Movie Review: Day of the Bad Man (1958)

Synopsis: After years of traveling as a circuit judge, Jim Scott finally has a permanent post and is ready to settle down with the woman he loves. However, Scott, who refuses to wear a gun, is scheduled to sentence a killer to die and is facing intimidation tactics from the convicted man's powerful family. On top of it, the local sheriff is having an affair with his intended bride and proves to be less than reliable.

Who's in it? The movie stars Fred MacMurray, Joan Weldon, John Ericson, Robert Middleton and Marie Windsor.

Review: It had been a while since I had seen a Fred MacMurray movie so, when I came across this one a few days ago, I added it to my library. I had a chance to watch it this morning and found I enjoyed it a lot more than I was expecting.

On the surface, this is a normal western, complete with gun-wearing bad guys and cowboy fist fights. However, as the movie progressed, I realized it was a lot more to it than just the stereotypical shoot-'em-up film.

Jim Scott (MacMurray) was an interesting character just by himself. Even though he refused to wear a gun, he still managed to be a tough guy who could handle himself in a fight (at least a fair one). I also loved his all-business attitude when it came to his job, not letting threats from the convicted man's (Christopher Dark) family or a plea from the victim's widow (Peggy Converse) sway his decision.

I also liked how the outlaws weren't simply trying to break him out of jail and, instead, were taking a much more complicated intimidation route because they wanted their family member released legally. This, in some ways, made them much more dangerous because they were unpredictable.

The subplot about his intended bride (Weldon) cheating on him with the sheriff (Ericson) was much more intriguing than I expected. At minimum, it made me wonder just what would happen with the sheriff whenever Scott insisted he either arrest or disarm some of the outlaws, both because he had a motive for making sure the judge didn't stay safe and seemed to be less than qualified.

This made the ending a lot less predictable than I would normally expect from a movie like this. I didn't know if Scott would be able to stick to his principles or, in order to hang the outlaw, would have to arm himself after all, especially with the town turning against him. I was honestly expecting to get bored with the film halfway through and was pleasantly surprised when that didn't happen.

Final Opinion: This is a movie with a solid plot and a great performance by MacMurray and the supporting cast. I would recommend taking the time to watch it if you get a chance.

My Grade: A


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