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Storyline : Lawman

Lawman, While passing through the town of Bannock, a bunch of drunken, trail-weary cattlemen go overboard with their celebrating and accidentally kill an old man with a stray shot. They return home to Sabbath unaware of his death. Bannock lawman Jered Maddox later arrives there to arrest everyone involved on a charge of murder. Sabbath is run by land baron Vince Bronson, a benevolent despot, who, upon hearing of the death, offers restitution for the incident. Maddox, however, will not compromise even though small ranchers like Vern Adams are not in a position to desert their responsibilities for a long and protracted trial. Sabbath’s marshal, Cotton Ryan, is an aging lawman whose tough reputation rests on a single incident that occurred years before. Ryan admits to being only a shadow of what he once was and incapable of stopping Maddox. Maddox confides to Ryan that Bannock’s judicial system is weak and corrupt, and while he’s doubtful that anyone he brings back will suffer more than the price of a bribe, he will not be deterred from the unrelenting pursuit of his duty. Initially Bronson appears willing to make concessions, but when his oldest friend Harvey Stenbaugh is killed after deliberately picking a fight with Maddox, Bronson digs in his heels with the rest of the town to resist the relentless lawman.

An exceptional Western


This movie reminds me a lot of movies such as 3:10 TO YUMA as well as LAST TRAIN FROM GUN HILL, in that the film concerns a lone lawman trying to battle the forces of a rich cattle baron to bring some men to justice. Just like Glenn Ford and Kirk Douglas before him, Burt Lancaster is willing to stand up against all the forces trying to get him to give up and go home.

In this case, Burt is a sheriff from another town where a group of men on a cattle drive shot up the town and accidentally killed an old insignificant man. The boss of the cattle drive wants to buy off Burt, but Lancaster is determined to bring all the men back to face trial. However, none of the men are willing to “face the music” and one by one, they take on Burt–with absolutely no support from the town–who want the murderers to go free! Despite the similarities to these other films (and HIGH NOON in reverse), the film’s excellent script, acting and production make it a must-see and one of the better Western I have seen. The end of the movie is exceptional, though I noticed that the LEONARD MALTIN GUIDE liked the movie but not the ending–for me, this actually was one of the best parts of the film. Particular standouts are Robert Ryan as another sheriff just too tired to care as well as Lancaster. In addition, the boss is Lee J.–who as always did a wonderful job.

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