Gunsmoke In Tucson doesn’t carry such A-list Western stars as John Wayne or James Stewart and it wasn’t directed by the likes of John Ford, Anthony Mann, or revered B-movie filmmaker Butt Boetticher.
Movie buffs may recall Mark Stevens from The Snake Pit or the 1946 noir The Dark Corner, but Gunsmoke in Tucson’s most familiar face is Forrest Tucker, best known for his work on the TV series F Troop. Thomas Carr, who spent a majority of his career directing TV shows (Wanted: Dead or Alive, Rawhide), is Tucson’s filmmaker. But who needs big stars when the film’s blessed with a first rate story?
The flick’s opening moments starts with a shot of a hangman’s noose, as a thief is ready to die for attempting to steal a horse. While the man’s son Chip vows revenge, Chip’s levelheaded brother John knows their dad must pay the ultimate price for his crimes.
Years later, we run into Chip Coburn (Mark Stevens), a hardened horse rustler and leader of the Blue Chip gang (Chip’s right hand man, played by John Ward is appropriately named Slick). Just out of jail, Chip’s bent on grabbing his own piece of land and settling down with a redheaded saloon girl named Lou (Gale Robbins), even if he continues to work on the wrong side of the tracks.
But John (Forrest Tucker), now a straight-laced U.S. marshal, is keeping steady watch over his little brother, and isn’t afraid to throw his kin back in jail (or worse, shoot him dead in his tracks) at a moment’s notice.
Also standing in Chip’s way is Ben Bodeen (Vaughn Taylor), a corrupt land baron who doesn’t mind killing and robbing his way to success. Bodeen has also taken Lou as his wife, upping an inevitable showdown with Chip.
Although Gunsmoke in Tucson is framed as a story of two brothers, the narrative mainly focuses on Chip’s major dilemma. How can a horse rustler exist in a world where he’s not part of the town’s criminal underpinnings? Does Chip join forces with the land baron and exact their evil on Tucson, or will he turn reluctant Good Samaritan and help his brother bring Bodeen to justice?
Though the film does belong to Stevens (who could pass for Dana Andrews’ long lost brother), Tucker has the flick’s most elaborate action sequence. Armed with a Winchester, U.S. Marshal John Brazos (Tucker) takes on Bodeen’s men on a dusty homestead. Shot in CinemaScope, it’s a scene that would have been great to watch on the silver screen.
Armed with a first rate narrative and solid performances, Gunsmoke in Tucson (80 minutes, Warner Archive) may not possess the proverbial, A-list cast and crew, but it still packs a solid punch.