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Monday, January 06, 2020

No Name on the Bullet, Good Name on the Screenplay

No Name on the Bullet (Jack Arnold, 1959) is a compelling Western with a screenplay by Gene L. Coon, famous for writing some of the best Star Trek episodes. A quiet town is infected by the presence of hired killer John Gant (Audie Murphy), a man who has escaped justice by refusing to kill his prey until they try to gun him down first. He won't name his victim, leisurely enjoying the town's saloon and even making friends of a sort with the idealistic but tough local doctor Luke Canfield (Charles Drake), seemingly in no hurry to complete his contract. The townspeople begin to turn on each other out of paranoia and fear, and several people die without Gant even lifting a finger. The carnage is tempered only by Canfield, who aims to heal not just the specific victims of the upheaval, but the malady itself. But when Gant's true target is identified, Canfield is challenged to reconcile his respect for Gant's intelligence with his own realization that Gant is, in fact, a disease that he must cure.

The taut, smart screenplay gives the actors great material to create solid, believable characters who react in ways that make sense, leading to a tense, satisfying conclusion. 

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