Ride Lonesome (1959) Poster


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Deservedly a cult movie
pzanardo24 July 2002
"Ride Lonesome" fully deserves its cult-movie status. Here the chemistry between the director Budd Boetticher and Randolph Scott attains its highest level. Of course, as for any other cult movie, it would be desirable to see "Ride lonesome" several times to fully appreciate it. The story is very simple, and somewhat reminiscent of others by the distinguished western-writer Burt Kennedy, but it is dense with distinct themes and psychological nuances. The dialogue is perfect: extremely dry, sharp and laconic, but endowed with a remarkable sense of humour. We feel that the guys on the screen are more for action than for chats.

Boetticher merges the audience in the open freeness of wild nature, according to his trade-mark style of turning the landscape into a further character of his films. The photography and the use of color are magnificent. The action scenes are terse, (enough) realistic and much accurate in the movements of the actors. Particularly brilliant are the nocturnal scenes: the shadows which hide the faces are opposed to the glitter of metal objects (cups, fire-arms) and to the lights spread by Karen Steele's blond hair and white shirt. And these nocturnal scenes create a remarkable erotic atmosphere, due to the breathtaking presence of Steele as Mrs. Lane. It has been said that in Boetticher's films the Woman is never a real character, but rather a dreamed object of desire. "Ride Lonesome" is perhaps the best evidence of this theory: Karen Steele is so incredibly gorgeous that the viewer is led to see her more as a Goddess than as a woman. And thus we easily accept the instinctive respect paid to her by the male characters. Also note this subtlety: the Apaches attack the whites just because their chief wants to get Mrs. Lane. The power of Woman rules.

Any character is designed with accurate psychology, with excellent work by the whole cast. Randolph Scott, Karen Steele, Pernell Roberts, James Best are all commendable. I especially liked a very young James Coburn in the role of the naive cow-boy, living on the risky border between good and evil. Lee Van Cleef has a short role as the main villain Frank, but leaves his mark: look at his sneer and his body language when Frank realizes that he's going to face a mortal clash.

A marginal note: the Italian title of the movie sounds like "The tree of revenge". I venture to say that this title is better than the original one.

I greatly like "Ride Lonesome". You can enjoy it at two levels: either breath in the open spaces and relish the adventure, or make a deeper study of Boetticher's admirable style and technique.
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Roberts and Scott perfectly matched
herbqedi23 June 2004
For a 71-minute movie, Ride Lonesome is one of the most rivetingly memorable Westerns I've ever seen. Fans of epics and lots of mindless action should stay away. This is a thinking person's group character study of the five principals and the ubiquitous presence of Lee Van Cleef's "Big Brother" Frank despite a very economic amount of screen time.

True enough that in many ways, this plays a like a typical '50's "classic-formula"(including a misplaced-and-awkward Indian-Chief-wants-widow-for-squaw subplot) Western -- albeit exceedingly well-directed and well-acted. The dialog, richness of characterizations, and interplay among characters ultimately set this one apart. These come across as indelibly drawn real people who happened to live in the 1870's West. However, Boetticher fans need not threat that he has totally abandoned his contributions to Western Mythology. The rather spartan genre-emblematic symbolism he does include resonates all the more as a result of this efficiency.

This is true despite the presence, nay -- especially due to the presence of Randolph Scott and his pitch-perfect interplay with charmingly roguish Boone, marvelously essayed by Pernell Roberts. Neither ever loses sight of who and what the other man is. Both share a healthy amount of mutual respect mixed with healthy skepticism and awareness of an inevitable dark cloud shadowing their temporary alliance. Roberts, in particular, evokes every bit of sardonic humor, masculine charm, and fidelity to his own peculiar code that the script allows him. Scott, for his part, is far closer to the dark bitterness of Will Kane than he is when playing most of his heroic characters.

Both characters are more-than-ably joined in the ensemble by half-witted-but-loyal cowpoke Whit (James Coburn), homicidal man-boy Billy (James Best), and-abandoned-wife-and-later-widowed Karen Steele. The female actor is quite appealing visually and as convincing as possible in her role given her contrived introduction into the plot. Once we get past the Indian subplot, she comes into her own as she gradually learns who Scott's and Robert's characters truly are, and adjusts her emotions accordingly.

But, one facet of this film that has always stuck in my mind is the way Boetticher and Kennedy brilliantly collaborated to have Van Cleef essay Big Brother Frank, the movie's ultimate villain - especially considering the many High-Noon-ish parallels. He neither portrays a Big-Brother-Frank-Miller type of cocksure-but-defiantly-laconic swaggering gang leader or a typically unrepentant Lee Van Cleef villain. Instead, we get a somewhat remorseful, increasingly bemused, but immutably duty-bound human being of real-flesh-and-blood feelings. It is only after exhausting potential alternatives that he reluctantly comes to terms with the inevitability of his final conflict with Scott. And, his reluctance to do Scott further harm seems genuine, only to be trumped by his commitment to free little brother Billy.

But, as good as the entire ensemble is, the film draws a good deal of its charm and heart from Pernell Robert's performance as Boone. I note this as an aside, because Roberts went on to make only one more indelible feature film performance before getting overshadowed on Bonanza. Even worse for his promising career, directors reportedly found him nearly impossible to work with and there was no love lost between him and his fellow cast members who felt he thought himself superior to all of them; intellectually speaking, he was probably right, but that bought him nothing in Hollywood. Eventually, he had a fairly long run starring in a highly rated series that for some reason, has had no shelf-life on reruns called Trapper John, M. D. But, there, too, Hollywood scuttlebutt indicates that he made few friends. After just re-watching his marvelous work in "Ride Lonesome", and recalling other performances, I found myself thinking that these off-the-set issues were truly unfortunate because Roberts truly exuded leading-man-caliber talent. Instead I can only urge other IMDB'ers not to miss this performance.

Despite the economic budget, the cinematic and sound-related choices are impeccably executed. Contrasts are especially effective. My rating for this near-perfect Western is 9/10.
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The best of the Scott/Boetticher films
clore-27 January 2002
Ride Lonesome is that rare B-film, one that eclipses in a wink most of its bigger budgeted brethren. The return of scripter Burt Kennedy (who had not done the two previous Scott/Boetticher films) to the Ranown company (founded by Randolph Scott and producer Harry Joe Brown), the close group harmony, resulted in an obviously glorious reunion for all concerned.

