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The Fiend Who Walked the West

The Fiend Who Walked the West(1958)


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To gain access to the City Bank gold storage vault, bank robber Dan Hardy feigns drunkenness and then offers the teller a swig from his jug. Once the clerk opens the door, Dan knocks him unconscious, and the three other robbers, led by Paul Finney, sneak in the back and open the safe. As Dan enters the vault, the clerk regains consciousness, slams the door shut and then jumps through a window to alert the town. After struggling in vain to open the door, Finney and the rest of the gang flee, leaving Dan behind to be arrested. Later, Dan is on his way to trial in a prison wagon when his pregnant wife Elena and little daughter Janie come to see him at a way station. Dan, a poor rancher driven by desperation to robbery, assures Elena that Finney will take care of her in his absence. As the wagon continues on, Sheriff Frank Emmett offers Dan leniency if he will name his accomplices. After Dan refuses, Judge Parker sentences him to ten years in prison even though it is his first offense. Dan is locked in a cell with Felix Griffin, a psychopath who warns Dan never to touch him and has a "fetish," or a small glass animal. In charge of doling out food to the work crew, Felix goads Seidel, a burly inmate, into attacking him. One day soon after, Seidel collapses in agony, grabbing his gut, and dies. On the day of Felix' release, Dan anxiously asks the guard if any mail has come from Elena. Felix provokes Dan by commenting that his wife has probably moved in with another man, and Dan attacks him, violating Felix' prohibition on touching. As Felix leaves the cell, he cackles that he ground up his glass animal and put it into Seidel's food. In search of the stolen bank money, Felix rides to the Finney ranch and finds Finney's elderly, crippled mother there alone. After shooting her in the throat with an arrow, he removes her ring and then awaits Finney. When Finney arrives, Felix threatens to kill him unless he turns over the money, but once Finney reveals its hiding place, Felix blasts him in the back with a shotgun and then sets fire to the house. Felix's next stop is the Hardy ranch, where he finds Elena ill in bed. After Felix cruelly remarks that Dan is as good as dead and then propositions her, Elena becomes so agitated that she suffers a miscarriage. With Finney's money, Felix buys a house in town, and when Emmett and his deputy, Jim Dyer, question Felix about his financial windfall, Felix becomes incensed. Upon learning of Elena's misfortune, Emmett informs Dan that Felix visited the house just prior to her miscarrying. Fearing for the safety of his family, Dan finally agrees to name his accomplices in exchange for a pardon. After Dan mentions Finney's name, Emmett realizes that Felix killed him, stole the money and then made the murder look like an Indian raid. When it is discovered that the other two robbers were killed in a holdup, Dan is denied his freedom. Dyer and another deputy then are ambushed and killed by Felix, and Emmett, disgusted, wants to turn in his badge and mete out his own form of justice. Promising that Felix will be made to pay for his crimes, the judge stages a jailbreak for Dan so that he can obtain evidence of Felix' guilt. After escaping, Dan rides to Felix' ranch, where Felix lies that Finney was killed by the Indians and then invites Dan to spend the night. Once Felix leaves the room, Dan searches for evidence and find Ma Finney's ring with her initials engraved on the band. The next morning, Felix brings Janie and Elena to see Dan, and Dan pretends that Felix is his friend. Upset, Elena begs Dan to come away with her, but when he refuses, she denounces him and storms away. That night, Felix sadistically torments May, his housekeeper, and then boasts that he killed Finney, Dyer and Emmett. Training his gun on Dan, Felix begins to interrogate him. Dan then informs Felix that Emmett is still alive and that he killed the wrong man. Realizing that Dan's escape was a setup to apprehend him, Felix decides to exact revenge on Elena and orders May to tie up Dan. In reprisal, May strikes Felix with the rope, allowing Dan to overpower him. Later, at the trial, Felix' wily attorney discredits Dan's testimony, and after May testifies that the ring belongs to her, Felix is freed. Dan is pardoned and returns home to Elena. That night, a driverless wagon pulls up the house, and when Dan peers inside, he finds May, her neck broken. After sending his wife and daughter out of town, Dan visits Felix, who is wearing a mourning band for May. Grabbing Felix by the collar, Dan slaps him repeatedly, challenges him to a gunfight and leaves. That night, Felix is seated in the saloon, and as a chorus girl admires his ring, he spots Dan standing at the bar, watching him. After Dan slaps him, Felix, seemingly unarmed, agrees to meet him outside later with his gun belt. Just as Dan turns to leave, Felix pulls a pistol from his boot and shoots him in the back. Falling to the floor, Dan fires his gun, fatally wounding Felix. Some time later, Emmett visits a recovered Dan at his ranch. When the sheriff asks how Dan intends to spend his reward, Elena smiles and says that they have ordered a new herd of cattle.