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A good western from the sixties with the great Clint Walker as a ex-convicted trying to reconstruct his life out of the crime.
Interesting western had potential if it hadn't been so ham fisted. Clint Walker, who I always thought would have been the perfect Punisher, plays and infamous gunman released from prison and tries to go straight, leaving his reputation as "Killer Cain" behind him. In the 18 years in prison, the west has civilized some and he grudgingly joins an old west shooting show as the feature act, much to the chagrin of the show's previous star, a young hothead quick draw artist who romanticizes the old code of the gunfighter, men calling each other out and romanticizing killing in general. The film is thematically similar to Clint Eastwood's "Unforgiven" in regards to trying to unromanticize gunmen and killing, having an infamous gunman teaching a young kid that killing wasn't as honorable, brave or as justified as people thought it was. However, while thematically interesting, the film covers the themes in such a hammy way with Clint Walker trying to teach the young hot head that killing isn't an easy thing and more often than not involved shooting a man in the back. The film gets even weaker when the love of a good woman, Anne Francis, helps Walker find his way. But in the plus column, Vincent Price plays the shooting show owner and barker, and is as wonderful as always. With smarter writing, this could have been a strong revisionist western, but instead it's more of a middling western that's rather corny, though still worth watching.
More Dead Than Alive is a 1969 western starring Clint Walker, Vincent Price, and Anne Francis. It was a film that was released not long after the out-of-date Motion Picture Production Code (or Hays code) was discarded. As such, it featured more on-screen violence and a somewhat darker tone than was common for an average western film at that time. It was directed by Robert Sparr, who was mostly known for his TV work, directing many episodes of Lawman, Cheyenne, and The Wild Wild West. Thankfully, this movie didn't have the appearance of something made by a customarily TV director. It featured a lot quick panning, multiple angles, fast-editing, and unusual framing techniques. It's a film that, many years later, actually looks more sophisticated than it really is. That all being said, it's also a movie that fails to live up to its own style and execution. The story, while unorthodox and featuring an ending that had the potential to be very effective, never has any true momentum behind it. But the biggest problem with the movie is its ending, which attempts to be a down ending yet sails into the credits with a rousing and swelling number about Cain's character and his struggle. It's a tune that has no business in the final moments of this film. It goes beyond softening the blow to the point where the hit just doesn't connect at all, making all of the previous effort almost pointless. So it isn't a western that breathes a lot of air into the genre of yesteryear, nor is it a brutal assault on the genre in the early days of the New Hollywood era. It's more of a character study that tries to push the envelope a bit but tends to render itself moot rather than making any sort of a concrete point.
In this above-average but gritty western, a reformed gunman named
'Killer' Cain (Clint Walker of "Cheyenne") emerges from prison
after serving an 18-year sentence and sets out to earn himself an
honest living. Veteran television director Robert Sparr's
turn-of-the-century oater "More Dead Than Alive" functions as a morality play about redemption and poetic justice set in 1891 that suffers from an Old Testament downbeat ending. Essentially, the theme of this low budget but well-produced horse opera is that you reap what you sew. In other words, what goes around comes around. Sparr is sparing with his use of slow-motion violence, but the death scenes are rather gritty. Nevertheless, watching Vincent Price die from multiple gunshots to the chest is something that you don't always witness, and "More Dead Than Alive" is one of those westerns made when slow-motion violence in movies was in vogue. Certainly, Sparr
pulls no punches in this dust-raiser, and Walker is sturdy as ever as the
ex-convict who wants to do nothing more than settle down with lovely
Life is particularly cruel to Cain, who grew up on an army post and rarely saw much of his father, and he finds it even more difficult to earn a good living. Initially, when he left prison, he told himself never to touch a gun again. Of course, our protagonist isn't fortunate enough for this to happen. He gets a job as a bouncer at a saloon, but he is fired when the owner learns that Cain gave him a false name. Cain is basically a transient who cannot hold onto a job for any length of time, until he meets the savvy and sagacious Dan Ruffalo (Vincent Price of "The Last Man on Earth") who puts him to work in his traveling gun shooting sideshow. Mind you, Ruffalo's current attraction, a swift-drawing, sharp-shooting kid named Billy Valence (Paul Hampton of "Women of the Prehistoric Planet"), isn't pleased when Ruffalo replaces him with Cain. Billy starts out as Cain's friend, but he becomes his enemy when he realizes that Cain is the big shot of the show. Meantime, Cain meets a beautiful young lady, Monica Alton (Anne Francis of "Bad Day at Black Rock") when she is painting a ghost town. Later, after he grows sour on the shooting show, Cain goes back to see her and decides that he wants to raise livestock on her land. Eventually, they become a couple, but
justice never lets up pursuing Cain and nothing of his redemptive acts prevents him from enjoying his life. Sparr keeps things moving along at a nice pace. Look for screen heavy Emile Meyer as a saloon barkeeper.
