Cast & Crew
While presiding at the funeral of legendary gunfighter Billy the Kid, Reverend Jericho Jones chastises marshal Pat Garrett for killing his old friend Billy. After Billy's gun belt is draped over his headstone, the crowd disperses and Billy emerges from behind a tree, very much alive. Unknown to the mourners, Pat and Billy staged the killing so that Billy could start a new life as a peaceful homesteader. After saying goodbye to Pat, Billy heads for the town of Four Corners, where he has purchased a ranch under the name of Bill Antrum. Along the trail, Billy saves gunslinger Jack Slade from a group of hostile Indians. After Billy introduces himself as Bill Antrum, Slade explains that he is tracking Billy the Kid, whom he plans to challenge to a gunfight. When Billy informs Slade that the Kid is dead, Slade, disappointed at being deprived of another notch on his gun, rides with Billy to Four Corners. They arrive just as Colonel Jefferson Morgan, the corrupt founder of the town, shoots down newspaper editor McCloud because the editor had been advocating the annexation of Four Corners to Texas. Having pioneered the territory, Morgan believes it to be his rightful empire and has hired gunman Ace Jardin and several others to make sure it stays that way. While Slade hires on with Morgan, Billy remains in town to buy supplies for his ranch. Meanwhile, McCloud's daughter Elly carries on her father's campaign to win annexation in the upcoming election. Although Billy soon learns that Morgan's men are squatting on his ranch, he refuses to take sides on annexation. Soon after, Jericho and his wife Sarah arrive in town to conduct services. Shocked at discovering that Billy is still alive, Jericho wants to expose the outlaw, but Sarah persuades him to keep silent. At his ranch, Billy finds Slade, Jardin and Morgan's other henchmen playing a game of poker and orders them off his land. Feeling a debt of gratitude to Billy for his rescue from the Indians, Slade backs him up, and when Jardin draws his pistol in protest, Slade guns him down. Tonya, Jardin's feisty girl friend, stays behind and convinces Billy to hire her as his housekeeper. One day while delivering the newspaper, Ben, the McClouds' printer, is severely beaten by Morgan's men. When the people of Four Corners appeal to Jericho for help in their war against Morgan, Jericho asks Billy to intervene on their behalf, but he refuses to do so. After Elly voices her desire to find someone with the courage to stand up to Morgan, Jericho suggests that Billy might be such a man. When Elly asks for his help, however, Billy refuses to take sides and she leaves, angry and upset. Billy then fires Tonya for treating Elly with disrespect and drives her into town in his wagon. As Billy passes Jericho's tent, Jericho asks him to come in and talk and once again appeals to Billy to take up his guns in the fight against tyranny and oppression. Billy then speaks of the torment he has suffered leading the lonely life of a fugitive, a life to which he has vowed never to return. Undaunted, Jericho asks Billy to attend a prayer meeting the following Sunday. On Sunday, Morgan enters the tent and signals his men to disrupt the service and shoot up the newspaper office. In the wake of the violence, the Cavalry is called in to establish martial law. After arguing with Elly once more about confronting Morgan, Billy returns to his ranch to find his cabin in flames and Tonya, whipped and beaten. When Slade arrives to warn Billy to leave town, Billy refuses to stand up to him, disgusting Tonya, who asks Slade to take her back to Four Corners. On election day, as the townsfolk sheepishly mill around the voting booths, waiting for military protection, Morgan arranges for the Indians to ambush the troopers. Soon after, Morgan's men ride into town, pistols blazing, and shoot up the polling booths. When Billy arrives with news of the Cavalry massacre, Jericho, outraged, pulls out the gun belt he had salvaged from Billy's grave and threatens Morgan. After Slade coldly guns down Jericho, Billy straps on the guns, shoots Slade and then mows down Morgan and his thugs. As Elly hands out the ballots, Billy, wounded, mounts his horse and then collapses, after which Elly leads him away.
The working titles of this film were The Killer and 21 Men and Return of the Outlaw. The picture closes with the following written epilogue: "Some say Billy the Kid died by the blazing guns of Pat Garrett, others swear the story you have just seen is true. But all agree on one account. Billy was the fastest man with a gun that ever lived." Bob Steele's name was misspelled in onscreen credits as "Bob Steel." According to a February 1956 Los Angeles Times news item, location shooting was done at the Melody Ranch in Placerita Canyon of Newhall, CA. A February 1956 Daily Variety news item adds that Joe Sodja, who appeared as the printer "Ben," played guitar in Buddy Rogers' orchestra twenty years earlier. When Rogers, the film's producer, decided that he wanted guitar music for the film's score, he asked Sodja to write it and then sweetened the deal by offering him an acting role in the picture. For other films based on the character of Billy the Kid, see the entry for the 1941 M-G-M film Billy the Kid in AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50.
Released in United States Fall September 1957
Released in United States Fall September 1957