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Two aging gunfighters sell tickets to their final shootout.
After a rattlesnake bites his horse, gunfighter-turned-prospector Abe Cross rides into a small Western town seeking help. The townspeople are immediately curious about the newcomer and when Abe goes to the bank to cash in his prospecting gold, his name quickly circulates. Having overheard that Abe is a well-known former gunfighter, young Bud Tenneray rushes home to tell his parents, Will and Nora, all about the new arrival, unaware that Will was also a gunslinger for many years. Meanwhile, at the general store, deputy marshal Tom Cater questions Abe, but when the marshal mentions Will, Abe assures him he has no interest in breaking the peace. That afternoon, Will walks to work at the Riata Palace Saloon where he is a bouncer, and saloon owner Marv Green tells him of the town's mounting excitement over the inevitable meeting between the gunfighters. Will feigns indifference, but expresses interest in any financial reward if the prospect of the meeting will bring more patrons to the Riata. When Abe arrives at the saloon, he is immediately introduced to Will and as the men shake hands the spectators burst into cheers. Over drinks, Will and Abe grow acquainted, joking that the town's continued speculation about them is so high they should sell tickets for a contest between them. Later, Abe shows interest in Jenny, a young saloon hostess, and the two spend the night together. The next day, Abe finds his horse ailing and shoots it to spare the animal further suffering. Refusing to sell the horse's carcass for meat, Abe instead leases a wagon to transport the body out of town to bury it. Will rides out after Abe and expresses envy at Abe's unfettered lifestyle, but Abe says Will is fortunate to have a family and steady job. After Will disparages his miserly salary at the saloon where he admits he is little more than a sideshow oddity, Abe confesses that before prospecting he spent a period of time doing trick shooting with a wild-west show. Will then excitedly suggests that they act on Abe's earlier jest about selling tickets to watch the two in a gunfight, pointing out that the winner would get all the money as the loser would be dead. Abe is stunned, then angered by Will's brazenness, and returns to town. Unable to afford a new horse with his remaining prospecting money, Abe looks for work around town but the general store owner, Franco Alvarez, tells him that only ranchers are hiring. When Abe admits he knows nothing about ranching, Alvarez advises him to do what he knows. Resigned, Abe spots Will walking down the street and calls out an agreement to a gunfight for money. The pair then make arrangements with Alvarez, who also works as a bullfight promoter, to stage the fight in the town's bullring on the following Sunday. Returning to his hotel room, Abe finds Jenny waiting and asks her about Will's wife, Nora. Jenny reveals that Will and Nora have been reunited for only one year after spending several years separated. Struggling to support Bud on her own, Nora spent three years working for Alvarez, prompting speculation that she had become his mistress. Meanwhile, at the Tennerays', Nora is dismayed to learn from Will of the gunfight and attempts to dissuade him. Will remarks bitterly about Alvarez's apparent enthusiasm for arranging the fight, then reflects that the money will give them the opportunity to purchase a ranch and make a new start. When Nora accuses him of actually craving a return to his gunfighting fame, Will slaps her and departs. The next day, Nora visits Alvarez to express her disappointment at his involvement with the gunfight and declares that she will not return to him in the event of Will's death. Over the next two days, wagers on the gunfight are made all over town and Abe negotiates for a new horse, to be paid off after the contest. El Paso Herald reporter Ed Fleury arrives on the afternoon stage, but Abe and Will refuse to pose for pictures or give interviews unless they are paid. Fleury agrees, and after he stages pictures with the men in the middle of town, a young cowboy confronts Will and Abe and challenges either of them to a gunfight so that he might also have a shot at the large pot of money. When Cater attempts to intervene, the young cowboy shoots him in the shoulder. As Abe helps carry the injured deputy away, Will decides to take up the young cowboy's challenge and quickly kills him as Bud watches in awe. A troubled Nora later argues with Will about leaving Bud a legacy of violence, but Will protests that gunfighting is the only thing he knows and insists he will survive and gain Bud's respect. Unknown to Will, Nora asks the recovering Cater to submit Will's name as his replacement, but that night the town counsel rejects the proposition, expressing uncertainty about Will's attitude toward the law. On the eve of the gunfight, Abe loses at gambling, but assures the winner he will be paid the next day. When Abe departs the Riata, Nora makes a feeble attempt to shoot him, but he is uninjured. Jenny rushes out to Abe and admits she is worried for him, but he tells her there is no way he can lose. The next day, the entire town, except Nora and Bud, attends the contest at the bullring. Will and Abe face each other as the stadium grows quiet and, with abrupt speed, the contest is over as Abe kills Will. The crowd is stunned and departs in silence. Abe pays off the horse and his gambling debts and invites Jenny to visit him in San Francisco, but she tells him he will never reach the city as his fame from the gunfight will provoke young gunslingers to pursue him. As Abe prepares to depart he sees Nora and Bud getting on the stage. Nora gazes at Abe, realizing that even had Will won the wager, he would not have settled down but sought new conflicts. Wearily accepting his own limited future, Abe rides out of town.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||GP||Premiere Info:||not available|
|Release Date:||1971||Production Date:||
|Color/B&W:||Color (Technicolor)||Distributions Co:||Paramount Pictures Corp.|
|Sound:||Mono||Production Co:||The Jicarilla Apache Tribe of American Indians, Harvest-Thoroughbred-Joel Productions|
|Duration(mins):||89-90 or 94||Country:||United States|
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