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Film / Shoot-Out at Medicine Bend

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Shoot-Out at Medicine Bend is a 1957 Western film directed by Richard L. Bare and starring Randolph Scott, James Craig, and Angie Dickinson.

Three army veterans, just mustered out of the service, are going to one of the men's brother's ranch on their way West. Just as they arrive, Indians attack the ranch and kill the brother. The brother was killed because he was using faulty ammunition that did not fire. Buck Devlin, whose brother was killed, vows to find the men responsible for the crime. His two buddies, John Maitland and Wilbur Clegg, accompany him.

Tropes used in Shoot-Out at Medicine Bend include:

  • Bad Habits: Following a Gone Swimming, Clothes Stolen incident, the three soldiers are provided with new garb by a band of Brethren. After arriving in town and determining the situation, Devlin decides it is worthwhile to continue masquerading as pacifist Brethren.
  • Bound and Gagged: When Devlin breaks into Nell's bedroom to steal her jewellery, he leaves her bound and gagged on the bed.
  • Chairman of the Brawl: When Devlin is chasing Clark up the stairs in the Emporium during the final fight, Clark throws several chairs at him in desperation.
  • Delegation Relay: A Running Gag has Captain Devlin giving an instruction to Sergeant Maitland, who immediately repeats it to Private Clegg. Clegg then grouses about it, but goes off to do it anyway. In the final iteration of the joke, as the wagons are about to pull it, Maitland goes to repeat the order to Clegg, only to discover Clegg is not there.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Using a Kangaroo Court to hang two innocent men turns out to be a step to far for Dirty Cop Sheriff Massey, and allows Nell to persuade him to turn against his boss Eb Clark.
  • Gone Swimming, Clothes Stolen: When the three soldiers take a swim in the river to clean up, bandits steal not only their clothes, but also their horses and all of their gear.
  • Hand Gag: Nell catches Devlin breaking into her bedroom and threatens to scream. Devlin first of all uses his hand to gag her, before leaving her Bound and Gagged on the bed.
  • Hand-or-Object Underwear: Following the Gone Swimming, Clothes Stolen incident, the three soldiers arrive in the Brethren camp wearing a horse blanket (Devlin), a towel (Maitland), and a clump of branches (Clegg).
  • Hanging by the Fingers: Devlin falls into the Pit Trap in Clark's office, but he manages to grab hold of the lip of the trap and slowly haul himself out.
  • Heel–Face Turn: It turns out that hanging innocent men is a step too far for Sheriff Massey. After the Kangaroo Court sentences Maitland and Clegg to hang, it only takes little pushing from Nell to get him to do the right thing and release them. He then joins the crusade to bring down Eb Clark. Briefly.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: After knocking Devlin off the mezzanine, Clark has him dead to rights as he is lying on the floor stunned. Clark grabs a rifle and attempts to finish Devlin off. However, in his haste, he loads the rifle with the same defective shells he sold Devlin's brother, and which caused the brother's death. Devlin explains this as he gets up as Clark keeps jerking the trigger with nothing happening.
  • In the Back: Sanders shoots Sheriff Massey in the back when he catches the sheriff releasing Maitland and Clegg from their cell.
  • In Vino Veritas: Clark tells Nell to interrogate Clegg and find out if he and his two companions were ever in the cavalry. She does this by getting him drunk. While drunk, Clegg blabs absolutely everything; from the fact that they've just mustered out of the army to the secret shipment of goods King has coming in.
  • I Own This Town: Eb Clark controls just about all of Medicine Bend. He has the sheriff and the mayor in his pocket, and owns most of the major businesses, having driven out most of his competitors.
  • Just Like Robin Hood: Devlin steals Clark's loot and returns it to the wagon trains he had originally stolen it from.
  • Kangaroo Court: Maitland and Clegg are subjected to one following their arrest on trumped-up charges. Clark tells Sheriff Massey he wants a fair trial followed by a hanging. The trial is conducted in their cell, the witnesses are not required to testify, and their so-called lawyer withdraws their plea of 'Not Guilty' and instead throws them on the mercy of the court.
  • Kneel, Push, Trip: While creating a distraction to allow Maitland and Clegg to escape from the gallows, Brother Abrraham tells his flock to keel in prayer. One of them kneels directly behind Sanders. Abraham them gives Sanders a shove that sends him toppling over the kneeling man.
  • Loose Lips: Nell gets Clegg drunk and causes him to blab all of his secrets: from the fact that he and his friends aren't really Brethren to the fact that King has a secret shipment coming into town.
  • Mummy Wrap: When breaking into the Emporium to steal clothes, Devlin knocks Walters out and then wraps him head to toe in muslin and leaves him laid out on the counter, with a bow around his head.
  • Percussive Pickpocket: Devlin uses a staged collision with Sanders to lift his wallet, and then a second one to plant it on Walters.
  • Pit Trap: There is an old well under a Trap Door in the floor of Sanders' office. Sanders opens the trap door and lays a rug across it in an attempt to lure the thief to his death. Devlin falls through the rug but manages to catch the edge of the floor and haul himself out. In the subsequent fight, Sanders' henchman Walters falls down the well and dies.
  • Police Are Useless: Sheriff Massey is in the pocket Eb Clark, and turns a blind eye to the banditry of Clark's men. However, even when he is trying to do his job on behalf of Clark, he is still incompetent.
  • Preacher Man: Bother Abraham is the preacher for the local Brethren assembly. He comes to Devlin's aid and plays a vital role in rescuing Maitland and Clegg from the gallows.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Sheriff Massey is persuaded to turn against Eb Clark, but then is shot In the Back by Clark's henchman Sanders while attempting to free the prisoners. He dies saying that he feels good, because—for the first time in years—he has done the right thing.
  • Shame If Something Happened: Sanders and Walters do this at Elam King's store in an effort to coerce him into raising his prices so they are higher than Clark's. They muddy up his muslin, pour coal oil in his sugar, and smash a crate of eggs. They also make some veiled threats about what might happen to his niece Priscilla if he doesn't comply.
  • Signature Item Clue: When Devlin sees Nell wearing his mother's locket, which was one of the items stolen from him, he knows that she must be in contact with the thieves somehow.
  • Sinister Scythe: During his final fight with Devlin, Clark grabs a scythe and swings it at him. The movie does a good job of showing just what an impractical and unwieldy weapon a scythe is, and Clark is killed when he falls on his own blade.
  • Small-Town Tyrant: Shady businessman Eb Clark has been slowly taking over Medicine Bend. He controls the mayor and the sheriff, owns most of the major business, and runs a bandit gang that robs wagon trains leaving the town, forcing them to return to Medicine Bend to resupply from Clark's businesses.
  • Trap Door: There is a trapdoor in Sanders' office concealing an old well. Sanders uses it as a trap in an attempt to dispose of Devlin, but it ends up being his henchman Walters who falls to his death instead.
  • Turn to Religion: At the end of the film, perennial screw-up Private Clegg, whose drunkenness had nearly gotten everybody killed when his Loose Lips blabbed the group's secret plans to the Big Bad's moll, announces that he will not be returning with Devlin and Maitland. Instead he will be joining the pacifistic Brethren community in Medicine Bend (having been posing as a member for most of the film) and renouncing all of his vices. Sergeant Maitland wishes the Brethren leader Brother Abraham good luck; hoping that Clegg will make a better Brethren than he ever made a soldier.