Obscenities, murder and violence, adultery, prostitution and fornication, racism, revenge, mysticism, & abuse of alcohol
Farley, a timid city-dwelling man heading across the open prairie toward Jacksonville to meet his wife, stops to set up camp for the night. As the sun sinks, so does Farley’s courage. Hearing something in the bushes, he reaches for his shotgun as a burly and barbaric man rides up to Farley’s campfire and asks to join him. After catching a glimpse of a man’s dead body slung over the stranger’s horse, Farley can hardly speak, much less refuse.
Morrison, the uninvited guest, alternately chews tobacco and takes slugs of painfully potent whiskey, while Farley watches, mesmerized by fear and curiosity. Morrison offers to tell Farley a true story of what really happens to people who journey across the prairie. This sets the tone for the rest of the movie. Morrison and Farley take turns telling each other grim prairie tales in order to earn the other’s respect.
Morrison (James Earl Jones) skillfully narrates the first story of an Indian ghost tribe that quietly buries an old man alive in his sleep as punishment for riding through their sacred burial ground. His second tale is about a man named Tom, who like Farley, is traveling alone across the prairie to see his wife. Tom stumbles onto a seemingly helpless woman, heavy with child. Attempting to help her make it to the next town, he ends up committing adultery instead. With the woman somehow no longer pregnant, Tom meets with an intense, graphic and supernatural demise when he gets swallowed up inside her.
Farley tells a story about a father’s violent racism that follows his family into their new “garden of Eden” life, as the mother calls it. The daughter, after witnessing her father commit terrible and cruel acts, must decide whether she can love him. Morrison ends the night with a yarn of two gunfighters competing to the death to become the hired killer for a wealthy rancher. The champion gunslinger, however, doesn’t live long enough to claim his prize.
Morrison’s stories do contain a strong sense of justice, right and wrong, crime and punishment. Also, there are just a few obscenities. However, the major problem is the context in which the tales are set: murder, revenge, mysticism, and sexual immorality.