Good Guys and the Bad Guys Reviews
Traditionally, westerns espouse conservative values, and one value is respect for your elders. When should somebody be put out to pasture because they are past their prime and no longer useful to society? In Don Siegel's superlative western "Death of a Gunfighter," Richard Widmark played a town taming lawman that refused to quit his job long after the dust had settled and the townspeople took it upon themselves to finish him off. In "The Good Guys & the Bad Guys," Robert Mitchum plays Marshal James Flagg of Progress. When our hero discovers a plot afoot to rob the town bank of a bundle of money, he alerts smarmy Mayor Randolph Wilkins (Martin Balsam of "The Anderson Tapes") that a notorious outlaw, 'Big' John McKay (George Kennedy of "Bandolero!"), is in the territory to rob the Progress Bank.
Initially, Mayor Wilkins doesn't know who McKay is until Flagg loses credibility in the mayor's eyes and reveals that McKay was an infamous bank robber back in the days of Jesse James. Indeed, everybody thought that McKay had been dead for years. Moreover, the fact that Flagg found out about McKay from an old hermit in the hills, Grundy (Douglas Fowley of "Bandido"), weakens his case. Flagg demands that the mayor assemble a posse immediately, but the mayor dismisses Flagg's paranoia. Nevertheless, Flagg wants to assemble a posse and ride these varmints down. Wilkins is thinking about his next election and doesn't want anything to jeopardize his chances, especially hysteria about a bank robber who is reportedly dead. If Flagg's outcry turned out to be a false alarm, Wilker is afraid that he will lose face and the next election. Consequently, Wilkins stages a retirement party for Flagg, takes his badge, and commemorates his many years of duty with a gold watch.
Despite the advice of his pretty landlord (Lois Nettleton), Flagg sets out to catch McKay. He sneaks up on McKay's camp, scatters their horses, and gets the drop on McKay long enough to collapse under the weight of a gun barrel slammed into his noggin. When he awakens, Flagg learns that McKay isn't the head of his old gang anymore. Instead, Waco (David Carradine of "Kung Fu") has taken over control of the gang. Waco and the boys recover their horses, and he leaves McKay with Flagg. McKay still wants to accompany his old gang, but Waco tells him to kill Flagg. The gang ride off and McKay considers killing Flagg long enough for Grundy‚??who Flagg had tried to dissuade from following him‚??sneaks up and disarms McKay. When Flagg brings in McKay, he catches the ambitious but horny Wilker humping a beautiful married woman, Mrs. Carmel Flannagan (Tina Louise of "Gilligan's Island") because her husband neglects her. Of course, Wilker is taken completely by surprise at Flagg's sudden appearance. Eventually, Flagg convinces the mayor about the predicament that they are in, but not before one of Waco's ruffians, Deuce (John Davis Chandler of "The Outlaw Josey Wales") shoots Grundy in the back in the street. Waco defuses the crisis by helping the idiot who replace Flagg, Deputy Marshal Howard Boyle (Dick Peabody of "Combat!" where he played 'Little John'), escort Deuce to jail. They lock Boyle up and wait for the train to arrive.
Now that Mayor Wilker believes that Flagg hasn't cried 'wolf,' he tries to figure out a way to keep Waco and his hellions from robbing the bank and destroying his opportunity for re-election. At first, he wants to accompany Flagg and McKay who plan to board the train and force it to bypass Progress. The running gag at this point is that Wilker took away Flagg's badge and he has a difficult time proving that he is the local custodian of justice. It happened the first time that he met McKay and got captured by Waco's men and the lack of a badge comes back to haunt him when McKay and he board the train, only to find to conductor with guns aimed at them. Desperately, Flagg explains the situation but the conductors, one of whom is John Carradine of "The Grapes of Wrath," imprison them in the privy. Naturally, our heroes escape, take over the train, and run it through Progress without stopping at the depot. Waco and his bunch light out after the train while Mayor Wilker finally does assemble a posse.
"The Good Guys & the Bad Guys" is one of those modern-day, turn-of-the-century westerns with automobile, motorcycles, and indoor toilets. Unfortunately, the script is neither agile nor funny enough, and none of the characters is memorable. Martin Balsam is good as the Mayor, but he plays him as an object of scorn. Robert Mitchum acts as if he were in a comedy while George Kennedy just acts. Moments of sentimentality‚??the scenes with Lois Nettleton‚??fall flat because there is no chemistry between her and Flagg.
The period recreation is admirable and the production values, especially Harry Stradling's widescreen cinematography are up to snuff. The miniatures in the train crash are none-too-convincing, but the scenery is fabulous. There is no equivalent of the finger in the gun barrel from Kennedy's earlier and more successful "Support Your Local Sheriff." Ultimately, "The Good Guys & the Bad Guys" is just fair to middling, though the title ballad of Marshal Flagg sung by Glen Yarbrough is terrific.
Marshall James Flagg (Robert Mitchum) has been serving the town of Progress for many year. He's getting old, and "old" is not the image Progress wants to project. So, without consulting Flagg, Mayor Randy Wilker (Martin Balsam) retires him. They convince him that there's crime for him to fight, and off he goes--into a retirement party. He is given the position of Marshall Emeritus. Now, that implies, one would think, that his expertise would be repsected and used. However, he's basically brushed under the rug, even when he brings news that Big John McKay (George Kennedy) is in the area and likely to rob the new bank. He's told that McKay is too old to be a threat. So, of course, Flagg goes after him on his own. And McKay is planning to rob the bank, though with the help of a group of younger men, led by Waco (David Carradine).
Waco is one of the things that's supposed to represent the New West. He's a different kind of villain. McKay is ruled by a code of honour--he says he's never broken his word to a friend or an enemy, and we mostly believe him. However, we also believe that Waco's word isn't worth a thing, even were he to give it. Waco kills people without much worrying about the consequences. He's as much a symbol of the changing times as the cars that are all over Progress, as much as the indoor bathroom. Times are changing, and Flagg and McKay are having a hard time changing with them.
It's been a while since I've seen other movies of this stripe, but I've liked a lot of them better. This movie seems unsure if it's zany or serious. I have not labled it as a comedy, because I don't think it's really supposed to be one, but I think we are supposed to see more humour in the situation than there actually is. Mostly, the John Wayne movies are aware of this. It's possible to inject humour into it, but the situation itself just isn't funny. The times really did change, and it really was hard for the people who couldn't adjust. It's hard for me to laugh at George Kennedy's surprise at the indoor plumbing.
It's an interesting addition to a very specific genre, but I'm not sure it's really worth seeking out. If you are very bored, or it's there, sure. And Robert Mitchum is a good actor and often worth seeking out on his own merits. (He received one Oscar nomination in 1945 for a movie I've never heard of--[i]GI Joe[/i], and not the upcoming one!--and never even got an honorary after that.) He's one of the icons of the classic era of the Western, and this is his sunset movie. I guess that means that, if you really like Robert Mitchum, this is a must-see. But for the average person, I really wouldn't bother.