The Badlanders (1958)

Genres - Western  |   Sub-Genres - Traditional Western  |   Release Date - Sep 3, 1958 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 85 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Delmer Daves' The Badlanders walks a fine line between the traditional and the modern western, with some surprising -- and appealing -- twists along the way. It was based on W. R. Burnett's The Asphalt Jungle, which had been filmed in a form very close to the original book at MGM eight years earlier by John Huston. Transposing the story to a western setting works well -- this is one of the better noir-ish westerns this side of Raoul Walsh's Pursued -- though there are liberties taken with the plot and the characters, and the movie has more than its share of ironic twists for an oater, not to mention a serious social conscience. For starters, none of the characters behaves in the manner that one expects, in terms of usual genre entries -- Ernest Borgnine's McBain is less educated than Alan Ladd's Dutchman, but proves every bit as sensitive and perceptive. The story arc also follows an odd path, weaving between the two principal characters in ways that don't always make it immediately clear that they're going to be interacting again. And accident and bad planning enter into the proceedings here even more than they do in typical film noir. And the result is an immensely satisfying western, with more than enough action intermingled with the serious psychology to please modern audiences.