Clint Walker stars as an old gunslinger named Cain in this 1968 western. At the beginning, he’s been in prison for eighteen years for murder. He breaks up an escape attempt by his cellmate, who’s brother, Luke Santee(Mike Henry), and a couple of others had entered the prison hidden in coffins. Santee is the only one who escapes alive.
That, along with his good behavior, earns him an early release.
Cain wants nothing more to do with guns, wants to earn an honest living. It’s hard to hide from his past though, the infamous “Killer” Cain with the twelve notches on his gun. Finding work is hard. When people learn who he is, the job is usually over. Then a man gives him two dollars, with a promise of two more, to deliver a wagon load of goods to a mine.
It’s a set-up though. Luke Santee and some of his men are waiting in the mine. They beat him, rob him, and leave him alive, “so we can do it again,” said Santee.
Cain comes stumbling into a ghost town and finds a young woman, Monica Alton(Anne Francis), there who’s an artist. He helps her load her supplies and she treats him to dinner.
Next he encounters Dan Ruffalo’s Shooting Show and Ruffalo(Vincent Price) offers him a job working in the show. Refusing at first, he finally agrees. Ruffalo even has his old gun that he won in a poker game.
The shootist he has is named Billy who, as the old saying goes is “still wet behind the ears.” Good with a pistol, he worships Cain at first, wishing he’d been born twenty years ago in the good old days. The 1890s were to tame. Cain can’t convince him that there was no such thing as the good old days.
Quickly the infamous Killer Cain becomes the star of the traveling show, commanding more attention and bigger crowds, thus a larger cut of the money. Billy becomes jealous. When they hit the town where Cain had his last shootout, which put him in prison, the old Sheriff he’d wounded, and put out of business, still lived there. A confrontation follows, with Billy egging it on, and Cain walks away, drifting once more.
Monica Alton turns up once more, this time living on a ranch. It’s easy to see the pair have feelings for each other. They make a deal for him to rent the ranch and develop a head of cattle. Once again his past confronts him when he tries to get a loan for a seed herd. Too proud to take a loan from Monica, he leaves and returns to Ruffalo to make some money, which doesn’t sit well with Billy.
I though I knew where this one was headed, but a couple of different plot twists fooled me. The ending was a complete surprise. I liked this one, being a Clint Walker fan from his Cheyenne days.
Worth a look.