In the small frontier mining town of Warlock, rancher Abe McQuown's gang of cowboy cutthroats terrorize the peaceful community, humiliating the town's legitimate deputy Sheriff and running him out of town. Helpless and in need of protection, the townsfolk hire the renowned town tamer Clay Blaisdell, as unofficial Marshal, to bring law and order to the town. Clay arrives with his good friend and backup Tom Morgan. The two men stand up to the ranch gang and quiet the town. Johnny Gannon, a former member of the ranch gang is bothered by the gang's actions, reforms and takes on the deputy Sherrif job while his brother remains part of the gang. The addition of the official lawman to the mix further complicate matters, leading to an inevitable clash of the cowboys, the townsfolk, the gunslingers and the law.Written by
This popular Western isn't among the more highly-regarded genre efforts (emanating as it does from its 1950s heyday), despite the imposing credentials (many of whom were fixtures and had therefore worked on better films along the years) - but it's a pretty good example nonetheless, with solid production and an evident maturity in content and style.
The three stars - Richard Widmark, Henry Fonda and Anthony Quinn - are well-cast (in fairly typical roles) and their interaction, allowing for several tense scenes, keeps one watching (for a 2 hour film, thankfully, it doesn't feel too long). Still, Dmytryk's efficient handling is unexceptional - abetted by Joe MacDonald's colorful widescreen cinematography but somewhat overshadowed by Robert Alan Aurthur's literate i.e. pretentious script (with several soul-searching passages about loyalty and responsibility). Leigh Harline's music, too, workmanlike though it is, emerges as a relatively unassuming score. The action sequences, however, deliver the goods with several gunfights throughout and even a few instances of gratuitous brutality (fashionable by this time).
However, the rest of the cast is quite interesting, with Dorothy Malone and Dolores Michaels providing the romantic interest and several familiar faces in support: Wallace Ford and Whit Bissell as town officials and, among Widmark's former cronies, DeForrest Kelley, Frank Gorshin - playing the star's hot-headed younger brother - and Tom Drake, most surprising of all as the villainous leader of the outlaw gang.
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