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The American Civil War: To keep traitor Jethro (Jack Ingram) from
defecting to the Union - and taking a large amount of gold with him -, the
Confederate army pardons five cutthroats under the condition that they
will hold up the stagecoach which Jethro takes to the other side.
The cutthroats however are a motley crew, the young, psychopathic hothead
Billy Candy (Jonathan Haze), his older, calmer brother John (R.Wright
Campbell), who looks after Billy but can get just as violent and
dangerous, the clean-shaven cardshark Hale (Touch Connors), the oldtimer
J.C. (Paul Birch), and their leader Govern (John Lund), who in comparison
to them seems to be almost a righteous man. Even on their way to the spot
they plan their hold-up, the men clash more than once, with the situation
not made any easier by the fact they are travelling through Comanche
country, and the Comanches are far from peacceful these days, and when
they finally arrive at the spot, a stagecoach relay station, the situation
is not made any better by the presence of a woman, Shalee (Dorothy
Malone), who's running the station with her uncle Mime (James Stone) - and
our gang of cutthroats hasn't seen a woman, much less a beautiful one, in
quite some time, them having all spent the last years in prison ... and
Govern makes it his responibility to guard her (and tender romance of
The situation gets ever more tense ... until the stagecoach arrives,
guarded by some Union soldiers, and for a short time, the five men seem to
work as one, and the hold-up as such goes swiftly - until Jethro the
traitor confesses he doesn't have the gold (30.000 Dollars) on him but has
hidden it somewhere in California. Now the Candy brothers, Hale and J.C.
want to abandon their plans of helping the Confederates and just kidnap
Jethro to take them to the gold, but Govern - who to noone's real surprise
now turns out to be a Confederate sergeant - manages to snatch Jethro away
from them and hide in the relay station, where he is helped by uncle Mime
and Shalee, righteous people who know a righteous man when they see one.
In the final shoot-out - which in part takes place beneath the relay
station -, Govern manages to shoot the Candys and Hale, only J.C., able to
know a losing battle when he sees one, gets away even before the shooting
Order is restored, with Govern in the end promising Shalee to return to
her once his mission is fulfilled and the war is over ...
Roger Corman's first film as a director is an economically made
B-Western from a time when the era of the classic B-Westerns was over -
which is why this film doesn't have a glorious hero in the lead but 5
cutthroats thrown away by fate, and why this film has some noirish
undertones. (By the way, the concept of characters thrown together by fate
and clashing with each other is a plot device Corman would use again and
again in various genres, see for example The
Day the World Ended.)
In all, Five Guns West is certainly no great Western in the John
Ford-mold, but it's a gritty, straightforward Western drama, made on the
cheap for sure, but delivering good entertainment at the same time.