Lawman. Released August 1971; Directed by Michael Winner; 99 minutes; Cast: Burt Lancaster (Bannock Marshal Jared Maddox), Robert Ryan (Sabbath Marshal Ryan Cotten), Lee J. Cobb (Vincent Bronson), Robert Duvall (Vernon Adams), Sheree North (Laura Shelby), Albert Salmi (Harvey Stenbaugh), Richard Jordan (Crowe Wheelwright)
John McGiver (Sabbath Mayor Sam Bolden), Ralph Waite (Jack Dekker), John Beck (Jason Bronson).
Lawman is one of those movies that should be on every list of top Westerns. It’s classic in every sense of the term. The story starts out with several of Bronson’s cowboys shooting up the town of Bannock in a drunken revelry after a long trail drive. They get gathered up by Bronson and his right hand man Stenbaugh and all ride out of town. However, unknown to them, they left an old man dead by their errant shooting. Jared Maddox, the marshal of Bannock, soon arrives in the town of Sabbath looking for the killers so they can go back for trial. He has a list of names he is looking for and has already bagged one of the cowboys and brings this body and the list to the marshal of Sabbath. What Maddox didn’t count on was how completely rancher Vincent Bronson controls everything in Sabbath. Several attempts are made to talk Maddox out of his quest for justice but to no avail even though there is little likelihood of jail and that Bronson could very well bribe the jury in order to get his men out of trouble. Eventually Harvey Stenbaugh, his name being on the list, calls out Maddox and winds up dead on the street for his efforts. Now, after the loss of his best friend, Bronson becomes convinced that there is only one way to deal with Maddox and that is to take him out once and for all. There are several side plots that deal with Marshal Cotten, Sheree North–an old girlfriend of Maddox, and Vernon Adams, a small time rancher who attempts to kill Maddox but is captured instead. Maddox brings Adams into jail but then tells Cotten that he is going to leave town and not pursue the issue anymore. Although Bronson and his men have arrive in town Maddox almost makes it out of town without any shooting being necessary but when a shopkeeper attempts to back shoot Maddox all hell breaks loose.
This movie was filmed in Durango Mexico and has a wonderful authentic feel to the set–especially Branson’s ranch house. The plot, dialog and pacing of action kept me hooked and the final finale was amazing in so many ways. Read the reviews here on IMDb as there are many fine points that the film experts bring out. As far as role playing game tips I would just recommend that a solid villain for many westerns is the large scale rancher and his hired hands. In the cow towns these men ruled like feudal lords. When the lawman arrives or suddenly decides to keep the rancher under control this creates a spark for lots of action and gun play. One of the characters in this movie was a gunman named Choctaw. He worked as cowboy but was also employed buy Bronson for his ability with a six-shooter. Also interesting was how the marshal of one town arrived in another in order to track down the men on his list. With a little creativity this plot could be tweaked to pit one town against another.
I took some screenshots of the movie and they are posted below. They are mainly of the buildings.