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17 user 4 critic

Hellfire (1949)

Approved | | Western | 29 May 1949 (USA)
A reformed gambler turned preacher, partners with a pretty, female fugitive outlaw, runs into an old pal who's also a marshal and they both fall for the same bad gal.

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, (as Stuart McGowan)
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Zeb Smith (as William Elliott)
...
Mary Carson / Doll Brown
...
...
...
Brother Joseph
...
...
Sheriff Martin
...
Sheriff Duffy
...
Birdie
...
Full Moon
Louis Faust ...
Red Stoner (as Louis R. Faust)
...
Lew Stoner
...
Rex
...
Wilson
...
Cheyenne Bartender
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Storyline

Zeb Smith is a gambler with a larcenous streak, but when an itinerant preacher takes a bullet meant for him, Zeb vows to fulfill the preacher's mission of building a church. Frustrated in his attempts to get donations, Zeb attempts to capture fugitive Doll Brown in order to obtain the reward. But he finds that there's more to Doll than meets the eye. When his old friend Bucky McLean shows up gunning for Doll, Zeb sees a chance to redeem them all... one way or another. Written by Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Some men live by making rules ... some women live by breaking 'em !

Genres:

Western

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

29 May 1949 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Kopfpreis 5000 Dollar  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Color:

(Trucolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Quotes

[first lines]
Narrator: Man, with his misdeeds, kindles his own hellfire!
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Soundtracks

Bringing in the Sheaves
(uncredited)
Lyrics by Knowles Shaw
Music by George A. Minor
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User Reviews

Violence and religion mix in this fascinating Trucolor western
2 April 2005 | by See all my reviews

HELLFIRE stands out by virtue of its unusual religious angle, which is carefully integrated into the standard Republic Pictures B-western framework in a way that strikes me as much more dramatically sound and emotionally honest than if such a plot had been treated in an A-western. Just imagine how sanctimonious THE GUNFIGHTER or SHANE would have been if the title characters, played by Gregory Peck and Alan Ladd, respectively, had suddenly gotten religion. The strength of HELLFIRE is its acknowledgment of the difficulty of grappling with a new-found faith in the violent hard-boiled landscape of the Republic Pictures western. The hero is only slowly finding his way and is still bound by such old habits as using his fists and firing his gun when trouble rears its head. His efforts to follow the "rule book" (the bible) are generally met with scorn and hostility by the people he encounters.

William (Wild Bill) Elliott stars as Zeb Smith, a dishonest gambler who takes the high road after an old preacher takes a bullet for him. (The preacher is played by H.B. Warner, who'd played Christ in De Mille's 1927 silent version of KING OF KINGS.) Femme fatale extraordinaire Marie Windsor plays Doll Brown, a bitter, unrepentant female outlaw in men's clothes who hooks up with Zeb as she tries to outrun Marshal Bucky McLean (Forrest Tucker) and the vengeful Stoner brothers, a motley trio that includes western regulars Jim Davis and Paul Fix. The plot follows the efforts of Zeb to get Doll to change her ways as he joins her on her mission to locate her long-lost sister. He even admits to her that his initial goal was to turn her in for the reward so he can fulfill the late preacher's dream of building a church. He puts himself in a difficult position in trying to gain her trust, but also risks becoming a wanted man himself as he aids Doll in her flight from justice.

Elliott was pretty wooden as an actor, although he looks and sounds the part just perfectly, but his low-key performance plays well off the standard Republic western histrionics of the rest of the cast (Tucker, Davis, Fix, Grant Withers, Denver Pyle, etc.). But as an acting showcase, it's clearly Marie Windsor's show all the way as she propels the action and provides the emotional core (and heart-wrenching finale).

The film is shot in that beautifully harsh palette of Trucolor that turns everything blue-green or orange-brown, giving the proceedings an otherworldly alternate-pulp western-dimension look.


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