Ride the High Country

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I knew in my bones what you were aiming for, but I wouldn't believe it.
I kept telling myself
you were a good man; you were my friend.

Ride the High Country is a 1962 film about a pair of aging ex-lawmen hired to transport a shipment of gold from a remote mining community.

Directed by Sam Peckinpah. Initially written by – and solely credited to – N.B. Stone, but almost entirely rewritten by William Roberts, with substantial subsequent rewrites by Peckinpah himself.
Showdown in the High Sierra! taglines

Steve Judd[edit]

  • All I want is to enter my house justified.

Gil Westrum[edit]

  • Ever hear of Folsom Prison? Well, it's solid rock. And during the years we spend there, we're going to discuss the events of these past few minutes at great length. And by the time you get out, you won't like them any better than I do now – which isn't one hell of a lot.

Elsa Knudsen[edit]

  • Sometimes I get to thinking there's nobody left in the world but my father and me.

Elder Hammond[edit]

  • Yep, a sweet little thing like you oughta have the pick of the litter. No rush about making up your mind.

Billy Hammond[edit]

  • Haw, haw, haw! You better cut yourself a switch, Mr. Longtree. I don't think you could handle me bare-handed. But you all are gonna get yerself a chance to try, directly.

Judge Tolliver[edit]

  • [Making a concerted and touching effort to focus, despite the tawdry surroundings and his own inebriation]
    We're gathered here in the high mountains, in the presence of this august company, to join this man and this woman in matrimony. Now, I'm not a man of the cloth, and this is not a religious ceremony. It's a civil marriage. But it's not to be entered into unadvisedly, but reverently and soberly. A good marriage has a kind of simple glory about it. A good marriage is like a rare animal – it's hard to find, almost impossible to keep. You see, people change. That's important for you to know at the beginning; people change. The glory of a good marriage don't come at the beginning; it comes later on, and it's hard work.

Dialogue[edit]

Steve Judd: [Approaches Westrum – aka The Oregon Kid – with head lowered and broad-brimmed hat pulled down] Uh, Mister; could ah make a tayun-cent bet?
Gil Westrum: A whole dime? You're a plunger, sir!
Steve Judd: Well, sir, you see... I ain't so altogether sure I could hit a movin' target without buckshot. Uh... I used to be fair to middlin' with a scattergun, but that was when the bird wasn't too fur away... or, or, or.... flyin' too fast. With them plates, ah just don't see how you manage.
Gil Westrum: Well, I'll be damned!
Steve Judd: How are ya, Gil?
Gil Westrum: No great complaints. How long's it been? Lordy, I'd hate to say.
Steve Judd: Quite some time.
Gil Westrum: Where ya been all these years?
Steve Judd: Uhhh, here and there. Quite a little enterprise you got.
Gil Westrum: Well, Steve, it's easier than punching cows. And it pays off with free drinks every time I walk into a saloon -- Would it surprise you to know The Oregon Kid is the envy of every small-minded ribbon clerk and shirttail towhead from here to Pocatello?
Steve Judd: Why not, with all these single-handed exploits? Tell me, Gil, who was 'the Omaha Gang'? I don't seem ta recollect them fellas. Flagstaff, Monterey, Hondo... I remember we worked them places. But Dodge City and Wichita? Did you ever run with the Earp boys, Gil?
Gil Westrum: Ya gotta allow for a little exaggeration; that's part of playin' this game.
Steve Judd: It's not much of a game; a blind man couldn't miss, usin' buckshot.

Gil Westrum: Been considering your problem. Think I can solve half of it; perhaps the whole thing. I know a fellow who's got an overwhelmin' hankering for a little old time activity.
Steve Judd: It seems to me a man 'd have to be pretty hard up to wanna risk his life for ten dollars a day.
Heck Longstreet: Ten dollars a day?!! [Whistles]
Gil Westrum: Not hard up, just fed up. Out-shootin' the rubes for nickels and dimes... takes all the free drinks I can get to put me to sleep at night. My partner feels the same way. [Taps Heck's arm twice before getting his attention] Don'tcha?
Steve Judd: I don't think I'd want to hire a boy.
Heck Longstreet: Boy? Whadda you mean, a boy?
Gil Westrum [quickly]: Steve, this boy's a good deal less than green.
Steve Judd: Can't have too much behind him.
Gil Westrum: That's where you're wrong. He's been dogging after me for better than three years.
Steve Judd [nonchalantly pulls the still distracted Heck's pistol from its holster, addressing Gil]: Pretty. Too bad he can't keep it clean. [Extends it towards – but does not look at – Heck, who angrily grabs and re-holsters] Boys nowadays. No pride. No self-respect. Plenty of gall, but no sand. Take that race today.
Heck Longstreet: What about that race? [In the background, we see said race's runner-up, Hank, listening intently.]
Steve Judd: At that distance, no horse in the world can beat a camel.
Heck Longstreet: [Stands, kicks aside chair, and backs up slowly] You calling me a cheat?
Hank: Well, if he don't, I will. [Fight ensues.]