Shot entirely outdoors, like "The Tall T," we have large open spaces, but a tightly confined group. This time the bounty isn't gold or money - it's outlaw Billy John (James Best). Former sheriff Ben Brigade has captured him, counting on Billy John's brother Frank (Lee Van Cleef) to come get him. Brigade has a score to settle, the murder of his wife, and he intends to settle it at a tree that holds relevance to both lawman and outlaw. Scott is joined by two minor lawbreakers, in whose hope of amnesty provided by the turning over of Billy John to authorities, provides the alliance of adversaries so common to the Boetticher films. Pernell Roberts, the more worldly and intelligent of the two, like Brigade, is looking for personal redemption, and the hope of his own ranch once he settles down. He acts a big brother to the less intelligent, and basically decent, James Coburn, in his filmic debut, is a long way from his more forceful character that would surface in later westerns of Sturges and Peckinpah. Karen Steele is on hand again (she was in "Decision at Sundown"), the group finds her alone in a way station, threatened by the Indians who killed her husband. She serves as conscience and libido stimulator, and her breathtaking appearance is highlighted in what is one of the film's most humorous moments ("I said her eyes").

So, avoiding the Indians on their trail, and the threat of Frank's gang, Brigade leads the group to the inevitable showdown at the hanging tree that will determine the fate of the group, and the individual futures of each.

Ranown, Boetticher and Kennedy had one more film to go, the actor was slowing down - after years of averaging three per year, there were just two releases in both 1957 and 1958, Ride Lonesome was the only film for 1959, and 1960's Comanche Station would be the sole film for Scott until 1962's valedictory film known as Ride the High Country.
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You just don't seem like the kind that would hunt a man for money.
Spikeopath14 November 2010
Ride Lonesome is directed by Budd Boetticher, written by Burt Kennedy and stars Randolph Scott, Karen Steele, Pernell Roberts, James Coburn, James Best & Lee Van Cleef. Charles Lawton Jr is the cinematographer (in CinemaScope for the Alabama Hills, Lone Pine, California location) and Heinz Roemheld provides the musical score. Film is part of the Ranown Western cycle involving Boetticher, Scott, Kennedy and producer Harry Joe Brown.

Bounty hunter Ben Brigade (Scott) captures wanted outlaw Billy John (Best) and tells him he's taking him to Santa Cruz to be hanged. Best boasts that his brother Frank (Cleef) will soon be arriving to ensure that doesn't happen. Brigade isn't the least bit bothered by this statement. The two men stop at a Wells Junction, a remote swing station, where they encounter Boone (Roberts) & Whit (Coburn), two drifters, and Mrs Lane (Steele), the station attendant's wife. With Mr Lane missing and the Mescalero Apache's on the warpath, the group decide to collectively travel to Santa Cruz, but hot on their trail are the Indians and Frank's gang. There's also the small matter of motives within the group, seems Boone & Whit, too, have a special interest in Billy, while Brigade may have something far more ulterior driving him on.

As the decades have rolled by, the Boetticher/Scott Westerns have come to be rightly regarded as genre high points. Between 1956 to 1960 they produced 7 pieces of work. The weakest of which were the more jovial Buchanan Rides Alone (1958), and the Kennedy absent WB contract filler, Westbound (1959). The remaining five each follow a familiar theme that sees Scott as a man driven by emotional pain, movies with simmering undertones and pulsing with psychological smarts. Poll a hundred Western fans for their favourite Boetticher/Scott movie and you will find any of the five being mentioned as a favourite: such is the tightness and intelligence of each respective picture.

So we are out in the desolated Old West, it's harsh and weather beaten. Our five characters are either troubled by death-prior and pending-or searching for a life that may be a touch too far from their grasp. As their journey unfolds, loyalties will be tested and shifted, uneasy bonds formed, psychological and sexual needs bubble away under the surface. All viewed by the enveloping Alabama Hills: with Mount Whitney the chief patriarch overseeing his charges. Ride Lonseome, is a stunning movie, an elegiac piece, one that's bleak yet not without hope, a collage of tones seamlessly blended together to create one almost magnificent whole. The first Boetticher movie in CinemaScope, the film is directed with great economic skill, the whole width of the screen is creatively used by the director, placing the characters in the landscape like Anthony Mann used to do with Jimmy Stewart. His action construction is smart and it should be noted that there is not one interior shot in the film. Lawton Jr sumptuously shoots in Eastman Color, actually a perfect choice for the rugged terrain and the wide, lonesome inducing open spaces provided by the Scope format. While Kennedy's script is sparing, perfectly so, the dialogue is clipped but very telling. And crucially there's no manipulation in the narrative.

Then of course there's the cast. Scott leads off with one of his brave, ageing man of few words portrayals, a character with inner sadness gnawing away at him. With just one glance and a couple of words, Scott actually provides more depth than most other actors in the genre were able to do with more meatier parts. With the lead protagonist established, Boetticher surrounds him with fine support. Coburn was making his film debut and with his tall frame and distinctive voice he leaves a good impression, mostly because he works so well off of Roberts' more outwardly tough turn. Their partnership gives the film a believable friendship at its centre, lovable rogues perhaps? And they also provide some of the lighter moments that Boetticher and Kennedy use to tonally keep us guessing. Steele is just sultry, a blonde fire cracker in the middle of a potential hornets nest. While Best does a nice line in snivelling weasel, his characters trait being that he shoots his victims in the back. As for Cleef? He's barely in it, but after his characters introduction into the story, his presence hangs over proceedings like a dark heavy cloud. He will be back, tho, and rest assured it's worth the wait.

