Day of the Outlaw (De Toth, 1959)

From a narrative standpoint, De Toth’s brilliant Western slices through familiar iconography with a sly and shifting character study of morality and regret. It filters the tension of a frontier town under siege from brutal outlaws through small gestures of panic and sacrifice, transcending petty communal differences into a more dangerous and bloody realm. If the standard Hollywood denouement plays a little slight, its only because De Toth, Robert Ryan, and Burl Ives have set the bar so high during the countless scenarios ripe with subtext and mystery, culminating in a long frozen standoff between man and nature. Day of the Outlaw is a small scale psychological thriller playing out in the numbing snowscapes and epic mountainsides of a changing old West.

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