Monday, August 19, 2013

Favorite Films, Favorite Directors: Day of The Outlaw by Andre De Toth

Burl Ives and Robert Ryan in Day of the Outlaw

Ed here: Day of The Outlaw is one of the most powerful and unique westerns I've ever seen. The relationship  between Robert Ryan and Burl Ives puts this in my top ten westerns.  The dancing scene here is one of the most chilling and remarkable sequences ever put to film. The final half hour is worthy of John Ford at his best as a FILM director. Psychologically Ford couldn't have pulled it off.

 Director Andrew De Toth directed many of my favorite B crime and western pictures.  He wrote many major films but always preferred to direct lower-budget because he said big stars defined the film rather than the writing and acting. Jack Warner said he would triple De Toth's budget if he'd put John Wayne in the picture. But De Toth  told him he thought Wayne was "big and stupid." In a rage Warner cut the budget on the film even more and told him he had fifteen days to shoot it. De Toth brought it in in fourteen under budget. It's one of my favorite B crime films "Crime Wave." He was right. Sterling Hayden did a much better job than Wayne would have. De Toth later explained that he liked protagonists who were conflicted, remorseful sometimes, and agitated. So do I. Think of Anthony Mann's protagonists, especially James Stewart.

Here from the U.K.'s Telegraph is reviewer Tim Robey's excellent take on the picture.

Tim Robey recommends... Day of the Outlaw (1959)

In his weekly column, Tim Robey recommends a film that is indisputably worth two hours of your time. This week: Day of the Outlaw, a mesmerising Western that continually redefines what heroism might mean.

Every great Western is a unique statement on them all. Consider how many of the best examples are about how the West was lost, not won – and how they like to blur the binary sort of morality we might associate with gunfights at dawn. André de Toth's mesmerising Day of the Outlaw keeps redefining everything it's saying: what heroism might mean, what an outlaw is, how best to deal with one. If your routine matinée Western offers the sure ground of favourite stars trading banter on the same old backlots, this is more like clambering up a rocky outcrop which could tumble at any moment.
It was filmed in wintry Oregon, doubling as a tiny Wyoming town with the entirely apt name of Bitters. Russell Harlan was the cinematographer, but it could hardly look less like Howard Hawks's glowing, sunset-hued Rio Bravo, which he shot the same year. Harlan's use of monochrome here is pitiless, frigid, unconsoling. The mountains enclose every exterior shot, and snow is everywhere. Matching the movie's grim visage with a rugged one of his own, Robert Ryan gives a central performance that's ruthlessly tough. As the story begins, he's riding in to air a grievance about barbed–wire fences, and we immediately quail for whoever's on the receiving end.
What really stands between Ryan's Blaise Starrett and local farmer Hal (Alan Marshal) isn't the fence. It's Helen (Tina Louise), the lover Starrett missed his chance to marry years before. The movie's first 20 minutes culminate in deadlock, a stand–off, and a bottle being rolled along the bar: when it falls, they'll draw. It doesn't fall. The movie chooses this inspired moment to introduce its real threat: seven army deserters, led by dying captain Jack Bruhn (Burl Ives), who barge in and hold the whole town to ransom.
Ryan, hitherto suspected to be the villain of the piece, is suddenly placed in the strange position of being its hero: the only man able to stand up to this brutal incursion of desperate, sex-starved men. All except Bruhn are immediately eyeing up the town's women, and before long de Toth is staging a tense bar-room dance sequence, like some ceilidh from hell. To incongruously jaunty honky-tonk piano, Bruhn's men swing their captive partners around the room like rag-dolls.
for the rest go here:


Mathew Paust said...

Intelligent review. I hadn't heard of Day of the Outlaw, but now it's on my must-see list. Thanks, Ed.

R.K. Robinson said...

I haven't seen it either, but now I really, really want to.