My favorite of the uniformly-exceptional films in this collection is the lesser-known “Buchanan Rides Alone.” In it, Scott as Tom Buchanan is pulled into a struggle for power between members of the dysfunctional Agry family in the town that bears their name. The destructive influence of money hangs over the piece immediately as young, drunken, big-talking thug Roy Agry (William Leslie) tries to start a fight with Tom and earns a sock to the jaw as his reward. Later, he catches a bullet from vaquero Juan de la Vega (Manuel Rojas), the son of a proud Mexican family, avenging the honor of his sister, thus garnering the wrong kind of attention for both Juan and Tom whom the Agrys in power blame for being in cahoots. Amid all the shenanigans, Tom befriends a young cowboy, Pecos (L.Q. Jones), hired to assassinate him but who changes his mind when Tom agrees with him that a “man’s gotta be loyal to something.”
This is an appeal to basic decency, even in the face of institutional pressure to act in the interest of a corrupt ruling class. It captures a sweet, egalitarian spirit in a piece that hinges on the love between fathers and sons, brothers and sisters, and a loner like Tom who softens at the prospect of helping a kid heading down the same hard road as he has toward a softer landing. The “good” of nature is thus expressed through various relationships driven not necessarily by the accident of blood but by complementary moral compasses pointing in the same northerly direction. The villains of the piece, ruined by greed, are all blood relations who should have risen above but prove too weak before their golden calves. Hackford provides another brief, light introduction.
“Ride Lonesome” is paired with a five-minute Martin Scorsese introduction that comes with the tidbit that he’s often used this film and Scott’s performance in it as a reference for actors in his own films. He mentions “The Departed,” in particular, to impart the sense of loneliness that blooms in men of essential moral decency trying to navigate an indecent landscape.
As the film opens, Scott is bounty hunter Ben Brigade, who apprehends outlaw Billy John (James Best), ostensibly to take him to his gallows in Santa Cruz. At another stagecoach station, abandoned so that it might be the same stagecoach station from “The Tall T,” Ben finds himself under siege with fellow bounty hunters Sam (Pernell Roberts) and Whit (James Coburn) along with the absent station master’s wife Carrie (Karen Steele) as Native Americans attack, enraged by incursions on their territory.