It starts with a gang led by Randolph Scott carrying out a daring robbery. Their target is a wagon carrying a gold shipment. The wagon has a military escort. The robbery is successful. The soldiers escorting the wagon are all killed.
But things are not what they appear to be. The robbery wasn’t carried out by bandits but by Confederate soldiers undertaking a daring mission. Randolph Scot’s characters isn’t an outlaw, he’s a major in the Confederate Army. The problem is that when they carried out the attack on the gold wagon the war had been over for a month, but they didn’t know that.
They do have the gold. The question is what to do with that gold. They didn’t steal it. They were acting under military orders. As far as they’re concerned they’re not thieves. But since they have the gold it might be better to keep it. If they ride into the nearest Union Army post to return the gold they’ll certainly be hanged. The Major isn’t sure that they’re justified in keeping the gold for themselves but (quite apart from the practical difficulties involved) he doesn’t relish the idea of handing it over to the Union Army. For the time being they’ll hold onto it.
And the Major has made sure that the men in the posse know about the gold. He figures it might be useful if those deputies are thinking more about gold than about catching outlaws.
As the Major expected the members of the posse are soon consumed by gold fever. That breeds dissension but it still doesn’t necessarily give the Major and his men the chance to escape.
There’s also simmering tension between the Major and his second-in-command, played by Lee Marvin. It’s fuelled by longstanding resentment and by gold and by that woman passenger, who happens to be young and pretty.
So there’s dissension on both sides.
This movie begins with stirring action scenes and it ends the same way. Huggins handles the action pretty well. He handles the psychological stresses equally well.
Umbrella Entertainment have released this movie on DVD in Region 4 in their excellent (and good value) Six Shooter Classics series. It gets a good transfer. It’s fullframe, which is the correct aspect ratio.
Hangman’s Knot is a fine little western. There’s enough action to satisfy any reasonable person but there’s a bit more to it than that. Highly recommended.