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Archive for the ‘Monogram/Allied Artists’ Category

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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 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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beverlygarland18

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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Wild Stallion cropped

Paula Vitaris, who runs that great Ben Johnson site (and has been a huge help with my One-Eyed Jacks book), is having a good day. Wild Stallion (1952) is a picture she’s been asking Warner Archive about since the beginning. And they’ve announced it for May release.

I’ve never seen it, but anything with Ben Johnson, Edgar Buchanan, Martha Hyer and Hugh Beaumont in it — from Monogram in Cinecolor — is well worth tracking down. Can’t wait.

Thanks to John Knight for another tip.

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wayne526

1000383231-w370Volume 5 of Warner Archive’s Monogram Cowboy Collection offers up a slew of Johnny Mack Brown and Raymond Hatton pictures. Canyon Ambush (1952), directed by Lewis Collins and co-starring Phyllis Coates, was the last of Johnny Mack Brown’s films for Monogram. (No Hatton this time).

The three-disc set also includes Brown and Hatton in The Texas Kid (1943), Partners Of The Trail (1944), Law Men (1944), Ghost Guns (1944), Gun Smoke (1945), Frontier Feud (1945), Border Bandits (1946) and Raiders Of The South (1947).

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Cole Younger TC

Warner Archive has announced another wagonload of Westerns, and there are a few good 50s ones in there.

Cole Younger, Gunfighter (1958) is an Allied Artists CinemaScope concoction with Frank Lovejoy as the famous outlaw. The always capable R.G. Springsteen directed.

Fort Vengeance (1953) is a Cinecolor Canadian Mountie picture from Lesley Selander, starring James Craig and Rita Moreno.

Hiawatha (1953) is an adaptation of the Longfellow poem from Kurt Neumann. John Knight pointed out that this was the last film to bear the Monogram logo.

The Boy From Oklahoma (1954) stars Will Rogers, Jr., Lon Chaney, Wallace Ford and Merv Griffin. Michael Curtiz directed. It was the basis of the Sugarfoot TV series.

The Gun Hawk (1963) isn’t a 50s Western but with Rory Calhoun and Rod Cameron in it, it might as well be. A quick glance at the still below will tell you where some of it was filmed.

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Bill+Elliott-Fargo

William “Wild Bill” Elliott is one of my favorite cowboy starts — Hellfire (1949) alone would see to that. The 11 Westerns he made for Monogram (later Allied Artists) in the early 50s have been on our collective Want List for some time. They’re smart, tough, adult takes on your typical B Western. The Longhorn (1951) is currently available from VCI. The just-released Warner Archive double feature, which I hope is the first of a series, includes Fargo (1952) and The Homesteaders (1953). Both were directed by Lewis D. Collins. And both come highly, highly recommended.

More 50s Westerns on today’s Warner Archive roster: a Wayne Morris double bill — The Marksman (1953) and The Fighting Lawman (1953). Also good stuff.

Sorry for a rather slapdash post — had to work this in around meetings (actually, put it together while in one). Thanks to John Knight for the tip.

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