Saturday, April 18, 2015

Tonight's Movie: Bad Men of Tombstone (1949) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

BAD MEN OF TOMBSTONE is a solid Allied Artists Western produced by Maurice and Frank King, whose next film would be the noir classic GUN CRAZY (1950). BAD MEN OF TOMBSTONE was just released on DVD by the Warner Archive.

Barry Sullivan plays Tom Horn, who's thrown into jail after a failed robbery attempt. He falls in with another outlaw, William Morgan (Broderick Crawford), and Morgan's gang (Guinn "Big Boy" Williams, Fortunato Bonanova, and John Kellogg). The gang has great success picking up lots of ill-gotten loot, and Tom also spends time romancing and then marrying Julie (Marjorie Reynolds).

Eventually greed splits up the gang, leading to a final showdown between Horn and Morgan.

BAD MEN OF TOMBSTONE is a pretty good Western, although the inherent problem with Westerns focusing on outlaws is that one knows at the outset that they never end well. Especially given the constraints of the Production Code, the viewer can be pretty sure that an antihero lead isn't going to survive to the end credits, which always casts a shadow over such films.

That issue aside, Sullivan is very good indeed as Horn, who's a pretty smart guy, if not always very nice. His romance with Julie, who comes from a similar hardscrabble background, is affecting. It's interesting to note that although the film has plenty of action, most of the official stills taken to publicize the film emphasize the romantic storyline.

Sullivan has some exciting moments of gunplay, including casually blowing three holes in a plate tossed in the sky and later shooting a hotel room door full of holes when someone tries to sneak in. It's a very different role from his clean-cut father in JEOPARDY (1953), seen just last weekend, yet Sullivan is equally appealing in both parts.

Reynolds is good and surprisingly tough at times, although I didn't think she was always filmed to best effect in this movie by cinematographer Russell Harlan; in some scenes she looks a bit puffy and tired beyond her 31 years. Perhaps, though, that fit her character, who has had a rough life.

Character favorite Louis Jean Heydt has a small but notable role as a homesteader whose plans to go West with his wife (Virginia Carroll) cause Julie to yearn for a more peaceful existence, even if it means doing without riches. Carroll, incidentally, was married to actor Ralph Byrd (DICK TRACY, STAGE STRUCK).

BAD MEN OF TOMBSTONE runs 75 minutes. It was directed by Kurt Neumann. The narrator was Gerald Mohr.

The screenplay by Philip Yordan and Arthur Strawn was based on the novel LAST OF THE BADMEN by Jay Monaghan. Screenwriter Yordan, in particular, has an impressive filmography including everything from the delightful comedy JOHNNY DOESN'T LIVE HERE ANYMORE (1944) to noir and Western classics like THE CHASE (1946), REIGN OF TERROR (1949), JOHNNY GUITAR (1954), and many more.

The Warner Archive DVD is a good print, although a number of nighttime scenes seem to have inherently been fairly dark as night scenes go. There are no extras.

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


Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older