Outlaw Clint Hollister escapes from jail with the help of Marshal Jake Wade, because once Clint did the same for him...
Robert Taylor ... Jake Wade
Richard Widmark ... Clint Hollister
Patricia Owens ... Peggy
Robert Middleton ... Ortero
Henry Silva ... Rennie
DeForest Kelley ... Wexler (as De Forest Kelley)
Burt Douglas ... Lieutenant
Eddie Firestone ... Burke
Director: John Sturges
Runtime: 86 min
Color: Color (Metrocolor)
The best actors seem to adapt their roles to themselves, so that they never lose their off-screen persona. Frank Sinatra was always himself in his movies, as was John Wayne. And so was Richard Widmark.
Why do we like "bad guys" so much? Possibly because we get the feeling that in their private lives they are neither good nor bad, but rather, something even better: genuine. Richard Widmark never divorced. He outlived two wives, one marriage lasting 55 years until his first wife passed on. So we know he was not a loner, although his life style was private, as he never appeared on TV talk shows to promote his movies or himself. Buoyed by his inimitable personal qualities, he carved a unique niche for himself in film, and ran with it for a half- century.
The Law and Jake Wade made a strong impression upon me, seeing it for the first time, as a 16-year old, shortly after its release in 1958. This film had a 3-D quality, and a horror film quality which really grabbed its audience, at that time. By 1958 the 3-D fad was long gone, but, I swear, when the Indians attacked Widmark's gang at night with bows and arrows, it seemed like 3-D revisited as the arrows seemed to be coming right through the screen at the audience. Even knowing it was a movie, I was petrified, so realistic is this scene. Unfortunately, this realism cannot be duplicated via DVD or any lesser medium.
Abetting all this excitement is the contrast in style of Widmark and Robert Taylor. While Taylor had adopted family values and professional law man responsibility following his maverick Civil War renegading in partnership with Widmark, Widmark, as the years passed, would have none of the maturing and sobering process to which most men evolve, after having sown their wild oats. So that when Widmark and Taylor locked horns due to a conflict of interest and values, long after the war's end and the demise of their gang, there could be no reconciliation as their cross-purpose came to a head.
Widmark's upbeat, anti-social mores neatly bounce off Taylor's low-key, conventional manner, right up to their inevitable show-down. And it doesn't matter whether Widmark prevailed in the end, his is the character which makes this an enduring film-going experience.