Does Ride Lonesome have flaws? Yes. One thing is that at 73 minutes it's too damn short. But moving away from that particular greedy itch of mine, the film does carry some Western clichés. Most notably with the Indian participation in the story. Be it chases, portentous smoke signals or an adobe corral attack-where our group are of course outnumbered-it's stock Cowboy & Indian fare. Not helped by Roemheld's music, which only reinforces the clichés. Thankfully in Boetticher's hands the clichés are overcome by the scenes raising the pulse, and in one particular sequence, providing the basis for a terrific tracking shot. Roemheld does deliver the goods for the finale, tho, and what a finale it is too. Featuring a tree shaped like a cross, the ending has sparked many an interpretation. Some way too deep (French critics) & some just bizarre (internet sleuths), when actually the interpretation is simple; hell they even got Martin Scorsese to explain it on the DVD. The memorable shot involving the tree, as the music pounds away, can induce pounds of goose-flesh on the skin, powerful it is. As endings go in the Boettticher canon? It gives Comanche Station's riderless horse finale a run for the title of being his, and Scott's, best. A near masterpiece from a true auteur. 9/10
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One of the best westerns of the late 50s
funkyfry30 October 2002
Tight, efficient western story (not a "saga") about a man who uses a prisoner to get his brother into the open for revenge. In the meantime he strings along a beautiful stranded woman and 2 outlaws who hope to kill Scott and turn his prisoner in for a pardon for themselves. The climax before the evil-looking "hanging tree" is very impressive, although the film could have built Van Cleef into a stronger villain (perhaps the realism of a villain who isn't all that bad was part of the plan). Excellent synergy of all the vital elements by the director in this, one of the best of the famed (and hard to find) Ranown films.
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A short ride, but a good one.
Poseidon-311 October 2004
This spare, brief western is one in a series of similar collaborations between Budd Boetticher the director and Scott. Today's moviegoer sometimes seems to feel cheated if a film runs less than about two hours as if a film's quality should be judged by it's length rather than it's content. A little film like this demonstrates the entertainment value of a short, well-told and well-acted story with minimal production values. Scott is a bounty hunter who has captured shifty killer Best and is intent on dragging him back to the city of Santa Cruz to face his fate. Unfortunately, outlaws Roberts and Coburn want him themselves because whoever brings Best in is granted amnesty for their own past crimes. The men form an uneasy alliance necessitated by both bloodthirsty Indians and Best's brother Van Cleef who is en route to rescue him from his captors. Also along for the ride is Steele, a buxom blonde who's been abandoned by her stationmaster husband. These five people cross desert terrain, continuously at odds with each other and with the people tracking them. If it all sounds simple, it gets a boost from a twist in the storyline that adds much dimension to the plot and to one of the characters in particular. Filmed entirely out of doors, there is excellent use of California scenery (sure to be lost somewhat in a cropped version.) Scott gives his typical solid, dependable performance. Roberts is awarded some interesting and, at times, ripe dialogue. He shares an intriguing on screen relationship with future-star Coburn who has a nice early supporting role here. Best (who somehow doesn't even rate billing in the title credits!) gives a quirky, thoughtful, colorful performance as the marked man. Van Cleef (not particularly believable as his brother!) shows the demeanor and presence that would make him a bigger star later. In fact, the cast is almost uniformly made up of high quality actors. Steele (sporting an impossibly small waistline and B-52 bosoms) isn't exactly what one would expect to find at a wagon station, but she does a good job in the film. There's a nice balance of character work, action and story-telling to make for a pleasing 73 minutes of western entertainment. There's little or no fat to trim from it. It does what it does and does it well.
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Watch it with black coffee and beef jerky
rdu12 October 2003
Contemporary reviewers described the Ranown films as B+ Westerns. High quality scripts and execution on efficient budgets. Note that the hanging tree used at the climax of "Ride Lonesome" is surrounded by water in "Comanche Station". Unfortunately, in my opinion, some of the dialogue is recycled by Mr. Kennedy between the two films as the respective duos/allies (Best/Coburn - Akins/Homier) contemplate offing Scott and the younger says you they have to get him between them, you can't go at a man like Brigade/Cody straight on. However, its reasonable that desperados in a writer's milieu would use the same phrasing.

The action scenes in Ride Lonesome are excellent and it is impressive to see Scott's riding skills at his age, such as in the scene where they notice the warriors on the ridge and he accelerates his horse in order to get Karen Steele to safety.

The action is complemented by the night scenes where the elliptical dialogue between the characters provides intellectual comic relief.

Other items I liked are Lee Van Cleef's turn when he realizes why Brigade is being so obvious about their path. When I first saw the film I was impressed by James Best's performance but didn't notice the feather in his hat. Seeing it in a retrospective with a friend, he noticed the feather. My first reaction was that the character was part Indian, he thought it was meant to show the character as "chicken", ie punkish.
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A To the Point Western
Melvin M. Carter21 December 2004
The Ranown Westerns of Boetticher and Scott are an example of efficient well acted story telling. Compared to some of the big budget westerns of the old Hollywood era and I include Cheyenne Autumn, Cimmaron, and that blasphemy Duel in the Sun as examples, story was sacrificed for spectacle and characters were types. In the Scott Westerns the story,the reality of the characters actions in that stark landscape and how they survived or didn't made for entertaining yet intelligent film watching. Ben Brigade is out for revenge and his bait is the younger brother of his enemy who out for revenge of his own,hanged Brigade's wife some time prior to the events of this drama. Unlike the villains in the Tall T and Commanche Station, Frank isn't the dark half of the hero-they would never ever share a campfire together,but they do have a since of family loyalty which would require them to risk all hazards. Another family group Boone and Whit played by a young Pernell Roberts and James Coburn enter as potential rivals for both hero and villain,they want James Bests' Billy as a ticket to amnesty and Boone's dream of owning a ranch. Then the SEX is added as Karen Steele the recently widowed wife of a stationmaster draws Apaches and increases the hormone overload of the four men,Brigades' memories of his wife and the others lust incarnate though Boone sees beyond that. somewhat. There's a clash with the Mescalero Apaches and the ultimate climax with Frank and his band of renegades who are only held together by his topdog charisma and nothing else. There is none of Ford's heavyhanded male humor,nor none of Mann's psych drama. Brigade is a self contained economic in his words,efficient in killing hero,no blustery backslapper. And Mr. Scott was secure enough in his stardom that he gave good lines and depth to the younger actors in the film. Class A Western
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Ride tall and forget about leaving a trail.
Michael O'Keefe19 July 2003
A rather short, but complete western drama. Great sets, script and photography. A simple and to the point story line. Randolph Scott is an ex-sheriff who plans on taking an outlaw(James Best)to Santa Cruz to be hanged. The slow talking Scott rides tall and seems to always be in command. The all-star cast includes:Pernell Roberts, Lee Van Cleef, James Coburn and the handsomely beautiful Karen Steele. Evocative of a classic.
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A great western!
amolad4 March 2001
This is an excellent movie, but beware seeing it unless it's shown in its proper CinemaScope aspect ratio. One of the best in a series of westerns starring Randolph Scott, directed by Budd Boetticher, and written by Burt Kennedy, this is a taut, actionful, and humorous motion picture. The stories are all pretty much the same in these movies: Scott is seeking revenge for the murder of his wife, or some such variation. He meets up with a very likable villain who runs around with a couple of young guns, and eventually they shoot it out. The villains were usually played by future stars and their rapport with the Scott character is always entertaining.

