Watch Invitation to a Gunfighter
- 1 hr 32 min
Invitation to a Gunfighter is a 1964 western film directed by Richard Wilson and starring Yul Brynner, Janice Rule, George Segal, and Brad Dexter. Released during the peak of the spaghetti western era, which was dominated by foreign directors, this film takes a different approach to the genre with a more contemplative and character-driven narrative. The film opens with a wealthy landowner named Matt Weaver (Brynner) arriving in the small town of Sheridan, New Mexico, carrying a satchel full of money. He is greeted with suspicion and hostility by the townspeople who see him as an outsider, and several men try to provoke him into a fight. But, Weaver remains calm and focused, biding his time and waiting for his true purpose to be revealed. That purpose soon becomes clear when a former Confederate soldier named Jules Gaspard d'Estaing (Segal) arrives in town seeking vengeance against the people who drove him and his family out of Sheridan during the Civil War. Gaspard's plan is to take over the town and turn it into a haven for his fellow ex-Confederates, but he soon finds himself confronted by Weaver, who sees through his bravado and recognizes a kindred spirit in his determination to pursue justice. As Gaspard and Weaver engage in a dangerous game of cat and mouse, they are both haunted by their pasts and forced to confront their own sense of morality. Gaspard is consumed by his need for revenge and blinded by his loyalty to the Confederacy, while Weaver remains mysterious and enigmatic, never revealing his true intentions until the film's final moments. The heart of Invitation to a Gunfighter lies in the complex relationship between these two men, played with intensity and nuance by Brynner and Segal. Brynner, whose commanding presence had made him a star in The Magnificent Seven and The King and I, brings a stoic grace and a sense of latent danger to his role as Weaver. Segal, known for his comedic performances in films like A Touch of Class and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, shows a surprising depth and vulnerability as Gaspard. Janice Rule provides strong support as the widow of a Union soldier who becomes caught up in the conflict between Weaver and Gaspard. Her character serves as a moral compass for the audience, as she struggles to reconcile her own feelings of hatred and revenge with her belief in the power of forgiveness and redemption. The film's cinematography, by Joseph LaShelle, captures the stark beauty of the New Mexico landscape, while the score by David Raksin adds a haunting and melancholic dimension to the story. The script, by screenwriter Richard Carr, is both intelligent and understated, relying on a subtle interplay of character and theme rather than relying on gunfights and action set pieces. Invitation to a Gunfighter may not have the flashy violence or ostentatious style of some of its contemporaries in the spaghetti western genre, but it is a satisfying and thought-provoking film that rewards careful attention to its themes of justice, revenge, and the complexities of human nature. With strong performances from its talented cast, and a thoughtful script and direction, it is a film that is well worth revisiting.