Just north of Texas, sandwiched between New Mexico and Oklahoma, lies an unclaimed territory known as “Badman’s Territory.” The place has become a refuge for outlaws, train robbers, and all manner of unsavory character.

(Image via The Movie Database)
(Image via The Movie Database)

Quinto is the unofficial capital of the territory, with its saloons and stores, made prosperous by the stolen wealth of the criminal populous. It even has its own newspaper, The Quinto Citizen, run by Henryetta Alcott (Ann Richards).

Texas sheriff Mark Rowley (Randolph Scott) and his brother Johnny (James Warren) are headed toward Badman’s Territory on the trail of Jesse (Lawrence Tierney) and Frank James (Tom Tyler), who along with their sidekick Coyote (George Hayes) have just robbed a train. U.S. Marshal William Hampton (Morgan Conway) is also attempting to hunt down the James brothers.

When Johnny is injured and taken to Quinto, Mark heads directly into the heart of Badman’s Territory to find his brother. In a city full of outlaws, the sheriff, of course, finds plenty of trouble.

Tim Whelan directs 1946’s Badman’s Territory. The film was written by Jack Natteford and Luci Ward.

Badman’s Territory is an ambitious film in that it seeks to portray so many legendary names of the Old West. In addition to Jesse and Frank James, Sheriff Rowley encounters the Dalton gang, Sam Bass, and even famed female outlaw Belle Starr (who wins a horse race with Mark’s help). “See them all in action in one picture!,” the film’s promotional materials read.

The story suffers in this effort to pack a lot of historical figures into one place at one time. Mark and his new friend Henryetta strive for the vague goal of “law and order” with no one true conflict driving their actions. I think the film would have been stronger if it focused on Mark’s interactions with just one outlaw or gang, or perhaps even a fictional gang, rather than trying to pack so many familiar names into the story. I understand the appeal of incorporating infamous real-life outlaws, but the drama driving the law-vs.-disorder plot could have been more thoroughly established without them.

(Image via Western Movies Forum)
(Image via Western Movies Forum)

All of that being said, I did enjoy watching Badman’s Territory. It has a little bit of everything, including touches of humor, and some fun action sequences. Guns are pulled, punches are thrown, horse hooves are constantly kicking up the dust. Though the story leaves some to be desired, the film still delivers quite a bit of excitement.

There’s also a hint of romance added by Mark’s potentially-lovey friendship with Henryetta, played very well by Randolph Scott and Ann Richards. Both are model citizens who would like to see a strong, safe, law-abiding community built from Quinto, and their similar beliefs make them a good match.

Badman’s Territory isn’t a stand-out of the Western genre but if you’re a fan of these “sheriffs and outlaws” flicks, I’d consider it worth a watch. The score: 3/5