Boetticher is one of the great directors of westerns, employing a spare style that stresses the beautiful emptiness of the landscape, making it into an arena for the shifting alliances among his characters. And Kennedy is one of the great writers of western dialogue. I wasn't around in the 1870s, but hey, it FEELS and SOUNDS real! See this movie, even if you think you hate westerns and think they're all the same!

They're not. And this is one of the best.
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There are some things a man just can't ride around.
lastliberal5 January 2008
I decided to take a break from Jodorowsky and cleanse my palate with a trip down memory lane. What better way to reminisce than the Columbia years of Randolph Scott.

Before all the electronics and 500 station TVs, there was my childhood. Three station and Saturday mornings filled with cartoons, Sky King, The Lone Ranger and Randolph Scott. I was always amazed how Scott could be on the top of a moving train in a fight with an outlaw and never lose his hat.

But, there were no fights in this film. This was the mature Scott under the direction of Budd Boetticher. They made seven films together, and they are some of the finest westerns made.

In this film Scott (Ben Brigade) plays a bounty hunter who is bringing in Bill John (James Best).

Bill John: I don't know how much they're paying you to bring me in, but it ain't enough. Not near enough.

Ben Brigade: I'd hunt you for free.

That exchange is a portent of what is to come.

Along the way they are joined by Pernell Roberts, who made his claim to fame on "Bonanza" and "Trapper John, M.D."; James Coburn (In Like Flint, Our Man Flint, Affliction), and Karen Steele.

Now, Karen Steele may be one of the most beautiful actresses to work on film, but I have to comment on her bra. It may have been the fashion in the 50's, but that thing looked like a weapon to me. I mean to say that it hit you six inches before she arrived. A man could be seriously injured before he was able to hug her.

Roberts and Coburn were hoping to take Bill John away from Scott and trade him for amnesty. They are willing to kill him for the chance to start life over and they tell him so.

Sam Boone: Man gets halfway, he oughta have somethin' of his own, something to belong to, be proud of.

Ben Brigade: They say that.

Sam Boone: I got me a place. Gonna run beef, work the ground, be able to walk down the street like anybody. All I need is Billy.

Ben Brigade: I set out to take him to Santa Cruz. I full intend to do it.

Sam Boone: Well, I just wanted you to know how it was. Way I look at it, ain't near as hard for a man if he knows why he's gonna die.

But, Brigade never intends to go to Santa Cruz, and we meet the last character in the film, Billy John's brother, Frank (Lee Van Cleef). It seems that Billy John was just bait, and Brigade has a long festering hurt that had to be healed. That led to a great ending, where everybody leaves satisfied.
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Some Things A Man Can't Ride Around.
Robert J. Maxwell17 March 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Randolph Scott captures young killer James Best and intends to take him to Santa Cruze to be hanged for murder, and collect the reward. Along the way he runs into two miscreants, Pernell Roberts and his sidekick James Coburn, who would like to take Best in themselves, in return for which they would received amnesty. ("Ain't that a great word?") They also provide protection to a woman, Karen Steele, who wears a pointed 1950s brassiere throughout and is there chiefly to stimulate the glands of Roberts. (Scott, after listening to Roberts praise the various physical and characterological properties of Steele: "She ain't ugly.") The conflict intrinsic to this arrangement is that Scott, on the one hand, and Roberts and Coburn on the other, seem to be at cross purposes. If Scott doesn't hand over the prisoner, then Scott gets the bounty but Roberts and Coburn don't get their amnesty. Roberts reluctantly informs Scott that, sooner or later, Scott will be shot. Meanwhile they must hang together under threats from Apaches and from Best's brother and his gang, who are in hot pursuit.

Of the several movies that Randolph Scott and director Budd Boetticher made together, I think I probably enjoy this one the most -- this and "Seven Men From Now." It's a leisurely travel story set among the stucco-textured rocks of Movie Flats, California. The story is simple, the location shooting impressive, and the dialog by Burt Kennedy sings with a kind of folk lyricism. (If you get amnesty, "You don't have to shiver every time you see a man wearin' tin.") Scott is his stalwart, taciturn self. Coburn's dim-wittedness provides some gentle humor. Pernell Roberts fakes a Southern accent and seems to be enjoying the camera a little too much, which turns him into a self-satisfied Hollywood actor instead of a sympathetic and colorful criminal.

The nicest performance may be that of James Best as the callow, somewhat sensitive, but doomed murderer. He's given the line that warns Karen Steele to stay away from the body of a man slaughtered by Indians: "Ain't nothing' for a woman to see!"

Yet, watching these collaborative efforts in sequence, as I've been doing -- why it sets a man to wonderin' what it is that keeps them entertainin' stead of a mite more than that. Of course the budgets were low, but some directors have been able to overcome such strictures. The musical scores were by Heinz Roemheld and they're pedestrian. The five scripts written by Burt Kennedy are better than the rest. And there's an awful lot of repetition. There's nothing wrong with quoting yourself. John Ford often had men splashing a glass of whiskey into a fireplace and having it flame up. Howard Hawks repeated himself often, including single lines like, "Good luck to you." Hitchcock had his cameos and Huston often dubbed his voice somewhere into the mix. But those were self-conscious tricks, a kind of joke, whereas here the repetitions seem to stem from a conviction that the audience doesn't pay enough attention to notice them.

