Monday 10 June 2013

Day of the Outlaw [1959]

Day of the Outlaw, André De Toth’s astounding last Western, was one of the finest fusions of the genre’s setting and themes with noirish sensibilities and tone that I’ve seen. On one hand it placed a lone wolf at odds with the changing times and evolving civilization around him, while on the other it showed how fragile any society, at the end of the day, essentially is at the face of primal forces. It also made terrific use of harsh Wyoming winter to complement its relentlessly bleak tone and ambivalent characters. Blaise Starrett (Robert Ryan), a rough and embittered cattle rancher who believes in the rule of the gun, was, at once, an archetypal Western and noir anti-hero. He is in love with the luscious wife (Tina Louise) of one of the shanty town’s residents (Alan Marshal). The two men are about to settle, once and for all, their, and in turn the town’s fate, when Jack Bruhn (Burl Ives), a renegade army officer, and his group of violent and ruthless outlaws break into their party. Bruhn, though injured, barely manages to keep his gang of psychotic men under control. The only way to save the women and stop the fast escalating chaos is to ensure these men are escorted out of the place, and Starrett voluntarily takes the onus of guiding them on a treacherous and suicidal snow-covered trail that the dying Bruhn agrees to as a final display of humanity. The unsettling storyline, terrific monochromatic visuals, brilliant minimal score, disconsolate tone, and moody atmosphere, were accompanied by stellar turns by Ryan and Ives. The otherwise sparse aesthetics were marvelously ruptured by a dizzyingly shot bar dance scene that provided a stunning springboard for the deeply fatalistic closure that followed.

Director: Andre De Toth
Genre: Western/Revisionist Western/Psychological Western
Language: English
Country: US


Andrea Ostrov Letania said...

Great movie. Similar work is The Last Valley.

Shubhajit said...

Thanks for the reco, Andrea.

chidimma said...

Nice blog spot!


Anonymous said...

Sam Juliano said...

Now this is an extraordinary western, and you've not downgraded that perception one bit in this excellent piece!

Shubhajit said...

Yes Sam. Such an underrated but extraordinary Western. And arguably one of the best amalgamations of the Western and noir genres. Just loved this gem of a film!