The people of the Ozark Mountains live by raising sheep and brewing moonshine. When a stranger arrives on the scene, the Matthews clan greets him with deep suspicion. Young Matt is particularly antagonistic, especially after the new arrival buys “Moaning Meadows”, the farmstead where Matt’s mother died after her husband abandoned her. Matt has sworn to take revenge on his father some day. The stranger slowly gains the trust of the townspeople with a series of good deeds, including paying for an eye operation for Matt’s blind aunt. With her sight restored, Aunt Mollie recognizes the stranger as Matt’s father and a family tragedy is set in motion … This melodrama in earth tones is a realistic portrayal of hillbilly life in the central United States. Apart from the occasional rainbow or sunrise between the faded green, grey rocks, and the brown walls of the wooden shacks, even a pillow, a bit of needlework, or a pair of blue jeans represents a colour sensation to dazzle the eye. Yet it is precisely that pared down palette of natural colours that makes The Shepherd of the Hills such a believable “witness to the colour of God’s good dust”, as the god-fearing “see-er” in the film so aptly puts it.
by Henry Hathaway
with John Wayne, Betty Field, Harry Carey