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Archive for the ‘Post-1959’ Category

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The Shooting
Directed by Monte Hellman
Written by Carole Eastman
Starring Will Hutchins, Millie Perkins, Jack Nicholson, Warren Oates

Ride In The Whirlwind
Directed by Monte Hellman
Written by Jack Nicholson
Starring Cameron Mitchell, Millie Perkins, Jack Nicholson, Katherine Squire, George Mitchell, Rupert Crouse, Harry Dean Stanton

Over the course of six weeks in 1965, Monte Hellman and Jack Nicholson (with some financing from Roger Corman) shot two Westerns back to back. They had no lighting equipment, a tiny crew, less than 10 feet of dolly track and budgets of just $75,000 per picture. When they left Kanab, Utah, they somehow had the makings of a couple of the best Westerns of the 60s.

734_735_BD_box_348x490_originalThe Criterion Collection’s presentation of Hellman’s The Shooting and Ride In The Whirlwind hits the streets today, available on both DVD and Blu-ray. Some see them as part of the Revisionist movement, some as an early example of the “Acid Western.” To me, they feel like the Psychological Western of the late 50s taken a step further. A very large step. But in the end, all those labels don’t mean anything. These are Westerns. They’re different. They’re very, very good. And as I see it, they’re absolutely essential.

Monte Hellman personally supervised the 4K restorations, preserving Gregory Sandor’s original 1.85 photography. The set is packed with commentaries — with Bill Krohn and our very own Blake Lucas riding along with Hellman for both films, interviews and more. You know, the usual exhaustive Criterion treatment. (One of my all-time favorite films, Hellman’s Two-Lane Blacktop from 1971, is also available from Criterion.)

Of the two Westerns, I prefer The Shooting. A friend and I once had a lot of fun arguing about which is better. His reasoning was that Harry Dean Stanton automatically makes Whirlwind the better film. I played the Warren Oates card.

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Here’s wishing you all a safe and happy Halloween. And while you’re here, I want to show off my daughter’s costume.

Her all-time favorite movie is Peter Bogdanovich’s What’s Up, Doc? (1972). A great choice (where’d she get her exquisite taste in movies?). Anyway, for Halloween, she decided to be Madeline Kahn as Eunice Burns (Presley above, Madeline below). And yes, the plaid bag has igneous rocks in it.

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To tie this to 50s Westerns, let’s see — ever read Bogdanovich’s terrific books on John Ford and Allan Dwan?

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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.

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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.

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UPDATE (6/3/2014): A Facebook community has been set up to spread the word and encourage MGM to get a restoration underway. Over 800 people have joined in two days. Please consider joining the ranks.

It’s hard to believe that John Wayne’s The Alamo (1960) is in danger of being lost. What’s doing it in? First, the natural breakdown of its original film elements. Second, MGM’s lack of interest in saving it, even if the public helped pitch in to pay for it. (If there was ever a reason for Kickstarter to exist, this is it.)

Read Robert Harris’ report on the elements and MGM’s crappy attitude here. And if a letter-writing or Facebook-flodding campaign gets going, hop on it.

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Warner Archive has given Collector’s Choice an exclusive on four Alan Ladd films, three of them Westerns. This is stuff many of us have been asking for. Click on the banner for more information.

Drum Beat (1954)
Directed by Delmer Daves
Starring Alan Ladd, Audrey Dalton, Charles Bronson and Elisha Cook, Jr.
This CinemaScope Western was the first film from Ladd’s Jaguar Productions, and it offered a good early role for Charles Bronson. Note the photo below: Daves, Jack Warner and Ladd commemorate Drum Beat with a cake.

The Big Land (1957)
Directed by Gordon Douglas
Starring Alan Ladd, Virginia Mayo, Edmond O’Brien, Anthony Caruso, Julie Bishop and John Qualen.
I think we all take Gordon Douglas for granted, maybe because he didn’t “specialize” in Westerns the way so many of our favorites did. This one, Fort Dobbs (1958) and Yellowstone Kelly (1959) are all terrific.

Guns Of The Timberland (1960)
Directed by Robert D. Webb
Starring Alan Ladd, Jeanne Crain, Gilbert Roland, Frankie Avalon
Have to admit I’ve never seen this one. Looking forward to it.

A fourth film, The Deep Six (1958), is not a Western. Directed by Rudolph Maté, it’s a World War II picture with William Bendix and James Whitmore. Does it get any better than Whitmore in a war film?

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Three excellent little 50s Westerns, previously part of multi-disc sets, are now available as stand-alone discs from VCI and Kit Parker Films. All three are highly recommended.

Hellgate (1952)
Directed by Charles Marquis Warren
Starring Sterling Hayden, Joan Leslie, Ward Bond, James Arness and Peter Coe

Shotgun (1955)
Directed by Leslie Selander
Starring Sterling Hayden, Yvonne De Carlo, Zachary Scott, Guy Prescott and Robert J. Wilke

Four Fast Funs (1960)
Directed by William J. Hole, Jr.
Starring James Craig, Martha Vickers. Edgar Buchanan, Brett Halsey and Paul Richards

4 fast guns

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