The Desperadoes at the IMDb
A crooked banker in a frontier town plans to rip all the townsfolk off for half their savings - how times have changed! Nowadays they wouldn’t be left with half! The scheme involves hiring an outsider to ‘rob’ the bank and then tell the folks that the banks will repay half their losses with the other half going to the crook. Unfortunately the hired gun fails to show and a local mob, hired on the rush, shoot the place up and kill three locals.
The original robber eventually shows up and is not best pleased to see that his gig has been stolen. He thaws however when he finds his friend is the sheriff and the local floozy catches his eye. Meanwhile the bad guys get nervous as their employers turn out to be loose cannons and a lost fancy spur may spell trouble.
A local posse of well meaning idiots challenge the Sheriff, Steve (good name), to catch the villains and given he’s Randolph Scott he has little choice. For some reason he invests in the counsel of the evil Uncle Willie but we remain hopeful that the two former friends will triumph and at least get the top button undone on their overdressed wenches.
From 1943 this was Columbia Pictures’ first colour movie and it shows in the gaudy costumes and sets which are clearly used to impress the audience who were still in black and white. It is a basic, unimaginative western with the usual good guys / bad guys motif with a saloon floozy thrown in for a bit of glamour. There is also a scene of two greased up men giving each other a massage only to be embarrassed when the saloon madam walks in - like I say something for everyone!
It does stand above a lot of its contemporaries in terms of locations and a couple of stars in the shape of Randolph Scott and Glenn Ford. Scott is wooden and I can never see any star quality in him - he’s more like stern history teacher. Ford is better as Bill ‘Cheyenne’ Rogers who wrestles with morals and presumably with the buckles on Randolph’s corset. There isn’t much in the way of danger or menace although I was surprised to see three locals get shot in the opening bank raid - maybe they were just over enthusiastic extras.
The female leads do OK in the standard window dressing roles with plenty of fancy gowns to keep the ladies happy and to let the men play butch. There is also an ill-advised comedy bar brawl which was always going to happen when the saloon keeper says he’s selling up tomorrow. The usual pratfalls and dazed ‘Oh I’ve been knocked out’ expressions ensue but it was good to see a proto-Mongo who would later win the day in ‘Blazing Saddles’.
The early reveal that the late arriving bad guy was once a goodie with the will to reform was puny character development and it was no surprise at all when the two former friends put bygones aside to fight the common enemy. The weasely banker was good fun as was the likeable and murderously traitorous ‘Uncle Willie’ who was played for laughs but a real bastard.
There was nothing in the way of social commentary and any hints of a moral tale above the standard good versus evil were dispelled early on. Of course it was the 1940s and there had to be something for everyone along with no sex and limited violence you can tell this isn’t going to make any top ten list.
It was competently made and had a lot to like in its naïve view of the world where good beat bad and the nasty banker got what was due to him. Are you watching Financial Crime Office? Probably not.
THE Tag Line : Bill and Steve Moderate Adventure 56%