Steve Judd: If you could spare us a few eggs, we'd be glad to pay for 'em.
Joshua Knudsen: Well, one you can have; because the Lord's bounty is not for sale. The rest are a dollar each.
Heck Longstreet: A dollar each?!! Now how in the world do those short-legged chickens lay eggs so high?
Joshua Knudsen: Levity in the young is like unto a dry gourd, with the seeds rattling around.

Heck Longstreet [nodding toward Knudsen's house, into which Elsa has just disappeared]: Think of all that going to waste up here.
Gil Westrum: Like the fella said, gold is where you find it.
Steve Judd: If it's not yours, don't covet it! [Walks away with horses.]
Gil Westrum: Don't worry, boy; the Lord's bounty may not be for sale, but the Devil's is – if you can pay the price.

Joshua Knudsen: Heavenly Father, we thank thee for the food on this table. Teach thy children to be grateful for thy goodness; to walk in thy path, that they may not suffer thy wrath and thy vengeance. Bless us, O Lord, and these, our guests; and forgive them the mercenary desires which brought them here. [Pause] Amen.
Gil Westrum: I thank you for entering a plea in our behalf, Mr. Knudsen; but what's this about mercenary desires?
Joshua Knudsen: You're on your way to Coarsegold, ain't you?
Gil Westrum: Yes.
Joshua Knudsen: Well, them that travel there do so for one reason only: to traffic in gold! Which, to possess, is to live in fear; to desire, to live in sorrow.
Steve Judd: But we're not trafficking, sir; merely transporting.
Joshua Knudsen: It says in the Book: gold is a stumbling block to them that sacrifice to it, and every fool shall be taken therewith.
Steve Judd: A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, loving favor rather than silver or gold – Proverbs, chapter 22.
Joshua Knudsen: Into the land of trouble and anguish come the old lions, and they shall carry their riches on the shoulders of young asses, to a people that shall not profit them – Isaiah, chapter 30, verse 6. That mining town is a sinkhole of depravity; a place of shame and sin.
Elsa Knudsen: According to my father, every place outside this farm is a place of sin.
Joshua Knudsen: That'll do.
Elsa Knudsen: You don't have to preach at everybody!
Joshua Knudsen: That will do!
[Awkward pause]
Gil Westrum : You cook a lovely hamhock, Miss Knudsen, just lovely. [Pauses, then addresses Judd.] Appetite, chapter one.

Steve Judd: That boy you trained personally shows a substantial lack of judgment.
Gil Westrum: Kind of showing your age, aren't you? Interfering with a young man's love life?
Steve Judd: Well, I'm not paying him ten dollars a day to go moonin' after some girl whose old man's about to hind-end 'im with a load of buckshot.
Gil Westrum: Know who she reminds me of?
Steve Judd: No.
Gil Westrum: Sara Truesdale.
Steve Judd: Well, there's no resemblance at all.
Gil Westrum: Oh, maybe not in the features, but the way she smiles. Has the same look in her eyes when you're talking to 'er. The kind of look that makes you feel you've said something really important. You and Sara always looked so right together. Course, I can't say I blame her for not marrying you. Forgettin' the lousy money we made, what woman wants to sit around waitin' for her husband to be brought home with his head shot off?
Steve Judd [examining at his boot]: I wonder if I can get these fixed in Coarsegold.
Gil Westrum: I guess losing Sara's what you might call a hazard of our profession. That rancher she married - uh, Stacey, is it? Hear he's doing fine up in Idaho. Got a big ranch there. Raises blooded horses. Children too, I hear.
Steve Judd [sharply]: Grandchildren now . [Pause, quietly] Three of them.
Gil Westrum: That right, Steve?
Steve Judd: Yep, that's right.
Gil Westrum: Three grandchildren. Think she's happy, Steve?
Steve Judd: [Deliberately gathers his bedding] If my sleeping bothers you... don't you bother to let me know.

Gil Westrum: Dandy pair of boots you got here.
Steve Judd: Juan Fernandez made these for me in San Antone -- made them special. Had a hell of a time convincing him to put that hole in. Fine craftsman, Juan; but he never understood the principle of ventilation.
Gil Westrum: I remember Juan; always felt the boot should cover the foot.
Steve Judd: Short-sighted.

Steve Judd: What more could a man expect? I got to thinkin' about that one time. Well, sir, I keep records; when I became a lawman, the world lost a first-class bookkeeper. So, jus' ta pass the time one day, I sort of calculated what it was worth gettin' shot. I figured it about a hundred dollars a shot.
Gil Westrum: You'd 've earned quite a sum by now.
Steve Judd: Gettin' hit, I figure that's worth anywhere from a thousand on up.
Gil Westrum: That's three thousand I know you got coming.
Steve Judd: Four brings it up to date. Then tally up all those fights, and bush-whackings, 'n' cold camps... that time in Lincoln County -- five weeks in the hospital, six months out of work. You add 'em all up, an' I'd figure I was owed about all the gold we could carry out of these mountains... Somethin' to dream about.
Gil Westrum: Sure is...

