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4.4 out of 5 stars
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4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 2 June 2004
A lone rider, dressed in dark, approaches a desolate ranch, a dog barks excitedly and the farmer and his wife fidget as they watch the stranger getting nearer. "The name is Gant. John Gant", he introduces himself later on.
Such a perfectly mythical opening to a Western movie, and one that I never heard of before. Right away, you sit up and watch and listen, as gun-for-hire Audie Murphy rides into town and just kicks back, while everybody makes wild guesses as to whom he came to kill. Gant, cold-eyed though he may be, is a delicated built, seemingly tender little assasin, and as evil surfaces, as the good citizens of the town go crazy from fear and from well-grounded guilt we in the audience is kept guessing with them, half-way wondering if this man is a killer at all.
The premise of 'No Name on the Bullet' is fascinating and magnificently played out in this lowbudget film. The acting is understated, the pacing is great and the suspense excruciating. Watch it, you won't be sorry.
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HALL OF FAMEon 26 April 2009
"Buck, he's here! He's right here in town," says the out-of breath barkeep who just ran over from the town hotel to the sheriff's office.
"Who's he talkin' about? Who's Gant?" asks Harold Miller, the deputy sheriff.
"You mean you really don't know?" says the barkeep.
"I asked, didn't I?"
"He's a killer," says Sheriff Buck Hastings.
"So what? We've had some pretty good ones. We've been able to handle `em."
"Oh, no," says the sheriff. "A gunman is one thing. Gant's another."

John Gant (Audie Murphy) is a paid assassin, cool, quick, deadly and smart. He's given the name of his target and collects his fee, then sets out for a bit of lawful murdering. He arrives in a town, takes a room for a few days, scouts out his victim's weaknesses, and then goads the man into drawing on him. Gant has gunned down quite a few with this technique and has never been arrested. His services come high.

Now John Gant has ridden into the dusty town of Lordsburg, taken a room at the local hotel, and is biding his time. Every one in town knows Gant is going to kill someone, but no one knows who.

It's not long before venality, cowardice, suspicion and fear consume some of Lordsburg's leading citizens. Quite a few show that they wear a coating of moral slime. Their fear is justified by everything from double dealing, mine stealing and wife theft. John Gant is a paid assassin, but he also seems to be the dark side of humanity's conscience. Just his presence causes suicide, vigilantism and murderous gunfights between factions in the town. Gant just looks on. The one man in town who speaks for decency is the town doc, Luke Canfield (Charles Drake). Canfield is a dedicated young medical man, serious about healing, engaged to the daughter of a retired, consumptive, dying judge. Gant and Canfield find each other interesting. Canfield is intrigued by Gant's intelligence. He finds it difficult to believe Gant is nothing but a paid killer. Gant seems drawn to Canfield's honesty. They talk a little. They enjoy a game of chess. Canfield sees himself as a healer of men. Gant sees himself as a healer of problems. It can't last. We might think it's easy to figure out Gant's intended victim; we just have to remember all the clichés of B movies. We'd be wrong.

No Name on the Bullet is an efficient B western, stuffed full with the familiar faces of B movie character actors. The acting is standard B movie quality, not bad but predictable. What makes the movie stand out as something other than just a time killer is that the plot is more intriguing than you'd expect. Essentially, one passive gunman raises havoc among the leading citizens as they unmask their own flawed motives and actions. This is accomplished within an efficient use of just 77 minutes. The movie doesn't dawdle.

And then there is Audie Murphy, playing a man who finds it easy to justify, for pay, bringing death a little earlier than expected to men who mostly deserve what he deals them. Murphy was no great shakes as an actor, and he learned his craft while doing it. Partly because of his extraordinary combat war record, his struggles with what now we call Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, his early hardscrabble life responsible for his younger brothers and sisters, and his modesty, I've always respected the man. He wasn't a big guy, he had a baby face that sometimes helped and sometimes didn't. He applied himself to the job at hand. He had sufficient screen presence to build himself into an above-the-title and popular lead actor. Most of his movies, in my opinion, are standard Hollywood fodder. In some circumstances, however, he could deliver unusually effective performances. He's at his best, in my opinion, in The Red Badge of Courage(1951), The Quiet American (1958) and The Unforgiven (1960). All three movies are flawed, with The Quiet American being awful (and a cynical and corrupt adaptation of Graham Greene's novel) and The Unforgiven being awfully long, but Murphy is just fine. I think No Name on the Bullet ranks among these in terms of Murphy's performance.

