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Samuel Fuller's wild, wonderful, semicoherent black-and-white 'Scope western (1957) was shot in ten days, and in some ways looks it. But it's also the feature that fully announces his talent as an avant-garde filmmaker, even in this unlikeliest of genres. Barbara Stanwyck stars as the “woman with a whip,” the land baroness of Tombstone Territory. She's assisted by the 40 dudes of the title, and Barry Sullivan is the marshal who turns up to challenge her. There's a hilarious romantic subplot involving a female gunsmith (whose sexual initiation is handled through an iris and dissolve that Godard incorporated into Breathless), an endless crane-and-track shot through a western town that defies belief, a lot of delirious violence, perverse sexuality, imaginative visual energy, and several startling plot twists. If you've ever wondered why Godard and other French New Wave directors deify Fuller, this movie explains it all. With Dean Jagger, John Ericson, and Gene Barry. 80 min.

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