Oh, I hate westerns, but at least Vincent Price has a better role than his last western. The story is familiar and predictable, so there's really not much point in watching this. I didn't like this movie.
Human mountain Clint Walker stars in this interesting character study of an ex-killer turned good, haunted by his past. You can easily draw a lot of story and character parallels with Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven, and Walker is excellent in the starring role. There are also some great supporting players, including the always good Vincent Price as a traveling showman. The story structure is interesting, with some major events taking place off screen, and several major time jumps. And it's surprisingly violent. It looks like a western from the late 50s, but it's actually late 60s, and they were testing some new boundaries of violence and general content. A couple of the deaths are downright brutal. A solid film.
Synopsis: Cain (Clint Walker) is an ex-con looking to make an honest living. Unable to escape his past as Killer Cain, he is enlisted by Ruffalo (Vincent Price) to join his traveling Wild West Shooting Show and accept his past.
Nice Blood Squibs
A Little Slow
FINAL ANALYSIS: This is an odd western, in as much, it is short on action and long on drama. Clint Walker delivers a strong performance as a man who wants to divorce himself from his past and move forward from his criminal past. However, the world will only see him as Killer Cain. Desperate to earn a living Cain turns to Ruffalo to take a job in his traveling shooting show. The tension in this movie is created by Cain and the Trick Shot, Billy, already in the sideshow and by Cain's past transgressions confronting him as they travel town to town. Vincent Price delivers one of his best performances in this film. As well, the Kid, Billy, delivers a wickedly unhinged performance. This was a fantastic forgotten gem which delivers some genre defying twist and turns and eschews gunfights and focuses on the human condition that the violence effects.
A REALLY GOOD FILM
Never holster an empty gun
An old country boy who grew-up when times were hard in the Wild West has served his time for killing a man, and after 18 hard years in jail, wishes to settle down and live a respectable life. A female artist points the man in the right direction, but some how, he keeps getting pulled in to gun shows to earn a living. While the living is respectable, and a source of income, the lifestyle reminds him of what he used to be rather than what he wishes to become. Will the country boy reach his dreams or will his old lifestyle continue to haunt him?
Did he get him?
Does an outhouse stink?
Robert Sparr, director of Once You Kiss a Stranger, A Swingin Summer, and numerous episodes in various television series, delivers More Dead than Alive. The storyline for this picture is compelling and well delivered. The subplots and supporting characters were well portrayed. The acting was solid and the cast included Clint Walker (Dirty Dozen), Vincent Price, Anne Francis (Forbidden Planet), and Paul Hampton (Senior Prom).
Hurry it up, fat boy. Im going to have a steak in hell for dinner.
I was searching for movies to DVR over the weekend and was in the mood to catch some Vincent Price pictures (I occasionally get those cravings). Nevertheless, I came across this western and could not remember ever seeing a Vincent Price in a western. I was pleasantly surprised at how well he fit into this setting. While Clint Walker stole the show, the entire cast delivered splendid performances. The conclusion was marvelous and well delivered. I strongly recommend seeing this picture if you are a fan of westerns.
Its the biggest little show in the territory.
While the premise for this one is good, the execution of it is anything but. Slow pace and sparse entertainment almost kill this one completely. Vincent Price is always a pleasure though, and is the one saving this film from a total panning.
An interesting western with the sub-genre of weird carnival/circus thrown in for good measure. Never quite rises above curiousity with the cast involved, but at least not another traditional western.