Having rode in to town and made a rowdy nuisance of himself Screamer (John Saxon) feels the cold steel of Marshal Jim Crown's (Stuart Whitman) peace keeper in his neck as he takes him to jail to calm him down. But it is during his incarceration that Screamer witnesses Ace Coffin (Henry Silva) coldly kill a fellow outlaw and bank robber. With a $10,000 bounty on Coffin's head Screamer offers to help Crown to track down Coffin and his outlaws. Of course it's not every day when one convict will help to track down another one leading to Jim becoming suspicious even if there is money on offer.
I tell you what, if I had been alive in 1967 and of an age to be a fan of TV westerns I might have ended up a little confused by "Cimarron Strip" and episode 1 "Journey to a Hanging" as it just tosses us into a western town where Jim Crown is marshal and he was friends with Dulcey, MacGregor as well as Wilde. No introduction what so ever and in truth I don't think it would have worked? In fact you had to get to episode 4 and "The Battleground" to get what was more of an introductory episode. It is why for the most these episodes of "Cimarron Strip" work so well now as individual movies because each episode told its own story and had very little story continuation when it came to the recurring characters.
So as to the storyline in "Journey to a Hanging", well remembering it was episode one and still had to establish the characters what we get is quite straight forwards as we watch the conniving Screamer trying to snag a $10,000 bounty on the sly by making out he is only innocently trying to help Jim catch Ace Coffin. Things don't end up that simple as whilst Jim and Screamer track down Ace other members of his gang are turning on him and have the same idea of grabbing a slice of bounty. All of which basically works and helps establish the character of Jim being the ultimate lawman; tough, always one step ahead of the game, fair but also tough as nails.
Now as episode one "Journey to a Hanging" features an explosive opening thanks to John Saxon delivering it large in a hell raising way whilst Percy Herbert also gives it large as MacGregor. In fact these two dominate "Journey to a Hanging" but in a restrained way Stuart Whitman still manages to deliver a character defining performance as Jim Crown whilst Henry Silva gives us some bad guy squinting as the curiously named Ace Coffin.
What this all boils down to is that as a stand alone movie "Journey to a Hanging" is entertaining with a solid storyline and enjoyable performances. But watched as episode one of a western series it is not the strongest as it tosses you in at the deep end when it comes to the central characters.