Cast: Jane Russell, Walter Huston, Jack Beutal, Thomas Mitchell.
Director: Howard Hughes.
The Outlaw wasnít made in 3D but if the technology existed in 1941, the year it was filmed, it probably would have been. Howard Hughes, the eccentric billionaire who produced and directed, took such care in photographing Jane Russellís ample breasts--designing a special bra and lighting them so the shadows fell perfectly along each curve--that they sometimes resemble the opening credits in 1978ís Superman, you know, they come flying out at you. Other than Woody Allenís Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex in which a giant mammary played a role, I can think of no other mainstream movie in which a womanís chest provided such inspiration for the director. Because of Russellís bosom, The Outlaw was considered too racy for 1943 audiences, and it was shelved for general release until 1947 when it sold tickets due more to its notoriety than entertainment value.
Russellís attributes aside, The Outlaw concerns Sheriff Pat Garrett (Thomas Mitchell) and his pursuit of Billy the Kid. The foreboding music that accompanies Hughesí introduction of Garrett gives a hint as to where our directorís sympathies lie. It seems everyoneís sympathies are with the legendary outlaw rather than the lawman who shot him down. When Garrettís old friend, Doc Holliday (Walter Huston) pays a visit, his horse is stolen. Despite damning evidence that the Kid is the thief--after all, he is now riding the horse--Doc, rather than express anger, takes an instant and unexplained liking to the famed outlaw. When Billy punches out Garrett, Doc seems amused, and when Garrett tries to arrest Billy for the theft of the horse, Holliday, who initially offers his help, backs out, valuing his new acquaintance with the Kid more than his long friendship with Garrett.
The rest of the movie finds the Kid moving in on Docís half-breed honey (Russell) with Doc encouraging the relationship and even offering the Kid advice on courtship. Meanwhile, Garrett remains in pursuit, capturing the Kid more than once, but never quite succeeding in getting the best of him.
There is an annoyingly whimsical score by Victor Young that seems determined to point out when a scene is supposed to be amusing (none of them are), and acting that ranges from poor to disastrous. Huston, normally a great character actor, grates on the nerves with his supposedly amusing and wise depiction of Holliday. As portrayed here, there is nothing amusing or wise about the man. He betrays his friend and contentedly watches him be humiliated at the hands of an outlaw whose appeal, as portrayed by Jack Beutel, is a mystery. Beutel is as animated as a still photograph, underdeveloped and out of focus, lacking charm or any other attractive trait. Poor Thomas Mitchell looks foolish in his ten gallon hat, and is treated like a fool throughout. As for Russell, her bosoms perform admirably, more so than the rest of her.
Jules Furthmanís screenplay presents Billy the Kid as a misunderstood but decent kid which is probably the way the loony Hughes saw himself. As a director, heís certainly no Howard Hawks (who supposedly worked on the film uncredited), and though he may be a tad more professional that Ed Wood, he fails to be as entertaining. The one competent craftsman on board is Gregg Toland whose cinematography is on a level that the rest of the movie fails to reach.
The Outlaw is strictly a western for boobs (pun intended), and their admirers.
Brian W. Fairbanks
© Copyright 1999, Brian W. Fairbanks. All Rights Reserved.
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