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In 1893, while fleeing across Nevada rangeland, three escaped convicts, led by Lednov, come upon three cowboys and kill them for their clothes and horses. Rancher Jed Graham discovers the bodies and takes them to nearby Aspen. There fledgling rancher Clay Phillips is warned by Sheriff Gardner that Lednov, whom Clay once apprehended after he murdered his best friend, has escaped and is looking for revenge.
Sure that Lednov is already headed there, Clay leaves for his ranch in Sonora with his young brother Steve and a new herd of horses. Soon after, Clay and Steve meet up with four saloon girls--Mary Wells, Helen Carter, Elaine and Marcia--who were forced out of Aspen by social reformers and are now headed for work in Sonora, California. The women are stranded on the road with a broken wagon wheel, and the taciturn Clay reluctantly agrees to take them as far as the next ranch.
That night, Marcia's beau, Jim Clayton, shows up in their camp, and ignoring the advice of the more experienced Mary, Marcia accepts his marriage proposal and leaves. Mary then discovers that Elaine, who is ill and depressed, has fled the camp. Steve eventually tracks down the distraught Elaine and is leading her back to camp when he spots three men. Assuming that they are the fugitives, Steve fires his rifle, but is chagrined to learn later that he shot at the sheriff and his posse. To learn what happens next, you'll need to watch the movie.
Producer: Richard H. Berger
Director: Mark Robson
Screenplay: Hugo Butler, Geoffrey Homes; Peter Viertel (story)
Cinematography: Joseph F. Biroc
Art Direction: Lucius O. Croxton, Albert S. D'Agostino
Music: Roy Webb; Paul Sawtell (uncredited)
Film Editing: Marston Fay
Cast: Robert Sterling (Clay Phillips), Gloria Grahame (Mary Wells), Claude Jarman Jr.(Steve Phillips), John Ireland (Lednov), Jeff Donnell (Elaine Wyatt), Myrna Dell (Helen Carter), Martha Hyer (Marcia), George Cooper (Jim Clayton), Jeff Corey (Jed Graham), Sara Haden (Ma Wyatt), James Bell (Pa 'Ed' Wyatt), Shawn McGlory (Fowler), Robert B. Williams (McCall), Steve Savage (Peters), Edward Cassidy (Sheriff Gardner).