Comanche Todd (Richard Widmark - Hell and High Water) was a wanted man; accused of murder but now he has been captured by Sheriff Bull Harper (George Mathews - Last of the Comanches) who plans to take him in to face a trial and most likely the noose. Along the way they join a wagon train of settlers who are not impressed at the cruel way in which Harper treats Todd especially when he is just as nasty to those on the wagon train who show Todd sympathy. But a series of events not only see Bull Harper killed but the wagon train come under attack from Apaches who want revenge for the murder of their own people. With only a few settlers surviving it is up to Todd to lead them to safety despite the fact that he will end up in court if he succeeds.
Now there is no denying that "The Last Wagon" is a stunning looking western with cinematographer Wilfred M. Cline capturing the beauty and vast expanse of the Arizona west. It is not just the stunning backdrops which impress as is his close up work is just as good especially during action scenes. Some of that credit must go to the stuntmen and Richard Widmark who throw themselves into scenes with some of the simpler scenes such as Todd being dragged across as a dusty floor being the most powerful because of their roughness.
There is also no denying that "The Last Wagon" certainly serves up some interesting characters especially that of Sheriff Bull Harper with George Mathews making him a nasty, unsympathetic character and not only to Todd as his nastiness extends to everyone. Of course the star of the movie is Richard Widmark as Comanche Todd and of course whilst Todd is a killer we learn that his killings are not without reason so in turn making him a good guy. Todd whilst a well acted character full of rage is a cliche as is that of the sympathetic Jenny who shows him kindness, a character that is attractively played by Felicia Farr. In fact "The Last Wagon" has a strong female cast which includes Susan Kohner and Stephanie Griffin.
The trouble is that whilst "The Last Wagon" certainly looks good and has a brutal side it ends up quite cliche. There is a romantic cliche as Todd and Jenny become close, there are cliche dangers from Apaches and much more. But the real weakness comes from the movies end which involves a courtroom scene and Todd's passionate plea when it comes to his reason for murder.
What this all boils down to is that "The Last Wagon" is a good western, visually pleasing, brutal and well acted. But it uses a very familiar storyline and then delivers an over the top courtroom ending.