The Stranger Wore a Gun was produced by Harry Joe Brown and Randolph Scott. They must have enjoyed doing it because they would get together again and do most of the movies in the Ranown Cycle which would be directed by Budd Boetticher and star Randolph Scott. This was the first of the 3D Westerns.
The movie opens with the following dialogue : "While the Civil War raged between the North and the South, there swept across the border from Missouri into the free state of Kansas a renowned force of guerrilla troops led by a Confederate officer, Unbeknownst to the men who blindly followed him, this leader was no longer considered a legitimate soldier by either the South or the North. He was William Clarke Quantrill: Jayhawker, border ruffian, freebooter. His destination - Lawrence - on to Lawrence.
We then see Quantrill and his men burning and looting (we also see some shots that you can tell were set up for special 3D effects - like a gun shooting right off the screen at you or a burning torch coming right at you).
Quantrill has a list and he wants every man on it killed. Quantrill shoots an old man in cold blood who wouldn't open a safe. Lt. Jeff Travis (Randolph Scott) had scouted out Lawrence before the raid. He tells Quantrill that the killing of civilians wasn't part of the plan. he tells a soldier "Tell Quantrill to get himself another spy."
After the war Jeff is on a riverboat. Some men are talking and blame the 150 slaughtered people from Lawrence on a spy and then he points out Jeff as the spy, and Jeff runs off. Josie Sullivan (Claire Trevor) helps Jeff escape to Arizona.
Jeff wants to go straight, but in Prescott he meets up with former raider partner Jules Mourret and his gang which includes Dan (Lee Marvin) and Bull (Ernest Borgnine). Dan and Bull give him a hard time when they meet, but Jeff quickly shows them he can take care of himself.
Mourret has been unable to rob the gold from the local stage line and he hires Travis as a spy to find when the gold is being shipped. Jeff talks to Jason Conroy runs the stagecoach line and gets hired as a guard. Josie arrives in town but has a rival for Jeff's affection in Shelby, the daughter Jason Conroy.
During a robbery the gang kills Jake the stage driver, and Jeff again drops out. Jeff now decides to go straight, and along with it to go with Shelby. Shelby and her father want to quit and move on but convinces them to send out the stage one more time.
Jeff tells the gang that all the gold will be on last one shipment, and he is driving. A Mexican bandit, Degas, and his partner Shorty arrive to make things more complicated. Jeff tells Degas about the shipment and that Mourret is after it.
Jeff rides out on the coach and Dan invites himself. Now we have Bull and his men against Degas and his with Jeff in the middle. Both sides shoot it out. Morreau shows up and captures Diego. Shorty tells Morreau before he dies that it was Jeff who told them about the stage. Morreau then kills Diego.
Bull and Dan come and get Jeff and tie him up. Dan goes to get Morreau, and Jeff tricks Bull, using his greed against him. They start to fight and object start getting thrown at the screen, reminding us that it was originally a 3D movie. We also see the stunt men actors' faces and this reminds us it wasn't Budd Boetticher directing.
Jeff knocks Bull out and then gets the drop on Dan. He then has a Ranown like showdown. He ldecides to give Dan a fair shot at him. He lets him turn around. They both have their hands up in the air and then they both draw and Jeff guns him down. Boetticher would have liked this scene. The only thing missing was the mutual respect that they would have had for each other in the Ranown movies.
Morreau tells the men in the bar that Jeff was one of Quantrill's Raiders. They form a lynch party to go get him but Jeff gets away.
Jeff comes back after Morreau for the final showdown. He faces down both Morreau and Dan at the same time. Dan draws and Josie warns him. A shootout and a fire break out and Jeff and Josie make it out alive.
Like in the Ranown movies, Randolph Scott outsmarts the villains and then has the showdown at the end which he wins. Another foreshadowing of the Ranown cycle is that Jeff leaves Shelby behind as he goes off with Josie. Maybe, like in the Ranown movies, he just doesn't think he is worthy of the good woman.
Lee Marvin would show up as a villain in Seven Men from Now with a lot more depth.
A good movie, which you could tell spent a lot of effort on the 3D, which didn't help the movie. But overall, it was still pretty good.