Blaise Starrett is a rancher at odds with homesteaders when outlaws hold up the small town. The outlaws are held in check only by their notorious leader, but he is diagnosed with a fatal wound and the town is a powder keg waiting to blow.
André De Toth had the town built in Oregon several months before filming so that the structures would be naturally weathered by rain and snow, not artificially dressed by crewmen. When De Toth learned that the workers had neglected to follow his compass headings for the layouts of the streets, he had them rebuild it. See more »
In the town there are puddles of water when everything else is frozen. See more »
I must admit up front that I am not a huge fan of Westerns and the biggest reason I watched this film was because it had Robert Ryan in it. For some time, I have thought that Ryan was one of the best "unknown" actors, as he appeared and even starred in quite a few films but most people today have no idea who he was. My admiration for him is because he looked a lot like an ordinary guy (since he wasn't overly handsome) but despite this, his performances always seemed so realistic. He really was a heck of a good actor and his work in this film is no exception.
DAY OF THE OUTLAW isn't a great Western but it is different enough from the average film that it seems fresh enough to merit watching. What I particularly liked is how the first 15 minutes or so of the film turned out to be not at all directly related to where the film went next. Not knowing the plot, this really took me off guard--and I like when a film isn't easy to predict.
I also liked the idea of a gang of thugs invading and holding a town hostage--though this idea has been done before in Westerns (FIRECREEK) and non-Westerns (THE WILD ONE). What made this one stand out more from the others is that this group wasn't just bad in the usual sense, they were moral degenerates--rapists and sadists, not just socipaths or thieves. Plus, the idea of a strong but wounded leader (Burl Ives) trying to control these sick freaks was fascinating--as was the final showdown.
All in all, a very good film and one you should try to find due to its intelligent script and excellent acting.
By the way, one reviewer said they felt Burl Ives was wrong for the part since in real life he was a nice-guy folk singer. Well, with gritty previous roles in CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF and THE BIG COUNTRY, I would certainly have to disagree with the sentiment, as Ives played the heavy in movies about as often as he played a good guy.
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