Thursday, December 02, 2004

Howard Hughes' THE OUTLAW

Before getting to the reprinted review I wanted to take a moment to explain the term 'apa' found in the first paragraph.

Depending on whom you ask it stands for either Amateur Press Association or Alliance. These are groups of fans dedicated to a particular hobby or interest who ban together and publish individual newsletters (generally referred to as 'zines'), running any where from two to a dozen or more pages. A Central Mailer/Overall Editor will then collect the zines and mail them out to all members of the apa.

These groups are believed to have been started by science fiction/fantasy fans in the era of the pulps, but now hundreds of apas covering just about any type of interest are active. The "golden age" of the apa was probably from around the early 1970 until the mid-1980s when the Internet with its various electronic bulletin boards and message boards led many apa members to jump ship for the immediate gratification of the online community.

(This was previously posted back on 8/21/03, but some changes have been made.)

After thinking about this review (which I'm also running in an apa I belong to) I wonder if I should have talked more about really being bothered by the 'rape' scene and the fact that the woman seems pretty forgiving. There is a scene a while later where the viewer is not sure if Rio is going to kill Billy, but after that it's apparent that she is more than happy to put such things as sexual assault behind her and fall in love with her rapist. A nyway, I just didn't want folks to think that the whole thing didn't bother me, since it did.

THE OUTLAW (1943) I'm sure that I must have seen this film at some point on television, but you would think that I would have had some memory of it. It certainly has a few scenes that should have stuck in my mind, but I honestly cannott recall anything other than seeing various clips. Most of those, naturally, were of Jane Russell's ample and heaving bosoms be honest the shot often showed of Russell with her torn dress falling from her shoulder doesn't actually appear in the movie. At least not in the version I have on the DVD collection.

Also, just to point this out to anyone interested in buying said collection this film contains the only major glitch that I have discovered in either disk. About three-quarters of the way through there is a flutter and for the next twenty minutes or so the audio track is several seconds ahead of the video. Annoying, but it does make for some funny scenes when Russell begins lip-synching Walter Houston. It goes back to normal in the final reel, so I can't say that it totally ruined the film for me.

There are, according to Leonard Malton's book, a couple of versions of this film around including a 117 min. "uncensored" version. I can certainly see why the censors at the time may have had some problems with the film, especially a rape scene that takes place in shadow. Or rather, it's implied as Billy the Kid (played by first timer Jack Buetel) pulls Rio (Jane Russell, also in her first screen role) down into the hay, after she has tried to kill Billy for the murder of her brother. Their conversation and revelation of this plot point is shown clearly, but then when Russell attempts to shove a pitchfork into Buetel the two of them roll into darkness. You hear Rio tell Billy to get off her, but he responds with something along the lines of, "Stop struggling lady or I'll rip all your dress off." Music swells and camera fades to the next morning with Billy talking to Doc Holliday (nicely acted by Walter Houston). Whoa!!

There is a later scene where the now more than willing Rio is about to fall once again into Billy's arms, only to be interrupted by her aunt. This scene is shot from such an angle that Russell seems about to perform oral sex on the camera lens, so maybe it was good that they cut away at that point! This would certainly have the ladies in the audience getting up and heading for the exits in some theatres, I'm sure. I also have to wonder what the kids in the audience might have made of all this on some Saturday matinee. (On further reflection I doubt this movie would have been shown to audience of kids. I think the Catholic League and other such groups would have frowned on that.)

Actually, the film isn't as bad as some folks seem to find it, in my humble opinion. It would have been interesting to see what Howard Hawks (who is reported to actually have directed this, with Howard Hughes taking credit) would have done without Hughes butting in. No doubt Hughes wanted to ensure that Russell, his then current lady friend, came off well. There are certainly stories of Hughes using his well-known engineering ability to construct a bra suitable for Russell's full figure all the double-crosses and back stabbing going on in this film it is amazing that it actually has a happy ending (at least for two of the characters), although I'm sure that historians would be tossing their popcorn long before the final credits rolled.

I rather doubt that any surviving estates that Billy, Doc Holliday or Pat Garrett (played here by Thomas Mitchell) may have had would have been overly happy with the portrayal of any of their ancestors. Although Holliday certainly comes across as the best of the lot, not counting several cold-blooded murders along the way. A fun and entertaining film, and certainly one that has its own notoriety in cinematic circles. Would have been interesting to see what Joel or Mike and the bots would have thought of the whole thing.
As I said, I did have some problems with the assault scene, but in general I didn't find the film isn't as bad as some other reviewers. An odd film, more notable for the behind the scenes activity and the association with Hughes than a movie to be sort out as a classic.

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