The CinemaScope film was based on a novel of the same name written by Frank O'Rourke. Jim Douglas (Gregory Peck) is a rancher who has been pursuing the four outlaws who murdered his wife for six months. He rides into the town of Rio Arriba, where four men, Alfonso Parral (Lee Van Cleef), Bill Zachary (Stephen Boyd), Ed Taylor (Albert Salmi) and Lujan (Henry Silva), fitting the description are in jail awaiting execution, so that he can see the hanging. The town has issued instructions to only allow the hangman (Joe DeRita) to enter, so Jim is taken to Sheriff Eloy Sanchez's (Herbert Rudley) office to state his business. The town has never had an execution before, so they have brought in a man from outside town to do the job. The sheriff allows Jim into the jail to see the men. They claim they had never seen him before, but he has the face of a hunter.