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Angel and the Badman

Gunslinger Quirt Evans (John Wayne) is always preceded by his reputation — at least, that is, once people find out who they're talking to. A survivor of the shoot-out at the O.K. Corral, Evans is always on the move, unwilling to settle down partly because of his taste for the ladies, but also for fear of being bored to death as a rancher or a farmer. But after Evans finds land where he can lay a gold-claim, he finds himself on the run from his arch-rival Laredo Stevens (Bruce Cabot) and his hired guns — nearly dead from exhaustion, Evans' only salvation comes from the Worth household, a Quaker family relocated to the frontier from tranquil Pennsylvania. Doe-eyed daughter Penelope (Gail Russell) immediately falls for the range-country ruffian, despite warnings from her parents. As for Evans, once he's up and around, he finds himself confounded by the Worths' pacifist religious values, enamored of their lovely daughter, and then tempted away from his respite when an old partner (Lee Dixon) offers an easy score for quick money. A product of Republic Studios, Angel and the Badman (1947) typifies the sort of low-budget matinee westerns the company churned out by the dozens. However, in this case the production is bolstered by a strong script and likable cast. John Wayne was under contract at Republic (a deal that would lure director John Ford to the studio before long), and he acted as producer here, generously giving the director's chair to writer James Edward Grant. Certainly, Grant could not be confused for John Ford (the author of several screenplays, he only directed two pictures), but he displays a good understanding of why John Wayne was such a special screen-presence. Every moment seems to flatter his star, countered by the fetching Gail Russell, who falls for Quirt Evans but refuses to diminish her Quaker beliefs. With action sequences overseen by second-unit director (and Hollywood legend) Yakima Canutt, as well a fine team of supporting stars that includes Harry Carey, Tom Powers, Paul Hurst, and Olin Howlin, this one is a pleasant Sunday-afternoon diversion for genre fans. (If possible, spin it as a double-feature with Peter Weir's 1985 Witness, a modern film concerning a Philly cop in Amish country that broaches similar themes.) Angel and the Badman is a public-domain film, which means several DVDs are in release. However, the Hal Roach Studios edition (distributed by Image Entertainment) is a superior item, offering a clean transfer from an attractive black-and-white source-print. The original monaural audio is delivered on a Dolby Digital 2.0 track, and while everything is crisp and easy to hear, there is an unfortunate amount of ambient noise under the dialogue. Snap-case.
—JJB



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