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In 1873, in the Gold Trail, Montana, the mysterious and controlling Dr. Joseph Frail arrives in the small town of Skull Creek with miners in a gold rush. Dr. Frail buys a cabin on the top of a hill and he sees the smalltime thief Rune wounded and chased by a mob that wants to hang him. Dr. Frail helps and heals Rune; but in return, he demands that the young man becomes his bond servant. The alcoholic healer and preacher George Grubb tells to the locals that Dr. Frail, who is an excellent gambler and gunfighter, is a devil, but nobody gives attention to his words. Sooner the stagecoach is robbed by thieves that kill the passengers but the coachman survives and three days later he reaches Skull Creek. He tells that the horses had speed down the hill with a young woman inside the stagecoach. The men organize a pursuit and the rude Frenchy Plante finds the Swedish Elizabeth Mahler burnt and blind. Dr. Frail and Rune take care of her and they learn that Elizabeth and her father, who was ... Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
It was left ambiguous whether the doctor had killed his unfaithful wife. See more »
When Dr. Frail returns home from the first poker game he reveals to Rune that they are going to start a new "regime" for their daily activities. A regime is a prevailing form of government. What he should have said was "regimen" which is a regulated course of living. See more »
The Hanging Tree (1959) is one of my favorite Westerns. Like the other great movies of the genre, it has more to do with human relationships than sagebrush, cattle, and shootouts. This isn't to say that there aren't plenty of action scenes in The Hanging Tree; We have a fistfight, a beating, a shooting, and a mining town set ablaze, but all of this is a backdrop to love, deceit, greed, jealousy, and intolerance.
Gary Cooper, ill during filming, brings his sinister character, Doc Joe Frail, to life with a leathery, wise, and weary portrayal. This is HIS movie.
Much of the movie was filmed in the hills above Yakima, Washington. The sets were located up a old logging road that the Washington State Patrol had barricaded in order to keep onlookers away. George C. Scott (in his debut movie) told how Gary Cooper, ill with lung cancer, would make the mile-long walk down that logging road, and back again, just to sign autographs for his fans. What a man!
There is one scene out of many that I particularly like. In it, a poor miner and his wife have brought their daughter in to see Doc Frail because she "is doin' poorly".
Doc looks at the girl, turns to her parents and tells them that the child is malnourished. And he, realizing that they are struggling, suggests that they take a cow that he he has tied-up outside and to "fatten this child up on some milk".
The mom and dad look very embarrassed; They don't have money for a cow. "We don't know how we can pay you for it, Doc", the father says, stepping forward.
This killer-turned-doctor, looks at the girl and says, "Give me a kiss".
After the girl obeys (and she's an adorable Beanie Baby-type) he smiles and says, "I've been paid".
--- and so have we.
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