Feeds:
Posts
Comments

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

capa_2007

Written and Directed by Delmer Daves
Director Of Photography: J. Peverell Marley, ASC
Film Editor: Clarence Kolster
Music by Victor Young

CAST: Alan Ladd (Johnny Mckay), Audrey Dalton (Nancy Meek), Marisa Pavan (Toby), Robert Keith (Bill Satterwhite), Charles Bronson (Captain Jack)

Not long after Shane (1953), Alan Ladd left Paramount, the studio that made him a star, and launched his independent company, Jaguar. Their first film was Drum Beat (1954). Based on the 1873 Modoc War, Ladd plays an Indian fighter recruited by President Grant to find a way to peace with the Modoc. Turns out the tribe wants peace, but a chief named Captain Jack (Charles Bronson) and his band of renegades are lousing things up. Repeated attempts for a peaceful resolution are unsuccessful, and we get a very exciting last couple of reels.

Though I’m not a big Alan Ladd fan, I really liked this one. It wears its “sympathetic treatment of the Indians” thing well, but never forgets that it’s action that puts people in the seats. Boy, a lot of people get shot in this thing.

$_57-17

My job is to protect the wagon train. When somebody shoots at my people, I shoot back.”
— Alan Ladd

Ladd and Daves (and, of course, DP J. Peverell Marley) shot Drum Beat in Warnercolor and the then-new CinemaScope. As was the custom with ‘Scope at the time, they avoided close-ups, went for long takes whenever possible, and gave us lots of gorgeous vistas of Sonora, Arizona, and the Coconino National Forest. Daves always showed off the landscape in his Westerns, making each setting an essential element of the film, and this is one of Drum Beat’s great strengths. If there’s a film that makes better use of the Sonora area, I don’t know what it is.

The cast is a 50s Western fan’s dream: James H. Griffith (as a Civil War veteran who lost a leg at Shilo), Frank Ferguson, Elisha Cook, Jr., Willis Bouchey, Perry Lopez, Anthony Caruso, Denver Pyle and Strother Martin (who I heard was in it, but somehow missed). Of course, Charles Bronson makes quite an impression as Captain Jack in his first film under his new name (it had been Buchinsky, which was considered too Russian-sounding in the HUAC years).

With Drum Beat, Warner Archive gives us a pretty good-looking DVD. The Warnercolor is, well, Warnercolor — but here it looks as good as I’ve ever seen it look. The image is a tad soft at times (varying from shot to shot), some of which we can blame on the early CinemaScope. The audio is excellent; I love the stereo sound of these early Scope pictures, with an actor’s voice following them as they move around within the wide frame. This is a really good film, and a real treat in widescreen and stereo (I’d love to see a Blu-ray turn up someday). Highly recommended.

Alan Ladd and Delmer Daves reunited for The Badlanders (1958), also available from Warner Archive. I haven’t seen it in ages, and I’m really eager to revisit it.

Along with Drum Beat, two more Ladd Westerns came riding into town, thanks to Warner Archive.

$_57-27

The Big Land (1957)
Directed by Gordon Douglas
CAST: Alan Ladd, Virginia Mayo, Edmond O’Brien, Anthony Caruso, Julie Bishop and John Qualen

Ladd’s a cattle man who works to build a town around a railroad hub, which will benefit the local ranchers. Of course, there’s someone who doesn’t want all this to happen.

As a drunk, Edmond O’Brien steals every scene he’s in. He’s terrific. This is WarnerColor again, and it’s not as well-behaved as it is in Drum Beat. Good movie, though, especially if you’re a fan of O’Brien or Virginia Mayo. Gordon Douglas is as dependable as ever.

avalon-ladd-crain-roland-arm

Guns Of The Timberland (1960)
Directed by Robert D. Webb
CAST: Alan Ladd, Jeanne Crain, Gilbert Roland, Frankie Avalon

This time, Ladd’s a lumberjack who arrives in the Northwest to take out a lot of trees. The townspeople are afraid Ladd’s efforts will cause mudslides and do other environmental harm. Frankie Avalon sings “Gee Whiz Whillikins Golly Gee,” which Bugs Bunny used to sing in the bumpers to The Bugs Bunny Show on Saturday mornings. This tune is just one of the things that put Guns Of The Timberland in that goofy time period that a lot of series Westerns exist in, where Old and New West, cars and buckboards peacefully coexist.

Jeanne Crain is beautiful, Gilbert Roland is as cool as ever, and Lyle Bettger actually gets to be a good guy for once. The Technicolor makes it to DVD looking like a million bucks, while alcohol has Ladd looking just terrible.

Read Full Post »

MedBendGrp

As part of an all-day tribute to James Garner on Monday, July 28 (at 8AM ET), TCM is running a hard-to-find Randolph Scott Western, Shoot-Out At Medicine Bend (1957). Directed by Richard Bare, it stands as Garner’s only 50s Western — and a rather oddball entry in Scott’s final decade as a Western star. It’s also noteworthy as one of Angie Dickinson’s first films. (They’re not listing this as being letterboxed, but we’ll manage.)

Warner Archive, what’s holding this one up?

Read Full Post »

007

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.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

conan17zo5

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.

30

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!

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

TheUnforgiven1_600x338

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.

Read Full Post »

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).

Read Full Post »

winning-west-4-lrg

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.)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 162 other followers