The Master Gunfighter (1975)

PG | 125 mins | Western | 3 October 1975

Director:

Frank Laughlin

Writer:

Harold Lapland

Producer:

Philip L. Parslow

Cinematographer:

Jack A. Marta

Production Designer:

Albert Brenner

Production Company:

Avondale Productions
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HISTORY

       Director Frank Laughlin was actor Tom Laughlin’s son. A 20 Dec 1974 DV news item addressed rumors that the twenty-year-old was receiving undue credit, stating that Frank Laughlin was “actually functioning as director, not acting as a front for his father.” Tom Laughlin had previously directed Billy Jack, the 1971 box-office hit in which he also starred (see entry), under the pseudonym “T. C. Frank.”
       Principal photography began 21 Oct 1974, as stated in 8 Nov 1974 and 14 Feb 1975 HR production charts. According to production notes in AMPAS library files, filming took place in the Northern CA cities of Carmel and Big Sur, and at the La Purisma Mission outside of Lompoc, CA.
       A 24 Nov 1975 People news item reported that Taylor-Laughlin Distribution Co. opened the film in 1,000 theaters in Oct 1975 with a $3.5 million promotional campaign, equaling the film’s $3.5 million production budget. A 3 Sep 1975 DV item described one of the publicity stunts, an electric sign in New York City’s Times Square that displayed “a running commentary” describing film critics as frustrated screenwriters who had been rejected from the movie business. A 15 Sep 1975 Box article estimated the promotional costs to be slightly higher than the figure cited by People, at $3.75 million.
       Although Tom Laughlin anticipated box-office success due to the popularity of Billy Jack, The Master Gunfighter stayed in theaters only twelve days, on average, instead of the three or four weeks expected. According to an 8 Oct 1975 Var brief, General Cinema Corp. withdrew the ... More Less

       Director Frank Laughlin was actor Tom Laughlin’s son. A 20 Dec 1974 DV news item addressed rumors that the twenty-year-old was receiving undue credit, stating that Frank Laughlin was “actually functioning as director, not acting as a front for his father.” Tom Laughlin had previously directed Billy Jack, the 1971 box-office hit in which he also starred (see entry), under the pseudonym “T. C. Frank.”
       Principal photography began 21 Oct 1974, as stated in 8 Nov 1974 and 14 Feb 1975 HR production charts. According to production notes in AMPAS library files, filming took place in the Northern CA cities of Carmel and Big Sur, and at the La Purisma Mission outside of Lompoc, CA.
       A 24 Nov 1975 People news item reported that Taylor-Laughlin Distribution Co. opened the film in 1,000 theaters in Oct 1975 with a $3.5 million promotional campaign, equaling the film’s $3.5 million production budget. A 3 Sep 1975 DV item described one of the publicity stunts, an electric sign in New York City’s Times Square that displayed “a running commentary” describing film critics as frustrated screenwriters who had been rejected from the movie business. A 15 Sep 1975 Box article estimated the promotional costs to be slightly higher than the figure cited by People, at $3.75 million.
       Although Tom Laughlin anticipated box-office success due to the popularity of Billy Jack, The Master Gunfighter stayed in theaters only twelve days, on average, instead of the three or four weeks expected. According to an 8 Oct 1975 Var brief, General Cinema Corp. withdrew the film from its theaters after Taylor-Laughlin demanded “a $10,000 rental advance plus a $500 per house advertising commitment.”
       As noted in the 15 Sep 1975 Box, a paperback novelization of the film would be sold in stores as of 3 Oct 1975, and would include a 45 rpm (revolutions per minute) record of the film’s theme song by Lalo Schifrin.
       An 18 Feb 1976 Var news brief reported that the film had been shortened for a Memorial Day 1976 reissue, along with a new advertising campaign and revamped merchandise that emphasized the picture’s “swashbuckling action.” Tom Laughlin was quoted as saying that the original theatrical version had been too long and light on the action for his audience.
       According to a 15 Jun 1978 DV news item, Warner Bros. sued producers and distributors for breach of contract over the television rights. Warner Bros. had agreed to pay $250,000 for exclusive rights to air The Master Gunfighter on primetime network television, but claimed that a controversy had developed over “clarification” of the rights despite the fact that the money had already changed hands. The outcome of the lawsuit could not be determined as of the writing of this Note.
       Production notes stated that international fashion model Barbara Carrera made her feature film acting debut in The Master Gunfighter as “Eula”; however, Carrera had previously appeared as “T. J. Brady” in the 1970 film Puzzle of a Downfall Child (see entry).

