In the year 1897, an outlaw gang led by brothers Brett (Dale Robertson) and Gar (Lloyd Bridges) ride into the frontier town of Carson City, Nevada. Brett and Gar remember Carson City as being a sleepy town where not much happens but, when they arrive, they discover that a carnival-like atmosphere has broken out in the streets. A heavyweight fight between “Gentleman Jim” Corbett and Bob Fitzsimmons is scheduled to take place in Carson City and the once sleepy little town has become the center of the old west.
Sheriff Bill Gifford (Hugh Sanders) already knows that he’s going to have his hands full with all of the people coming to town for the fight so he’s not happy to see that Brett and Gar have returned. When the notorious outlaw Johnny Ringo (Richard Boone) also shows up for the fight, Gifford realizes that he’s going to have to do something unheard of. He deputizes the three outlaws, assigning them to keep the peace.
Even as deputies, the outlaws scheme to steal the money that’s raised by the fight. However, Brett is actually more interested in getting back together with his former girlfriend, Linda (Jeanne Crain). When Gar and Ringo realize that Brett might be backing away from the plan, it leads to a climatic showdown in Carson City.
This B-western tells a semi-true story. Corbett and Fitzsimmons did fight a match in Carson City in 1897. The fight lasted for over 90 minutes and ended with an upset victory for Fitzsimmons. It was the first boxing match to be filmed and it was later released into cinemas as The Corbett-Fitzsimmons Fight. It was the first film to last over an hour and it is considered to be the first feature film. It’s also considered to be the first pay-per-view event because the film of the fight made the boxers more money than the fight itself. The rest of the film is pure fiction. (The infamous outlaw Johnny Ringo had been dead for five years by the time of the Corbett/Fitzsimmons fight.) But even if there wasn’t an attempt to rob the Corbett/Fitzsimmons Fight, the use of the actual fight and the publicity surrounding it serves to remind the audience that the modern world is coming to the frontier.
For most, the main appeal of this film will be to see Dale Robertson, Richard Boone, and Lloyd Bridges acting opposite each other. All three are well known to western fans. Boone would later star in Have Gun Will Travel while Robertson appeared in Tales of Wells Fargo, Iron Horse, and Death Valley Days. Lloyd Bridges previously played the resentful deputy in High Noon. The three of them are in top form in City of Bad Men, with Bridges especially making an impression as the less honest of the two outlaw brothers. The three of them play outlaws who know that the era of the lawless west is coming to an end and all three of them have to decide whether they want to go straight or if they want to go out with a bang (some more literally than others). With the fast-paced script and a dedicated cast, City of Bad Men is a film that will be appreciated by anyone who likes a good western tale.