To the Last Man (1933)

In Aeschylus’s Oresteia, the point is made that revenge is never ending, whereas justice can bring things to a final resolution.  To the Last Man turns that idea on its head.  In this movie, which is about a feud between two families, whose principal names are the Haydens and the Colbys, the head of the Hayden clan, Mark Hayden, decides to end the feud by bringing in the law, which Granny Spelvin objects to as not honorable, because blood will not be spilled for blood.  Nevertheless, Mark goes to the sheriff and charges Jed Colby (Noah Berry) with the murder of Granpa Spelvin.  Even the sheriff thinks it is a bad idea to let the law interfere with a feud, but he arrests Jed, who is tried and sentenced to fifteen years in jail.  To get away from Kentucky, Mark takes his family out to Nevada.  But when Jed’s fifteen years are up, he and what is left of his family follow the Haydens to Nevada, along with a gang of criminals, headed by Jim Daggs (Jack La Rue), whom Jed met while in jail.

While things are heating up between the two families, Lynn Hayden (Randolph Scott) and Ellen Colby (Esther Ralston) accidentally meet and fall in love.  They plan to marry as the feud swirls around them.  And so, this is a kind of Romeo and Juliet story, except that this too is turned on its head.  Whereas Romeo and Juliet died, leaving their families to regret the feud that led to their deaths, this “Romeo” and “Juliet” survive, get married, and live happily ever after, while everyone else in the two families dies (except for a few women and children on the Hayden side).  Moreover, unlike justice, which ended nothing, revenge carried out to its ultimate conclusion, when there is only one man left, is the only thing that finally puts an end the feud.

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