In Ride The High Country once respected, now down-on-his luck lawman Steve Judd (Joel McCrea) accepts the job of transporting gold from a remote mining camp to a small town bank. Judd meets his former colleague Gil Westrum (Randolph Scott) who is now reduced to earning a living as a fairground side-show sharpshooter and Westrum and his young assistant Heck Longtree (Ronald Starr) agree to join Judd, planning to steal the gold en route. On the way to the mining camp they are joined by farmer’s daughter Elsa Knudsen, (Mariette Hartley), on the run from her fundamentalist father Joshua (R G Armstrong).
At the mining camp Elsa is married by a drunken judge (Edgar Buchanan) to her boyfriend, Billy, (James Drury), a member of a notorious outlaw gang. But when Billy and his brothers attempt to rape her, Elsa leaves the camp with Westrum, Judd and Longtree. Westrum and the now reluctant Longtree attempt to steal the gold. Then, in gunfights with Billy and his pursuing brothers, Judd is killed – but Westrum promises to see the gold safely to the bank.
If the storyline was hardly original the evocative presence and fine performances of the stars and Peckinpah’s sensitive and assured direction combined to produce what is now generally regarded as a Western classic. Although the film was a commercial failure in the USA, in Europe it became a major success, winning First Prize at the Cannes and Brussels film festivals and the Silver Goddess for Best Foreign Film at the Mexican Film Festival.
USA / MGM / 94 minutes / 1962 Filmed in Metrocolor and Cinemascope
Writer: N B Stone Jr / Music: George Bassman / Cinematography: Lucien Ballard / Director: Sam Peckinpah
Cast: Randolph Scott, Joel McCrea, Mariette Hartley,Ronald Starr, R G Armstrong, Edgar Buchanan, John Anderson, L Q Jones, Warren Oates
UK title: Guns in the Afternoon