A lesser, but typically fine Western from Anthony Mann ’s great run of ‘50s ‘horse operas.’ This one comes with liberal helpings of SHANE/'53 and HIGH NOON/'52, but is none the worse for that. Anthony Perkins (fresh from playing Gary Cooper ’s son in FRIENDLY PERSUASION) now gets Coop’s lone sheriff role, except he’s a greenhorn at the job and needs tutoring from Henry Fonda’s bounty hunter/stranger-come-to-town. Meanwhile (here's the SHANE part), Hank’s got a little kid tagging along after him and a blonde gal fallin’ for him. Heck, I'm not complainin', just how many Western story templates are there anyway? Two? Three? One?* By the time we're all wrapped up, everybody learns lessons, the town is cleaned up, justice is served, and for a climax, Fonda gets one of those great ‘star’ moments. This one with a real star in it.
*SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: And the answer is . . . One: Stranger Comes To Town. Jean Renoir once said that he always wanted to direct a Western, 'because they are all the same. Which means that as an artist, you have complete freedom.' Maybe it's not such a screwy thought, after all.