Sunday, March 01, 2015

Tonight's Movie: Badman's Territory (1946) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

BADMAN'S TERRITORY (1946) is an enjoyable RKO Western which is part of the five-film Randolph Scott Classics Collection from the Warner Archive.

Scott plays Sheriff Mark Rowley, who ends up in the wild little town of Quinto when Jesse James (Lawrence Tierney) and James's henchman Coyote (Gabby Hayes) save the life of Mark's brother John (James Warren).

Quinto is in lawless "Badman's Territory," but in an unusual story flip, Marshal Bill Hampton (Morgan Conway) is the bad guy who tries to frame fellow lawman Mark for murder (it's a long story), and the bad guys aren't always all that bad. As mentioned, the James boys help Mark's brother, and the Rowleys also become friendly with Bob Dalton (Steve Brodie) and Belle Starr (Isabel Jewell, who also played the role in 1948's BELLE STARR'S DAUGHTER). Despite the fact that he's a lawman, Belle makes no secret of her interest in the handsome Mark.

Unfortunately John ultimately decides to ride with the Daltons, with tragic results. Meanwhile Mark romances a crusading newspaper editor, Henryetta (Ann Richards), and battles the evil Marshal Hampton.

There's enough story in BADMAN'S TERRITORY for three movies and it would have benefited from a more streamlined plot, but it's engrossing and a little bit different. Naturally, there's a bit of time spent on the outlaws' exploits and posses riding around after the bad guys, but much of the film is a leisurely look at life amidst the outlaws in Quinto, where there's time for a horse race and a dance. I wasn't expecting moments such as Mark's laid-back attitude when he encounters the James brothers, nor was I expecting perennial comic sidekick Gabby Hayes to be an outlaw. The movie is nicely unpredictable at times.

The cast also includes Tom Tyler (STAGECOACH), Ray Collins, Virginia Sale, John Halloran, Richard Hale, Phil Warren, Nestor Paiva, and Andrew Tombes. Other familiar Western actors scattered in bits throughout the film include Harry Harvey, Jason Robards Sr., Kermit Maynard, and Emory Parnell.

Robert J. Wilke is said to have been a deputy, but I didn't spot him. However, stay alert near the end of the film, when Marshal Hampton arrives in Quinto -- one of his deputies, who has a couple of lines, is a young Ben Johnson. Johnson was also a stuntman on the film.

BADMAN'S TERRITORY was directed by Tim Whelan and filmed in black and white by Robert De Grasse. The movie runs 97 minutes.

Although there are a couple of scenes dotted with speckles or somewhat faded, for the most part this DVD looks good. It's interesting to note that the opening card indicates it's a British print. There are no extras.

Previous reviews of other titles in this DVD collection: TRAIL STREET (1947), RETURN OF THE BAD MEN (1948), and CARSON CITY (1952). The other movie in the set is WESTBOUND (1959).

In addition to the five-film Randolph Scott Classics Collection, BADMAN'S TERRITORY can be purchased from the Warner Archive as a single-title release.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD collection. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive at the WBShop.


Blogger Maricatrin said...

LOTS of plots in this one, as you comment. There's always something else about to happen! And it's a treat to spot a very young Ben Johnson. I do wonder where Bob Wilke was though?

Unfortunately, my enjoyment of this one was greatly negated by the fact that I couldn't stand Ann Richards/Henryetta... I'm not sure if it was the actress or her character, maybe a combination of both?

10:16 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Maricatrin!

I didn't dislike Ann Richards but didn't like her either...Henryetta's obtuseness regarding Mark's character was a bit annoying. I would have far preferred someone like Anne Jeffreys, Audrey Long, or Ella Raines. :)

Best wishes,

1:57 PM  
Blogger Jerry E said...

I have a tremendous fondness for this film, Laura, and am so pleased to have been able to read and enjoy your fine review.

I must have seen this one numerous times as it was shown on UK TV a number of times in the 50s and 60s and it was one of the earliest full-length western features I saw as a "shaver". It had a lot to with making me a die-hard western fan early on in my life.

Gabby was really convincing as a badman in this, I thought, and probably enjoyed the chance. Mind you, he had played bad several times in those John Wayne 'B's in the early 30s (long before he was Gabby).

3:05 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Jerry, I love your memories of this film. I can easily imagine how it must have captured the imagination of a young boy -- so many colorful characters. It's one of the most appealing "bunch of bad men" movies I've seen, because the outlaws were a little nicer than the norm (not that they were shy about shooting it up!).

I agree Gabby was quite good. I enjoyed this one a lot. This Randolph Scott set is a "must" for fans.

Best wishes,

8:07 PM  

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