Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Outlaw (1943)

Sheriff Pat Garrett (Thomas Mitchell) learns that the infamous Doc Holliday (Walter Huston) is in town. Rather than being concerned, he's elated because the Doc is his bestus buddy ever. They have a grand reunion and Doc mentions that someone stole his favorite horse. Turns out that both horse and thief are also in town, and the man holding the reins is none other than Billy the Kid (Jack Buetel).

Well, Doc takes a liking to the kid and takes his side in a dispute with Pat. This puts Doc and Pat's friendship on the rocks and things get worse when the Kid kills a man (in self defense, of course). The drama thickens when the kid then takes a liking to Doc's best girl Rio (Jane Russell).

First off, ewww. Jane was barley twenty and Huston was pushing 60 when the film was made. Jane earned the part because director Howard Hughes needed a rack on display in the background during boring scenes. The mamarous cinematography was so blatant that censors held up the film's release for two years. When it finally came out it was a big tit. I mean hit. That's what I meant.

Now, a history lesson. Pat Garrett killed Billy the Kid. There is speculation about that event that plays out here. What doesn't compute is the presents of Doc Holliday. Doc was contemporaneous to Pat and the Kid, but in real life their story lines do not cross.

The principle subtext in this story is the love triangle between Doc, the Kid, and Rio. That's the triangle the audience is supposed to get. Further, it has been rumored that Hughes had a thing for both Russel and Buetel. The deeper subtext, however, is the love triangle between Doc, the Kid, and Pat. Pat totally played like a spurned lover. There are a couple "what the hell is going on here" moments. Now prepare yourself for an even more bizarre love triangle: Doc, Kid, and the horse. Seriously. They both has more interest in the horse than Rio. It even had a three letter name like everyone else: Red.

But let's move back to Jane's funbags, shall we? In many scenes they were so conspicuously featured it was laughable. Riding away from those terrible injuns, the men ride mostly upright while Rio is bent way over with the camera pointed down the barrel of her guns. There is a scene where Doc and the Kid sit and chat, while Rio walks back and forth, her head out of the shot, and her jugs slide from corner to corner.

The Outlaw is a fairly terrible film. The acting was bizarre when not outright bad. The story was almost inconsequential. Here is a very unconventional western that could have been made in any setting. The famous cowboys angle might have made it an easier sale to 1940's audiences, but that was never the main selling point. Having said that, it did hold my interest. While I am open to the idea of seeing it again, I feel compelled to restrict my rating to 3.
"Cattle don't graze after sheep."

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