John Wayne once called this the most Un-American film he'd ever seen because he didn't like it's subtext which was very critical of McCarthyism and red-baiting during the Red Scare. Looking at the film now, yes, you can still see shades of that social commentary, but its impact has waned some over the years. However, it is still nevertheless an absolutely fantastic story of one man standing up against unfavorable odds while no one else will stand alongside him.
What makes it even more great is the fact that somehow the film manages to keep the tension at a very high boil all the way through up to and including it's suspenseful climactic showdown. Also, it does all this, gets the point across, and has it all wrapped up in just under 90 minutes, but still provides wonderfully written and developed chasracters. Bravo.
Marshal Will Kane is on the verge of retiring from his position as head lawman in the town of Hadleyville. Just minutes after getting married to his Quaker bride Amy, his packing for his honeymoon is interrupted when news gets out that a man he put away back in the past has just been released, and is on his way to Hadleyville to rendezvous with three of his henchmen to get his vengeance on Will.
Faced with some tough decisions about how to deal with all of this and decide which direction his life should take, Will finds himself all alone as everyoen he turns to ends up being cowardly and unwilling to help him out in what could very well be his most dire time of need.
All in all, this is a superb western. It's wonderfully written, unbelievably taut and gripping all the way through, and not onyl does it feature Grace Kelly's first major role, it also is the film debut of a young Lee Van Cleef. Gary Cooper is great in the lead, and there's some nice work from Lloyd Bridges and Lon Chaney Jr. as well.
WIth some good music, excellent, cinematography, and fairly sharp direction, this routine story is brought to life and made fresh and memorable. It's a bummer the subtext has lost some of its impact over time, but I do applaud it for being something risky at a time when being critical of the Red Scare was something to tread lightly around.
Definitely give this one a watch. It's one of the top westerns ever, and just one heck of a memorable ride.