Burt Lancaster, as Kentucky frontiersman Elias Wakefield, has at least 3 particularly heart-pounding encounters in his quest to escape the traditional feuds between the Wakefields and Fromes by migrating to the Spanish-Mexican territory of Texas. In the first of these encounters, Burt has to fight off half a dozen towns people, who eventually subdue him and lock him in a makeshift jail until deciding what to do with him....In the second, Burt has to fight, without any weapons or protection , the bull-whip-wielding town tavern keeper and bully Stan Bodine, played by Walter Matthau, in his initial Hollywood role: quite a scene!....In the third encounter, Burt again finds himself defenseless on one side of a river against 2 rifle-toting Fromes on the opposite bank. He gets some essential help from bondswoman Hannah, in back of the Fromes, who takes aim with the rifle of her freshly-killed master: Bodine. With only one Frome to deal with now, he takes his chance, dashing across the very shallow river before his nemesis can reload.
Lancaster has dealings with 2 women in particular. Hannah, who begins her association with Burt and his half-grown son as a bondswoman, who takes pity on them when the towns people turn hostile toward them. In return, Burt uses his money for steamboat passage to Texas to buy out her bondswoman contract. Hannah decides to leave this town with the Wakefields when they break out of jail. They head for another village where lives brother Zack, who's making a living as a tobacco grower and trader. Zack welcomes the 3, giving Burt odd jobs toward regaining his funds for the Texas trip. Early on, Burt thinks he may have found his fortune in a sizable pearl found in a mussel. The locals encourage him to inquire whether President Monroe might be interested in such, knowing it's worthless commercially. Eventually, Hannah sells herself as a bondswoman to tavern-keeper Bodine, to provide money for the Wakefield's journey onward. Meanwhile, Burt has taken a fancy to the village schoolteacher, Susie, and she to him. Brother Zack encourages him to forget his Texas dream and settle down in that village with Susie, who has no desire to go to Texas. Burt swallows this bait for a while, but the captain of the Texas steamer tries to convince him that he's a natural frontiersman, not psychologically suited to planting his feet in a settled village. Besides, he's not yet out of the range of the two murderous Fromes, who eventually show up, as I previously detailed. This, coupled with Hannah's heroics against the Fromes, and the death of her master, causes Burt to rethink his life plans.
This little-known "western" certainly rates a look, with many details I didn't mention. It's currently available at YouTube.