Last Train from Gun Hill, is a top western. Although there are some psychological undertones, it is a film that plays for almost pure action.
Kirk Douglas’ Indian wife is raped and killed by two young brutes (Earl Holliman and Brian Hutton). Douglas, marshal of the town of Pauley, finds a clue that leads him to the neighboring community of Gun Hill. He discovers his fugitive (Holliman) is the son of his old friend (Anthony Quinn). His problem is how to get Holliman away to justice on that ‘last train’, with Quinn and his hired gunhands determined to thwart him.
James Poe’s screenplay slips into a few cliches in dialog, but it is remarkable in that it avoids more. It is refreshing in its ability to shut up when action should take over, when a gesture or look completely conveys meaning.
Cameraman Charles Lang also employs an unusual number of very long shots in his sunbaked exteriors, with the human figures barely discernible black miniatures on the raw, yellow landscape.
Douglas and Quinn, by performances in depth, give the film the inevitability of tragedy. Carolyn Jones delivers impressively. Earl Holliman is most effective and sympathetic as the weakling son.