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In the mid-19th century, Senator William J. Tadlock leads a group of settlers overland in a quest to start a new settlement in the Western US. Tadlock is a highly principled and demanding taskmaster who is as hard on himself as he is on those who have joined his wagon train. He clashes with one of the new settlers, Lije Evans, who doesn't quite appreciate Tadlock's ways. Along the way, the families must face death and heartbreak and a sampling of frontier justice when one of them accidentally kills a young Indian boy. Written by
This is what you call a sprawling western with a vast array of big name stars, scenery, action, and characterization. There is never a dull moment. Its got tons of adventure and action mixed with important character points along the way. Widmark was best when he got away from his sadistic bad guy roles. Here, he plays a reluctant hero, and to be honest, the parts were well written and directed. The actors added their talent, and the results are a larger than life spectacular show. Douglas is very believable as the man who begins good and descends into a horrible human being. The way different characters handle revenge is stunningly poignant. The chief who lost his son could easily wipe out the whole band, but his love of justice makes his unseen presence totally visible. A monumental bit of writing to do this, to make such a character who practically never appears for all intents and purposes. The scenery is vivid and spell binding. Mitchum's role is one that any actor would covet, and he handles it with aplomb. Sally Field plays maybe her best role ever. he movie is never mentioned by critics, but is the unsung hero of westerns, and a great example of how superior they were before 1970.
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