The Gun Runners Film Details
Overview: The Cuban misadventures of a Florida smuggler, at the time of the Cuban Revolution.
Tagline: Hemingway-hot adventure !
Review: World War II’s most decorated hero Audie Murphy recreates the Harry Morgan role that Humphrey Bogart originated in director Howard Hawks’ “To Have and Have Not” as a Florida Key West charter boat skipper who finds himself caught between a rock and a hard place with villainous arms smugglers. Clocking in at a trim 83 minutes, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” director Don Siegel’s “The Gun Runners” qualifies as a straightforward, no-nonsense, apolitical, maritime melodrama about a hard luck skipper who is literally living on a borrowed time. As Sam Martin, Murphy is so destitute that he hasn’t been able to make a boat payment in three months, and the man who pumps his boat fuel hovers around him greedily in anticipation of getting his long overdue money. Nevertheless, despite these trials and tribulations, Sam enjoys a good life. He is his own boss, and he is married happily to Lucy Martin (Patricia Owens of “The Law and Jake Wade”), and he doesn’t have a dishonest bone in his body. Siegel’s film isn’t half as good as either Hawks’ classic or director Michael Curtiz’s remake “The Breaking Point” with John Garfield, but it is still an interesting film, competently made, without flashy effects or thematic pretensions. The characters constitute a motley bunch, but the level of corruption in “The Gun Runners” is nothing compared to an earlier Siegel thriller “The Line-Up.” “The Gun Runners” suffers from contrivance, but the narrative generates some suspense. The cast is stellar with Eddie Albert as a despicable villain, backed up by Richard Jaeckel. This United Artists theatrical release differs substantially from the Hawks’ original and the Curtiz remake. Scenarists Daniel Mainwaring of “Out of the Past” and Paul Monash of “Salem’s Lot” have altered several scenes and characters. Like the previous big-screen adaptations, however, “The Gun Runners” jettisons the chief complication in the relentlessly depressing Hemingway novel. Ostensibly, Sam doesn’t lose an arm like his literary counterpart and he doesn’t die in a gunfight aboard his charter boat with bank robbers. Like the earlier outings, “The Gun Runners” opens with our hero losing a fishing rod and line when a tourist lets a marlin run off with it. Peterson (John Harding of “The Joker is Wild”) has spent ten days out on Sam’s charter boat and he has had rotten luck. The last day out he hooks into a big one, but he fails to follow Sam’s suggestion about handling the fishing rod and he loses it. In the original, the same character with a different name tried to skip out of Bogart, but he got caught in a cross-fire as Cuban authorities tried to round up revolutionaries. “The Gun Runners” is set in the days before the botched Cuban revolution and Peterson here never pays his bill. The authorities catch up with this bad check writer who has been kiting checks galores and Sam doesn’t get his money. This bad luck frustrates Arnold (Jack Elam of “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral”) because he was counting on Sam to pay him off. Along comes a happy-go-lucky fellow Hanagan (Eddie Albert of “Attack”) who wants to rent Sam’s boat. Eventually, Hanagan tells Sam that he wants to go to Cuba. Sam is already leary of Cuba and Cubans. Cuban revolutionaries have tried, as they did in the earlier versions, to charter Sam’s boat for subversive activities against the government. In fact, the revolutionaries kill a cop when they try to persuade Sam to join their cause. Sam wants nothing to do with the revolutionaries. Like the other versions, Sam has a deckhand, a rummy named Harvey (Everett Sloane of “Citizen Kane”), who interferes in everything that Sam does. One character asks Sam why he doesn’t get rid of Harvey and stop worrying about taking care of the guy. Sam replies that Harvey believes that he is taking care of him. Destitute for money, Sam agrees to land Hanagan and his girlfriend in Havana for an evening despite not having proper papers. Hanagan makes a deal with the revolutionaries to deliver weapons to them and he pulls Sam into the scheme. Sam learns too late that Hanagan has bought the note of his boat so Sam will have to take Hanagan back to Cuba to conclude their arms deal. Hanagan brings aboard a Cuban revolutionary who is supposed to take them to a rendezvous where they will exchange the money for the guns. The revolutionary learns too late that Hanagan had planned to double-cross him and a gunfight erupts on Sam’s boat. Hanagan and his henchmen as well as the Cuban die and Sam catches a slug. Luckily for Sam, Harvey remained concealed aboard the charter boat and pilots it back to Key West. Harvey has iron-clad faith in Sam and Sam’s moral values. “I knew you couldn’t do it, Sam. I knew it. You know why? Because like I told Arnold, a man can’t go bad if it ain’t in him to go bad. And it ain’t in you, Sam. Even if you tried it.” Again, the performances are all good and Sloane is really good, but he doesn’t surpass Walter Brennan in the original. Siegel maintains enough tension throughout the action, but he allows his protagonist to romance his wife and spend some time with the other characters at Key West.
Language: English, Spanish
Duration: 83 min
Genre: Crime, Drama, Film-Noir, Thriller
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