RETURN OF THE BAD MEN. RKO Radio Pictures, 1948. Randolph Scott, Robert Ryan, Anne Jeffreys, George ‘Gabby’ Hayes, Jacqueline White, Robert Armstrong. Director: Ray Enright.

   It must have seemed like a good idea at the time. Bring together all of the famous bad men of the west, or a good passel of them, whether or not they ever met each other in real life, or were active at the same time, and create a gang of outlaws even a figure as solid and stalwart as Randolph Scott could handle them. Audiences would simply flock in, or I’m sure that’s what was the expectation was.

   I haven’t researched the historical facts well enough to tell you whether anything in this movie is true, but I doubt it. In any case, the result is surprisingly sub-par. Not even the evil presence of Robert Ryan as the Sundance Kid, nor the alluring beauty of Anne Jeffreys as Cheyenne, the niece of Wild Bill Doolin, help a lot to make Return of the Bad Men more than a barely passable way to spend 90 minutes f your time.

   For the record, here’s a list of the outlaws that gangleader Bill Doolin (Robert Armstrong) puts together: The Youngers (Cole, Jim and John), the Daltons (Emmett, Bob and Grat), Billy the Kid, Wild Bill Yeager, and the Arkansas Kid. I hope I didn’t leave anyone out. I didn’t list any of their names as part of the cast because other than Robert Ryan, who’s as mean as they come, all of them are very minor roles.

   It turns out that Randolph Scott has a sweetheart that he plans to marry, but what Anne Jeffreys’ character, once reformed (or is she), thinks about that is that she will have something to say about it. Scott is quite oblivious. Unfortunately, the writers not knowing how to write themselves out of this romantic triangle they’ve written themselves into, take the weakest, lamest way out.

   George ‘Gabby’ Hayes, as a bank president, no less, adds comedy relief, but the story is overwhelmed by characters who are simply not very interesting. Not even the sight of the masses of men on horseback and in flimsy wagons at the beginning of the Oklahoma Land Rush adds any excitement to the proceedings.

   Passable entertainment, but barely. Only the sharp, clear black and white photography is worth a mention (J. Roy Hunt , cinematographer). Credit where credit is due.