GenreWestern Budget3.5 million USD WriterTom Laughlin LanguageEnglish
Release dateOctober 3, 1975 (1975-10-03) (United States) CastTom Laughlin (Finley), Ron O'Neal (Paulo), Lincoln Kilpatrick (Jacques), Barbara Carrera (Eula), Hector Elias (Juan) Similar moviesA Gunfight (1971)
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.
Tom Laughlin as Finley
Ron O'Neal as Paulo
Lincoln Kilpatrick as Jacques
Geo Anne Sosa as Chorika
Barbara Carrera as Eula
Victor Campos as Maltese
Hector Elias as Juan
Burgess Meredith as Narrator
The director was Tom Laughlin, but officially the director credited was his son Frank (in 1975 he was 9).
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."
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 swordfighting 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."
La Purísima Mission State Historic Park, Lompoc, California
Golden Globes: Best Acting Debut in a Motion Picture—Female, Barbara Carrera, 1976.