One of the earliest of the "psychological westerns," this one went beyond psychology and psychiatry and into the realm of psychosis. Ford stars as a sadistic Civil War veteran who has been killing for the sheer joy of it, even after the official battles cease. Although his mind has become
unbalanced by the terrors of the war, he manages somehow to secure a job as a judge in Colorado. His former army pal, Holden, knows that Ford is teetering on the brink of insanity, so he obtains a job as Ford's marshal in an attempt to keep his one-time crony from getting out of hand. Ford kills
criminals who have raised the flag of surrender and he is far too liberal with his death sentences. The town is ready to rebel against him. Holden stalwartly tries to calm Ford down but the man is in a constant rage. When Ford removes the mining concessions of several ex-soldiers, Holden joins
them and they become outlaws. Drew is Ford's wife, but she can do nothing to stop his blood-lust and finally leaves him in favor of Holden. As you might imagine, there is a violent battle between the two former friends, Holden and Ford. They are battling with their fists in a burning building when
the roof caves in and kills Ford, thus relieving Holden of the task. No question that the producers were attempting to draw a parallel between the returning Civil War soldiers in the film and the real veterans who were coming home from WW II carrying both mental and physical scars on their beings.
This was a strange juxtaposition of themes and it ultimately failed, but they must be commended for trying to unravel the twisted knots in a man's mind when he is assaulted by death from all sides.
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