Monday, June 29, 2015


It's July, 1878, and Billy the Kid (Don Barry) and his sidekick Charley (Tom Neal) make an escape from what turns out to be the last battle in the infamous Lincoln County War and take up life as outlaws. Later, they run across sheriff Pat Garrett (Robert Lowery), wounded by Indians, and Billy saves his life, which leads Garrett to go to New Mexico governor Lew Wallace and ask him to extend a pardon to Billy, as Wallace did to the other participants in the "war," in exchange for Billy giving up his guns. Billy meets with Wallace but turns down the offer and goes back into hiding, seeing his girlfriend Francesca when he can. Eventually, Billy is captured, escapes, and is hunted down by a reluctant Garrett, and is finally caught and killed at Francesca's house.

This is a drab and generally lifeless retelling of the Billy the Kid story. The biggest problem isn't the production, which seems to have been done on the high end of a B-picture budget, but with Barry, the actor playing Billy. The film claims to be faithful to history—it's framed by an older Garrett visiting Billy's grave—but it's a big mistake to have an actor who is almost 40 playing the under-21 Billy, especially when it's pointed out how young he is. It feels like Barry is trying desperately to channel Mickey Rooney as Andy Hardy in his performance, but it's a low-energy attempt that fails, and Billy just seems tired and worn out from first to last. I liked Lowery as Garrett (pictured above), and Tom Neal as the sidekick—actually, Neal could have done a much better Billy even though he was almost as old as Barry. Most of the gunplay scenes are half-hearted at best. In case you couldn't tell, I don’t think there is much here to recommend this film, which is sad because the print I saw was sparklingly clear. [TCM]

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