Monday, August 15, 2011

Overhyped Films: The Outlaw

Everybody’s heard of The Outlaw. It’s famous for being infamous, right? But how many people have actually seen it?

Until a couple of weeks ago, I was one of those heard but not seen people. Now I’m not, and I’m poorer for it. Not only did I waste 116 minutes of my life watching this turkey, but it’s costing me another 20 minutes to write this post.

So how bad is it? So bad I couldn’t bear to watch it in one, or even two, sittings. It eventually took four, spread out over a week and a half, before I finally reached the end.

The first horrible thing about it, the thing that smacks you in the face in the first few minutes and never lets up, is the heavy-handed soundtrack. Every detail of the action, every raised eyebrow and every twitch of the finger, is trumpeted by the music. There’s even a coronet making laughing sounds (ala a Three Stooges short) every time we’re supposed to be amused. This film could be played on the radio and you wouldn’t miss a thing, except the thing it’s most famous for - Jane Russell’s you-know-whats.

Which brings up the film’s second major flaw, the casting. Walter Huston is actually pretty good as Doc Holliday, but everyone else is a joke. Thomas Mitchell, who would make a fine Bozo the Clown, makes a ridiculous Pat Garrett. And Jack Buetel as Billy the Kid? They’d have been better off casting Bugs Bunny. Buetel poses and slouches and mumbles and looks moody, with no redeeming entertainment value. And finally, Jane Russell, who gets top billing, is there only because of her bod. Her range of expression goes all the way from sullen to pouting and back again. (You can tell she’s pouting when she thrusts out her lower lip.)

And if you can stand the music and the cast long enough, you’ll be appalled by the story. Or lack thereof. Near as I could tell, it boils down to this: Pat and Doc are old friends. Doc meets Billy and they become friendly rivals. Pat wants to arrest Billy but Doc objects. Eventually Doc winds up dead. Billy rides away and Pat’s sad. THE END.

But wait. What about Jane Russell? What’s she doing there? Not a damn thing. She has no part in the story. She’s just there for the men to ignore, to pout about it, and to occasionally thrust her you-know-whats in front of the camera.

A lot of folks on the Internet talk about this film depicting a homoerotic triangle between Pat, Doc and Billy. I couldn’t see it, and figured they must be imagining it - until near the end, when Doc and Billy do everything but kiss, and Pat nearly wets his pants with jealousy. Yep, those Internet folks are right.

I’m thinking Howard Hughes was mighty dang lucky this movie was yanked out of theaters for being too racy in 1943. Otherwise, it would have passed quietly into well-deserved obscurity, instead of being a box office bonanza when it was re-released in 1946.

Bottom Line: I want my 116 minutes back. I’ll suffer the loss of this 20 minutes of typing, because I discovered something I like about his movie: It’s fun to loathe. 

For less Overhyped Films, see this week's lineup at SWEET FREEDOM.

Mitchell, Huston, you-know-whats, Buetel.


Cap'n Bob said...

Well said, and I agree totally. I've seen it a few times over the years, usually in snippets. I think I saw it once from start to finish. I never could figure what all the brouhaha was about, other than Jane's boobs.

Cowboy Yogi said...

I picked it up for a dollar a few years ago and never quite got around to watching it. Now you have me curious- can I make it all the way through in one sitting?

G. B. Miller said...

Sounds like the posters were far more interesting than the movie.

Unknown said...

Saw this one on its first run. My dad took me. Maybe he thought I needed the education of seeing Jane Russell, but I was too young to appreciate her. He wasn't, though. Later I saw it again, and I agree. It was awful.

wayne d. dundee said...

Another vote in agreement here. It rates somewhere between really bad and terrible. Even Jane's you-know-whats weren't worth suffering through it ... and I've been known to endure plenty of awful films for the sake of a little (or not so little) boobage.

Ron Scheer said...

I've never seen this one, though I've seen other Hughes projects. He was famous for a kind of micro-management that delayed production and ended with a mess...Sounds like the kind of movie that gives homoeroticism a bad name.

Charles Gramlich said...

Methinks it's the breastesses.

Anonymous said...

I saw a long time ago on late night TV, but it had been "edited for length and content" so I didn't even get to see the "good parts". I only remember thinking it was much ado about nothing.

Todd Mason said...

Man, but doesn't that still make her resemblance to Robert Mitchum rather blatant. Yeah, a dull, dull film...and there was much better titillation available elsewhere, even at the time.

Dan_Luft said...

I've only seen pieces of this one and, like the big letdown of all of her movies, she remains fully clothed.