Bullet for a Badman (1964)

Audie Murphy and Darren McGavin in Bullet for a Badman (1964)

Murphy Tries to Ward of McGavin

As westerns go "Bullet for a Badman" has a lot going on we have revenge, greed, jealousy and of course being a western a bit of romance. But "Bullet for a Badman" is also a b-movie one of the many westerns which got churned out in their heyday purely because people loved westerns. As such most of these elements are under explored delivering instead what for much of its 80 minutes is a basic western which sees good guy up against bad guys as well as Apaches. Yet "Bullet for a Badman" is worth watching because of one thing a pleasantly decent ending which whilst not that surprising is well worked to deliver satisfaction.

Former Ranger Logan Keliher (Audie Murphy - Night Passage) finds his peaceful life on his farm interrupted when he discovers one time friend and now nemesis Sam Ward (Darren McGavin - Distant Drums) holding up the bank in the nearby town of Griffin. Matters are complicated because Sam was once married to Logan's wife Susan (Beverley Owen) and is the father of her son Sammy (Kevin Tate) and has vowed to kill Logan for stealing his family. Forced to put on his guns to tackle the situation head on Logan finds he is not the only one after Sam Ward but a posse from town are also on his trail, but for very different reasons.

Ruta Lee as Lottie in Bullet for a Badman (1964)

"Bullet for a Badman" has almost a journey type storyline, as in it initially sets up one situation but evolves as the storyline progresses. As such in the opening we discover outlaw Sam Ward whilst organizing his men to rob the bank at Griffin also plans to pay the farm of Logan Keliher a visit because he plans to kill Logan. Why well we discover this when Logan accidentally comes across Sam and his men robbing the bank and sees him riding off into the distance heading for his farm. They know each other and that is because Logan has married Susan, Sam's ex wife and the mother of his son and Sam wants revenge, he wants to kill Logan for what he sees as him stealing his wife and child.

So we've got the element of revenge set up and at the same time we also get elements of love as Susan shows she no longer feels anything for Sam when he arrives in the middle of night. What follows that is Logan hunting Sam down as he heads to the hills and finds himself accompanied by a posse from town who are also hunting Sam and the money he stole down. This leads to the next element greed, because the various men in the posse spot it as an opportunity to take the stolen money for themselves and killing anyone who can prove what they did including Sam and Logan as well as Lottie, the wife of one of the outlaws which died in the bank job.

Now that is quite a bit going on but we get another element because we have Apaches coming after all of them forcing this bunch of men to work together despite a level of mistrust between them all. And yes this means Logan has to trust Sam with a gun, a situation which he is not keen on because Sam has told him straight he will kill him.

But the thing is that whilst all this is good, developing some nice situations between the various men as well as a pleasant if not so surprising twist at the end it is all under exploited. And the reason that the depths of the situations never really develop is because "Bullet for a Badman" is a typical B-movie western, the sort which were churned out quickly with a star name or two attached which in this case is Audie Murphy. It is a shame because like a few other westerns this has the potential to be a gripping tale about the relationships and situations but as I said it is under exploited.

Now as to Audie Murphy, well as Logan he is the typical good guy, maybe a little too nice as whilst he knows Sam wants to kill him would rather not kill Sam but give him a chance of redemption. It actually means that Darren McGavin as Sam ends up being more interesting because he has a conniving side, willing to manipulate those around him to get what he wants, acting nice one moment but you know he is plotting his revenge behind the smile.

What this all boils down to is that "Bullet for a Badman" whilst a nice idea with a nice series of situations ends up just another western from the days when they were churned out in huge numbers.