For Reel


The Outlaw (1943)
March 27, 2016, 11:59 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Howard Hughes
2.5 Stars
The OutlawWatching The Outlaw—a film that spurred major controversy due to Howard Hughes’ insistence on exploiting the breasts of the newly discovered Jane Russell—it becomes readily apparent that the ad campaign was more salacious than what is actually in the picture. Although Russell’s bosom is undoubtedly a focal point throughout the film (she’s also the victim of an uncomfortable rape scene and later on kisses the camera in order to completely fulfill the male audience’s fantasy), her hyper-sexualization only serves to amplify what plays like a closeted gay love triangle between Pat Garrett (Thomas Mitchell), Doc Holliday (Walter Huston), and Billy the Kid (Jack Buetel). In the latter’s case, at one point he’s content with giving up the woman for a horse that he prefers. While the traditional masculine values featured prominently in many old westerns lends credence to gay readings (which ultimately becomes lazy criticism), The Outlaw‘s desire to be a “sex western” makes the dynamic between the men all the more apparent. Russell is set dressing, and the real heartbreaking happens between the cowboys. Despite this curiosity, the film is largely an overlong slog—save for a few key moments, it is far from cinematographer Gregg Toland’s best work, made even less dynamic by Hughes’ dull stagings and very literal approach to the drama. Huston is the standout, and Mitchell does seem to enjoy his role, but Buetel is a blank slate for them to play off of.

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