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The Marksman

The Marksman(1953)

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Sharpshooter Mike Martin's skills with a gun earn him a post as a deputy U.S. Marshal, although he has little experience in law enforcement. Mike is pleased by the appointment, although he tells his superior, U.S. Marshal Bob Scott, that he is disappointed that it was his skill as a killer that got him the job. When Bob asks him to help lure a gang of outlaws from their hideout, Mike quickly dispatches one outlaw with a single shot, then fires the hinges off the door of the cabin, forcing the rest to surrender. Mike is awarded a commendation for his efforts, but despite Bob's assurances that he is saving lives, Mike still feels like an executioner. When Bob is assigned by Governor Watson to work undercover in order to round up a gang of rustlers that have been operating in the Sangre de Cristo mountains, he leaves Mike in charge of the office. Posing as a prospector, Bob rides to the mountains where he observes ranch foreman Leo Santee in conversation with cattle rancher Champ Wylie, the covert leader of the rustlers. Bob is seen from afar by Kincaid, who also works for Wylie, and he reports the stranger's presence. Wylie instructs Kincaid to leave Bob alone unless he nears the secret valley where they keep the stolen cattle. Later that night, Kincaid recognizes Bob as a marshal and Wylie sends him to pay Bob a "visit." Kincaid and Santee catch Bob jotting down the location of the secret valley and gun him down when he attempts to flee. After a month passes without word from Bob, Mike consults with the governor, who initially refuses Mike's request to be sent to look for Bob. When Mike threatens to resign, Watson relents and admits that his reluctance is due to Mike's inexperience. Posing as a prospector, Mike is riding near Wylie's ranch when he encounters Wylie's niece, novelist Jane Warren, whose horse has run away. After Mike helps Jane retrieve her horse, he flirts with her until Santee arrives. Mike follows Santee and Jane to Wylie's ranch, where he asks Wylie's permission to stay in his line shack. Wylie agrees and invites Mike to join them for dinner. Santee is suspicious that Mike may be an agent, but Wylie discounts Santee's suspicions on the ground that Mike is too inexperienced to be sent on such an important mission. Jane accompanies Mike while he is prospecting and when he kisses her, Santee sees them and jealously intervenes. A fistfight ensues when Santee attempts to grab Jane, and after Mike knocks out the foreman, he urges Jane to return to the ranch. Mike tries to explain the altercation to Wylie, but Wylie holds him at gunpoint after Santee searches his saddlebags and finds Mike's badge. As Wylie admits to having Bob killed, Jane enters the room and deliberately pushes him, causing his gun to discharge. Mike, uninjured, seizes the opportunity to knock out Wylie and escapes with one of Wylie's rifles. Wylie then locks Jane in a room and sends his men after Mike. With his skills as a marksman, Mike kills each one until only Kincaid and Santee remain. After Santee retreats back to the house, Mike hikes up to a ridge and sees the secret valley. Returning to the house, Mike kills Kincaid when he tries to flee, and Wylie kills Santee when he cowardly refuses to follow orders. Wylie then takes Jane hostage and uses her as a shield to leave the house. Mike waits for a clear shot and when Jane faints, he kills Wylie. Afterward, Jane goes to Oklahoma City to act as a witness against her uncle. After Mike gives his report to the governor, Watson surmises that Mike's inexperience allowed him to be fooled by Wylie's friendly demeanor, but that his sharpshooting skills saved his life. He then informs Mike that he is being assigned to teach marksmanship to all the marshals. In the governor's presence, Mike proposes to Jane, and they eagerly plan their honeymoon.