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Archive for the ‘DVD reviews, releases, TV, etc.’ Category

johndoucette-goldtownghost

Directed by George Archainbaud
Produced by Armand Schaefer
Story and Screen Play by Gerald Geraghty
Director of Photography: William Bradford, ASC
Film Editor: James Sweeney, ACE

CAST: Gene Autry, Smiley Burnette, Gail Davis (Cathy Wheeler), Kirk Riley (Ed Wheeler), Carleton Young (Jim Granby), Denver Pyle, John Doucette.

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Goldtown Ghost Riders is a pretty solid Gene Autry movie, one of six released in 1953, his last year in theaters. Along for the ride are Champion, Smiley Burnette and Gail Davis, still a year or so away from playing Annie Oakley. Support comes from Kirk Riley, Carleton Young, Denver Pyle and John Doucette.

Gene’s a circuit judge looking into fake gold strikes, blackmail and murder in Goldtown — and trying to solve the mystery of the Ghost Riders. (Why didn’t he sing “Ghost Riders In The Sky” in this one?) There’s a bit of a Scooby Doo feel to the whole thing, and it’s quite clever. The bulk of the film is done in flashback, a fairly unusual structure for a B Western. It works pretty well, and if things get a little confusing, there’s plenty of riding, shooting and singing to keep things moving along. What’s interesting is that Gail Davis isn’t involved in all that riding and shooting, playing a pretty typical B Western female lead. As we all know, she was capable of so much more.

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I really enjoy these later Autry films. Like the Roy Rogers films from the same period, they’re more stripped down and a bit more adult. The fancy outfits have been replaced by more practical stuff. The songs may not be as good, but Gene seems a bit more relaxed in front of the camera. (He should be; he’d made almost 90 movies by this time.) Some of the plots strive for something a little different, and the writers certainly deserve credit for that. (Gerald Geraghty, who wrote this one, cooked up the story for Gene’s first film, the whacked-out and wonderful 1936 serial The Phantom Empire.)

About a decade ago, a large-scale restoration project, working from Autry’s own 16mm and 35mm uncut material, made sure these films would look and sound terrific. So these four-film, two-DVD sets from Timeless Media Group are an easy recommendation. Each film comes with a batch of extras, making them one of the best DVD bargains around. But be warned: they’re a bit like potato chips, you can’t stop at just one!

The 50s Westerns spotlight on Gail Davis will continue. Next up: Overland Telegraph (1951).

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On a somewhat related note: Researching this film, I discovered that the Lewis B. Patten book Gene Autry And The Ghost Riders (1955) was reprinted by Wildside Press. It’s a good young adult Western novel, from the guy who wrote the story Red Sundown (1956) came from.

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autry5

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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sabotaje-en-la-pradera-img-59572

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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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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goldstein

This is producer Leonard Goldstein. At Universal-International he produced the Ma And Pa Kettle and Francis The Talking Mule films, along with Westerns like Cave Of Outlaws (1951) and The Duel At Silver Creek (1952).

716Y+BEcrUL._SL1000_Moving to 20th Century-Fox, he formed Panoramic Productions to produce non-anamorphic films in the midst of Fox’s CinemaScope push. The Gambler From Natchez (1954) was one of those. When that contract was up, Goldstein started a production company with his twin brother Robert, but passed away in July, 1954 at just 51. Robert soldiered on without his brother and went on to make a few excellent low-budget Westerns.

Have a copy of the Fox Cinema Archives DVD of The Gambler From Natchez to give away. So it seems like a good time to have a contest. Look at the two-part question below. Be the first to email the correct answer(s) to fiftieswesterns@gmail [dot] com, and the DVD’s yours. Good luck.

Of the Westerns Robert Goldstein produced, one starred Joel McCrea. What was the film and what color process was used for it?

UPDATE: Lee was the first to come through with the right answers — Stranger On Horseback (1955) and Ansco Color. (It was Leonard that produced Saddle Tramp in Technicolor.) Thanks to everyone who sent in a response.

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Face Of Fugitive OS sized

You’ve probably heard of getTV, the newest TV sub-channel from Sony Pictures Television. (It’s one of the digital broadcast channels we get here in Raleigh.) Tomorrow, March 1, they’re offering up the excellent Fred MacMurray Western Face Of A Fugitive (1959) at 7:00 and 10:40 PM. It gave James Coburn a really good early role. A great way to spend a Saturday night.

This is one I highly recommend, both to whoever out there has a chance to watch it — and to Columbia for a nice widescreen DVD release.

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city of bad men TC

Directed by Harmon Jones
Produced by Leonard Goldstein
Written by George W. George and George F. Slavin
Director Of Photography: Charles G. Clarke, ASC
Musical Direction: Lionel Newman
Film Editor: George A. Gittens

CAST: Jeanne Crain (Linda Culligan), Dale Robertson (Brett Stanton), Richard Boone (Johnny Ringo), Lloyd Bridges (Gar Stanton), Carole Mathews (Cynthia Castle), Carl Betz (Phil Ryan), Whifield Connor (Jim London), Hugh Sanders (Bill Gifford), Rodolfo Acosta (Mendoza), Pascual Garcia Pena (Pig), Don Haggerty (Bob Thrailkill), Leo Gordon, John Doucette, Frank Ferguson, James Best.

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On March 17, 1897, in Carson City, Nevada, Bob Fitzsimmons knocked out “Gentleman” Jim Corbett in 14 rounds to become the World Heavyweight Champion.

