The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

The Outlaw Josey Wales portrays the difficulty of doing good things in bad times, and the difficulty of forgiving yourself for the things you may have done to cope with those times. It takes place in and around the time of the U.S. Civil War, which disrupted as many moral compasses as any time in recent centuries. Not only did the war feature Americans at war with other Americans, but it featured neighbors and family members killing one other in the border states. And, of course, the entire event was grounded in a philosophical dispute about people "owning" other people. Neither side could obtain much of the moral high ground. The Federal Government, which pontificated about the human rights of the slaves, turned around and started taking a lot of those same rights away from the indigenous native tribes.

Worst of all, when the Civil war was over, the fat lady still hadn't sung for anybody in the south. The hatred was still there, the country was filled with displaced slaves trying to find a new existence, and carpetbaggers who were trying to scam everyone. It was an ugly time which made people do ugly things.

One of those people was Josey Wales, a Missouri farmer whose family was slaughtered by marauding Kansas "redlegs." He ended up joining a vicious renegade anti-redleg Confederate unit which was pretty much built on the same tenuous moral ground as the redlegs themselves. As part of this troop, the farmer Josey Wales, who hadn't even known how to shoot a gun, became the outlaw Josey Wales, ruthless slayer of hundreds and a hunted man. He was able to negotiate that transition by hardening his heart and remembering his family, but the more difficult adjustment was the one he had to make in order to become a man again, in the company of other men, after years of being a killing machine and a loner.


Sondra Locke shows her bum, and is very briefly topless.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • widescreen anamorphic 2.35:1

  • no major features

Clint Eastwood directed himself in this movie, and he did a great job. He was still under the spell of Sergio Leone a bit, so there are a few too many squinty-eyed close ups for my taste, but this is a great epic Western. The photography is outstanding, the minor characters are great (especially Chief Dan George as an old Indian with a sharp wit), the history and period reproductions are accurate, the music comes from that era, and Eastwood is excellent at telling an economical straightforward narrative yarn.

I don't know if it is the best Western ever, but it's probably my favorite, and I guess that's because it's more human and touching than The Searchers or Unforgiven.

The Critics Vote

The People Vote ...

IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a B. You don't have to like Westerns to enjoy it. It is a helluva good story.

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