Time Table & Gunsight Ridge

These two films are linked by the actor Mark Stevens. He has a noir pedigree, starring in Dark Corner (1946), The Snake Pit (1948), and The Street with No Name (1948). Time Table (1956) is a noir he also directed and may be his best film. Gunsight Ridge (1957) is a western in which he shares billing with Joel McCrea and, at first, appears unremarkable. I watched Time Table on You Tube; Gunsight Ridge, on channel 278, CHARGE!

Time Table is a crisply made heist film in which a half million dollars is stolen from a train’s baggage car. A fake doctor pulls off the robbery. Charlie Norman (Stevens) is an insurance investigator assigned to the case, just as he is going on vacation with his wife to Mexico. He is teamed with his friend, Joe, and the two methodically look at the clues and facts. They hit dead ends.

Then halfway through the film, we learn that Charlie planned the robbery, using his inside knowledge of the railroad. His methodical plan is seemingly foolproof. However, flaws of the individual members of the gang finally unravel everything, starting with Charlie. His fatal error is that he’s in love with the wife of his partner in crime, a disgraced doctor, Paul Brucker (Wesley Addy). In fact, Charlie’s going to Mexico with Mrs Brucker (Felicia Farr) and not Mrs Norman (Marianne Stewart). Dr Brucker is an alcoholic makes several mistakes, leading to Charlie shooting him.

The plot with an investigator pursuing himself reminds us of The Big Clock (1948) with Ray Milland, only Milland’s character is innocent of the murder. Time Table proceeds to the point where Charlie is trapped by too many lies to his fellow investigator, Joe, and too many deviations from his own criminal timetable. The same theme of a well-planned robbery falling apart primarily through character weaknesses is played out in Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing, also a 1956 late noir entry.

‘Gunsight Ridge’ refers to the climactic action scene where Joel McCrea hunts down the murdering robber, Mark Stevens. Stevens character, Velvet, apparently is driven to crime because he couldn’t afford piano lessons! McCrea comes to a border Arizona town as an undercover agent for Wells Fargo, but he reveals to the sheriff very early that he’s trying to solve a series of stagecoach holdups. The moves lethargically but several things peaked my interest.

There is a ballad accompanying the opening credits to which I barely listened until I see the credits listing the singer as ‘MGM’s Dean Jones.’ At first, I thought it couldn’t be the star of The Love Bug (1968) and The Million Dollar Duck (1971). But what’s IMDb for if not to make sure who did what. And it was the same Dean Jones – the same Dean Jones I had seen do a cameo on a Laugh-In show a few days before (on Decades channel).

In the cast, I caught the names of two legendary character actors, L.Q. Jones and Slim Pickens, both of whom would appear in the 1973 film, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. L.Q. was a rowdy ranch hand who loses a fight with McCrea and later leads his partners in robbing train. The stolen money would subsequently be stolen by Velvet. Slim appears early in the film as a stage driver. After his stage is robbed, he is given a small bottle of whiskey, which he drinks while taking the stage to town. He gets so inebriated that he lets the stage run at breakneck speed until McCrea climbs atop the coach and takes over the reins.

Lastly, McCrea goes into a saloon where is suspect, Velvet, is playing cards. McCrea orders a drink and it is served by pre-Bonanza Dan Blocker, his first movie role.

The later part of McCrea’s career, since 1951, is made up of Westerns like Gunsight Ridge. They are not terrible but tend to be more lethargic the older McCrea gets. The one exception is his turn, with Randolph Scott, in Sam Peckinpah’s Ride the High Country (1962).

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