(1973) Alone with a warrant for the arrest of three bank robbers, US marshal out of Baird, Texas, J.D. Cahill (John Wayne) first asks of the five armed men around a campfire at night in the snow: "Any of you want to surrender?" Apparently not, resulting in a shootout, making for three wounded prisoners and two corpses. Cahill also gets another slug in the shoulder.
By turns comic, corny, and killingly melodramatic with a score by Elmer Bernstein, this western movie directed by Andrew V. McLaglen from a screenplay by Harry Julian Fink and Rita M. Fink, adapting Barney Slater's story, concerns a widowed, absentee father and his two wayward sons ("slight negligence" in their upbringing). Seventeen-year-old Daniel Cahill (Gary Grimes) has fallen in with hired-hand Struther (Morgan Paull), a young man whom J.D. took custody of, and his desperado pals - Abe Fraser (George Kennedy) and Brownie (Dan Vadis) - to rob the bank with the help of eleven-year-old Billy Joe Cahill (Clay O'Brien).
Struther reminds Danny: "That cranky old cowhand Denver (Denver Pyle) has been more of a pa to you than J.D." When J.D. returns to town with his prisoners, he discovers that Sheriff Ben Grady and his deputy Jim Kane have been killed, the bank's been robbed, the Simpson stable has been on fire, and his older son's locked up in the jail with Struther and two others for being drunk and disorderly.
Released from the cell, Dan reluctantly greets his parent: "Only sometimes it's hard to remember when the last time you showed up was." The posse organized by acting-sheriff Hank Gordine (Harry Carey Jr) could find no trace of the bandits' tracks, and there are no strangers in town other than those inside the jail.
After deputizing Danny, J.D. hires his friend Chief Lightfoot (Neville Brand), half Comanche, as a tracker: "I'll track. Any killing, you do it. Might be friends of mine." (As were the fellows J.D. caught earlier.)
When J.D. finds and arrests four suspicious men with money they claim they'd relieved from a Mormon drover in New Mexico, Danny offers: "I don't think they did it." Nevertheless, the marshal brings in his captives for trial where they're found guilty by judge and jury.
"Even them that hates him, admire him," Lightfoot tells Danny: "He cares." Meanwhile, Fraser demands from Billy Joe the location of where the money's hidden. Jackie Coogan as town drunk Charlie Smith stumbles into a scene while Marie Windsor has the role of Hetty Green, who takes care of Billy Joe (who suspects she's sweet on his dad) while J.D. and Daniel are away.
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