Released from prison after 18 years, notorious gunslinger 'Killer' Cain is a peaceful reformed man but the Old West has died and he cannot adapt to the modern West where some unpaid moral debts and old troubles resurface.
A woman and two children are kidnapped by Apaches. The husband of the captured woman enlists the help of his neighbor to find the Apaches that seized his family; not knowing his neighbor has unknown reasons of his own for helping him.
Kent Taggart's family, with their cattle stampeded, are killed by those who started it. In a fair gunfight, he kills the man's son responsible for it all and when he runs, a warrant is issued and a price put on his head.
It's the last day on the job for Marshal Morg Rocklin who plans to get married. The new Marshal is due in town the next day. Unfortunately, a bunch of troublemakers are in town. Among them is rancher Joshua McCloud's no-good son who's bringing in a herd of cattle for sale. Immature, spoiled and quick tempered, the McCloud boy gets into an argument with his cowhands in the saloon and shoots one dead. The Marshal tries to arrest McCloud's son who draws on the lawman and gets killed. Postponing his wedding, the Marshal rides out to break the sad news to old rancher McCloud who has recently taken a young gold-digger wife. The old man drinks too much lately. The Marshal fears the worst for his meeting with the old rancher who doesn't yet know that his son was killed. To make matters worse, Bart Thorne, the McClouds' head ranch boss hates the Marshal and wants him dead. Written by
[Thorne refuses to come to Kate's aid when Apaches decide to abduct her]
I guess this is goodbye, honey.
You can't! You can't!
It's either you or me and you got no vote.
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If it wasn't for the stiffness of lead Tony Young this film would rate really high in Hollywood B western history. As it is He Rides Tall gives us a memorable performance by Dan Duryea, a real masterpiece of swaggering villainy reminiscent of his Waco Johnny Dean from Winchester 73.
He Rides Tall combines elements of High Noon and The Man From Laramie in its plot. Marshal Tony Young encounters Dan Duryea a guy he put away several years earlier out from prison and now foreman of R.G. Armstrong's spread. He and Armstrong's punk son are bringing the cattle to market in town, but the son played by Carl Reindel starts trouble and Young is forced to kill him.
That's when Duryea makes his move with Armstrong's young and scheming wife Jo Morrow. He also captures Young and leaves him with a crippled gun hand, the better to have him fall victim to any gunslinger who wants to try him, he thinks.
I can't say more because what happens afterward is really too good to spoil. You will absolutely love the desserts Jo Morrow gets.
The other female part in He Rides Tall is Madelyn Rhue playing the Kitty Russell type saloon owner and fiancé of Marshal Young. He's supposed to be getting married to her, but all this business postpones the wedding. Unlike Grace Kelly in High Noon, Rhue has no Quaker scruples about violence when she aids her man in getting rid of one of Duryea's henchmen.
There's also an unusual part for Joel Fluellen as a doctor. Not too many black actors back then were cast as professional men. He's R.G. Armstrong's physician and he has an important function in this film.
I'm agreeing with the comment made by one viewer in that this could have been a film meant for Audie Murphy. Too bad he didn't do it.
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