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6twu

Directed by Allan Dwan
Screen Play by Steve Fisher
Photographed by Reggie Lanning
Film Editor: Fred Allen, ACE
Special Effects: Howard and Theodore Lydecker

CAST: John Lund (Lance Horton), Brian Donlevy (Charles Quantrill), Audrey Totter (Kate Quantrill/Kitty McCoy), Joan Leslie (Sally Maris), Ben Cooper (Jesse James), Nina Varela (Mayor Delilah Courtney), Jim Davis (Cole Younger), Reed Hadley (Bitterroot Bill Maris), Frank Ferguson.

Allan Dwan approached Woman They Almost Lynched (1953) as a parody. As he told Peter Bogdanovich, “If you treat that seriously, where would you be?”

Released a few months before Nick Ray’s Johnny Guitar (1954), and from the same studio, Republic, Dwan’s picture is just as personal. To me, it feels like he’s trying to see just how much he could get away with, really biting the hand that was feeding him. Maybe he was. His time at Republic was almost up, and he’d soon begin a terrific run with producer Benedict Bogeaus.

Olive Films has announced Woman They Almost Lynched for DVD and Blu-ray release in January. It’s good to see Olive come through with another key Republic title. As a huge fan of Dwan’s late-period work, I’d put this on the esential list. (At the same time, Robert Aldrich’s World For Ransom, released by Allied Artists in 1954 and starring Dan Duryea, will hit the streets.)

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Hellfire at BACOC Jan 20 flyer sized

This is something I’ve been wanting to put together for a very, very long time. Hellfire (1949) will run at Brooks Avenue Church Of Christ here in Raleigh, NC on January 20, 2015.

First, I shopped around for a 16mm print, but what I found was either black & white or the color’d turned pink. Then I figured I’d wait for a DVD or Blu-ray from Olive Films. No luck there, as it dropped off their release schedule. So I finally decided to go with the best-looking material I could find.

Elliott considered Hellfire his best film (he was one of the producers), and Marie Windsor always listed it as a personal favorite (along with The Narrow Margin and The Killing). Who am I to argue? It’s one of my favorite Westerns, a movie that gets better every time I see it.

Believe it or not, Republic sometimes paired Hellfire with Brimstone (1949), a Rod Cameron Western.

Thanks to Jim Briggs for designing the flyer.

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Directed by Phil Karlson
Original Screenplay by Hal Smith
Director Of Photography: Henry Freulich
Starring Preston Foster, Mary Stuart, William Bishop and Thunderhoof

Columbia’s MOD program has announced Phil Karlson’s Thunderhoof (1948) as one of its December releases. It’s always reason to celebrate when a Karlson picture turns up on DVD, whether its a Western or a crime picture or whatever. (Wish someone, not me, would write a book on him.)

I’ve never seen this one, and it sounds terrific, written by Hal Smith who wrote It Came From Beneath The Sea (1955), Allan Dwan’s The River’s Edge (1957) and The Defiant Ones (1958). Not the same Hal Smith who played Otis on The Andy Griffith Show. Some sources say it played theaters in sepia tone.

Thanks to Ron Hills for the tip.

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M&L Pardners record

Directed by Norman Taurog
Starring Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Agnes Moorehead, Lori Nelson, Jeff Morrow, Lon Chaney, Jr., Jack Elam, Lee Van Cleef, Bob Steele

Went to a screening of Rio Bravo (1959) over the weekend, and with Dean Martin on my mind, was thinking that it’s about time to revisit him and Jerry Lewis in Pardners (1956).

Soon got to wondering where I’d find a copy, since the old Martin & Lewis DVD sets are out of print and bringing collector-type prices. Well, I didn’t need to worry. Our friends at Warner Archive have released (today, in fact), the Best of Martin & Lewis Volumes 1 and 2. Pardners is in the second batch.

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Pardners would be the next-to-last picture Martin and Jerry Lewis made together. This photo seems to sum up their relationship at the time. (The battered record sleeve seems appropriate, too.)

It’s hard to really recommend these films, since people’s opinions of them fluctuate so much, especially where Lewis is concerned. Me, I like them and grew up catching them on TV whenever I could. (Artists And Models, which is in this same volume, might be my favorite of all their pictures.) Pardners‘ VistaVision photography should look terrific on our spiffy HDTVs.

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The Shooting
Directed by Monte Hellman
Written by Carole Eastman
Starring Will Hutchins, Millie Perkins, Jack Nicholson, Warren Oates

Ride In The Whirlwind
Directed by Monte Hellman
Written by Jack Nicholson
Starring Cameron Mitchell, Millie Perkins, Jack Nicholson, Katherine Squire, George Mitchell, Rupert Crouse, Harry Dean Stanton

Over the course of six weeks in 1965, Monte Hellman and Jack Nicholson (with some financing from Roger Corman) shot two Westerns back to back. They had no lighting equipment, a tiny crew, less than 10 feet of dolly track and budgets of just $75,000 per picture. When they left Kanab, Utah, they somehow had the makings of a couple of the best Westerns of the 60s.