Steve Judd: Would it surprise you to know that I was once a law-breaker?
Gil Westrum: Well! Bless my stars.
Steve Judd: About the age of that boy back there; skinny as a snake and just about as mean. Ran around with the Hole-in-the-Wall bunch; gun-happy, looking for trouble -- or a pretty ankle. Had the world by the tail, so to speak. Then one night Paul Staniford picked me up. He was Sheriff of Madera County then. There'd been a fight, and I was drunk; sicker than a damn dog. Well sir, he dried me out in jail, then we went out back and he proceeded to kick the bitter hell right out of me.
Gil Westrum: That took some doin'.
Steve Judd: Not much. You see, he was right and I was wrong. That makes a difference.
Gil Westrum: Who says so?
Steve Judd: Nobody; that's something you just know. Anyhow, when I was able to walk again, I realized I'd learned a lesson: the value of self-respect.
Gil Westrum: What's that worth on the open market?
Steve Judd: Nothing to some people; but a great deal to me. But I lost it. These last years, the only work I was able to get was in places like Kate's back there... bartender, stick man, bouncer, what have you. Not much to brag on. Now, I'm gettin' back a little respect for myself. I intend to keep it, with the help of you and that boy back there. Good to be workin' again, Gil.
Gil Westrum: Yeah. [Pause] Partner, you know what's on the back of a poor man when he dies? The clothes of pride. And they're not a bit warmer to him dead than they were when he was alive. [Pause] Is that all you want, Steve?
Steve Judd: [Considers] All I want is to enter my house justified.

Steve Judd: It all pointed this way. All that talk about old Doc Franklin... grateful citizens... what we've got coming but never got paid...
Gil Westrum: It's the truth; isn't it, Steve?
Steve Judd: I knew in my bones what you were aiming for, but I wouldn't believe it. I kept telling myself you were a good man; you were my friend.
Gil Westrum: This is bank money, not yours.
Steve Judd: And what they don't know won't hurt 'em? Not them. Only me! [To Heck] Take off your gun belt an' toss it over here.
Gil Westrum: What are you going to do?
[Steve slaps Gil's face hard, twice; then backs up a few steps and holsters his gun]
Steve Judd: You always fancied yourself faster than me. Go ahead, draw. Draw, you damn tinhorn! [After a tense moment, Gil unbuckles his gun belt, tosses it to Judd.] That was your second mistake tonight and the last chance you'll ever get from me. I'm gonna put you behind bars, Gil.
Gil Westrum: You'll play hell gettin' it done.
Steve Judd: Move!

Elsa Knudsen: What's going to happen to him?
Steve Judd: The boy? I'll testify for him. They shouldn't be too hard.
Elsa Knudsen: Will you testify for Mr. Westrum?
Steve Judd: No, I won't.
Elsa Knudsen: Why?
Steve Judd: Because he was my friend.

Gil Westrum: Partner, what do you think?
Steve Judd: Let's meet 'em head-on. Halfway, just like always.
Gil Westrum: My sentiments, exactly. [Shouting] You Hammonds!
Elder Hammond: What do you want, old man?
Henry Hammond [shouting]: He wants a shovel and six feet of dirt.
Steve Judd [shouting]: You redneck peckerwoods! You're too chicken-gutted to finish this thing out in the open? [Shots ring out.]
Gil Westrum: Two old men against all three of you boys...
Steve Judd: And if them odds ain't enough for you damned dry-gulchin', Southern trash... we'll send out the girl!
Elder Hammond: We're comin'. You hear me, Henry?
Henry Hammond Yeah, I hear you. [Shouting] You don't hafta ask me twice!
Elder Hammond [as Billy starts to exit]: Hold up, Billy. We'll catch 'em when they raise up.
Billy Hammond: Ain't you got no sense of family honor? [Exits, followed by Elder.]

Steve Judd [Mortally wounded, speaks with difficulty, as Gil squats alongside]: How'd we figure... A thousand dollars a shot?
Gil Westrum: Yeah.
Steve Judd: Those boys just made me a lot of money. [Sinks down a little, holding his mid-section] They put 'em all in one spot. [Sees Heck and Elsa approaching] I don't want them to see this. I'll go it alone. [Gil waves them away]
Gil Westrum: Don't worry about anything. I'll take care of it, just like you would've.
Steve Judd: Hell, I know that. I always did... You just forgot it for awhile, that's all. [Gil nods] So long, partner.
Gil Westrum [Stands]: See ya later. [Turns and joins the others; along with Elsa, assists the wounded Heck into the Knudsen house]
[We share, from behind, Steve's last look at the high country, before he turns back towards the camera and dies, dropping almost but not quite entirely out of the frame.]

Taglines[edit]

  • Showdown in the High Sierra!

Cast[edit]

External links[edit]

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