(director: Budd Boetticher; screenwriters: from the book The Name is Buchanan by Jonas Ward/Charles Lang; cinematographer: Lucien Ballard; editor: Al Clark; cast: Randolph Scott (Tom Buchanan), Craig Stevens (Abe Carbo), Barry Kelley (Lew Agry), Tol Avery (Judge Simon Agry), Peter Whitney (Amos Agry), Manuel Rojas (Juan), L.Q. Jones (Pecos Hill), Robert Anderson (Waldo Peek), Joe De Santis (Esteban Gomez), William Leslie (Roy Agry), Don C. Harvey (Lafe); Runtime: 78; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Harry Joe Brown; Columbia Pictures; 1958)

“Absurd but witty minor Western.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

West Texas drifter Tom Buchanan (Randolph Scott) rides alone into a California border town called Agry Town, controlled by corrupt judge Simon Agry (Tol Avery) and his brother, the corrupt sheriff Lew Agry (Barry Kelley). Buchanan loudly lets sleazy overweight hotel owner Amos Agry (Peter Whitney), the third brother, know that he has a money-belt filled with money. Amos runs to tell the sheriff this. Meanwhile Buchanan is chomping down on a barroom steak after stopping the judge’s good-for-nothing son Roy from roughing up a woman at the bar and when Roy tries to hit him Buchanan knocks the punk out cold. Roy then gets liquored up and threatens to kill Buchanan, but a Mexican named Juan (Manuel Rojas) enters the saloon and forces a gun duel with Roy, because he raped his sister, and kills him. Lew and his gunmen rough up Juan and Buchanan tries to stop them, but is overtaken and arrested. The sheriff also robs the money-belt that has $2,000. The two go to trial with Simon presiding (talk about conflict of interest!), and the jury comes in with a verdict of not guilty for Buchanan and guilty for Juan. Since Juan comes from a wealthy prominent Mexican family from across the border, Simon makes a deal to free him for $50,000. But sneaky Amos overhears it and sells the info to Lew for a healthy slice of that payoff. Lew plans to hang Juan and steal the loot from Gomez, the Mexican foreman of the family ranch, bringing that money to Simon.

After Buchanan escapes from being murdered by Lew’s gunmen who escort him out of town, he rides back to get his money-belt, free Juan and recover the $50,000 stolen from Gomez. The climactic scene has the good guys and bad guys shooting it out for the money that lies in the dusty street (tremendous visual enactment of greed as motivation for crime). The film has such disgusting characters, that Simon’s gunman protector Carbo (Craig Stevens), a lesser corrupt figure, is nevertheless viewed as one of the town’s good guys because of his steadfast loyalty to the judge.

It’s all about greed and a rotten family that are so venal they even double-cross each other and are willing to kill family members without shedding a tear. Budd Boetticher (“The Tall T”/”Ride Lonesome”) directs this absurd but witty minor Western, a fine example of craftsmanship over substance. Charles Lang turns in the screenplay from the book The Name is Buchanan by Jonas Ward. The character of Buchanan comes from that series of novels. It’s filmed tongue-in-cheek, with a bewildered Randolph Scott never quite understanding why the brothers act the way they do.


REVIEWED ON 10/28/2005 GRADE: B+