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A Western town hires a famous gunman to rid it of outlaws.
In the frontier town of Warlock, the San Pablo gang, a sadistic band of cowboys led by Abe McQuown, wages a campaign of wanton killing and anarchy while the citizens stand idly by. Rather than face certain death at the hands of McQuown, Deputy Roy Thomson hightails it out of town and is brutally humiliated by the gang. Sickened by the senseless violence, gang member Johnny Gannon starts to question McQuown's authority. Now devoid of all law, the Warlock Citizen's Committee votes to hire infamous gunman Clay Blaisdell to act as marshal and protect the town. After making a deal with the committee for $400 a month plus the management of the Palace Saloon, the local gambling parlor, Blaisdell arrives in town with his storied gold-handled pistols and his partner and close friend, Tom Morgan, a crippled gunslinger. Blaisdell immediately warns his employers that they will soon come to hate and resent him. That night, McQuown's gang rides into town to challenge Blaisdell, and the taunts of Curley, one of the cowboys, prompts Blaisdell to draw his gold-handled Colts. After getting the drop on Curley, Blaisdell holds his fire and then warns that he will kill anyone who draws on him and that troublemakers will not be allowed in town. Defeated, McQuown and his boys leave and Johnny decides to quit the gang. Impressed by the marshal's nonviolent approach, Jessie Marlowe, the pretty daughter of one of the town's founders, apologizes for misjudging him. Later, Morgan learns that the stage is carrying Lily Dollar, his former lover, and her companion, Bob Nicholson, and gallops out to overtake it before it can reach town. From a ridge, Morgan watches as McQuown's men stop the stage to rob it. Training his rifle on Nicholson, Morgan shoots and kills him and then disappears into the hills. Upon reaching town, the stage driver identifies one of the robbers as Billy Gannon, Johnny's brother, but Lily insists that a third man killed Nicholson. As Blaisdell leads a posse to San Pablo, Lily goes to the Palace and contemptuously accuses Morgan of murdering Nicholson. Years earlier, Lily fell in love with Nicholson's brother Ben, compelling the obsessively jealous Morgan to manipulate Blaisdell into killing Ben in a gunfight. When Blaisdell returns with his prisoners, the blood-thirsty crowd calls for a lynching and breaks into the jail. After Blaisdell disperses the crowd, the county sheriff arrives to take the prisoners into custody. Castigating the town for hiring a high-priced gunman, the sheriff challenges one of them to accept the job of deputy sheriff, and Johnny eagerly volunteers. After the San Pablo boys are acquitted by a crooked judge, Blaisdell warns that he will kill them if they step foot in Warlock. Touched by Johnny's earnestness, Lily invites him to dinner and asks why he left McQuown. Johnny, troubled, traces his decision to the day that McQuown and his men massacred 37 helpless Mexicans. One day, Jessie seeks out Blaisdell to warn him that Billy and the others are headed for Warlock. When Blaisdell calls her an angel, Jessie discloses that she is restless and unhappy and they kiss. The next morning, Morgan, anxious to finish their business in Warlock and move onto the next town, tells Blaisdell that the McQuown gang has reached Warlock, and Blaisdell informs him that he has decided to settle down and marry Jessie. As Blaisdell and Morgan march out to meet the outlaws, Johnny asks to speak to Billy. Johnny's attempts to reason with his brother fail, however, and Billy calls out Blaisdell. After Billy fires at Blaisdell, the marshal guns him down and Billy dies in his brother's arms. In retaliation, Skinner, one of McQuown's men, institutes a council of "regulators" to deal with Blaisdell. Forecasting that an army of cowboys will soon come to wreak havoc on the town, Morgan urges Blaisdell to move on but Johnny asserts that it is his job to keep the peace. After Blaisdell delegates his authority to Johnny, Johnny rides to San Pablo to warn McQuown to stay out of Warlock. Although McQuown vindictively slashes Johnny's gun hand, Johnny is undeterred and returns to town to face down the gang. Fearing for Johnny's life, Lily asks Blaisdell to help him, asserting that Blaisdell owes her for killing Ben Nicholson. When McQuown's men appear, Morgan pulls his gun on Blaisdell and holds him prisoner, rendering him unable to come to Johnny's aid. Johnny impassively faces McQuown, but when one of the gang tries to shoot him in the back, Skinner kills the man, assuring a fair fight. McQuown, a slow draw, is then outgunned by Johnny, who arrests the regulators. Finally realizing that Morgan goaded him into killing Nicholson, Blaisdell breaks with his long-time partner. Insane with hatred, Morgan gets drunk, shoots up the saloon and then staggers into the street, gunning for Johnny. Claiming that Morgan is his responsibility, Blaisdell locks Johnny in a cell and then commands his old friend to leave town. When the crowd begins to jeer at him, Morgan boasts that he can beat Blaisdell and draws his gun. Blaisdell fires back, killing him, and then carries Morgan's lifeless body to the saloon. In pain over his loss, Blaisdell sets the saloon on fire and Johnny tells him that the time has come for him to move on. Blaisdell vows he will never go without a fight, and when Jessie pleads with him to stay with her, he muses that he is nothing without his guns. The next morning, Blaisdell faces Johnny. After drawing first, Blaisdell holds his fire, throws down his golden-handled pistols and then rides out of town.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||Premiere Info:||New York opening: 30 Apr 1959|
|Release Date:||1959||Production Date:||
|Color/B&W:||Color (DeLuxe)||Distributions Co:||Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.|
|Sound:||Mono||Production Co:||Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.|
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User Ratings & Review
highly underrated western.
george joseph 2011-09-11
Henry Fonda at his best. The scene where he confronts the gang for the first time in the saloon, is my favorite western scene. He stamps his domination on...
Excellent and most underrated Western!
Jack Jacoby 2010-10-30
Probably my very favorite Richard Widmark movie, it's a wonderful, smart story of professional marshall (Henry Fonda) hired by the town of Warlock,...