The DVD looks just fine. There are no extras.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 18 September 2011
John Gant is a hired assassin, whenever he rides into a town the whole townsfolk wonder who it is who is on his list. John Gant is a very shrewed assassin for he never gets arrested because he never draws first, he psychologically gets under his targets skins forcing them to shoot first, and John Gant always has witnesses. Today, John Gant has rode into Lordsburg, and from today things will never be the same again...

In CinemaScope and Eastman Color

Directed by Jack Arnold, we open with a vision of sprawling hills and a vast landscape (DOP: Harold Lipstein), a man handsomely attired in pristine black clothing trots past on his shiny black horse, he gathers pace and gallops off over the hills, we next see him trotting into Lordsburg, elegance and grace oozing from his pores. This is John Gant, also known as Audie Murphy, and for me we are introduced to one of the greatest Western characters outside of the critics favoured lists of usual suspects.

Audie Murphy had his critics, he himself hardly went out of his way to embrace stardom and pander to the ink scribblers, but here as Gant is a performance of icy cold wonderment that in my opinion proves any doubters wrong. Gant rides into Lordsburg and his mere presence sends the town into panic, friends and associates implode with suspicion whilst Gant just calmly floats amongst them with little leers and low speaking pearls of wisdom. As Gant forms a weird sort of friendship with Charles Drake's Dr. Luke Canfield, the picture gains some much needed heart, and once the finale arrives it helps to close the picture on a hugely rewarding note.

The film reminded me very much of a Twilight Zone episode called The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street, it's a great story to work from {courtesy of Howard Amacker}, because it's morally suspicious and it has characters always on the brink of breaking the law through the sheer worry of their sins and dubious intentions coming back to get them. My only real complaints are that the film is far to short, not sure if it was down to budget or acting restrictions? But clocking in at just 77 minutes I personally feel that another 15 minutes was a must to fully flesh out the finale, and sadly the exterior filming of the gorgeous locale is sparse, which is most galling after the attention grabbing opening shots. However, the film still works a treat and comes highly recommended to even those who don't like Westerns. 8/10
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VINE VOICEon 4 July 2015
Here is a Western with a difference. A stranger comes into town and everyone knows that he has been paid to kill someone. This brings out the fears of many and we see the effect.
Don't worry, it is not a psycological story, there is still plenty of action as people react in different ways.
The end has an couple of really unexpected twists.
A short film but reall worth watching
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on 12 August 2007
The more sinister the character, the better Audie Murphy's performance. Here, his character is more overtly evil (with Charles Drake taking on the boring goodnik role) as a known killer-for-hire who has just arrived in town setting off a paranoidal furor. And how Audie embodies cool! Dressed in black. Shaping his laidback Texas twang into something ominous. Confident. And dangerous.

He was generally dismissed as a non-actor. And Audie believed it too. So I don't know what it was he was doing in this movie, but I wish he did it more often. And I wish other actors could learn to do it, too.

This is a thoughtful Western with just enuf action to qualify as such and to keep the groundlings happy. Topping it off, there is the memorable ending. With a better director and better production values this might have been a great Western instead of just a very good one.
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on 4 July 2007
No Name On The Bullet is probably Audie Murphy's finest western and, after his biopic To Hell And Back (1955), arguably his best film over all. Murphy was the last of the great run of B western stars. In real life the most decorated American soldier of World War II, back in civvy street, he led to a modest career, mostly in westerns, which lasted through 20 years and almost 50 films before being cut short in a plane crash. By all accounts a man without any self-pretension, he was too often given second-rate oaters in which to appear by his studio - and played often to very average effect, as he freely admitted that acting was a profession to which he felt no great regard. But here, as directed by Jack Arnold, a skilful B-movie talent whose earlier credits included such fantasy classics as Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954) as well as the cult exploitation vehicle High School Confidential (1958), Murphy rose above the norm of his career in a film both original and thought provoking.

