This movie was the first role for James Stacy following his 1973 motorcycle accident in which he was hit by a drunk driver, resulting in the loss of his left arm and left leg. Kirk Douglas created the role especially for Stacy. See more »
Howard Nightingale breaks his fall with hands that are supposedly cuffed behind his back. See more »
Well, not 'the best', perhaps, but an interesting and stylish western starring Kirk Douglas, who also produced and directed it. Bruce Dern is great as Strawhorn, the bad guy who ends up stealing the show.
Howard Nightingale is running for a seat in the US Senate. He is a man of great complexity, and one trait very much to the fore in his personality is a ruthless desire to impress the voters. He has assembled a posse of rangers, his own personal uniformed army of crimebusters. Nightingale (played by Douglas) has calculated that he can win the election on a clear-the-territory-of-lowlifes ticket. He and his posse are hunting down Strawhorn, and have fitted out a crusade train for the purpose of capturing their prey. The plan is to grab Strawhorn and hang him just in time for the election.
Nightingale is in the pocket of the railroad owners. The local newspaper is the Tesota Sentinel, and one of the film's themes is the valuable role played by the press in speaking truth to those in power. One-armed, one-legged journalist Harold Hellman (played by James Stacy, who had recently lost both limbs on a motor cycle accident) is the equal of the photogenic wannabe Senator. Nightingale works the crowd with glib words, but his position is being eroded by a different formula of words - that used by The Sentinel.
One of the film's elegant touches is the photography motif. At various points in the story, the participants pose to have their picture taken, and the resulting stills form a freeze-frame chronicle of the action. A lot of post-production work went into dubbing extraneous voices onto the soundtrack, so that the crowd scenes are laced with apposite little remarks.
A violently-burning train provides terrific visuals, as well as offering acerbic comment on Nightingale's political aspirations. The film's concluding message, that by its nature a standing army is a threat to democracy, is well made - as is the point about the fickleness of public opinion.
Verdict - A clever, enjoyable little western.
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