Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Outlaw

Playing fast with historical fact, The Outlaw posits Doc Holliday as an old friend of Pat Garrett, the sheriff of Lincoln County, New Mexico, who transfers his friendship to William Bonney, better known as Billy the Kid. Doc, played by Walter Huston, takes a liking to the Kid, played by Jack Beutel. 

Garrett, played by Thomas Mitchell, resents that and does his best to arrest Billy. Into this mix comes Rio, played by Jane Russell in her film debut. The rest of the movie is all about the interaction between these four people and how they betray each other.

Doc Holliday in The Outlaw is completely different from the Doc Holliday character portrayed in Which Way to the O.K. Corral? Here, Doc smiles a great deal, which doesn't fit with my impression of him from other Westerns. And even though The Outlaw was shot in black and white--a colorized version is also available on the DVD I viewed, and it's interesting to watch that for the contrast--it's quite obvious that the pants Doc wears throughout the movie are plaid. It's very hard to take him seriously as a gunfighter when he is wearing plaid.

Billy the Kid is shot and Doc takes him to Rio's house, which she shares with her aunt. It turns out that Rio is Doc's girl, and he asks her to nurse the Kid, not realizing that she has a grudge against Billy and tried to kill him earlier. There are several scenes of her watching the Kid lying in bed, which reminded me of Heyes recuperating in The Fifth Victim.

However, Mrs. Carlson never revealed so much cleavage when she was nursing Heyes! In The Outlaw, Jane Russell usually is pouting and in her close-ups, she is backlit, presumably to make her look even more sexy. It must have worked, though, because Billy falls for her, and she for him.

Much of The Outlaw consists of Doc and Billy trying to escape the clutches of Pat Garrett, who comes off as a bumbling lawman. Rio comes along for the ride. But Doc and Billy also face off against each other, often over a horse whose ownership is claimed by them both. At one point, there is a showdown and Doc draws on Billy. But Billy doesn't draw and Doc has trouble understanding why. Billy's laconic excuse: "No, I just don't feel like it; maybe I ate too much" is typical of his laid-back attitude throughout The Outlaw. I can't imagine Kid Curry ever using that excuse!

One aspect of this movie that really stands out is the music. Unfortunately, it's because it is so bad. It's worse than the music in the beginning of Night of the Red Dog, which clearly telegraphs how the audience is supposed to feel. In The Outlaw, the audience is never left in any doubt whatsoever as to how they should react to the action on the screen.

The Outlaw was filmed in 1943 and lasts 117 minutes. Produced by Howard Hughes, it is hard to take the movie seriously due to the historical inaccuracies, the depictions of the main characters by the actors, and the overall silliness of the plot.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Yuma (the TV movie)

Broadcast in 1971, Yuma turned out to be a TV movie and not a feature film, which I didn't know until I started watching it. The plot is interesting and Clint Walker is the star. Rudy Diaz, who played minor roles in three Alias Smith and Jones episodes (a guard in The McCreedy Bust, the first policeman in Miracle at Santa Marta, and a man in The McCreedy Feud) has a small role in this movie.

A solitary man (Walker) rides into Yuma on a horse, leading a burro. He pulls up in front of the sheriff's office and before he finishes tying his horse's reins to the hitching rail, a stagecoach careens into town, two men atop it firing their guns. When the coach tips over and the men go inside the nearby saloon, the other man grabs his rifle and follows, pinning on a marshal's badge as he goes. An altercation ensues and at the end of it, a man is dead. Unfortunately, that man is the brother of a powerful trail boss who brings a lot of money into the town. So far, Yuma is all about bringing law and order to the town.

Meanwhile, a young Mexican boy, all alone in Yuma, meets the marshal when he gets caught burgling his hotel room. However, the marshal lets him go and after he witnesses the boy trying to steal some food, he befriends him and gives him a job sweeping the lawman's office. This subplot of Yuma made me think of what life might have been like for Han and Jed after they left Valparaiso and were trying to make it on their own before becoming outlaws with the Devil's Hole Gang.

But there is more to Yuma: The marshal is framed for murder, Indians are being short-changed on their cattle rations, and of course there is a romance with the lady owner of the hotel. Most of the movie deals with the marshal trying to clear his name and avoiding being killed by the trail boss who wants to avenge the death of his brother.

Filmed at Old Tucson Studios, which is immediately recognizable to anyone who has been there, and at Paramount, Yuma is light and diverting and at 73 minutes, an enjoyable way to spend part of an afternoon or evening.