3 Bad Men (1926)

Director: John Ford

Fast forward a few years (bypassing The Iron Horse which I’ve reviewed already, and, obviously, the numerous lost films) and we land on this, the next film in this Ford silents set… the box is called “John Ford’s Silent Epics”, and I must say this is indeed somewhat more “epic” than Just Pals, this is Ford in big western territory—actually the last western he made until Stagecoach in 1939—with the historical setting of the Dakota land rush of 1877 providing the backdrop to the film’s many goings-on. For years I thought—cos I’m sure I’d seen it described as such—as an early version of Ford’s 1948 film Three Godfathers, but it’s not really; there’s a certain plot similarity (three bandits find themselves rendering assistance to a young lady in need) but the source material is entirely different. On top of the titular bad men, though, we also have George O’Brien as the actual romantic lead; apparently the studio couldn’t have him dying a noble death in the end so he was given a totally different character to play. And ultimately, though 3 Bad Men Plus 1 Good Irishman is a totally solid film, there’s still this problem with an excess of characters; Ford has enough trouble with the rather large secondary cast as it is without this additional issue. Net result is a film that feels like it should’ve had more going on to establish some characters better, give them stuff to do, etc. And I wasn’t entirely convinced by female lead Olive Barton, who seemed to be doing the John Leguizamo thing of letting her teeth do the acting for her… But, like I said, it is a very good film—it’s sad that the major studios lost interest in westerns around that time, cos Ford was so good at making them—and though the sentiment is a little thick at times it’s kind of irresistible too. Plus the actual scene of the land rush when it comes about two-thirds of the way into the film is fantastic, you’ll wish Ford had been able to shoot it in widescreen; alas that Fox’s Grandeur process was still a few years away…

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