The Outlaw—Josey Wales (1976)

Standard

By Scott Ross

The original director, Philip Kaufman, was fired and its star, Clint Eastwood, took over, but it may be argued that the final product (for which Kaufman shared screenwriter credit with Sonia Chernus) has Kaufman’s witty sensibility all over it. Based on one of two novels by the very strange Forrest Carter — who was either, as he claimed, part Native American or, as others maintain, a vicious racist who excepted Indians from his hatred — the movie is a luminous fable about creating a community.

Josey, whose wife and son are murdered by marauding Yankees, exacts his revenge and ends up with a price on his head. In his travels, he gathers up a motley makeshift family, and the movie takes on an elegiac (and decidedly pro-Indian) tone. Bruce Surtees was responsible for the sumptuous cinematography, Jerry Fielding wrote the stirring, idiosyncratic score (still, as of this writing, unavailable on CD, at least in America) and the supporting cast includes Sondra Locke, Geraldine Keams, Royal Dano, Will Sampson and the incomparable Chief Dan George, whose game of one-upsmanship with Eastwood is the movie’s agreeable running-gag.

Text copyright 2013 by Scott Ross