Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘John Derek’ 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!

dskqjmurnyudbig

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.

PDVD_000-156

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.

GunsightRidge

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.

930__shane_blu-ray_X03_

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).

800__showdown_at_boot_hill_blu-ray_11_

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.

Read Full Post »

iuoe0

February 5th will see the release of Columbia’s Ambush At Tomahawk Gap (1953), an excellent little Western from Fred F. Sears.

I put together a post on this film a few months ago, ending it with: “Ambush At Tomahawk Gap is a picture that’s easily overlooked — just one of many Columbia Westerns from the 1950s — but offers so much for those willing to track it down. Hopefully, a DVD release of some sort will make that easier.”

Thanks to Columbia, it’s now very easy indeed. This is another one I highly recommend (and that appeared on the Wish List we all put together last month). So, while I’m looking this gift horse in the mouth, how’s about Fury At Gunsight Pass (1956)?

 

Read Full Post »

I dread going to Walmart like some people dread going to the dentist. Wound up in one last night — and walked out with a copy of Fury At Showdown (1957).

It’s one of those twin-bill $5 DVDs from TGG Direct, paired with Gary Cooper in Along Came Jones (1945), and dumped in those big bins full of DVDs. TGG has been licensing stuff from Fox/MGM, some of which I’ve mentioned before.

Fury At Showdown is a real gem, one of those neglected little masterpieces that are so fun to discover. It’s got solid performances from John Derek and Nick Adams — and superb direction from Gerd Oswald. And it was shot in a week.

It’s a sharp full-frame transfer, with rich blacks and just enough dirt and dust to remind you you’re watching a movie. Widescreen would’ve been terrific, but to see this thing finally available — and for just $5 — who’s complaining? I’ve recommended this picture many times, and I’ve been researching it for the book and blog recently (with a big thanks to Thomas Chadwick), so you haven’t heard the last of it.

Fury At Showdown will make a nice addition to your Labor Day weekend. It’s even worth a trip to Walmart.

UPDATE (9/6/12): This DVD is now available from Amazon at a higher price.

Read Full Post »

Ambush At Tomahawk Gap (1953), starring John Hodiak and John Derek, is a minor Columbia Western directed by Fred F. Sears. And it’s a damn good one.

Fred F. Sears with Joan Taylor on Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers (1957).

After years in regional theater and teaching drama at Southwestern University in Memphis, Fred F. Sears headed to Hollywood. He eventually wound up at Columbia as a bit actor and dialogue director. While working on some of Columbia’s Durango Kid pictures, he got to know Charles Starrett. He directed one, Desert Vigilante (1949), and eventually took over the series. (There’s a nice DVD available of 1951’s Bonanza Town, which Sears both directed and appears in.)

Along with William Castle, Sears became a preferred director for Sam Katzman, whose quickie unit at Columbia cranked out serials and genre pictures at a frantic pace. He spent the rest of his career at Columbia, and from crime films to horror movies to Westerns, Sears’ ability to get ‘em done on time and on budget served him well. Quality wasn’t much of a concern, but he always managed to provide some anyway. Today he’s known for Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers (1956), a picture that benefits from remarkable stop-motion animation from Ray Harryhausen, and The Giant Claw (1957), a film completely scuttled by some of the worst special effects in Hollywood history. Sears died in his office at Columbia in November, 1957, with eight pictures waiting for release, leaving a deep filmography that’s certainly worth diving into. (1956’s The Werewolf is a good one.)

Ambush At Tomahawk Gap gave Sears a better cast than usual, a slightly bigger budget and Technicolor. It makes good use of a familiar plot — a group of ex-cons battle Indians and each other as they search for their buried loot — adding plenty of suspense and a mean streak a mile wide. This is a surprisingly violent film. It does what many good low-budget Westerns do: build a simple story around a small cast, create some tension, then pile on the action.

Sears had an excellent cast to wok with. Not long after the release of Ambush, John Hodiak would appear on Broadway to raves in The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial; he had a fatal heart attack in 1955. (He hated working with horses.) John Derek was an upcoming young actor, and he’d appear in a number of excellent 50s Westerns. David Brian, who was a year away from appearing in Dawn At Socorro (1954), had a long, successful career as a character actor in movies and TV. Ray Teal is now known as Sheriff Coffee in Bonanza, but he turns up in hundreds of films (he’s terrific as the bartender in One-Eyed Jacks). María Elena Marqués was a noted Mexican actress. This and Across The Wide Missouri (1951) are the only American films she made — both times she played Indians. And the great John Qualen is on hand as a grizzled old prospector.

Helping Sears make the most of this were cinematographer Henry Freulich, who shot lots of cheap Technicolor Westerns for Columbia, including William Castle’s Masterson Of Kansas (1954). Writer David Lang has a long list of credits — 50s Westerns such as Fury At Gunsight Pass (1956, again with Sears) and  TV like The Rifleman, Cheyenne and Maverick.

Ambush At Tomahawk Gap is a picture that’s easily overlooked — just one of many Columbia Westerns from the 1950s — but offers so much for those willing to track it down. Hopefully, a DVD release of some sort will make that easier.

Read Full Post »

Gerd Oswald’s excellent Fury At Showdown (1957), a little masterpiece waiting to be discovered by a larger audience, is scheduled to appear on Encore Westerns on Tuesday, June 19, at 9AM (Eastern/Pacific). Don’t miss it.

It stars John Derek, Nick Adams, Carolyn Craig and John Smith. A key 50s Western and a miracle of low-budget film-making — Oswald somehow pulled this picture off in a week (some of it at Iverson Ranch)!

Gerd Oswald (from a terrific Filmfax interview): “That was one of my six or seven day epics… The line producer, John Brett, said, ‘You are only allowed so much money for this picture and tomorrow we’ve got a big lynch scene. We’re supposed to have 50 extras, and I can only give you 12. That’s all — we just don’t have any more money.’ So by necessity I was forced to do certain set-ups that I normally wouldn’t have done. I filled half the screen with the profile of one man, then filled the background. I created a mob scene with just 12 people. The film got tremendous reviews in New York; they praised the inventiveness of the shots — truth was I was forced into it.”

Why hasn’t MGM made this part of their MOD effort (widescreen, please)? In the meantime, if someone out there captures this on DVD-R, please let me know!

Read Full Post »

This is a silly excuse for a post. Got a copy today of a 50s Western I’ve never seen — and best of all, know almost nothing about. It’s got Ray Teal in it, which is good enough for me.

Ambush At Tomahawk Gap (1953) is a low-budget Columbia picture directed by Fred F. Sears. Sears spent his entire career at Columbia, starting with the Durango Kid series and often working for Sam Katzman. His best picture is probably Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers (1956).

Cinematographer Henry Freulich shot a lot of these cheap Columbia Technicolor Westerns, including William Castle’s Masterson Of Kansas (1954). He also shot several of the Blondie pictures, which are big favorites around my house.

Writer David Lang wrote a lot of low-budget Westerns — including The Hired Gun (1957), which I’m dying to see — and 50s Western TV like The Rifleman, Cheyenne and Maverick.

Read Full Post »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 171 other followers