DATELINE: Movie Western Classic Uncovered
How did we miss this one way back when in 1971 or on DVD since? For shame on us.
This classic just never received the accolades it deserved. Lawman was a Western on the tail end of double bills when spaghetti oaters had run their course.
Some highly selective actors chose to appear in this film because they preferred quality to money. So, here you can find Burt Lancaster at his most laconic; Robert Ryan, aging and suffering a loss of full manhood; Lee J. Cobb, showing that a town boss can be civilized.
It’s High Noon going the wrong way in dark light. Lancaster will take in a group of men for trial who may be slapped on the wrist and fined for their violent antics, but if their masculine pride and propensity for violence brings them to the brink of death, so be it. This one is directed by Michael Winner who later gave us Death Wish.
The townsfolk are peppered with so many familiar faces of old movies: Robert Emhardt, Lou Frizzell, John Hillerman, and John McGiver. Even if you don’t know the names, you will laugh with recognition as each one does his turn. A more motley crew of sniveling cowards you could not assemble as residents of Sabbath.
Cobb’s men listen to his fatherly lectures on how times have changed, and he will simply pay off the right people. Younger men have more sense of honor, and they are prepared to go violently into the good night.
Robert Duvall, Ralph Waite, John Beck, Albert Salmi, J.D. Cannon, and Richard Jordan in his film debut, are the cowpokes who work for Cobb who was fresh off the series The Virginian where he claimed to be sick of westerns.
Like so many great movies set in the world of horses, this is a character drama where the hero may not be heroic and drinks coffee in a saloon.
We would be remiss not to recommend Lawman from the dying days of the Western. It may be one of the last great Westerns of Old Hollywood.