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A California mining camp is plagued by a series of murders. Four people come under suspicion for the killings and are run out of the camp. During a blizzard they take refuge in an isolated cabin, and conflicts begin to break out among them. Written by
Bret Harte's classic story about a gambler/saloon owner in the Gold Rush days in California has had many adaptations to the big and small screen. This one starring Preston Foster, Jean Muir and Van Heflin is a good, albeit elaborated telling of the tale.
Preston Foster is our lead character, he owns the local saloon in a rip roaring mining camp in gold rush California. But times they are a changin'. He recognizes it too, Foster even goes so far as to sponsor the building of a church and a new parson in the person of Van Heflin comes to be its pastor.
A new schoolmarm comes as well and Jean Muir evokes the interest of both Foster and Heflin. Like John Wayne and James Stewart in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Foster and Heflin represent the old and new west.
Unlike Vera Miles in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Muir's choice is kind of forced on her when one of them dies. Who will it be?
The Outcasts of Poker Flat also has a fine performance by young Virginia Weidler as Foster's foster daughter. It's really for her that Preston realizes change in the west is inevitable.
This version of The Outcasts of Poker Flat is a an unpretentious telling of a classic tale by a great American writer.
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