TO THE LAST MAN (THE LAW OF VENGEANCE) (director: Henry Hathaway; screenwriter: Jack Cunningham/based on a story by Zane Grey; cinematographer: Ben Reynolds; editor: Jack Scott; cast: Randolph Scott (Lynn Hayden), Buster Crabbe (Bill Hayden), Noah Beery (Jed Colby), Esther Ralston (Ellen Colby), Gail Patrick (Ann Hayden Stanley), Egon Brecher (Mark Hayden), Muriel Kirkland(Molly Hayden), Shirley Temple (Mary Stanley), Fuzzy Knight (Jeff Morley), Jack La Rue (Jim Daggs), Barton MacLane (Neil Stanley), Jay Ward (Lynn as a child), Delmar Watson (Tad Stanley), Harlan Knight (Grandpa Chet Spelvin), Eugenie Besserer(Granny Spelvin); Runtime: 70; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Harold Hurley; Foothill Video; 1933)
“Pretty darn-good B-western.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Henry Hathaway(“The Dark Corner”/”True Grit”/”Niagara”) directs this pretty darn-good B-western. It’s a Romeo and Juliet tale about two feudin’ backcounty Kentucky families. It’s based on a story by Zane Grey and is written by Jack Cunningham.
In 1865, at the end of the Civil War,the foreign-born Mark Hayden (Egon Brecher) returns home to Kentucky after being a captain in the Confederate army and vows to take his family west to get away from a bitter feud with the rival Colby clan. At home, the widower Mark learns his father-in-law (Harlan Knight) was killed by Jed Colby (Noah Beery) while hunting with his son Lynn (Jay Ward). Instead of going after Jed as his embittered mother-in-law (Eugenie Besserer) insists is tradition in these parts, Mark goes to the police. Jed is sent to prison for 15 years and plans his revenge when released in 1881. Jed partners with dangerous prison mate Jim Daggs (Jack La Rue) and tracks down patriarch Mark’s ranch in Grass Valley, Nevada. For a year Jed’s gang rustles Mark’s cattle and nothing is done about it, as Mark bend’s over backwards to avoid another clan war.
An adult Lynn (Randolph Scott) leaves Kentucky to join his father’s ranch outfit, and while riding near Grass Valley meets wild barefoot country girl Ellen Colby (Esther Ralston), Jed’s untamed daughter, and they fall in love. When Jed kills Mark’s other son Bill (Buster Crabbe), the bereaved dad is goaded to take action by Bill’s heartbroken widow (Muriel Kirkland) and goes alone to fight Jed at his ranch. But Jed gets the drop on him and kills him. This brings about a full-scale clan war. The Hanley clan are led into a trap by the treacherous Daggs, who dynamites the canyon without Jed’s knowledge. The blast causes a landslide and the only two survivors are a badly injured Lynn, who manages to reach Ellen at her ranch and is hidden in the attic, and a healthy sneering Daggs. The vile Daggs killed Jed and now comes courting Ellen. The weak Lynn musters all his strength to knife to death Daggs. It ends with Ellen and Lynn getting married, putting an end to the clan feud as Lynn becomes the last man standing.
REVIEWED ON 4/16/2011 GRADE: B