Not to go on about it. It was an enjoyable series and this example is an exemplary one.
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A smooth ride along bumpy trails.
st-shot10 July 2010
This the sixth of seven westerns director Budd Boeticher made with producer/star Randolph Scott and while it follows the same basic formula of the others its not a bad thing since most on their own are well paced, action packed, suspenseful and ably lensed by Charles Lambert who has wonderful eye for the west and this is no exception.

In this one Scott plays bounty hunter Ben Brigade. He's taking murderer Billy John back to Sant Cruz for a reward and this gets the attention of two tired desperadoes since it includes amnesty for anyone who brings him back. With Indians on the warpath he forms an uneasy alliance with the two as well as take Mrs. Carrie Lane who runs the stage stop along with her. In addition to this quartet of issues Brigade is also being pursued by Billy's brother.

If they were car makers John Ford and Anthony Mann would make Cadillacs while Budd Boeticher would manufacture Volkswagons. While he does not have the star power or budget of those western masters he nevertheless produces the same quality product with impressive wide open space compositions effectively punctuated with symbols and clues. He may only make compact westerns but they almost always offer a good clean economical ride.

Scott's nearest threat in Ride Lonesome are not like previous cold blooded villains. Instead they are more Lenny and George from Of Mice and Men than James brothers but once they find out what the word amnesty means they are prepared to kill to get it.

Scott as usual is the same tough, humorless, stoic he plays in the other westerns while Barbera Steele is more dance hall girl than pioneer woman. What differentiates Ride Lonesome from the other Boeticher westerns is the characters of Sam Boone and Whit. They may be surly and have some rattle snake in them but they are loyal to each other and the interplay between Pernel Roberts and especially James Coburn make them interestingly sympathetic.
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Great scenery in this revenge western
NewEnglandPat10 August 2005
Revenge is the theme of this budget western as bounty Randolph Scott searches for his wife's killer. The pursuit and kill theme is a familiar theme in westerns and there isn't much different here. James Coburn makes a fine film debut and Pernell Roberts also turns in good support. They are reformed outlaws who need pardons and desire to bury their troubled pasts. Karen Steele, a widow, is the romantic hook for Scott who softens his stance after getting with outlaw Lee Van Cleef. The film is a taut, no-frills affair that has some fine action, and the rugged cluster of boulders and shadowy canyons of Lone Pine form the background of this decent western.
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Allies Of Convenience
bkoganbing2 January 2009
After a bad beginning because I could not believe the way that bounty hunter Randolph Scott was able to bring in James Best, the rest of the film fleshes out nicely to another tension filled western directed by Budd Boetticher and written by Burt Kennedy who would soon be directing features of his own.

When Scott does bring in Best unfortunately he must rely on a pair of young guns, Pernell Roberts and James Coburn, to bring Best in. These two have one idea about what to do with Best, but Scott's working an agenda all his own. They settle down as allies of convenience. They have to because there are hostile Mescalero Apaches all around.

For a while they fort up at a stagecoach station operated by Karen Steele and her husband. The husband's away and later we find out the Apaches have killed him. She's also forced to join the group.

Besides Apaches, Best's brother Lee Van Cleef has heard about his capture. Van Cleef and Scott have a lot of history between them and that's part of the story as well.

Ride Lonesome borrows quite liberally from the successful James Stewart/ Anthony Mann western The Naked Spur where Stewart is also a bounty hunter forced to make some allies of convenience.

When the film gets down to business, the best part of it belongs to Pernell Roberts and James Coburn in his feature film debut. They are one pair of morally ambiguous characters and right until the very end you don't know exactly whose side they will come down on.

If only Burt Kennedy had devised a better way of capturing James Best at the beginning, Ride Lonesome would rank at the top of the Randolph Scott/Budd Boetticher collaborations. As it is, it's still not a bad film from the two of them.
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Another Randolph Scott/Budd Boetticher collaboration
chuck-reilly24 April 2012
Warning: Spoilers
The 1959 film "Ride Lonesome" is one more in the late career collaboration of Randolph Scott with director Budd Boetticher. Scott plays a bounty hunter who's dead-set on bringing young James Best to justice (i.e. hanging) and he doesn't seem too concerned when Pernell Roberts shows up and starts getting in his way. Scott's real enemy is Best's older brother (Lee Van Cleef) and the plot revolves around a "hanging tree" in the middle of nowhere. Van Cleef "hanged" Scott's wife and revenge is the motive of the day.

"Ride Lonesome" is now chiefly remembered for bringing young and soon-to-be-famous actors into public view. Roberts was immediately cast in "Bonanza" and James Coburn (his part is mostly a minor one here) was next seen starring in "The Magnificent Seven." Van Cleef got his real break much later when Sergio Leone cast him in his Italian westerns with Clint Eastwood. Scott made one more picture with Boetticher and then concluded his career with the Sam Peckinpah movie "Ride the High Country." Needless to say, old Sam's movie is a significant step up from this one. As for this film, suffice to say that Boetticher squeezed everything he could out of a limited budget and there are no wasted scenes or extended dialog and the plot is as simple as they come. Lastly, beautiful Karen Steele is also in the cast, but she doesn't have too much to do besides listen to Scott's Code of Honor speech. One very valid criticism: Van Cleef's "villain" role in this movie doesn't really do him justice. He's far too understated and almost comes across as a gentleman. He was certainly better cast as "The Bad" for director Leone.
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Clearly his choice
jcohen111 July 2007
Another in the series of short but very good westerns with RS. Scott is a one man Brigade. Take the Tall T, Comanche Station and the others in the RS genre; mix em up throw em in the air and you come up with the next in the series. I don't mind but my wife keeps complaining the movie is the same as the last RS flick. True to his code, Scott doesn't show much interest in Jayne Mansfield-like Karen Steele. A standout performance for Pernell Roberts as the bad guy. James Best known for his Jimmy Stewart imitation to entertain Burt Reynolds in Hooper,is on hand for some interesting supporting acting. I didn't see the ending coming and I hate to leave you hanging so I won't say a word.
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A man can do that.
OldAle14 March 2009
Warning: Spoilers
We're back to Burt Kennedy scripts for the last 2 Ranown pictures after a brief but interesting detour through Charles Lang territory, and the Berne Giler single "Westbound." This one starts out amidst the rocks of the Alabama hills, as we find the lone man, Ben Brigade (Randolph Scott) riding towards the camera through a narrow defile. He dismounts and stealthily makes his way up the rocks towards another man, who calls out to him and ruins the surprise. Billy John (James Best, later known for his role as the sheriff on "The Dukes of Hazzard") is a grinning, joking, fast-talking young man who is wanted for murder, and Brigade is a bounty hunter hired to brink him in; but Billy John has a trick up his sleeve - he's surrounded by his men, invisible in the hills. If Brigade tries to take him, he'll surely be shot - and Brigade will have none of it, smoothly facing down Billy and assuring him that they'll both die. Billy calls the men off, and Brigade handcuffs him and rides off with him.

