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Warlock (1959)

aka Warlock

Directed By: 
Written By:  Writer details not available
Details: 122 mins · English


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Warlock is a small Utah mining town of the early 1880s. A group of local cowboys led by Abe McQuown (Tom Drake) often comes into town to shoot the place up, kill on just a whim, and beat up and humiliate any lawman who tries to stand up to them.

The Citizens' Committee decides to hire Clay Blaisedell (Henry Fonda), a renowned gunfighter, as town marshal in spite of the misgivings of some, such as old Judge Holloway (Wallace Ford) who insists that the situation should be handled within the law (though he admits that a loophole prevents it from being done effectively). Blaisedell is famous for his golden-handled guns.

Blaisedell arrives with his devoted friend, Tom Morgan (Anthony Quinn), his hero-worshiping, club footed, right-hand, who is no slouch with a gun himself. Morgan has a reputation as a heavy drinking gambler, but Blaisedell insists that Morgan is part of the package. They even take over the local saloon and rename it the "French Palace" (something they appear to have done in previous towns, since they bring the signboard with them).

Their first encounter with McQuown's men is without bloodshed, though the cowboys are humiliated and one of them, Johnny Gannon (Richard Widmark), stays behind. He has been put off by the gang's activities for some time now and resolves to be more law-abiding.

Some time later Morgan learns that his old flame, Lily Dollar (Dorothy Malone), is coming to town on the stagecoach, and she is accompanied by Bob Nicholson (Sol Gorss), brother of Big Ben Nicholson, who was recently killed by Blaisedell. Lily had left Morgan for Big Ben and knows that Morgan pushed Ben into challenging Blaisedell, who killed him as a result.

Morgan sets out to meet the stagecoach which is being ambushed by some of McQuown's men as he watches from a distance. He takes advantage of the situation to kill Bob Nicholson unseen. Lily arrives in town and sees Morgan there. She believes that he pulled the trigger, although this is based on intuition rather than evidence.

The robbers are arrested, sent to Bright City for trial, and subsequently cleared by a jury intimidated by McQuown. In the meantime, the Bright City sheriff, who disapproves of Blaisedell, appoints Johnny Gannon as official deputy. Although he was once a thug himself, Gannon takes his law enforcement duties seriously.

The scene is set for a number of confrontations between Gannon, Morgan, Blaisedell, and the McQuown gang.

Wanting revenge for their arrests, the released robbers, led by Johnny Gannon's brother Billy (Frank Gorshin), go to Warlock to confront Blaisedell and Morgan. The deputy urgently asks them to leave, and tells Billy, "I ain't backin' him, because you're my brother, and I ain't backin' you, because you're wrong." The outlaws proceed to provoke Blaisedell, and he kills two, including Billy. Soon after, the remaining outlaws try to give themselves legitimacy by posting notices declaring themselves "regulators," mocking Blaisedell's quasi-legal status as hired marshal in a town where a sheriff and deputies theoretically enforce the law.

What is more, some of the inhabitants are getting tired of Blaisedell and Morgan, something which, based on previous experience, the pair had predicted would happen. Blaisedell, however, has started a relationship with local girl Jessie Marlow (Dolores Michaels) and decides to marry and settle down, much to the surprise of Morgan, who wants to move on to another town and insists that Clay is nothing without him.

Gannon, with some assistance from townsfolk, unexpectedly manages to break up the gang without the help of Blaisedell, who was kept away from the fight at gunpoint by Morgan. It appears that Warlock has outgrown its need for the two gunfighters, but Morgan cannot tolerate the idea that Gannon is now more of a hero than Blaisedell. In the course of an argument, Blaisedell learns the truth about the deaths of the Nicholson brothers, and turns his back on Morgan, who resorts to drinking.

That evening, in a drunken state, Morgan shoots up the town and calls for Gannon, but the deputy is locked into his own cell by Blaisedell who insists that "Tom Morgan's my responsibility". Morgan has insisted that he was always covering Blaisedell's back in almost all their confrontations with their enemies, and that he is the better gunman. To prove his point he shoots off Blaisedell's hat, and the other, on instinct, shoots back, killing Morgan. Satisfied that Blaisedell is a hero again, Morgan's dying words are "I won, Clay, I won!"

The grief-stricken Blaisedell carries his friend's body into the saloon which, to the sound of thunder in the sky, he burns down, giving Morgan a "Viking funeral". The humiliated Gannon tells Blaisedell that he will arrest him in the morning if he does not leave town.

After what has happened, Blaisedell can't face staying in Warlock and decides to leave anyway. Jessie, however, won't accompany him. She insists that she is no Tom Morgan. Lily Dollar, for her part, looks as if she takes little satisfaction in finally getting her revenge. She has in the meantime taken up with Gannon.

The next day Gannon and Blaisedell face one another, the latter wearing his famous golden-handled guns. Blaisedell outdraws Gannon, but then throws his guns into the sand, smiles at Gannon, mounts his horse, and leaves town.

Release Dates:

Theatrical : 1959-04-01 : United States of America