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HISTORY

The film's working title was The Hanging Judge . Onscreen cast credits misspell Morris Ankrum's name as "Morrie Ankrum" and Elena Da Vinci as "Elena Di Vinci." The film is narrated by Chick Chandler as the character "'Shakey' Wilson," a piano-playing drunk. HR production charts incorrectly credit Speck Jones with photography. Modern sources add Bill Ward, Morry Ogden and Doris Simons to the cast. ... More Less

The film's working title was The Hanging Judge . Onscreen cast credits misspell Morris Ankrum's name as "Morrie Ankrum" and Elena Da Vinci as "Elena Di Vinci." The film is narrated by Chick Chandler as the character "'Shakey' Wilson," a piano-playing drunk. HR production charts incorrectly credit Speck Jones with photography. Modern sources add Bill Ward, Morry Ogden and Doris Simons to the cast. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Los Angeles Times
16 Aug 1956.
---
The Exhibitor
3 Apr 57
p. 4305.
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
The Hanging Judge
Release Date:
November 1956
Production Date:
late August--late September 1956 at Carthay Studio
Copyright Claimant:
Associated Film Releasing Corp.
Copyright Date:
12 November 1956
Copyright Number:
LP9249
Physical Properties:
Sound
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
69
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
18336
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In Mexico, Louis Salazar, the last remaining member of the Salazar family, hires American insurance agent Breen Mathews to transport the Salazar treasure across the border to the United States. The treasure was cursed by an Indian sorcerer after Louis’ father, Don Pablo, stole it from the Indians to finance a private army with which he hoped to overthrow the Mexican government. Ever since, the government has hunted down the family one by one, and now Louis is the lone survivor. As Louis and Breen race for the border, government troops converge on them, wounding Louis. Breen carries the injured Louis to a barn where, with his dying breath, Louis makes Breen promise to deliver the treasure to Teresa Morales, a distant cousin living in San Francisco. Following Louis’ wishes, Breen boards a stage headed north. The stage’s first stop is Topaz, a town dominated by a hanging judge named Cole and a crooked saloon owner named Joe Barnum. Barnum and Cole are engaged in a lucrative business arrangement in which Barnum sells his bar, then Cole sentences the new owner to hang, after which the bar reverts back to Barnum. When the stage carrying Breen arrives, Breen’s fellow passengers disembark. They are Louisa Jackson, niece of Sheriff Jim Jackson, who has come to sing at the saloon against his wishes, and Sonny Glenn, who has just bought the saloon from Barnum, and Sonny’s associate, Susan Stark. Because the chest containing the treasure is too big for a safe, Breen locks it in the jailhouse for safekeeping. As word of the treasure and its concomitant curse spreads through ... +


In Mexico, Louis Salazar, the last remaining member of the Salazar family, hires American insurance agent Breen Mathews to transport the Salazar treasure across the border to the United States. The treasure was cursed by an Indian sorcerer after Louis’ father, Don Pablo, stole it from the Indians to finance a private army with which he hoped to overthrow the Mexican government. Ever since, the government has hunted down the family one by one, and now Louis is the lone survivor. As Louis and Breen race for the border, government troops converge on them, wounding Louis. Breen carries the injured Louis to a barn where, with his dying breath, Louis makes Breen promise to deliver the treasure to Teresa Morales, a distant cousin living in San Francisco. Following Louis’ wishes, Breen boards a stage headed north. The stage’s first stop is Topaz, a town dominated by a hanging judge named Cole and a crooked saloon owner named Joe Barnum. Barnum and Cole are engaged in a lucrative business arrangement in which Barnum sells his bar, then Cole sentences the new owner to hang, after which the bar reverts back to Barnum. When the stage carrying Breen arrives, Breen’s fellow passengers disembark. They are Louisa Jackson, niece of Sheriff Jim Jackson, who has come to sing at the saloon against his wishes, and Sonny Glenn, who has just bought the saloon from Barnum, and Sonny’s associate, Susan Stark. Because the chest containing the treasure is too big for a safe, Breen locks it in the jailhouse for safekeeping. As word of the treasure and its concomitant curse spreads through town, the judge schemes with Barnum to steal the chest. Later, after Sonny makes his first payment on the saloon, Barnum warns that if he fails to pay the balance in six months, he will forfeit the property to Barnum. That night, when Sonny wins a hand of cards, Hartman, one of Barnum’s henchmen, accuses him of cheating. A fistfight breaks out between the men, and after Sonny pummels Hartman, Hartman is about to draw his gun when Sonny, a master with a knife, hurls a blade into Hartman’s arm. After Sonny goes upstairs to his room, Savage, another of Barnum’s thugs, asserts that the cards were marked and threatens to get even with Sonny. In an attempt to calm the hot-headed Savage, Breen agrees to accompany him to Sonny’s room to air the charges. When they knock on the door, however, Sonny, fearing that he will not get a fair hearing, climbs out the window and rides off. He is pursued by Breen and Savage, who apprehend him and bring him to the sheriff’s office. There they discover that the guard protecting the treasure has been killed and the chest is missing. At Sonny’s trial, the judge declares that the verdict will be determined by a show of hands. After Sonny enters a not guilty plea, Barnum, Savage and Hartman all testify that he is guilty of cheating, and the judge implies that he might also be guilty of murdering the guard. When the judge calls for all those assembled in the courtroom to raise their hands if they believe Sonny is guilty, the majority do so, after which the judge sentences Sonny to hang. The verdict makes Breen regret that he brought Sonny back to stand trial. Later, as the hangman encircles Sonny’s neck with a noose, Sonny puts a curse on all those who framed him. After the hanging, Barnum prepares to reclaim the saloon when Susan informs him that she is Sonny’s wife and therefore the rightful owner. Soon after, Louisa, who has started a casual romance with Breen, tells him that Susan has fired her and advised her to get married. As Breen kisses Louisa, the door swings open, impelled by a dead body that has been stabbed in the back. When Sonny’s accusers are killed one by one, rumors abound that the curse of Salazar has settled upon the town. One night, Weber, the undertaker, visits Barnum in his room. After Barnum leaves to get another bottle of whiskey, a shadowy figure hurls a knife into Weber’s back. Afterward, a jittery Barnum goes to see the judge, who informs him that he has stolen the Salazar chest and plans to leave town with it. Meanwhile, Breen, followed by a masked, shadowy figure, visits Louisa. When Louisa mentions that the judge has sent her uncle out of town on business, Breen begins to suspect that the judge is involved in the disappearance of the chest. In the sheriff’s office, meanwhile, Barnum and Cole push aside a desk, revealing an opening in the wall in which the chest is concealed. At that moment, Breen and Louisa enter the office, and the judge pulls a gun to disarm Breen while Barnum takes Louisa hostage. The masked figure then hurls a knife into Barnum’s back, allowing Breen to grab the gun and hand it to Louisa. When the figure rides off, Breen follows, and upon capturing the assailant, pulls off the mask, exposing Susan. With the murderer apprehended and the chest recovered, Breen tells Louisa that he has pledged to deliver the treasure to Teresa Morales in San Francisco. Shocked, Louisa discloses that Teresa was her mother. As the last member in the Salazar lineage, Louisa decides to return the treasure to its rightful owner, the Indians. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.