“I never killed a man except in self-defense.”
The gambling son (Rock Hudson) of a preacher (John McIntire) kills a man (Michael Ansara) in self-defense and is hunted down by the dead man’s vengeful brothers (Hugh O’Brian, Lee Van Cleef, and Glenn Strange); meanwhile, Hudson tries to earn money to marry his sweetheart (Mary Castle), while a beautiful barmaid (Julie Adams) pines for John (Hudson) despite knowing he’s in love with Jane (Castle).
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Falsely Accused
- Flashback Films
- Julie Adams Films
- Love Triangle
- Raoul Walsh Films
- Rock Hudson Films
Based on a highly romanticized memoir by real-life gunman John Westley Hardin, this Technicolor western — directed by Raoul Walsh — is notable for featuring Rock Hudson in his first starring role, and for reuniting Hudson with Julie Adams of Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954) fame after they co-starred in Anthony Mann’s Bend of the River (1952) and Budd Boetticher’s (non-GFTFF-listed) Horizons West (1952).
Unfortunately, there’s not much else to recommend about this movie, given that the storyline is pure hokum clearly drummed up by a man intending to whitewash his own murderous past. We get a brief sense of this through his fiancee (Castle), who rightfully calls him out on his desire for violence:
“You’ll never stop killing… You’re not afraid of anyone, so long as you have a gun. So long as you can kill! … You’ll always have to prove you’re not afraid. You’ll always have to kill to prove it. How do you feel when you kill? Do you feel bad — or do you feel good?”
Meanwhile, the storyline’s rather improbable ending — involving Hudson’s grown son (Race Gentry) — attempts to close the loop on this tentative theme; but none of it is robust enough to turn this into a truly compelling story.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Some effectively filmed moments
No; you can skip this one unless you’re a Walsh or Hudson completist.