As I prepare to make my 12 Westerns in 12 Months project in 2020, I continue to study the Western genre. I have decided to share some of these discoveries with the hope that you also will take a close look at these films.

The Weekend Western: The Avenging Angel

I ordered a copy of this “TV Western” (a term I have come to use less often because it seems to qualify these often great films as less cinematic) a couple Christmases ago, drawn to The Avenging Angel when I learned that the plot dealt with Mormons. Though I do not, some of my extended family belongs to that faith and few Westerns have touched on the pioneering days of those people (at least not many that I have discovered). I only recently watched the film after it sat on my shelf for quite a while. To say the least, I was surprised and delighted by this Western.

The Avenging Angel dives head on into its religious setting and that’s what I like most about it. It’s not preachy but it fully embraces the history and culture of the Mormons, so much so that it might seem disorienting for anyone without a basic knowledge of their beliefs. I don’t know how accurate some of the film’s depictions are but I do know that they do not portray the religion in a condescending way nor do they praise it. This presents a unique, refreshing environment for a Western to play out.

A behind the scenes still taken during the making of The Avenging Angel.

On top of that, Tom Berenger once again proves two things: 1. He was an underrated romantic male lead at his peak. 2. He was perfect for the Western. He carries the picture with a sincere, rugged performance. Even when the script fails him (which is does now and then, particularly in a weak ending), Berenger prevails. I wish he’d made more films in the genre.

I highly recommend The Avenging Angel for anyone who likes and studies Westerns. You can find it on DVD.