A pleasant surprise
Wallace Beery is Zed Bascomb, the dirty leader of the Bascomb gang, a vicious sort of fellow, willing to kill a man in bad blood. When a government trap force him and his right hand man Yancy to flee, they join up with a Mormon wagon train under new identities. Bascomb tempers his behavior to avoid detection, but his irascible nature bubbles underneath.
He befriends a young girl, Emmy, and grudgingly, her grandmother. Just as the pressure from the law drops off, and the two would have run off to meet the remainders of the gang, they learn of gold hidden in the wagon train, so they hang around, hoping to locate the loot.
The film starts with some atrocious expositional dialog. My expectations were set pretty low, but from there the rest of the film just kept getting better. Bascomb's transformation (and you know it's coming) is never false. The ending is predictable if you know the limitations of the Production Code, but the balance of pathos and practicality is spot on. The central characters are well developed, and interact with each other in a realistic and entertaining way. The peripheral folk are less interesting, merely placeholders, but they don't dawdle in front of the camera.
Though it never really goes anywhere unexpected, Bad Bascomb is a good solid flick, quite worthy of a couple hours of your time.
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