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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Lawless (1950)

In a small California hamlet, there is a division between the white middle class town and the Mexican farm workers who pick fruit and live in an adjacent less affluent community. After a fight breaks out at a dance in the Hispanic part of town when Caucasian youths invade the festivities, a Latino youth (Lalo Rios) hits a police officer and steals a car. From there it spirals into full scale hysteria, half truths and vigilantism as the town boils over in hate. If this sounds like a socially conscious Stanley Kramer film, rest assured that the film avoids the civics lesson and black and white stereotypes of the dreaded Kramer syndrome. The film it resembles most is Arthur Penn's underrated THE CHASE. Directed by Joseph Losey, the film provides an even handed balanced look at all the protagonists and participants. The Caucasian characters aren't all portrayed as blathering racists and the Mexicans aren't portrayed as saints. The film's biggest flaw isn't in the script but the casting of the bland Macdonald Carey in the lead role of the crusading editor of a small newspaper. Fortunately, there's the sad eyed Gail Russell as the Latina reporter of a small Mexican newspaper who compensates. With Martha Hyer, Tab Hunter (in his film debut), John Hoyt (in a rare sympathetic role), Lee Patrick, Argentina Brunetti and Frank Ferguson.

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