734_735_BD_box_348x490_originalThe Criterion Collection’s presentation of Hellman’s The Shooting and Ride In The Whirlwind hits the streets today, available on both DVD and Blu-ray. Some see them as part of the Revisionist movement, some as an early example of the “Acid Western.” To me, they feel like the Psychological Western of the late 50s taken a step further. A very large step. But in the end, all those labels don’t mean anything. These are Westerns. They’re different. They’re very, very good. And as I see it, they’re absolutely essential.

Monte Hellman personally supervised the 4K restorations, preserving Gregory Sandor’s original 1.85 photography. The set is packed with commentaries — with Bill Krohn and our very own Blake Lucas riding along with Hellman for both films, interviews and more. You know, the usual exhaustive Criterion treatment. (One of my all-time favorite films, Hellman’s Two-Lane Blacktop from 1971, is also available from Criterion.)

Of the two Westerns, I prefer The Shooting. A friend and I once had a lot of fun arguing about which is better. His reasoning was that Harry Dean Stanton automatically makes Whirlwind the better film. I played the Warren Oates card.

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The Collins English Dictionary defines evangelism as “the practice of relaying information about a particular set of beliefs to others with the intention of conversion.” I think that sorta fits the overall purpose of this blog, to convince someone out there to give a particular film or TV show or whatever a shot. If you’ve read much of this thing — and God knows there’s a lot of it by now, you’ve been preached to about everything from the power of Fred MacMurray as a cowboy star to the aesthetic riches of black and white CinemaScope.

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Gail Davis and George Archainbaud

The topic of today’s sermon is Gail Davis and her Annie Oakley TV show. And I’ll be referring to the VCI DVD set Annie Oakley: The Complete Series.

Annie Oakley works a lot like The Gene Autry Show, both from Gene’s Flying A Productions. They have the feel of a theatrical B Western — just shorter and cheaper, and clearly geared towards kids. Gene brought along some of the directors who made his features so successful: guys like George Archainbaud, Ray Nazarro, Earl Bellamy and John English.

Some great character actors made their way to Annie Oakley, too: Slim Pickins, Helene Marshall, James Best, John Doucette, James H. Griffith, Lee Van Cleef, Alan Hale Jr., Dickie Jones, Fess Parker, Clayton Moore, Denver Pile, LQ Jones, Glenn Strange and more. From the writers to the actors to the cameramen — these crews were a well-oiled machine, perfectly suited to the quick schedules of TV production. They rode the same ranches, climbed the same Lone Pine rocks and punched the same bad guys. It’s like hour-long features were put in the dryer, left in there too long, and shrunk down to 27 minutes. All guided by the shrewd business acumen of Gene Autry.

But what makes Annie Oakley so special is Annie herself, Gail Davis. And that’s not to take anything away from Brad Johnson as Lofty Craig and Jimmy Hawkins as Annie’s brother Tagg. Or from her horse Target, for that matter.

24q4dmoGail’s up to all the fancy riding and trick-shooting the part requires, perfectly so. She’s a real sparkplug, with enough charisma to propel each episode all by herself. It’s a role she was born to play, you hear that a lot. And it’s true, even she agreed. But it’s so much more than that. I can’t think of an actress who’s more immediately likeable than Gail Davis.

It’s easy to like the 11-disc, 81-episode set from VCI Entertainment, too. You get the entire series, looking just great, saddled with extras: photo galleries, commercials, the original pilot, a documentary and more. Gail’s daughter Terrie was along for the ride on this project, and her contribution makes a huge difference. Her mother hung onto a lot of stuff, and she shares it with us.

Like any TV show, some episodes are better than others. I’m still making my way through them, but I’ve developed an affinity for the episodes directed by the underappreciated Ray Nazarro. He’s a master at the kind of action this show served up every week.

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VCI has given this set a lot of TLC. It’s obvious from the minute you open it up. The quality and consistency never wavers. The extras are classy and comprehensive. And Gail Davis is as cool as cool could be.

My daughter’s a big fan of both Annie Oakley and Gail Davis, and her enthusiasm convinced me to look into it. She was the real evangelist here, and she was right. Highly, highly recommended.

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Happy Birthday, Joel And Roy.

Let’s remember two of the best on their birthdays. Every year, I look forward to this post.

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Joel McCrea
November 5, 1905 – October 20, 1990

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Roy Rogers
November 5, 1911 –  July 6, 1998

You know how we have President’s Day to jointly commemorate Washington and Lincoln’s birthdays? We should make today Cowboy’s Day.

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