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Archive for the ‘Monogram/Allied Artists’ Category

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A while back, I brought up an exclusive at Collector’s Choice on some Alan Ladd pictures from Warner Archive. Well, that arrangement has about run its course, and those titles will soon be available through normal Warner Archive channels.

Drum Beat (1954)
Directed by Delmer Daves
Starring Alan Ladd, Audrey Dalton, Charles Bronson and Elisha Cook, Jr.

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

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

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There’s another exclusive, this time with Oldies.com, on a couple Allied Artists CinemaScope Westerns to be released July 15.

Oregon Passage (1958)
Directed by Paul Landres
Starring John Ericson and Lola Albright
Paul Landres made some solid low-budget Westerns (Frontier Gun, for instance), so I have high hopes for this one. Incidentally, it’s working title was Rio Bravo. Wonder how the change in title went down, with Howard Hawks’ own Rio Bravo in production around the same time?

Gunsmoke in Tucson (1958)
Directed by Thomas Carr
Starring Mark Stevens and Forrest Tucker
I’ve been on the lookout for this one for quite some time, which goes into familiar range war/brothers-on-opposite-sides-of-the-law territory. I’d also love to see Carr’s The Tall Stranger (1957), starring Joel McCrea and Virginia Mayo, turn up on DVD.

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

CAST: Wild Bill Elliott (Tack Hamlin), Mary Ellen Kay (Lucy Taylor), Robert Bray (Gene Smith), Stanford Jolley (Matt Taylor), Henry Rowland (Mayor Winch), Myron Healey (Brett), George Wallace (Brewer), Fuzzy Knight (Strummer), Zon Murray (Bill), Richard Avonde (Artie), Michael Colgan (Jamison), Denver Pyle (Sperry), Lee Roberts (Wilson), John James (Jed Hamlin).

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Things have gotten so bad that the citizens of Pinetop have formed a vigilante committee to maintain order, but the Brewer gang continues to operate. (And the vigilantes seem almost as bad as the outlaws.) Tack Hamlin (Wild Bill Elliott) comes to town and is soon recruited for sheriff, and he gets right to work, trying to stop both the bandits and the masked vigilantes. Turns out that Brett (Myron Healey), who owns the saloon, leads both the outlaws and the vigilantes, planting false evidence to avoid suspicion.

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As far as I can see, this town is full of bad shots and bluster.”
— Wild Bill Elliott

This is a good entry in the series of Westerns Elliott made for Monogram/Allied Artists near the end of his career. By this point, his “peaceable man” persona was well established, and he goes about his business with his typical cool determination. The sequence about halfway through the picture, as Elliott the newly-appointed sheriff cleans up the town, is terrific. Later, the vigilantes drag Elliott and Fuzzy Knight to the hanging tree, making for a very tense scene that illustrates just how tough the B Western became in its final years. What’s more, in the climax, one of the Brewer gang is shot in the face!

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Fuzzy Knight is great as Elliott’s old friend and deputy. They have a good chemistry together. Mary Ellen Kay does well with a pretty limited part, and makes quite an impression toward the end when she picks up a gun. The badguys, from Myron Healey to George Wallace to Denver Pyle, have locked horns with Elliott before. Same thing behind the camera, from the director (Lewis Collins) to the writer (Sid Theil) to the editor (Sam Fields) and on down the line. Of course, we all know the familiar Iverson and Corriganville locations.

Vigilante Terror is not available on DVD, though it’s one Warner Archive will probably get around to one of these days (that’s a hint, Matt). Watch for it.

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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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Tim Holt Tuesdays have been a lot of fun, and people seem to like ‘em, so I’m adding Wild Bill Wednesdays to the week. Like the Holt day, it’s a not-quite-weekly way to call attention to William “Wild Bill” Elliott, a cowboy star who doesn’t get his due. (I realize I’m preaching to the choir here.) His later Westerns, the ones that followed the Red Ryder series, are particularly strong, and they’re what I’ll focus on (approximately 1946-54). Elliott’s career was a long one. He was a working character actor for years (often uncredited) before becoming a top-billed cowboy star, so I’ll be dealing with a tiny sliver of his filmography.

Of course, like most Republic pictures, Elliott’s are absent on DVD or Blu-ray. (Dear Olive Films: if you only knew how badly I want a Blu-ray of Hellfire.) The old VHS copies are decent-looking if you want to search ‘em out, and some of them turn up on The Westerns Channel or Netflix from time to time. (1954’s Bitter Creek is scheduled for TCM in June.)

