The Good Guys and the Bad Guys (1969) is a Western and the last film produced by the independent outfit Robert Goldstein Productions. The film was directed by Burt Kennedy and features a wonderful cast including Robert Mitchum, George Kennedy, both David and John Carradine and Martin Balsam. Other notable supporting actors include Marie Windsor, Tina Louise, Buddy Hackett, Douglas Fowley, Lois Nettleton who I recognized from having seen Period of Adjustment (1962) and Kathleen Freeman who is in just about every TV show there ever was.
Robert Mitchum stars as Flagg, the aging Marshall of an isolated town called Progress. Mayor Wilker (Martin Balsam) has just kicked out the local prostitutes (albeit temporarily) in an effort to clean up the town and improve his chances at becoming re-elected. Flagg has just heard that legendary outlaw John McKay (George Kennedy) is heading to Progress with a band of young up-and-coming outlaws. They plan to rob a train, carrying a significant load of money, when it makes it's stop at a Progress depot. Flagg wants the help of the Mayor and the Deputy plus 20 men to stop the outlaws. However, the Mayor laughs off the threat and forces Flagg into retirement.
That doesn't stop Flagg however from finding McKay and his posse and trying to stop them. What he witnesses is interesting. McKay's men don't respect him and a lot of that is because of his age. Flagg and McKay go way back and although they are on opposite sides of the law, they see pretty much eye-to-eye when it comes to how things should be done. There is a big difference between the old outlaws and the new brand of ones. The young outlaws have no respect for their elders, don't have any sense of honor, kill even when it's not necessary and will shoot a man in the back without giving him a fair chance to fight back. McKay is under Flagg's arrest and together they try to stop the outlaws from their big heist.
While the title of the film is The Good Guys and the Bad Guys this really is more about The Old Guys and the Young Guys. But I'm sure that title wouldn't have sold very many movie tickets. The main conflict here is not between good guys and bad guys but between the old and the young. Let's take Mayor Wilker on the one hand. He's technically a good guy but he clearly has bad intentions. He likes to manipulate the young including his younger sidekick Boyle (Dick Peabody) and others, notably a young married woman (Tina Louise) with whom he has an affair. He can't successfully manipulate Flagg however who is closer to him in age than his other victims. Lots of characters are paired by age. Flagg is romantically pursued by the much younger Mary who runs the boarding house he lives in. McKay and Waco (David Carradine) are always at odds. Polly (Marie Windsor) turns down the attention of a young outlaw for the platonic company of the older Grundy (Douglas Fowley). And so and and so forth. In the end, the battle is really between age and wisdom and youth and bravado.
Young, Old, Young and Old. That's a young David Carradine in the back!
I have never been a fan of Westerns but I think that is quickly changing. As I work through the canon of Robert Mitchum's work, I am finding that I enjoy his Westerns a great deal. The Good Guys and the Bad Guys is a light Western in the respect that there is a comedic undertone that keeps it from taking itself too seriously. It has a great cast and it's just fun to watch. I was not very familiar with George Kennedy, having only seen a few of his films, and I discovered that I liked him very much indeed. I'll have to watch more of his movies (recommendations are welcome).
The movie posters play up the "sex" in the form of Tina Louise (Ginger from Gilligan's Island) who had a very small role in the film.
The film has a great theme song called The Ballad of Marshall Flag sung by folk artist Glenn Yarbrough. You can listen to it with the player below. Yarbrough also sang the theme song for the film Baby the Rain Must Fall (1965). Fans of Yarbrough might like to know that his daughter runs a Facebook page for him and keeps fans up to date and also relays fan messages to her father.
Many thanks to my friend Frank who let me borrow his DVD copy!