A group of outlaws arrive at a small town called Bitters and hold them up. The leader, Captain Bruhn, keeps the others in check, but is wounded and the rest of his group have their eyes on the women and liquor.
The opening is quite weak, but sets up the story; Blaise Starrett’s former lover, Helen, has married a farmer, Hal. Helen offers to renew their affair if he promises not to kill Hal. Just as things are coming to a head, Bruhn and his outlaws hold up the town. Once Bruhn arrives the film really picks up.
Unusual for westerns (which I generally greatly dislike), the characters are strong and interesting. The actors are all solid, though I felt Robert Ryan was a weak lead and didn’t really fit the part. The dialogue at times felt stiff, but this was mostly in the beginning.
I do have a thing for snowy westerns and I think the feeling of isolation and bleakness was done well. For the 1950s, it’s somewhat dark and although I might’ve liked it had it been a tad darker, I did like the general mood and tone of the film. It built tension fairly well, though it was nothing exceptionally gripping. The ending was pretty cool as well.
Although it’s not great, it is a very good film that is definitely worth a watch. Especially for fans of snowy westerns and tense character pieces. The highlights for me were the bleak atmosphere and the interesting bunch of characters. The outlaws weren’t just stereotypical bad guys, you really felt they were bad and dangerous. It’s one of the rare westerns that doesn’t come across as stilted and shallow.