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Archive for the ‘1952’ Category

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The sixth installment in Timeless Media’s Gene Autry series offers up four titles from Gene’s later years on the big screen.

The Strawberry Roan (1948)
Longer than usual and in Cinecolor, this is one of Autry’s best films. It plays a bit like Roy Rogers’ My Pal Trigger (1946), giving Champion a real chance to shine. Gloria Henry, Jack Holt and Pat Buttram co-star.

Rim Of The Canyon (1949)
Gene plays himself and his dad! Much of the film takes place in a ghost town and really pours on the atmospherics.

Barbed Wire (1952)
Gene and Pat Buttram find themselves caught between feuding ranchers and homesteaders.

Winning Of The West (1953)
One of Autry’s last co-stars Gail Davis and Smiley Burnette, as they battle crooks masquerading as Indians. (The photo up top is from this film.)

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Three excellent little 50s Westerns, previously part of multi-disc sets, are now available as stand-alone discs from VCI and Kit Parker Films. All three are highly recommended.

Hellgate (1952)
Directed by Charles Marquis Warren
Starring Sterling Hayden, Joan Leslie, Ward Bond, James Arness and Peter Coe

Shotgun (1955)
Directed by Leslie Selander
Starring Sterling Hayden, Yvonne De Carlo, Zachary Scott, Guy Prescott and Robert J. Wilke

Four Fast Funs (1960)
Directed by William J. Hole, Jr.
Starring James Craig, Martha Vickers. Edgar Buchanan, Brett Halsey and Paul Richards

4 fast guns

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If I ever had the chance to organize a 50s Westerns retrospective (something I’d love to do), this is certainly one of the evenings I’d set up: Fritz Lang’s Rancho Notorious (1952) paired with Nick Ray’s Johnny Guitar (1954). I can’t think of a better night at the movies.

It’s especially cool that Rancho Notorious is a 35mm print. If you make it out to The Castro Theatre in San Francisco on April 23, have a box of Raisinets for me.

Screen shot 2014-04-02 at 10.48.37 PM

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These sets from Timeless Media Group are getting around to the films Autry made in the 50s. I know Gene was also on TV at this time, and these probably weren’t getting as much attention as they had, but I’ve always liked them. (I don’t give Autry enough time on this blog. Sorry, Gene.)

This fifth volume, which is available now, includes:
Loaded Pistols (1949)
Gene Autry And The Mounties (1951)
Night Stage To Galveston (1952)
Goldtown Ghost Riders (1953)

These have looked great so far and have boasted some cool extras. Will have a review of this one soon.

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Hawk of wild river

Columbia has come through with another Durango Kid picture, The Hawk Of Wild River (1952). It’s one of the later entries in the series, but it’s got a lot going for it: Charles Starrett and Smiley Burnette, of course, along with Clayton Moore and Jock Mahoney and direction from Fred F. Sears.

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This is a big, big deal. Warner Archive has come through with the fourth volume in their Tim Holt series, giving us the beginning, and end, of Holt’s time at RKO. It’s a three-disc, nine-movie set that includes Wagon Train (1940, which got the series off to a terrific start), The Fargo Kid (1940), Cyclone On Horseback (1941), Riding The Wind (1942), Land Of The Open Range (1942), Thundering Hoofs (1942), Overland Telegraph (1951) and Trail Guide (1952). 

Overland Telegraph (seen in the Mexican lobby card above) is a particularly good one, giving Holt and Richard Martin a top director, Lesley Selander, and really good cast to work with: Gail Davis, Hugh Beaumont (as the bad guy!), Mari Blanchard, George Nader and Robert J. Wilke.

The set is available now. Thanks to everyone at Warner Archive for their dedication to getting these wonderful little films out there.

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Bill Elliott-Fargo

Directed by Lewis Collins
Produced by Vincent M. Fennelly
Story and Screenplay by Jack DeWitt and Joseph Poland
Director of Photography: Ernest Miller, ASC
Music by Raoul Kraushaar
Film Editor: Sam Fields, ACE

CAST: Bill Elliott (Bill Martin), Myron Healey (Red Olson), Phyllis Coates (Kathy MacKenzie), Fuzzy Knight (Ted Sloan), Arthur Space (Austin), Jack Ingram (Rancher MacKenzie), Robert Wilke (Link), Terry Frost (Alvord), Robert Bray (Ed Murdock), Denver Pyle (Carey), Tim Ryan (Sam), Florence Lake (Maggie), Stanley Andrews (Judge Bruce), Richard Reeves (Bartender), Eugene Roth (Blacksmith).

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Warner Archive’s Will Bill Elliott Double Feature is hopefully the first of a series that will eventually put all 11 of these excellent “last-gasp” B Westerns* in our hot little hands. It gives us Fargo (1952) and The Homesteaders (1953). (The first picture in the series, The Longhorn (1951), has been available for a while from VCI.)

The last of the Elliotts to bear the Monogram logo, Fargo tosses a few curveballs into the usual ranchers vs. settlers tale. Bill Martin (Elliott) rides into Fargo to settle his brother’s estate and ends up trying to carry on his brother’s work — advocating the use of barbed wire to fence off the range. A gang of thugs, lead by Red Olson (Healy) are determined to keep the range undivided. There’s a tough, adult spin on the usual B Western here, typical of series Westerns from this period. For instance, an early saloon brawl is particularly brutal, and the badguys do something to Elliott about halfway through that’ll make the hair stand up on the back of your neck. (No spoilers here, folks.) And there’s a Rube Goldberg-ish barbed wire machine that I found fascinating. 

Fargo LC detail

One of the real joys of 50s Westerns is the cast, and here we get the chance to spend time with folks like Elliott, Phyllis Coates, Fuzzy Knight, Jack Ingram, Denver Pyle and Robert Wilke. Of course, Myron Healey is every bit as despicable as you’d hope. But what I really appreciated about Fargo was its excellent use of the Iverson Ranch. Many of the familiar rock formations we know and love pop up over the course of its 69 minutes.

Warner Archive makes sure Fargo looks good, not eye-popping, but far better than you’d expect a Monogram cowboy movie to look in 2014. Originally released in sepia tone, we get it black and white, which is fine. The audio’s strong. Judging from the comments that have come in about these Elliott pictures, I’m not the only one happy with this twin-bill DVD — and I’m not alone in wanting the rest of the series.

• Thanks to John for the phrase “last-gasp B Westerns.”

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Three Monogram cowboys ride tall in the latest volume of Warner Archive’s Monogram Cowboy Collection. This time, some of the films creep into the 50s. As we all know, the B Western was in its last days.

Expect lots of action, expertly transferred. These things always look terrific. Here’s what you get:

Johnny Mack Brown
Trigger Fingers (1946), Whistling Hills (1951) and Man From The Black Hills (1952);

Jimmy Wakely
Saddle Serenade (1945) and Across The Rio Grande (1949)

Whip Wilson
Gunslingers (1950), Silver Raiders (1950), Arizona Territory (1950) and Lawless Cowboys (1951).

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It’s been a while since I did a Character Actor Of The Day, so I decided on a big one: Robert J. Wilke (May 18, 1914 – March 28, 1989).

Wilke started out as a stuntman in the 30s, and was soon a very prolific bad guy in movies and eventually on TV. He has hundreds of credits, most in Westerns. Here he is (center) with Lee Van Cleef and Sheb Wooley in High Noon (1952). He was appearing in many of the Tim Holt pictures from around the same time.

Before breaking into the movies, he was a high diver at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. And he was known as one of the best celebrity golfers in Hollywood. Wonder if he and Randolph Scott set up a game during Badman’s Territory (1946)?

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