When it comes to the genre of westerns, the name John Wayne is often the first to pop into most peoples' minds. This is hardly surprising given the number of westerns the man made, even if most of them were pretty average and pretty forgettable. It seems that John Wayne films are slowly making the inevitable transition to DVD and this 1947 effort, Angel and the Badman, is probably one of the better ones. But that isn't necessarily a recommendation.
Wayne plays Quirt Evans, the titular "bad man" who literally stumbles into the path of the Worth family, members of the Society of Friends (Quakers). The Quakers are a pseudo-religious group who believe in doing good for your fellow man (and woman, presumably), and praying for the souls of those that commit bad acts. The Worths manage to get Evans into town where he blurts out a garbled message to the local morse operator before literally falling into the open arms (and mouth) of his angel, Penelope Worth (Gail Russell). She immediately goes ga-ga for this dirty, dusty, demented cowboy in all of about 15 seconds, and easily persuades her father, Thomas (John Halloran), that it is their duty to nurse him back to health.
After mumbling incessantly in his sleep for days, he awakes to find Penelope almost drowned in her own drool, and he quickly decides to repay his debt to this family for their hospitality and run, before they turn him into some sort of yellow belly.
He throws in the odd good deed here and there, free of charge, and then high tails it back to town, and back to his favourite pastimes; gambling, boozing, womanising, and shooting people. However, he soon realises that the 'angel' has a hold on his heart and returns to the family. The trouble is he is being pursued by a local gang of thugs (in black hats no less) who feel they owe Evans a little something themselves.
Out on a nice quite hayride, Quirt and Penelope are set upon by the black hats, and having left his gun at home (at Penelope's request - stupid man), Quirt decides they will have to make a run for home. Unfortunately the hay wagon is not built for speed and Quirt and Penelope plunge over a cliff into a river. Penelope is rescued and dragged home where the doctor pronounces her in a bad way. This brings out the bad man in Quirt, and he sets off for town in a cloud of dust to kill the mob that sent them over the cliff.
Will he undo all the Angel's good work, and kill the black hats? Will Penelope die? Will Quirt see the error of his ways and find God? Well, you'll just have to watch it to find out, won't you?
There is nothing bad about this film, which is pretty much your average western affair, but there are no indians, no cavalry, and very few gunfights. It is more of a western drama that charts the mellowing of Wayne's character at the hands of his angel, Penelope. On a rainy Sunday afternoon, you could do worse.
Presented in a full frame aspect ratio, this feature is very close to the cinematic aspect ratio of 1.37:1. It is therefore not 16x9 enhanced, and fortunately, even though it is technically a pan and scan release, it is almost irrelevant. Being a 1947 effort, it is also in black and white and while it is not perfect, neither is it a disaster. The most annoying thing is the interlacing that really becomes noticeable during scenes involving panning. The overall sharpness is not the best, but is really poor when the camera moves across a scene.
The range of blacks is not great and the film appears a little dusty. Neither are whites overly pristine, but there is no evidence of low-level noise. Shadow detail is acceptable.
Film artefacts are at a minimum, as are film to video artefacts, and overall, watching this does not present any serious disappointments providing your expectations are not too high, which they should not be.
The only option is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono and if you don't expect miracles you will not be disappointed. The sound is a little thin and tinny, but after 55 years this is almost to be expected. There is some noticeable background hiss, but this rarely interferes with the audio, that is clear and synchronised.
There is little else to add other than the obvious - that this audio transfer does not utilise any of the supporting speakers or subwoofer - and the low-level sounds are not aggressive. There are, however, few instances where this is a problem and the loudest noises you hear are gunshots and hoof beats.