Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Quick Takes: Angel and the Badman

There's a lot to love about Republic B-western Angel and the Badman (James Edward Grant, 1947). John Wayne delivers a pretty nuanced and more likeable than usual performance, and he's part of a sincere love story with the charming Gail Russell, part of a delightfully wholesome Quaker family Wayne's character takes refuge with after a gunfight. Their romance has real stakes and believable twists and turns, and their happy ending feels earned. Both the Quaker religion and atheism are treated as valuable and respectable viewpoints.

What impressed me most viscerally, though, was a third-act stunt that actually made me gasp in shock and feel genuine fear for the characters onscreen and the stunt people who performed the feat. Physical responses like that are rare for me; it was a real, if scary, pleasure to be surprised by a such a superbly-crafted, hair-raising stunt.

SPOILERS for the stunt:




Wayne and Russell are driving a horse-drawn wagon next to a canyon, trying to get away from some pursuing bad guys. Without warning, the horses break free of the wagon, and in one unbroken shot, the wagon goes out of control and plunges off a cliff, wagon and riders plummeting perhaps 70 or 80 feet into the river below. The stunt is executed so seamlessly that the director and editor made the wise decision to show the whole thing uncut the most crucial part of the stunt in just a couple of cuts to really show off the drama and excitement generated by what looks to have been a pretty dark risky stunt. Amazing stuff.

*Corrected after a second look prompted by Mike.  

2 comments:

Totty said...

I assume you mean this scene.

Not exactly "unbroken", unless you had a different version.

Earl J. Woods said...

That's the scene! I thought the last two shots were one, but you're right - there's a cut between the horses breaking free and the cart going over the cliff. Still pretty effective!