From Hell to Texas (Hathaway, 1958)
This review contains spoilers (2nd paragraph).
A simple young protagonist, being irrationally hunted for something that was no fault of his own, finds himself camping one evening in the company of a friendly old man and his daughter. The curiously aggressive young lady tries to reel him in romantically as he bashfully balks at every turn. Already Hathaway is defining an atypical western male protagonist. He furthers this deviation more seriously when the young man speaks frankly about killing being enough to sicken a man. Viewers are challenged to drop their existing expectations of the genre ‘rules’, and recognize the true brutality of the violent actions.
And after the dust has settled and the film’s central pursuit has ended, the hunter approaches the young man and admits he will find himself in hell for his actions. The response he receives from the young man is a quick, candid acknowledgement of this truth. And why not? During his pursuit, to protect his life and the lives of those who show him kindness along the way, the hunted man is forced to fight and kill, and will forever live under the shadow of these deeds, forced upon him when his back was against the wall. The film’s bloated final scene may be a happy gathering of smiling faces with the young man and lady together at last, but the visible exhaustion of the scene prior is a much better representation of the film’s final tone and what it means for the protagonist going forward. 9/10