Frances Farmer in Badlands of Dakota (1941)

Dead Loss in Deadwood

Saloon owner Bob Holliday (Broderick Crawford) sends his younger brother Jim (Robert Stack) on a mission back East to St. Louis to go and collect his girl Anne Grayson (Ann Rutherford) and bring her back to Deadwood. On Jim and Anne's journey back they not only run in to Wild Bill Hickock (Richard Dix) as they travel by steamer but fall in love and tie the knot which of course doesn't go down well when Bob learns of the betrayal. Bitter Bob firstly arranges for Jim to be made the Marshal of Deadwood and then joins up with outlaw Jack McCall (Lon Chaney Jr.) bringing him into an inevitable confrontation with his brother.

Yes "Badlands of Dakota" takes us to Deadwood and anyone who knows their western means we are in Calamity Jane territory with Frances Farmer delivering a pleasant performance as the tough talking cowgirl. But unfortunately "Badlands of Dakota" is not about Jane and instead focuses on the romance between Jim and Anne which leads to the inevitable fall out between Jim and Bob which frankly is incredibly ordinary.

Ann Rutherford in Badlands of Dakota (1941)

As westerns go "Badlands of Dakota" lacks excitement until towards the end when the trouble really starts and in fact at times feels more like an attempt to be a comedy western with some misfiring slapstick surrounding a fire in the bar and the barman being the town's inept fire chief whilst Andy Devine gives us his usually squeaky voice performance as the Mayor. In truth at 74 minutes "Badlands of Dakota" is not a long movie yet it drags with scenes which feel like they are filling time and stretching out the weak premise. It is especially true when it comes to the romance between Jim and Anne as it is painfully drawn out and not that interesting.

About the only thing which "Badlands of Dakota" has going for it is the female cast because Frances Farmer as Calamity Jane and Ann Rutherford as Anne are attractive. Beyond that Robert Stack as Jim may be youthfully handsome but plays a weak character whilst Broderick Crawford is almost anonymous despite having a prominent role. In fact Richard Dix makes more of an impression as Wild Bill Hickock in one of those roles which are only there to set the scene rather than play any real part in the story.

What this all boils down to is that "Badlands of Dakota" just doesn't do it for me and even its relatively short running time doesn't help as it still feels drawn out. In truth the more interesting movie would have focussed on Frances Farmer as Calamity Jane and Richard Dix as Wild Bill Hickock but instead the focus is on the uninteresting and in truth inevitable drama between the Holliday brothers.