Rustlers rob horses belonging to wealthy Wyoming rancher Jeremy Rodock and shoot him. He is found by young cowboy Steve Miller, who digs out the bullet, saves Rodock's life and is offered a job at the ranch.
Rodock believes in lynching rustlers personally without arrest or trial. His wrangler McNulty describes it as "a hanging sickness" to Rodock's woman, Jocasta Constantine, a former dance-hall girl ashamed of her past.
McNulty makes a pass at Jo. A jealous and suspicious Rodock sees them leave a barn together and jumps to the wrong conclusion. He fires McNulty, then beats him viciously before ordering him off the ranch.
Rodock sets out to find the men who stole his stock and murdered Whitey, a ranch hand. He rides to former partner Peterson's spread and demands to know if Peterson and son Lars were involved. They deny it, but Rodock soon comes to believe that Peterson and partners Hearn and Barjak are the thieves. He kills Peterson and hangs Hearn.
Lars vows to avenge his father. He joins up with McNulty and Barjak and plan to steal every horse Rodock owns. Steve is sickened by watching a man hang and Jo urges him to speak with Rodock about his vigilante ways. Steve has fallen in love with her and begs her to leave with him, but she will not.
Valuable horses are stolen and McNulty files down the hoofs into bloody stumps. Rodock catches up to the three thieves, makes them dismount and remove their boots. At gunpoint, he forces them to walk to jail through sand, rock and cactus. Barjak ultimately passes out and McNulty begs for mercy.
Rodock comes to his senses. He lets the other rustlers go and returns Lars to the Peterson ranch, where he offers to make restitution. Upon returning home, he finds that Steve is leaving forever and taking Jo with him. Rodock can't blame either, but when he rides out to bring her some jewelry she left behind, Jo has a change of heart and stays with Rodock after all.James Cagney as Jeremy Rodock
Don Dubbins as Steve Millar
Stephen McNally as McNulty
Irene Papas as Jocasta Constantine
Vic Morrow as Lars Peterson
James Griffith as Barjak
Onslow Stevens as Hearn
James Bell as L.A. Peterson
Jeanette Nolan as Mrs. Peterson
Lee Van Cleef as Fat Jones
Columbia Pictures loaned Robert Francis to MGM so he could appear in the movie. It is unclear what role he was supposed to play in the film, but Francis died in an airplane crash just over a week before he was to head to Wyoming to begin filming.
According to MGM accounts the film earned $1,193,000 in the US and Canada and $849,000 elsewhere, resulting in a loss of $1,623,000.