Last weekend I watched George Montgomery in THE TEXAS RANGERS (1951), which found him hunting down outlaws including Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
In tonight's movie, BADMAN'S COUNTRY (1958), Montgomery is once again up against Butch and Sundance. The movie has a lower budget, but Montgomery plays a more prestigious character, famed lawman Pat Garrett, and what BADMAN'S COUNTRY lacks in production values, it makes up for with sheer fun.
Garrett has quit law enforcement and headed for Abilene and his fiancee Lorna (Karin Booth); he intends to marry Lorna and move west to California, where hopefully bad guys who would love to end his life will be less of a concern.
Things change when the Sundance Kid (Russell Johnson) and four other outlaws arrive in Abilene and go looking for Garrett; Garrett has to subdue the whole gang with help only from elderly Buffalo Bill (Malcolm Atterbury) and the initially reluctant town marshal (Dan Riss).
Garrett sends for Wyatt Earp (Buster Crabbe) and Bat Masterson (Gregory Walcott) to transport Sundance and the surviving outlaws out of town for trial, but by the time Earp and Masterson arrive in Abilene, a huge gang headed by Butch Cassidy (Neville Brand) is on the way too, planning to hijack a shipment of gold.
Unfortunately the townspeople of Abilene don't seem inclined to defend themselves; indeed, the mayor (Morris Ankrum) wants to set Sundance loose! So the three lawmen, aided by Buffalo Bill, make plans to face down the Cassidy gang on their own.
I found this quick little 68-minute film delightful. It's quite low-key, and I suppose some might even say Crabbe and Walcott don't offer very scintillating performances, but I thought their dry, subdued portrayals of lawmen added a touch of realism; you might call them the Friday and Gannon of the old West! I especially liked Crabbe and the way his Earp faced down a bunch of ornery townsmen.
I also particularly liked a sequence where an offhand comment by the telegraph operator causes the lawmen to realize that one of Cassidy's men is on the other end of the telegraph line, so they use that to feed Cassidy erroneous information.
CRIPPLE CREEK (1952) costar, Karin Booth, in a story that has some overtones of an earlier Booth film, TOP GUN (1955) with Sterling Hayden. In each film the townspeople are reluctant to stand up against a gang of murderous outlaws.
One of the curious things about Booth is that, while she was born the exact same year as Montgomery and Hayden, in each film she seems just a bit too old for them. Other than that quibble, she's fine in the role of Garrett's supportive sweetheart. Booth's career in the '50s mostly consisted of Westerns and other action pictures, and she would make only a couple more feature films before retiring from the big screen in 1959.
This is another '50s Western featuring Russell Johnson, who passed on last week; you can read more about Johnson's Westerns at 50 Westerns From the 50s.
Fred F. Sears, was a former actor who appeared onscreen as a police detective in THE CORPSE CAME C.O.D. (1947). Morris Ankrum, who plays the appeasement-minded mayor in BADMAN'S COUNTRY, played an Indian Chief in DRUMS ACROSS THE RIVER (1954).
BADMAN'S COUNTRY was filmed by in black and white by Benjamin H. Kline. It was shot at Southern California movie ranches.
This film does not appear to have ever had a VHS or DVD release, but it's been shown in the past on the Encore Westerns Channel.
There's a bit more discussion on this film in the comments of a 2012 post at 50 Westerns From the 50s, where regular John K calls BADMAN'S COUNTRY "a totally charming piece of nonsense." I concur. I rank it in the top half of the Montgomery Westerns I've seen to date, and I'll definitely want to watch this one again in the future.
Previous reviews of George Montgomery Westerns: THE TEXAS RANGERS (1951), CRIPPLE CREEK (1952), GUN BELT (1953), THE LONE GUN (1954), MASTERSON OF KANSAS (1954), BATTLE OF ROGUE RIVER (1954), ROBBERS' ROOST (1955), CANYON RIVER (1956), and GUN DUEL IN DURANGO (1957).
May 2015 Update: For more on this film, please visit Toby's post at 50 Westerns From the 50s.