Fugitive bank robber Joe Maybe steals the identity of a marshal and rides into a town whose judge asks Joe to act as town marshal but an old flame almost betrays his real identity forcing Joe to claim she's his wife.
Murphy plays an ex-Quantrill's (Quantrell) Raider who's released from jail with buddy Cooper to be deputized as Arizona Rangers in order to hunt down the remnant of the gang, rumored to he hiding out in a town "neer dee border" in the words of the loose-lipped saloon dancer. The goons are found hiding in an Indian mission. Murphy and Cooper pretend to want to rejoin the gang, but the bad guys catch on and brutally beat Cooper, who protects Murphy's true sentiments to the death.Written by
Opening credits: The characters and incidents portrayed and the names used herein are fictitious, and any similarity to the name, character or history of any person is entirely coincidental and unintentional. See more »
Set soon after the Lawrence, Ks. massacre of 1863, the weapons used are the Colt 1873 Peacemaker, Remington 1875 revolver, and Winchester 1892 rifle. See more »
At film's beginning Booth Colman, as editor of the Ohio Gazette, wastes seven minutes narrating the ruthlessness of William Quantrill, infamously known gang leader and Confederate sympathizer who murdered the adult male population of Lawrence Kansas. Since the first few active minutes of the movie do center on the Civil War brigand, one wonders why the narration persists for so long. Anyway, with the War over (1865), the story begins to move along smoothly as the Quantrill band continues to operate.
Union Captain Tom Andrews (Buster Crabbe) tracks down and corners Quantrill (Fred Graham) and his gang in an abandoned farmhouse/barn. Although some gang members escape, Quantrill is severely wounded and captured. He will eventually breathe his last in a Union hospital, and he will not be seen in the picture again. (By the way, Quantrill died in June 1865.) Meanwhile two gang members are captured, partially through the machinations of Montana Smith (George Keymas), a shady and disloyal gang member who escapes the Federal grasp. The two arrested ex-Confederate soldiers, Clint Stewart (Audie Murphy) and friend Willie Martin (Ben Cooper), served honorably for the Southern cause. But when they returned home at war's end they found that Carpetbaggers were in control. Since the two ex-troopers could not find work, they joined Quantrill's outfit. Though the sympathy of both Andrews and the presiding judge, the two receive lighter sentences than usual but still get 20 years hard labor in prison.
Escaping from the Federal troops, both Montana and Brady (Michael Dante) have reformed the Quantrill gang and are running roughshod in Arizona, where the post-Civil War law is not strong. Enter Andrews again, as he has been hired by the territorial governor to head up the newly formed Arizona Rangers. Andrews' mission is to capture the gang and bring it to justice. As Andrews is impressed with Stewart and Martin's background he makes a risky bargain with them: unconditional pardons and positions as Arizona Rangers if they infiltrate the gang and bring about its destruction. To make the situation legitimate, Andrews arranges for a fake-prison escape. The two ex-Rebels can flee to Mexico, but better judgment prevails and they go to work against Montana and Brady, who by this time have taken control of a Yaqui Indian village.
This rousing and colorful western features beautiful Arizona scenery. William Whitney directed a typical cowboy movie with some perky shoot-outs and ornery villains, especially Keymas' sadistic and vile Montana (By contrast, accomplice Brady is almost a church choir member). Fred Graham, who portrays Quantrill, was twice the age of the real outlaw, but his work here is sound. Murphy of course fits in well in a familiar role.
There were high quality westerns made in 1965, like "Major Dundee," "The Sons of Katie Elder," and the comedy-western "Cat Ballou." But it was a watershed year for the genre as times were a-changin'. In 1966 Burt Kennedy would direct "Welcome to Hard Times" (released in 1967). Also, westerns from Europe were making their arrivals in the USA. These films would alter the western and blur the distinction between the good guys and the bad ones. They kept the guns of the good guy, but took away most of his moral code. Alas, they created the anti-hero, a major influence of those westerns made in the late 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.
(See my review for the watershed western "Welcome to Hard Times" dated 23 Nov 2011.)
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