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Archive for the ‘Sam Peckinpah’ Category

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William Holden
(April 17, 1918 – November 12, 1981)

Last night, my daughter mentioned that today is William Holden’s birthday. Don’t tell me she’s not getting a well-rounded education!

Probably one of Hollywood’s greatest stars, Holden made a number of good Westerns. John Sturges’ Escape From Fort Bravo (1953) is one of the best. The last couple reels are really outstanding.

Of course, Western fans these days know him for Pike Bishop in Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch (1969), a performance right up there with Stewart in The Man From Laramie (1955) and Wayne in The Searchers (1956).

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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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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.

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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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The great character actor R. G. Armstrong passed away on Friday. He was 95.

Mr. Armstrong appeared in a couple 50s Westerns, From Hell To Texas (1958, below) and No Name On The Bullet (1959), but really made his mark in the 60s and 70s. Sam Peckinpah used him a number of times, beginning with an episode of The Westerner, with terrific results. Philip Kaufman’s The Great Northfield, Minnesota Raid (1972) is an overlooked gem with a great part for Armstrong. As a kid, he scared me in Race With The Devil (1974).

Originally from Alabama, he got a Masters in English from the University Of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, just down the street. I doubt anybody on campus today knows who he is.

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On this day in 1881, Pat Garrett shot and killed William H. Bonney (born William Henry McCarty, Jr.), known as “Billy The Kid,” in Fort Sumner, New Mexico.

Of course, the way this actually happened isn’t known, and it’s been portrayed plenty of different ways in Westerns over the years, from King Vidor’s Billy The Kid (1930) to Sam Peckinpah’s Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid (1973, below).

Some even theorize that it’s not Billy reposing in the Fort Sumner dirt.

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Sam Peckinpah’s first film as director, The Deadly Companions (1961), is coming from VCI in what promises be a nice anamorphic transfer.

Starring Brian Keith and Maureen O’Hara (who’d just appeared together in The Parent Trap) — and shot in 21 days for $550,000 in Old Tuscon, The Deadly Companions has been represented over the years by shoddy, pan-and-scan tapes and DVDs that were an insult to anybody who worked on it.

Brian Keith and Peckinpah had just collaborated on the terrific The Westerner TV series. O’Hara’s brother, producer of The Deadly Companions, approached Keith. Keith requested Peckinpah, thinking he’d patch up the script.

Though Peckinpah was not allowed to do a rewrite or supervise the editing, his direction is assured and bears his strong visual stamp. It deserves more attention than it normally gets — this is more than just a first-picture curio.

It’s based on the novel Yellowleg by A.S. Fleischman, which at one point was optioned by Marlon Brando’s Pennebaker Productions. Nothing came it, though a script was prepared, and Brando’s Western eventually ended up being One-Eyed Jacks (1961).

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