You can count on VCI Entertainment to treat an old cowboy movie with respect, and they’ve brought us some terrific 50s Westerns (often in cahoots with Kit Parker). A few recommendations: Silver Lode (1954), Stranger On Horseback (1955), Darn Good Westerns Volumes 1 and 2.
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Posted in 1953, 1954, 1955, 1957, Allan Dwan, Books, Cinematographers, Coleen Gray, Dan Duryea, Festivals, screenings, Harry Carey Jr., John Payne, John Wayne, Olive Films, Pre-1950, Randolph Scott, Republic, Rhonda Fleming, RKO, Ronald Reagan, VCI Entetainment, Ward Bond on June 13, 2013 | 4 Comments »
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’m really happy to have been involved, even to a tiny extent, with the CD release of a couple of 50s Western scores — Paul Dunlap’s score for Hellgate (1952) and Bert Shefter’s music for The Tall Texan (1953) — from David Schecter’s label Monstrous Movie Music. Both are Lippert pictures, available on DVD from Kit Parker and VCI.
Over the course of his career, Paul Dunlap scored over a hundred films, mostly B movies of various sorts — from I was A Teenage Werewolf (1957) to Shock Corridor (1963). There were lots of Westerns: Jack Slade (1953), Stranger On Horseback (1955), The Quiet Gun (1956) and Oregon Trail (1959), to name just a few. While Dunlap wasn’t a big fan of some of the films he worked on, his name’s on some films I love. Every seen Big House U.S.A. or Shack Out On 101 (both 1955)?
Hellgate is an excellent film, a low-budget reworking of John Ford’s Prisoner Of Shark Island (1936). Sterling Hayden, Ward Bond, Joan Leslie and James Arness are directed by Charles Marquis Warren. It’s obvious Dunlap liked this film, and he came through with a terrific score. The CD presents the music in sequence, cue by cue, from a set of original acetates (a few cues have been lost to time). Dunlap’s score for The Lost Continent, a 1951 sci-fi picture starring Cesar Romero, is also included.
Bert Shefter was a Russian-born concert pianist and conductor. He scored his first film in 1950 and by the time he retired, had more than 60 movies and hundreds and hundreds of TV shows to his credit. His scores include Cattle Empire (1958), Return Of The Fly (1959) and Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965). His work on It! The Terror From Beyond Space (1958) really knocked me out. Like Dunlap, Shefter never coasted, never give less than 100% — even if if the picture didn’t really deserve it.
The Tall Texan was directed by Elmo Williams, the Oscar-winning editor of High Noon, and shot by Joseph Biroc. A solid, low-budget 50s Western (it cost just $100,000), it stars Lloyd Bridges, Marie Windsor and Lee J. Cobb. Shefter gives themes to several of the main characters, including a menacing piece for the Indians, and makes good use of a couple popular tunes, “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and “Blow The Man Down.”
I really like these films, and it’s easy to recommend these CDs. Monstrous Movie Music has assembled a nice package, with thorough notes and some fascinating archival material. David Schecter says that if these titles do well, there are other 50s Western scores he’d like to get around to. Let’s help make sure he can.
Maybe you missed an Allan Dwan picture last week. Or you just realized you’ve gone all these years without a copy of Stranger On Horseback (1955). Well, now’s the time to right these, and other, wrongs — the fine folks at VCI Entertainment have extended their Annual Holiday Sale. Here’s how they tell it —
Due to the high volume of traffic on our website, we are extending our Annual Holiday Sale through December 5th at 11:59 pm (CST). All DVDs and Blu-rays are 50% off our suggested retail price! Visit www.vcientertainment.com and enter coupon code CYBEREXT on the “Checkout” page to receive your discount. If you have any problems placing your order, please call 800-331-4077 during regular business hours (M-F 8:30 am – 5:30 pm CST) and we will honor the coupon over the phone.