The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972)

Genres - Western  |   Sub-Genres - Revisionist Western  |   Release Date - Dec 18, 1972 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 120 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Craig Butler

Opinions on The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean tend to vary wildly, perhaps because the film itself is a huge, uneven (and often unwieldy) hodgepodge. Judge Roy Bean attempts too much; it is allegorical (including a political allegory to Richard Nixon), surreal, ironic, blackly comic, both mythologizing and de-mythologizing, and both brash and ponderous -- so the mixture simply doesn't work. Yet any film directed by John Huston and written by John Milius that aims so high is bound to have a certain fascination, and the things that Huston and Milius attempt (and sometimes succeed at) in Judge Roy Bean will please some people to the point that they will overlook its many faults. For many people, however, the disjointed, rambling, confused, and often confusing film will be a bit too much, even with a sturdy performance from Paul Newman at its center and an exceptional, wildly funny turn from Stacy Keach on its periphery. (Those who like their Westerns "straight," of course, needn't even bother checking in.) Even those for whom the film doesn't work may appreciate individual moments, the spirit with which the film was made, and the fact that the filmmakers respect the intelligence of their audience. All in all, Judge Roy Bean is a muddle, but one that is hard to forget.