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Riders of the Purple Sage (1996)

Jim Lassiter roams from town to town in search for the man who drove his sister to suicide. While riding toward a mountain pass, he sees an heiress, Jane Withersteen, being harassed by ... See full summary »


Charles Haid


Zane Grey (book), Gill Dennis (teleplay)

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From $2.99 (SD) on Prime Video

2 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »




Cast overview:
Ed Harris ... Jim Lassiter
Amy Madigan ... Jane Withersteen
Henry Thomas ... Bern Venters
Robin Tunney ... Elizabeth Erne
Norbert Weisser ... Deacon Tull
G.D. Spradlin ... Pastor Dyer
Lynn Wanlass ... Hester Brandt
Bob L. Harris Bob L. Harris ... Collier Brandt
Jerry Wills Jerry Wills ... Oldring
Rusty Musselman Rusty Musselman ... Matthew Blake


Jim Lassiter roams from town to town in search for the man who drove his sister to suicide. While riding toward a mountain pass, he sees an heiress, Jane Withersteen, being harassed by thugs and steps in to help. A religious sect wants Jane to marry their leader, Deacon Tull, so they can gain ownership of her land. When he steps in to help, Lassister slowly begins to believe that a member of this sect is the man he is looking for. Written by Ronos

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Friends betrayed her ... Neighbors deserted her ... Now her only ally is a stranger who lives above the law.


Drama | Romance | Western


TV-PG | See all certifications »






Release Date:

21 January 1996 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Cavaleiros do Crepúsuclo See more »

Filming Locations:

Littlefield, Arizona, USA See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The Mormons are never identified as the religion in the film, as they were in Zane Grey's novel. But the story takes place in Utah, and the religious group is described as being persecuted and driven out of every place they had lived. Also, there is a book in a drawer with the Salt Lake temple on the cover. See more »


Lassiter: You'd best be calling on that god that reveals himself to you on earth, 'cause you won't be seeing him where you're going.
See more »


Version of Riders of the Purple Sage (1918) See more »

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User Reviews

Does the book justice
8 December 2006 | by kfullmerSee all my reviews

Trying to create a film adaptation of one of the most popular books of all time almost 100 years after the book's original publication could delight and disappoint many. In doing so, the director must do the book justice while adapting it to a visual format that will engage modern audiences. When director Charles Haid helmed the second film version of Zane Grey's Riders of the Purple Sage, he pulled off the task of making a film that both entertains Grey neophytes and long-time readers. He accomplished this by sticking to what made the book tick: beautiful settings and archetypal characters.

Since Haid shot his film on location in Moab, UT, he merely had to let the camera pan to accomplish half what he needed to in the film. The gorgeous vistas of the Colorado Plateau color the entire film with an easy majesty and stark realism. Many times in the film, the characters simply provide an excuse for the presentation of the canyon lands around them. For instance, when Venters first finds himself outcast and expelled from the company of his beloved Jan and the town of Cottonwoods, he wonders off alone into the labyrinth of canyons where the outlaw Oldring hides. His isolation and search for identity and belonging find representation in the plunging canyons, lonely solitary rocks, and myriad colors surrounding him. While the book describes Venters state of mind in laborious detail, Haid merely lets his shooting location tell the tale.

Very little of the plot which first appears in Grey's book is changed in Haid's film version. Other than small, necessary changes that streamline the film and make it watchable, the characters and conflict run true to the book. While the book specifically names Mormons as the evil force out to ruin Jane, the movie opts instead to create a Unitarian-type Protestant church without picking by name on the Mormons. Where Grey uses three men to make up Jane's stable help, the film combines all three into one. While not the same as the book, the change works to simplify the film while not significantly changing the book's story.

In terms of characterization, an older Ed Harris and Amy Madigan play the leading roles of Lassiter and Jane. While Harris's skullet (bald with mullet) and Madigan's wrinkles may not accurately represent the young and beautiful vibrancy of the book's characters, these veteran actors more than make up in acting what they lack in appearance. You believe Jane's ambivalence towards her church and Lassiter when you hear Madigan's earnestly delivered lines. You find yourself taken in by Lassiter's tortured past and consuming present when Harris squints, rides, shoots, and weeps under the Utah sky. Robin Tunney, now of Prison Break fame, perfectly embodies the innocent, tomboyish Bess as she finds herself both shot and loved in the same day. Even little Elliot from E.T., Henry Thomas, pulls off a convincing, grown up performance as the spurned Venters.

In the end, this movie will entertain any fan of the Western film genre, while at the same time satisfying even the most devoted Zane Grey fan. With great settings from Moab, UT, a screenplay that does little to depart from the original text, and sound performances from good actors, this film works. It's no Unforgiven, but it beats the smarmy, Hollywood smugness of, say, Tombstone. Grey would approve.

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