So begins the first of the series in cinemascope, and Boetticher uses the wide format as a master, with the entire film being set outdoors in the vast high desert/steppe territory, a great deal of it on horseback. The two men stop first at Shaw's Junction, one of the tiny little stations in the middle of nowhere that often represent the closest thing to civilization in these films, but instead of being met by the station master they're greeted by a couple of gunmen, Boone (Pernell Roberts) and Whit (James Coburn in his first film appearance). Boone knows Brigade and we soon learn that he and Whit are outlaws, though it's unclear that they are up to any illegal business at the moment. The station master, Lane, has left with some Indians - Mescaleros - leaving his wife (Karen Steele), and this becomes our group of five who must make their way to Santa Cruz, where Billy John is to be brought to justice.

Boone and Whit, it turns out, could win amnesty by bringing Billy John in; Mrs Lane rides along as, we found out rather quickly, her husband has been killed by the Mescaleros, who are hot on the trail of the party as they try to make it to another little outpost, a deserted station where they will make a stand against the Indians. Along the way there is plenty of trademark Kennedy-Boetticher sparse, snappy dialogue between Boone and Brigade, and between Brigade and Mrs Lane. It's clear that Brigade and Boone have a certain grudging respect for each other, and they know that they need all the guns they have to make it to Santa Cruz, so an uneasy alliance is formed. Mrs Lane at first dislikes Brigade for his seeming disinterest in Billy other than as a means to money, but slowly we get the impression that there's something else going one here - that it isn't the money, and it isn't even bringing Billy to justice that Brigade cares about.

For this is another haunted and ravaged Randolph Scott character, with a dark past, a wife who is lost, and the man who killed her is his real enemy and his real reason for finding Billy and taking him - slowly and carefully as it turns out - towards Santa Cruz: Billy's brother, Frank (Lee Van Cleef). That is the justice that Brigade is looking for, and nothing will stand in his way - nor, as it turns out, does he much care about anything beyond completing this mission, as he waits for Frank to come to him, in the symbolic place where their destinies met before in tragedy.

I'm not going to spoil the ending, which is iconic and beautiful in a way that is matched by very few other westerns; suffice it to say that this is probably my favorite so far in the series and it all comes together symbolically and poetically, and simply in a way that maybe only Boetticher could do it. The supporting cast as usual is excellent, with Roberts especially a standout, as lighthearted and talkative as Scott is dour. Coburn is fine in a role strikingly different from most of his later work, basically a fairly good-natured and stupid yokel along for the ride, but very loyal to his older and more experienced cohort; and Best gibbers away like a maniac, a believable young punk who would murder for no reason. Van Cleef and Steel are fine in slightly less interesting roles; and our hero Scott's stoicism and tightlipped seriousness is as appropriate here as it ever was. A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do.
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Which Way Will They Go?
romanorum121 July 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Budd Boetticher and Randolph Scott teamed up to make seven intriguing westerns from 1956 to 1960. They do not always follow the typical western plot genre, although they feature the good guys and the bad guys who follow their respective codes and courses of action. Ride Lonesome, a top 50 western of all time, is similarly imaginative and appealing. The lead acting, supporting cast, and cinematography are all first rate.

The setting is the American West, circa 1879. Early in the film, the rugged Ben Brigade (Randolph Scott), in rocky country, trails and captures the immoral Billy John (James Best), wanted for murder at Santa Cruz (He shot someone in the back.). Billy John shouts out to his companions hiding in the hills to go and fetch his brother, Frank, who will "know what to do." Brigade and his captive soon come upon a stagecoach station, manned by Mrs. Carrie Lane (the lovely Karen Steele). Her husband is out rounding stray horses. Also at the stop are the cocksure and charming Sam Boone (Pernell Roberts) and the witless Whit (James Coburn, in his film debut). Boone and Whit know Brigade and Billy John, and decide to accompany Boone on his return to Santa Cruz in order to share in the reward money. Although both Boone and Whit have been sometime outlaws in the past, they are not in the mold of Billy John and Frank (Lee Van Cleef). They want the reward money (and accompanying amnesty) to make a fresh start (on a ranch). Meanwhile Mrs. Lane, as she understands that her husband is no longer alive and that Indians are threatening, leaves the station with the party. Although Boone and Whit's help is indispensable when Mescaleros attack at a deserted way station, it seems that Brigade is ambivalent towards them. Furthermore, as the group rides through desert and steppe country, it is noticed that Brigade not only does not cover up his tracks, but also does not seem to be in a hurry. Why? Where is Brigade really heading? Who is the real enemy? In the final shootout which way will Boone and Whit go? A hint is that Boone does seem to have a sense of fair play, despite his checkered past. His dilemma? He may have to do a bad deed in order to get his fresh start. Anyway, this western covers all loose ends in the end. See what happens to the "hanging tree" of revenge.
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A good tight western that does not outwear its welcome
calvinnme11 September 2015
This is taut Western, filled with good phrasing and a good story, with a slight twist at the end. Ben Brigade (Randolph Scott) captures Billy John (James Best) for the bounty on his head. The twist is concerning Billy John's brother Frank (Lee Van Cleef) which I won't give away. Brigade meets up with Sam Boone (Pernell Roberts) and Whit (James Coburn) at a stage line swing station that belongs to Mr. & Mrs Lane. Mr. Lane is absent, killed by Indians, and the story basically is of Brigade taking Billy John to justice and Mrs Lane (Karen Steele) to safety, while a war party is after them and Frank and company are out to free Billy John.

