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This Intriguing study of Mexican-American fruit-pickers, subjected to all sorts of abuse and racial discrimination in a California small town was the second feature-film by legendary director Joseph Losey (The Servant). Macdonald Carey plays a crusading newspaperman who seemingly is the only person willing to champion the oppressed workers’ cause and tries to stop a lynch mob’s manhunt of a Latino fugitive accused of fomenting a riot. The director, producers and writers of this film are to be commended for tackling a controversial issue in an honest, no-nonsense fashion. Joseph Losey was later blacklisted in the United States and moved to Europe where he made the remainder of his films, mostly in the United Kingdom.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The film in the pantheon of Joseph Losey is a fast moving emotional story of racial bigotry.
MacDonald Carey and Gail Russell play reporters on different sides of a story of a Mexican
field worker who is accused of many things including rape of a white girl.
From the Paramount "B" unit of Pine-Thomas, this is their finest hour indeed.
Carey is his usual sturdy self as the reporter of the large newspaper, The Union while Gail Russell is the reporter for the Hispanic small town paper.
Miss Russell gives the finest performance of her career at Paramount just as she is about to be dropped from their star roster because of her problems with alcohol. As Sunny Garcia, she gives a beautifully nuanced performance. Russell, always beautiful and many times very effective really presents a new acting ability in this film.
It is a blessed release of a long forgotten and very important movie. Don't miss it.
THE LAWLESS deals with the friction in a small California community between self-righteous townspeople and Mexican-American farm workers (referred to as "fruit tramps" by the locals). Macdonald Carey plays a newly-arrived newspaper editor who becomes interested in the case of a young Hispanic man wanted by the police on a number of questionable charges. The trouble reaches a boiling point when the youth is captured and the "decent" townsfolk assemble in a mob determined to carry out their own ideas of justice. All things considered, the film takes a fairly bold stand on the rights of the accused, and the subject matter is pretty strong stuff for 1950. Unfortunately, the movie's power is somewhat muted by a rather uninspired performance by Carey and a script that lacks a sharp dramatic edge. One never gets a sense that the editor has any deep convictions, so it's hard to know how he truly feels about the farm workers. Consequently we don't develop any emotional connection with him and the film's climax falls a bit short of expectations. Nonetheless, THE LAWLESS definitely holds your attention and ultimately packs quite an impressive punch.
Sixty years later, many of the issues explored in these remarkable films remain sadly relevant. America is still wrestling with matters of race and ethnic/religious heritage, as any survey of the daily news will attest. So, were any lessons learned from motion pictures like THE WELL and THE LAWLESS? Obviously they were not big box-office hits that created a national discussion. They mainly served to shine a light on some naked truths about the fragility of our ostensibly civilized society. Film lovers will have to console themselves with the thought that if these movies caused even a few individuals to stop and think, then they were at least partly successful.