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Film / Hangman's Knot

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Hangman's Knot is a 1952 American Western film written and directed by Roy Huggins and starring Randolph Scott, Donna Reed and Lee Marvin.

In 1865, a troop of Confederate soldiers led by Major Matt Stewart (Scott) attack the wagon of gold escorted by Union cavalry and the soldiers are killed. The only wounded survivor says that the war ended one month ago, and the group decides to take the gold and meet their liaison who that knew that the war ended but did not inform the troop. The harsh Rolph Bainter (Marvin) kills the greedy man, and the soldiers flee in his wagon driven by Major Stewart. When they meet a posse chasing them, Stewart gives wrong information to misguide the group; however, they have an accident with the wagon and lose the horses. They decide to stop a stagecoach and force the driver to transport them, but the posse returns, and they are trapped in the station with the passenger. They realize that the men are not deputies and have no intention to bring them to justice but take the stolen gold.


  • Attempted Rape: Rolph Bainter forces nurse Molly Hull up against the wall and attempts to force himself on her. Her scream brings Major Stewart who settles matters with his fists.
  • Blasting It Out of Their Hands: On hearing the Union captain's empty pistol click, Jamie spins and shoots the gun out of hand. He later repeats the trick when Rolph attempts to draw on the Major.
  • Closest Thing We Got: Molly, a Union army nurse, operates to remove the bullet from Egan's back. Justified, as she is a Civil War veteran who would have a lot of experience with battlefield surgery and specifically removing bullets.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The action unfolds over 2-3 days. (It's not clear exactly how long Major Stewart and his men spend travelling after Peterson is killed, but it can't be more than a day or so.)
  • Inconveniently Vanishing Exonerating Evidence: A self-inflicted version occurs when Psycho Party Member Rolph Bainter shoots and kills the Confederate officer who betrayed them, but who was also the only one who could have testified that they were acting under orders and did not know the war was over when they massacred the pay train and stole the gold shipment.
  • Medicine Show: Undercover Confederate army agent Captain Peterson is posing as a patent elixir salesman and traveling in a medicine show wagon. After he is killed, Major Stewart and his men use the wagon for their own cover while traveling.
  • New Meat: The fresh-faced Jamie Groves who has never killed a man.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Following Bainter's Attempted Rape of Molly, there is a brutal fistfight between him and Major Stewart with not a single word exchanged.
  • Not Afraid to Die: After almost being lynched, Cass throws himself on top of a trapdoor to keep the Posse from coming through it, despite the risk of being shot. When Major Stewart points out how dangerous that was, Cass replies that when he had the rope around his neck, he gave himself up for dead, and he guesses he still isn't over it. Later, he sneaks out of the station to attempt to scatter the posse's horses, despite Stewart telling him it is too dangerous. He is spotted and gunned down by the posse.
  • Posse: Major Stewart and his troops are chased by group of drifters posing as a posse who intend to kill the Rebs and keep the gold for themselves.
  • Psycho Party Member: Rolph Bainter's solution to every problem is to try to shoot it. He intends to shoot the unarmed and wounded Union captain, does gun down their treacherous liaison officer, and keeps threatening to shoot the hostages. He is barely kept in line by Major Stewart, and steps completely over it when he attempts to rape Molly.
  • Rank Scales with Asskicking: Major Stewart proves his fitness to command The Remnant by laying a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown on Psycho Party Member Rolph Bainter after Bainter's Attempted Rape of Molly.
  • The Remnant: A Confederate Major and his troops are falsely led to believe the Civil War is not over, and become wanted men after they attack a Union Army wagon train in Nevada.
  • Tragic Bigot: Mrs. Harris hates all Confederates because both her husband and son were killed fighting in the Civil War.
  • Troubled Sympathetic Bigot: Mrs. Harris is a Tragic Bigot who regards all Confederate soldiers as butchers because she lost her husband and her only son fighting for the Union in the Civil War. However, she starts to see the similarities between the New Meat Confederate soldier Jamie, who joined up after seeing his family killed and their farm burned to the ground during Sherman's March to the Sea, and her son. By the end of the film, her attitudes have changed, and she and her father offer Jamie a place on their property if he wants it, saying no one who is looking for him will ever find him there. Jamie accepts, vowing to return once he has officially surrendered and discharged himself for the Confederate army.
  • We Have to Get the Bullet Out!: Egan is shot In the Back by the posse and badly wounded. After the troop and the hostages are holed up in the stage station, Molly, who used to be a nurse in the Union army, operates on him to extract the bullet: saying that she is doing so not because she wants to help the Confederates, but because she is a nurse and has no choice.
  • What a Drag: The leader of the renegade Posse is last seen being dragged away into the storm by his panicked horse with his foot caught in the stirrup.