The Law vs. Billy the Kid: Movie Review and Plot Details Revealed!
As the main character, Scott Brady carries the spotlight. Cowboys Billy and Pat Garrett (James Griffith) work together on a tiny ranch in this reimagining. The ranch owner plots to steal fifty percent of Billy’s pay. Billy is having none of it and instead rides off with what he believes is rightfully his. The first notch in Billy’s gun comes when he kills one of the ranch owner’s goons.
Following that, he and Pat take jobs with an Englishman named John Tunstall. It turns out that Billy has feelings for Tunstall’s niece. Nita Maxwell (Betta St. John), but this angers Ollinger (Alan Hale Jr.), one of the staff members who had his eye on the attractive young woman.
After losing his job for beating Billy, Ollinger turns against Tunstall. Perhaps there is a wanted poster for Billy, as he fears. In response to pressure from the ranchers who want Tunstall off the range, Sheriff Tom Watkins offers to lead a posse to Tunstall’s ranch, where they would apprehend Billy for the murder from years ago and charge Tunstall with harboring a wanted man.
After witnessing Tunstall’s murder when he reached for his spectacles (the assailant mistook him for a gun), Billy thinks it’s time to get even and makes a pact with the devil to kill everyone in the posse. Pat Garrett decides to become a lawman in order to protect his best friend. For everyone else in that position, safety comes first, and justice comes afterward.
The movie isn’t without its charms, but there are plenty of other films that tell The Law vs. Billy the Kid tale that is superior. In addition, the story seems to be inconsistent at times. A prime example is when Governor Lew Wallace appointed Pat Garrett as sheriff. If he agrees and convinces Billy to surrender, he will be given amnesty. The Governor has threatened to impose martial law and order his men to execute Billy on sight if Garrett does not accept the position. Huh?
Moments include Billy taking Nita Maxwell on a tour of his hometown in New York in a buggy drawn by wooden horses. The thief Billy even sells a rancher his own stolen horses in one scenario.
James Griffith gives a strong performance as a sheriff who must find a friend who doesn’t want his help. Betta St. John, meantime, had not acted on screen since her debut in the timeless classic “Destry Rides Again,” when she was just 10 years old. She plays a small girl who sings along to Marlene Dietrich’s “Little Joe” without receiving any credit.
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Brady, Scott… Shotgun Kid Billy the Kid
For James Griffith… Mr. Pat Garrett
St. John, Betta… This is Nita Maxwell.
For example, Alan Hale Jr. Ollinger, Bob
Paul Cavanaugh … John Tunstall
William Phillips … Charlie Bowdre
It’s Benny Rubin… Arnold Dodge
… Steve Darrell That guy, Tom Watkins
“Otis Garth… Vice President Lew Wallace
Berkeley, George… Tom O’Folliard
William Tannen … The Rudabaugh, Dave
Mr. Richard Cutting… Tony Maxwell
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Billy: “The only thing I care about is: If I do a full man’s work do I get full-time pay?”
Tunstall: “Of course. Why?”
Billy: “Because my stomach craves full-time grub.”
Billy to Nita: “What you said about being fancy-free? Well, I’m glad you’re free. And I’m sure glad you’re fancy.”
Billy to Nita: “Just like my mom. You know, she used to think that just because somebody turned over a new leaf that all the pages that went before were erased, nice and clean.”
Billy to his men, when they’re asked to surrender to the law: “I don’t know how you boys feel about getting hurt. But the way I figure, hanging is about as uncomfortable as a bullet.”
Colleague: “I liked nothing around my neck, except maybe Doris’ arms.”
Colleague #2: “I’m the backward kind. Don’t like a lot of folks around me when I’m doing something important, like dying.”
Billy, checking out a dead man: “Well, at least it was quick.”
Colleague: “Yeah, we’ve got a great future, wondering if the end will be quick.”
Billy, after his capture: “Don’t look like that, Nita.”
Nita: “How do you want me to look? Shall I smile bravely and act unafraid while you have a noose around your neck.”