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Hell's Heroes

(1930 b 65')

En: 5 Ed: 6

Adapted from Peter B. Kyne's novel, three bank robbers are given a baby by the dying mother in the desert and manage to save the child.

Three cowboys see a noose on the sign for New Jerusalem which warns it is "a bad town for bad men." In the saloon Bob Sangster (Charles Bickford) kisses Carmelita (Maria Alba) and buys drinks for all, exchanging harsh words with the sheriff (William James). Bob and three cowboys hold up the bank and kill the cashier; one of them is killed as they ride out of town. A windstorm covered their tracks but also scattered their horses. The arm of Tom Gibbons (Raymond Hatton) is wounded, and Wild Bill Kearney (Fred Kohler) bandages it.

They walk in the desert sun and find a woman (Fritzi Ridgeway) in a covered wagon. Bob says he saw her first and gives her water, while Bill and Tom discover the stream has gone dry. Tom tells Bob, "The way of the transgressor is hard." Bill delivers the woman's baby. Before she dies, the mother asks the "three good men" to save her baby as godfathers. The father is the cashier at New Jerusalem they killed. They baptize the child with sand. Bob finds a basket of baby supplies with three cans of milk and gives one to each man. Bill washes the baby with the olive oil, while Bob buries the mother.

They walk toward New Jerusalem. Tom collapses and tells them to go on. After he says good-bye, he shoots himself. Bill carries the baby, and Bob makes a fire. Bill gives the baby the last of the milk. In the morning Bob finds a note on the baby from Bill that he went into the desert to find a friend, because they lack water. Bob gives the child the last few drops of water. He carries the baby and sees the noose on the sign but goes on. He dumps out the gold and finally puts the baby down; but he goes back to save him from a Gila monster. Bob stops at the water poisoned by arsenic. He drinks it to give himself one more hour.

At New Jerusalem on Christmas day in church the minister (Buck Connors) thanks a man for bringing a tree from the Sierra mountains. People sing "Silent Night" as Bob staggers into town. He enters the church and lays down to die. A woman picks up the child from his arms.

This moving story contrasts the behaviors of three vicious criminals who sacrifice themselves to save a helpless child, showing that ultimately the appeal of innocence overpowers human greed and violence.

Copyright © 1999 by Sanderson Beck

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