One of the best of the Boetticher/Scott Westerns, bleaker but not too distant in mood from the autumnal resignation of Peckinpah's Ride the High Country, as Scott's ageing lawman lets time catch up with him and foregoes (even as he achieves) the vengeance he had planned on the man who hanged his wife so long ago that the killer, taxed with it, says 'I 'most forgot'. It's deviously structured as an odyssey of cross-purposes in which Scott captures a young gunman (Best) and proceeds to take him in, ostensibly for the bounty on his head. Actually, Scott hopes to lure Best's brother (Van Cleef), the man who killed his wife, into a rescue bid; two outlaw buddies (Roberts and Coburn) tag along, biding their time, desperate to collect the amnesty that goes with Best's capture; the presence of a pretty widow (Steele) stokes a measure of sexual rivalry; and there are Indians about. Beautifully scripted by Burt Kennedy, with excellent performances all round as the characters evolve through subtly shifting loyalties and ambitions, it's a small masterpiece.
Cast and crew
Lee Van Cleef