The Ox-Bow Incident, the 1943 western based on the book by Walter Van Tilburg Clark, is about Art and Gil, who arrive in town. A string of cattle rustling has happened and everyone is suspicious of any stranger that comes into town. Things go to the boiling point when rancher Larry Kinkaid is murdered. The townsfolk decide to form a mob and go after the criminals. They catch up with three men: Donald, Alva, and Juan. Donald says that he is innocent and actually bought the cattle from Kinkaid, but the posse decides to hang them at dawn. They shoot Juan when it turns out not only was he lying to them but he’s really a gambler named Franciso. The group takes a vote and decides to lynch the survivors. But has justice really been served?
What is actually the most amazing thing about this movie is that the innocent people get killed. While the script was rewritten in order to make sure the villains of the story get punished, bad things still happen to good men that can’t be made right in the end. It’s also a good example of why vigilante justice doesn’t always work, especially when the people doing it often don’t have all the information. In fact, the mob thinks they’re doing good but act more like the bad guys. Interestingly, it’s a case of white-on-white/Hispanic lynching. Even with all the changes made, it does not dilute the anti-lynching message. Honolulu western fans should add this movie to their collection.
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