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

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Buy this Blu-ray or Cooper gets it!

One of the toughest, slimiest, most brutal and just plain best-est 50s Westerns of them all, Anthony Mann’s Man Of The West (1958), is getting a much-needed upgrade this November from Kino Lorber.

It’s hard to put my finger on just why I love this one so much. For starters, it’s one of the finest Westerns ever made. But there’s other stuff, too. Like the awful Cleggs in Wagonmaster (1950), the bad guys here are of unbelievable scuzziness. (It’s hard to believe this is the same Jack Lord I love in Hawaii Five-O, not a hair out of place.) There are very few movies that impact me the way this one does: Mann is at the absolute top of his game here, twisting us around and ringing us out like a dishrag. (Just looking at this still is giving me the willies.) And Cooper brings incredible depth to Link Jones, maybe the ultimate Mann Western character—sorry, Jimmy—and certainly one of Coop’s best performances.

If you can watch this one and not be affected, check your pulse. You’re dead.

Thanks to Dick Vincent for the news. And Blake, if you don’t have a Blu-ray player yet, you’ve run out of excuses, pal.

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My-Darling-Clementine-Jaime-September-2013

John Ford’s shadow hangs over the Western to a huge degree. How huge? Well, My Darling Clementine (1946) is one of the finest Westerns ever made, yet I can think of several he made that I think are better.

But who cares what I think? Criterion is giving Ford’s tale of the O.K. Corral the treatment it deserves. It’s due in October on both DVD and Blu-ray. And that’s certainly something to hoot and holler about.

Thanks to Dick Vincent for the tip.

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Directed by Ray Enright
Starring Joel McCrea, Alexis Smith, Zachary Scott, Dorothy Malone, Douglas Kennedy, Alan Hale, Victor Jory, Bob Steele, Art Smith, Monte Blue.

South Of St. Louis (1949), a rock-solid Joe McCrea picture, is due September 23rd from Olive Films on both DVD and Blu-ray. With gorgeous Technicolor from the great Karl Freund and a terrific score by Max Steiner, this remake of the James Cagney gangster picture The Roaring Twenties (1939) is a winner all the way. Released the same year as McCrea’s Colorado Territory, and just before Saddle Tramp and Stars In My Crown (both 1950), this is Joel McCrea at the top of his game.

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The climactic scene, with the bells on the three partners’ spurs jingling as they blast away, has to be one of the most satisfying wrap-ups in all of Westerns. Ray Enright made plenty of good Westerns in the 40s and 50s. Don’t want to start a big debate (or maybe I do), but I’d hold this one up as his best. Can’t wait for September!

Thanks for the tip, Laura!

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Gail Davis signed photo

All of us in the 50s Westerns From The 50s bunkhouse are really excited about this latest project from VCI: The Annie Oakley TV Collection. My daughter Presley really really digs this show.

Working with Gail Davis’ daughter Terrie, VCI promises plenty of photos and other memorabilia, and there’s a documentary is in the works.

The show ran from 1954-57 in syndication, produced by Gene Autry’s Flying ‘A’ Productions. If Gail Davis isn’t cool enough for ya, episodes featured folks like Slim Pickens, Lee Van Cleef, L.Q. Jones, Denver Pyle and James H. Griffith. And one of our favorites, Ray Nazarro, directed about a dozen of the 81 episodes.

Release-wise, Annie and Target should come riding into your living room this fall.

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clasico01

Bill Hunt at The Digital Bits has a bit more news on the status of John Wayne’s The Alamo (1960):

“… I was up in L.A. checking out Robert Harris’ recent restoration tests of The Alamo with my own two eyes. Despite what MGM has claimed officially, let me assure you, having now seen the tests firsthand – which the studio has apparently not done yet for some strange reason (and how weird is that?) – this film is in serious need of restoration. The good news, however, is that I’ve also seen tests of how good the film could look like if given a restoration. The result would easily be worth theatrical presentation and a solid Blu-ray release. So keep spreading the word and keep the pressure on the studio. Fingers crossed.”

UPDATE: Robert Harris has clarified things with a post at Home Theater Forum:

“Sorry. A bit confusing. Nothing is occurring. Merely shared the tests which we did a month or so ago with a few people. And for the record, the roadshow version of the film is gone, as far as film or theatrical is concerned. Only the general release version has a chance of being decently preserved, but not at full quality. Too late.”

There’s nothing I can type here that will get across how sad and angry this makes me. Thanks to Paula for bringing this to my attention.

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On August 12, Kino Lorber will be bringing The Unforgiven (1960) to Blu-ray and DVD. It has an amazing cast: Burt Lancaster, Audrey Hepburn, Audie Murphy, Lilian Gish, John Saxon, Charles Bickford and Doug McClure. It’s based on a novel by Alan Lemay, who wrote The Searchers.

Audrey Hepburn broke her back during this film, a few crew members died in a plane crash and John Huston abandoned the film during post-production (some say he was detached long before that). People’s opinions of this one are all over the place (I’m kinda in the middle), but one thing’s for sure: even up against heavyweights such as Lancaster and Hepburn, Audie Murphy really shines. He alone is worth the price of admission.

Thanks for the tip, Paula.

