In the small frontier mining town of Warlock, rancher Abe McQuown's gang of cowboy cutthroats terrorize the peaceful community, humiliating the town's legitimate deputy Sheriff and running him out of town. Helpless and in need of protection, the townsfolk hire the renowned town tamer Clay Blaisdell, as unofficial Marshal, to bring law and order to the town. Clay arrives with his good friend and backup Tom Morgan. The two men stand up to the ranch gang and quiet the town. Johnny Gannon, a former member of the ranch gang is bothered by the gang's actions, reforms and takes on the deputy Sherrif job while his brother remains part of the gang. The addition of the official lawman to the mix further complicate matters, leading to an inevitable clash of the cowboys, the townsfolk, the gunslingers and the law.Written by
Blaisedell's salary was very high for the time at $400/month. On the TV series Lawman (1958) for example, Marshall Troop's salary was $60/month. $400 circa 1880 is equivalent to about $9,000 in 2017 dollars. See more »
At about 42 minutes, the stage arrives in town after having been held up. Johnny Gannon (Richard Widmark) runs down the street to see what happened. As he runs, his pistol gradually bounces out of its holster. See more »
Complex psychological western. I like another reviewer's point about the conflict between law and order in the film. Only Widmark's Gannon appears concerned with enforcing law in addition to order, while the rest of the town is more concerned with simply order. Fonda's Clay Blaisdell stands as the pivotal character, a morally ambiguous gunslinger with a dubious past. The mutual attachment between him and sidekick Morgan (Quinn) is highly unusual for a macho western. As hired gunslingers, they're a formidable team. However, it turns out that Clay is stuck in the risky business as long as he and Morgan remain together. On the other hand, Morgan's definitely unhappy with Clay's budding relationship with blonde Jessie (Michaels). It's likely that Morgan uses their hired status to keep them together, as the ending appears to show. I expect casting the macho Quinn in what amounts to a suggestive role was no accident.
The 2-hour runtime is pretty well filled as the various undercurrents and conflicts play out. Viewers who cotton to dramatic showdowns should love this screenplay, which has at least four. Surprisingly, it's hard to predict who will be involved, a tribute to the screenwriter. Overall, it's an unusual oater that doesn't follow genre formulas. On the downside is a lot of talk, plus complexities-- especially the characters' backstories-- that at times are hard to follow. Nonetheless, the three leads are excellent, especially an emotional Quinn, along with a supporting cast of familiar 50's faces. So, for western fans, the movie's well worth snagging despite its relative obscurity.
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