A beguiling Western, even if the John Milius script got semi-strangled along the way. Hawkish mythmaker extraordinary, Milius saw Judge Bean - outlaw turned self-appointed law-giver - as an embodiment of the ambivalent virtues of the old West: evil but necessary, a robber baron achieving tragic grandeur as 'a man who comes in and builds something and then is discarded by what he built'. As such, he should have had the same outsize dimensions as the Teddy Roosevelt of The Wind and the Lion, but emerges somewhat diminished in Newman's portrayal of a winsome charmer straight out of Butch Cassidy (complete with lyrical interludes and a stickily dreadful song). Playing both ends against the middle, Huston turns it into a rumbustious, episodic lark stuffed with eccentric cameos, but still manages to invest it with his own quizzical attitude to all myths and mythmakers, so that it can be read as an allegory about the capitalistic corruptions of Nixon's America. On the whole, an underrated film.
Cast and crew