No Name On The Bullet is notable too as it features a basic idea - that of the prevaricating killer - a Hamlet-like delay in action which appears rarely in the western genre that's more given over to explosive gunplay and short fuses. Other films which share a similar theme, like The Forty-Niners, or De Toth's better known The Bounty Hunter (both 1954), in which a community is also alarmed by an outsider's search for those hiding in its midst, typically involve hesitations caused by the uncertain process of investigation. It's a process naturally made all the more significant by the contemporary activities of Senator Joe McCarthy. In No Name On The Bullet too, there's an investigation of sorts to be seen, but this time not to expose hidden culprits, as Gant already knows who he been hired to kill. Rather it's an investigation by him, and us, of those who for the most part 'think' they are guilty and, naturally, have plenty to hide. Rather like that of the stranger in High Plains Drifter (1973) Gant's arrival in Lordsburg is a moral catalyst upsetting the whole balance of the community, distorting regular behaviour. He may be an assassin but, as the doctor is well aware, Gant also personifies the guilty conscience, strongly enough to provoke panic and even suicide among the outwardly respectable as they contemplate their own cowardice and failings.

This unusual introspection of No Name On The Bullet is helped immeasurably by Murphy's characteristic baby-faced imperturbability. Both in real life, and in drama he looked nothing like the war hero/ killer he was - one reason in this fictional context why the town doctor Canfield (Charles Drake) admits to an early liking to a man who seems so honest and cultured, but never the less one who's killed "20 or 30 men." Murphy's smooth outward appearance instead obliges us to focus on the internal issues at stake for, just as Gant predicts at the start: "if you watch respected citizens then you may see something." As Canfield comes to realise, Gant's presence brings a new danger to public health, "a disease I'm not equipped to cure." In discussions with the physician, Gant admits to his dreadful profession, but finds a parallel between them. "I cure things too," he blithely asserts, and "the most interesting diseases aren't always physical."

Gene L. Coon's writing (he later contributed several memorable Star Trek scripts in an extended career writing for the small screen) is notable in that it excels as a slow moving essay on paranoia while never less than being entertaining. Gant and Canfield are evenly matched as moral adversaries while, as critic Phil Hardy has noted, it is the gunman's victims who in turn make the film so memorable: a splendidly nervous Whit Bissell as the banker Thad Pierce, who commits suicide when he fails to buy off his presumed death; the drunken Lou Fraden (Warren Stevens) who thinks Gant has been sent by the husband of his runaway mistress; or the wheelchair bound Judge (Edgar Stehli), who vows to let Gant shoot him without defence, a last desperate act against the killer's regular strategy of provocation.

Also down on the cast list is soon to be Peckinpah regular R.G. Armstrong, who would appear so memorably a few years later in Ride The High Country. To this worthwhile and enjoyable ensemble playing, so often a pleasure of westerns of this period, we can add the star. Cast against type for once Murphy is splendid - so much so, in fact, that one regrets the many weaker vehicles in which he appeared through his career. Add to this the relatively open ended conclusion of the film, which gives it something of a modern feel, and its all well worth seeing.

The region 2 DVD offers little in the way of extras, not even a trailer, but the strength of this film and natural attractions to western fans means that it can still be recommended
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This is an unusully thoughtful and well written Audie Murphy low budget western vehicle. Directed by the innovative Jack Arnold who was better known for his sci fi outings, most notably "The Creature from the Black Lagoon", he acquits himself well in an unfamiliar genre. For a film with the short running time of 74 minutes it punches well above its weight, and keeps the viewer guessing right until it's surprise ending.

In the film a known hired killer rides into the town of Lordsburg. Everyone knows he has come to kill one of the residents, but just who that might be nobody knows, except John Gant the killer and he isn't saying. Fear and neuroses play havoc with the townfolk ending up in suicide for one. It seems that many have a murky past and it is far from clear who the intended "hit" might be. Lives become publically unravelled as we head to a showdown between Gant and his intended victim.

Audie Murphy is unusually cast as the bad guy, and armed with a good script gives a very credible performance. In some particularly strong lines that sound almost like a biblical parable Gant says "Take two men. Say they have robbed and lied, and have never paid. The man whom one of them has robbed comes to me and says, "Kill that man who's robbed me." And I kill him. The other man becomes ill and would die, except for a physician who returns him to health to rob and lie again. Who's the villain in this piece? Me or the physician?" Not your average western fodder it should be said, but the sort of thing that lifts it well above the average. Charles Drake appears as the town doctor not afraid to confront Gant, and there is also strong support in the imposing physical presence of Peckinpah stalwart R G Armstrong. Karl Swenson, who so memorably came to a stcky ending in "Ulzanas Raid" also appears.

