The Warner Archive Black Friday Sale has become a Cyber Monday thing. Have at it!
Archive for the ‘DVD reviews, releases, TV, etc.’ Category
Why go to Walmart and get punched in the face over a cheap toaster when you can sit at home and buy cowboy movies? Click the image above and have at it.
And if you haven’t done it yet, do yourself a favor and get Westward The Women (1951). If nothing else, it’ll give you something to be thankful for next Thanksgiving.
Timeless Media Group has corralled all five seasons of The Gene Autry Show (1950-1955) into a single set for release on December 10.
This blog is not about TV. Other people know a lot more about it than I do and do a much better job covering it than I ever could. But when you’re familiar with the features, seeing how Gene transitioned from theaters to living rooms is fascinating — and in keeping with what happened to Gene’s career, and the Western itself, over the course of the decade.
When Autry stopped making features — the TV series began in 1950, the movies lasted into 1953 — he brought a lot of actors and crew over to the show. George Archainbaud, for instance, directed Gene’s last feature, Last Of The Pony Riders (1953), and TV shows throughout its run. William Bradford, who shot a number of the later features, did all but a handful of the TV shows. (How’d they pull all this off?) Many of the TV writers had also written for the Autry features at some point, including a single episode by brothers Dorrell and Stewart E. McGowan, who’d scripted one of Gene’s best, South Of The Border (1939). (They also wrote one of my favorite films, 1949′s Hellfire).
The shows really have the feel of an Autry feature. Shorter and cheaper, of course, with a plot that’s even more bare-bones than the movies — and usually limited to a single song. Each episode exists as its own entity, too. From one show to the other, Gene is everything from a rancher to a U.S. Marshall, it’s the Old West one week and the Fabulous Fifties the next, and sometimes Gene doesn’t even know his sidekick Pat Buttram. Gene was a great businessman, and he was smart enough to stick with a sure thing — whether it’s a cameraman or a formula.
Making my way through the series, what really struck me was the incredible stream of actors and actresses that turn up from week to week: Denver Pyle, Alan Hale, Jr. (who’s a sidekick for a while), James H. Griffith, Kermit Maynard, John Doucette, Fuzzy Knight, Lyle Talbot, Robert J. Wilke, Tom Tyler, Jack Ingram, Clayton Moore, Chill Wills, Glenn Strange, James Best, Francis Ford, Lee Van Cleef. Gloria Talbott, Nestor Paiva, Peggy Stewart, “Curly” Joe Besser, Tommy Ivo and a million more. (That has to be the longest sentence I’ve ever written.) Autry’s acting leaves a lot to be desired — though he’d come a long way since The Phantom Empire (1936), but he surrounded himself with some real pros, and they do wonders for these shows.
You can’t help being knocked for a loop by the color episodes. Two first-season shows were done in color as an experiment and the fifth season is color all the way. The type of color isn’t identified — my guess would be Eastmancolor — and it looks pretty weird, a little blown out in spots. But that’s the fault of the original material, not something we can complain to Timeless Media Group about. It’s terrific to see Gene and Roy and Champion in color. These were transfered from Gene’s personal material and are spotless, with supplements like radio shows, photo galleries and commercials — along with an extra DVD that gives you episodes of other shows from Autry’s Flying ‘A’ Productions. Recommended.
Gene Autry at work on his TV show. Photo lifted from Steven Lodge’s blog.
Directed by George Archainbaud
Produced by Herman Schlom
Written by Norman Houston
Director Of Photography: J. Roy Hunt
Music by Paul Sawtell
Film Editor: Desmond Marquette
CAST: Tim Holt (Ross Taylor), Richard Martin (Chito Jose Gonzalez Bustamonte Rafferty), Jane Nigh (Stella), John Doucette (Bat), House Peters, Jr. (Rod), Inez Cooper (Anita Castro), Julien Rivero (Philipe), Ken MacDonald (Sheriff Carrigan), Vince Barnett (Pokey), Robert Peyton (Del), David Leonard (Padre), Tom Monroe (Dimmick).
Here at 50 Westerns From The 50s, Tuesday belongs to Tim Holt.
When an earthquake hits Mexico, Senorita Anita Castro (Inez Cooper) organizes a relief effort in Arizona. Loading a mule train with donations of all sorts — including gold, silver and jewels — she heads toward the border. A gang of thieves, headed by John Doucette and House Peters, Jr. and assisted by Jean Nigh, get wind of Anita’s plan and plot to steal the treasure. Tim (called Ross Taylor this time) and Chito (Richard Martin) end up involved, of course — and lots of riding and shooting ensue.
Border Treasure (1950) is one of the later RKO Holts, and I’ve always considered it one of the stronger entries in the series. First, the bad guys are terrific — and Nigh has a good role as Stella, the saloon girl who falls in with John Doucette and House Peters, Jr. There’s a great, extended saloon fight between Holt and Doucette. And Richard Martin adds a nice touch as he shows compassion for Mexico and its people following the earthquake. (This one has Tim and Chito doing some real ranch work, mending fence, which I always find a cool addition. Come to think of it, Tim does the work — Chito conveniently disappears.)
This time, George Archainbaud directs. He got his first director credit in 1917, and spent much of his career at RKO. His The Lost Squadron (1932) is excellent. Archainbaud got heavily into TV in the 50s, with much of his work coming from Gene Autry’s Flying A Productions. For a while, he was alternating between Gene’s TV show and later features (including 1953′s Last Of The Pony Riders, which turned out to be Gene’s Autry’s final film).
