Barbara Stanwyck, Barry Sullivan, Dean Jagger, Gene Barry,
Jessica Drummond (Barbara Stanwyck) sweeps into the picture astride a white stallion, leading her forty dragoons: no ladylike sidesaddle rider, this rancher and boss of Cochise County is a “high-ridin’ woman with a whip,” as the theme song goes. When marshal Griff (Barry Sullivan) arrives with a warrant for one of her deputies, the imperious Jessica says, referring to his gun and all it stands for, “It’s not you I’m interested in; it’s your trademark. May I feel it?” Later she says, “I need a strong man to carry out my orders.” Meanwhile, another romance blooms between Griff’s brother and a female gunsmith, with much mutual fondling of rifles and the gaze of love framed down a shotgun barrel. Fuller was never one to beat around the tumbleweed, and Forty Guns is brilliantly blatant in its conflation of sex, violence, and power—and its “perversion” of the Western’s usual treatment of all three.