Oh boy this movie.
In what is a bit of a surprising start to this project, The Gun and the Pulpit has started something of a streak of westerns opening with a dubious hanging, though it has traded the religious undertones of The Hanged Man for religious overtones.
Marjoe Gortner plays Ernie Parsons, a ne'er do well chased out of town into the desert where he finds a reverend dead from a shot in the back. Like you do. There's no blood or decay, no scavengers have picked at the body, which allows him to slip in to the dead man's clothes, which fit surprisingly well, and assume his identity.
There is almost as much staring in this movie as in the last one, though most of it is directed by Parsons at Sally Underwood ( Pamela Sue Martin ). The whole town is about the business of burying her recently murdered father when Parsons arrives. No doubt the arid climate accounts for the fact that none of the dead man's family have tears in their eyes.
The movie quickly and firmly establishes that Sally is 18, which it turns out in this town makes her something of a spinster. She is eager for some smooching, a fact she brings up with Ernie repeatedly.
With a combination of awkward sermons and precision pistol shots, Parsons fends off Mr. Ross' thugs and miracles away hired gunfighters. With the help of Billy One-Eye ( Slim Pickins ), and through the use of victim blaming the terrorized town, Parsons gives the town folk the courage they need to shoot into the sky and distract Ross' gang while he chases down the big boss.
I can't lie, some of the faces familiar from Blazing Saddles made me wish I was watching that instead. Slim Pickins alone brings at least a full nickle's worth of value to the movie, and Martin's earnest accent elevates what could have been a flat role. In a world where Wild Wild West costs $9.99 to buy, is this 17¢ worth of movie? Sure. Why not?