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Archive for the ‘Alan Ladd’ Category

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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Universal’s Vault Series is serving up a handful of 50s Westerns, basically taking the TCM Western Horizons set and selling them as single discs (available exclusively from Amazon).

Horizons West (1952) has Budd Boetticher directing Robert Ryan, Julie Adams and Rock Hudson in a Technicolor post-Civil War tale.

Saskatchewan (1954) puts Alan Ladd, Shelley Winters, J. Carrol Naish and Hugh O’Brian in the hands of the great Raoul Walsh.

Dawn At Socorro (1954) was directed by George Sherman, which is enough for me. Factor in Rory Calhoun, Piper Laurie, Mara Corday, Edgar Buchanan, Skip Homeier, James Millican and Lee Van Cleef, and you’ve really got something going.
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Pillars Of The Sky (1956) stars Jeff Chandler and Dorothy Malone. Support comes from Ward Bond, Olive Carey (both appeared in The Searchers the same year) and Lee Marvin. George Marshall directed in CinemaScope. I love this film.

Backlash (1956) comes from John Sturges and stars Richard Widmark, Donna Reed and William Campbell. Good stuff.

These will make a welcome addition to anybody’s collection, but what I want to know is: where are A Day Of Fury (1956) and Last Of The Fast Guns (1958)?

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It’s been announced that the Shane (1953) Blu-ray will be 1.37 after all — not the reformatted, reconfigured, reconstituted, regurgitated version we were all scared of. Cue a huge collective sigh of relief.

ANOTHER UPDATE (4/25/13): George Stevens, Jr. talks about the whole 1.66/1.37 controversy — and why he won’t be at the TCM screening.

Thanks to Laura and Paula for the news.

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Shane Wide Screen ad

As you may know, George Stevens’ Shane (1953) became a victim of the wide screen war of the early 50s. It was shot in the standard academy ratio (1.37:1) but cropped to 1.66 in theaters. The ad above, for an engagement in Youngstown, Ohio, shows how it was promoted. It was the first film exhibited in 1.66 — on Panoramic Giant-Sized Screens, thanks to a decree from Paramount.

There’s been a lot of speculation about how, and when, this classic Western would turn up on Blu-ray. Well, it’s in the works — and George Stevens, Jr. is prepping it for a 1.66 Blu-ray release this year, its 60th anniversary. You can read all about it here, in a piece that quickly wears out its welcome. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

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While Loyal Griggs’ Oscar-winning cinematography is stunning in 1.37, which is how he composed it — and how we see it on DVD today — I’m really curious about the widescreen version. While it isn’t what Stevens (seen above with Alan Ladd and Van Heflin) intended, that’s how audiences saw it back in ’53. Either way, I bet those incredible vistas will be stunning on Blu-ray (even if we’re missing a bit of that blue Montana sky).

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UPDATE (3/29/13): This morning I received an email from David Raynor, who’s come through with some terrific information for this blog, usually about aspect ratios and exhibition. As you’ll see, prints were full frame and theaters would’ve been able to run it as they saw fit.

Hi, Toby,
I ran Shane at the cinema where I was a projectionist over 50 years ago and still have a couple of 35mm clippings from the print that I ran that I have scanned with my film scanner and here send to you as jpeg images. As the film was in Technicolor, the colour hasn’t faded and, as you can see, the film had a variable density optical soundtrack. By the time that I ran it, my cinema had adopted the 1.66:1 aspect ratio for non anamorphic films and this was later upgraded to 1.85:1, while CinemaScope was 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The idea was to get the biggest image possible on both systems, so that there was only a few feet difference on the sides of the screen between a ‘Scope and non ‘Scope picture. Shane was run at 1.66:1 at the cinema where I worked and, to avoid the actors’ heads being cropped off in some scenes due to it being composed for and shot in 1.37:1, the image was kept racked down in the projector gate… although this, of course, meant that a considerable amount of image was cropped off at the bottom of the frame.
Best Wishes from
David
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Thanks so much, David. Yet again, I’m humbled by the knowledge and generosity of you folks out there. I also appreciate the extra treat of John Dierkes appearing in these frames!
UPDATE (4/9/13): Greenbriar Pictures Shows, a blog filled with much that is wonderful, weighs in on the Shane 1.66 issue with its usual authority and research.

