A wagon train heads for Denver with a cargo of whisky for the miners. Chaos ensues as the Temperance League, the US cavalry, the miners and the local Indians all try to take control of the ... See full summary »
While passing through the town of Bannock, a bunch of drunken, trail-weary cattlemen go overboard with their celebrating and accidentally kill an old man with a stray shot. They return home to Sabbath unaware of his death. Bannock lawman Jered Maddox later arrives there to arrest everyone involved on a charge of murder. Sabbath is run by land baron Vince Bronson, a benevolent despot, who, upon hearing of the death, offers restitution for the incident. Maddox, however, will not compromise even though small ranchers like Vern Adams are not in a position to desert their responsibilities for a long and protracted trial. Sabbath's marshal, Cotton Ryan, is an aging lawman whose tough reputation rests on a single incident that occurred years before. Ryan admits to being only a shadow of what he once was and incapable of stopping Maddox. Maddox confides to Ryan that Bannock's judicial system is weak and corrupt, and while he's doubtful that anyone he brings back will suffer more than the ... Written by
When Vernon Adams (Robert Duvall) first aims down on Maddox (Burt Lancaster) with his rifle from above, Maddox is riding away from him up a long draw. Immediately afterward, Maddox is still traveling up the draw and looks up and sees Vernon in front of him and above him aiming down at him. The positions switched 180 degrees. See more »
You and I sit at the same table, Jared. The virtuous need us, but they can't stand the smell.
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I rather feel the original "review" on the database misses the point of this dark film. The notion that the community is best served by a rigid, inflexible determination to enforce the letter of the law under all circumstances is indeed the view espoused by the film's main character (played with consummate skill by Burt Lancaster) but the message of the film is surely to point out the limitations of such a view.
Towards the end of the film the Marshall is offered another vision - of a life that contain more than the vendetta, the manhunt, and the inevitable killing that follows. Instead he is tempted by the possibility of a life that offers love, humanity and peace. Unable to change his spots, however, he deliberately throws all that away in a final, senseless act of violence when he shoots in the back a frightened and basically harmless man who is trying to run away - a senseless, brutal and completely unnecessary act of judicial murder. It bears a great resemblance in fact to Harry's similar cold-blooded and pointless execution of his terrorist fugitive at the end of "Harry's Game" and similarly to that, its effect is to arouse disgust at the perpetrator and to alienate our sympathies from what we had previously felt was the "right" side, and to question whether it had really been so "right" all along. The purpose, one feels, of this final killing was not because there was any need for it, but simply to demonstrate the Marshall's defiance of his critics and his determination to continue in the path he had previously followed.
To my mind the film is an intelligent critique of the whole notion of the missionary self-righteousness of this attitude that can arise among self-appointed guardians of the public good, whose original high standards and pure motives are eroded by the violence and the basic inhumanity of the methods they use until they become - as Burt Lancaster actually states in specific terms during the film - just people who are good at killing other people. Siilar themes were explored earlier in "The Searchers" (1956) and "Hang 'em High" (1968) and later in "Unforgiven" (1992) but the message was best expressed to my mind by Peter Shaffer n his play "The Royal Hunt of the Sun" where the young, idealistic but inexperienced squire, Martin, tells his master the conquistador Pizzarro how he feels that a "noble reason" can make the violence of war "glorious". Pizzarro replies: "Give me one reason that stays noble once you start hacking off limbs in its name".
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