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The Outlaw (1943)

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Newly appointed sheriff Pat Garrett is pleased when his old friend Doc Holliday arrives in Lincoln, New Mexico on the stage.

Jack Buetel, Jane Russell
1 hour, 55 minutes

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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Although Howard Hughes' 1941 RKO production, THE OUTLAW, is primarily remembered as being notorious for bringing sex to the western, it's still a largely underrated film. When watched with an honest eye, this is really one of the most offbeat, absorbing westerns of its time. Due to censorship problems, the film wasn't released until 1943 and ballyhooed as an "adult" western that focused on the ample charms of its star, Jane Russell.

The story centers around the relationships between four people: Billy the Kid (Jack Buetel), Doc Holiday (Walter Huston), Sheriff Pat Garrett (Thomas Mitchell) and Rio McDonald (Jane Russell). Basically, the plotline has Holiday trying to get back his horse which was stolen by the Kid. In the process, friendships are made and broken and loyalties are tested.

This was the screen debut for Buetel and Russell, and they both deliver engaging performances in what remains their most memorable film. Veteran character actors Huston and Mitchell are likewise excellent, as usual. There's a great chemistry between all of them, and although Hughes got the onscreen credit, much of the direction has to be attributed to Howard Hawks, who had a special knack for "buddy" movies. The script by Jules Furtham is sprinkled with wry humor, and the photography by the great Greg Toland is exceptional.

While the sexual innuendo is tame by today's standards, THE OUTLAW can be better appreciated for its intimate character study and its romanticized depiction of the Old West and the legend of Billy the Kid. Even so, it must be acknowledged that Jane Russell still sizzles the screen, and figures prominently (pun intended) as a catalyst for the ups and downs in the relationship between Buetel and Huston.
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By A Customer on March 29, 2004
Format: DVD
There's no need to recap the plot's synopsis, therefore I'll focus the bulk of my observations on the DVD itself, since this is the information I look for in Amazon reviews of items of this type.
This review covers the edition released by The Roan Group. The disk does fulfill its promise of a 117 minute running time, including credits. A running time of two hours is cited in the trailer, but I don't know that I'd call this an accurate indication of the existence of a more complete version; 117 minutes is awfully close to 120. I don't see any evidence of the extras mentioned in Amazon's editorial, including the letterboxing of credits, although I had no trouble reading them all on my TV set. I suspect the reviewer is referring to a different release, although I can't imagine which one.
Roan mastered this release from what must have been a very high-quality print because it shows very few signs of age. The sound is fine--very clear with no need of volume cranking (often the case on older films, in my experience). The movie is an entertaining male-bonding romp with great performances all around and Miss Russell looks fabulous. Frankly, there wasn't a boring moment in the whole film--no complaints there. Another nice touch is its keep case; I'm really annoyed with the cheesy snap cases in which so many new releases are packaged.
The lack of extras, however, is very disappointing, even for a budget release. One has the option to view the trailer or the film by means of a barely visible prompt, PERIOD. There's no menu, so one can't navigate the specific chapters (although they're numbered on the back cover of the case), and there are no subtitles ("Japanese?"). There's NOTHING but the movie and the trailer.
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Format: DVD
What can I say about "The Outlaw"? It's really, really silly and I really, really like it. The acting is bad, the music is worse, and the camera angles are downright hilarious. I'm not sure how much of the dialogue was intended to be funny, but I'm sure a lot of the bigger laughs were unintentional. Nevertheless, it's a goofy, friendly little movie that moves along at a brisk pace and is nothing if not entertaining.
The plot? Well, you see, Pat Garrett and Doc Holliday used to be best friends, that is until Billy the Kid rode into town, and now Doc spends all his time hanging out with Billy which makes Pat pretty darn jealous. There's also Rio (played by the scantily clad Jane Russell) who used to be Doc's girl before Billy stole her, although neither Doc nor Billy care much about that. They do argue a lot about who owns Doc's horse, but otherwise they're pretty tight, riding around together, humilating Pat, and just generally having a good time. All good things must come to an end, however, and after a couple of shootouts and almost shootouts our hero(?) rides off into the sunset, proud possesor of both the horse and the girl.
"The Outlaw" isn't a classic by anybody's standards (unless you count the classically silly "Gun Switching" scene), but it is fun in a weird kind of way. Gazillionare Howard Hughes tried for years to have it released while he battled the censors (unlike some other reviewers, I do think the film is pretty racy for its time) and there's still about five minutes missing. You can sometimes tell where footage was cut, such as a scene where Doc goes to hug Billy (really) and after a jump they're suddenly talking about something else. Uh huh.
Anyway, check this out if you're a fan of Jane Russell or over the top cheese.
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