BILLY TWO HATS. United Artists, 1974. Gregory Peck, Desi Arnaz Jr, Jack Warden, David Hudddleston, and Sian Barbara Allen. Written by Alan Sharp. Directed by Ted Kotcheff. Currently available for viewing online here.

   An unjustly neglected western well worth your time.

   Gregory Peck, portly, bearded, and sporting a Scots accent, charms the screen as a principled outlaw on the run, partnered with Desi Arnaz Jr (don’t laugh; he’s not bad at all here as the eponymous mixed-race youth.) and, briefly, Vic Armstrong, an actor-stuntman blasted into a hotel wall early on by lawman Jack Warden.

   Warden captures Desi, Peck escapes, then rescues Desi at a lonely wayside stop on the edge of the desert, wounding Warden in the process. But Warden’s old buffalo-hunting pal (a surprisingly grizzled Huddleston) shoots Peck’s horse out from under him, breaking Greg’s leg.

   The ensuing chase — wounded lawman & fat buddy, riding after crippled bad guy & partner sharing a horse — feels not so much leisurely as repressed. Every time one party or the other starts to make progress, something stops them dead, sometimes literally.

   Fortunately, Alan Sharp’s witty script and Ted Kotcheff’s nimble direction keep things from getting dull. The sparse action scenes are well-handled, and the characters consistently engaging, particularly Sian Barbara Allen as a pioneer woman whose speech impediment provides a thematic bond with the disabled antagonists.

   And I found a cute sidelight on IMDb: Billy Two-Hats was filmed in Israel, standing in for the rugged terrain of Arizona. Years earlier, when Gregory Peck starred in David and Bathsheba, Arizona stood in for Israel. That means something, but I don’t know what.