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A marshal nicknamed "The Hangman" because of his track record in hunting down and capturing wanted criminals traces a robbery suspect to a small town. However, the man is known and liked in the town, and the citizens band together to try to help him avoid capture. Written by
The Hangman is directed by Michael Curtiz and written by Dudley Nichols and Luke Short. It stars Robert Taylor, Tina Louise, Fess Parker and Jack Lord. Music is by Harry Sukman and cinematography by Loyal Griggs.
Marshal Bovard (Taylor) arrives in town to identify and arrest the last of four outlaws who robbed a Wells Fargo stage. Unfortunately for Bovard, the man he seeks is very popular with everyone in town and nobody is keen to help the Marshal do his job.
It is thought, and on reflection it seems likely, that The Hangman is a caustic jab at grassers/finks, with the Hollywood Blacklist never far from the film makers thoughts. Bovard is a grumpy and rough fellow, a jobs-worth who has almost zero faith in the human race. He's confident that the people of this border town wont take much persuading to give up an outlaw, more so as he has money to offer as well. How wrong he is, and the rest of the film follows Bovard as he bangs his head against brick walls, until the banging stops and a light-bulb lights up over his head, perhaps not all people are bad?
In truth not a lot happens, there's no action of note, this is more about morality, redemption, human foibles et al. Yet the literary aspects of the story hold tight, keeping the viewers engaged till the end. It's a very nice looking and sounding picture as well, the absence of airy vistas is not a hindrance as Curtiz and Griggs utilise the interiors for some psychological results that deftly suit the narrative's pointed edges. While the sound mix and musical accompaniments achieve the best results possible to aid the tale.
It's a strange one in that it's more a film in a Western setting than being overtly a Western, it's also a little subversive. It even throws something of an annoying curve ball at the finale, though the makers were probably chuckling away to themselves about this as well. Great and sexy turns from the lead actors sees the material safely onto a healthy grazing pasture, to make it a recommended picture to fans of the stars and of literary Oaters. 7/10
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