The Badlanders (1958)

DELMER DAVES

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB

USA, 1958. . Screenplay by , based on the novel by . Cinematography by . Produced by . Production Design by , . Film Editing by , .

stops from beating up the lawman who is overseeing their chain gang and it gets him released from prison early, coinciding with the other man’s release after having been put away for manslaughter. They both go back to the same town, one which Borgnine’s family used to own before he killed the brigand who stole it from under him, while Ladd has returned to get revenge on the corrupt marshal who framed him for robbery.

A geologist by trade who knows the area intimately well, Ladd makes a deal with a local bigwig to help fund his extraction of gold from underground mines belonging to the marshal in exchange for a cut, but the dangers of the job are followed by even more dangers from double-crossing accomplices and there will be quite a few bumps in the road to our heroes’ goals.

Director Delmer Daves, who made some of the most enjoyable westerns of the fifties, reverses the direction of his previous year’s 3:10 To Yuma, this time sending his characters from Yuma to the world they must deal with after incarceration, one in which paying one’s dues to society results in a man being branded for life. The country that is promoted to the rest of the world as a land of opportunity is actually a pile of treasure waiting for the most ruthless and greedy takers, and having tried to play things the right way and failed, our main characters have decided to give up and just take what they can the way everyone else has.

has a wonderful supporting role as a woman who is saved from assault by Borgnine and becomes his friend and companion, their relationship providing a lot of the fire that Ladd, who seems quite worn out only six years before his early death at the age of 50, has trouble mustering in his rather confused, mumbly performance.

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