powered by AFI
When his horse goes lame, Tod Lohman is trapped by the bloodthirsty posse that has been relentlessly pursuing him. After Otis Boyd, the posse's leader, drives a herd of horses directly at Tod, Tod scatters the horses with a few gunshots, causing the terrified animals to turn back and trample Otis. Otis' callow younger brother Tom follows Tod into the hills, where Tod gets the drop on him, commands him to disarm and then declares that he did not kill Tom's brother Sandy, who died while falling on his own knife. Pleading to be left alone, Tod releases Tom, who pulls a hidden pistol and shoots Tod's horse. After blasting the weapon out of Tom's hand, Tod allows him to return home, where Tom's stern father, Hunter Boyd, the widely despised rancher baron, chastises him for his impetuous behavior. Boyd enlists his top hands, Carmody and Bayliss, and several others in his obsessive quest to avenge Sandy's death. Tod, meanwhile, crosses a parched lava bed on foot and then collapses from thirst and exhaustion at the banks of a river. Upon opening his eyes, Tod finds rancher Amos Bradley and his tomboyish daughter Juanita standing over him. The kindly Amos, who has heard of Tod's plight, offers him a meal and a horse. When Amos asks why he spared Tom's life, Tod asserts that his moral precepts render him unable to kill, and then explains that he is on his way to a small desert misson to find his father, who deserted his mother three years earlier at the end of the war. While Tod bathes in the river, Juanita uncovers the Bible that he has concealed in his bedroll and finds a loving letter written by his late mother, counseling him always to obey the commandments. Moved, Juanita kisses Tod while he sleeps that night. The next morning, Boyd and his men surround the camp and Boyd gives Tod a horse and a four-hour head start to make up for the loss of his own horse. At noon, Boyd's men split up to continue their pursuit. Carmody perches on a ridge in ambush, but Tod spots him and takes cover in the rocks. As Carmody fires, Tod, a sharpshooter with a rifle, shoots a boulder above Carmody, sending it toppling down, driving him out of his hiding place. Tod guns down Carmody, and then, filled with remorse, buries him. Along the trail, Tod encounters trader Jake Leffertfinger, who has heard of Tod's predicament and invites him to ride with him through hostile Comanche country. Tod climbs into Leffertfinger's wagon, and soon after, two riders begin to follow them, and Leffertfinger recognizes them as Boyd's men. When the men gallop in front of the wagon, Leffertfinger urges Tod to shoot them before they kill him, but he refuses. Soon after, the Comanches attack and shoot Boyd's men. Aware that the Indians are after horses, Leffertfinger turns loose Tod's steed and two of his lead team, thus pacifying their attackers. Upon arriving in town with Tom and Bayliss, Boyd learns that Otis has died from his injuries, thus sharpening his thirst for revenge. Tod and Leffertfinger arrive soon after, but Tod flees after he is warned of Boyd's presence by a sympathetic bartender. Proceeding to the mission, Tod learns that his father has died. His search at an end, Tod rides to the Bradley ranch, where Bradley and his family welcome him and offer him their fastest steed. When Tod wonders if his life is worth those of the men he has killed, Bradley asks him to discourage Juanita, who has donned a frilly dress and is clearly smitten, from following him. Reasoning that Tod has gone to the Bradley ranch, Boyd and his men ride there. Cardito, one of Bradley's ranchhands, alerts Tod of their approach and Bradley sends Cardito to guide Tod to the ravine while he stalls Boyd. When Bradley refuses Boyd entrance to his house, Bayliss shoots him. Drawn by the sound of gunfire, Cardito and Tod gallop back to the ranch, where the wounded Bradley admonishes Tod to run for his life. Outraged, Tod decides to ride for revenge instead and follows Boyd back to town. There, Boyd tries to hire a posse and sends Tom to the hotel to wire for funds to pay the men. Spotting Tod on the street, Tom fires and Tod shoots back, driving Tom back into the hotel lobby. Alerted by the gunshots, Bayliss and Boyd run into the streets, and Tod wounds Bayliss. After Boyd calls to Tom to extinguish the lights in the hotel lobby, Tom shoots down the chandelier, which then collapses into a wall of flames, setting Tom on fire. When Tom runs burning from the hotel, Tod drops his gun and throws his body on him, smothering the flames. The next day, Bayliss, his arm in a sling, and Tom, swathed in bandages, prepare for the long ride home. Boyd then declares that he is giving Tod his life because he saved Tom's. Making his way back to the Bradley ranch, Tod arrives just as Bradley awakens from his injuries. Overjoyed, Juanita runs into Tod's arms.