up. A very young Angie Dickinson loves Arness and doesn’t want to leave him. ( they have made it back to the cabin where she is waiting for them).
Wilke forces her to go with him and Megowan.
Arness is caught, serves a year in prison ( seems a light sentence!), then sets out for revenge.
So that’s the set up. Writer Burt Kennedy adds nice touches and the ending is a surprise. The pace is a bit slow, but there is much of interest.
It’s Andrew V. McLaglen’s first directorial feature ; it was a Batjac production; James Arness made this western then spent 20 years on T.V. in Gunsmoke: Robert Wilke is still on the wrong side of the law but during the year in which the Arness character is in jail, Wilke and Dickinson become a couple – odd pairing, in fact Angie is too young for the part of a saloon girl with a past; Emile Meyer has an unusually sympathetic role as a wise old sheriff who is always trying to keep his deputy, Harry Carey Jr out of trouble.
Arness found his niche as Marshal Dillon. Required to be vengeful and obsessed in this film, he cant pull it off. Wilke does his best but his niche was as a villain in support.