Director of Photography J. Roy Hunt spent a number of years at RKO, where he shot Val Lewton’s I Walked With A Zombie (1943), The Devil Thumbs A Ride (1947) and Mighty Joe Young (1949) — in between many of these Holt films. Hunt retired not longer after the Holt series came to an end, never making the transition to television that kept so many of his contemporaries employed well into the 1960s.
These RKO Holts make great use of Lone Pine’s Alabama Hills, perhaps rivaled only by Budd Boetticher and Randolph Scott’s Ranown Cycle. Some work for Border Treasure was also done at the area’s Anchor Ranch. The RKO Ranch in Encino and the beautiful San Fernando Mission of L.A.’s Mission Hills district are also featured. (Boy, I gotta get out to California — my Points Of Interest list is getting longer and longer.)
Border Treasure is one of 10 Holt pictures in Warner Archive’s Tim Holt Classic Western Collection Volume 3 — and it’s a beautiful thing from logo to logo. The Lone Pine scenes are sharp and bright, with a real feeling of depth. I’d love to take a frame from one of the Lone Pine scenes and hang it on my wall (over the sofa would be nice) — and this transfer seems sharp enough to let me do it.
In the early days of this blog, the Holt RKOs were high on our want lists. To have them presented like this is more than I expected. To say I highly recommend this — the DVD-R set or the movie itself — would be ridiculously redundant at this point.
So many good things to be had here. How about Rod Cameron in The Short Grass (1950)? Or Robert Taylor in The Last Hunt (1956)? Or Joel McCrea in Wichita (1955)? Or Glenn Ford in The Fastest Gun Alive (1956)? Or…
Posted in 1957, Burt Lancaster, Dimitri Tiomkin, DVD reviews, releases, TV, etc., Howard Hawks, John Ireland, John Sturges, John Wayne, Kirk Douglas, Post-1959, Rhonda Fleming on November 11, 2013 | 2 Comments »
VistaVision is a wonderful thing on Blu-ray, and here’s one I’ve been waiting for — Gunfight At The O.K. Corral (1957).
It’s coming from Warners and Paramount on March 11, 2014. Also on the way are a couple John Wayne – Howard Hawks pictures, Hatari! (1962) and El Dorado (1967).
Thanks for the tip, Paula.
Roger Corman’s Gunslinger (1956), maybe my daughter’s favorite 50s Western (take that, Mystery Science Theater!), has been announced for DVD release from Timeless Media Group on October 15. The set, another Movies 4 You Western Film Collection — also offers Clint Walker and Barry Sullivan in Yuma (1971), Terence Hill in the spaghetti western Man Of The East (1971) and Pioneer Woman (1973). An odd grouping, maybe, but you can’t beat the $6.95 list price.
I’ve written about Gunslinger before, and I’m happy to know it’s going to be available Stateside. Beverly Garland is always terrific, and she’s so cool in this one. Not sure if it’ll be widescreen or not — the PAL version is, and it’s as nice-looking as this cheap little picture is probably capable of looking. And as ridiculous as it sounds, all of us in the Roan household would love to see it make its way to Blu-ray.
UPDATE 9/30/13: Timeless has served up the same widescreen transfer of Gunslinger as the UK release. It’s 1.85, which AIP called “Wide Vision”on the poster. The contrast levels fluctuate a bit, probably the result of the constant rain that plagued its six-day shooting schedule — this is a nice transfer of a cheap movie. Any issues come from Iverson Ranch in 1956, not from the film transfer suite.
As far the other titles, Man Of The East looks terrific — I love the look of those Techniscope spaghetti westerns. Yuma is soft.
What a great poster, too! Reynold Brown, I think.
Posted in 1952, 1954, 1956, Alan Ladd, Budd Boetticher, Dale Robertson, Dorothy Malone, DVD reviews, releases, TV, etc., George Sherman, Jeff Chandler, John Sturges, Julie Adams, Lee Marvin, Lee Van Cleef, Mara Corday, Raoul Walsh, Richard Widmark, Rory Calhoun, Universal (-International), Ward Bond on September 22, 2013 | 18 Comments »
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.
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)?
Don’t have any real details yet, but Twilight Time will issue The Man From Laramie (1955) on Blu-ray some time in 2014. Of course, it’s one of the finest of 50s Westerns — some consider it the best of the Anthony Mann/James Stewart pictures.
Also coming is Stewart (again) and Richard Widmark in John Ford’s Two Rode Together (1961).
To call The Beast Of Hollow Mountain (1956) a Western might be pushing things a bit. After all, dinosaurs don’t turn up in too many cowboy movies. But it’s got Guy Madison in it, which counts for a lot, and Patricia Medina (The Buckskin Lady, 1957).
Based on a story by special effects genius Willis O’Brien (King Kong), this Mexican co-production finds Madison as a rancher trying to find out why his cattle are disappearing. It’s a shame Willis didn’t get to handle the animation, because the effects are only so-so. He had been shopping this story around for years. It was eventually made a second time as Valley Of Gwangi (1969), with effects by O’Brien’s former student Ray Harryhausen. It’s a fun film, and very cool in CinemaScope.
Hollow Mountain will be paired with The Neanderthal Man (1953) for a 2014 Blu-ray release from Shout Factory. As you may know, Shout Factory has a horror specialty label called Scream Factory. I’d like to propose that they launch an all-Western division — Shoot Factory, perhaps. They take great care in their releases.