When an innocent man barely survives a lynching, he returns as a lawman determined to bring the vigilantes to justice.When an innocent man barely survives a lynching, he returns as a lawman determined to bring the vigilantes to justice.When an innocent man barely survives a lynching, he returns as a lawman determined to bring the vigilantes to justice.
The film was pretty good, and the moral undercurrent of justice "by a dirty rope on the plain, or a judge in a robe standing before the American flag" is rather striking. The Federal judge is by far one of the most interesting characters I have seen yet in a Western.
Indeed, the grittiest and most barbaric scene is not the lynching of an innocent man, but the public hanging on the eve of statehood... to prove that Oklahoma Territory executed the sort of justice required of a "civilized" state of the Union. It is made a public spectacle with beautiful hymns and cold beer. And just the way each of the condemned faces his execution is tongue in cheek.
Then there was the campfire scene where Captain Wilson confers with his employees regarding their options: irony, fear and desperation. They put a human face on their culpability, similiarly echoed decades later by Little Bill's "I don't deserve this, I was building house." And the few who chose not to run chose a desperate and violent option.
A dillemic "no one wins" justice spiralling into graphic violence... and ultimately an undiginified and graceless death. What was perfected into poignant brevity by Unforgiven was born in Hang Em High's exploration of two men's differing approaches to an unforgiving justice... a justice that led either to the end of a noose, or the end of a gun.
Not bad at all...
- Jan 7, 2004