“A man’s gotta draw the line somewhere if he’s going to go on living with himself.”
A man (Randolph Scott) obsessed with avenging his wife’s death rides into the town of Sundown and threatens to kill the local head honcho, Tate Kimbrough (John Carroll).
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Budd Boetticher Films
- Randolph Scott Films
Response to Peary’s Review:
This surprisingly tense and effective western about a man (Scott) “obsessed with killing [a] conceited dandy” (John Carroll) who “had an affair with [his] wife prior to her suicide” adds a new twist to the trope of vengeance in the old West. Although the protagonist (Scott) stubbornly refuses to recognize the irrationality of his obsession, his visit serves as a catalyst for the inhabitants of Sundown, who suddenly realize the folly of their subservience to Carroll. As Peary notes, the film is “well directed, offbeat, and psychologically complex,” with an “effective but downbeat script” by Charles Lang, Jr. However, Peary adds he has “a hard time enjoying [the] film because Scott’s character is too crazed by revenge to admire”; like “all Boetticher heroes, he must come to terms with his own flaws, obsessions, and blindness.” Lang’s screenplay moves along at a fast clip, and makes excellent use of a surprise revelation, a stalled wedding, a daylong stand-off, and a “satisfying, unusual ending.” This one remains well worth a viewing.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Randolph Scott as a man nearly blinded by obsessive vengeance
- John Carroll’s surprisingly nuanced characterization as the womanizing Tate Kimbrough
- Exciting use of claustrophobic locales
- A surprising ending
Yes. This remains one of Boetticher’s finest and most unusual westerns.