The Preacher's Boy
16 years of a 25 year sentence is what gunslinger and gambler John Wesley Hardin (Rock Hudson - Gun Fury) served in the Huntsville prison. They were 16 long years and on his release John heads to the local publisher as whilst he was inside he wrote his version of his life story. It all started having grown tired of his bible preaching father who was upset that he had turned to gambling and shooting, which led to him leaving home with a plan to win enough money so that he can buy his own ranch and marry Jane Brown (Mary Castle - Gunsmoke), an orphan who had been taken in by his father when she was young. But things didn't work out that way and after shooting a card shark John ends up on the run and ending up marrying Rosie McCoy (Julie Adams - The Stand at Apache River), a saloon girl, after Jane is killed when the law came looking for him. Forced to move around and live under false names John and Rosie start a family, but not long after the authorities catch up with him leading to his incarceration and his son to grow up knowing his father as an outlaw.
Here's my story if you like it publish it, that is in essence how "The Lawless Breed" starts with Hardin leaving prison and visiting a publisher. And it is an effective intro as what follows is pretty much a typical western but of course with that opening it becomes a flashback life story. And that story is very much of a misunderstood gambler and gunfighter who was quick on the draw and so still beat people when they drew first. That is in essence it and as such like so many westerns about gunfighters we watch as John is never able to rest and put down roots because someone is always looking for revenge or to lock him up for murder.
The thing is that whilst "The Lawless Breed" has an appealing storyline which features action, romance, drama as well as a narrative which takes us on a character's journey there isn't anything in this which causes it to stand out from other westerns. Even the characters from dedicated lawmen to whiskered partners are all pretty typical with a couple of attractive women playing love interests. But what "The Lawless Breed" has is Rock Hudson delivering a strong leading man performance, giving everything from the charmer with a smile, to the lucky gambler and the confident cowboy who is fearless when it comes to going after what he wants even if it means killing those who would kill him. In truth without Rock Hudson's stand out performance "The Lawless Breed" would have probably ended up scraping through as just okay as whilst there is come nice cinematography it doesn't have that big budget, multi-layered feel about it.
What this all boils down to is that "The Lawless Breed" is a good western made all the better due to a really strong leading man performance from Rock Hudson. But without Rock Hudson's performance this would end up just a good western.