"Hangman's Knot" is one of Randolph Scott's many Westerns for Columbia Pictures.
It has an extraordinary cast - Randolph Scott, of course, Donna Reed, Claude Jarman, Jr., Lee Marvin, Richard Denning, Jeanette Nolan and a lot of fine character actors like Frank Faylen.
It's a very tight, lean Western about a group of Confederate soldiers who are sent off to steal a
Yankee gold shipment - and these guys do it, too, and then are told that the war has been over for a month.
While they realize that they would now be branded criminals - and while they are hunted down by greedy bad men who are pretending to be a posse - they hole up at a way station which literally becomes a hell on earth for them.
It reminds me a bit of Jean Paul Sartre's "No Exit" - there really isn't any place to go and people don't do well together in closed spaces.
The most interesting relationship in the film is the one between Randolph Scott and Claude Jarman, Jr. - Jarman, Jr. is a very inexperienced kid, he's never really killed anybody before - and Scott takes this kid under his wing and tries to protect him from the god-awful environment.
When Jarman, Jr. is forced to kill Marvin's totally depraved character, it is really a moment of startling, deep drama.
In fact, Jarman, Jr. doesn't even seem capable of processing what he has just done.
There's a lot of violence, but Randolph Scott and Claude Jarman, Jr. do survive.
And, interestingly enough, they ride off - together.
A deep relationship has been forged.
The director, Roy Huggins, I believe, does a very credible job of creating a hell on earth, which does not seem to have an escape for anybody.
It's more than threatening, it's scary - and the fact that Scott and Jarman, Jr. survive is a very surprising revelation.
Matt and Jaime - a journey that seems like the beginning of the end -