The Outrage (1964)

THE OUTRAGE (1964)
Article 2178 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-3-2007
Posting Date: 7-30-2007
Directed by Martin Ritt
Featuring Paul Newman, Lawrence Harvey, Claire Bloom

A trial is held to figure out who was responsible for the knifing of a colonel in a nearby forest. The conflicting stories about the event from those involve cause a preacher to doubt his calling, but he tries to sort out the story with the help of a con man and a prospector who holds the missing pieces of the story.

Akira Kurosawa was heavily influenced by western (as in opposition to eastern) sources in his movies, including the Bible, Shakespeare, and westerns (as in six-guns). So it’s no surprise that his work was more accessible to westerners, and several of his movies have been remade as westerns. This is perhaps the oddest choice from his oeuvre to be recast in such a way, though it certainly lends itself to this approach. And the story is certainly sturdy enough that it still holds interest even if it’s not done as well as it could have been here. There are definite problems in this version; the text was largely adapted from Fay and Michael Kanin’s stage version (some of the dialogue is identical), but in the attempt to adapt it to a western setting, it often resorts to western slang that is more corny than effective. Furthermore, many of the actors are saddled with distracting accents; in particular, Paul Newman’s Mexican accident and Claire Bloom’s southern twang often call more attention to themselves than is recommended. Laurence Harvey might have had the same problem, but since his character says very little during the proceedings, he is spared that embarrassment. Another problem is William Shatner, though it is through no fault of his own. Shatner’s vocal mannerisms have been the target of parody for some time, and this is one of those movies where those mannerisms are particularly prominent. Edward G. Robinson is great as the con man, and Howard Da Silva also does well as the prospector. The best scene of the movie is the cat-and-mouse game between Newman and Bloom right before the rape, a scene that benefits from the fact that no one is talking. Once again, as in RASHOMON, the fantastic aspect of this movie is that the testimony of the dead man is done via a medium, in this case, an Indian medicine man.

 

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