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A Confederate veteran helps the survivors of a Union wagon train.
In Nevada just after the end of the Civil War, Confederate veteran and widower Ben Lassiter and his ten-year-old daughter Abbey make a rest stop at Fenniman's Station, where they find a Union Army pay wagon escort under the command of Lt. Weeks. Traveling with the soldiers are sisters Martha and Beth Drury, who plan to rendezvous with another military squad led by Beth's fiancé, Capt. Howard Poole, and proceed to a settlement in Oregon. Martha, whose fiancé was killed by the Confederates during the war, expresses bitterness over Mrs. Fenniman's warm welcome of Ben, who is wearing a Confederate uniform. Soon after, the army escort and the Drurys depart. Unknown to Weeks, a group of Modoc Indians lies in wait along the route, while another group has trapped Poole and his men in a ravine miles away. Resuming their journey, Ben and Abbey travel all day then set up camp just off the trail. Ben grows alarmed when he notices some Modocs riding by carrying liquor jugs that Ben recognizes from Fenniman's station. When the last Indian in the group sees Abbey, Ben attacks and kills him, then captures his horse. The next morning, Ben, realizing that the Indians must have attacked Fenniman's station, tells Abbey they must leave the trail to search for Weeks to warn him of the Modocs. At midday, however, the Lassiters come upon a deserted rest station and find the wagon demolished and the soldiers murdered. Ben discovers Nelson Water, an African-American contractor working for the army, wounded but alive. Nelson details the attack on the soldiers and reveals that Weeks ordered the Drurys into a cellar. After Ben finds the frightened sisters safe, Martha complains about their situation, while Beth thanks Ben for their rescue. As Ben and Abbey tend to Nelson's wounds and rig a stretcher for him, the contractor explains that the Modocs are led by the renegade Tago, a former army scout who left the military after learning their habits. Tago uses the knowledge to attack the army and steal their rifles. When Nelson informs Ben that the Indians left the payroll behind, Ben takes it and promises to deliver it to Poole. Martha continues fretting about the humiliation of depending on a Confederate and contrasts him to her superior fiancé. Angered, Beth reveals that Martha's fiancé had written her shortly before his death informing her he had met and married another woman. Stunned, Martha accuses Beth of lying and slaps her. Ben leads the group back to the trail and they travel until nightfall but their progress is slowed by the injured Nelson. Martha accuses Ben of endangering them by insisting on bringing Nelson and although the wounded man agrees, Ben refuses to leave him behind. Near dawn, Beth spots a bright campfire nearby and Ben and Nelson speculate the Modocs have followed them and are behaving brazenly because they are drunk. Hoping to surprise the Indians, Ben rigs an explosive from gun powder and throws it into the Modoc camp while the Drurys, Abbey and Nelson make a frantic escape. Ben takes one of the Modoc horses and the group hurries on until Nelson's stretcher comes loose. Nelson demands that Ben leave him behind, insisting it is the only way to guarantee the safety of the others. After Ben and the women reluctantly ride away, two surviving Modocs ride by in pursuit, and Nelson shoots one before being killed by the other. When Ben fails to shake the remaining Indian pursuer, he confronts him and kills him in a face-to-face shoot-out, impressing Beth deeply with his bravery. The shots attract the attention of army deserters Vogel and Burch, who join the group and explain they escaped the Weeks massacre. When the soldiers learn that Ben has the payroll, Vogel threatens Abbey and demands the money. After Ben complies, Vogel plans to kill the group, but Burch protests. Vogel abruptly kills Burch and flees, only to be shot by Ben. Upon retrieving the payroll, Ben buries it, then urges the horrified women on. Later, Beth confides in Ben her worry about the emotionally unstable Martha, who she hoped might start a new life in Oregon. Ben assures her that he will see that they complete their journey safely. Unknown to the group, they are just outside the ravine where Poole and his men have been surrounded by Tago and his other group of renegades. Hearing the exchange of gunfire between them, Ben realizes the soldiers are near and leads the women off the trail to continue on foot. As Ben and Beth discuss how best to reach the soldiers, Martha, overcome by exhaustion and despair, impulsively darts away and is promptly set upon by the Indians. While the Indians are distracted, Ben pushes Beth and Abbey into the ravine where they meet the startled Poole and his remaining men. Displeased to find Beth beholden to a former Confederate, Poole nevertheless soon realizes Beth has fallen in love with Ben, when he sees Ben comforting her over Martha's loss. Later, Ben learns from veteran officer Lt. Jamison that Tago is among the Indians surrounding them. Believing that if Tago were killed, the others might give up, Ben plans an attack and Jamison volunteers to help. The men depart under cover of darkness, but it is not until morning that they come upon the Modocs and a fierce gun battle ensues. When Ben's gun is shot from his hand, he takes refuge in a small cave and is pursued by Tago. Throwing a rattlesnake into the Indian's face, Ben grabs his gun and kills him, then displays his body to the remaining Modocs, who depart. Upon returning to the ravine, Ben promises Beth that after retrieving the payroll with Jamison he will rejoin her and Abbey to continue their journey west together.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||Premiere Info:||not available|
|Release Date:||1959||Production Date:||
|Color/B&W:||Black and White||Distributions Co:||United Artists Corp.|
|Sound:||Mono||Production Co:||Romina Productions, Batjac Enterprises, Inc.|
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kevin sellers 2016-05-29
Just from the title, if you didn't know the subject, you'd have thought this film was about a San Fernando Valley outcall service.