An adaptation of Walter Van Tilburg Clark’s 1940 novel of the same name, The Ox-Bow Incident is undeniably a Western, but one whose timeless themes would allow it to be restaged in almost any era. Henry Fonda heads the cast as a cowboy who ends up in the middle of a posse out to hunt down the cattle rustlers responsible for the death of a rancher. What starts out as a group driven by a well-intentioned, if illegal, desire for justice turns into a lynch mob, forcing Fonda to use his powers to dissuade their lust for blood. William A. Wellman directs the film with a stark, uncompromising directness that grows darker as the film edges into tragedy and the film hits on some hard truths about the ways emotion can misdirect justic. And its compact running time—just 75 minutes—only increases the film’s intensity as it pushes toward an uncompromising conclusion. Wellman’s extensive filmography includes no shortage of Westerns—including Track Of The Cat, another Clark adaptation—but there’s nothing quite like this film, one of the best morality plays to come out of classic Hollywood. The Ox-Bow Incident plays on Retroplex today three times: at 3:20 a.m. (you’ve already missed that one), at 10:40 a.m., and again at 6:40 p.m. Eastern.
April 28, 2015 Cable Pick Of The Day