The first of two superb westerns Tourneur made in 1955 with Joel McCrea (followed by Wichita), this adaptation of a Louis L’Amour story casts the actor as a rugged circuit court judge whose determination to bring the rule of law to an untamed frontier town brings him into conflict with a powerful, proudly defiant family and their imperious, whip-cracking niece (mononymous spitfire Miroslava). Though just over an hour, Stranger on Horseback achieves a sublime expansiveness thanks to the painterly Ansco color cinematography and Tourneur’s intelligent handling of one of his pet themes: the quest for order in an essentially chaotic world.

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