Cast & Crew
Howard H. Lang
During the days of the frontier, the lawless town of Melton is controlled by a group of cattle barons whose own laws and hired thugs bring fear to would-be homesteaders. Arriving from California is newsman Steve Harper, who has become the publisher and editor of The Argus , a local paper inherited from his late uncle. On the eve of his first edition, on which he is assisted by printer Bill Williams, Steve arouses the wrath of town boss Ross Rankin when he refuses to pull an editorial critical of Rankin and his confederates, Hank Osborne and Duffy Miller. Bill's daughter Madge invites Steve to dinner along with Osborne's son Tim, who takes an immediate dislike to Steve, and later, Steve returns to his office while Madge and Tim go to the Osborne ranch for a small party. When local Pete Worden dances with Madge, Tim becomes jealous and, gathering together a group of ruffians including Miller's son, Lefty, inflicts his own form of justice on Pete. Steve, having refused a second bribe from Rankin, brazenly uses a $100 bill, part of the bribe money, to light his cigar in front of Rankin and his cohorts. After aiding the injured Pete, who was dumped in front of his hotel, Steve is visited by Pete's uncle Ed, who informs him of the floggings and brandings which Rankin's gang inflicts on those who cross them. Bernie Cummins, one of Rankin's men, overhears Pete talking to Steve, and realizing that Steve is about to write a story about the gang's atrocities, Rankin offers to buy the paper. Steve refuses and returns to his office more convinced then ever that his story must be told, while Madge, fearing for her father's safety because he has already been branded by the gang, begs him not to print the paper. As Bill and Madge depart, Tim Osborne enters Steve's office and demands that he retract the article. After losing a fistfight to Steve, Tim convinces the sheriff to disarm him and arrest him for assault and battery. Steve is subsequently handed over to Rankin's men, who take him and Ed to Judgement Rock, the locale where the gang's punishment is meted out and recorded in the "Judgement Book," a tome which also lists the transgressions not tolerated by the gang. After Steve is condemned to be branded on the chest and Ed is flogged, Steve is told that his uncle died of heart failure while awaiting punishment. Once freed, Steve quickly learns the lay of the land, so that he may hide while plotting the destruction of the gang, and also manages to steal the Judgement Book. In order to retrieve the book, Rankin kidnaps Bill and suggests that Madge find Steve and convince him to relinquish the book. Reluctantly Steve agrees to give it up, but not before he copies down the names of the ranchers who have been victimized by Rankin, hoping that they will rise up against the gang. After Bill's release, Tim and Lefty confront Steve in his office, and he kills them both when they pull their guns on him. Rankin double-crosses Steve by recapturing Bill and taking him to Judgement Rock, but Steve diverts the gang from the punishment of Bill by starting a shootout, while Madge rides off to organize the victimized ranchers. In the fight which ensues between the ranchers and the gang, Rankin, Osborne and Miller are killed, and the others are captured and ordered to leave the community. Bill plans a new story for the first edition of his paper, an article announcing his engagement to Madge.
Howard H. Lang
According to modern sources, the cast also included Francis Walker and Edward Clayton.