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Gangster Big Mac buys a pardon from the Indiana governor for aging, imprisoned bank robber Roy "Mad Dog" Earle, who is serving a life term, because he wants Earle to head up a big hotel job in California. Before he leaves town, Roy stops for a nostalgic visit to the old Earle farm but leaves quickly when a passerby recognizes him. Roy heads for the Sierra Nevada Mountains, where he connects with inexperienced thugs Red and Babe. Roy foresees trouble in the presence of Marie Garson, Babe's girl friend, but allows her to stay when she tells him that Louis Mendoza, the inside man on the job, has a habit of talking in front of the wrong people. After warning Mendoza to keep quiet, Roy drives to Los Angeles to meet with Big Mac. On the road, he encounters the Goodhues, Ma and Pa and their granddaughter Velma, after they are involved in an automobile accident. From Pa, Roy learns that Velma has a clubfoot which could be repaired by expensive surgery. Roy is charmed by the Goodhues, particularly Velma, and gives them a little money before he leaves. In Los Angeles, Roy learns that Big Mac is very ill and badly needs the money he will get from this robbery. Mac reminisces about the good old days when criminals were professional like Roy, not young and crazy like Red and Babe. The gang's defrocked doctor, "Doc" Banton, evaluates Velma's foot, at Roy's request, and Roy agrees to pay for the corrective operation, despite Pa's warning that Velma has a boyfriend back home. When Roy returns to the mountains, Marie tells him that Babe and Red had a fight over her and begs Roy to let her stay with him. Roy wants to send her back to Los Angeles until she tells him that for her, leaving the city was the same as leaving prison was for him. Warning her that she will never mean anything special to him, Roy agrees to let her stay. As they are leaving camp the night of the robbery, Pard, a little dog with a reputation for causing bad luck, jumps in the car. Everything goes wrong at the hotel, and Roy is forced to shoot a watchman. Red and Babe die in a crash during the getaway, but Mendoza survives and talks to the police. Roy and Marie make it to Los Angeles with the jewels, only to learn that Big Mac is dead and ex-cop Jake Kranmer is now in charge. When Kranmer tries to force Roy to leave the jewels with him, Roy kills him. On the way to fence the jewels, Roy stops as promised to see Velma walk and finds her dancing with Lon Preiser, her boyfriend from back East. Roy, who had hoped to marry Velma himself, takes a dislike to Lon and tells him off, evoking a cruel response from Velma. The fence also disappoints Roy, telling him that he cannot pay him immediately. Roy and Marie go into hiding, but Roy's cover is destroyed when his picture is published in the newspaper. Deciding that he would be safer on his own, Roy puts Marie and Pard on a bus to Las Vegas and heads for Los Angeles, but changes direction when he encounters police roadblocks. The police chase Roy into the mountains until he is forced to leave his car and continue on foot. Marie hears the news on the radio and returns to be by Roy's side. The police order Marie to lure the surrounded Roy out of hiding, but she refuses, knowing that he would rather die than return to prison. When he hears Pard barking, however, Roy runs out calling Marie's name and is killed by the police. Marie is comforted by the thought that now Roy is free.