3 generations of a texan farmers family clash with their values ,ideas and lifestyles as grandfather ,uncle and grandson . guilt,old traditions ,loose morality ,drunken binges are the superficial vices of hud, played by Newman in his most charismatic and stylish turn in an act which is almost a textbook performance,he defines the soul of a tough,hard texan cowboy with harmony and honesty in a world hard to survive ,his aging father is clashing with his rebellious son and their quarrels are just explosive ,caught in the middle is lon as the grandson admiring his uncle for his multiple talents with both rodeos and sex bouts . Everyone has to find their own niche and truth and Pat neal as the housekeeper is the fragile link between the 3 men, The ranch and old men are dying of foot and mouth disease and depression and lon and hud are the 2 players who will decide where the future lies . the dialogues and the camera are totally in control of the headstrong wild characters,this is easily newman at his peak and the cinematography is superb with the herd massacre to the night time brawls and Car drives . Texas looks surreal and at times like a desolate kindom where newman rules the roost, this movie shows paul is just as good if not better than brando. The neal character is strong as hell as a woman jilted by a gambling husband ,and the sex chemistry between her and paul is defined with some great lines and double entendres . this is just one of the most unusual and intellectually challenging puzzles hollywood has ever made and even today it shocks you with it's radical view of the texan society .The conventions,traditions and culture assume a parody in the sense that the characters are too cool to let themselves be provoked by the environment ,the sangfroid just carries on as if their insouciance will correct every wrong and if not then they do not give a damn ,i suppose that is the gist of life anywhere and this movie is the absolute truth in every detail, it is honest to all of its inhabitants whether saints or sinners but theY all have faith in their beliefs and define the spirit of the texan culture . provocotive and damningly powerful . USMAN KHAWAJA
Time Out saysAlong with Hombre, one of Ritt's best films, less abrasive than it thinks but still a remarkably clear-eyed account of growing up in Texas to mourn the old free-ranging ways of the frontier days. Its focus is the antagonism between a sternly moralising, patriarchal ranch-owner (Douglas) and his free-drinking, free-whoring 'no account' son (Newman); the conflict between them, ambivalently observed by the two other members of the household, both emotionally involved with Newman - the ranch housekeeper (Neal) and a hero-worshipping nephew (de Wilde) - boils to a head over a government order to slaughter the ranch's entire herd as a precaution against foot-and-mouth, with Newman urging outlaw defiance and Douglas siding with the law. The film sometimes seems to be busting its britches to attain the status of Greek tragedy in delineating the disintegration of a heritage, with dialogue haunted by images of death and decay. But pretensions are kept nicely damped down by the performances (all four principals are great) and by Wong Howe's magnificent camerawork.