The 1949 Film Hellfire in Trucolor
Hellfire is an American western that was directed by R.G. Springsteen and produced by William J. O’Sullivan. The official release of the film in the United States was on the 29th of May 1949. The leading roles in Hellfire were played by Bill Elliot and Marie Windsor who had been known as, the queen of the B’s, as most of her roles were in film noirs or B grade movies.
Hellfire is a Republic Pictures film that was filmed in Trucolor which was a popular filming process for Republic’s western films during the 1940’s and the 1950’s. All the imagery on the screen was coloured in blue-green or orange-brown hues which, for its time, gave the screen an otherworldly feeling. The last ever Trucolor film was in 1957. The now defunct Republic Pictures specialized in westerns and B films and was most notable for making the likes of John Wayne famous.
In the Beginning of Hellfire
Hellfire tells the story of Zeb Smith, a dishonest gambler with cheating ways. He is caught cheating at a poker game and has a gun drawn on him. Before the trigger is pulled, a travelling preacher named Bother Joseph protects Zeb from the bullet by stepping in front of him and is shot instead. Both Zeb and the dying preacher flee the saloon and the preacher discloses his regret of never having built a church for his townsfolk.
Zeb is guilt ridden and before the preacher dies he vows to build the church which, according to the preacher, must be done according to the Bible’s rules.
Zeb Goes on to Raise Funds
Hellfire continues with Zeb arriving in a small town where he attempts to raise funds from fellow poker players, all the while reading from the Bible. They refuse and he becomes frustrated.
At that time, Doll Brown murders her husband and flees. She is pursued by her husband’s dangerous brothers and Marshall Bucky McLean who is an old friend of Zeb’s. He informs Zeb that a $5 000 reward is offered for the capture of Doll Brown.
Zeb finds Doll Brown and decides to rather convince her to turn herself in then to capture her but she rejects his faith in God and refuses his request to accompany her. She later relents and the two go off in search of her long lost sister. Coming into contact with her husband’s brothers and unsavoury characters, Zeb is forced to test his faith and he comes to know Doll in a better light.
The Heart Wrenching Finale of Hellfire
When Zeb is deputised by Bucky McLean, who is out to prevent Doll from finding her sister, he arrests her. Finding out that the brothers are aware of her incarceration he attempts to help her escape but she shoots Bucky and locks Zeb up in her cell.
Zeb informs her that Bucky is in fact her sister’s husband who had been trying to prevent his wife from knowing her sister was an outlaw and goes to find help. Doll is devastated and promises Bucky that she will stay away from her sister and begins to read psalm 23 from Zeb’s Bible. The brothers enter and shoot her but Zeb returns and kills all of them. Zeb embraces the wounded Doll and together they recite the final line of psalm 23, and we will dwell in the house of the lord forever.