Synopsis by Bruce Eder
Will Ballard (Rod Cameron) is the longtime foreman of the Hatcher ranch, a spread renowned for its size and the wealth it contains. When owner Phil Evarts dies suddenly, the speculation in the territory is that Hatcher will be broken up, especially since it was Evarts' determination coupled with Ballard's skills as a foreman and gunman that held it together -- but Ballard decides that the ranch is worth saving, even though the only help he really has is one top hand (Chill Wills, in a beautifully restrained performance) and a couple of young brothers (Al Caudebec, Roydon Clark) picked up on the trail. He figures it's worth saving for what it is, and also for Evarts' daughter, Celia (Ella Raines), who is engaged to marry neighboring rancher Sam Danfelser (Forrest Tucker). Ballard and Sam were once friends, but as the foreman discovers, there's been bad blood brewing on the other side of the friendship for a long time, mostly out of Sam's jealousy -- not only is Ballard a better rider and a better gun, but he's a better man than he is, and he can't abide the fact that Celia knows this deep in her heart, even though she and Sam are engaged. Then there's Bide Marriner (Brian Donlevy), a local "operator" who'd love to get a range war started and grab up some land and cattle, and immediately uses friends and intermediaries, plus a few hired guns, to start spreading the word, convincing the neighboring ranchers that Hatcher land is free and open. And then there's Lottie Priest, whom Ballard figured to marry soon -- is she more interested in what her greedy father can make from the breakup of Hatcher? Caught in the middle of it all is the county sheriff, Joe Kneen (J. Carrol Naish), who'd like to stay civil with all of those involved but soon finds out that he's going to have to choose sides, and that he's too good a man for that to be the "easy" choice. There's a lot of back-shooting in Ride the Man Down, as well as some brilliantly and cleverly designed action sequences, and a level of duplicity in the characters that makes this picture play at time almost more like a film noir of the period.
cattlemen, homestead, claim-jumpers, con/scam, conflict, daughter, greed, killing, land, land-scheme, land-war, neighbor, opposition, ranch, shoot-out