Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Outrage

This 1964 movie, based on Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon, faithfully transplants the story to the Old West. If you haven't seen that film, watch it after seeing The Outrage and compare both movies. To go from Samurai Japan to the American West of the 19th century really isn't a stretch when you consider the similarities between the two societies. The Outrage, in black and white, also uses shadows and light to great effect during its 97-minute running time.

Like its progenitor, The Outrage begins with two characters stranded at an isolated and abandoned railway station, but are soon joined by a third person. William Shatner plays a preacher, fascinating in a role that pre-dates his Star Trek work and who vaguely resembles Reverend Spencer from The McCreedy Bust: Going, Going, Gone; Howard Da Silva is a prospector who both goads and protects the preacher from the third person, Edward G. Robinson, excellent in the role of a con man who is the catalyst for the retelling of the outrage that gives this film its name. After a while, the prospector begins to relate the story of a rape and a murder, disturbing in its details and, as different characters offer their own perspectives, its inconstancy over what really occurred.

Paul Newman plays Juan Carrasco, a Mexican outlaw who is a pretty bad bad man. With Spanish accent and dark hair, the actor doesn't look at all like Paul Newman in his later outlaw incarnation as Butch Cassidy. Carrasco intercepts a man and a woman riding in a buggy through a desert, which reminded me of the desert in The Legacy of Charlie O'Rourke, except that saguaro cacti replaced the innumerable Joshua trees.

Claire Bloom is wonderful as the female character at the heart of it all and Laurence Harvey is her husband. Each time the tale is told from a different character's point of view, the story changes. One of the versions is related by an Indian played by Paul Fix (Clarence the miner in Night of the Red Dog), wearing such heavy makeup he is unrecognizable, though a couple times his voice sounded familiar.

At the end, the audience still does not know for sure what really happened. But the moral of The Outrage surely is: Don't stop to talk to strangers you encounter on the road!