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A Time For Dying - A Time For Dying( Blu Ray) [Powerhouse - 2022]

A Time for Dying is a 1969 western written and directed by Budd Boetticher (writer of the Clint Eastwood vehicle Two Mules for Sister Sara, and director of Bullfighter and the Lady and The Magnificent Matador the second of which starred Hollywood legends Maureen O’Hara and Anthony Quinn). The film stars Anne Randall (Westworld, The Night Strangler and Stacey) the relatively little known, Richard Lapp (who appeared mostly in minor TV roles in series like Bonanza and Gunsmoke but did turn up alongside Lee Van Cleef and Warren Oates in Barquero), Robert Random (Tick, Tick, Tick, Village of the Giants and Then Came Bronson), Beatrice kay (Underworld USA, Diamond Horseshoe and most interestingly the excellent Cool Air episode of The Night Gallery from 1971) and of course the film features the final performance of acting legend, Audie Murphy (Destry, The Quiet American and To Hell and Back, the story of his own wartime career as a soldier in the US armed forces, where he played himself). 

The film follows the fortunes of Cass Bunning (Lapp) a naïve young farm boy with a wicked shot and a dream of becoming a bounty hunter. Upon arriving in Silver City, he meets Nellie (Randall) a young girl who has just arrived in town on the stagecoach expecting to start a career as a waitress at Madam Mamie’s saloon and brothel, but who is destined to become a prostitute. The pair flee the town and find a hotel room in the town of Vinegaroon where they are arrested by two deputies for sharing a room and taken to Judge Roy Bean (Victor Jory, Gone with the Wind and The Miracle Worker) whose courtroom doubles as a bar. The couple are forced into marriage by the Judge in order to save the town’s morality and are given a free hotel room in which to spend their honeymoon. The rest of the film follows the couple’s exploits as they run into some of the west’s most famous outlaws including the James gang, led by Jesse James (Murphy). A group of bandits surround the couple and take Nellie captive before heading into Silver Town to cause havoc, followed all the while by Cass who kills two of the band and chases off the others. This makes him a hero to the townsfolk who present him with a cheque for $1,000. The local outlaw Billy Pimple (Random), who Cass ran into at the film’s beginning turns up and challenges him to a shootout. Will Cass and Nellie reach Cass’s family farm to live happily ever after, will Billy get his comeuppance, or will there be another twist in the tail?

A Time for Dying, is an interesting film. The attachment of heavyweights like Boetticher as director and Murphy as producer would suggest something far greater than its parts, the lead actors Lapp and Randall would be fine in smaller roles, but neither shines in this strange and oddly disjointed western. It’s not all bad though, Murphy shows his class, albeit briefly while reprising the role of Jesse James, which he originally took on in the 1950 film Kansas Raiders and Victor Jory is suitably over the top as the crazy drunken Judge Roy Bean. Overall, it’s a watchable film that kills around 72 minutes of time, with an interesting and really quite downbeat ending that is quite unusual for an American western from this period. There may well be better films out there but to be fair there are a lot of worse ones too. 

This new limited edition Blu-ray from Powerhouse films features a brand-new print of the movie taken from a 2k scan of the original negatives in either its original theatrical aspect ratio or in open matte, as well as an audio commentary with screenwriter and novelist C Courtney Joyner and film historian Henry Parke, a short film of Christopher Petit explaining exactly what it is that he loves about the film and a documentary about the different filmed portrayals of Jesse James from the always brilliant Kim Newman. 

Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5

Darren Charles
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