In the late 19th century in the southwest, three men take refuge from a rain storm at a train depot: A priest (William Shatner), a prospector (Howard Da Silva) and a con man (Edward G. Robinson), with the first two telling the third the conflicting stories they heard at a murder trial. The trial centers on the notorious bandit Carrasco (Paul Newman), who is accused of raping a southern woman (Claire Bloom) and murdering her wealthy husband (Laurence Harvey). The bandit, the wife, the dead man (via an Indian medium) and then the prospector all tell their stories, but trying to figure out which is the correct one will drive you crazy. The Outrage is an interesting remake of the much more famous Japanese film Rashomon, and while it's generally a good picture (it helps if you're unfamiliar with the original), it's also a mixed bag. On the plus side is a charismatic and quite adept performance from Paul Newman, who's much better in what is essentially a character part than you might expect. Newman is on top of things in every scene. The next best performance is from Edward G. Robinson, whose expert acting skills are on marvelous display in his winning performance as the not very likable con artist. Although Claire Bloom [Three Into Two Won't Go] could be accused of being a little stagy and overly theatrical at times, she's playing many different interpretations of the same person and playing them well, with near-perfect line readings. Howard Da Silva scores as the prospector, and Laurence Harvey is fine in an underwritten part in which he is tied up and gagged for most of the running time. Shatner tends to overact a bit as he did as Captain Kirk -- he always seems to think he's doing Shakespeare -- but he's effective enough in the part. James Wong Howe's cinematography is typically outstanding. While Alex North's score has some lovely things in it, it also seems inappropriate at times given the subject matter, but then again, The Outrage has several sequences that border on black comedy (which in of itself is inappropriate). Still, whatever its flaws, The Outrage is absorbing, good to look at, and features several excellent performances. Whether it has the kind of attitude towards rape that you might find today on, say, Law and Order:Special Victims Unit, is debatable. Martin Ritt directed Paul Newman in Hud the previous year.
NOTE: Apparently I had already reviewed this film on Great Old Movies eight years ago. I liked it a little better this time around, and think it might even have more emotional impact than the original.
Verdict: Newman gives a striking performance in an unusual role for him. ***.