But if you look beyond the Republics, the outlook’s brighter. Warner Archive’s given us a couple of the Monogram/Allied Artists Westerns (Fargo and The Homesteaders), and VCI put out the first of that series, The Longhorn (1951). Then there’s that cool detective series.

We’ll have a real post on Elliott next Wednesday.

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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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Bill Elliott-Fargo

Directed by Lewis Collins
Produced by Vincent M. Fennelly
Story and Screenplay by Jack DeWitt and Joseph Poland
Director of Photography: Ernest Miller, ASC
Music by Raoul Kraushaar
Film Editor: Sam Fields, ACE

CAST: Bill Elliott (Bill Martin), Myron Healey (Red Olson), Phyllis Coates (Kathy MacKenzie), Fuzzy Knight (Ted Sloan), Arthur Space (Austin), Jack Ingram (Rancher MacKenzie), Robert Wilke (Link), Terry Frost (Alvord), Robert Bray (Ed Murdock), Denver Pyle (Carey), Tim Ryan (Sam), Florence Lake (Maggie), Stanley Andrews (Judge Bruce), Richard Reeves (Bartender), Eugene Roth (Blacksmith).

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Warner Archive’s Will Bill Elliott Double Feature is hopefully the first of a series that will eventually put all 11 of these excellent “last-gasp” B Westerns* in our hot little hands. It gives us Fargo (1952) and The Homesteaders (1953). (The first picture in the series, The Longhorn (1951), has been available for a while from VCI.)

The last of the Elliotts to bear the Monogram logo, Fargo tosses a few curveballs into the usual ranchers vs. settlers tale. Bill Martin (Elliott) rides into Fargo to settle his brother’s estate and ends up trying to carry on his brother’s work — advocating the use of barbed wire to fence off the range. A gang of thugs, lead by Red Olson (Healy) are determined to keep the range undivided. There’s a tough, adult spin on the usual B Western here, typical of series Westerns from this period. For instance, an early saloon brawl is particularly brutal, and the badguys do something to Elliott about halfway through that’ll make the hair stand up on the back of your neck. (No spoilers here, folks.) And there’s a Rube Goldberg-ish barbed wire machine that I found fascinating. 

Fargo LC detail

One of the real joys of 50s Westerns is the cast, and here we get the chance to spend time with folks like Elliott, Phyllis Coates, Fuzzy Knight, Jack Ingram, Denver Pyle and Robert Wilke. Of course, Myron Healey is every bit as despicable as you’d hope. But what I really appreciated about Fargo was its excellent use of the Iverson Ranch. Many of the familiar rock formations we know and love pop up over the course of its 69 minutes.

Warner Archive makes sure Fargo looks good, not eye-popping, but far better than you’d expect a Monogram cowboy movie to look in 2014. Originally released in sepia tone, we get it black and white, which is fine. The audio’s strong. Judging from the comments that have come in about these Elliott pictures, I’m not the only one happy with this twin-bill DVD — and I’m not alone in wanting the rest of the series.

• Thanks to John for the phrase “last-gasp B Westerns.”

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This is a big one, folks. After making his B Western, The Forty-Niners (1954), for Allied Artists, William Elliott ended his Hollywood career with five tough little crime pictures for the same studio, released 1955-57. After playing Detective Lieutenant Andy Flynn of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in the first one, Dial Red “O” (1955), he became Andy Doyle in the other four.

The Bill Elliott Detective Mysteries from Warner Archive presents all five films in 16×9 widescreen. Most run about an hour — and have been on the Want Lists of “Wild Bill” Elliott fans for ages. They’ll be on the Warner Archive lineup on Tuesday.

Sudden Danger LC

Dial Red “O” (1955) An unhinged vet triggers a citywide manhunt when his soon-to-be-ex-wife gets bumped off. With Paul Picerni and Sam Peckinpah (uncredited as a cook).

Sudden Danger (1955) Elliott investigates a suspicious suicide — and the prime suspect turns out to be a blind man. With Beverly Garland and Lyle Talbot.

Calling Homicide (1956) Elliott connects the dots between a cop-killing and a model’s murder.  With Don Haggerty (who’d appear in the rest of the series), Lyle Talbot and James Best.

Chain of Evidence (1957) A reform school grad is accused of murder. With Haggerty, Timothy Carey and Dabbs Greer.

Footsteps In The Night (1957) A high-stakes poker game ends in murder. Directed by Jean Yarbrough.

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Daniel B. and Elwood Ullman, who wrote several of Elliott’s Monogram Westerns, are on hand for these films, and they make the transition from the Old West to the City Of Angels with ease.

You might be interested in these as a curio more than anything else, but they’re cool little movies and Elliott is as terrific as ever. Highly recommended.