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Strange Lady HS

Mervyn LeRoy’s Strange Lady In Town (1955) is coming from Warner Archive. This big-budget CinemaScope Western warranted its own 100-acre set near Tucson, and was shut down for almost a month due to Greer Garson’s appendix. Dana Andrews’ drinking didn’t help much. During the downtime, LeRoy subbed for John Ford on Mister Roberts (1955).

Garson and Andrews are backed by a great supporting cast: Cameron Mitchell, Lois Smith, Robert Wilke, Russell Johnson, Douglas Kennedy and Nick Adams (as Billy The Kid).

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The sixth installment in Timeless Media’s Gene Autry series offers up four titles from Gene’s later years on the big screen.

The Strawberry Roan (1948)
Longer than usual and in Cinecolor, this is one of Autry’s best films. It plays a bit like Roy Rogers’ My Pal Trigger (1946), giving Champion a real chance to shine. Gloria Henry, Jack Holt and Pat Buttram co-star.

Rim Of The Canyon (1949)
Gene plays himself and his dad! Much of the film takes place in a ghost town and really pours on the atmospherics.

Barbed Wire (1952)
Gene and Pat Buttram find themselves caught between feuding ranchers and homesteaders.

Winning Of The West (1953)
One of Autry’s last co-stars Gail Davis and Smiley Burnette, as they battle crooks masquerading as Indians. (The photo up top is from this film.)

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Warner Archive has given Collector’s Choice an exclusive on four Alan Ladd films, three of them Westerns. This is stuff many of us have been asking for. Click on the banner for more information.

Drum Beat (1954)
Directed by Delmer Daves
Starring Alan Ladd, Audrey Dalton, Charles Bronson and Elisha Cook, Jr.
This CinemaScope Western was the first film from Ladd’s Jaguar Productions, and it offered a good early role for Charles Bronson. Note the photo below: Daves, Jack Warner and Ladd commemorate Drum Beat with a cake.

The Big Land (1957)
Directed by Gordon Douglas
Starring Alan Ladd, Virginia Mayo, Edmond O’Brien, Anthony Caruso, Julie Bishop and John Qualen.
I think we all take Gordon Douglas for granted, maybe because he didn’t “specialize” in Westerns the way so many of our favorites did. This one, Fort Dobbs (1958) and Yellowstone Kelly (1959) are all terrific.

Guns Of The Timberland (1960)
Directed by Robert D. Webb
Starring Alan Ladd, Jeanne Crain, Gilbert Roland, Frankie Avalon
Have to admit I’ve never seen this one. Looking forward to it.

A fourth film, The Deep Six (1958), is not a Western. Directed by Rudolph Maté, it’s a World War II picture with William Bendix and James Whitmore. Does it get any better than Whitmore in a war film?

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Homesteaders LC

Directed by Lewis Collins
Produced by Vincent M. Fennelly
Written by Sid Theil and Milton Raison
Photographed by Ernest Miller, ASC
Film Editor: Sam Fields, ACE
Music by Raoul Kraushaar

CAST: Wild Bill Elliott (Mace Corbin), Robert Lowry (Clyde Moss), Emmett Lynn (Grimer), George Wallace (Mead), Buss Henry (Charlie), Stanley Price (Van), Rick Vallin (Slim), William Fawcett (Hector), James Seay (John Kroger), Tom Monroe (Jake), Barbara Allen (Jenny Moss), Ray Walker (Col. Peterson).

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Hauling unstable dynamite (that’s turned to nitroglycerine) is a surprisingly common plot device. There’s Wages Of Fear (1953), of course, and Sorcerer (1977), one of my all-time favorite films. There’s a B-movie version, Violent Road (1958), that replaces nitro with rocket fuel, even an episode of Little House On The Prairie. In The Homesteaders (1953), one of William Elliott’s late-period Westerns from Allied Artists, Wild Bill gets his shot at transporting the temperamental stuff from Point A to Point B in one piece. To complicate matters, his crew is made up of men just released from an Army jail and the route runs right through Indian territory.

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For my money, you can’t beat Elliott in this period. From his two-gun rig to his pipe to his off-the-rack Levi’s, there’s a coolness about him that really carries these films. And he certainly carries this one. The script isn’t as tight as some of the others, borrowing some of its structure from the first film in the series, The Longhorn (1950). Lewis Collins’ direction isn’t as assured as usual — and the pacing, typically so lean and efficient, seems a bit off. None of this is really a complaint, just an observation, and all of these films are highly recommended. Just as it was dying, the B Series Western hit a real peak.

The supporting cast, however, is right on the mark. Emmett Lynn is perfect as the grizzled old-timer who helps Elliott guide the wagons to their destination. He keeps the character just grounded enough. George Wallace, who’d been Commando Cody in Republic’s Radar Men From The Moon the year before, is sufficiently hateful as one of the prisoners-turned-trail hands. And James Seay is fine as the crook who wants Elliott’s dynamite for his own purposes.

Homesteaders still

Warner Archive’s Wild Bill Elliott Western Double Feature gives us The Homesteaders paired with Fargo (1952). The transfer is strong, with just a hint of dirt and dust. (I like a little of that every so often.) Let’s hope we see further sets in the near future (with the last few titles in their proper 1.85). They call these DVDs on-demand, so let’s demand ‘em!

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