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William Bonney - Billy the Kid - gets a job with a cattleman known as 'The Englishman,' and is befriended by the peaceful, religious man. But when a crooked sheriff and his men murder the Englishman because he plans to supply the local Army fort with his beef, Billy decides to avenge the death by killing the four men responsible, throwing the lives of everyone around him - Tom and Charlie, two hands he worked with; Pat Garrett, who is about to be married; and the kindly Mexican couple who take him in when he's in trouble - into turmoil, and endangering the General Amnesty set up by Governor Wallace to bring peace to the New Mexico Territory. Written by
Gary Dickerson <email@example.com>
The character of "Tunstall" was based on a real person, John Henry Tunstall, an English immigrant who was murdered in 1878, aged 24 or 25 at time of death, under circumstances very similar to those portrayed in this film. However, in this, and every other film in which there's a portrayal of "Tunstall" [this film], "Henry Tunstall" [Chisum (1970)], or "John Tunstall" [Young Guns (1988)], not only is a different version of Tunstall's name used, but the actors portraying the Tunstall character have been double (or more) the age of the real life Tunstall at the time of his death. At the time of production of this film, Colin Keith-Johnston was approximately 61 years old; at the time of production of Chisum, Patric Knowles was approximately 58 years old; and at the time of production of Young Guns, Terence Stamp was approximately 49 years old. See more »
The "Englishman" describes his origins as from Ayrshire, a county in South West Scotland. In that case he would be a Scot and not English. See more »
[about the murdered Tunstall]
Lord God, this was a quiet man. He lived the way a man ought to live. He did not lie. He did not hurt. He listened to any man who spoke to him.
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Like many 1950s films, this western tended to slant on the melodramatic side although it has its share of many elements. The actors and their characters are mostly overwrought and can get on your nerves by the halfway point of the 102-minute movie. The directing, though, is very good and the photography is top-shelf. As usual, Warner Brothers has put out a very good DVD transfer of this 52-year-old movie. It was issued as part of the "Paul Newman Collection."
Everyone knows about Paul Newman, who plays the lead character "Billy The Kid." However, I found Lita Milan and John Dehner the most interesting. Milan was a new face and not someone a lot of people know about and Dehner played against-type and played the most mature person in the story.
Milan as "Celia" will get the males' attention, especially if they're into sultry, striking-looking females. According to the IMDb mini biography here, shortly after making this film married the son of Trujillo, a famous Dominican Republic dictator, and that was the end of her screen career. Several years later, her husband took over the country when his father was assassinated, and a few years later they had to flee the volatile Latin American country. Wow, it sounds like she led a life that wasn't far away from the violent world of "Billy the Kid," the subject of this film.
It was kind of odd seeing Dehner, who played a lot of bad guys on TV westerns of the 1950s, playing good-guy "Pat Garrett," a friend of William Bonney ("Billy the Kid") for most of the movie. Whether he turned out to be "good" in the end, is your call. Actually I thought Dehner did the best job in here and played the best character, one of the few that was subdued and tolerable. Newman and his buddies in this film were all loud, immature and stupid, which is how they were supposed to be portrayed, but they are almost "cartoonish." The story has its ups and downs and isn't bad overall, but not something that I'd watch a second time.
By the way, "Billy The Kid's" real life name was Henry McCarty (not "William Bonney," which was one of several alias he used. How much of this story is factual, I couldn't tell you but knowing Hollywood I wouldn't trust a lot of this to be exactly accurate. A
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