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Ex-Confederate Bedloe Mason and his four sons ride into a small Western town with robbery in mind. Hearing a suspicious "click," Wes Mason whirls and shoots dead a boy playing with a cap pistol. The Mason clan then flees but Gray Mason, feeling remorse, decides to return to the town. He winds up at the home of John and Nora Willoughby who, unknown to him, are parents of the dead boy. Nora recognizes him as one of the Confederates but keeps quiet, wishing to avoid more violence. However, when John learns of Gray's true identity, he determines to avenge his son's death. Written by
dinky-4 of Minneapolis
A minor Greek tragedy transposed to frontier America
Most Westerns use one of a limited number of standard plots, but it's hard to categorize this movie. Its setting -- a small frontier town -- merely serves as a background for a drama of revenge and reconciliation which could easily be recast as a Greek tragedy. Its central question certainly rises above the usual concerns of Westerns: can the sacrifice of one man's guilty son make up for the death of another man's innocent son?
Or, as J. Carroll Naish puts it in the last scene: "What the sons of some men do to the sons of others ... there's a tragedy of the world."
John Payne, (sporting a mustache), gets top billing here but his character is absent from many of the movie's key scenes. Ben Cooper actually plays the main character as his feelings of guilt over the death of an innocent boy propels most of the plot. Ruth Roman seems miscast as a frontier wife and mother. The less said about the two juvenile performers, (Bobby Clark and Mimi Gibson), the better.
There's a vivid flogging scene in the movie's second half in which J. Carroll Naish takes a whip to the back of his son, John Smith, who's tied shirtless to a tree. This may be the American cinema's only major whipping in which a father strikes his own son.
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