A few words about…™ The Outlaw — in Blu-ray

Nicely photographed by Gregg Toland, and with Walter Huston, giving us a reprise of the smile as seen when he plays the devil... 4 Stars

The Outlaw is a strange one.

Although directed by Howard Hughes, it began with Howard Hawks at the helm, before he left to direct Sergeant York.

While the film was actually produced in 1941, it did not have an opening until February 1943, before getting itself veritably bitch-slapped by the censorship community, apparently shocked to find that its star, Jane Russel, had breasts.

It closed, after being cut from 123 to the now-current 115 minute version, and finally re-opened in 1946 to multiple lawsuits, and continued in a roadshow version. It finally opened in New York, that hotbed of conservatism, in the fall of 1947.

An odd, and interesting film, that never worked for me personally.

Nicely photographed by Gregg Toland, and with Walter Huston, giving us a reprise of the smile as seen when he plays the devil…

Kino Lorber’s new Blu-ray is a quality affair, licensed via Lobster, which has me wonderful what a release from Universal, which own the rights to the film, could look like.

Image – 4

Audio – 4

Pass / Fail – Pass

Recommended

RAH

Published by

Kevin Collins

administrator

22 Comments

  1. A new computer colorized version, digitally cleaned up in some degree, was released about 10 years ago or so, but the source print looked more like a 35mm public domain print, and the colorization wasn't very carefull as other colorized titles released at the time like It's a Wonderfull Life.

  2. Alberto_D

    A new computer colorized version, digitally cleaned up in some degree, was released about 10 years ago or so, but the source print looked more like a 35mm public domain print, and the colorization wasn't very carefull as other colorized titles released at the time like It's a Wonderfull Life.

    Sorry, Alberto,

    But you’re on thin ice here per colorization.

    The original negative of Outlaw is extant.

  3. I wasn't supporting colorization. That's why I said the print used in the colorization wasn't very good and the colorization itself not made with care, as the clip shows.
    Indeed I got a bit tired of colorized films, even the modern technology, because it got stagnant, instead of develop new tools and approachs to add more realistic color variances for surfaces, textures, color reflex etc…

    Nice to know the original camera negative still exist.

    Robert Harris

    Sorry, Alberto,

    But you’re on thin ice here per colorization.

    The original negative of Outlaw is extant.

  4. atcolomb

    I did read somewhere about during the censorship battle over the film a Maryland judge said "Jane Russell's breasts hungover the picture like a summer thunderstorm spread out over the landscape".

    They should have used that quote for the poster.

  5. Jane Russell's autobiography has some interesting information about this film and about how and why Howard Hawks left the production. Lucien Ballard who worked on pre-production and who left when Hawks did also had interesting memories of this film.

  6. In Martin Scorsese's The Aviator they did this funny scene, but I'm not sure if this "boobsologic" analyze presentation ever happened or if was made-up to add fun to the movie :

    Relativism it's older than we imagine…

    Today we see women who lost breasts to cancer & mastectomy surgery, and go out with no shirt or bikini on beach, like the fact of now having a flat chest would cancel any sexual message of their anatomy.
    It's almost a "logic" used to censor more or less women's breast based in the size of the breast.
    But if we would use the argument we could end up stating man with large breast, due hormonal imablance (like gynecomastia) would not be allowed to go around without shirt.

    It's crazy where we can go thinking about it. Weird…

    Here on Brazil we had some women protesst on beach, in topless, for the right of practice topless wherever and whenever they wished.
    But at same time they argue the female and male breast would be almost the same thing, just a cultural matter created that tried to made female breast a erotic figure, many of them don't like that people look at or don't like to be touched near it, despite while many women, when talks with man, touch mans on chest. Contradictions…
    Weird modern world.

    atcolomb

    I did read somewhere about during the censorship battle over the film a Maryland judge said "Jane Russell's breasts hungover the picture like a summer thunderstorm spread out over the landscape".

  7. Alberto_D

    In Martin Scorsese's The Aviator they did this funny scene, but I'm not sure if this "boobsologic" analyze presentation ever happened or if was made-up to add fun to the movie :

    Relativism it's older than we imagine…

    Today we see women who lost breasts to cancer & mastectomy surgery, and go out with no shirt or bikini on beach, like the fact of now having a flat chest would cancel any sexual message of their anatomy.
    It's almost a "logic" used to censor more or less women's breast based in the size of the breast.
    But if we would use the argument we could end up stating man with large breast, due hormonal imablance (like gynecomastia) would not be allowed to go around without shirt.

