A Town by Any Other Name
The most interesting thing about "Showdown at Abilene" is that it has an element not usually seen in westerns but more at home in war movies. That element is that having spent 4 years fighting for the Confederacy Jim Trusk, the popular former Sheriff of Abilene returns a changed man who is haunted by what happened and no longer wears a gun. But this little difference doesn't change what is really just another stock 1950s western which features A battle over land, dangerous cowboys, a corrupt businessman and of course a love triangle. It doesn't mean that "Showdown at Abilene" is a bad movie but it is never anything more than a nicely paced 50s western.
Everyone in Abilene thought their former Sheriff Jim Trusk (Jock Mahoney) had been killed during the Civil War so when he returns they are both surprised and happy to see him, calling for him to become Sheriff again. But Jim has changed, what happened during the war has affected him and he no longer wears a gun as he is haunted by the memories especially those of what happened to Tad Moseley. But Jim is not the only thing which has changed as so has Abilene and Tad's brother Dave (Lyle Bettger - The Sea Chase) is not only the owner of a huge cattle empire but is also engaged to Peggy (Martha Hyer - Sabrina), Jim's girl. With tension rising between the farmers and Dave over his cattle ruining their lad Jim has to decide whether he wants to be involved.
So as already mentioned the most interesting thing about "Showdown at Abilene" is that Jim Trusk is haunted by what happened during his 4 years away and in particular what happened to Tad Moseley the brother of his friend Dave. We see how at night Jim has nightmares as he has visions of what happened, grows panicky when he is forced to handle a gun and doesn't like to talk about Tad. It is a bit of a mystery, not much of one but really is the only major difference in a western which is full of western cliches.
As to those cliches well we have Dave Moseley with his cattle empire who is upsetting the farmers as his rough cowhands destroy their land. Add to this Sheriff Claudius, the despicable right hand man to Dave who doesn't like the popular Jim when he returns. Plus there is a love triangle with Jim's girl Peggy believing he died in action has got engaged to Dave. It is all very routine and plays out with no surprises especially when it comes to Jim finally having to wear a gun again as things blow wide open and friendships are ruined whilst the farmers go to war with the herders.
The thing about "Showdown at Abilene" is that it is from start to finish a solid but average 50s western and the action whilst not bad is not memorable either. Same with the acting, Jock Mahoney is uprightly handsome as Jim Trusk whilst Lyle Bettger has this despicable side as Dave Moseley and Martha Hyer is basically lovely as Peggy. In the end it is Ted de Corsia who makes the biggest impact as Sheriff Claudius because he has more of an evil, nefarious side than Dave Moseley.
What this all boils down to is that "Showdown at Abilene" is basically just another 50s western. It is neither bad or good, just solidly average with the 80 minutes running time working in its favour as it keeps things moving at a nice pace.