MGM thought they were producing just another B-Wesern when director Sam Peckinpah made this 1962 movie, but "Ride in the High Country" turns out to be a classic of the genre. Aging ex-Marshall Steve Judd (Joel McRae) is hired to transport a load of gold from a mining camp to town. He hires his old friend, Gil Westrum (Randolph Scott) and a younger one, Heck Longtree (Ron Starr) to help him guard the gold. Westrum tries to convince Judd to steal the gold, but Judd refuses. They attend the wild wedding of Elsa (Mariette Hartley), who ends up running away with them, having fallen for young Heck. While the groom's family comes after Elsa, Westrum and Longtree try to steal the gold. Judd stops them and vows to bring them in for trial. But when the in-laws catch up with Judd, Westrum returns to help out his old friend in one last gun battle.
"Ride the High Country" is about the death of the Old West. This film was supposed to be the last film for both Scott and McRae, although McRae changed his mind afterwards. Peckinpah presents a natural Western, in settings far removed from the Monument Valley splendor we associate with John Ford. Both the dialogue and the performances represent that realism as well. The final scene between Scott and McRae is as touching as any this side of "Shane." Of course, Peckinpah goes on to deal with the end of the Old West in a more different fashion in his classic "The Wild Bunch." But I really think this is the better Western once you get past all the bloody violence of the other one.