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The Outlaw (1943)

by on 2010/03/06

Cowboy movies are absolutely Goth. Yes, they are.

Yes. They. Are. If you disagree, I will fight you.

I’m glad I got that off my chest. Speaking of chests, this very amusing but far from perfect film, starts with a horse.

The horse in question is a strawberry roan named Red who can do tricks like backing up on command, shaking hooves, saving lives and is, by the looks of it, a male horse.

Turns out the precocious Red, around whom the plot pivots, was stolen from Doc Holliday (Walter Huston, father to the legendary director John Huston).

Now, I have a real soft spot for Holliday-involved movies since I saw Val Kilmer’s portrayal of this dentist-cum-tuberculoid-gunslinger in the very Goth-approved Tombstone (1993).

Huston depicts an aging Holliday, several years past his prime. In his dotage, Holliday wants his horse back badly and finds Red in the possession of a young upstart, William H. Bonney also known as Billy the Kid (Jack Buetel). When Holliday confronts Billy, the upstart smooth talks his way out a horse rustling charge and death at Holliday’s lightning-fast gun hand.

Billy’s so smooth in fact that Doc Holliday actually develops a fluttering, simpering man crush on him.

See? I told you cowboy movies were cool.

Holliday and Billy batinage back and forth throughout the length of the film about the horse, each trying to steal it from each other in a series of comic turns – regretably complete with trumpet wa-wa-was. It needs to be mentioned at this point, that all the music in this movie is absolutely awful, with a romantic Tchaikovsky theme used ridiculously throughout.

Unfortunately, the matter of the horse  turns into a more serious problem over a woman Rio (Russell). Rio cozies up to Holliday in an effort to kill Billy.  You see, Billy killed Rio’s brother in a tequila-soaked saloon fight over a floozy, and hot-tempered Rio is out for revenge.

As these things go in movies, Rio fails to kill Billy and immediately falls for him. In fact, Billy Pussy Galores her right there in the straw.  Or at least I think so because as it fades to black, one piece of straw appear to be  moving pretty fast. Filthy… but genuinely arousing.

This won’t be the only time this movie delivers on the old-timey titillation. Wait until you see the part when Russell ministers to the sick by crawling into bed with a male fever victim without her sockings. Her ankles were absolutely bare, and I saw them. Her ankles and her transcendental décolletage.

Now, I had some previous misconceptions about this film. The picture is not simply about Russell’s legendary dirty pillows. Anyone who saw The Aviator (2004) knows about Howard Hughes’ obsession with Russell’s, ahem, assets. Hughes went so far as to  develop an underwire bra created with rods of curved steel to emphasize these assets for the filming. (Interestingly, Russell claims to have never worn this engineering marvel during the shoot with Hughes and movie-goers alike none the wiser).

Don’t be fooled, this movie is a bromance. Billy has the face of a sneering angel. He out-pretties Russell at every turn. You can believe that women and grown men buckle at the knees every time they encounter this man. Make no mistake, Holliday’s knees are buckling throughout.

I believe, this movie is also about Howard Hughes, the reclusive billionaire, having fun. I can’t blame him for making this flawed but fun film. He brought two of the Wild West’s larger-than-life infamous heroes together for an adventure that I think he wanted to see on the big screen.

When you are rich enough, you can have real people play your favourite action figures. The wide open desert replaces your sandbox. I can see the pitch now, “We’ll get Doc Holliday and Billy the Kid to fight and pal around together. There will be babes with huge bosoms and drinking and magical horses …It will be awesome!”

In fact, when I am a reclusive billionaire, I am going to make a film with Buffy, Wonder Woman, Selene (Underworld) and a wise-cracking kitten joining forces to kick oppressive, militaristic vampire ass in a postapocalyptic urban wasteland.

I promise.

* *

Full movie (public domain) available here:

116 minutes

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