I continue to study the Western genre. I have now launched a podcast about the making of Western films. Listen here

I would have seen this a lot sooner if I knew it was a remake/adaptation of the same source material as The Asphalt Jungle. It was already on my list because of Delmer Daves, who will be included in my book about Western directors. This is another solid entry in his filmography, if not on par with the masterful 3:10 to Yuma and The Hanging Tree.

Speaking of Yuma, it was a treat to see the historical prison featured in the opening of this film and surprising that it doesn’t look too different from when we used it during 2020 for The Woman Who Robbed the Stagecoach. Old Tucson is also utilized in an incredible way, especially the mission which is a great set piece in the finale.

But the highlight of the film is the mine heist. This sequence alone makes The Badlanders worthy of mention in any serious discussion of either the Western genre or the caper subgenre. It’s an astonishing scene with hyper tension and a flawless combination of set/location photography. It’s one of the few moments in recent times when I’ve actually been on the “edge of my seat”.

Of course, Alan Ladd and Ernest Borgnine are pretty good. The latter is an interesting choice, commonly used as the heavy in Westerns but here he’s the moral center of the picture. Unfortunately, the film cuts short some of their character development and especially feels rushed in its final fifteen minutes. It could have used more time to bring their story threads to a conclusion.

Watched on Criterion Channel (it expires at the end of August)