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Film / Last of the Wild Horses

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Last of the Wild Horses is a 1948 western film directed by Robert L. Lippert.

Drifter Duke Barnham finds himself in the middle of a budding range war in Jacksonville, Oregon between local land baron Charlie Cooper and the other smaller ranchers in the area over Cooper's prideful refusal to stop poaching mares from the local wild horse herd—a practice that would soon mean the end of the herd.

What no one knows is that the conflict is being secretly provoked by Cooper's ranch foreman, Riley Morgan, who plans to start a full on-war between the ranchers, then step in and buy up the lot when the law eventually rounded up the ranchers.

Can Duke, along with Cooper's daughter, Jane, female ranch hand Terry and Jack-of-All-Trades Remedy make Cooper see the light before tragedy strikes?note  Can they expose Riley's treachery?note 


For the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version, please go to the episode recap page.

This movie has examples of:

  • Action Girl: Terry and Jane both carry guns, with Terry being specifically pointed out as a tomboy. Jane also gets into a gunfight with Duke, and succeeds in wounding him in the shoulder.
  • Cold Opening: The opening shows scenes of the climatic fight between Duke and Riley.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The poster brags it's in "Glorious Sepiatone!" though a) it probably wasn't the producer's choice, and b) it's plain black and white, not sepia.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: When Remedy has trouble extracting Curly's tooth, the tomboyish Terry appears in something more feminine. Curly notices and then his tooth gets yanked out.
  • Evil Chancellor: Riley, of the Wild West flavor.
  • Funny Background Event:
    • Remedy has a lengthy conversation with Duke whilst preparing yank out Curly's bad tooth; the whole time, Curly sits between them, eyeing Remedy's dental "tool" nervously as Remedy waves it about. At one point he even tries to slip away, only for Remedy to grab him and set him back down without even pausing in his conversation.
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    • A mild one when Jane finds Duke's hiding place in the old barn loft. As she climbs up the ladder Duke and Terry pull guns on her; Duke relaxes upon recognizing her but Terry does not, leading to a moment or two of Duke trying to get Terry to put her gun away while Jane enters the loft.
  • Honor Before Reason: The entire conflict is pretty much fueled by Charlie Cooper's refusal to even compromise.
  • Lovable Rogue: Duke. The film works hard to make you forget that, in the film's opening scene, Duke would've robbed the stagecoach, had he not broken off to intercept Riley's men pursuing Terry. It helps when, upon being challenged by Remedy, Duke admits it would have been his first robbery.
  • Love Triangle: A mild one between Duke, Jane, and Terry. It's mostly one-sided on Terry's part; she's infatuated with him, while Duke makes clear he considers it a Precocious Crush.
  • Meaningful Name: Remedy. He fancies himself a doctor and dentist, though he's mostly self-taught and his medical knowledge is dubious at best.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Remedy and, more pertinently, Curly. (Remedy, at least, contributes to the plot.)
  • Police Are Useless: The Sheriff can't or won't do anything about the other ranchers' complaints, because Cooper pretty much holds his leash, a fact Riley uses to bully him into deputizing his henchmen. Of course, once Cooper is dead, the leash comes off, much to Riley's impotent displeasure.
  • Precocious Crush: Terry's infatuation with Duke is treated like this, as Duke considers her just a "kid."
  • Pride: Cooper refused to let anyone tell him what to do, even when his actions were clearly in the wrong. Said pride also leads to Cooper's death, as he confronts Riley and a henchman alone, rather than tell the sheriff what he'd heard or simply waited for backup.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Terry is a tomboy who almost exclusively wears men's clothing, to the point that it surprises Remedy (and Curly, serving as a distraction so Remedy could yank his tooth) when she turns up in a more feminine outfit to catch Duke's eye. Jane is considerably more feminine. While she does wear pants, they're billowy culottes that allow her to ride while still presenting the silhouette of a dress.