Day of the Outlaw is a 1959 Western film starring Robert Ryan, Burl Ives, and Tina Louise. It was directed by André De Toth; this was his last Western feature film.
Blaise Starrett (Robert Ryan) is a ruthless cattleman at odds with homesteaders in a small, bleak western town in Wyoming called Bitters. A feud develops between Starrett and a local farmer Hal Crane. The farmer's wife Helen (Tina Louise) offers to renew a love affair with Starrett if he promises not to kill Hal.
The feud is about to come to a bloody end when Jack Bruhn (Burl Ives), and his band of thugs ride into town. They are on the run from the law after robbing a bank. He is a wounded outlaw, a former cavalry officer but that doesn't stop him and his gang holding the town's civilians hostage. Starrett must now find a way to save his town, and redeem himself in the process. He does so by helping the bad guys escape, or so they think, across the snow-covered mountains.
Robert Ryan as Blaise Starrett,
Burl Ives as Jack Bruhn,
Tina Louise as Helen Crane,
Alan Marshal as Hal Crane,
Venetia Stevenson as Ernine, Vic's Daughter,
David Nelson as Gene, Bruhn's Gang,
Nehemiah Persoff as Dan, Starret's Foreman,
Jack Lambert as Tex (Bruhn's gang),
Frank DeKova as Denver, Bruhn's Gang (as Frank deKova),
Lance Fuller as Pace, Bruhn's Gang,
Elisha Cook Jr. as Larry Teter (town barber) (as Elisha Cook),
Dabbs Greer as Doc Langer, Veterinarian,
Betsy Jones-Moreland as Mrs. Preston (as Betsey Jones-Moreland),
Helen Westcott as Vivian,
Donald Elson as Vic, General Store Owner,
The film was based on a 1955 novel of the same title by Lee Edwin Wells (1907-1982), that also ran in several newspapers as a serialized story in the fall of 1955 and others in the late summer 1956. Producer Buddy Adler originally purchased the film rights as a vehicle for Robert Wagner. Philip Yordan read the novel and insisted on writing a script based on the book.
Filmed in central Oregon at Dutchman Flat and Todd Lake Meadows near the town of Bend in late November and early December 1958, with Leon Chooluck the unit director doing many of the long exterior shots. Russell Harlan's stark black & white cinematography captures the bleakness of the North American winter on location near Mount Bachelor, Oregon.
Hungarian director Andre De Toth also created several terrific scenes, especially the Saturday night "dance" (where the women desperately try to fight off the outlaws' loutish advances) and the extended final sequence in the which they flee across the mountains.
Yordan called the script "one of the best I've ever written," but said the problem with the film was that the budget, at $400,000, was not big enough. Yordan told author Franklin Jarlett, in his biographical book about Robert Ryan, that De Toth was having personal problems at the time of filming and it was apparent on the set. Other problems included; Ryan was out with a week with pneumonia, snowstorms caused delays in filming, De Toth changed his mind about where some scenes were to be shot (from interior to remote exteriors), and then they ran out of money and just packed up and went back to Hollywood. Yordan lamented what 'could have been.'
Day of the Outlaw received poor reviews when it was released in 1959. However it is now considered to be an unusual western with a good story and fine acting with scenes that maximize the coldness of the temperatures on screen.
Roger Horrocks, in his book Male Myths and Icons, says that the film is a 'gold nugget' and on par with Budd Boetticher.