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Three Monogram cowboys ride tall in the latest volume of Warner Archive’s Monogram Cowboy Collection. This time, some of the films creep into the 50s. As we all know, the B Western was in its last days.

Expect lots of action, expertly transferred. These things always look terrific. Here’s what you get:

Johnny Mack Brown
Trigger Fingers (1946), Whistling Hills (1951) and Man From The Black Hills (1952);

Jimmy Wakely
Saddle Serenade (1945) and Across The Rio Grande (1949)

Whip Wilson
Gunslingers (1950), Silver Raiders (1950), Arizona Territory (1950) and Lawless Cowboys (1951).

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Directed by Leslie Selander
Produced by Scott R. Dunlap
Associate Producer: Edward Morey, Jr.
Screenplay by Adele Buffington
Adaptation by Tom W. Blackburn, from Curtis Bishop’s novel Shadow Range
Photographed by Harry Neumann, ASC
Film Editor: John C. Fuller, ACE
Musical Score and Direction: Edward J. Kay

CAST: Edmond O’Brien (Ben Anthony), Helen Wescott (Linda Garnett), Bob Lowery (Harry Odell), Barton MacLane (Marvin Parker), Peggie Castle (Melba Sykes), James Millican, Robert Wilke, Raymond Hatton, Tom Tyler, Jack Ingram.

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When the series Westerns were put out to pasture in the early 50s, Monogram became Allied Artists and shifted from series Westerns like The Long Horn (1952) with William Elliott to Westerns like Cow Country (1953). These films have the feel of series cowboy movies executed on a larger scale — bigger casts, better sets, about 20 minutes longer. There’s still the slimy banker, the plot to snatch land from the smaller ranches, lots of riding and shooting and bad guys like Barton MacLane and Robert Wilke. You’ve seen it all a thousand times, and it’s just as welcome in this form as it was before.

So while there’s nothing particularly new about Cow Country, there’s nothing to dislike about it, either. The plot’s a little convoluted, but you’re familiar with it. The area cattle businesses is in a bad way, and Bob Lowery, Barton MacLane and Robert Wilke are trying to take their land away. Edmond O’Brien runs a freight business and ends up being the hero. There’s a love triangle between Lowery, Helen Westcott and Peggie Castle. And, boy, do a lot of people get shot.

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O’Brien looks cool in a Levi jacket with his hat slightly cocked to one side. He didn’t make many Westerns, and his Bronx accent seems a little out of place, but he’s such a great actor, it works like a charm. He didn’t make many Westerns; I recommend Silver City (1951) and Denver And Rio Grande (1952) — and he’s remarkable in The Wild Bunch (1969).

Peggie Castle is known to B movie fans for turning up in about every genre you can think of, and looking terrific in them all. Here, however, she gets a part that lets her show what she’s capable of, and she’s very good. Whatever it was that kept her in low-budget movies, it wasn’t her acting ability. Her big scene here, where she goes after Lowery with a bullwhip, is very satisfying.

Cow Country gives James Millican a good part as an immigrant farmer, and Robert Wilke gets more screen time than usual — he’s a real slimeball in this one.

Leslie Selander could direct a film like Cow Country in his sleep, with this one coming hot on the heels of those wonderful Tim Holt Westerns for RKO. It moves so quick, and plays so smooth, that you never have a chance to think that you’re watching a clever variation on something you’ve seen many, many times before.

Cow Country is not available on DVD, but Allied Artists pictures turn up from Warner Archive. Watch for it.

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shortgrass

Warner Archive has announced another group of Westerns, with only one from the 50s: Short Grass (1950). Directed by Lesley Selander, it boasts quite a cast: Rod Cameron, Cathy Downs, Johnny Mack Brown, Alan Hale Jr. and Morris Ankrum.

$T2eC16V,!zEE9s3!Y,10BRbgeTm(gQ~~60_3Based on the novel by Thomas W. Blackburn, who also wrote the screenplay, Short Grass is quite ambitious for an Allied Artists picture from the period. The cowboys here are cowboys, not gunfighters — which really distinguishes what could’ve been just another series Western range war tale. This is a good one.

Blackburn wrote a number of excellent Westerns films throughout the 50s — Colt .45 (1950), Riding Shotgun (1954) and Cattle Queen Of Montana (1954, story only), to name just a few — before making the move to TV — often for Walt Disney. He not only wrote the Disney Davy Crockett shows (which of course became the 1955 film Davy Crockett: King Of The Wild Frontier).  His place in popular culture history is secured by the fact that he wrote the lyrics for “The Ballad Of Davy Crockett.”

Another tip from John Knight.

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