    It's crazy where we can go thinking about it. Weird…

    Here on Brazil we had some women protesst on beach, in topless, for the right of practice topless wherever and whenever they wished.
    But at same time they argue the female and male breast would be almost the same thing, just a cultural matter created that tried to made female breast a erotic figure, many of them don't like that people look at or don't like to be touched near it, despite while many women, when talks with man, touch mans on chest. Contradictions…
    Weird modern world.

    All comes down to sociology, and sexualiztion.

  8. The changes movies had in that matters, from before to after WW1, was as much or perhaps a bit higher than after the 60's to 70's. If Hays code hadn't existed, would be certainly higher.

    But there is always a tendency to new freedons to partially become new forms opression with time.

    Robert Harris

    All comes down to sociology, and sexualiztion.

  9. I know Kino did the best they could, but the result is not very good, looking somewhat like a public domain print, with some considerably bad shadows for fewscenes, judging from the DVD Beaver review and screen captures :

    http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film6/dvd_reviews_67/the_outlaw_blu-ray.htm

    But it's the best the film ever looked on video,
    and it's acceptable, considering that since it's on public domain and Universal probably shouldn't care to restore the film from original camera negatives.

  10. Robert Crawford

    Yeah, I never really cared for it either. One of my problems was the casting of Jack Buetel. I will buy this disc because I at least want to see a decent video presentation of it.

    I briefly met Jack Buetel once, in Portland in the late seventies. As I recall he had some connection with the insurance industry. I can't say that he made much of an impression on me.

  11. When grain, in a transfer from a B&W print, looks very heavy only in dark places, shadows, it's usually a signal they tried to bring details from very dark areas from the print, while transfering. This recover some details, but it also brings the largest grain particles or grain agglomarations.

    Paul Thrussell

    I'd be curious to know what exactly the source element was. Grain has that 'peppery' look in some of the shots, and the image overall is a bit mushy. An old dupe neg?

  12. Richard Gallagher

    I briefly met Jack Buetel once, in Portland in the late seventies. As I recall he had some connection with the insurance industry. I can't say that he made much of an impression on me.

    Well, he must have made SOME impression since you still remember it 40 years later!! 😛

  13. Will Krupp

    Well, he must have made SOME impression since you still remember it 40 years later!! 😛

    Ha! I recognized his name. At the time I had never seen The Outlaw but I had read a lot about it. It was at a luncheon function and I said hello to him. I don't remember what he looked like!

  14. Alberto_D

    When grain, in a transfer from a B&W print, looks very heavy only in dark places, shadows, it's usually a signal they tried to bring details from very dark areas from the print, while transfering. This recover some details, but it also brings the largest grain particles or grain agglomarations.

    Similar to what happens when you try to scan still negs/slides that weren't exposed properly. The areas where you've tried to recover detail out of overly dark/light spots are very noisy and the gradation is poor.

  15. Glad to see this one out in HD, even if the transfer isn't quite pristine. The improvement over previous DVD editions is noticeable enough, with an overall filmic look not lost with DNR scrubbing. A personal favorite, THE OUTLAW is one of the most offbeat movies if not THE most offbeat movie of its era, which works for me in all its melodramatic, glamourized absurdity. Critics can say what they want, I find its so-called 'campy' premise entertaining, with Jane Russell, Jack Buetel (both of their inexperience notwithstanding), Thomas Mitchell and Walter Huston all playing well off each other. I know much is made about a supposed homo-erotic subtext, but I choose to see it more akin to the "buddy" pictures of Howard Hawks, who started off directing THE OUTLAW. Moreover, Buetel and Huston's characters' sexual interests are clearly directed toward Russel, with Huston ultimately letting her go off with Buetel, thus making any gay interpretations rather dubious at best. Howard Hughes' films interest me because there's always something going on in them that's unconventional. The problem people had (and apparently still have) with THE OUTLAW is that they expect it to follow certain genre rules and don't know what to make of it when it takes off in different directions. Yet, that's what I like about it – and that goes for the Tchaikovsky-laden score as well.

  16. I'm hanging on to Legend's colorized/b&w DVD mostly for the accompanying commentary by Jane Russell and Terry Moore. I also think they did a fairly decent job with the color, as far as that process is concerned.

    Again, I like THE OUTLAW. It's got some great moments, both highly stylized as well as understated. Love the bit at the end when, just before riding off with Rio, Billy makes sure she filled the canteen with water instead of sand. Like he told Doc, he still can't trust women.

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