In 1865, a troop of Confederate soldiers led by Major Matt Stewart attack the wagon of gold escorted by Union cavalry and the soldiers are killed. The only wounded survivor tells that the war ended one month ago, and the group decides to take the gold and meet their liaison that knew that the war ended but did not inform the troop. The harsh Rolph Bainter kills the greedy man and the soldiers flee in his wagon driven by Major Stewart. When they meet a posse chasing them, Stewart gives wrong information to misguide the group; however, they have an accident with the wagon and lose the horses. They decide to stop a stagecoach and force the driver to transport them, but the posse returns and they are trapped in the station with the passenger. They realize that the men are not deputies and have no intention to bring them to justice but take the stolen gold. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
1952 saw the Columbia release of one of Scott's best - Hangman's Knot.
They don't come much more taut than this, and its success only brings into question as to why director Roy Huggins never made another film as director. This one really begins to approach the later Boetticher films, being set in an isolated way station, as several of Budd's films happened to be, with Randy as a Confederate officer, who has stolen Union gold, not knowing the war is over.
Outlaws, learning of the loot, besiege the soldiers at the way station, but just as much danger comes from within - the menacing soldier played by Lee Marvin. The cast is better than those in the then most recent Scott vehicles, including Donna Reed, Claude Jarman, Jr., Richard Denning and Guinn "Big Boy Williams. Randy's son C.H. Scott, in the book "Whatever Happened to Randolph Scott" speaks fondly of Donna Reed, as if she was a second mother, and says that she and his father never lost touch over the years, and were devoted to each other.
Omitting the Boetticher films, this one is clearly the strongest Scott offering of the 1950s. That Huggins never directed a feature film again (he did direct a 1970 TV movie) is more our loss than his. Huggins did quite well in the long run, with items like Maverick, Rockford Files and The Fugitive in his future.
With much of the film set within the way station, Huggins manages to keep the tension high as Scott has to deal with the group of bounty hunters outside (led by Ray Teal in a rousing performance) and the wayward loose cannon Ralph, the Lee Marvin character. Lee must have impressed producer Scott as he got a much showier role in the first Scott-Boetticher classic SEVEN MEN FROM NOW. Meanwhile, Scott must serve as surrogate big brother of Claude Jarman Jr, no longer the little boy of THE YEARLING and in fact nearly as tall as the film's lead star.
Richard Denning also impresses in his part as Donna Reed's fiancée, a character as weak-willed as the fiancée in the later Boetticher film THE TALL T. At first willing to call attention to an attempted escape by Scott and company (despite giving his word otherwise), he later bargains to give them an alternate plan of escape - in exchange for two bars of the captured gold.
My favorite of Scott's 50's westerns prior to his Boetticher films and dollar for dollar, the equal of many much bigger budgeted items from the likes of Wayne and Cooper.
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