Marlene Dietrich, Arthur Kennedy, Mel Ferrer, Gloria Henry,
“It spins, it spins, the old story of HATE, MURDER, and REVENGE”: the relentless refrain of the theme song summarizes this brilliantly curdled western-psychodrama, a Langian parable of paranoia and futility played out against painted Technicolor skies. Arthur Kennedy plays Vern, a man with only one goal in life: to hunt down the bandit who raped and killed his fiancée. The quest leads him to a remote ranch called Chuck-a-Luck, known as a haven for wanted men; and to its proprietor, Altar Keane—Marlene Dietrich, seen in flashback as a glamorous, daring dance-hall girl, and in the film’s present as a mature beauty in faded jeans. Vern’s investigative obsession turns everyone he meets into either suspect or informant; his relationship with Altar is an excruciating dance of desire and mistrust. The tale ends with an inevitable outburst of violence, but the climax of Vern’s desperate campaign brings no closure, only a feeling of exhausted disillusionment.