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Best of the Badmen (1951)

Approved | | Western | 1951 (UK)
The outlaws of the Clanton and Younger gangs are the heroes of this fictionalized biography.

Director:

William D. Russell

Writers:

Robert Hardy Andrews (screenplay), John Twist (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Robert Ryan ... Jeff Clanton
Claire Trevor ... Lily
Jack Buetel ... Bob Younger
Robert Preston ... Matthew Fowler
Walter Brennan ... 'Doc' Butcher
Bruce Cabot ... Cole Younger
John Archer ... Curley Ringo
Lawrence Tierney ... Jesse James
Barton MacLane ... Joad
Tom Tyler ... Frank James
Robert J. Wilke ... Jim Younger (as Bob Wilke)
John Cliff ... John Younger
Lee MacGregor Lee MacGregor ... Lieutenant
Emmett Lynn ... Oscar
Carleton Young ... Wilson
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Storyline

After the Civil War, Union Major Clanton captures survivors of Quantrill's Raiders, and gets them clemency at the cost of shooting a mob member. Convicted of murder by a kangaroo court, Clanton escapes and joins the former raiders in a gang devoted to robbing everything protected by the corrupt detective agency of his enemy Fowler; culminating in a personal showdown. Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Here they come!

Genres:

Western

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

1951 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

Der Rächer See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

RKO Radio Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Opening credits: Except as to true names that are used and as to general historical background, the characters and events depicted in this photoplay are fictional. Any similarity to other actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. See more »

Goofs

When Clanton discusses his plans to get even with Matthew Fowler, Clanton is sitting at a table and there is about a foot between him and Younger. The camera angle changes and Younger is suddenly so close that his elbow is actually in front of Clanton's elbow as they sit at the table. See more »

Quotes

Jeff Clanton: My troops are under orders to open fire in ten minutes from when I started up here. I haven't looked at my watch lately, but time isn't running backwards.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits: "This story tells a forgotten chapter in the violent history of the West. Months after the tragic war between the States had ended there was still no peace on the Western Frontier." See more »

Connections

Follows Badman's Territory (1946) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Quantrill Raiders Ride Again!
2 November 2011 | by SpikeopathSee all my reviews

Best of the Badmen is directed by William D. Russell and written by John Twist and Robert Hardy Andrews. It stars Robert Ryan, Claire Trevor, Robert Preston, Walter Brennan, Bruce Cabot, John Archer and Jack Buetel. It's a Technicolor production with cinematography by Edward Cronjager and music by Paul Sawtell.

"This story tells a forgotten chapter in the violent history of the West. Months after the tragic war between The States had ended there was still no peace on the Western Frontier."

William Russell's Western is an energetic entry into the pantheon of Oaters, it's one that involves the often filmed topic of the Jayhawkers or Bushwhackers who roamed the West causing hurt and pain in the aftermath of the Civil War. Best of the Badmen ropes in the brothers James and Younger, a few other scalawag types (Curly Ringo/Doc Butcher) and gives them a leader in the tall form of Robert Ryan's Jeff Clanton. How and why Clanton, and ex Union Major, joined the Confederate guerrilla unit? Is a nifty bit of story telling that adds a vengeful bite to what otherwise could have been standard B Western formula.

Once motives and character traits are established, film goes about its business with guts and determination. A fight, a pursuit or a sneaky act is never far from the plot, there's even a romantic thread that's not over stretched, allowing the splendidly attired Miss Trevor as the estranged Lilly Fowler to light up the screen. The narrative has some smarts about it, Clanton and his gang are out to ruin "The Fowler Agency" (an obvious nod to the Pinkerton Agency) which is run by dastardly Matthew Fowler (Preston), but although Clanton wants revenge on Fowler, he's still a good guy at heart and will not let his gang become murderous terrorists. Honour among thieves? Yes indeed, but of course it's not going to be all plain sailing when the group is full of such strong personalities.

Although clearly not an "A" list Western, the cast assembled is approaching "A" list quality. Ryan (The Naked Spur/The Day of the Outlaw/The Wild Bunch) in the genre speaks for itself, but he's also surrounding by an assortment of fine Western and film noir character actors. Preston (This Gun for Hire/Blood on the Moon), Trevor (Key Largo/Man Without a Star) and Brennan (Red River/My Darling Clementine), all deliver the expected committed performance. One of the film's weaknesses is under using some of the secondary performers, especially Lawrence Tierney (Dillinger/Born to Kill), who as Jesse James only gets a couple of lines! However, Bruce Cabot (King Kong/Fury) and John Archer (White Heat) do get to earn their pay. Rounding out the noticeable bad guys are Robert Wilke (High Noon/Night Passage), Jack Buetel (The Outlaw), Tom Tyler (Blood on the Moon) and John Cliff (River of No Return).

There's some distracting back screen work within the piece, and Cronjager's photography never gets a chance to shine, the latter not helped by a standard print of the film that needs a good scrub up. But the cast, story, action and execution of said story, definitely make this a better than average Western. 7/10


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