John McIntire stands out among a fine cast, bringing roguish charm to the role of villain. It’s probably his best part in a long, successful career of supporting performances (including the sheriff in Psycho).
Director Mann is also at the top of his game, pitting the clean vistas of white, snowcapped mountains against the muddy streets of the ugly towns. But it’s the little touches like the bell on Jeff’s saddle that make The Far Country memorable. Ben explains that he bought the bell to hang over the door of the house where he and Jeff will settle down (“I like to know when my friends is coming”). It’s not until the final scene that Mann reveals the important role that the tiny bell (which represents community?) will play in the proceedings. Even after the somewhat too convenient denouement, it’s the tinkle of that bell that lingers in memory.