The Last Sunset (1961), a typically curious Robert Aldrich film, features the talents of the blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo and Kirk Douglas. It’s Douglas’ movie, in spite of its inclusion in this five-feature Hudson collection.
O’Malley (Douglas) is a silver-tongued bad man with a romantic streak, who’s been carrying a torch for Belle (Dorothy Malone) since she was a freckle-faced teen in a yellow dress. Now she’s an adult with a freckle-faced teen of her own, Melissa (Carol Lynley), and is married to a juiced ex-Confederate coward, John (Joseph Cotten). John’s got a herd of longhorns that need moving from Mexico to Texas, and he hires O’Malley’s gun and O’Malley’s indefatigable pursuer, Dana Stribling (Rock Hudson), to drive the beef. O’Malley apparently killed Stribling’s brother-in-law and drove Dana’s sister to suicide, so Stribling is determined to arrest or kill O’Malley once he crosses into the U.S. Hudson is very Marshal Dillon in the part, quiet, stoic, determined, which allows Douglas to really dig in, and we begin to realize that O’Malley is borderline psycho, especially when he kills an Indian who was only trying to score some steaks. Western icons Neville Brand and Jack Elam also make cameo appearances as bad guys.
Bottom line, The Last Sunset is a smart, interesting, well-acted and adult piece of cowboy cinema. My one complaint is that the only extras are a few obligatory trailers. A lot of smart Aldrich scholars out there would have jumped at the chance to supply a commentary. In fact, The Last Sunset was prominently featured at the Torino Film Festival in Italy last November.