The Outlaw (1943)

It’s a misconception that older films are necessarily “better” than newer ones (even if one personally prefers the classics); it’s just that the crap of the past has mostly settled so that only the good stuff retains its prominence, whereas the crap of our age has yet to fall into its similarly just oblivion. This film (screened on TVS tonight) is proof positive that age is no guarantee of quality; the best that I could say for it was that at least TVS showed a decent print of it. Although Jane Russell was all over the advertising back then (still is), she’s actually secondary at best; people expecting a film about Jane Russell’s tits may be disappointed that it’s really about Doc Holliday, Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett. Phil Hall seems oddly indignant in his Bootleg Files piece about the homoerotic readings some make about the relationship between the three, and I can kind of understand his argument against the “bromance”, but come on, it’s hard not to look at the film that way, especially not in the climactic showdown when Garrett whines about young Bill Bonney having come between him and Doc. (Funny how when Jane’s tits… sorry, her character comes between Billy and Doc, they get over that a lot better…) Anyway, the film has some historical interest as the first film to be exhibited without a Production Code Seal of Approval after they became mandatory, though much of the film’s censorship trouble seems to have been mainly whipped up for publicity’s sake by Howard Hughes, producer and director… Howard Hawks did at least some of the film, and I’m inclined to think he handled the pursuit by the Indians, purely because it’s the only effective thing in the whole film. Otherwise, the script is crap, the acting is crap, the music is crap, and even Jane’s tits aren’t used half as effectively in the film as they were in the advertising. I’ve said for years that films like this which form the heart of censorship controversies tend to be shit, and The Outlaw merely demonstrates this is not a new phenomenon…

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