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Behind a narration in the style of Jack Webb on TV's "Dragnet", U.S. Marshal Sam Nelson, posing as Sam Smith, is sent to a gold-boom town in California to learn the identity of three killers. Posing as a gunman and killer, he soon strikes up a friendship with card-sharp Alf Billings after saving him from being lynched when caught cheating in a card game. Billings suggests they become partners as his skill with cards (overlooking the near lynching he just escaped) and Sam's ability with guns should make them a fortune. Sam agrees, hoping that Billings will lead him to the men he is hunting. Billings leads him to Coldwater sheriff William Norris and Ernie Walker, Norris's partner in a saloon and gambling operation, both implicated in the murder case Sam is investigating. Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
Elliott, a US Marshal, goes undercover to catch three killers. In the process, he befriends one of them, Morgan, and finds out his job is not as morally easy as he thought.
I was expecting a matinée western with the usual formula plot and stock characters. But this is not a formula matinée. Two of the chief charactersMorgan and Bradfordare morally ambiguous. That is, they are as capable of high deeds as well as low, sort of like real people. Also, Morgan, I believe, has more screen time than ostensible hero Elliott. I'm not sure why, maybe because Elliott is a middle-age 50, and wants to slow down. Also, it's Morgan who attracts the good-looking woman, while Elliott is all business.
I suspect the 70-minutes departs from the standard since it comes at the end of the matinée era. Instead, TV was taking over the cheap western. Anyway, the film is better than its lowly pedigree indicates, and can stand on its own as a slice of sagebrush entertainment. And, oh yes, shouldn't leave off without paying tribute to Wild Bill, this being his final western. He was one of the few matinée cowboys who could act tough and make you believe it. I think it was the narrow eyes and resonant voice. Anyway, he sure gave me a lot of entertainment over the years. Good luck, Bill, wherever you are-- you went out on a pretty good little western.
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