powered by AFI
DVDs from TCM Shop
While serving a life sentence in Illinois, Roy Earle is pardoned through the machinations of gangster boss, Big Mac, who then orders him to come out west. While driving near Mt. Whitney, Roy skillfully avoids colliding with an antiquated Ford, when its driver loses control. At the next gas station, the driver, Pa Goodhue, a displaced farmer en route to Los Angeles, thanks Roy for averting the accident and introduces his wife and nineteen-year-old granddaughter Velma. Afterward, Roy proceeds to his scheduled rendezvous with Jack Kranmer, an ex-policeman whom he immediately distrusts. Kranmer conveys Mac's orders that Roy is to rob a hotel safe in the resort town of Tropico and then directs him to some cabins known as Shaw's Camp, where his accomplices are waiting. At the hideout, Roy meets Babe and Red, the inexperienced young thugs ordered to assist him. He later meets Louis Mendoza, a Tropico hotel clerk working with them, whom Roy judges as unreliable. Roy is displeased that the men have picked up taxi dancer Marie Garson and orders her to leave, but soon relents. She warns him that Mendoza boasted about the robbery to her. Although he usually remains aloof, Roy tells Marie how he survived the mental torment of prison by fantasizing about jumping to freedom forty feet out of his cell block. Pard, a little dog hanging around the camp, takes a liking to Roy, who has a soft heart despite his steely demeanor. Chico, who maintains the camp, warns Roy that the dog's three former owners died. While scouting Tropico, Roy again encounters the Goodhues, who are involved in a traffic accident. After helping them, Roy joins the family for dinner, and becomes attracted to Velma, whom he discovers was born with a clubfoot. Before Roy leaves, Pa invites Roy to visit them in Los Angeles. Because the robbery is scheduled for the peak of the tourist season, when more jewelry will be stored in the safe, Roy has time to travel to Los Angeles to visit his old friend Big Mac, who is bedridden with illness. Although Mac acknowledges that Roy is one of the few "professionals" left, he brushes aside Roy's apprehension about the amateurish henchmen. Concerned about his health, Mac gives Roy written instructions about how to proceed in case something happens to him. With the help of Mac's physician, Doc Banton, Roy arranges to pay for a specialist to operate on Velma's foot. When Roy returns to the cabin, he finds that Babe has hit Marie and gotten in a fight with Red. Roy slugs Babe and offers to pay for Marie's bus fare to Los Angeles, but she is falling in love with Roy and after refusing his offer, she tells him about her escape from a cruel father. Sympathetic Roy agrees to let her stay, but makes it clear that she will never mean anything to him. Roy returns to Los Angeles to see Velma, who is recuperating from the operation. Despite Pa's earlier warning that Velma is infatuated with a wealthy young man back East, Roy hopes to win her over, but she is only interested in men her own age. Back at the cabin, Roy prepares for the robbery. Due to his assistants bungling the robbery, Roy is forced to shoot a night watchman in the leg after retrieving the safe's contents. Panicking, Mendoza impulsively decides to leave with Babe and Red. As they race away, Babe makes a wrong turn, loses control of his car and runs over an embankment. The car catches fire, killing Babe and Red, but Mendoza, who the police believe was kidnapped, is thrown from the vehicle and suffers only a concussion. In the second car, Roy drives with Marie, Pard and the jewels to Mac's apartment, where he finds that his old friend has died. Kranmer, who was at Mac's apartment when Roy arrived, shoots him to get the jewels, but Roy kills him and has Banton dress his wound. Roy then has Marie take him to the Goodhue's house, where Velma is dancing with friends. After Velma introduces Lon Preisser, her Ohio beau who has proposed marriage, Marie dances with one of the young men. When Roy breaks up the dancing and announces his dislike of Lon, Velma accuses him of being jealous. Resigned to Velma's disinterest, Roy says goodbye and then proceeds to Mac's jewel fence, Art, who promises to pay Roy after the jewels have been appraised. Roy takes one of the rings to give to Marie and hides out with her in a desert motel. While Roy waits for payment, the police, informed by Mendoza, print a description of Roy, Marie and Pard on the front page of the newspaper. When Roy discovers that the motel owner has recognized him, he ties up the man and puts Marie on a bus to Las Vegas, promising to meet her later. Roy then heads toward Los Angeles to get his money, but the motel owner escapes and alerts the police, who set up roadblocks. Chased by several police cars, Roy backtracks into the mountains and, leaving his car, climbs a trail into the hills. The police cannot reach Roy, so they arrange to have a man dropped by helicopter above him. Marie hears about the siege on the radio and, carrying Pard in a basket, returns to be near him. By evening, she joins the crowd that has formed below the mountain. The sheriff warns Roy that it is his last chance to surrender, but Roy, who has written a note declaring Marie's innocence, calls back to refuse. Responding to Roy's voice, Pard runs up the mountain. Hearing him bark, Roy looks over and calls for Marie, thus allowing the policeman dropped from the helicopter to shoot Roy, who then falls over the cliff and dies near the dog. Knowing how miserable Roy would have been in prison, Marie declares, "He's free."