Screened as part of NZIFF 2001

The Tall T 1957

Directed by Budd Boetticher

USA In English
77 minutes 35mm


Production Co

Scott-Brown Productions


Harry Joe Brown


Burt Kennedy. Based on the story The Captives by Elmore Leonard


Charles Lawton Jr


Al Clark

Production Designer

George Brooks


Heinz Roemheld


Randolph Scott (Pat Brennan)
Richard Boone (Frank Usher)
Maureen O'Sullivan (Doretta Mims)
Arthur Hunnicutt (Ed Rintoon)
Skip Homeier (Billy Jack)
Henry Silva (Chink)


Our candidate for the best entry in the classic tradition – in which a loner is tested, physically and morally, within an unforgiving landscape, and proven unpretentiously heroic… it moves from a humanising comedy, so rare in the genre, into a harsh and convincing savagery as Maureen O’Sullivan and Scott are taken hostage by Richard Boone (in a complex performance) and the two less redeemable sidekicks (‘I’ve never shot me a woman, have I, Frank?’). Boetticher’s villains are relentlessly cruel, yet morally shaded… — Scott Simmon, Pacific Film Archive

Admirably scripted by Burt Kennedy from a story by Elmore Leonard this is the best and bleakest of the Boetticher/Scott westerns. A marvellous mechanism is set in motion by the stagecoach hold-up at the beginning where a citizen cravenly bargains for his life by suggesting that his wife will be held for ransom. Boone’s bluffly amiable villain promptly guns him down in contempt but fulfils his elective role by taking up the suggestion. Thereafter, conceptions of justice and social justification are slyly questioned as Boone is hounded by Scott, bodies pile up, and the two men, gradually emerging as opposite sides of the same coin, face the inevitable showdown that neither of them wants but which society demands. Wonderful, with a full roster of fine performances. — Tom Milne, Time Out Film Guide

One of the best of the Randolph Scott-Budd Boetticher B westerns, in which the action is almost entirely psychological… and the landscape deftly stylized into dark interiors (caves, a fateful well) punctuating the wide-open spaces. Boone makes one of the most memorable of Boetticher’s witty, intelligent villains; no other western director so seductively gave evil its due. — Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader

An unconventional western, The Tall T passes up most other clichés. There’s a wealth of suspense in the screenplay based on a story [The Captives] by Elmore Leonard. From a quiet start the yarn acquires a momentum which explodes in a sock climax… Under Budd Boetticher’s direction the story develops slowly, but relentlessly toward the action-packed finale. Scott impresses as the strong, silent type who ultimately vanquishes his captors. Boone is crisply proficient as the sometimes remorseful outlaw leader. His psychopathic henchmen are capably delineated by Skip Homeier and Henry Silva. — Variety (1957)