'Modest' Western worth of all Sturges' bigger famous films.
darragh o'donoghue | 03/27/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"'The Law And Jake Wade' came out in the same year as Anthony Mann's last Western, 'Man Of The West', with which it shares many narrative, thematic and visual affinities. Both centre on ex-outlaws who have tried to turn away from a life of crime, but who are violently dragged back by companions from the past; the struggle in both is intensified by the presence of a woman as hostage/prize. Both feature aging Hollywood stars at or near the end of thir careers, and both climax in the heavily symbolic arena of a ghost town. The difference in quality between both films can be seen in the contrasting stature of their stars - Gary Cooper was one of the great icons of the Western, and a potent projection of America's self-image - his face scarred with age, and body wracked with cancer added to the phantom surroundings to create a genuine, austere, end-of-the-genre atmosphere. Robert Taylor, a matinee idol, brings no such baggage with him - void of iconic presence and resonance, 'Law' seems comparatively shallow.The film is still terrific entertainment, particularly in its second half, with the tensions within bad guy Richard Widmark's crew threatening violence; a fierce Indian raid, with the best-ever use of arrows in a Western, seeming to swoop down from a great distance at the viewer; and the long, mythical shoot-out. The film's characters and themes develop predictably - Taylor, who wants to rejoin civilisation by working as a lawman and marrying the daughter of a rich capitalist, must exorcise his violent, blood-stained past - and there are the usual homoerotic and Oedipal complications. There are interesting inflections - the crew's criminal activities are seen as extensions of their 'legal' duties as soldiers during the Civil War; while Taylor is one of the genre's more dim-witted heroes, a plan dodge a pursuer by taking convoluted by-ways is foiled by the fact that he has given the pursuer his horse - all Widmark has to do is let him go and follow him!; the great ritual of (moral) rebirth is cynically set in a ghost town's cemetary.What is most interesting about the film is its visuals. Sturges may lack the true intellectual rigour of a Mann or Boetticher, both of whom he imitates, but there is a compositional care in 'Law' absent from his more famous blockbusters. The widescreen patterning of characters against the landscape contributes to the film's meaning, and often works against the script; the central interior scene, as kidnappers and abductees wait for a Commanche attack, is like a very skip of civilisation. Although the relation between individual and landscape is not telegraphed, there are three brilliant Boetticher-like shots when the camera tracking Taylor slowly descends, levelling the ground and revealing the impassively monumental mountains behind him, exposing both his lack of solidity and a natural world indifferent to his fate. There is hardly a shot of a character that is not in some way framed by its environment; the disorienting mix of breathtaking location shots and deliberate backdrops furthers the theme."
Excellent Western From One of The All-time Great Directors
Terence Allen | Atlanta, GA USA | 02/11/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"John Sturges' name is not spoken nearly enough when the great film directors are being listed. You would think that after directing The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape, and The Old Man and the Sea that he would be revered and recognized, but that is not the case.
Sturges was at his best making Westerns, and The Law and Jake Wade was a great one. It was the last great movie Robert Taylor made, and one of the best that Richard Widmark ever made.
Taylor plays Jake Wade, a lawman who breaks Richard Widmark out of jail. They used to ride together as outlaws, and Widmark's character saved Taylor's life, so he feels indebted to Widmark. All Widmark cares about is the stolen loot hidden from their last big heist, and he forces Taylor to take him to its location.
Tense, suspenseful, and well-acted, The Law and Jake Wade is a must-see Western."
T O'Brien | Chicago, Il United States | 04/20/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The Law and Jake Wade is an entertaining western about a reformed outlaw trying to escape his past. Jake Wade, played by Robert Taylor, is trying to go straight only to run into his former gang led by Richard Widmark. A past incident involving hidden money leads Widmark to kidnap Wade and his fiancee. He leads them into the desert where they fight off Comanches as well as themselves. This is a good movie that most western fans will enjoy. Taylor and Widmark are very good as ex-partners who reunite. As another reviewer points out, there seems to be a real friendship between the two men. The showdown at the conclusion is very well done if a little predictable. Nevertheless, this is a good movie that looks better in letterbox as I saw it on TCM. Very entertaining and well worth the watch!"
Violence and Regrets
Kay's Husband | 03/04/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This neglected Western is one of John Sturges best. Richard Widmark and Robert Taylor are compelling as former partners now on opposite sides of the law. There is a lingering sense of regret between the two protagonists that is rare in movies. And for all his villiany, there is something very likable about the Widmark character. This is a character driven Western at its best. Except for the Boetticher and Mann films, there is not much better. Another great Western with this theme that is hard to find (because it is out of print) is Last Train from Gun Hill."
THE LAW OF A GREAT SCRIPT AND GOOD ACTING
Kay's Husband | Virginia, U.S.A. | 09/09/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
The source of this very good film released through MGM on June 6, 1958, was a book written by the incomparable Marvin H. Albert. Mr. Albert has written many westerns (Clayburns) and mysteries (Lady In Cement), with many brought to film (Duel At Diablo & Tony Rome), from novels that are very near classics of the writer's art.
This film was shot on location in California's High Sierra Mountain Range, Lone Pine location, and in Death Valley. Both the filming sites and the actors allow great realism in this western. The 88 minute film was shot in both great color and wide screen.
For Robert Taylor (1911-1969) this film would be one of the better ones he had left to make, with Richard Widmark (1914-2008) having yet a longer string of films to make with some very good ones to come. Neither actor could have had any bad feelings concerning their stellar performances in this film. Both Taylor and Widmark do show their age somewhat in this film, however, their combined performance is a veritable thing of beauty to behold. For one seeing this film for the first time elements of suspense are encountered with the ending scoring a point for the 'good guys' believing in rule of law.
Great story, sustaining suspense, admirable locations, and a plethora of very good actors, help turn this western story into more than just a western. The label 'classic' isn't too far behind this movie. All-in-all, Hollywood seldom did a western any better than THE LAW AND JAKE WADE. Watch it and you will probably understand why I enjoyed this one so much.