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Archive for the ‘1956’ Category

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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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Another day, another reason I’m living on the wrong end of the country. UCLA will present a very thorough Anthony Mann retrospective, covering all the noir and Westerns we know and love, at the Billy Wilder Theater starting this week. Click on Gary Cooper for details.

The 50s Westerns include:
The Furies (1950) January 31
Devil’s Doorway (1950) March 3
Winchester ’73 (1950) March 15
The Naked Spur (1953) February 9
The Far Country (1954) March 23
The Man From Laramie (1955) February 5
The Last Frontier (1956) February 21
The Tin Star (1957) March 30
Man Of The West (1958) March 30

1955 The man from Laramie - cropped

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beverlygarland18

This is a big one, folks. After making his B Western, The Forty-Niners (1954), for Allied Artists, William Elliott ended his Hollywood career with five tough little crime pictures for the same studio, released 1955-57. After playing Detective Lieutenant Andy Flynn of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in the first one, Dial Red “O” (1955), he became Andy Doyle in the other four.

The Bill Elliott Detective Mysteries from Warner Archive presents all five films in 16×9 widescreen. Most run about an hour — and have been on the Want Lists of “Wild Bill” Elliott fans for ages. They’ll be on the Warner Archive lineup on Tuesday.

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Dial Red “O” (1955) An unhinged vet triggers a citywide manhunt when his soon-to-be-ex-wife gets bumped off. With Paul Picerni and Sam Peckinpah (uncredited as a cook).

Sudden Danger (1955) Elliott investigates a suspicious suicide — and the prime suspect turns out to be a blind man. With Beverly Garland and Lyle Talbot.

Calling Homicide (1956) Elliott connects the dots between a cop-killing and a model’s murder.  With Don Haggerty (who’d appear in the rest of the series), Lyle Talbot and James Best.

Chain of Evidence (1957) A reform school grad is accused of murder. With Haggerty, Timothy Carey and Dabbs Greer.

Footsteps In The Night (1957) A high-stakes poker game ends in murder. Directed by Jean Yarbrough.

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Daniel B. and Elwood Ullman, who wrote several of Elliott’s Monogram Westerns, are on hand for these films, and they make the transition from the Old West to the City Of Angels with ease.

You might be interested in these as a curio more than anything else, but they’re cool little movies and Elliott is as terrific as ever. Highly recommended.

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A blogger friend of mine did a year-end wrap-up of his favorite DVD releases of the year. I think a lot of my friend, and imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, I decided to steal his idea. Here’s my Top Five. Comment away!

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5. Ambush At Tomahawk Gap (1953, Columbia) The work of Fred F. Sears, a prolific director at Columbia, deserves a look, and this is a tough, tight little Western that nobody seems to remember. John Derek’s good and Ray Teal gets a sizable part.

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4. Randolph Scott Western Collection (Various, TCM/Sony) Four Columbia Scotts — Coroner Creek (1948), The Walking Hills (1949), The Doolins Of Oklahoma (1949) and 7th Cavalry (1956, above) — go a long way toward making all his 40s and 50s Westerns available on DVD.

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3. Movies 4 You Western Classics (Various, Shout Factory) Four medium-budget 50s Westerns — Gun Belt (1953), The Lone Gun (1954), Gunsight Ridge (1957) and Ride Out For Revenge (1957) — for an amazing price.  I’d love to have a hundred sets like this.

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2. Shane (1953, Paramount) There was so much controversy about the aspect ratio — the studio-imposed 1.66 vs. the original 1.33 George Stevens shot it in — that we all forgot to talk about what a lovely Blu-ray was ultimately released (in 1.33).

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1. Showdown At Boot Hill (1958, Olive Films) This is probably the worst movie on this list, but my favorite release. The very thought of a Regalscope Western presented widescreen and in high definition makes me very, very happy. Olive Films promises the best of the Regals, The Quiet Gun (1956), in 2014 — which you can expect to see on next year’s list.

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Olive Films have announced a few titles they’ll have to us in 2014. There are three 50s Westerns in there, and they’re good ones.

Woman They Almost Lynched (1953)
Directed by Allan Dwan
Cast: John Lund, Brian Donlevy, Joan Leslie
Dwan directs a sort-of spoof for Repubic. Good stuff.

