Kirk Douglas Versus Anthony Quinn Western

Two screen giants clash in Last Train From Gun Hill, the taut Western thriller in VistaVision from director John Sturges (The Magnificent Seven). Starring Kirk Douglas and Anthony Quinn, the classic Western offers sharp writing, tense action and a highly memorable conclusion. Nicely crafted with Hollywood precision, Last Train From Gun Hill is an underrated movie from the 1950s that still bristles with intense energy and steady filmmaking.

U.S. Marshal Matt Morgan (Kirk Douglas) ends up trapped and alone in the town of Gun Hill, vowing to leave on the last train of the day with the men who killed his wife and bring them to justice. Last Train From Gun Hill is a serious Western made with adults in mind, not the hokey pablum once common to the genre’s heyday. The 1959 film begins with two men raping and murdering Morgan’s wife. What follows is a classic tale of a principled lawman who strongly believes in justice, even if it might cost him his life.

Last Train From Gun Hill is a well-made Western by a director known for his Westerns

Tracking his wife’s killers to Gun Hill by himself, Morgan finds out the suspect is the son of his old and dear friend, Craig Beldon (Anthony Quinn before he was a huge star). A powerful cattle baron, Beldon de facto runs the town of Gun Hill and everyone in it. Their clash of wills becomes inevitable when the Marshal figures out that Beldon’s son killed his wife. The only person in Gun Hill looking out for justice, Matt Morgan is outnumbered and outgunned. Morgan is surrounded on all sides by men loyal to Beldon.

Dripping with suspense and charismatic performances by its two stars, Last Train From Gun Hill is a well-made Western by a director known for his Westerns. John Sturges was on a successful streak in the genre, having finished Gunfight At the O.K. Corral just two years earlier. The year after Sturges would deliver The Magnificent Seven, a landmark in the genre.

The rest of the cast includes among others Carolyn Jones, Earl Holliman, and Brian G. Hutton. Carolyn Jones has the only significant female role, though she plays an important role in the story that adds depth and character to the screenplay. Probably best known today for playing Morticia Addams on The Addams Family, she plays Beldon’s former lover who was once a prostitute.

Video

Paramount strikes an amazing new 6K film transfer for the Western with great results outside of one small issue. The VistaVision movie looks beautifully elegant with inky black levels and classic Hollywood Technicolor cinematography from the 1950s. Paramount remastered Last Train From Gun Hill with a quality scan of the original camera negative that is eminently film-like. The large-format film’s primary colors look more refined than before. The elements are in stunning condition. This is a transfer ready for UHD.

The resulting 1.78:1 presentation has strong depth and immense clarity. It’s a faithful and authentic presentation without zealous video processing. The color correction pulls out details and texture that haven’t been seen since the movie’s first theatrical run. Truly stunning, befitting a VistaVision production made by John Sturges. The contrast has been dialed in with better shadow delineation and improved saturation over Paramount’s 2004 DVD. What once looked like mush is now razor-sharp 1080p video.

Unfortunately, an issue does crop up during the transfer, which some viewers will notice. Any scene with moving action across the screen results in a slight but decidedly odd ghosting effect. A motion blur for the moving object arises, such as when horses ride quickly across the scene. It’s not always noticeable but does stick out in a couple instances. I believe the issue is that certain frames have been digitally blended at the wrong frame rate.

The problem also shows up in the digital master available for iTunes, so it’s not an authoring error on the Blu-ray. Something is likely amiss in the digital transfer struck by Paramount. There have been hints of this problem showing up in a few other Paramount releases recently. Most modern film scans are done frame by frame and then manipulated together in digital software.

Last Train From Gun Hill’s excellent film transfer deserves a perfect score but the strange ghosting issue is a small knock against it. Many people will not even notice the ghosting, but it’s definitely there in some form and high-performance displays like OLED make it more prominent.

Audio

The original monaural theatrical mix sounds great in 2.0 Dolby TrueHD. The Westrex recording offers relatively full dynamics and punch, including an array of impressive gun shots. Dialogue is perfectly intelligible and clean. It’s a high-fidelity sound from the 1950s, made by experienced studio personnel. The cheesy but largely effective score by Dimitri Tiomkin has a lush quality without any thinness or harsh edge.

It should be mentioned that some have experienced slight audio sync issues. That wasn’t true in my case but variances can happen depending on your home theater.

Optional English, English SDH, German and French subtitles play in a white font. French and German dubs are heard in 2.0 Dolby Digital mono sound.

Extras

Last Train From Gun Hill is #18 in the Paramount Presents line of Blu-rays. It arrives in a clear case with a deluxe fold-out slipcover that reproduces the movie’s original theatrical poster. The digital copy it comes with redeems in HDX quality on either VUDU, FandangoNow, or iTunes.

As seen below, the special features are scant and Leonard Maltin kind of mails it in on the featurette. The provided trailers are in rough shape. That being said, the A/V upgrade for the movie over the 2004 DVD is immense and makes that disc entirely obsolete.

Filmmaker Focus: Leonard Maltin on Last Train From Gun Hill (07:22 in HD) – A lightweight, generalized look at the film that never goes beyond the surface. Maltin more or less phones in this brief discussion of the film and its players.

Last Train From Gun Hill Theatrical Trailer (02:36 in SD)

Gunfight At The O.K. Corral Trailer (02:10 in SD)

The Furies Trailer (02:17 in SD)

The Black Orchid Trailer (02:15 in SD)

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Last Train From Gun Hill
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
4

Movie

A taut, suspenseful Western from director John Sturges with Kirk Douglas facing off against Anthony Quinn.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 50 full resolution, uncompressed HD screen shots grabbed directly from the Blu-ray: