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Film / The Man from Colorado

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The Man from Colorado is a 1948 American Technicolor western-psychological drama film directed by Henry Levin and produced by Jules Schermer for Columbia Pictures. It stars Glenn Ford as a Union officer who becomes addicted to killing during the American Civil War, William Holden as his best friend, and Ellen Drew as their common love interest.

In Colorado at the end of the Civil War, Col. Owen Devereaux (Ford), affected by four years of brutal bloodshed, orders the massacre of a Confederate unit, even as they try to surrender. Devereaux's friend and second in command, Capt. Del Stewart (Holden), is the only one aware of the surrender attempt. Devereaux returns home to a hero's welcome and is appointed a judge, yet his irrational and angry behavior continues, affecting his fianceé, Caroline (Drew), as well as Del.


  • Battle Amongst the Flames: Owen orders the township of Glory Hill to be put to the torch to flush out Del and Caroline. The final confrontation between Owen, Del and Jericho occurs in the middle of the burning town.
  • Blasting It Out of Their Hands: During the robbery at the mine office, one of the guards shoots Jericho's gun out his hand, although this seems to have been an accident (the guard had just been shot and jerked the trigger spasmodically. He certainly wasn't aiming). The dropped gun later becomes part of the evidence Owen uses to hang Jericho's brother Johnny.
  • Blood Knight: Four years of bloody conflict have transformed Col. Owen Devereaux into this. His is driven by an urge to kill, but only those who he is allowed to kill. As an officer, this is enemy combatants. His Establishing Character Moment is him ignoring a white flag being waved by the Confederates and allowing his artillery to open fire on then. When he becomes a judge, he becomes a Hanging Judge, sentencing any criminal who comes before him to death.
  • Chain Pain: Jericho likes using a set of chain hobbles as a weapon. He uses them to knock Owen's gun out of his hand when tries to capture him, and in the final fight, he wraps the chain around his fist and uses it like brass knuckles as he pounds on Owen during the Battle Amongst the Flames.
  • The Chains of Commanding: It is strongly implied that the stress of command is one of the key factors in triggering Owen's Sanity Slippage and transformation into a Blood Knight. His diary indicates that he knows what he is doing is wrong but feels that he cannot confide in anyone; even his best friend and second-in-command Del.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Everything Big Ed Carter does is strictly within the letter of the law, but is still extremely unethical. He takes over the claims of all of independent miners, taking advantage of the law that says that if a miner does no work on his claim for three years, the claim lapses. However, the reason why the claims went unworked for three years was because the miners were all away fighting The American Civil War. When the miners return, he offers them jobs working in his mine for less than a living wage. He also arranges for the appointment of Owen as judge to ensure the local law is on his side.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Owen's Sanity Slippage and descent into parnoia convinces him that Del is still interested in his wife Caroline. In fact, Del had stepped away and refused to associate with Caroline after she made her choice and married Owen. When Owen baits a trap for Del by spreading a rumor that he has locked Caroline up and is refusing to allow her to leave the house, Del immediately believes it
  • Dangerous Deserter: Jericho Howard and Mutton McGuire desert a few days before they were due to be discharged, and turn to banditry.
  • Drinking on Duty: Col. Owen Devereaux cements his status as The Neidermeyer by having Sgt. Jericho Howard arrested for drinking on duty. Normally this would be unremarkable, but it was the day war ended and everyone in camp was celebrating. He intends to have Jericho court-martialed—which could mean 40 years in prison—but Jericho escapes and deserts.
  • Destroy the Evidence: Del finds the white flag the Confederates were waving at the site of the massacre and buries it so no one will know that Owen chose to ignore it.
  • Frontier Doctor: Owen's uncle Doc Merriam is town's doctor, and the only authority figure trusted by everyone in town.
  • Hanging Judge: Upon being appointed judge, Owen becomes one because he cannot pass up the opportunity to kill someone.
  • Insignia Rip-Off Ritual: After Del returns to town and discovers that Owen has hanged Johnny Howard in his absence, Del storms up to the judge, punches him in the face, then pulls of his marshal badge and throws it on the ground at the judge's feet.
  • In the Back: Owen shoots Del in the back when he, Caroline and Doc attempt to flee to Denver to tell the governor about Owen's insanity. Because he uses a holdout pistol, Del survives, but his wound does hinder him during the final confrontation.
  • Little Useless Gun: Owen shoots Del In the Back with a small holdout pistol when Del is attempting to flee town with Caroline and Doc. Because of the gun's small calibre and the range at which Owen shoots, Del survives and is back on his feet in a day or so, but the wound is still enough to hamper him in the final confrontation.
  • Love Triangle: Owen and Del are both in love with Caroline. When they return from the war, she has to decide which of them she is going to marry. She chooses Owen, but it is obvious that she still has feelings for Del.
  • The Neidermeyer: Col. Owen Devereaux is regarded by his troops as a terrible martinet. (This is actually another manifestation of the Sanity Slippage that is turning him into a Blood Knight.) It is best demonstrated by his arresting Sgt. Jericho Howard for dereliction of duty for drinking instead of being on sentry duty...on the day the war ended!
  • Non-Protagonist Resolver: It is outlaw Jericho Howard, and not protagonist Del Stewart, who finishes off Hanging Judge Owen Devereaux. After being shot by Owen, Jericho spoils Owen's shot on Del and then drives him back into the burning town, where they both perish beneath a collapsing building.
  • The Piano Player: The piano player in the the miners' saloon acts as lookout for the outlaws who meet in the saloon's back room; changing the tune he is playing to inform them of who has entered the saloon.
  • Pistol-Whipping: Carson's men catch one of the returned miners attempting to work his old claim, and pistol whip him till he is unable to walk as lesson to the others.
  • Reluctant Psycho: At least initially, Owen knows that what he is doing wrong but cannot stop himself. Following the massacre, he writes in his diary that he just killed 100 men, and that he did not want to do it but could not stop himself.
  • Sanity Slippage: Four years of constant fighting and bloodshed have turned Owen into a Blood Knight. After the war ends, his sanity continues to erode and he becomes a Hanging Judge, finding an excuse to execute anyone brought before him, and he slides deeper and deeper into paranoia: eventually blockading the town to prevent anyone leaving and setting fire to part of it to flush out his imagined enemies.
  • Still Wearing the Old Colors: Many of the miners continue to wear parts of their Union uniforms as day-to-day wear after their discharge.