The Good Guys and the Bad Guys


The Good Guys and the Bad Guys Review

Burt Kennedy's The Good Guys and the Bad Guys is the kind of western that's so tired and old that it has to rely on a phony jokiness to get through the clich├ęs. Around 1969, there were a lot of those westerns to go around -- True Grit, There Was a Crooked Man, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The War Wagon, and Kennedy's own Support Your Local Sheriff, which looks as if it were shot on the same cheap and generic western set as The Good Guys and the Bad Guys. Some of these westerns were elevated from their Cat Ballou foundation by actually not being westerns at all but, instead, interesting character studies (True Grit, Butch Cassidy) or more comedies than westerns (Support Your Local Sheriff).

But others just languished between the two extremes being neither one nor the other, in the end being nothing at all. Into this classification falls The Good Guys and the Bad Guys, a meaningless and harmless bit of flatulence that caused barely a ripple of interest in 1969, when critical sniffers where inhaling deeply of Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch.

Robert Mitchum (in another fine performance in a miserable movie) plays over-the-hill Marshal Flagg. Flagg is first seen galumphing on his horse through a western landscape over a bombastic William Lava music score that embarrassingly segues into a dreadful folk song vocalization by Glenn Yarborough -- so fake and smarmy it makes John Denver sound like Bob Dylan. "Marshal Flagg / Marshal Flagg / As men grow old / Their footsteps drag," sings the Troubadour of Crap.

Flagg comes upon the campfire of generic geezer Grundy (Douglas Fowley), who drops the plot of the movie onto Flagg's protruding gut: the nefarious outlaw, John McKay (George Kennedy), long thought to be dead, has been spotted with a new gang headed by the Waco Kid (David Carradine), and they are planning to rob the bank in Flagg's town once a train arrives and delivers the payroll. Now with a purpose to his life, Flagg rides off to warn the town and form a posse.

Unfortunately for Flagg, in a sick inversion of the premise of High Noon, no one in town cares. Least of all the blowhard Mayor Wilker (Martin Balsam), who is more concerned with his political reputation, even though he hooks up with local floozy Carmel (Tina Louise) after throwing all the whores out of town. (As the hookers are sent away on the train, Buddy Hackett makes a very disturbing cameo as a seemingly deranged town gawker.) When Flagg warns him that he plans to form a posse anyway, Wilker quickly presents Flagg with a gold watch and grants him early retirement. In true western tradition, Flagg goes and captures McKay anyway and brings him back to town where, since no one in the town gives a care, Flagg and McKay sit around in a parlor and reflect on old times. After McKay visits the toilet and shaves off his beard, he agrees (for no apparent reason at all) to help McKay foil Waco's robbery -- by getting on the payroll train with Flagg and making sure it doesn't stop in town to drop off the money.

Burt Kennedy directs this moldy material with a light touch -- too light, almost as if he didn't want to direct it or even touch it with a ten-foot pole. This leaves the actors high and dry -- George Kennedy spends most of his time hunched over, elbows on knees, watching everybody. Mitchum pushes for a characterization, and he is in fine form, even though he is continually sabotaged by the music score and Yarborough. There is a fine silent scene with Mitchum in his dark sheriff's office after getting canned. Mitchum is quietly and emotionally surveying the remains of his 20 years as marshal, but he is quickly undone by Yarborough's obnoxious caterwauling, explaining in sing-song what Flagg is feeling.

The film is spruced up by a collection of great character actors (John Carradine, Marie Windsor, Kathleen Freeman, Lois Nettleton) who pop up, do a few scenes, and then disappear again.

The whole mishmash leads up to the climactic train scene -- Flagg and McKay have to take over the train and make sure it speeds through the town. After being locked in the toilet (toilets count for a lot in this film), the two crawl through a window and skip on top the train (just like they did in Edwin S. Porter's The Great Train Robbery of 1903) and with minimal fuss quickly take over the operation of the locomotive. At that point Mitchum disappears while Kennedy does the dirty work of punching and shooting at the train crew and warding off the bad guys. And since the film is completely lacking in originality, the train chase (both the bandits and the town are running after the runaway train) is lifted en masse from Buster Keaton's The General, with the exception of a gag concerning a stalled car on the train tracks and the train plowing right through it, which was lifted from Keaton's One Week.

In the end, Waco's gang shoots it out with the boys, and guess who wins? A few minutes before Waco meets his maker, Carradine, through clenched teeth, yells out, "Let's get the hell out of here!" If he had left earlier, I would have joined him.

The DVD includes a vintage making-of short called The Good Guy from Chama, the film's original theatrical trailer, and, for some inexplicable reason, the trailer for The Dukes of Hazzard: The Beginning.

The Good Guys and the Bad Guys

Facts and Figures

Run time: 91 mins

In Theaters: Monday 3rd November 1969

Production compaines: Robert Goldstein Productions, Ronden

Reviews 1.5 / 5

IMDB: 6.2 / 10

Cast & Crew


Producer: Ronald M. Cohen, Dennis Shyrack

Starring: as Flagg, as McKay, as Mayor Wilker, as Waco, as Carmel, as Ticker, as Grundy, Lois Nettleton as Mary, John Davis Chandler as Deuce, as Polly, Dick Peabody as Boyle, as Mrs. Stone, Jimmy Murphy as Buckshot