Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Good Bounty: "The Bounty Man" (1972)



Clint Walker is a mean bounty hunter in this early 1970's made for television western.

He rides into town to dump his latest capture, and makes the local saloon flies mad in the process. The hangers-on, led by Richard Basehart, decide to get back at Walker for refusing to buy them a drink with his new found wealth.

Walker leaves to capture a $5000 reward by getting Billy Riddle, played by John Ericson. He spirits Ericson away from a ghost town/criminal hangout, but also gets some extra baggage in the form of Ericson's girlfriend, Margot Kidder. As Ericson and Kidder speak in whispers and plan their escape, Basehart's gang decides to take Ericson from Walker and claim the reward as their own. Suddenly, a routine bounty for Walker turns into something else as he must deal with enemies on two fronts. Kidder, however, begins to take a liking to Walker, and the trio get pinned down by the gang with no food and water. The final plot twist is a surprise, and helps along an otherwise standard story.

Walker bares a resemblance to Tom Selleck, and is just fine here. He is not the nice guy from other films I have seen him in, and his story about what happened to his wife explains the bitterness in his character. Walker should have had a much larger career in westerns than he did. Kidder is very good as Mae, the prostitute who falls for Riddle. Some of her dialogue is a little shrill, but she handles it well and turns in a performance that is smart. Richard Basehart is the creepy head of the gang that rides after Walker. It is almost refreshing to have villains who want one thing, money, and have no past history or old scores to settle with the her.

The film is a brief seventy four minutes, so any deep meanings and characterization is lost, save Walker and Kidder. This is also the kind of film where the good guy must win, must hit everything he shoots at, and must turn the bad girl good, and all of that is here. A real plus is Moxey's direction, which is neither boring nor fanciful. He shows real nuts and bolts camera moves, not trying to take away from his leads or the action taking place. The title song and musical score are a mess, done by some forgotten pop group called The Orphanage.

"The Bounty Man" is a basic western that delivers the goods, and does not want much from its audience in return. It is entertaining and watchable, but I do not think the members of the television academy overlooked it for any awards. (* * * *) out of five stars. Get this movie now!: The Bounty Man / Aces N' Eights / Prairie Fever / Bullets Don't Argue / Sabata the Killer