The Master Gunfighter

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The Master Gunfighter
Master gunfighter movie poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byFrank Laughlin
Produced byPhilip L. Parslow
Written byTom Laughlin
Screenplay byHarold Lapland
Based onGoyokin
1969 film
by Hideo Gosha
Kei Tasaka
StarringTom Laughlin
Ron O'Neal
Barbara Carrera
Narrated byBurgess Meredith
Music byLalo Schifrin
CinematographyJack A. Marta
Edited byDanford B. Greene
William Reynolds
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • October 3, 1975 (1975-10-03) (United States)
Running time
121 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$3,500,000 (estimated)

The Master Gunfighter is a film released in 1975 in Panavision, written and produced by Tom Laughlin, who also played the lead as Finley. The Master Gunfighter is mainly a remake of the 1969 Japanese film Goyokin, although the story revolves around a true incident in the early 1800s involving massacred Indians that occurred in the vicinity of Goleta, California.


In 1836 in southern California near Santa Barbara shortly after California became part of the United States, American settlers and the U.S. government discriminated against the Mexican landowners and frequently took their land by force or legal skullduggery. Wealthy Latino ranchers whose land and wealth are at risk decide to misdirect a U.S. government ship carrying gold so that it will be wrecked and plundered. To prevent themselves from being caught, they plan to massacre the local Chumash Indians. The hero is the now-estranged adoptive son Finley (Tom Laughlin), a master swordsman and gunfighter, who tries to prevent this while still saving his family.


The director was Tom Laughlin, but officially the director credited was his son Frank (in 1975 he was 9).

Critical reception[edit]

Film critic Roger Ebert was harsh in his criticism of the film, writing, "The movie opens with a long-winded narration, in a hapless attempt to orient us, but not long afterward the narrator has to break in again—we're lost already. It's all to little avail. I don't think there's any way an intelligent moviegoer could sit through this mess and accurately describe the plot afterward."[1] Richard Eder of The New York Times wrote, It is long, stilted, self-conscious, badly acted and boring. Apart from that, there is little to recommend it."[2] Joseph McBride of Variety called it "[a] curious blend of amateurish plotting and slick production values," adding that "John Wayne never killed so many bad guys as Laughlin does in this film, and Errol Flynn at his most spectacular lacked the uncanny fighting skills Laughlin displays here. It's a throwback to an earlier age of swashbuckling, but the blend with contemporary bleeding heart attitudes makes the film seem hypocritical."[3] Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film 1 star out of 4 and wrote, "'The Master Gunfighter' reminds me of a made-for-television movie: The story is forever being interrupted by messages from the sponsor. In this case the sponsor is Billy Jack ... every so often the action grinds to a halt when Billy-as-Gunfighter delivers a sanctimonious lecture on fidelity, honor, or racial injustice. The speeches are outrageous, funny, embarrassing, and insulting by turns."[4] Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "Stunningly photographed by veteran Jack A. Marta, 'The Master Gunfighter,' a splendid period re-creation, is awash with striking imagery that finds beauty even in chaos—just as in a samurai movie. Sometimes young Laughlin's pacing verges on the static, but the action sequences are excitingly staged."[5] Gary Arnold of The Washington Post wrote, "You know you're in for a long, slow evening when the picture begins with a preamble of several hundred words, recited by Burgess Meredith over shots of the sun coming up. The opening sequences set a pattern of confused, incoherent action and stilted acting that is adhered to with a kind of kamikaze devotion for the duration of the movie. By the time Laughlin rides into the sunset most of the audience will be in a coma or already back home, trying to laugh off a bad investment."[6]

Time Out magazine was also critical, writing, "The film could have worked but for an excess of formula ingredients and muddled preachings. Adapted from a Japanese film, the transposition dubiously retains much samurai sword fighting and semi-Oriental costumes. Meanwhile, the over-mannered camerawork pays its dues to the Italian Western. In the resulting cultural hash, the plot with its strong anti-religious theme is too often disregarded."[7]

Filming locations[edit]



  • Golden Globes: Best Acting Debut in a Motion Picture—Female, Barbara Carrera, 1976.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ebert, Roger (January 1, 1975). "The Master Gunfighter". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved August 22, 2014.
  2. ^ Eder, Richard (October 10, 1975). "'The Master Gunfighter,' From Makers of 'Billy Jack' Films". The New York Times. 32.
  3. ^ McBride, Joseph (October 8, 1975)."Film Reviews: The Master Gunfighter". Variety. 16.
  4. ^ Siskel, Gene (October 6, 1975). "'Master Gunfighter' a whopping misfire". Chicago Tribune. Section 3, p. 6.
  5. ^ Thomas, Kevin (October 6, 1975). "A Samurai in Gunfighter Garb". Los Angeles Times. Part IV, p. 14.
  6. ^ Arnold, Gary (October 11, 1975). "Master Gunfighter". The Washington Post. A12.
  7. ^ CPe. "The Master Gunfighter". Time Out. Retrieved August 22, 2014.

External links[edit]