The Badlanders

The Badlanders

“Personally I don’t trust Mexis.”

“Personally I do. I’ve even forgotten the Alamo.”

Boy, oh boy. Delmer Daves sure liked to subvert the stereotypes of the Western, didn’t he?

After adapting Hamlet for the oater crowd with Jubal and showing that native Americans can be more than cardboard cut-outs in Broken Arrow he turned his attention to this taut Western crime picture in 1958.

As much a Noir as a Western it features odd couple Ernie Borgnine and Alan Ladd, recently released from jail, who arrive in a hostile town with intentions to rob a gold mine, fence off the loot with a local bigwig and get out before sundown the next day. Now if this plot sounds a little familiar that’s because it’s a remake – or perhaps a re-imagining – of Asphalt Jungle. See what I mean about those Noir sensibilities?

It never quite reaches the heights of its progenitor – but then again how many movies ever made do? – but it’s still a fine piece of work and the central set-piece of the mine robbery is expertly handled and makes for a fabulously gripping twenty minutes. There’s also the same balance between that players that Jungle had. Ladd may well be the brightest name in the marquee lights but Borgnine gets very nearly as much screen time, and the unfolding relationship he develops with Katy Jurado is very sweet, believable and as it turns out crucial to the plot.

The Noir Western is fallow territory and I can think of only a few films that straddle both genres – Stations West, Blood on the Moon, The Tall T, 3:10 to Yuma – but this makes a worthy addition to the group.

The Badlanders – directed by Delmer Daves (1958)


In Short
Two ex-cons plan the audacious robbery of a gold mine, but are fighting against time as they must get out of town by sundown.

Trailer here