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DAY OF THE OUTLAW (1959)


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Blaise Starrett realizes he?s at the end of the trail. In fact, there is no trail?only a snow covered expanse of Wyoming wilderness which holds death for Starrett and seven killers burdened with U.S. Army gold.

 

A rancher who has come into town to settle a few scores, Starrett has a problem with farmers stringing wire across the range. He?s also in the market for a bride, but he?ll kill two birds with one stone when he guns down their leader, Hal Crane (Alan Marshall) and takes his beautiful wife Helen (Tina Louise) for his own. Personal grudges must be put aside when Captain Jack Bruhn (Burl Ives) and his troops crash the party. The deserters have made off with 50,000 in gold from an Army payroll and blundered into the valley, looking for a place to refurbish supplies and enjoy the town?s hospitality. Bruhn is mortally wounded, and Starrett realizes he has to get the gang out of town before they have no commander to keep them in line.

 

DAY OF THE OUTLAW, Andre De Toth?s intense B western, might have been made on a budget, but he never shortchanges his viewers. This film has wonderful performances, and in some cases?particularly Burl Ives?it?s quite possibly the best work of their careers. Lots of great character work is here as well, as Elisha Cook, Jack Lambert, and Dabbs Greer offer support.

 

Toth?s camerawork elevates this film above other low budget pictures, and you can see how he uses nature to reinforce a physical and moral coldness in his characters. His camera is always moving, whether he?s following a dancing couple, or capturing beautiful snowscapes. In a fight scene, he does not move into close ups as most directors would do, but instead cuts to a long shot. The two figures look tiny in the white expanse while the mountains seem to look down on them like gods. There?s another Wellesian touch where his camera does a 360-degree pan of the valley that drops back through a window? a shot that would not seem out of place in Touch of Evil (1958) or Citizen Kane (1941).

 

 

A deeply psychological work, Day of the Outlaw seems more indebted to noirs such as ON DANGEROUS GROUND (1952) and KEY LARGO (1947) than anything in the western genre. Ryan is a man who rediscovers his humanity in the light of Bruhn?s heartless soldiers who are little more than animals. Bruhn and Starrett recognize the same tendencies in each other, but Bruhn lost his way long ago. He still longs for redemption, though time is closing fast on his body. Blaise?s own survival depends on his understanding of nature and ability to live in harmony with the elements. In so doing, he learns harmony must also exist between men for life to have value.

 

DAY OF THE OUTLAW shows early on 4/11

 

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