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Archive for the ‘Olive Films’ Category

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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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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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Olive Films have announced a few titles they’ll have to us in 2014. There are three 50s Westerns in there, and they’re good ones.

Woman They Almost Lynched (1953)
Directed by Allan Dwan
Cast: John Lund, Brian Donlevy, Joan Leslie
Dwan directs a sort-of spoof for Repubic. Good stuff.

Stranger At My Door (1956)
Directed by William Witney
Cast: Macdonald Carey, Patricia Medina, Skip Homeier, Slim Pickins
This film should be much better known than it is. The scene with the horse (if you’ve seen it, you’ll know what I mean) is Witney at his best.

The Quiet Gun (1957)
Directed by William F. Claxton
Cast: Forrest Tucker, Lee Van Cleef, Mara Corday, Jim Davis, Hank Worden
Maybe the best Regalscope Western. I’m dying for this one!

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It’s been mentioned on this blog a number of times that Olive Films have removed some key Republic titles from their list of future releases — The Last Command (1955, note the retitled card above) being one of them. Among the reasons for ditching these titles is that the Trucolor materials can be difficult, and costly, to prepare for release.

However, when Trucolor Republics like Hellfire (1949), The Outcast (1954) or A Man Alone (1955) show up on TV, they look fine. Not spiffy enough for Blu-ray, for sure, but good enough for a DVD release I’d be happy to have in my collection.

Richard W. commented the other day that we should reach out to a Mr. Lime on the Home Theater Forum about these titles, pointing out that we’d be standing at the ready, cash in hand, for these films.

At a time when so many of us are writing to our politicians about healthcare, national parks and pay for the military, why not squeeze in a quick note to the HTF about Hellfire?

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Today was my mom’s birthday. She was a Texan, and The Last Command (1955) is a film she loved. Here are a few still from it.

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Of course, it’s Republic’s take on the story of the Alamo, directed by Frank Lloyd — made after John Wayne left the studio.

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Sterling Hayden is Jim Bowie, Richard Carlson is William Travis, Arthur Hunnicutt is Davy Crockett and J. Carroll Naish is Santa Ana. Ernest Borgnine, Jim Davis, John Russell and Slim Pickens are also in it.

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It doesn’t have the spectacle of Wayne’s The Alamo (1960), but I recommend it highly. So does my mom. Olive Films needs to give it a DVD and Blu-ray release.

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When the Charles Bronson Regalscope Western Showdown At Boot Hill (1958) showed up on Blu-ray, it seemed too good to be true. For decades, it’s been impossible to see these things in their proper black-and-white ‘Scope glory — unless you came across a 16mm print or a bootleg tape made from one. (An adapted ‘Scope print of Escape From Red Rock sits nearby.) Designed to show off their 2.35 format, the Regalscopes are absolutely unwatchable when they’re pan-and-scan.

Now we can thank Olive Films for Clint Eastwood in Ambush At Cimarron Pass (1958), set for a September 24 release. Clint has called it the worst Western ever made, though I certainly wouldn’t go that far. Scott Brady is the star, along with Margia Dean and Eastwood as a young hothead. All the Regalscope pictures are cheap — this one isn’t able to rise above its budget in the way Stagecoach To Fury (1956) and The Quiet Gun (1957) do. Of course, an early Eastwood role will be the appeal for most folks.

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Also on the way is The Americano (1955), with Glenn Ford, Frank Lovejoy, Cesar Romero and Ursula Thiess. This troubled production was begun by Budd Boetticher in Brazil and finished some time later by William Castle (seen below with executive producer Sam Wiesenthal and Ursula Thiess).

Also on the way is John Wayne, Marie Windsor and Oliver Hardy in Republic’s The Fighting Kentuckian (1949) and Joseph H. Lewis’ The Big Combo (1955, not a Western, but terrific).

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According to the Sweetwater Reporter, this would’ve been a good weekend to be in Sweetwater, Texas. It was probably hot as blazes, but there were sure plenty of cool movies to see.

I know it’s not a Western, but Republic’s Hell’s Half Acre (1954) has to be seen to be believed. Olive Films has given you the chance — it’s out on DVD and Blu-ray.

