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In the town of Warlock, the roughneck cowboys run supreme, having driven the law out of town or killed whomever tried to stop them. The locals feel threatened, so they turn to hired gunmen Clay Blaisdel (Henry Fonda) to bring law and order back to their dusty streets. Clay arrives with his best friend, crippled Tom Morgan (Anthony Quinn), and immediately start taking charge, but Morgan complicates things when he acts a sniper to shoot a man during a hold-up. Though his actions make it easier for Clay to arrest the stick-up men, Morgan pulled the trigger because his target might have held a grudge against Clay. The dead man was also in the company of Lily Dollar (Dorothy Malone), a woman who looms large over Clay's life. But after the robbers are arrested, Johnny Gannon (Richard Widmark) steps up to be the new deputy — something contested because his brother William (Frank Gorshin) is among the thieves. And when William challenges Clay to a duel, William's subsequent death ratchets up the tension as the town wonders how innocent Clay is, while Johnny romances Lily and tries to become the real sheriff of the town. Directed by Edward Dmytryk, 1959's Warlock is a surprisingly adult western, with the politics of gunplay taking center stage. For Clay, this line of work is a well-paying job, and he's been looked after unknowingly by Morgan (whose affections teeters so close to homosexuality that Fonda gets paired off with Dolores Michaels to keep those undercurrents from surfacing). Fonda gives a strong performance that hints at his about-face in Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West (1968); here he's skirting, playing the heavy by playing a dandified hired gunman. Quinn is also good as his "crippled" partner, but the film takes a turn by resting on Richard Widmark's shoulders. The script is sneaky in that way, since the beginning casts Widmark in the background with the ruffians, but his rejection of the criminal life is apparent. Ultimately, his story concerns Widmark's ability to finally stand up for himself, much like the dormant town. It's a smart film, well cast, and underappreciated. Fox presents Warlock in anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) and with a DD 2.0 stereo remix and the original mono soundtrack. The source-print is a little grainy, but the colors are good. Extras include a "Fox Movietone News" clip (1 min.) and trailers for this and other Fox westerns. Keep-case.

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