"When I was a kid, I killed gophers for money. Then I killed Indians and Spaniards for money. Now I just kill for money."
Description: Macdonald Carey as gunfighter Bus Crow in the western film Hannah Lee: An American Primitive (1953). Crow’s personal thoughts on killing a man: “Nobody really cares if a man’s cut down from the front or the back... as long as he deserves killin’.”
Bus Crow is a professional gunfighter from Texas who moseys into the settlement of Pearl City looking for employment. As he stables his horse, he slaps Willie Stiver (Peter Ireland), the stable boy across the face when he talks back and then goes to Hannah's Place, the local saloon for a drink.
Soon after, Willie Stiver enters the saloon and points to Bus Crow as the man that hit him. Seeking revenge for hurting his kid, Mr. Gare Stiver (Alex Pope) draws on Crow, but the seasoned gunfighter shoots the man's gun out of his hand.
Word gets around about Crow and soon, established ranchers Jeff Montgomery (Stuart Randall) , John Britton (Frank Ferguson) and Alesworth (Ralph Dumke) approach Crow to handle newcomers who are squatting on the nearby range.
In a secret meeting, Britton suggests that Crow be forceful but avoid violence. They pay Crow a hundred dollar advance and offer to pay him $600 for every squatter Crow can convince to pack up and leave the territory.
The first squatter on the list of offenders is Miller. Miller has already butchered cattle on the range, and so Crow secretly posts a warning message on his property with instructions to get out of Dodge, so to speak. Miller tears up the notice and soon he and his men raid a herd of cattle. For his offense, Crow shoots Miller in the back with a Mannlicher rifle. Crow continues to post warnings and then kill any squatter who refuses to leave.
The surviving homesteaders petition the town sheriff for protection. He agrees the situation is getting out of hand, but he has no evidence to prove who is killing the newcomers. Of course, Crow keeps his involvement in the murders quiet, because he was just hired to "warn" the squatters, not kill them. But with each squatter removed, payment for his service is guaranteed.
|Bus Crow:||I didn't catch the name, stranger.|
|Rochelle:||I didn't throw it.|
|Bus Crow:||So what do they call you, stranger?|
|Rochelle:||Rochelle, Sam Rochelle.|
|Bus Crow:||Ah, so you're the Marshal. What do you expect to find in Pearl City, Marshal? Pearls?|
|Rochelle:||Maybe pearls. Maybe swine.|
When U.S. Marshal Sam Rochelle (John Ireland) comes to town to investigate the murders, he meets Crow and immediately suspects him as the killer. Soon after, a representative of the ranchers who fund Crow's murderous acts, approaches Sam in his hotel room and tries to payoff the Marshall so he will leave town. The Marshall attacks the man, and when he tries to escape through his window Sam fires and kills the man. Hannah Lee (Joanne Dru), aka Hallie McLaird, the owner of the local saloon believes the man who approached the Marshall was the one killing the homesteaders and she goes to apologize to Crow for believing otherwise.
But when Crow admits to Hannah that he, indeed, is the killer, he threatens her to keep her mouth shut. Later, Crow see Hattie talking with Marshall Sam Rochelle's, Hattie's former lover, but she does tell Sam what she knows about Crow because she did not want to be responsible for his death.
Some time later, out on the range, Crow is pointing his rifle when he hears a noise in the bushes. He fires at the sound only to hit Willie Stiver who was searching for a lost calf. Crow leaves his trademark shell casing from his rifle as the scene as evidence that the boy was injured by the mysterious killer roaming the area.
With the help of a local deputy who had collected similar shell casings from the previous murders, Sam identifies them as coming from a Mannlicher rifle. A rifle that he once used the war while fighting in Cuba.
To confirm his suspicions. Sam follows Crow out of town and tries to prevent Crow from using his rifle, but in the struggle Sam is knocked unconscious after he falls off a ledge. When he recovers, he continues his search for Crow, who shoots Sam in the arm. Before Crow has a chance to kill the Marshall, Hannah appears and shoots and kills Crow.
Note: Hanna Lee (1953) is based on the novel "Wicked Water" by MacKinlay Kantor. It is billed as the "First 3-D Saga of the West." The story is told via flashback, as an old man feeds pigeons on a park bench. The film was also released under the title Outlaw Territory.
In the Japanese film Yojimbo (1961), a samurai named Sanjuro Kuwabatake (Toshirô Mifune) says, "I'll get paid for killing, and this town is full of people who deserve to die." and "I'm not dying yet. I have to kill quite a few men first."