Dale Robertson in Gunfight at Black Horse Canyon (1961)

The Hardie Boy

"Gunfight at Black Horse Canyon" sounds like a title of a typical western movie; it almost sounds like something Audie Murphy would star in. But "Gunfight at Black Horse Canyon" is not what you might expect because this is two episodes of 60s TV series "Tales of Wells Fargo" spliced together into a movie of sorts. Now I am sure for those who grew up watching "Tales of Wells Fargo" it will be fun, watching Dale Robertson as Jim Hardie deal with bad guys in the town of Gloribee but for those who didn't it is a different matter. For those like me who have never seen an episode of "Tales of Wells Fargo" the poor editing and weak storylines as well as some typical TV drama acting makes "Gunfight at Black Horse Canyon" only average at best.

Whilst out trying to capture a wild stallion Jim Hardie (Dale Robertson - Dakota Incident) becomes aware that someone has placed a bounty on his head and it doesn't take him long to discover that man is Squire (Philip Carey) who 10 years earlier had been put inside by Hardie. At the same time writer Katherine Murdock (Patricia Owens - The Law and Jake Wade) arrives in Gloribee, contracted by Wells Fargo to write glowing pieces on the changing West to try and attract women to move out there but she finds herself becoming romantically involved with hired gun Nathan Chance (Rod Cameron) who is up to no good with gunman Hawk (George Kennedy).

George Kennedy in Gunfight at Black Horse Canyon (1961)

To be totally fair the two episodes, "The Dodger" and "Assignment in Gloribee" are reasonable individual stories and I am sure if I had been a young child in the 60s these adventurous dramas would have been wonderful watched individually. Unfortunately they just don't work together as a movie and when we switch from Jim dealing with Squire to then dealing with Katherine and Nathan it never flows. Part of the trouble is that they are two very different stories but also that the editing in splicing these two together is so brutal that it looks like a hatchet job.

Of course something else doesn't work and that is the styling because everything about "Gunfight at Black Horse Canyon" feels TV. The opening credits look cheap and when we see Jim riding quickly across the open range it just looks mundane. That may sound daft me mentioning it when I know this is two episodes of a TV show spliced together but the look is part of the reason why it struggles to keep your attention as a full length movie.

What also doesn't help is that with this being two episodes we have a fair few characters from Squire and his right hand man Rake through to Jim and his friend Beau. Because there is no introduction to the characters it makes it hard to really know who they are or grow to like or despise them. Of course this is only an issue if you've never seen "Tales of Well Fargo" but it is still an issue so whilst Dale Robertson is typically heroic as Jim and George Kennedy is text book nasty as a man called Hawk it is all very ordinary.

What this all boils down to is that "Gunfight at Black Horse Canyon" is for those who grew up watching 60s TV series "Tales of Wells Fargo". For anyone else it is a mediocre western which you can see is two episodes poorly put together to make a movie.