Director Monte Hellman and writer-star Jack Nicholson filmed this western simultaneously with The Shooting (1967). Nicholson stars as Wes, cowpuncher pal to Vern (Cameron Mitchell) and Otis (Tom Filer), who have all been hired as hands for a cattle roundup. En route to their new jobs, the men come across the handiwork of a lynch mob. Later, they find hospitality at the home of Blind Dick (Harry Dean Stanton), who graciously provides them with food and shelter. The cowboys are unaware that Blind Dick and his men recently robbed a stagecoach and murdered the driver. A sheriff (Bradon Carroll) and his posse surround the cabin and hang the thieves. Though innocent, the terrified cowboys flee. Otis is killed, but Wes and Vern escape -- with the posse in pursuit. When they stop to rest at the ranch of Evan (George Mitchell), Wes considers taking Evan's daughter hostage. Trying to steal Evan's horse, Vern is killed by the rancher, who in turn is shot by Wes. Once a law-abiding citizen, Wes has been transformed by unjust vigilantism into a killer. Fascinated by frontier era journals that he discovered in an L.A. library, Nicholson used the documents as inspiration in writing the script.
by Karl Williams synopsis