Made between Johnny Guitar and Rebel Without a Cause, Ray's second Western lacks the baroque, bizarre excesses of his first, and the intensely troubled romanticism of the Dean film. Despite its superficially conventional plot, however, its theme is again the gulf between generations: Cagney rides into town with Derek, whom he has only just met, only to be mistaken for train-robbers. Before the error is recognised, the boy is crippled by a bullet, provoking his bitter slide into delinquency while his surrogate father accepts a job as sheriff. The situations may be the stock ones of deception, betrayal and revenge, but the film is rare in Ray's work in that it focuses not on the youth but on Cagney, who attempts to curb his own anger at the injustices he has suffered. Despite the violence of certain scenes, it's a strangely gentle, even poignant Western, and Ray's sensitive handling of actors and his exact compositional sense are as much in evidence as ever.
Cast and crew