For this black and white oater with Mr. Sterling Hayden, you could pretty much take any hour long television western of the day and stretch it out by an extra twenty minutes and voila! You have the script for Top Gun.
Hayden is a gunfighter who returns to his hometown to warn them of an incoming attack by a gang of carpetbaggers led by one of those great character actors of the day, John Dehner. The townsfolk know of Hayden’s reputation and want him to quickly move on. William Bishop most of all. Not only is he about to marry Hayden’s former love Karen Booth but he now owns the old family homestead that Hayden grew up on. It seems that our returning outlaw’s Mother sold the place to Bishop the day she was murdered. The killer was of course never found.
It takes the always low key Hayden about 8 minutes to solve the mystery and swear vengeance on Bishop. But first he’ll have to take care of an up and comer looking to make a reputation for himself. Our young gunslinger is none other than baby faced Rod Taylor. While he hams it up through the film along with our main villain Dehner, Hayden is of course the total opposite and underplays practically every scene as he was known to do in most every role he undertook during his solid career.
We get a little bit of a High Noon plot mixed in here with town sheriff James Millican trying to get help from the likes of Regis Toomey and Denver Pyle. Still there’s no doubting it’s going to come down to a Hayden vs. Dehner face off. After all Hayden once rode with Dehner and John is not the forgiving type.
Dehner’s character is basically a variation on the Quantrill’s Raiders gang that has been showcased in a number of westerns including Kansas Raiders where Brian Donlevy played the lead. “B” director Ray Nazarro is behind the camera for this effort released by United Artists. Nazarro had many westerns under his belt by this time including Kansas Pacific which had also starred slow and deliberate Sterling Hayden.
Rod Taylor was just getting started here and would go on to be a popular leading man in the sixties and seventies turning up in some top notch films including The Time Machine and Dark of the Sun.
No Tom Cruise here for this Top Gun but we do get a fun cast of western regulars. This one turns up occasionally on TCM if you are so inclined.