Synopsis (contains spoilers)
Set in 1877 during the Dakota land rush, 3 Bad Men gracefully blends the epic with the intimate. This seriocomic tale centres around three outlaws who redeem themselves by protecting pilgrims who need thier help to reach what 3 Bad Men explicitly calls the promised land.
The ostensible celebration of the pioneering spirit in 3 Bad Men is darkened not only by the necessity of the outlaws’ deaths but also by the fact that the promised land is morally tainted. The ground reserved for new settlers is former Indian homeland, seized by the white government that conquered the Sioux nation in the aftermath of the Custer massacre. Ford leaves that aspect largely implicit, reserving the role of overt villian for the corrupt sheriff of the town of Custer, Layne Hunter.
Much of the location shooting was done at Jackson Hole, Wyoming, against the spectacular panorama of the Grand Tetons, the setting for sequences of the outlaws and a pioneer wagon train journeying to the Dakota Badlands. Ford filmed the landrush in California’s Mojave Desert, basing it on the biggest Oklahoma land rush, the one in 1893: “We used over 200 vehicles — stages, Conestoga wagons, buggies, broughams, every blasted vehicle there was — and hundreds of men riding horses, all waiting for the dignal to cross over riding like hell.”
The aftermath of the filming was traumatic for Ford, helping explain why he did not make another western for 13 years. After preview audiences reacted badly to the film, Fox made heavy cuts. 3 Bad Men recieved only middling response from reviewers and the public alike, soon fading into obscurity.
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