THE OUTRAGE is what you may feel if you plunge into this 1964 remake of the Japanese classic Rashomon, where Akira Kurosawa dissected four colliding versions of one brutal event. Kurosawa and his star Toshiro Mifune took the international critical community by storm (although in Japan it was dissed and flopped) and the allegory, symbolism and truth-tweaking grabbed an Honorary Academy Award. Whether you care for the 1950 delve into murky morality in Medieval Nippon or not, it was a hard act to follow. This attempt, relocating to our desert Southwest after the Civil War, is notable in that it had a normally fine director, Martin Ritt, ace cameraman James Wong Howe, lauded composer Alex North and starred Paul Newman, Laurence Harvey, Claire Bloom, Edward G. Robinson and William Shatner.
As with the original in Japan , critics were unkind, and fans stayed away, but this one’s never going to show up in any 10-best lists or film courses. The lame $2,200,000 take put the production down at the #45 spot of Paul Newman’s 58 big-screen credits. Perhaps put off by the idea of Paul playing a grungy Mexican bandit (‘Juan Carrasco’) complete with ‘theek’ accent, mustache and skin darkening makeup, perhaps that it was a story about four different versions of a rape and a murder (“hey, sounds like a blast, honey”), perhaps because it was shot in black & white, Paul’s People stayed home. I just didn’t buy most of it, let alone find it an entertaining or enlightening way to pass 96 minutes, even though one of the four crime-recollections has a fight between Newman and Harvey that’s so ridiculously staged it made me do a spit-take laughing.
With Howard Da Silva, Albert Salmi and Paul Fix. Ms. Bloom and old Eddie Robinson come off best in the group. Give them all credit,though: they were trying here, but no cigar, amigo.