My wife has been doing some research on my family’s history and came upon a great online Texas newspaper search tool. Obviously, I’m using it for a different purpose.

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Only The Valiant OS

Gregory Peck was loaned out to Warner Bros. for Only The Valiant (1951), a picture produced by James Cagney’s brother William and directed by Gordon Douglas — and coming on DVD and Blu-ray from Olive Films in August.

The combination of Gordon Douglas and Ward Bond is hard to resist, but I’ve always had a hard time with this film — along with anything else the tragic Barbara Payton appeared in. To me, she personifies the dark side of Hollywood, and it’s hard to disconnect her sad story from the image on the screen.

The cast also includes Gig Young, Lon Chaney, Michael Ansara and John Doucette. It’s based on a book by Charles Marquis Warren. And though Gregory Peck never missed a chance to knock the film (granted, it’s a long way from 1950′s The Gunfighter), it’s a pretty solid early-50s cavalry picture.

The old release from Lions Gate had to be one of the worst-looking DVDs ever released — almost as bad as the various dollar-store copies of One-Eyed Jacks (1961) I’ve wasted my money on. I’m sure we can count on Olive Films to give us something worth looking at.

Thanks, Paula.

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Director Allan Dwan’s career was as old as the Movies themselves, and many of the early technical developments were his doing. Going into the mid-50s, he was still making innovative, unique, personal films — usually for smaller studios that would leave him alone and let him do what he did best.

I went Wig City over Allan Dwan’s films of 50s, thanks to DVDs of his work from VCI, and that helped spawn this blog. So I was really stoked to hear about The Museum of Modern Art’s Dwan series — which will include several of those Westerns.

From the MoMA web site: The Museum of Modern Art presented a major retrospective of Dwan’s films in 1971, with Dwan in attendance, and while another exhibition was certainly due after 42 years, this series was prompted by the publication of Frederic Lombardi’s definitive study of Dwan’s work, Allan Dwan and the Rise and Decline of the of the Hollywood Studios (McFarland, 2013).

If you can make it to any of these, by all means do so. The Westerns are:

June 14-15, 18
Frontier Marshal (1939)
With Randolph Scott, Nancy Kelly, Cesar Romero, John Carradine, Ward Bond.
This was once almost impossible to see (the bootleg tape I had of it was impossible to see). Another take on the O.K. Corral story. I prefer Randolph Scott with more age on him, but this is a really cool film.

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June 24-25
Woman They Almost Lynched (1953)
With Audrey Totter, Joan Leslie, John Lund, Brian Donlevy, Ben Cooper.
Dwan made a string of films for Republic that are worth seeking out (Olive Films, you reading this?), with Sands Of Iwo Jima (1949) being the best known. Dwan approaches this as a spoof — evidently, he didn’t see any other way — and the results are terrific.

June 29-30
The Restless Breed (1957)
With Scott Brady, Anne Bancroft, Jim Davis, Scott Marlowe, Evelyn Rudie.
Dwan’s last Western. A revenge tale gets a light comic touch.

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July 3,5
Tennessee’s Partner (1955)
With John Payne, Rhonda Fleming, Ronald Reagan, Coleen Gray.
John Alton’s Superscope cinematography almost steals the show, making the Iverson Ranch look like the most beautiful place on earth.

July 3, 6
Silver Lode (1954)
With John Payne, Dan Duryea, Lizabeth Scott, Harry Carey, Jr.
A key 5os Western, and the damnedest McCarthy comment you’ve ever seen. Again, Alton and his cameras roam the ranches of Hollywood to amazing results.

Be sure to look at the complete listing. I highly recommend Slightly Scarlet (1956), an incredible Technicolor, Superscope film noir shot by John Alton.

Thanks to Stephen Bowie.

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Okay, so it’s a contemporary bullfighting picture. But for fans of 50s Westerns, it couldn’t be more significant. Bullfighter And The Lady (1951) is where director Budd Boetticher really came into his own.

Produced by John Wayne and released by Republic, it was hacked from 124 to 87 minutes — and later restored to Budd’s cut. It’s a terrific film, and its release on DVD and Blu-ray, from Olive Films in July, is a very big deal.

Of course, Wayne and Boetticher’s next picture together was Seven Men From Now (1956).

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