I have seen many of Murphy's films and this is certainly one of his best. Most of the action is centred around Lordsburg on sets and there is very little location filming, apart from the opening scenes, which may not be to everyones tastes. The film is a stylish, if slow moving essay on paranoia, which is all to its credit. For western buffs wanting a quick western fix, so to speak, then this film may be the solution!
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Universal Pictures presents "NO NAME ON THE BULLET" (1959) (77 min/Color) -- Starring Audie Murphy, Charles Drake, Joan Evans, Virginia Grey, Warren Stevens & R. G. Armstrong

Directed by Jack Arnold

John Gant (Audie Murphy) rides into the town of Lordsburg and quietly checks into the hotel. He doesn't say much, nor does he need to - his mere presence does the talking. Gant is a killer, a hired assassin, a gunman with 23 dead men to his credit, but he is not a murderer or a criminal; all of his killings have been legal, a result of self-defense when the men he was after drew on him. When he comes to a town, someone dies as surely as if he were the angel of death - he even tells the town doctor in Lordsburg (Charles Drake) that he's in "a similar line of work," and ends up playing chess with him.

Who has he come to "see" in Lordsburg? No one is sure, but as Sheriff Buck Hastings tells his deputy, it will be mighty interesting watching the leading citizens over the next few days. Sure enough, the town banker locks himself in his office with a gun, his business partner starts wearing a gun for the first time in his life, the man they cheated in their dealings is also armed; and one guilty cuckold (Warren Stevens) is positive his ex-rival has paid Gant. Less than 12 hours after that, there's no law left in Lordsburg, every dirty little secret in every man's past starts bubbling to the surface, and gun play has broken out in the streets between the men who think their respective rivals have brought Gant to town.

Yes! - that's legendary sci-fi director Jack Arnold at the helm in this always interesting western and the gift of a suspenseful ending.

BIOS:
1. Jack Arnold [aka: Jack Arnold Waks] (Director)
Date of Birth: 14 October 1916 - New Haven, Connecticut
Date of Death: 17 March 1992 - Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, California

2. Audie Murphy [aka: Audie Leon Murphy]
Date of Birth: 20 June 1924 - Kingston, Texas
Date of Death: 28 May 1971 - near Roanoke, Virginia

3. Charles Drake [aka: Charles Rupert]
Date of Birth: 2 October 1917 - New York City, New York
Date of Death: 10 September 1994 - East Lyme, Connecticut

4. Joan Evans [aka: Joan Eunson]
Date of Birth: 18 July 1934 - New York City, New York
Date of Death: Still Living

5. Virginia Grey
Date of Birth: 22 March 1917 - Los Angeles, California
Date of Death: 31 July 2004 - Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, California

6. Warren Stevens
Date of Birth: 2 November 1919 - Clark's Summit, Pennsylvania
Date of Death: Still Living

7. R.G. Armstrong [aka: Robert Golden Armstrong]
Date of Birth: 7 April 1917 - Birmingham, Alabama
Date of Death: Still Living

Mr. Jim's Ratings:
Quality of Picture & Sound: 4 Stars
Performance: 4 Stars
Story & Screenplay: 4 Stars
Overall: 4 Stars [Original Music, Cinematography & Film Editing]

Total Time: 77 min on DVD ~ Universal Pictures ~ (May 9, 2010)
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 21 April 2011
A cold, paid killer comes to town, and the town falls apart in
paranoia, wondering who his target is. An interesting political comment
on fear and mob mentality (especially the cold war kind), and a
surprisingly complex look at morality for a film from it's era.

There's also an unusual bond between hero and bad guy that feels ahead
of its time.

You can bet a different ending would be demanded today.

Audie Murphy as the killer isn't a great actor, but his baby-faced
ordinariness makes the character much more fascinating than an obvious
bit of "tough guy" casting like a Jack Palance would have.

Along with "The Incredible Shrinking Man", this shows Jack Arnold as
one of the more interesting, thoughtful US filmmakers of the late
1950s.
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on 4 June 2010
Not having seen even close to all Audie Murphy's Westerns, I suspect this may be his best because of the unusually good script and the twist of Murphy being a sympathetic bad guy rather than the hero. The hero is also quite appealing as is the main female. Suspenseful. Highly recommended.
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