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Day of the Outlaw (DVD Details)

Unique ID Code: 0000108721
Added by: Stuart McLean
Added on: 5/10/2008 20:49
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    Day of the Outlaw

    7 / 10

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    Well, well, well. So Burl Ives isn't necessarily the nice guy I thought he was. Not even a whistle of 'The Ugly Bug Ball' in this surprisingly gritty Western, directed by little known Andre De Toth who's only major claim to fame was directing 'House of Wax' in 3D - despite only having one eye. But that potential disability doesn't seem to have affected his ability to turn in a stunning Western. Made in 1959, during the height of 'cowboy-mania'. 'Day of the Outlaw', was peculiarly at odds with the huge Technicolor movies of the day. With its depressingly real world view of the West, perfectly captured in high contrast monochrome, this was no 'High Noon'.

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    Set in a remote one-horse town in the middle of a relentlessly bleak winter, the residents sense the onset of a snowstorm that will make their already harsh lives even tougher. Rancher Blaise Starrett (the lantern-jawed Robert Ryan) arrives in town with side-kick Dan (Nehemiah Persoff), to settle a dispute with a recent arrival, farmer Hal Crane (Alan Marshal) who's taken to fencing off areas of grazing territory that may not be all his own. The new farmer's wife, Helen (Tina Louise) was Blaise's former lover and it's clear that the electricity between the two remains. She begs Blaise to spare her husband, sensing that Blaise intends to settle his argument the old fashioned way - with a gun.

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    Before this red-herring plot can be resolved the group is interrupted by the arrival of the Bruhn gang, outlaws who are trying to stay a step ahead of the law who are on their tail.

    Their leader, Jack Bruhn (Burl Ives) has been shot and Blaise persuades the local vet to remove the bullet. He's keen for Bruhn to stay alive as without him the remaining outlaws would wreak havoc in the small community and only Bruhn seems able to control them. Particularly as they are all scared of him, and some of the men have an eye for the women in the town, including Helen.

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    Gene, the gang's youngest member (David Nelson) falls for local girl Ernine (Venetia Stevenson) - and the feeling is mutual. But Blaise wants to get the gang out of town so he persuades them to let him lead them through a secret mountain pass. He knows that once through they will kill him, but his only thought is for the town…and Helen.

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    What follows is a visually spectacular journey through snowbound mountains - a complete contrast to the dusty Mexican vistas of most Westerns of the day. Most interesting are the characters. Blaise Starrett is certainly not a good man. In some respects no better than Bruhn who he develops a grudging respect for. And Bruhn himself is a man of great contradictions. Clinging to the superiority of a military past, he has turned renegade - no better than the scum he reigns over.
    The film gently tips into a dark, depressingly existential shoot out set against the bleak realities of exposed and frozen rock-faces. It's certainly not a feel-good film, though is a curiously thought provoking one. A 'good old fashioned Western' it is not.

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    The picture looks great - despite it being letterboxed, albeit to the correct proportions. Sadly, there are no extras, though I daresay this will emerge at a budget price fairly quickly, and for lovers of the genre will be a welcome addition to the western library. Recommended.

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