Stranger At My Door (1956)
Directed by William Witney
Cast: Macdonald Carey, Patricia Medina, Skip Homeier, Slim Pickins
This film should be much better known than it is. The scene with the horse (if you’ve seen it, you’ll know what I mean) is Witney at his best.

The Quiet Gun (1957)
Directed by William F. Claxton
Cast: Forrest Tucker, Lee Van Cleef, Mara Corday, Jim Davis, Hank Worden
Maybe the best Regalscope Western. I’m dying for this one!

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My nephew Ethan Jeremy Taylor Webb, 20, was killed in a car wreck last Saturday night. He was laid to rest today in Hillsville, VA, after an incredible memorial service. This image was in my head throughout the day.

Ethan’s girlfriend Pamela is in a coma. If you’re a person of faith, please pray for her.

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Directed by Harmon Jones
Produced by Robert Arthur
Screenplay by James Edmiston and Oscar Brodney
Story by James Edmiston
Director Of Photography: Ellis W. Carter, ASC
Film Editor: Sherman Todd, ACE
Music Supervision by Joseph Gershenson

CAST: Dale Robertson (Jagade), Mara Corday (Sharman Fulton), Jock Mahoney (Marshal Allan Burnett), Carl Benton Reid (Judge John J. McLean), Jan Merlin (Billy Brand), John Dehner (Preacher Jason), Dee Carroll (Miss Timmons), Sheila Bromley (Marie), James Bell (Doc Logan). Dani Crayne (Claire), Howard Wendell (Vanryzin), Charles Cane (Duggen), Phil Chambers (Burson), Sydney Mason (Beemans), Helen Kleeb (Mrs. McLean).

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Not too long ago, I wrote about Harmon Jones’ The Silver Whip (1954), a film I found better than its reputation, and with much more going for it than just its pairing of Dale Robertson and Rory Calhoun. That lit a fire under me to track down a copy of A Day Of Fury (1956), which brought Jones and Robertson together again — this time at Universal-International. It’d been years since I’d seen Fury, and I was really knocked for a loop by how good it is.

There’s been speculation that A Day Of Fury was an influence on Clint Eastwood’s High Plains Drifter (1973), an honor that actually goes to the spaghetti western Django The Bastard (1969, which is available from VCI as The Stranger’s Gundown). That said, Eastwood’s picture certainly has a few things in common with A Day Of Fury. In both, a mysterious stranger comes to town, and his very presence turns that town inside out. (No Name On The Bullet works somewhat the same way.) This time, the gunfighter is Jagade (Dale Robertson). The town marshall (Jock Mahoney) owes Jagade his life, which complicates matters quite a bit. What’s more, Jagade and the marshall’s fiancé (Mara Corday) were once an item. But there’s so much more to it than that.

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Dale Robertson: “It was an interesting story. After I finished it, I read it again. I figured this guy (Jagade) was the Devil. He, himself, never did anything wrong. He merely set things up to show the weakness of other people. (Producer) Bob Arthur rewrote the story… and he took away a lot of the little subtle things that were so wonderful in the original script.”#

Watching the picture with Robertson’s Devil idea in mind is very interesting, and I’d love to see that original screenplay. Robertson seems to be enjoying himself in a part that lets him stretch out a bit, while Jock Mahoney is stuck in a goodguy role that is maybe a little too good.

Dale Robertson: “They were trying to push Jock Mahoney… He was the most agile, one of the most fluid actors in the whole business. He was really wonderful, he was athletic, had great moves.”#

Mahoney proves Robertson’s point in the first scene in the movie, when he does a horse fall. It’s not often that you see one of the leads do such a stunt on his own.

Mara Corday: “The director, Harmon Jones, was a nice man, had been an editor. He told you line readings — in other words, how to say the lines. He’d put emphasis on certain words that I wouldn’t have. It made everyone stilted.”*

Jan Merlin committed the age-old actor’s trick of saying he could ride a horse when called about the part, then getting to the set and proving he could not. This was his first Western. “Harmon was marvelous… He was kind to me. Anybody else would have lost their temper after all I’d done.”#

A Day Of Fury is unavailable on DVD in the States, though it’s received a Blu-ray release in Europe. It’s an excellent film, well outside the normal Universal Western. Highly recommended.

Day Of Fury newspaper ad

SOURCES: * Westerns Women by Boyd Magers; # Universal-International Westerns, 1947-1963 by Gene Blottner (McFarland);

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