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When an ex-con tries to open a general store, a corrupt prison official and banker try to get in the way.
In 1935 Glory, West Virginia, convicts Mattie Appleyard, Lee Cottrill and young Johnny Jesus are freed from the penitentiary and escorted by brutish prison guard Dallas "Doc" Council to the local train station. There the three men plan to set out to the neighboring town of Stone Coal to jointly open a general store paid for by the twenty-five thousand dollars Mattie has earned over his forty years of hard labor. Unknown to the men, Council is in league with Glory banker Homer Grindstaff, who has been embezzling released prisoners' money for years. As the three men depart on the mostly empty train, Council promises a puzzled Johnny he will see him before sunup the next day. Onboard, conductor Willis Hubbard inexplicably advises Mattie to jump off the train. Mattie, who has a glass eye and professes to see the future with it, cautions Johnny to remain on the train as his eye has a vision of an ominous future. Traveling salesman and fellow passenger Roy K. Sizemore introduces himself to Mattie, revealing that he sells mining supplies, including dynamite, which is illegal to transport. Meanwhile, as night falls, Council meets two hired guns, Steve Mystic and Junior Kilfong, to intercept the train at Hannibal Junction. On the train, when Lee asks to look at Mattie's check for good luck, the men discover to their horror that the check can only be drawn from the bank of issuance in Glory. Overhearing the men's decision to return to Glory, Hubbard pulls the emergency brake on the train a few hundred yards from Hannibal Junction and admits that Council paid him to stop the train at the station in order to ambush Mattie. Alarmed, Mattie recalls Sizemore's sample bag and examining it, discovers fuses and dynamite, but is interrupted by the arrival of Junior. Announcing his intention to kill them, Junior advises the men to pray, prompting Mattie to stage an elaborate ritual that ends with him removing his glass eye, startling Junior and thereby allowing Mattie to knock him out. Mattie, Lee and Johnny jump from the train with the dynamite as Sizemore follows. Hindered by the dark and a driving rainstorm, Council and Mystic fire blindly at the fleeing figures, and the revived Junior inadvertently shoots Sizemore. As another train pulls in on the opposite track, Mattie and the others jump on board. Frustrated by the escape, Council examines the wounded Sizemore, then kills him, declaring he will blame it on Mattie. The next morning in Glory, while Council reports to Grindstaff, Mattie walks into the banker's office asking to cash his check. When Grindstaff balks, Mattie opens his jacket to show that he has twelve sticks of dynamite and various fuses attached to his body and indicates he has sixty more pounds in his suitcase. Outraged, Grindstaff cashes Mattie's check. Meeting Lee and Johnny at a diner, Mattie orders them to split up and rendezvous at a nearby bridge near the tracks where they can hop a freight train. With his bloodhound Joy, Mystic and Junior, Council begins tracking the men. Joy, who likes Johnny, eagerly tracks him to the bridge where he and Lee await Mattie, forcing the pair into the river. Wading to the opposite bank, Lee and Johnny meet Sonny Boy, who offers them a sixteen-year-old girl, Chanty Thorn. Lee, more interested in a drink, follows Sonny and Chanty to a river boat owned by faded prostitute Cleo. Meanwhile, Mattie meets Johnny and, hearing Council nearby, hastens to the houseboat to retrieve Lee. Mattie leaves the case of dynamite under Chanty's bed, and while Cleo stalls Council, the men escape in a small skiff. Council tells Cleo about Mattie's money, but, frustrated when he cannot find the men, departs. Guilty about leaving the defenseless Chanty behind, Johnny urges Mattie to return for the girl. When the men arrive back at the houseboat, however, Cleo demands Mattie leave her the money, believing it is in the case under the bed. Pushing the men off the boat and back out onto the shore, Cleo pulls the houseboat into the river. In a frenzy to open the case, Cleo shoots off the lock, triggering the dynamite and destroying the entire boat. Shocked, the men and Chanty hide in a nearby freight train car, which begins to move at dusk. Chanty confides her attraction to Johnny and the young couple fall asleep together. The next morning, however, the group awakens and realizes that the train car has only been moved to a side rail and they are still in Glory. At a nearby diner, a worried Hubbard sits drinking and a friend advises him to go to the police with his story about Council. A little later, Joy once more traces Johnny to the train car, but just as Council reaches the car, the train begins moving to another track. While driving home, Hubbard sees Mattie, Johnny, Lee and Chanty jump off the train. Coming to their rescue, Hubbard drives them outside of town, where he declares he can do no more for them. Mattie disagrees, however, and encourages him to tell the police everything he witnessed two nights previously. As Mattie and the others seek refuge in an abandoned farm house, Council spots Hubbard driving back to town and concludes the men are still nearby. Gathering Mystic, Junior and Joy, Council begins to search for Mattie. When Joy leads them to the farmhouse, Mystic and Junior excitedly anticipate their share of Mattie's money until Council callously shoots them. As Council nears the farm, Mattie declares he is tired of running, but will not resort to violence and urges the others to flee. Joy then bursts into the house, delighted to find Johnny, after which Council fires at the house, shattering a window and wounding Mattie. With only the dynamite to use as a weapon, Johnny lights one stick and hurls it out the window. To his horror, Joy bounds after the stick and fetches it back to the house. Mattie revives and hurls the stick out the window just as it explodes, killing Council. The next morning, the anxious citizens of Glory wait to hear if charges will be filed against Mattie as Grindstaff happily reclaims the money. Moments later, however, Grindstaff is placed under arrest due to Hubbard's statement. The citizens cheer when Mattie takes a new check to the bank to be cashed and he, Lee, Johnny, Chanty and Joy set off on a train for Stone Coal.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||GP||Premiere Info:||not available|
|Release Date:||1971||Production Date:||
A James Less Barrett -- Andrew V. McLaglen Production
|Color/B&W:||Color (Eastmancolor)||Distributions Co:||Columbia Pictures|
|Sound:||Mono||Production Co:||Stanmore Productions, Inc., Penbar Productions, Inc.|
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