The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (John Huston, 1972)


(DutchEngstrom) #1

Director: John Huston.
Paul Newman’s affable growling makes up for the shortcomings of this light comedy/action western. Its got some cool sequences for sure but for me a film should be either one or the other, if it was played straight it could have been a truely great one, if it went all comedy you could say the same, instead its a mishmash ending up as a “cute” film. Now I don’t know about you guys but “cute” is not one of the appelations you want to bestow upon a western. It even has a musical interlude ala Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid, sung by Andy Williams. It doesn’t come close to achieving the brilliance of “The Westerner” that had Walter Brennan in the part along with Gary Cooper, and had the old settlers vs. cattlemen subplot.

It wasn’t a waste of a few hours but from the director of Treasure of The Sierra Madre you would have expected a hard hitting western masterpiece, instead you get a fuzzy bear. Stacey Keach injects a bit of life into the film as a black clad albino outlaw named Bad Bob, but Roddy McDowell(over-used in that era) was weak as the main heavy. It’s in the tradition of Cat Ballou, Support Your Local Gunfighter/Sheriff, etc. Not a bad film, but not a great one, either.


(Phil H) #2

Have to disagree on this one. It’s been a little while since I’ve seen it but have watched and enjoyed it a number of times over the years.

I’d agree that the Westerner is probably a better film overall but then most films compared with it would fall a bit short in my opinion. It is a true classic. It has Walter Brennan in it for a start, and at his very best too. The Westerner I think also has the benefit of two strong characters that play off each other and create conflict, therefore more opportunties for development and drama. But the Westerner is also a perfect example of how a mixture of comedy and drama can coexist successfully. That film constantly switches between snappy banter and dark menace and climaxes with the inevitable showdon between the two main protagonists and the death of the tragically flawed but likeable rogue, Roy Bean. If anything it has more of a comedy / drama mix than ‘The Life and Times’.

For me, any film that deals with the character of Bean has to play it as a mixture of comedy and drama because he was such a mixed up personality. The alternatives are to lionise him as a hero (which he clearly was not) or make him an all out evil villain which leaves little room for character development.

All in all, I think Huston’s film stands up well and Newman’s portrayal is solid. The action sequences are well played and the cameos by Stacey Keach and Anthony Perkins are suitably quirky for the times in which the film was produced. It certainly isn’t a top ten list kind of film but I’d still recommend it to anyone who hasn’t seen it.


(ION BRITTON) #3

Didn’t mind the mixture of comedy/action/a bit of drama, a quicker pace is what I thought this film lacked. It had its moments anyway. Had a hard time recognizing Keach as the albino outlaw in one of the film’s best scenes. Features a great line by Newman as well" ‘Who are you?’ ‘Justice, you sons of bitches’ - would fit better in a more serious film, strangely enough it worked quite well here too. Not exactly my kind of western, but I think it’s worth giving it a watch.