It's once again a simple old school Western, this one not being quite as good as "The Tall T". Katherine Steele is just a little too much eye candy that seems a bit out of place for the time period. As is customary for many western heroines of the 50's she's got a hairdo that could only be possible in a hair salon with the equipment they had in the 50's.

James Best plays a part he was born for, that of the young smart-aleck killer, Pernell Roberts gives a standout performance, and Coburn plays Robert's thin as a rail sidekick Whit, in probably his first film role. Roberts and Whit play minor outlaws that are caught up in the events.

Lee Van Cleef is not as effective as he could have been, but in this, as in other of his pre-Leone speaking roles, he comes off as either a hot head or a two bit outlaw. His speech and his body movements are way way too fast, but that's direction, and it seems that that was the way he was typecast for most of the fifties. Zinnerman saw his look in High Noon and kept him silent and menacing. In this film he does something so despicable that there should have been way way more buildup to to the climax, but that is of course looking at the Western with Leone colored glasses. Now this despicable act that you never actually see really doesn't work since it's thrown out way too far towards the climax. This would work better if the scenario of events was shown leading up to the act via flashbacks, giving the audience some shockers. Too late to make a long story short, the film should have been emphasizing Van Cleef as much as Scott, but that's just not Boetticher's style.

To summarize, this is a great cheapie budget Western, and although the outdoor locations alone are a major part of the film, the only structures you see are the stage swing station and corrals and some abandoned ruins. More money was probably spent on stock and wranglers than art design. Again we get cowboy lore on the treatment of horses, and good Western slang. Scott is good as the man looking for revenge, and the irony involving the male characters is excellent. Scott is a good man doing a bad thing; Roberts and Coburn have done some bad things and are looking to go "good"/straight.
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An interpretation of this symbol -filled story of double vengeance.
weezeralfalfa21 September 2013
Warning: Spoilers
First off, why did the screenwriter pick the name Santa Cruz as the ultimate destination for Brigade(Randolph Scott) and his odd assortment of strays plus captured outlaw Billy John? Since Bisbee, in the SE corner of present AZ, is mentioned several times, I assume that the reference is to nearby Santa Cruz county AZ, not to the coastal well watered city of Santa Cruz, CA, which looks nothing like the arid rocky landscape, with occasional sand dunes depicted(Alabama Hills and Olancho sand dunes of eastern CA). If so, the Mescalero Apache encountered were out of their usual territorial limits. Should have been Western or Chiricahua Apache: the latter being the most war-like of the Apache groups. It's clear to me that the name Santa Cruz was not a random pick. It translates into English as 'holy cross'. Thus, it somehow relates, in the screenwriter's mind, to the cross-like 'hang tree', which is featured so prominently in the last part of the film. This dead and decaying tree trunk has two partial limbs, thus rather resembling the cross that Christ was crucified on. It also stands alone in a clearing, which is surrounded by trees and shrubs, thus resembling the common depiction of Calvary Hill, where Christ was crucified. Like Christ, who was crucified along with true criminals and where criminals were commonly dispatched, Brigade's wife was an innocent sacrificial victim of outlaw Frank's need for vengeance against Brigade, hanged on this tree where criminals had sometimes been hanged. Incidentally, the screenwriter could have picked the geographically more appropriate name Las Cruses, which is a city very close to the traditional territory of the Mescalero Apaches, translating as 'the crosses'. However, Santa Cruz more clearly denotes the intention of a holy cross.

Historically, burning special things often symbolically was thought to neutralize evil or the power of black magic. The burning of witches in Medieval Europe is a prime example. In some cultures, the decease's key belongings are burned, perhaps symbolically transferring them to the afterlife of the deceased. In Brigade's case, the burning of the 'hang tree' in the parting scene clearly is meant to celebrate his long awaited vengeance upon the man who hanged his wife, and to symbolically extinguish his need for further vengeance in facilitating the hanging of Frank's young brother, Billy John.

Brigade mentions that the gorgeous blond Carrie Lane(Karen Steele) much reminds him of his deceased wife as a young woman. At age 60, stone-faced Scott is clearly too old to consider this young recent widow as a possible replacement. Thus he maintains an emotional distance from her, treating her like a daughter who needs protection from the persistent Apaches and perhaps his unpredictable companions. In the ending, it's clear that he is willing to go along with Boone's ambition to gain amnesty by being given credit for bringing in outlaw Billy John, and thereby perhaps promote his additional ambition to marry Carrie. Why?? I suspect that Brigade, as a young man, before he became sheriff of Santa Cruz, had his wild outlaw time. He believes Boone's story that this former minor outlaw has prospects of settling down to an honest productive life. Thus, he identifies with him, and foresees a rebirth of himself plus wife in the possible pairing of Boone and Carrie, in a humble analogy to the resurrection of Christ. Formerly, Brigade had criticized Carrie's husband for accepting a job in an isolated way station, easily raided by Apaches, thus endangering his life and that of his unusually desirable wife, whom the Apaches might want to steal.

Included is the bizarre incident in which a band of Apaches bring the horse of Carrie's presumably now deceased husband, to trade with her companions for her! Perhaps they hoped she wouldn't recognize the horse, or perhaps they stuck it in her face to suggest that they had killed, or at least captured, her husband, thus rendering her available as a possible legal wife for them. In any case, she and the others later get vengeance against the Apaches when the latter attack the party to steal her, after failing in their ignominious attempt to buy her.

Negatives include that the dialogue is often trite, and sounds forced or premeditated. Karen Steele was no great shakes as an animated actress, being the director's mistress around this time. Typical of Scott-starring westerns, there's minimal humor and social events to balance the tense drama.

