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DAY OF THE OUTLAW(director: Andre De Toth; screenwriters: Philip Yordan/from the story by L.E. Wells; cinematographer:Russell Harlan; editor: Robert Lawrence; music: Alexander Courage; cast: Robert Ryan (Blaise Starrett), Burl Ives (Jack Bruhn), Tina Louise (Helen Crane), Jack Lambert (Tex), Nehemiah Persoff (Dan), Alan Marshal (Hal Crane); Runtime: 96; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Sidney Harmon; United Artists; 1959)
“It’s a beaut.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This is the last western Andre De Toth (“Ramrod”/”Springfield Rifle”) shoots and it’s a beaut. It is shot in austere b/w by the great cinematographer Russell Harlan. Philip Yordan handed in a tough screenplay based on the book by L.E. Wells. But it’s through De Toth’ hard-edged directing that the film remains gripping.

In this neglected low-budget film, De Toth presents a brutal picture of renegade cavalrymen on the run, with Burl Ives as the brutish outlaw leader. They invade the remote town of Bitters and borrow four of its women, trapping the townspeople by holding them hostage to their demands. This is a bleak film, reflecting the forsaken town’s stark snowbound landscape contrasted with the plight of the renegades. Burl keeps control of his violent men–but he’s dying from wounds received. When Burl finds out that rancher Ryan risks his life by yielding from his isolationist stance and will lead the invaders out of town in a false escape route through rugged snowy terrain, meaning possible death for all of them, Burl refuses to tell his men he knows it’s a doomed route. In the finale, Ryan and Ives shoot it out in a driving blizzard.

The raw power lies in the unflinching realism of the characters and the concluding death-like landscape setting where Ryan leads the men through the ominous twisting mountain pass. It’s an ode to the absurd notion of inevitable violence. Ives’s terse comment on Ryan’s plan says it all: “I guess every fool has his reason.”

REVIEWED ON 3/26/2004 GRADE: B +

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”