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Three disparate travelers, a disillusioned preacher, an unsuccessful prospector, and a larcenous, cynical con man, meet at a decrepit railroad station in the 1870s Southwest. The prospector and the preacher were witnesses at the singularly memorable rape and murder trial of the notorious Mexican outlaw Carasco. The bandit duped an aristocratic Southerner into believing he knew the location of a lost Aztec treasure. The greedy "gentleman" allows himself to be tied up while Carasco deflowers his wife. These events lead to the stabbing of the husband and are related by the three eyewitnesses to the atrocity: the infamous bandit, the newlywed wife, and the dead man through an Indian shaman. Whose version of the events is true? Possibly there was a fourth witness, but can his version be trusted? Written by
Enigmatic remake making waves in some cinephiles quarters.
Directed by Martin Ritt, The Outrage is a remake of the 1950 Akira Kurosawa film Rashomon, that in turn is based on stories by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, but Ritt has reformulated it in a Western setting. It stars Edward G. Robinson, Paul Newman, Laurence Harvey, Claire Bloom, Howard Da Silva & William Shatner. The story remains the same as four people give contradictory accounts of a rape and murder during the trial of Mexican bandit Juan Carrasco (Newman). The story is told within a flashback framework of three men waiting for a train at a rain soaked Southwestern station-a prospector (Da Silva), a con man (Robinson) and a preacher now struggling with his faith in humanity (Shatner). As each story is told the validity of each account comes under scrutiny, could it be there was a gross miscarriage of justice at the trial?
Perhaps unsurprisingly, this remake of a well regarded classic was a commercial flop, with many front line critics particularly savage in their reviews. Which while acknowledging it's a long way away from style and tone of Kurosawa's movie, it's hardly the devil's spawn either. Solidly constructed by Ritt and potently shot in black & white by James Wong Howe (vistas however are in short supply), the story is strong enough to make for an interesting social conscious Oater. There's some misplaced humour in the final third, and a charge of overacting from the talented cast is fair enough (especially Bloom); but maybe, just maybe, Ritt and his team deserve a little leeway for trying a different approach? I mean at least it's not a shot for shot remake eh?
Certainly Newman could never be accused of not being bold or daring with his role selections, one only has to look at his Western film's to see that. Especially the three he did with Ritt: Hud (1963), The Outrage (1964) & Hombre (1967), three very different roles, and each of a different ethnicity too. Throw in his intense turn as Billy The Kid in Arthur Penn's The Left Handed Gun, and it makes a mockery of those people who pop up from time to time proclaiming Newman had limited range! Is he miscast as Bandido Carrasco in The Outrage? No not really, he throws himself into the role and without prior knowledge of whose under the hat, it's not overtly evident it's the great blue eyed man performing. Sure a Mexican actor would have been better for the role, and definitely Rashomon wasn't in need of a remake. But for Western fans, and especially for fans of Newman, The Outrage still has enough to warrant spending a pie and a pint of beer with. Not particularly great, but not exactly bad either. 6.5/10
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