A Confederate Major and his troops are falsely led to believe the Civil War is not over, and become wanted men after they attack a Union Army wagon train in Nevada.A Confederate Major and his troops are falsely led to believe the Civil War is not over, and become wanted men after they attack a Union Army wagon train in Nevada.A Confederate Major and his troops are falsely led to believe the Civil War is not over, and become wanted men after they attack a Union Army wagon train in Nevada.
Incredible to think that this fine Western was the only effort to have been directed by Roy Huggins; because it's exactly that, damn fine. He would go on to direct notable work in TV such as The Virginian, The Rockford Files, Maverick and The Fugitive, but it seems that he wanted to put down a marker that he could in fact direct a feature length film, and although it only runs at a respectable 80 minutes, he must have been real satisfied with the finished product. Huggins is backed up by genre legend Randolph Scott in the lead role of Major Matt Stewart, with Scott providing the sort of performance that reminds us of his excellent work for Budd Boetticher in Ride Lonesome, The Tall T and Comanche Station etc. Donna Reed (lovely as ever), Lee Marvin (another fine loose cannon job), Richard Denning and Frank Faylen all beef up the cast, and although some of the other supporting players do not quite shine so bright, they do, however, earn their corn and don't harm the movie.
The film itself is structured real well, we open with a fantastic sequence as the "Rebs" attack the Union troop, with Charles Lawton Jr's photography expertly capturing the Lone Pine vista in Technicolor glory. From here we are centred inside the way station in what at first appears to be your standard Rio Bravo set up, this set up could easily have failed if the characters inside the building were dull and very uninteresting. Thankfully Huggins, who wrote the story as well as directing it, gives us characters of interest with little offshoots of conflicts to further enhance the plot. This makes for a tense build up until we lurch towards the inevitable showdown where the rouges gallery of thugs outside - who want the gold at any cost to life - plot with hungry menace.
It's not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, as some B movie traits and budgetary tone downs are evident, but the quality is still impressively high. From the direction and photography to the performances of the leads; Hangman's Knot is an essential viewing for the discerning Western fan. 8/10
- Jan 28, 2009