Fitzsimmons_Corbett_1897

This historic boxing match is the basis of City Of Bad Men (1953), as bandits are drawn like flies to the event’s box office. Among those ambitious outlaws are Brett Stanton (Dale Robertson) and his outfit, which includes his brother Gar (Lloyd Bridges), along with the gangs of Johnny Ringo (Richard Boone) and Bob Thrailkill (Don Haggerty). Complicating matters is that Brett is no stranger to Carson City, and he has some unfinished business with Linda Culligan (Jeanne Crain). It’s not long before Brett is torn between Linda and the money.

The story goes that Dale Robertson stayed away from acting classes in the early days of his career, and there’s a naturalism to his work that serves his Westerns well. While he’s known for Tales Of Well Fargo on TV, his feature work like City Of Bad Men is worth seeking out. If the part calls for it, he can drop his easygoing charm with ease. The more of his films I see, the more I like him.

City Of Bad Men LC 7

Harmon Jones didn’t direct many features before heading to TV. His five Westerns — The Silver Whip (1953), City Of Bad Men, A Day Of Fury (1956), Canyon River (1956) and Bullwhip (1958) — are perfect examples of what a medium-budget studio Western could be. A Day Of Fury is a fantastic film, one of the best Westerns to come out of Universal in the 50s — and that’s saying something. If Jones had made more Westerns, I’m sure we’d be grouping him with directors like George Sherman, Gordon Douglas and Phil Karlson.

City Of Bad Men DR color

City Of Bad Men was produced by Leonard Goldstein, who produced many, many films for Universal (including the Ma And Pa Kettle series) and 20th Century-Fox. He clearly understood the importance of a strong cast and filled this one with pros like Frank Ferguson, John Doucette and Don Haggerty. He also gave a stage actor named Leo Gordon his first film work.

City Of Bad Men Leo G

Leo Gordon: “They asked me could I ride a horse. ‘Yes. If I can’t ride it, I’ll carry it.’ So I came out to Hollywood. They put me on a horse, and I was on a horse for 35 years.”*

Much of the film was shot on the Fox lot, with the titles and opening scene making good use of Vasquez Rocks. This was a common location for Goldstein’s Westerns — his Cave Of Outlaws (1951) and Duel At Silver Creek (1952) also used them.

One of the utility stunt men on the film was Jack Young.

Jack Young: “I doubled Lloyd Bridges on that. I did the saddle fall when they shot him. I doubled Richard Boone for the fall into the boxing ring — and that hurt! It was a fake ring and they didn’t have any give in it. It was only about eight or nine feet, but it hurt! Knocked the coon-dog crap right outta me.”**

City Of Bad Men is yet another solid middle-budget 50s Western, with a good script, great cast and handsome production values. Director of Photography Charles G. Clarke, who spent the bulk of his career at 20th Century-Fox, makes sure everything look terrific.

All of this is nicely preserved and presented on the DVD-R from Fox Cinema Archives. There’s a blemish here and there, but the Technicolor is as eye-popping as you’d expect — and the audio is impressive. I preferred Jones and Robertson’s other films, The Silver Whip and A Day Of Fury, to this one, but have no qualms about recommending it highly.

* The Astounding B Monster by Marty Baumann; ** Interview with the author.

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$_3

Written and Directed by Daniel B. Ullman
Produced by Vincent M. Fennelly
Director of Photography: Ellsworth Fredricks, ASC
Music by Marlin Skiles
Jazz Sequences by Shorty Rogers And His Giants
Supervising Film Editor: Lester A. Sansom
Film Editor: William Austin, ACE
Dialogue Supervisor: Sam Peckinpah

CAST: Bill Elliott (Lt. Andy Flynn), Keith Larsen (Ralph Wyatt), Helene Stanley (Connie Wyatt), Paul Picerni (Norman Roper), Jack Kruschen (Lloyd Lavalle), Elaine Riley (Gloria), Robert Bice (Sgt. Colombo), Rick Vallin (Deputy Clark), George Eldredge (Major), Regina Gleason (Mrs. Roper), Rankin Mansfield (Doctor), Mort Mills (Photographer).

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The Warner Archive two-disc set Bill Elliot Detective Mysteries created a good deal of excitement around here when it was announced a few weeks ago. Now that it’s arrived, I’m even more stoked about it.

Briefly, the story behind these films goes like this: cowboy star “Wild Bill” Elliott traded his Colt .45s for a snub-nosed .38, making five tough little detective pictures for Allied Artists to end his Hollywood career. Dial Red O (1955) is the first.

Keith Larsen (Ralph Wyatt), a troubled veteran, escapes a VA hospital to visit his wife on the day their divorce becomes final. Elliott sets out to find him, and when the new ex-wife (Helene Stanley) turns up dead, Larsen is quickly tagged as the top suspect. That’s as much of Dial Red O as you’ll get out of me. I don’t want to spoil what is a cool little crime picture, running a lean, mean 64 minutes.

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Elliott is cool as a cucumber as Lt. Andy Flynn of the LA Sheriff’s Department, methodically going about his police work smoking his pipe. The brim of his fedora seems a little large, a subtle reminder of his cowboy persona. (His name would become Andy Doyle for the rest of the series, since there was a real Andy Flynn working in LA law enforcement.) Ralph Wyatt is good as the veteran and Jack Kruschen is fun as the ex-wife’s somewhat beatnik neighbor. Sam Peckinpah, who was working as dialogue supervisor, appears as a short-order cook.

urlThis cheap little cop movie looks like a million bucks, thanks to the folks at Warner Archive (and to the craftsmanship of DP Ellsworth Fredricks and his crew). It’s even given the proper 1.85 widescreen framing. The other four films in the set look just as good.

It’s a real shame these films are largely seen as a curio — “Hey look, Wild Bill’s a policeman!” — when they’re tough little movies with plenty to recommend them. And I recommend them highly indeed.

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affiche-la-montagne-mysterieuse-the-beast-of-hollow-mountain-1956-7

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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