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In the late 1800s, in the Arizona desert, notorious gunman Wes Steele's horse breaks a leg, forcing Wes to shoot the animal. Hours later, now traveling on foot, Wes comes upon the murdered victims of a stagecoach robbery, and is particularly sickened to see a young child among the dead. After releasing the surviving horses, Wes mounts one and rides to the town of Mesa, arriving at nightfall, just before a sandstorm develops. There, suspicious citizens are worried about the horses' return without the coach, but are unable to investigate until the storm abates. They also feel threatened by the arrival of Wes, whom they cannot see clearly in the dark. Eager to prove he can carry out his job, the acting sheriff, Jim Anderson, ventures out to the darkened street and draws his gun, intending to shoot Wes in the back. Before he can fire, however, Wes expertly turns and shoots in self-defense, wounding the sheriff. As a mob-like posse searches for him, Wes hides in the darkened bank building. In another room of the building, banker Stanley and his partner, Luke Joiner, who are behind a series of robberies, discuss the deadly outcome of the stagecoach robbery with hired gunman Clantin. Appalled by the killings, Luke demands that the robberies stop, but when he steps out of the room to investigate sounds made by Wes, Clantin shoots him in the back. After fleeing the building, Wes takes refuge in the cellar of a house. When Stanley, who is highly respected in town, announces that "the stranger" killed Luke, townspeople, who are still unaware of the murder of the stagecoach passengers, also conclude that Wes is responsible for the stagecoach not arriving on schedule. Later, Anderson provides an inaccurate description of Wes, whom he could not make out in the dark. The next morning, Wes introduces himself to the woman of the house, Nadine, and she informs him that her father, Sheriff Gil Corrigan, has yellow fever and the house is quarantined. When Dr. Mason calls to check on Gil, Wes hides, after warning Nadine at gunpoint to keep his presence secret. Later, Wes pays Nadine for his room and board, and tells her that he did not shoot Luke, but is unable to identify the real killer. Nadine suggests that he give himself up and tell the truth in court. Wes refuses and explains that no one would believe him, because he is regarded as a "notorious outlaw." He then tells her that he took up shooting after gunmen killed his father and eventually became so proficient that men, vying to prove they could outshoot him, died trying. After discovering the fate of the stagecoach and its passengers, townsmen post sentries on all the roads and begin a search of the unquarantined houses. Nadine, distressed to learn that her friend was one of the stagecoach victims, orders Wes to leave at nightfall. Exhausted after nursing Gil for days without aid of any kind from her inconsiderate neighbors, Nadine falls asleep and Wes takes over Gil's care. The next day, Gil improves and Wes, while preparing to leave, confides to Nadine that he is tired of running from his reputation. When he mentions the hope chest she keeps hidden in the cellar, she admits that her father has provided well for her, but does not want her to grow up, and they kiss. After the corpses are brought to town and laid out in the church, Stanley urges the townsfolk to mete out a swift and final justice to the killer. Stanley suggests that the townsmen keep watch over the church and offers to take the first watch. In the evening, Wes finds him there alone and accuses him of murder. Angry about the killing of the child, Wes fights Stanley, and knocks him unconscious. After observing Wes return to the Corrigan house, Clantin alerts the town. While a mob forms outside, Wes, who has been badly injured in the fight, tells Nadine that he has identified Stanley as the man behind the stagecoach robbery and one of Luke's killers. Mason diagnoses Wes's injury as concussion, then tells the crowd that Wes does not fit Anderson's description of his assailant. Undeterred, the mob clamors for Wes, prompting Nadine to get her rifle. Her warning shot causes the recovering Gil to leave his sickbed. After listening to both sides of the story, he tells the crowd he will handle the situation. In private, he rebukes Nadine for "carrying on" while he was sick. Mason tells Gil that Nadine is in love with Wes and reminds him of his duty to protect Wes from lynching. Gil holds Wes for trial, but Wes knows that his word against Stanley's will not result in acquittal. Recalling something Gil said when he was delirious with fever, Nadine looks through their account books and then correctly accuses Gil of taking payoffs from Stanley in exchange for allowing several robberies to go unsolved. Although he admits that his actions have been unjustified, Gil explains that he promised himself he would provide for Nadine, after many hardships led to the death of her mother and the loss of their ranch. During the night, Gil helps Wes escape and shows him a way out of the country through Indian territory. When the crowd later learns that Gil released Wes, they drag the sheriff to the hanging tree. The mob has already placed the rope around Gil's neck when Wes arrives and fires his gun. After ordering the mob to release Gil, Wes calls them "a rotten town with rotten people" and accuses Stanley of the murders. Stanley orders several henchmen to gun down Wes, but Wes's reputation frightens them. Only Clantin draws his gun and Wes shoots him. When Stanley tries to shoot Wes in the back, Gil, who has assumed control of the situation, intervenes. After Gil arrests Stanley, Stanley accuses the sheriff of being equally guilty, but Gil says he is willing to take his chances. Gil then orders Nadine to leave town with Wes and find a better place to live. However, Wes says they are staying, because the next town may be just as bad and, after all that has happened, Mesa may improve.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||Premiere Info:||not available|
|Release Date:||1955||Production Date:||
|Color/B&W:||Color (Trucolor)||Distributions Co:||Republic Pictures Corp.|
|Sound:||Mono||Production Co:||Republic Pictures Corp.|
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The Moral of this Story
Larry Elam 2014-05-31
The moral of this story is if you ever come upon an ambushed stagecoach and need a horse then take the horse but don't ride into the next town because...
A Man Alone (1955)
Celia Trimboli 2010-12-13
Very good western. Wrong man on the run hides out, in of all places, the sheriff's home while the sheriff is sick. Beautiful color.