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Barbara Stanwyck stars as a leather-clad, whip-wielding cattle baroness in Sam Fuller's deliriously sexualized western.
Few films have elicited as much fevered praise, bewildered paeans, and hyperbolic claims as Forty Guns. It has been called "avant-garde" (Jonathan Rosenbaum), "a wild and reckless western that separates the cultish from the sheepish" (Andrew Sarris), and "the most rampantly sexualized Western ever made;" Godard pronounced it "Fuller's best film" and quoted one of its most audacious shots in Breathless, Truffaut lifted its ending for The Bride Wore Black, and Scorsese declared that "It's not even really a western. I don't know what it is — Forty Guns doesn't care." Barbara Stanwyck is even more berserk than Johnny Guitar's Mercedes McCambridge as blonde, leather-clad cattle baroness Jessica Drummond, who runs a chunk of Cochise County with her punk brother. Brandishing her leather whip and her might against Griff Bonnell (Barry Sullivan), a "legal killer" with a sense of justice, Jessica proves her claim to have been "bitten by a rattler when I was fifteen." Fuller fills the frame with phallic references, Jessica's sexual frenzy translated into naked gun-lust in images and verbal exchanges that make the connection between dick and Derringer more than explicit. ("May I touch it?". . . "It may go off in your face.")