Red Sundown

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Western, USA, 1956, 81 min.

Synopsis While wandering through the Western desert, Alec Longmire rescues Buck Purvis, a fellow gunslinger who is on the run from the law. Buck, who admires Alec's reputation as a fast draw, travels with him to the nearest town, Paseo, where they are immediately partnered in a brawl with rowdy ranchhands. When one man draws his gun, Alec shoots him in self-defense, prompting the ranchhands to chase Alec and Buck out of town. The partners elude their pursuers and rest for the night in an abandoned cabin. There, Buck describes his dissatisfaction with the life of a drifter, and urges the younger Alec to settle down. Hours later, the ranchhands surround the cabin and begin a shootout, hitting Buck in the stomach. Knowing he will soon die, Buck urges Alec to bury himself in a shallow ditch, breathing through a concealed pipe, while he distracts the ranchhands. Alec is reluctant to let his new friend sacrifice himself, but eventually acquiesces. Just before covering Alec, Buck persuades him to promise that if he survives he will quit "living by the gun," then gives him his one valuable possession, a gold ring. Buck's plan works, and after the ranchhands burn down the cabin and shoot Buck to death when he runs outside, they assume Alec has burned to death. Days later, an unharmed Alec reaches Durango, where local boys Chuck Webb and Hughie Clore long to emulate their hero, sheriff Jade Murphy. Jade immediately recognizes Alec's name but, upon talking with him, also senses Alec's intelligence and sincere desire to escape his past. After Alec advises Chuck and Hughie to avoid guns, Jade asks him to serve as his deputy, to mediate the ongoing feud between local landowner Rufus Henshaw and a group of rancher squatters led by Bert Flynn and Sam Baldwin. Although Alec declares that he no longer wants to carry a gun, he soon realizes that there are no other jobs available, and agrees to visit Jade that night. At dinner, Alec is attracted to Jade's daughter Caroline, but her disapproval of his past prompts her to spurn his advances. Later, Alec tries to convince Caroline that he can change, and when Jade points out that using a gun for law and order is very different from using it to kill for money, Alec accepts the job. Days later, he overhears Bert and Sam discuss their plans to hijack the wagons Henshaw has parked in town, loaded with wire with which he plans to erect fences on the range. Upon learning that Bert and Sam have sent Jade on an errand outside town, Alec warns Henshaw's guards of an imminent ambush, and uses his sharpshooting skills to keep the peace. In the saloon, Bert and Sam threaten Alec, forcing him to disarm and arrest Sam. In the sheriff's office, Caroline suggests that Henshaw may have left the wagons out deliberately to provoke an attack, and warns Alec that Henshaw will try to buy his loyalty. When Henshaw approaches him soon after, Alec rebuffs his proposition of a shady partnership. The next day, Jade informs Alec that Henshaw has hired notorious gunfighter Chet Swann, and together they visit Henshaw's ranch. There, Henshaw's mistress, Maria, recognizes Alec as a former boyfriend, and warns him to leave before the situation turns deadly. Jade tries to address Henshaw's legitimate concerns about the squatters' cattle rustling, but Henshaw dismisses the sheriff's argunment and offers him a high-paying job instead. That night, Swann visits Sam and his wife and, despite their hospitality, vows to kill them if they do not leave their land. Sam gathers his men and confronts Jade, who advises them to be patient but dons his own guns, knowing Swann will visit him next. Meanwhile, Alec finds Maria in his room, waiting to plead with him to flee town with her. Just as she opens her dress to reveal the bruises Henshaw has inflicted, Caroline walks in and assumes the two are having an affair. Later, in the sheriff's office, Alec counsels Jade to await Swann with a rifle, rather than trying to outdraw him with a pistol, but Jade refuses, considering it cowardly. As Swann enters town, Alec knocks Jade out to protect him from the confrontation. Alec faces Swann on the street with a shotgun, a choice that disappoints Chuck and Hughie but succeeds in deflecting Swann. When Alec returns to his room, however, Swann is there. The gunslinger takes Alec's pistol and offers him a partnership, declaring that the people of Durango will never forgive him for his past. Alec soon distracts Swann, recovers his gun and throws the outlaw out of the room. The next day, Henshaw and his henchmen announce that they will erect a fence the next afternoon and kill anyone who interferes. When they raise their guns, Jade and Alec, backed by the squatters, force Henshaw to retreat. Henshaw warns that Swann will be back to kill them, prompting Alec to scoff that Henshaw is afraid to fight his own battles. In response, Henshaw starts a fistfight, and after Alec wins, he places the rancher under arrest. Jade and Alec keep watch over the jail, waiting for Swann. Caroline confesses her love to Alec, begging him to leave with her before Swann arrives, but Alec explains that he must finish what he has started. Soon after, Swann appears, shoots Jade and grabs Caroline. Swann instructs Alec to drop the shotgun, after which he lets Caroline loose and instigates a gunfight with Alec. Although Swann manages to shoot Alec in the shoulder, Caroline shouts a warning that allows Alec to kill Swann. Soon after, Alec packs to leave. After explaining to Caroline and a recovering Jade that he cannot marry her until he has a job and a home, he promises to return, then rides off alone.

Directed by Jack Arnold  

Starring Rory Calhoun, Martha Hyer, Dean Jagger, Robert Middleton, Grant Williams, more...

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