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The Bounty Hunter

The Bounty Hunter(1954)

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In the 1800s, Jim Kipp, a surly and self-reliant bounty hunter, is hired by the Pinkerton Agency to solve a year-old case that has stumped them. Kipp, who is notorious for bringing in his quarry dead, is to capture three murderous train robbers and the $100,000 they stole while killing and maiming bystanders. Kipp is told that the robbers were masked, so they have not been identified, that the marked bills they stole have never turned up and that one of the robbers was shot in the right leg. Kipp begins his search at the remote trading post where the robbers were last seen. After learning from the proprietor that the men bought enough supplies for three days, Kipp proceeds to the only town that can be reached in that amount of time, Twin Forks, which is booming after the discovery of copper in the nearby hills. Kip signs in with a fictitious name at the town's hotel and becomes suspicious of the proprietor, Bill Rackin, as he has an injured leg and evades questions. Kipp also asks Dr. Spencer if he treated a man for a gunshot wound on the leg, but the doctor answers vaguely. Spencer's daughter Julie, who finds Kipp personable, remembers that three men came to the doctor during the night approximately a year before, but Spencer stops her from talking about it. The townspeople seem nervous about Kipp's investigation. Sheriff Brand is rude and the flirtatious barmaid Alice tries to pump him for information. In the evening, Kipp is attacked by Vance Edwards, a young, reformed, escaped convict, who thinks Kipp is there to arrest him. After hearing Vance's explanation, Kipp lets him go, but during the commotion, Kipp's real identity is revealed to the crowd. By morning, the town is nervously buzzing, wondering whom Kipp is pursuing, but he admits that he is uncertain of his prey's identity. Julie cools toward Kip when she learns that he is a bounty hunter. However, at home, Julie gets Spencer to admit that the robbers are three prominent citizens of the town, who forced him at gunpoint to treat a leg wound, and who will take revenge if he talks. Meanwhile, at the saloon, Alice tries to sell Kipp information, but Kipp feigns disinterest. Then, in his hotel room, Kipp must placate a woman who mistakenly believes he killed her outlaw son. Brand condescendingly says he is trying to protect Kipp from hostile townspeople, and a group of aldermen try to bribe Kipp to leave, because most of them have a past that everyone overlooks, as long as they behave in town. After the townspeople make various attempts to hinder his investigation, Kipp tells the postmaster, Danvers, that he expects to receive a photograph of one of the robbers on the next mail stage. Julie sees how Kipp's presence agitates her father and accuses Kipp of being a cold-blooded mercenary, who could do more good as a real lawman. Kipp is unmoved by her criticism and confides how outlaws killed his father, and that he takes revenge on the criminals whose careers he ends. Meanwhile, Spencer, after serious introspection, loads his gun and proceeds to the saloon, where he tells the blackjack dealer, George Williams, to call his "bosses" together. Although Spencer plans to warn the robbers to leave town before Kipp makes an arrest, Williams shoots him. When Kipp corners Williams, Brand shoots the man before he can tell what he knows. Alice, who now reveals that she was secretly married to Williams, tells Kipp that he was not involved in the robbery and that the false information she tried to sell Kipp was meant to steer him away from town. Although Spencer has lost consciousness, he survives his gunshot wound, but Danvers tries to suffocate him. When Julie catches him in the act, Danvers flees to where the stolen money is buried, unaware that Kipp is following. However, as Kipp watches, Danvers is shot dead by an unseen killer. The stagecoach arrives in town later, and Brand, while preventing Kipp from looking at his mail, exposes himself as one of the bandits. With Vance's help, Kipp subdues Brand and orders him to reveal the third robber. As they talk, Julie sees Alice, who is disguised as a man, sneak up from behind and shoot Brand. Julie wrestles with Alice to protect Kipp. After Kipp discovers that Alice has a scar on her right leg, the barmaid confesses to being the third bandit. Meanwhile, the townspeople discover that the item Kipp claimed was a photo of one of the robbers was just an advertisement for liniment. Later, when bushwhackers come to town making trouble, Julie tells them that her husband Kipp is sheriff and invites them to tea. However, the interlopers race off upon hearing the name of the notorious ex-bounty hunter.