Another Showdown at Abilene
During the Civil War Cal Wayne (Bobby Darin) unintentionally kills his friend and feels guilty for what happened. When he returns home to Abilene he discovers his pre-war sweetheart Amy (Emily Banks) has become engaged to Grant Evers (Leslie Nielsen) the brother of the man he killed and whilst still in love with her is tormented by guilt and won't attempt to win her back. Still believing he has a debt to repay he takes the job of town's sheriff not that he wants to be a lawman again and refuses to carry a gun because of what happened. But with trouble brewing and the discovery of Amy's beau murdered he will have to face his demons to strap on a gun and sort out the trouble in Abilene between farmers and ranchers.
I apologise to all Bobby Darin fans but when I saw he was top billed in "Gunfight in Abilene" my expectations were immediately lowered, not that Darin was a bad actor but in my opinion never a leading man. But here is the good news as Darin accounts for himself nicely in what in truth is a routine 60s western and one which is in fact a remake of "Showdown at Abilene". In fact director William Hale accounts for himself nicely as well with some solid direction but nothing special.
Now as I said "Gunfight in Abilene" is a remake and is routine as we are served up another hero who is haunted by something in his past and on top of that we also have conflict between ranchers and farmers over the fencing off of land. Even how Cal's girl Amy ends up engaged to another man is typical as news reached Abilene during the war that Cal had been killed when in truth he had been captured. As I said "Gunfight in Abilene" has more than a little familiarity about it and if it wasn't for that it was a remake would have only felt like a studio had took a couple of old westerns, remixed the storylines and then picked a few lesser players to star in it.
But it all works in a typical western way with solid performances from the likes of Bobby Darin and Leslie Nielsen and solid western direction from William Hale with a couple of stand out scenes. But it is the sort of Saturday afternoon western which when you've watched it you forget it just as quickly which from memory is how I felt about "Showdown at Abilene" as I had also forgotten that movie until I started to watch this.
What this all boils down is that "Gunfight in Abilene" is just a standard western and whilst solid is also in truth a little tired due to its routine nature. It makes it one of those westerns which a western fan will watch but only in order to tick it off of their list rather than a yearning to see Bobby Darin as a lead man.