The vicious Hayes clan amble into town on the day Judge Jim Scott is expected to sentence murderer Rudy Hayes to hang. Scott, who doesn't wear a gun, seems unconcerned and businesslike, even when Charlie Hayes makes an explicit death threat against him. But the townsfolk start wondering how much bloodshed one hanging is worth. Complicating factor: the sheriff, Scott's chief ally, is also the secret lover of Scott's fiancee Myra... Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
This routine horse opera from Universal stars Fred MacMurray at the height of his success. He plays Judge Jim Scott, the incorruptible small town hero who has to sentence a killer - and contend with the pressures exerted by the guilty man's family.
Filmed in Universal's trademark bright, clear Eastmancolor, the film has an attractive look, even if the characterisation is crude. The bad guys go unshaven, and Lee Van Cleef even wears a black hat.
Rudy Hayes killed a man in cold blood, and at eleven o'clock on this fateful morning, Judge Scott will carry out his sworn duty and sentence the murderer to death by hanging. Charlie Hayes (Robert Middleton) and the hot-headed Howie (Skip Homeier) have come into town as representatives of the all-bad Hayes clan, to see if they can exert some crooked influence, and save Rudy's neck.
Such sub-plot as exists centres on Judge Scott's fiancee, Myra, who has fallen in love with another man - no other than Barney Wiley, the town's good-looking new sherriff (John Ericson).
Even in the Wild West, it is stretching things a little to have a circuit judge engaging in a knife-fight before sitting, and drawing his pistol in the courtroom. The attempts of the Hayes boys to pervert the course of justice are ham-fisted and frankly unbelievable, as is the spurious whinnying of a horse which alerts Judge Jim to danger - twice!
The early passages of the film are good, showing the judge operating in and with the community as a respected citizen, until in mimicry of 'High Noon' the good people of the town desert the judge when the going gets tough. Edgar Buchanan, stalwart of a thousand westerns, is competent as Sam, the judge's loyal sidekick. Myra (Joan Weldon) and Barney are so lightly-drawn as characters that the actors can be forgiven for failing to impress. No doubt Marie Windsor had fun playing the bad girl Cora, but both the Hayes kinsmen, Monte and Jake, are dreadfully under-used.
Predictable, static and utterly unsubtle, perhaps this film, and those like it, do no more than mirror the values of the society which gave rise to them - the predictable, static and utterly unsubtle America of the Eisenhower era.
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