His name William Bonney. His legend 'Billy the Kid', the fabled gunslinger of "The Left Handed Gun". The West had never before seen the likes of this Brooklyn-born desperado, a troubled teen who wrote his name in blood on history's pages. And the genre had never before seen a performance like that of Paul Newman. He displays a complex twitchy moodiness that captures the killer's half-boy, half-man nature. Another major presence is first-time film director Arthur Penn (Bonnie and Clyde, Little Big Man), here first exploring a theme he would return to again and again, the alienated outsider confronted by a hostile society. What Newman and Penn put on screen in 1958 was new, provocative and startling, so it's no surprise the movie's initial reception was mixed. Today it's hailed as a unique and influential Western.
Includes commentary by director Arthur Penn, and original theatrical trailer.
Arthur Penn's first feature film tells the story of the famous outlaw Billy the Kid. A young William Bonnie (Paul Newman) is caught up in the middle of a range war between cattle barons and rustlers. Billy is on the side of the rustlers, who are vastly outmanned and outgunned by the weatthy cattle barons who have hired thugs to do their dirty work. Billy is horrified as he watches his friends killed off by these hired guns, helpless to save them. Horror turns to rage when Billy's father figure is also murdered, and Billy vows revenge on the men who killed him. With a chilling single-mindedness, Billy hunts down the four men most responsible for the death of his friends and deals them his own brand of justice. Soon, Billy is a legend--and the most wanted man in the West.
Marking Arthur Penn's feature debut, THE LEFT-HANDED GUN is a realistic account of the legend of Billy the Kid. Orphaned loner William Bonnie is working as a cowboy when a range war breaks out, started by the greedy cattle barons who control the area with hired guns and bought lawmen. Billy watches friends die at the hands of murdering thugs with no consequences for those responsible. Labled an outlaw by association, Billy finally snaps when his father figure is also killed. Swearing revenge, Billy goes on his own manhunt, brutally gunning down those he believes to be guilty of the murders of his friends. His single-handed killing spree makes Billy a legend, and a wanted man, with little time left before the cattle barons close in on him. Penn takes the opportunity to remove the myth from the story and offers up a sober account of the famous legend. Newman's Billy is not a cold-blooded killer but instead a confused and emotionally tortured boy who is lost and alone in a large, dangerous world. THE LEFT-HANDED GUN is an excellent western that comes across more like a factual account than a popular legend. Like classics PAT GARRETT & BILLY THE KID and HIGH NOON, Arthur Penn's film serves to take the myth out of the West and and replace it with a jarring realism.
Theatrical Release |
The film marked the directorial debut of Arthur Penn.
Arthur Penn said he wanted to capture the pathos of a young man who is oprhaned in New York City, moves out west, and tries to find father figures, all of whom are either murdered or eventually want to murder him.