Steve Sinclair is a world-weary former gunslinger, now living as a peaceful rancher. Things go wrong when his wild younger brother Tony arrives on the scene with his new gun and pending bride and former saloon girl Joan Blake.
In 1872, Indian fighter Johnny MacKay is appointed peace commissioner for the California and Oregon territory but he faces tough opposition from the renegade Modocs led by their brutal chief Captain Jack.
Two men are released from the Arizona Territorial Prison at Yuma in 1898. One, the Dutchman, is out to get both gold and revenge from the people of a small mining town who had him imprisoned unjustly. The other, McBain, is just trying to go straight, but that is easier said than done once the Dutchman involves him in his gold theft scheme. Written by
When Alan Ladd observes Sam Edwards being flogged inside the Arizona Territorial Prison, he does so with a practiced eye having been flogged himself in "Two Years Before the Mast" (1946) and "Botany Bay" (1953). See more »
At the beginning of the movie a group of prisoners chained in tandem with leg irons shuffles its way to the river for a "bath". As they approach the guard at the water's edge they are handed a bar of soap. the second prisoner in line holds out his left hand and is given a bar of soap. In the next scene this prisoner has no soap and holds out his hand again to receive the bar a second time. See more »
Sharp little western detailing the exploits of two, differing ex-cons faced with a shot at scoring some ill-gotten riches and everything that arises as a result of that.
Whilst watching The Badlanders, it struck me just how similar most of what was playing out was to one of your more typically hard boiled crime novellas; indeed, further reading reveals the film's roots are wholly embedded within the realms of crime fiction transfused with heist genre tendencies, the film effectively a remake of 1950's The Asphalt Jungle which itself was adapted from a book of the same name. The film's structure of somewhat hardened folks let loose from jail, but with differing sets of ideas in how to live out the remainder of one's life, before going on to get involved with rather maddeningly attractive women; the grief which comes with that and the promise of the robbing of some riches which is mingling around in the area, you might say is wholly generic in the typical sense. The transporting of the tale form whatever decrepit urbanised locale you like, indeed a proverbial jungle formed out of concrete, and back to the Wild West does nothing to cease the pleasures garnered out of such generic conventions; The Badlanders eventually formulating into an absorbing piece balancing these crooks clashing in their post-incarceration existences, with their plannings of heists born out of devilish back-stories, with the betrayals that might naturally unfold post-heist.
The Hellish truths which loomed over most of James Mangold's 2007 3:10 to Yuma remake, and most probably the majority of both Delmer Daves' original and the initial novel, is here, in this film, thrust upon us without much in the way of pleasantries. The stark realities of Yuma jail that the outlawed Ben Wade in said text faced, had his death sentence been revoked, hovered over the proceedings like the scorching sun did over the protagonist of that text's crops, and is here put right across from the off - wholly establishing where we stand in necessarily knowing anything about such a jail. Delmer Daves is back, his 1958 film The Badlanders plunging us into those realities of Yuma jail by plunging its two principal characters into the deep end of grief and strife as a result of being on the inside. We're at the back end of the nineteenth century; the searing sun in this, the dusty; grotty locale of Arizona searing down onto that of both its chief players: Ernest Borgnine's John McBain and Alan Ladd's Peter Van Hoek, nicknamed "Dutch".
Both men are released on account of their sentences running out at once, Dutch after a stretch that saw a corrupt marshal plant evidence onto his person that saw him put away and McBain because of his amoral lifestyle which saw him put away, but during which his Yuma stretch has reformed him. The pair of them initially go their separate ways, McBain the once criminally minded man looking to start afresh with a different stance; Dutch the straight man incorrectly put inside and as a result, has exited the other end a spiteful and disenchanted man looking for some vengeance. Whilst inside, the film observes how well they work when thrust together in tense and relentless scenarios and must adapt to one another accordingly; the attempted suicide by way of drowning one inmate tries during a daily wash in a nearby river seeing the pair of them combine to garner a better outcome. On another occasion, a heated situation threatens to boil over when McBain is jumped upon by Dutch thus preventing him from killing a guard in anger. Their demonstrating, here, their ability to combine to some degree and compliment one another's characteristics or skills, precedes their working together later on in additionally problematic circumstances.
Dutch's revenge-ridden plan is linked to an old mineshaft long since abandoned of which he is aware still harbours gold, an item which will cost that of the nearby town dearly out of their own ignorance. In the case of McBain, he dutifully fights a group of men effectively doubling up as those with misogynist tendencies, instilling that while he maintains his aggression and combative skills, he's broader minded now. Both men meet respective women, the Mexican girl McBain saved eventually filling in as his love interest whereas Dutch winds up meeting the already married Ada (Kelly). Plans formulate, McBain appears to come back on board when he cannot find work and the tension is cranked up when the crew Dutch eventually enlists through a corrupt local official named Lounsberry (Smith) are given a mere few days to execute the heist following an interaction with a lawman giving them a strict ultimatum to get out of town.
At stake is the overbearing threat of returning to Yuma, those jibes riddled with hostilities and unpleasantness that the guards uttered upon the men's release still ringing in the ear as the reality of life on the inside in those opening sequence resonates. The love stories and promise of happier times born out of the obtaining of the gold act well as items utilised in creating a greater sense of urgency, McBain's Mexican partner effectively forced into going back to the life fraught with what came with it if everything does not succeed, whereas the film playfully toys as to whether Lounsberry is to be trusted as the job itself undergoes numerous hold ups and problematic situations which threaten to scupper the plans of a group of people we have come to be rather fond of. Director Daves keeps everything moving, balancing these plights and combining the slimmer; more softly spoken demeanour of Ladd – calculating and cold look of calculation almost always in his eye - with the brasher, larger and more buoyant Borgnine. The women are suitable alluring, indeed Dutch's first altercation with Ada sees her tower above him as he peers upwards whilst on his hands and knees in a corridor, whereas the characters of law and order appear in a less than glamorous light: coming across as corrupt, provocative and as bullies rather than upstanding; the bulk of it formulating into something quite impressive.
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