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Archive for the ‘1956’ Category

58

Hank Worden (born Norton Earl Worden)
July 23, 1901 – December 6, 1992

Let’s salute one of the greatest character actors of them all, Mr. Hank Worden, on his birthday. That’s him on the far left in this still from The Quiet Gun (1956), a fine Regalscope Western starring Forrest Tucker.

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Searchers screenng 1

Short notice, for sure. But certainly worth your while. And I’d be wasting my time to think I needed to tell you how great this film is.

Click on either image for ticket information.

Searchers screenng 2

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John Wayne
(born 
Marion Robert Morrison; May 26, 1907 – June 11, 1979)

Here’s a great shot of John Wayne, John Ford and the rest of the cast and crew shooting The Searchers (1956) near the Three Sisters in Monument Valley.

Maybe not the ideal picture for celebrating Wayne’s birth, but I figured you’d all wanna see it.

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To me, this whole digital movie theater thing makes going to the Movies not feel like going to the Movies. It’s more like going to the home of someone who has a bigger, better TV than you do.

Or that’s the way I used to think. This week I saw The Searchers (1956) for maybe the 100th time. It was a DCP presentation at the Carolina Theater in Durham, and it really knocked me out.

One of my last 35mm-in-a-theater experiences was You Only Live Twice (1967) a year or so ago. It turned out to be a dye-transfer print complete with a loud (optical) monaural track and that short-lived, somewhat psychedelic United Artists logo. It was glorious. But I guess those days are gone.

I’d seen digital in a theater before and was always disappointed. Color, clarity, contrast — they were all lacking. Sometimes the removal of film grain had given faces a weird waxy look. With The Searchers, the only thing I missed was the change-over cues. The Carolina obviously has a nice set-up, and I know that Jim Carl, who books their series of older films, is determined to make everything look as good as it can possibly look.

So if this is how digital’s gonna look, I guess I’m OK with it. I guess.

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the-searchersJohn Ford’s The Searchers (1956) might be the finest film ever made, it’s almost certainly the greatest Western ever made, and it’s easily John Wayne’s best performance. All of which make it a great reason to head to Durham’s Carolina Theater this Friday, May 2.

At 7PM is John Boorman’s Deliverance (1972); The Searchers will start around 9:30. If you think you might make it out, let me know. It’d be fun to say hello.

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William Holden
(April 17, 1918 – November 12, 1981)

Last night, my daughter mentioned that today is William Holden’s birthday. Don’t tell me she’s not getting a well-rounded education!

Probably one of Hollywood’s greatest stars, Holden made a number of good Westerns. John Sturges’ Escape From Fort Bravo (1953) is one of the best. The last couple reels are really outstanding.

Of course, Western fans these days know him for Pike Bishop in Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch (1969), a performance right up there with Stewart in The Man From Laramie (1955) and Wayne in The Searchers (1956).

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White Squaw HS

Another low-budget Columbia 50s Western is always a welcome thing. The fact that The White Squaw (1956) was directed by Ray Nazarro (and that I’ve never seen it) makes this really good news. It stars David Brian, who you might remember from Dawn At Socorro (1954), and May Wynn, who was also in The Violent Men (1955).

It’s a Columbia Classics release — and it’s available now. (Thanks for the tip, Paula!)

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Reprisal tree

From the pressbook for Reprisal! (1956) —

The tree in the film created quite a problem for director George Sherman, both as to finding it and transporting it to the picture’s location site, some 30 miles south of Tucson, Arizona… Sherman and producer Lewis Rachmil first thought they’d have to have such a tree fabricated in order to get what they needed. But one day, while searching for location sites in southern Arizona, they found their tree, on the outskirts of Tubac, the oldest white settlement in Arizona.

An old cottonwood, the tree stood about 30 feet high, with twisted, gnarled limbs and completely leafless. Rachmil and Sherman immediately contacted the owner of the land… and made a deal with him to cut down and remove it to the site they’d chosen for the film backgrounds.

Getting the dead cottonwood to the location site became something of a major problem; a 30-foot tree, complete with limbs and huge trunk, is quite a lot of wood to move en masse. The studio hired a huge flat trailer truck, hoisted the tree aboard by crane and then transported it 40 miles over the highway to a dirt road the company had built to the shooting site… The tree had to be moved at dawn, when there was little traffic.

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Directed by Edward Nassour and Ismael Rodríguez
Produced: Edward Nassour and William Nassour
Screenplay by Robert Hill and Jack DeWitt
From a story by H. O’Brien
Music by Raúl Lavista
Cinematography: Jorge Stahl
Special Effects: Louis DeWitt, Jack Rabin and Henry Sharp

CAST: Guy Madison (Jimmy Ryan), Patricia Medina (Sarita), Carlos Rivas (Felipe Sanchez), Eduardo Noriega (Enrique Rios).

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The Beast Of Hollow Mountain (1956) finds Guy Madison as an American rancher in Mexico, trying to figure out why cattle are going missing — and eventually coming face to face with a dinosaur. (It takes place at the turn of the century, the time and setting of 1969′s The Wild Bunch.)

As a kid, I’d seen stills from The Beast Of Hollow Mountain in various monster magazines and books and I was dying to see it. Cowboys, dinosaurs, CinemaScope — what’s not to like? I was an adult by the time it turned up on laserdisc. And of course, as so often happens with this kinda thing, I was disappointed.

But there’s a lot to recommend The Beast Of Hollow Mountain. It’s got cowboys and a dinosaur (just one). It was shot in Mexico. It was based on a story by the great Willis O’Brien, and he spent years trying to raise the money to do it himself, unsuccessfully. It’s got Patricia Medina from The Buckskin Lady (1957) in it. And once it finally gets to the dinosaur, it really delivers the goods — even if the special effects ain’t so special.

The Valley Of Gwangi(1969) is a better-mounted version of O’Brien’s story, with excellent stop motion stuff from Ray Harryhausen. However, it doesn’t offer as much cheesy fun. Beast Of Hollow Mountain comes from a real sweet spot in Guy Madison’s career. He’d just done The Command (1954) and 5 Against The House (1955), and he’d follow this oddball sci-fi Western with two of his finest films — Reprisal! (1956) and The Hard Man (1957), both directed by George Sherman for Columbia.

Shout Factory offers Beast as a Blu-ray/DVD twin pack, paired with The Neanderthal Man (1953). Both films look terrific, with Beast‘s early CinemaScope boasting just the right amount of grain and a light scratch or two for good measure. As a bonus, Beverly Garland’s in The Neanderthal Man. It makes me happy to see low-budget genre pictures treated with such care. Recommended.

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