IMDb; Legend Films; Rotten Tomatoes; TCM; Wikipedia
streaming sites: Amazon; iTunes
This movie was made in 1941, but not released until 1943. (The director, Howard Hughes, managed to drum up public interest by fanning censorial outrage over it being lewd. Which is extra amusing in hindsight, because by today's standards it's pretty tame. Seriously, the movie doesn't get any racier than this.)
Anyway, when I was a kid, back in... the late 80s, early 90s... my mom would always get Woman's World magazine at the supermarket. And I would flip through those magazines, for various reasons, such as the crossword puzzles, and my OCD compulsion to flip through magazines in general, and... you know... the fact that magazines aimed at women often had things that could appeal to boys. For example, there was this one issue I remember that had an article about women like Jane Russell and Jayne Mansfield. I don't remember much detail about the article, but I think there was a list of famous actresses' measurements (and I think it was done as a comparison between women who had had plastic surgery, and women like Russell and Mansfield; there was a headline along the lines of "They Looked Like That for Real"). Many years later (say the late 2000s or so) I was browsing in a Movie Gallery, where I liked to buy used DVDs. And I saw this 2-disc set that included "The Outlaw" on one disc, and a second disc called "Gunfighters." (I must not have looked too closely at it, because I thought it had a bunch of lesser known western movies, or something. But later I discovered it was just a documentary.) Well, the DVD case had a picture of Jane Russell that immediately reminded me of that old magazine article. (The DVDs I got contain a black & white version of the movie, released by a different company than currently has the distribution rights; the newer release is colorized.) I'm sure that picture (or a similar promotional still from the same movie) had been in the magazine. (I'm not sure... the picture in the magazine was probably this one, but it might have been a b&w version of the pic on this page, which is a scan of the cover of the DVD case.) Anyway, for the sake of nostalgia, I thought about buying the DVD when I saw it. I didn't, at the time, but I kept it in mind. And at some point I went back to the store, but I think it was gone. (Probably it was still there any number of times I went back, but I was always reluctant to spend even a few dollars on used DVDs, because I didn't have a lot of money to spare.) But at some point after it stopped being there, I saw it again. (Maybe that was near the time the store closed in 2010, I don't remember for sure.) Anyway, I finally bought it, whenever it was. And then I didn't get around to watching it until 2015, when I had this vague idea of a summer of westerns. (Really, there were just a fistful of western films I watched that summer.)
So... this movie is sooooo redonk. And hilarious. And shortly before I watched it, I read a bit about it online. It seems a lot of people saw a sort of romantic subtext between Doc Holliday and Billy the Kid. And once I watched it, I guess I could kind of see that, but it didn't seem as overt to me as some people made it out to be. Mostly they just seemed to be friends. Anyway... it begins with Pat Garrett (a former outlaw who has recently been drafted as sheriff of Lincoln County, New Mexico) being informed that Doc has come to town. At first, he's happy about this, because Doc is an old friend of his. It soon turns out that Doc is looking for a horse thief, who had stolen his horse, Red. And Doc soon finds that Red is in the possession of Billy the Kid. When he confronts him, Billy says he'd bought the horse, presumably from the horse thief. I have no idea if this is true or not. Either way, Red remains a point of contention between the two of them throughout the film. But oddly enough, the two of them quickly become friends, and there's lots of witty banter. And this drives a wedge between Doc and Pat. (Pat really acts like a jilted lover.) Anyway, one night Billy gets shot at in the stable where Red is being kept, and he gets into a brawl with the shooter, who turns out to be a woman named Rio (played by Jane Russell). And... it turns out something had transpired previously between Rio's brother and Billy. I guess Billy had killed him, and it was over a woman, but I'm really not clear on the details. In any event, Rio had good reason to want him dead. But the scene ends with something happening in the dark. I'm not sure what, but I got the impression that either they had sex, or he raped her. Maybe I'm wrong about that; for all I know, he just tied her up or something, to stop her from trying to kill him again.
Anyway, the next day, Billy and Doc meet up to have breakfast and play poker. And some guy comes in claiming to want to help Billy against Garrett, but that turns out to be a trick. He really wants to kill Billy, but of course Billy outdraws him. (This is the first time we see an example of someone, in this case Billy, drawing guns in a way that was obviously sped up in post-production. It's something that probably wasn't meant to be funny, but I found it terribly amusing. And I did so every other time it happened in the movie, as well.) Of course, the two of them were alone at the time, so no one could corroborate Billy's story about the other guy drawing first. But Doc believed him, and took his side when Pat showed up with some men to arrest Billy. They try to get away, but Pat shoots Billy with a damn shotgun, and somehow he survives. But he's in a bad way, and Doc takes him to the homestead of his girlfriend and her aunt, to recuperate. And it turns out that Doc's girlfriend is Rio. She doesn't seem happy about being tasked with helping Billy recover, but she doesn't say anything to Doc, and does exactly as he says. Meanwhile, Doc goes off on his own to... um... actually I never understood exactly what he was going to do. He explained it, I guess, but I still never understood it. Anyway, while he's away, Rio looks after Billy. And somehow falls in love with him.
Eventually, Doc returns. He'd been gone for more than a month, in which time Billy had mostly recovered from his injury. Of course he's not happy to learn about Rio having fallen for Billy. But the crazy thing is that their main disagreement is still about the damn horse. (Rio is understandably upset about that.) Meanwhile, Pat is still looking for Doc and Billy, wanting to take them both into custody. He eventually captures them, but... things get even more complicated after that. A lot more happens, but I don't want to reveal any more of the plot. There's just... so much humor, and also some drama. And... I don't know what else to tell you. But based on what I'd read, I expected the movie to be bad. But it was actually pretty fun. (You know, assuming Billy didn't rape Rio the first time they met. Which I have no idea whether he did or not. And I'd prefer to believe he didn't.)