In Familiar Territory
Historically inaccurate, typically edging on the side of cheesy for an early Randolph Scott western and to be frank a bit of a rambling mess when it comes to the storyline but for all these problems and a few others "Badman's Territory" is entertaining. Why? Well it is hard to put your finger on it because there is nothing out of the ordinary when it comes to the storyline, performances and action and in Randolph Scott's portfolio of westerns it is forgettable but there is something about it, maybe the jaunty pace or the often humorous moments are the reason why keep you watching even when a scene makes you groan.
After the James gang robs a train of its payroll they find themselves being chased down by the law lead by Capt. William 'Bill' Hampton (Morgan Conway), but Hampton's ruthless ways do not sit comfortably with all the law men especially Sheriff Mark Rowley (Randolph Scott - The Desperadoes) and his brother Deputy John (James Warren) who decide to go after the James gang to bring them in rather than shoot them. But when John ends up shot by Hampton the young deputy is taken back to the lawless Quinto in Badman's territory by the James gang who have the Doc tend to his wounds. Not far behind is Mark whose presence in Quinto upsets many but he soon makes friends with various gangs including the James brothers as he keeps peace whilst his brother recuperates. But trouble is not far away as Hampton not only wants to arrest the various criminals in Quinto but he also wants the Rowley brothers.
That synopsis has barely scratched the surface of what actually goes on in "Badman's Territory" because in its relatively short 97 minutes it packs more elements in than a movie twice as long. It means that from a storyline point of view it not only gets messy but none of the elements are done justice as each one plays out in a brief typical fashion, moment of drama, brief moment of action and move on to the next. But you can sum it up by saying that with Mark befriending people in Quinto he finds himself as the unofficial law which suits some and not the others whilst Hampton nefariously sets about getting Mark for basically saying he was no worse than the badmen he was after. Throw in a typical romantic subplot as Mark finds himself falling for local paper editor Henryetta who becomes jealous of Belle Starr and what is a movie that goes off on various tangents ends up actually quite simple.
The thing is that whilst "Badman's Territory" ends up entertaining there is nothing special about it and is not just a typical 1940s western but also a typical early Randolph Scott western. As already mentioned the action is of the brief variety, typical of a 1940's b-movie but the various characters from nefarious businessmen to the friendly, drink loving Coyote are just as typical. And the most typical thing is Scott who turns on the charm in every scene, flashes a few smiles as he deals with trouble be it a quick draw or a punch and gets the girl. I wish I could be more enthusiastic but other than the fact it crams so much in there is nothing original about "Badman's Territory".
One thing it certainly isn't is historically accurate and this is one of those strange westerns where the good guys are actually the bad guys, the various infamous gangs who Mark befriends and they end up sticking up for him. Trust me when I say the West wasn't like this but at the same time it does make it entertaining especially when the badman in the movie is in fact the law in the shape of Hampton who has become a law unto himself.
What this all boils down to is that "Badman's Territory" is an entertaining Randolph Scott western but it is also one which is also not only a typical 1940's b-movie but a flawed one at that. It's worth watching just to see how much they manage to cram in to just 97 minutes but unless you are a big Randolph Scott fan it is not one you would go out of your way to watch again.