Anthony Franciosa plays the eponymous man called Gannon in this tale of life on the Kansas plains. Gannon is a man with a past, one which he has yet to come to terms with.
A drifter with a checkered past, we first meet Gannon riding the railroads like a hobo. Clearly a man with skills and experience, he takes pity on a fellow railroad rider – a young eager ex-brewery delivery boy from back East named Jess (Michael Sarrazin). Jess wants to be a cowboy, a sharp shooter, a man on the range. Basically Jess wants to be Gannon and reluctantly, after circumstances strand them in a small town, Gannon takes him under his protection. Jess, as is the way of these things, soon comes to challenge and outgrow his teacher and this is of course where the crux of the drama lies. As his skills grow, so does his arrogance.
Anthony Franciosa is perhaps too charming as this guilt ridden stranger, smiling and laughing his way through danger, but Michael Sarrazin’s eager apprentice is just the right side of vulnerable. Unusually for such a machismo led story the film has two great female roles, local land owner Beth (Judi West) and bar manager and hooker Matty (Susan Oliver). Both these women give a more interesting shape to the story and the respective performances are great.
A Man Called Gannon is a nicely structured story of redemption and friendship, of wanderlust and ambition. Taking place on sun drenched plains the cinematography is often stunning, and the direction by James Goldstone uses snappy editing to great effect within the moments of action, hurtling the tale along. It’s a story often told, a student attempting to surpass the master, but is handled well. Some of the way footage is handled, a drunken scene in particular which overlays shots in an attempt to replicate double-vision, seems peculiarly dated, but for the most part this is a solid cowboy picture that’s definitely at home on the range.
A Man Called Gannon is out now on DVD.