2 January 2012 | Spikeopath
I never killed a man who didn't try to kill me first.
The Lawless Breed is directed by Raoul Walsh and written by William Alland (story) and Bernard Gordon (screenplay). It stars Rock Hudson, Julie Adams, John McIntire, Mary Castle, Hugh O'Brian and Dennis Weaver. Music is supervised by Joseph Gershenson and cinematography by Irving Glassberg.
Story is based around the life of outlaw John Wesley Hardin (Hudson), itself adapted from his own memoirs. It finds Hardin released from jail and recounts his life outside of the law and his time on the run. It proclaims that Hardin was very much a victim of circumstance, his life spiralling out of control after killing a man in self defence.
OK, forget the proud boast from the makers that this is a true story, this is Hollywood and its best so take in the film as a piece of entertainment only. Where, in truth, it's rather good stuff for the Western fan to gorge on. A tacked on "happy ending" aside, this is mostly interesting narratively speaking, and as a production it is always easy on the eye. Hardin's time on the run throws up a number of scenes to pump the adrenalin, letting some fine stunt work come to the fore in the process. Be it escaping from "Texas Rangers" laid traps, or well constructed horse races (Hardin was a well renowned gambler), Raoul Walsh and his team work real hard to keep this out of B movie territory.
Shot in vivid Technicolor out of Andy Jauregui and Janss Conejo ranches in California (some exteriors also filmed at Vasquez Rocks), film always feels airy, something that's not exactly at one with what should be the claustrophobic feel of an outlaw constantly on the run and looking over his shoulder. There's also a big ask of the audience to accept that Hardin is pretty much indestructible, which is OK once or twice, but more?
However, the film is ultimately about entertainment and forgiving it its irritants is not hard to do. Character interactions always remain of interest, and cast are doing more than decent work. McIntire stands out in a dual role, Hudson is stoic and Adams beguiles with her beauty and sexuality. This is one of the better productions for bringing the radiant Adams to the attention of red blooded lusters. A better pair of legs in Westerns there is not, and in one scene she induces wolf whistles and heart palpitations in equal measure. With prolific Western scorer Gershenson providing easy listening and photographer Glassberg keeping the colours rich, The Lawless Breed rounds out as a better than average viewing experience for the Western buff. 7/10