      End credits include the following written statement: “Portions of this picture were filmed in the National Forests – Land of Many Uses.”
More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
15 Sep 1975
pp. 54-56.
Daily Variety
20 Dec 1974
p. 1, 38.
Daily Variety
3 Sep 1975.
---
Daily Variety
30 Sep 1975.
---
Daily Variety
15 Jun 1978.
---
Hollywood Reporter
8 Nov 1974
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Feb 1975
p. 16.
Los Angeles Times
6 Oct 1975
Section IV, p. 14.
New York Times
10 Oct 1975
p. 32.
People
24 Nov 1975.
---
Variety
8 Oct 1975.
---
Variety
8 Oct 1975
p. 16.
Variety
18 Feb 1976.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
Asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
1st asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam asst
Cam asst
Cam asst
Key grip
Gaffer
Still photog
1st asst cam
Best boy elec
Best boy grip
Dolly grip
Crane op
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Asst art dir
Asst art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
Prop man
Leadman
Swing gang
Greensman
Const coord
Propmaker foreman
Propmaker
Propmaker
Propmaker
Propmaker
Propmaker
Laborer
Paint foreman
Painter
Plasterer foreman
Plasterer
COSTUMES
Cost des
Cost - men
Cost - women
MUSIC
Scoring eng
SOUND
Dubbing mixer
Sd eff ed
Boom man
Cableman
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Asst spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Scr supv
Livestock supv
Transportation capt
Asst to the prod
Prod asst
Prod secy
Dir's secy
Unit pub
Tech adv - swords
Tech adv - guns
Prod asst
Auditor
Asst auditor
Continuity artist
Craft service
Casting secy
Casting - extras
Wrangler
Wrangler
Wrangler
Wrangler
Animal trainer - crows
SPCA representative
Welfare worker
First aid man
First aid man
Caterer
Driver capt
Driver cocapt
Driver
Driver
Driver - honey wagon
Driver - spec eff
Driver - bus
Driver - horse truck
Driver - set dressing
Animal trainer
Driver - Cinemobile
Driver
Driver
STAND INS
with grateful acknowledgement to the following stunt actors
Stunt actor
with grateful acknowledgement to the following stunt actors
Stunt actor
with grateful acknowledgement to the following stunt actors
Stunt actor
with grateful acknowledgement to the following stunt actors
Stunt actor
with grateful acknowledgement to the following stunt actors
Stunt actor
with grateful acknowledgement to the following stunt actors
Stunt actor
with grateful acknowledgement to the following stunt actors
Stunt actor
with grateful acknowledgement to the following stunt actors
Stunt actor
with grateful acknowledgement to the following stunt actors
Stunt actor
with grateful acknowledgement to the following stunt actors
Stunt actor
with grateful acknowledgement to the following stunt actors
Stunt actor
with grateful acknowledgement to the following stunt actors
Stunt actor
with grateful acknowledgement to the following stunt actors
Stunt actor
with grateful acknowledgement to the following stunt actors
Stunt actor
with grateful acknowledgement to the following stunt actors
Stunt actor
with grateful acknowledgement to the following stunt actors
Stunt actor
with grateful acknowledgement to the following stunt actors
Stunt actor
with grateful acknowledgement to the following stunt actors
Stunt actor
with grateful acknowledgement to the following stunt actors
Stunt actor
with grateful acknowledgement to the following stunt actors
Stunt actor
with grateful acknowledgement to the following stunt actors
Stunt actor
with grateful acknowledgement to the following stunt actors
Stunt actor
with grateful acknowledgement to the following stunt actors
Stunt actor
with grateful acknowledgement to the following stunt actors
Stunt actor
with grateful acknowledgement to the following stunt actors
Stunt actor
with grateful acknowledgement to the following stunt actors
Stunt actor
Stunt coord
COLOR PERSONNEL
[Color by]
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the Japanese film Goyokin written by Hideo Gosha and Kei Tasaka (Fuji Telecasting and Tokyo Eiga, 1969).
DETAILS
Release Date:
3 October 1975
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 3 October 1975
New York opening: week of 10 October 1975
Production Date:
began 21 October 1974 in Northern California
Copyright Claimant:
Avondale Productions, Inc.
Copyright Date:
29 August 1975
Copyright Number:
LP44928
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Lenses/Prints
Filmed in Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
125
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1836 California, Spanish missions provide Catholic baptisms for Native Americans, only to force them into slave labor. Don Paulo Santiago, the owner of one of the missions, learns that a group of Native Americans have stolen gold from a sunken ship. He sends his men to take the gold and destroy the Native Americans’ seaside village of Goleta. Finley McCloud, a master swordsman and gunfighter who is married to Paulo’s sister, Eula, is outraged by Don Paulo’s behavior. Although Paulo argues that American settlers have been placing higher taxes on the Spanish missions and says he had no other choice but to steal, Finley will not abide the exploitation of Native Americans. Paulo begs Finley to stay for the sake of Eula, but Finley responds that he is doomed to be a drifting gunfighter. Three years later, in Juarez, Mexico, a group of men from Paulo’s mission find an African American man named Jacques St. George playing cards in a saloon. They ask Jacques about Finley, but Jacques demands money in exchange for information. Meanwhile, Finley negotiates with two carnival performers who want to buy his revolver that shoots twelve bullets. When Finley hears a noise, he takes the revolver back and wanders into a desolate area of town, where the gang who earlier questioned Jacques now ambushes him. Finley shoots all but one of the attackers, who warns Finley not to go back to California. One day, Paulo tells a group of clergymen and advisors that several groups, including the American Cattlemen’s Association, are trying to destroy the mission with burdensome taxes but promises to fight for the necessary funds to pay taxes. Paulo gets word that ... +


