A mysterious gunman (Clint Eastwood) arrives in the desert village of Lago. Truculent and peevish, the townsfolk nonetheless gravitate toward him, thinking a guy like him can rescue them from a trio of violent men that are going to be released that very day
from the state pen, and who are known to have a vendetta against Lago. He won’t agree to take care of them himself, but agrees to help them organize to defend themselves, in exchange for being granted any demand for goods, services, or arrangements whatever. They agree; obviously intending to “get it back” when the deed is done.
Clint’s first demand is that the town midget — former chief Munchkin Billy Curtis — be made mayor. Curtis is a genius touch, with his leering, gargoyle like visage, offering commentary like a mocking chorus.
It gradually becomes clear that the whole town has a dirty secret. Their outward uprightness is a shaky facade built on selfish, moral cowardice.
The inner well-springs of each man, and each woman, is exposed in turn, as the town anxiously awaits the arrival of the “bad guys.”
It is a story of Augustinian grandeur, exposing the heart. Highly recommended.
The sequences with the women, unfortunately, are such that it cannot be recommended for family viewing.