I see strong parallels in the basic plot to that of Scott's last Hollywood feature: the well-regarded "Ride the High Country", costarring Joel McCrea, with a different director. Again, we have a small party traversing a rugged wilderness toward a town. The party includes a young marriageable woman in a precarious position, who needs protection and some guidance(initially mostly by McCrea; near the end, by Scott), and includes, within the party, a pair at cross purposes to that of the leader. A gold shipment takes the place of a bountied prisoner as the contested object within the group. In addition, a raiding party also wants the woman. Thus,, again, we have two quite different prizes within the group that different groups hope to steal. Again, one of the young men within the group with a somewhat tarnished past is characterized near the end as a potential desirable husband for the woman, with the implied consent of Scott, as her unofficial guardian. Again, we have a dramatic in-the-open shootout duel with the little gang of badies at the end.
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Revenge betrayal and violence by the master Boetticher
psagray19 October 2012
This is a notable western one of the masters of the genre, Bud Boetticher, with his favorite actor, Randolph Scott and his usual screenwriter Burt Kennedy. The film follows the pattern of its director, media austerity, few characters, lonely protagonist backdrop of beautiful landscapes and inhospitable.

It's short but intense western that tells us revenge and debt settlement, the betrayals, the threat of the Indians, of pardon and monetary reward in exchange for giving the law outlaws.

The main characters in this film are tough men with shady past and looking to solve their traumatic grief, but the tape has extremely provocative stage presence and sensual beautiful actress Karen Steele.

The film is a constant mind game, that somehow gets to remind the Greek tragedies by the aura of fatalism that surrounds it, then have drunk of great directors like Peckinpah.

Also the scenery, panoramic scenes and suggestive use of cameras director are very positive elements in this western. The technical part is also excellent, especially colorful photography and there in the film.

The four characters to note are: Randolph Scott as "Ben Brigade", a former commissioner with a pending case, a cold man who wants to take revenge and dedicated to be a bounty hunter. Pernell Roberts as "Sam Boone" here achieved a solid co-starring as a man fleeing from justice, and that takes a chance meeting with "Brigade" to try to exploit the opportunity of a lifetime. Karen Steele is the beautiful widow who falls in love every male who passes by. The actress convinces you more for your anatomy and your beautiful angelic face its discreet little dramatic register. Lee Van Cleef appears very little on screen as the villain of the story, but always encouraged with his stage presence,

It is, in a western short but extremely intense footage, a clear example of how a western film absorber with a simple script. The key points for this are that the director knows dosing intrigue and tension and intensity never wanes.
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A great watch.
Boba_Fett113816 November 2010
Basically there always have been two different type of westerns. First you have the raw and gritty ones but secondly you also have the more entertaining and adventurous ones. Those type of movies were mostly popular during the '50's, before the spaghetti-western made its big entrance in the cinematic world. This movie is definitely being an adventurous one, with its constant traveling and many different characters, with all their own personal agendas.

This is movie is actually being a very simplistic one, with minimal story. It's just a story about getting from point A to B, in between some unforeseen events happen, with all of the characters having to deal with it. So it's also a movie that relies on its characters and their back-stories. They are what mostly keep the movie going at moments that not an awful lot is happening in the movie. It's what also keeps the movie mostly interesting and all of the movie its unpredictable aspects come from its characters, played by well known actors such as James Coburn and Lee Van Cleef.

The movie does definitely has its slower moments but luckily there is also still a lot happening. There is some action, without falling into the genre its clichés. It helps to make this movie also an unpredictable one and therefore a quite original and pleasant one to watch within its genre.

It's definitely a well told and done fun little entertaining western, that I simply enjoyed watching throughout.


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Now THAT'S What I'm Talking About!
GManfred10 July 2010
After several misfires, Budd finally got the hang of Westerns - talk isn't enough, you need some action. Here, Boetticher abandons his previous strategy of talking his audience into submission and injects some needed action to help archetype cowboy hero Randolph Scott.

In this one, Scott is Ben Brigade, bounty hunter, a man of action and very few words. This suits Scott to a 'T', since his main asset is his rugged appearance. He is a barely passable actor with limited range and the less said, the better - the strong, silent type. He is bringing in a prisoner but has an ulterior motive, in the person of the prisoner's brother, played by baddie Lee Van Cleef. 'Eye candy' in this one is played by Karen Steele, who is, by the way, a Knockout with a capital K. She was also in another picture with Scott and Boetticher, "Decision At Sundown", made two years previous to this one.

No need to go into a plot summary - every contributor to this website usually obliges in this regard - but "Lonesome" is a couple of notches above the others in the Scott-Boetticher canon, and shouldn't be missed if you are a fan.
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Such a simple story so expertly handled
MartinHafer2 January 2009
Budd Boetticher and Randolph Scott teamed up for quite a few westerns. While most of them have the simplest of plots, they managed to rise above the vast pool of mediocre films of the genre. Now this wasn't necessarily because the plots were that unusual. In fact, the plot for RIDE LONESOME seems rather similar to quite a few westerns I've seen. The difference is the nice meandering style and Scott's simple and seemingly effortless delivery. Some of this was Scott--he was a much better actor than people thought at the time. Some of this was Boetticher's ability to bring out this from Scott and the other actors. So together they have produced with RIDE LONESOME yet another classic film---one that is strikingly beautiful and once again has an object lesson about doing the right thing--a common theme in their films together.

The film begins with Scott catching up to wanted man James Best. However, this occurs after Best tells the rest of the gang to fetch his much-feared brother, played by Lee Van Cleef. Much of the rest of the film consists of Best and Scott waiting for the eventual confrontation--as they are days away from town and are in the middle of the desert. Along the way, they meet up with two criminals who become partners, of sorts, with Scott. That's because apparently Best is SUCH a wanted man that they are offering amnesty to anyone who brings him back to face justice--and these two ruffians are looking to make a new start. There's a lot more to the story than this--including a few twists and turns along the way that keep the whole thing very interesting. The end, in particular, works great--and it's always nice to watch a film than manages to end well.

In addition to good acting, as usual, from Scott, he's joined by James Coburn in his first film and Pernell Roberts in a role just before becoming famous on "Gunsmoke". I lovely story from start to finish that manages to breath life into a glutted genre--after all, they must have made a bazillion cowboy pictures during this era and only a few manage to stand above the pack.
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