(director: Tim Whelan; screenwriters: Jack Natteford/Bess Taffel/Luci Ward/Clarence Upson Young; cinematographer: Robert de Grasse; editor: Philip Martin; music: Roy Webb; cast: Randolph Scott (Mark Rowley), Ann Richards (Henryette Alcott), George “Gabby” Hayes (Coyote), James Warren (John Rowley), Ray Collins (Col. Farewell), Morgan Conway (Bill Hampton), Steve Brodie (Bob Dalton), Lawrence Tierney (Jessie James), Tom Tyler (Frank James), Chief Thundercloud (Chief Tahlequah), Isabel Jewell (Belle Starr), Nestor Paiva (Sam Bass), Andrew Tombes (Doc Grant), Richard Hale (Ben Wade),Virginia Sale (Meg), John Halloran (Hank McGee); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Nat Holt; RKO Pictures; 1946)
“A lively but muddled Western that never quite makes much sense.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A gimmicky b/w B Western that groups a number of outlaws together into one movie in order to enliven things and possibly draw a greater audience. We have Randolph Scott as an earnest Texas sheriff meeting the likes of the James Gang, the Daltons, Sam Bass and Belle Starr as he paves the way for a lawless territory known as Badman’s Territory to become part of the Oklahama Territory and receive the protection of the Union. The result under Tim Whelan’s spirited direction is a lively but muddled Western that never quite makes much sense.
The James Gang rob a Texas train in broad daylight and are chased by local sheriff Mark Rowley (Randolph Scott), his younger deputy brother John (James Warren), and deputy Dan Mercer but are interfered with by crooked marshal Bill Hampton (Morgan Conway). Ignoring Hampton’s order to go in a different direction, opposite from where the outlaws were heading, the lawmen come upon the outlaws and capture their lookout man Kid Coyote (George “Gabby” Hayes). But Mercer is shot in the back by one of the escaping outlaws, Hank McGhee. Later Hampton tries to kill Coyote as John’s escorting his prisoner back to town, but instead wounds John who tries to protect his prisoner. Hampton is stopped from executing both by the arrival of Jessie James (Lawrence Tierney), who feels obliged to take the wounded heroic deputy back to Quinto (the lawless town is located in Badman’s Territory, a place where the U.S. law has no jurisdiction and has become a safe haven for outlaws). Hampton then frames John by stating he’s part of the James Gang, which Mark doesn’t believe for a second and decides to go on alone to rescue his brother in Badman’s Territory. On his way into town Mark meets earnest Englishwoman Henryette Alcott (Ann Richards), who is the crusading editor for Quinto’s newspaper. A romance develops and Mark tries to help her get a petition from the good citizens to join the new Oklahoma Territory and bring in law and order.
The film goes off in many different fractured directions as the storyline gets involved with the famous historical gangs, the crooked activities of the local citizen leaders and such things as square dances and horse races. It leads to the unscrupulous politician Hampton getting appointed to be marshal in Quinto after it was accepted into the Oklahoma Territory, and with him charging the Rowleys as being part of the James Gang and therefore wanted by the law. The final shootout was just as senseless as the plot line, as it left me scratching my head more than Gabby Hayes scratched his beard.
REVIEWED ON 4/25/2005 GRADE: C+