The Left Handed Gun (Arthur Penn, 1958)


(Romaine Fielding) #1

I saw this years ago on VHS. It has been unavailable in the US on DVD but I just noticed that it is available as part of a Paul Newman boxed set. But the boxed set was released (according to Amazon) in 2006 so they have had plenty of time to release it as an individual disc and have not done so.
Too bad. I can’t see paying for the whole boxed set to get it.
It is a strange one. Interesting mostly as a curiosity (not unlike The Outrage).
Anybody seen this?
Like it?


(Paco Roman) #2

Is this the B/W Billy the Kid Movie? There is a Region 2 Release (Germany with English Audio) of that one. I have it somewhere … but hadn’t time to watch it so far.


(scherpschutter) #3

I’ve seen it, but I don’t remember when, so a long, long time ago

I do remember I liked Newman in it (as always), but wasn’t really impressed by the movie, especially by its ending
If I’m not mistaken, Garret shoots the Kid by accident, which is a very odd reading of the legend
And I don’t think Billy was left-handed, for that matter


(Stanton) #4

Yeah, the ending is not that good and is also a bit uninspired directed. Also John Dehner, who had some very memorable western roles, is a weak Pat Garrett.

The film was together with Warlock the most bizarre example of psychological characterizations of the 50s, and therefore hated by those who prefered there westerns in a more traditional way. Unfortunately both films are overdoing it by transporting the psychological stuff mainly through pretensious dialogues and Paul Newman is also overdoing the Actors Studio’s mannerisms in portraying Billy as a tormented soul. Less had been more for both films, but Arthur Penn was always aiming high in his (anti-) genre films.

Otherwise The Left Handed Gun is a very interesting western, with some exceptional contributions in filming and integrating violence. There is even one slow motion shot, probably the first in an american genre film, which is followed by a remarkable shot from the ground, which shows the boot of the killed deputy, who lies behind, big in the foreground. The impact of the bullet had thrown him out of his boot. I’m somehow sure Leone had seen this image.


(Romaine Fielding) #5

Yes, that’s it amigo.

Yeah, I have read that the misunderstanding comes from a reversed negative made into a photo.

[quote=“Stanton, post:4, topic:1515”]Yeah, the ending is not that good and is also a bit uninspired directed. Also John Dehner, who had some very memorable western roles, is a weak Pat Garrett.

The film was together with Warlock the most bizarre example of psychological characterizations of the 50s, and therefore hated by those who prefered there westerns in a more traditional way. Unfortunately both films are overdoing it by transporting the psychological stuff mainly through pretensious dialogues and Paul Newman is also overdoing the Actors Studio’s mannerisms in portraying Billy as a tormented soul. Less had been more for both films, but Arthur Penn was always aiming high in his (anti-) genre films.

Otherwise The Left Handed Gun is a very interesting western, with some exceptional contributions in filming and integrating violence. There is even one slow motion shot, probably the first in an american genre film, which is followed by a remarkable shot from the ground, which shows the boot of the killed deputy, who lies behind, big in the foreground. The impact of the bullet had thrown him out of his boot. I’m somehow sure Leone had seen this image.[/quote]

I agree about Dehner. It’s funny, his poor casting is about the only thing I can remember about this movie. A low-rent Pat Garrett if ever there was one.
Warlock is on my short shelf of interesting and odd 50’s westerns. As is Johnny Guitar, Rancho Notorious & Terror in a Texas Town.
Interesting comments about filming and violence…


(ION BRITTON) #6

Another version of the Billy the Kid legend and his relation with Pat Garret. Can’t say I was very impressed, although Paul Newman is quite good and really can act and not just look cool. Some scenes had a slightly cheerful tone which I found quite distracting. The DVD sleeve says that this was a quite influential western, I personally fail to see how it could have influenced anything after its release. Miles behind MISSOURI BREAKS which still remains my favorite Penn western.