BILLY TWO HATS (aka: THE LADY AND THE OUTLAW) (director: Ted Kotcheff; screenwriter: Alan Sharp; cinematographer: Brian West; editor: Thom Noble; music: John Scott; cast: Gregory Peck (Deans), Desi Arnaz Jr. (Billy), Jack Warden (Henry Gifford), Sian Barbara Allen (Esther), David Huddleston (Copeland), John Pearce (Spencer), Dawn Little Sky (Squaw); Runtime: 99; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: Norman Jewison/Patrick Palmer; United Artists; 1974-UK)
“The first American Western to be filmed in Israel.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The first American Western to be filmed in Israel. Director Ted Kotcheff (“Life at the Top”/”Fun With Dick and Jane”/”North Dallas Forty”) keeps it slow-paced and scenic. Kotcheff stumbles when he tries too hard to make the familiar buddy movie premise fresh (like one last robbery before retiring for a straight life), but gets a star-like performance from Gregory Peck as the bushy bearded aging Bible-thumping outlaw suffering from loneliness and who speaks with a thick Scottish burr. It’s written by Alan Sharp (Penn’s Night Moves and Aldrich’s Ulzana’s Raid), who never makes much hay with his awkward statements about racial prejudice.
Things go amiss for two hardluck outlaws, the Scottish gun weary Deans (Gregory Peck) and the much younger half-breed Billy Two Hats (Desi Arnaz, Jr.), when they accidentally kill a bank clerk during a bank robbery and their third partner gets killed. Hard-nosed Sheriff Henry Gifford (Jack Warden) captures Billy; but at a remote trading post run by an ex-buffalo hunter named Copeland (David Huddleston) and his squaw (Dawn Little Sky), Deans returns to free Billy and wings the sheriff in the shoulder. While the criminals are fleeing, Copeland wings Deans in the leg with his buffalo hunting rifle and with Deans unable to ride a horse Billy builds an Indian cot to drag Deans behind his horse. With the enraged sheriff in hot pursuit, the pair of wanted men stop off at a remote ranch, near the Mexican border, run by a mean-spirited man named Spencer (John Pearce) and his frightened bought wife from St. Louis named Esther (Sian Barbara Allen). When Deans goes for a doctor to the nearest town, two days away, with Spencer, they’re attacked by four crazed Indians. Meanwhile Billy is left to safeguard Esther and watch for the sheriff, but he’s seduced by her and then overtaken by the bigoted sheriff.
The uneven oater never seemed that convincing but, on the other hand, it wasn’t that unbelievable, maintained a high energy level and it had some entertainment value.
REVIEWED ON 1/4/2009 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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