In the turn-of-the century Texas town of Cottownwood Springs, marshal Frank Patch is an old-style lawman in a town determined to become modern. When he kills drunken Luke Mills in self-defense, the town leaders decide it's time for a change. They ask for Patch's resignation, but he refuses on the basis that the town on hiring him had promised him the job for as long as he wanted it. Afraid for the town's future and even more afraid of the fact that Marshal Patch knows all the town's dark secrets, the city fathers decide that old-style violence is the only way to rid themselves of the unwanted lawman. Written by
Jim Beaver <email@example.com>
Star Richard Widmark and original director Robert Totten had "artistic differences," and Totten was replaced by Don Siegel. When the film was completed, Siegel, saying that Totten directed more of the film than he did, refused to take screen credit for it, but Widmark didn't want Totten's name on it. A compromise was reached whereby the film was credited to the fictitious "Alan Smithee" (originally to be called Al Smith, but the DGA said there had already been a director by that name), thereby setting a precedent for directors who, for one reason or another, did not want their name on a film they made. See more »
Near the end of the film you can see the electrical wires running (presumably buried for most of their length under the differently-coloured soil) to a man's body as he is 'shot'; the last yard or so of wire -which is presumably for the gunshot SFX- is clearly visible running towards the man's ankles. See more »
[Mr. Brant, the undertaker, tries to console Mrs. Mills, the "grieving" widow]
Needless to say, Mrs. Mills, we all share your grief.
What's the price of your cheapest funeral?
See more »
This maybe the greatest film ever directed by the elusive Allen Smithee whose name comes up on the credits of this and many other films that directors can't or don't want to claim credit for a variety of reasons. Robert Totten and Don Siegel directed it and neither wanted credit for their own reasons. So unlike Come and Get It where both Howard Hawks and William Wyler directed it and both are listed, this one was credited to the elusive Mr. Smithee, that pseudonym invented by Hollywood for one who doesn't want the credit.
Usually they don't want the credit because it's a stinkeroo. But here this is a good western about an aging town marshal whose time as come and gone and won't see it.
Richard Widmark is that marshal and the local bordello madam, Lena Horne is his girlfriend or one of them. The film opens with an irate husband looking to gun him down played by Jimmy Lydon. Of course he's no match for the lawman and this spurs the town council to look for a way to finally be rid of him. The town elders are such veterans as Larry Gates, Morgan Woodward, David Opatoshu, Dub Taylor, and Kent Smith.
It becomes pretty obvious that Widmark won't take the hint and they start running out of options. For one of them it ends in tragedy.
Carroll O'Connor plays the most interesting role here, a far cry from Archie Bunker. He owns one of the saloons and his reasons are more typical, law and order has been taking away business for too long. O'Connor is a slime ball who first tries to use others to do his dirty work.
The others are the ones who brought Widmark to town in the first place, but now Widmark is a law unto himself. He has his own way of interpreting what needs to be done and the skill with a weapon to enforce it.
As you can imagine it's a pretty bloody picture, but a great lesson to be learned when you allow a man on horseback to run things.
I'm imagining though, millions of years from now; Aliens excavating our planet and through the efforts of folks like the American Film Institute come across the collected works of Allen Smithee. In their textbooks it's going to read that Smithee was a mediocre talent of whom little is known, but this one film is a great one amongst a lot of mediocrity.
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