Miss Barbara Stanwyck portrays Jessica Drummond who rules “Cochise” county in Arizona with Forty Guns. This western is filmed in black and white plus widescreen cinema-scope. The opening sequence is spectacular when you hear galloping horses and then you see their hooves trample the ground like thunder. Griff Bonnell drives his wagon on a dirt road in front of those horses and posse. The lead rider is Jessica who is fully clad in black and on top of a white stallion horse. She has the ultimate power.
A country male singer walks over to the bathhouse and belts out a beautiful song called, “high ridin’ woman.” He wrote it for Jessica who commands with a whip. Griff and his two brothers are taking baths in wooden barrels. Griff is known as a popular gunslinger that has turned U.S. Marshall. His golden rule from there on out is no bloodshed or killing with guns. He is in town to only serve a warrant for the arrest of an outlaw. The old west is dying out as the United States government cracks down on the law from New York to California.
Jessica rides into town after her younger brother Brockie raises hell and shoots an elderly blind marshal. Griff knocks Brockie unconscious and hauls him into jail. The judge is bought off as Jessica fiercely whips her brother on their way home. She boldly takes away his guns too. At sunset, Griff and his brother Wes ride to Jessica’s home nestled in a small canyon. They go there to serve the warrant on the outlaw who is working for Jessica.
Griff walks into the mansion and finds forty men there including a governor, a judge and sheriff Ned Logan. Jessica owns them all and they take orders only from her. She is dressed in a beautiful black lace gown that hangs off her pretty feminine shoulders. Her diamond necklace shimmers off the candle lit dinner. She first offers Griff a job under her and then wants to see his big gun. The sexual tension between them is pretty high. Her eyes light up when she glances at him. Griff turns down her job offer and arrest’s the outlaw.
Sheriff Logan covers up the surprise murder of that outlaw. He does it for Jessica. She in return raises her whip and lashes him for doing the wrong thing. Griff’s youngest brother Chico gets drunk and picks a fight in the saloon. He wants to carry a gun and help Griff. They throw Chico into a barrel of water and Griff lectures him about how the days of gun slinging are over. The wild, wild west is no more.
Jessica and Griff are caught in a fast and treacherous tornado storm. She falls off her stallion and is dragged over two hundred feet. Griff runs to her aid as they literally crawl through the rough winds to an abandoned cabin. Jessica pours out her life to Griff. Her parents died when she was a girl and she was left to raise her brother Brockie. She also realizes that Griff is the first man whom she cannot control. She falls for him in a big way.
Jessica loses control of “Cochise” county as the men flee. Sheriff Logan tries to kill Griff and finally confesses his love for Jessica. She tells Griff she loves him instead and doesn’t care about anything else. Brockie takes his guns back and Wes is shot on his wedding day. Griff exacts revenge and Jessica is caught in the middle. She is surprisingly gunned down too. Will she live? Will Griff go back to gun slinging? What happens to Brockie?
Samuel Fuller wrote and directed this great classic western. There are so many things to say about all the scenes connected to the story. With each viewing there is always something more going on.