One year after throwing his tin star to the ground and riding out of town in disgust at the cowardice of the citizens who he once served, former Marshal Will Kane (Lee Majors, stepping into the role that won Gary Cooper an Oscar) returns to Hadleyville with his bride, Amy (Katherine Cannon).
Hadleyville has a new sheriff. When Kane angrily left, he was replaced by J.D. Ward (Pernell Roberts), a corrupt tyrant who runs the town with an iron fist and who is more interested in making money than upholding the law. Ward is determined to collect the bounty on Ben Irons (David Carradine), a reformed outlaw who swears that he’s innocent. Kane decides to try to help Ben escape from Ward and his posse, which leads to potentially disastrous consequences for him. Will the town finally show the courage necessary to stand behind Kane or will he once again be forced to go it alone?
High Noon, Part II is a made-for-TV movie. It was obviously designed to be a pilot for a potential television series, one that would have featured the weekly adventures of Will Kane in Hadleyville. As far as made-for-TV westerns are concerned, it’s about average, neither particularly good nor bad. Lee Majors may not have been a great actor but he was believable in western roles and both Pernell Roberts and David Carradine give good performances as well. Jerry Jameson directs in a workmanlike manner. The story’s predictable but it’s a western so what do you expect?
The main problem with the film is that it’s set up to be a sequel to a film that never needed one. When Gary Cooper threw that star in the dust and climbed up on that wagon with Grace Kelly in High Noon, the whole point of the story was that Will Kane was never going to return to Hadleyville because the citizens of Hadleyville deserted him when he most needed them. Hadleyville didn’t deserve Will Kane. That’s what set High Noon apart from other westerns. Having Kane return to Hadleyville and once again pick up the tin star negates everything that made High Noon so effective. The whole point of the ending was that Will Kane was never going to return but, according to this movie, he did and forgave the town for the unforgivable. It’s impossible to watch High Noon II without thinking about how it goes against everything that the first High Noon was all about.
Oddly enough, the film’s forgettable screenplay was written by the great Elmore Leonard. Leonard did better work before this film and he would do better work afterwards.