`Gun Fury' reloads for some 3-D fun at Charles

Western locations, Hudson are a sight

Movie Review

March 13, 2004|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

Thundering hooves. Flying boulders. Pointy knives.

And funny glasses. Praise be, it's time for another 3-D movie at the Charles.

As a western, Gun Fury, directed by the prolific and sometimes brilliant Raoul Walsh, is pretty standard-issue stuff. The film stars Rock Hudson as Ben Warren, a Civil War vet-turned-pacifist making for a ranch in California with his fiancee, Jennifer Ballard (Donna Reed). Things start happening when the two of them are unlucky enough to be on a stagecoach being robbed by Frank Slayton (Philip Carey) and his gang (which includes a young Lee Marvin as Blinky).

Boding ill for all concerned, Slayton takes a liking to Miss Jennifer. When Warren ends up shot and left for dead, the gang - with a reluctant Ballard in tow - takes off for Mexico. No extra points for guessing what Slayton has in mind. Or for realizing that Warren's not dead, only wounded and hell-bent on getting his girl back.

The cast is workmanlike (Carey sneers great; and Hudson manages to take his shirt off - a beefcake requirement for most of his early films), and horse-opera fans will have a fine time.

But what makes this film special is the 3-D effect, which takes great advantage of the Western locations. Seeing the buttes and cliffs and cacti of the desert Southwest is impressive enough, but seeing it in an extra dimension makes the region come alive in ways conventional films had trouble matching (one shudders at what John Ford could have done with a 3-D camera).

That, plus some early driver's-eye shots of a galloping stagecoach, hint at what could be accomplished when directors used their imagination a little, instead of simply having actors throw things at the screen to show off the 3-D image (there's some of that in Gun Fury, but mostly in the final act).

Walsh, a veteran of the silent era who directed some of Douglas Fairbanks' greatest films, had only one good eye, and thus could not see films in 3-D - just like Andre De Toth, another one-eyed director, who was responsible for the 3-D film generally acknowledged as the classic of the genre, House of Wax.

Those desiring a more typical 3-D experience, never fear: The Three Stooges will also be on hand, in Pardon My Backfire. Nary one of its 16 minutes goes by without some sharp object or stream of water or plume of flame being pointed at the camera. Nyuck, nyuck, nyuck.

Show time at the Charles, 1711 N. Charles St., is noon today, with a reprise at 9 p.m. Thursday. Admission is $6. Call 410-727-FILM.

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