Bullet for a Badman (1964)

Former Texas Rangers Sam Ward and Logan Keliher become enemies when Sam turns bank robber and Logan marries Sam's ex-wife.

We were friends once, Sam. It's not easy to shoot an old friend.
Bullet for a Badman is directed by R.G. Springsteen and adapted to screenplay by Mary & Willard Willingham from a novel written by Marvin H. Albert. It stars Audie Murphy, Darren McGavin, Ruta Lee, Beverley Owen and Skip Homeier. Filmed in Eastman Color at Universal City, with the exteriors coming from Zion National Park, Springdale, Utah, photography by Joseph Biroc and music by Frank Skinner (Joseph Gershenson supervising).
Audie Murphy plays Logan Keliher, an ex-Texas Ranger who has to interrupt his peaceful life to strap on the guns again when ex-friend-turned enemy Sam Ward (McGavin) appears back on the scene with the intention of killing him. The animosity is strong from Ward on account that Logan married his ex-wife and raised his son as his own.
The relatively short running time and the B movie production budget afforded it, doesn't give a clue to just how good, and how chock full of interest, Bullet for a Badman is. It's certainly very traditional in the old Westerns sense, before the likes of Anthony Mann and Budd Boetticher gloriously filled their Oaters with psychological themes, but there is much to enjoy here from a character perspective as regards the human condition. Jealousy, vengeance, greed, love, hate and redemption, all get a turn in the Willingham's screenplay. Mix in some good old style shoot outs and run-ins with the Apache, and film condenses a lot in such a short space of time. There's also some twists and turns that work real well in the narrative, leading us to a beauty of an ending.
The male cast members work real well, especially Murphy who turns in one of his finest Western performances, while there's also a nice little support role for Alan Hale and snatches of stoic Western performers Ray Teal and Bob Steele. With most of the film set out in the wilderness, it's such a joy to see stunning location scenery expertly captured. The colour is not quite right to fully bring it to life, a shame since Eastman Color has had some great moments in Westerns, but Biroc belies the B movie production to please the eyes with the natural beauty of Zion National Park. Skinner's score is standard fare, and although the lady actors look pretty as pictures, that's about as good as it gets for them in this particular story.
In spite of some usual iffy B production problems (poor stunt doubles, bendy props), this is still a little cracker of a Western. One that deserves a bit more attention now it's readily available on DVD. 7.5/10

Universal Pictures by R.G. Springsteen, Marvin H. Albert, Mary Willingham, Willard W. Willingham.
Stars: Audie Murphy, Darren McGavin, Ruta Lee, Beverley Owen.

Genres: Western

Keywords: romance betrayal grudge

09/01/1964

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