The Lawless (Joseph Losey / U.S., 1950):

New frontier and persistent prejudice. ("I didn't think it could happen here," ruminates the capitalist who hasn't been paying attention.) A panning camera amid fruit pickers gives Southern California's verdant promise, the movement is later repeated and reversed to scan a lunar landscape dotted with armed figures. "Not much to do" but stoke tensions, Saturday night at the shanty club and there's the Good Fellowship Dance plus a brawl between muchachos and Anglos. The Hispanic youth (Lalo Rios) flees the scene and a brush with the police balloons into a full-fledged manhunt, he suddenly has murder and rape accusations and vigilantes on his trail. "Two schools of thought on the subject," the media that distorts can also illuminate: The seasoned scandal-peddler (Lee Patrick) piles on lurid details while the weary editor (Macdonald Carey) fights his own apathy, the local gazette reporter (Gail Russell) embodies the call of conscience. The "American heritage of tolerance and decency" is the first casualty of the war at home, Joseph Losey is hard on the case. ("Union" on a window pane is viewed backwards as a lynch mob approaches, a baleful dash of Brecht smack in the middle of the Golden State.) The Zoot Suit Riots are not so distant memories, Lang's Fury is closer still—the crunching of gravel underfoot punctuates the rounding up of the fugitive in the jagged remains of a bridge, a close-up of his distressed face upon capture dissolves to a row of TV screens before a sidewalk audience. A splendid Western in modern guise (Ford considers the destruction of the press in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance) and a salute to shoestring political filmmaking, Carey at the La Luz typesetting table might be Losey himself, already straying from Hollywood. "You know how they talk in small town..." Penn's The Chase is practically a remake. With John Hoyt, Johnny Sands, Maurice Jara, Walter Reed, Herbert Anderson, Argentina Brunetti, Gloria Winters, Martha Hyer, and Tab Hunter. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

Back to Reviews
Back Home