But now to the pièce de résistance. It is always risky to designate as a personal favorite a movie not seen in decades. The very designation is inherently slippery. Such a movie is asked to hold the hill against the challenges of dozens, hundreds, a thousand. And any one movie can do only so much. No one movie can civilize a desert island. So let me first remove the burdensome designation and then say simply that I was amazed at how well I remembered every foot of From Hell to Texas, that I have now watched the DVD of it three times, and that the movie comes as close to perfection, in a certain bygone Hollywood tradition, as a movie can come. Admittedly it falls short of perfection when the hero, to appease the attacking Comanches, cuts loose two horses tied to the back of the rumbling covered wagon, and then in the next scene rides into Socorro astride one of the horses he had cut loose. (Is there a missing scene that might account for this? The running time of the DVD comes up a few minutes shy of the official 100.)
A manhunt Western, plainly titled Manhunt in Great Britain, it begins in medias res, with six riders, behind a shielding herd of horses, descending upon a lone cowpoke and his lame mount. The cowpoke, pumping his Winchester into the ground, turns the herd against the riders, one of whom is trampled to the sill of death’s door and not long afterward crosses the threshold. It all gets sorted out in short order. The cowpoke has been blamed for the knifing death of a man at a schoolhouse dance. The casualty of the stampede was the dead man’s brother. A third brother remains standing, a punkish Dennis Hopper. Their father, R.G. Armstrong in the performance of his life, is a self-made land baron, first name of Hunter, who now heads up the avenging posse: “That saddle tramp has come close to washing my mark out.” We also find out firsthand that this saddle tramp, while he wears no six-gun, is a crack shot with a rifle.