In 1836 California, Spanish missions provide Catholic baptisms for Native Americans, only to force them into slave labor. Don Paulo Santiago, the owner of one of the missions, learns that a group of Native Americans have stolen gold from a sunken ship. He sends his men to take the gold and destroy the Native Americans’ seaside village of Goleta. Finley McCloud, a master swordsman and gunfighter who is married to Paulo’s sister, Eula, is outraged by Don Paulo’s behavior. Although Paulo argues that American settlers have been placing higher taxes on the Spanish missions and says he had no other choice but to steal, Finley will not abide the exploitation of Native Americans. Paulo begs Finley to stay for the sake of Eula, but Finley responds that he is doomed to be a drifting gunfighter. Three years later, in Juarez, Mexico, a group of men from Paulo’s mission find an African American man named Jacques St. George playing cards in a saloon. They ask Jacques about Finley, but Jacques demands money in exchange for information. Meanwhile, Finley negotiates with two carnival performers who want to buy his revolver that shoots twelve bullets. When Finley hears a noise, he takes the revolver back and wanders into a desolate area of town, where the gang who earlier questioned Jacques now ambushes him. Finley shoots all but one of the attackers, who warns Finley not to go back to California. One day, Paulo tells a group of clergymen and advisors that several groups, including the American Cattlemen’s Association, are trying to destroy the mission with burdensome taxes but promises to fight for the necessary funds to pay taxes. Paulo gets word that Finley is on his way back from Juarez and reprimands Maltese, a member of his staff, for sending the gang to kill Finley. Maltese finds Eula working at a loom and tells her to stop longing for Finley’s return, suggesting that her estranged husband may already be dead. Chorika, a Native American woman from the destroyed village of Goleta, angers a group of American men when she wins money from them at a saloon. The men chase her to the beach and rip her dress, but Finley rides up and shoots one of the attackers. Paulo tells Eula that Finley is returning, and apologizes that he must kill him. In the small town outside Paulo’s mission, Finley saves Chorika a second time when she is taken hostage by a group of men and dragged through mud. While Eula looks on from a stagecoach, Finley shoots Chorika’s captors and sets her free. Later, as Eula and Finley reunite in the room of an inn, she shows him some gold she has saved and suggests that they run away together. Finley tells Eula what happened in Goleta before he left for Mexico, explaining that her gold was procured through thievery and brutality. Although Eula defends her brother and says that the mission is a difficult place to run, Finley is adamant that Paulo must stop any further atrocities. Finley rides to Goleta, where Maltese and several others surround him with swords, but Finley fights his way out. Meanwhile, Paulo schemes to rob a shipment of gold headed to Monterey. In a cabin by the sea, Chorika tends to Finley’s wounds, while Paulo meets with Jacques and asks him to find Finley. Arriving at Chorika’s cabin, Jacques tells Finley about Paulo’s plot to rob the ship, explaining that Paulo’s men will set a false signal fire to misdirect the ship’s captain and send the ship crashing into rocks. Jacques reveals that he is a federal spy and agrees to help Finley thwart the robbery. However, Paulo and his men show up at the cabin and take Jacques and Finley hostage. Paulo demands that Finley leave California with Eula, but the gunfighter refuses, saying he will do whatever he can to stop the mission’s corrupt practices. Paulo orders his men to drown Finley in the sea. However, Eula rescues her husband from his captors by wielding a gun. That night, Finley frees Jacques, and the two fight Paulo’s men. Finley and Maltese face off in a swordfight, but Finley quickly kills his opponent. Jacques destroys the false signal fire, and the ship is able to reroute before going aground. Later, Paulo tells Eula that their land and riches are gone and demands to know Finley’s whereabouts. At the beach, Paulo finds Finley and tries to shoot him but misses several times. Realizing his gun is out of bullets, Finley draws his sword and kills Paulo in a swordfight. Later, Jacques finds Finley and asks about a group of Native Americans who are dancing and playing drums by the ocean. Finley explains that they are performing a ritual of thanksgiving for the eradication of the Spanish missions. That evening, Finley and Eula ride their horses together at sunset. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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