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If you don’t have these, consider this essential. If you do, it’s a good way to free up some shelf space. Universal has packaged 10 previously-released Westerns — including a couple only available on DVD-R — in a snazzy package. You get:

When The Daltons Rode (1940) George Marshall directs. Randolph Scott leads an incredible cast — Kay Francis, Brian Donlevy, Broderick Crawford, Andy Devine, George Bancroft, Edgar Buchanan. I prefer Scott with more age on him, but this picture has do much action, you don’t have time to care.

Texas Rangers Ride Again (1940) A 67-minute Paramount Western — a sequel to their Texas Rangers (1936) — starring Ellen Drew, John Howard, Broderick Crawford and Anthony Quinn.

The Spoilers (1942) John Wayne and Randolph Scott in the same movie. (Yet some people still wonder if there’s a higher power.) Marlene Dietrich and Harry Carey are in it, too. The climactic saloon brawl is terrific.

The Virginian (1946) Joel McCrea is stunning Technicolor. Universal’s getting a lot of mileage out of this one — it’s also available on DVD-R from the Universal Vault Series and as part of the Joel McCrea Westerns Collection.

Albuquerque (1948) Ray Enright directs Randolph Scott again, this time in color and with Gabby Hayes, Scott Hayden  and Lon Chaney on hand.

Whispering Smith (1948) Any movie that has both William Demerest and Frank Faylen in its cast is worth seeking out.

Comanche Territory (1950) The great, and unsung, George Sherman directs Maureen O’Hara and Macdonald Carey.

Sierra (1950) Audie Murphy is joined by Wanda Hendryx, Burl Ives, Dean Jagger, Tony Curtis, Houseley Stevenson and James Arness. It was directed by Alfred E. Green, in Technicolor. Murphy and Hendryx were husband and wife at the time.

Kansas Raiders (1950) Audie Murphy again,backed by Brian Donlevy, Marguerite Chapman, Scott Brady, Tony Curtis and Richard Arlen. Ray Enright directed.

Tomahawk (1951) stars Van Helfin and Yvonne De Carlo and was directed by George Sherman. Also available as part of the Universal Vault Series, where this one film costs more than the set we’re looking at here. Do the math, order one today.

By the way, its release date is Tuesday, March 12. Thanks to Mike for the tip.

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Turner Classic Movies and Universal have come through with exactly the kind of set many of us have been waiting for. Western Horizons: Universal Westerns Of The 1950s brings together five excellent examples of why Universal was top gun in Hollywood in the 50s. The absolutely essential set, slated for release on February 18, 2013, will include:

Horizon’s West (1952) stars Robert Ryan and Rock Hudson as brothers on opposite sides of the law. Directed by Budd Boetticher, it costars Julie Adams.

Saskatchewan (1954) gives us Alan Ladd, Shelley Winters, J. Carrol Naish and Jay Silverheels in a Canadian mounties picture directed by Raoul Walsh.

Dawn At Socorro (1954) stars Rory Calhoun, Piper Laurie, Lee Van Cleef and Skip Homeier and was directed by George Sherman. (Love that Reynold Brown artwork, above.)

Backlash (1956) puts Richard Widmark, Donna Reed, William Campbell, and Edgar Buchanan in the capable hands of John Sturges.

Pillars Of The Sky (1956) from George Marshall is a CinemaScope cavalry picture with Jeff Chandler, Dorothy Malone, Ward Bond and Lee Marvin.

Universal made so many worthwhile cowboy movies in the 50s — and this is a good lineup. Let’s hope it’s the first of many.

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Happy Labor Day.

When I think of hard work in a 50s Western, the stump-clearing scene in Shane (1953) comes to mind.

So here’s Alan Ladd, Van Heflin — and that stump. Have a nice Labor Day.

And by the way, today is Alan Ladd’s birthday.

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