(director: William Witney; screenwriters: story by TodHunter Billard/TodHunter Billard/John K. Butler/Richard Wormser; cinematographer: Reggie Lanning; editor: Tony Martinelli; music: R. Dale Butts; cast: John Derek (Jet Cosgrave), Joan Evans (Judy Polsen), Jim Davis (Maj. Cosgrave), Catherine McLeod (Alice Austin), Ben Cooper (The Kid), Taylor Holmes (Andrew Devlin), Nana Bryant (Mrs. Banner), Slim Pickens (Boone Polsen), Bob Steele (Duke Rankin), James Millican (Cal Prince), Nacho Galindo (Curly), Bill Walker (Sam Allen), Harry Carey Jr. (Bert), Robert ‘Buzz’ Henry (Zeke Polsen), Nicolas Coster (Asa Polsen); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: William J. O’Sullivan; Republic; 1954)
“A dumb story but, at least, it’s action-packed.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
One of veteran director William Witney’s last films for Republic, the studio where he earned his rep making B Westerns. It’s based on a story by TodHunter Billard. The Outcast offers a dumb story but, at least, it’s action-packed. The only time star John Derek doesn’t have a six-shooter in his hands is when he’s either romancing Catherine McLeod or Joan Evans. Every male character is a louse, except the black blacksmith Sam and the loyal Mexican goon Curly.
It was hard to be concerned with first-class jerk Jet Cosgrave (John Derek) and his problem of trying to get back the rich Circle C ranch his crooked Uncle Major Cosgrave swindled him out of after his dad died. Jet left town when he was 15, after his father’s death, and returns 8 years later with a bad-ass plan to draw the Major into a fight with the hired guns he hired who are led by the psychopathic killer Duke Rankin (Bob Steele)–my favorite steely-eyed villain of all the villains in this pic, who plugs the Circle C cook in the back and sends him back on horseback belly-down with Jet’s Target ranch brand on the horse.
Jet’s men by force take over the abandoned ranch nearby to the Circle C ranch, as he chases away the Major’s boys who were squatting there and steals their cattle. The Major has his saddle-boss Cal Prince (James Millican) fight back, but when he recognizes his old crime partner Duke–they make a plan to double-cross Jet.
The Polsen clan hates all the Cosgraves, but are drawn into the feud between the Cosgrave clan. They’re mean-spirited poor ranchers who reluctantly join sides with Jet because he lets their cattle graze on his rich pastures, something the Major stopped upon the death of Jet’s dad. When Jet kisses the naive Judy Polsen (Joan Evans), she takes it as a marriage proposal. But Jet is determined not only to take away the ranch from the Major, but to steal his classy fiancee Alice Austin (Catherine McLeod) who came all the way from Virginia to marry the wealthy Major.
Warning: spoiler to follow in next paragraph.
In a town with no sheriff, the boys start killing each other off for most of the film (it’s a big cast) until at the end we learn how the crooked lawyer Devlin wrote a phony will and Jet is proven right to go after his rightful birthright. This calls for a final gun duel between the fast-draw Major and the single-minded revenge seeking Jet. Unfortunately by the time we realize Jet is the good guy we have lost interest in whether the self-absorbed Jet is right or wrong, or which lady he ends up with. Instead the only entertainment comes from watching such colorful Western characters as Slim Pickens, Harry Carey Jr. and Bob Steele shoot it out among themselves–though for what purpose only the Western gods know.
REVIEWED ON 7/72005 GRADE: C-