Famed anonymous director Alan Smithee (in this case a hybrid of Richard Totten and Don Siegel), directed this turgid western drama concerning Marshal Frank Patch (Richard Widmark), who, even though he has kept the peace in Cottonwood Springs for over twenty years, is now considered a local joke by the town liberals who want some new blood in the Marshall's Office. They get it when Patch shoots the drunken Luke Mills (James Lydon) in self-defense. Now the forces of progress really want Patch out. So much so that the local newspaper editor, Andrew Oxley (Kent Smith) demands his resignation. Patch not only refuses to quit but disgraces Oxley so badly in front of his son Will (Mercer Harris) that Oxley kills himself. Will is now out for blood, but Patch remains stoic, even when his old friend Lou (John Saxon) comes to town to advise him to quit. Patch refuses Lou's suggestion but decides to marry Claire (Lena Horne), the owner of the local saloon and whore house. But an uninvited guest attends the wedding ceremony --Will. And both Will and his gun are loaded.