The Sable Ranch in Santa Clarita, California, has been destroyed by the latest wildfire. One of the films shot there was the Roy Rogers picture Bells Of Coronado (1950). Directed by William Witney and shot in Trucolor, it’s terrific — and it’s the only Trucolor Rogers to get an official release on DVD.
Directed by John English
Written by Norman S. Hall
Director Of Photography: William Bradford
Film Editor: James Sweeney
Cast: Gene Autry (Himself), Gail Davis (Melody Colton), Kirby Grant (Lt. Randolph Mason), James H. Griffith (The Apache Kid), Philip Van Zandt (Curt Reidler), Pat Buttram (Shadrach Jones), Champion
This might put me in the minority, but I prefer Gene Autry’s later pictures. Could be for any number of reasons. His acting’s better. There’s a greater emphasis on action. Gail Davis is often around. And some actually take place in the Old West.
Case in point: 1950’s Indian Territory. Autry’s a Confederate veteran serving with the U.S. cavalry now that the war’s over. He’s been sent to get to the bottom of Indian attacks on settlers — and ends up tangling with The Apache Kid (James H. Griffith) and an Austrian gunrunner (Philip Van Zandt). With the help of sidekick Shadrach Jones (Pat Buttram) and the daughter of a local rancher (Gail Davis), Gene restores order to Apache Springs.
The supporting cast can really make a movie like this, and this one is certainly no exception. James H. Griffith wouldn’t be my top-of-mind pick to portray an Apache renegade, but he’s so good, you have no trouble looking past that. Gail Davis displays some of the spunk that made her Annie Oakley series (produced by Gene’s company) such a treat. And Pat Buttram’s sidekick role doesn’t feel nailed onto the story as is so often the case.
Indian Territory was filmed around Pioneertown, the live-in movie set not far from Joshua Tree and Palm Springs — developed by Russell Hayden, Dick Curtis and Roy Rogers.
Pat Buttram (from the Melody Ranch Theater introduction included on the DVD): “They thought it’d be a great location and they built this Western street… they built it to turn a stagecoach around in. That made it so wide, when you had a crowd scene, you had to send seven busloads of people up there to even be seen on those streets. We’d have to use a little corner here and a little corner there.”
Indian Territory is available in Volume 2 of The Gene Autry Collection — put together by Image Entertainment and later Timeless. There was a stand-alone release (from Image) prior to that. With either one, you get a gorgeous transfer and plenty of extras, from the Melody Ranch Theater stuff featuring Gene and Pat to a radio show and still gallery. Gene’s films have been treated with great care, as Indian Territory proves. Recommended.
Directed by Fred Zimmerman
Starring Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly, Thomas Mitchell, Lloyd Bridges, Katy Jurado, Otto Kruger, Lon Chaney, Jr., Harry Morgan, Ian MacDonald, Lee Van Cleef, Sheb Wooley
High Noon (1952) is coming to Blu-ray again, like Johnny Guitar in a Signature edition from Olive Films. It’s worthy of such attention, for sure — though you’ll have to decide for yourself if this is worth any additional investment. (This double- and triple-dipping is a bit of a sore subject around here.) The new 4K transfer comes with plenty of extras, and I’m sure it’ll be a terrific disc. It’s coming in September.
In the photo above, the director and cast take a break for the 1951 World Series.
Directed by Nicholas Ray
Starring Joan Crawford, Sterling Hayden, Scott Brady, Mercedes McCambridge, Ben Cooper, Ernest Borgnine, Ward Bond, John Carradine, Royal Dano, Frank Ferguson, Paul Fix, Denver Pyle
Olive Films has launched their new Signature series with a couple titles we’ll all be interested in: High Noon (1952) and Johnny Guitar (1954).
With Blu-rays from new 4K scans and a slew of extras, these should be terrific. For Nick Ray’s weird and wonderful Johnny Guitar, the best extra has to be the correct 1.66:1 framing. Ray was an absolute master at composition — and maybe the King Of CinemaScope — and I’m sure this proper aspect ratio will make all the difference. Watch for them in September.
“Adult coloring” is a bit of a fad these days — at least here in the States. Some say it helps them relax, unwind, focus and all kinds of therapeutic stuff.
Here’s a coloring contest page that was offered up in the pressbook for The Lone Gun (1954). If I was gonna sit down and color, George Montgomery punching some guy would be therapeutic enough for me.
Produced and Directed by Albert C. Gannaway
Written by Thomas G. Hubbard, Associate Producer
Director of Photography: Charles Straumer, ASC
Music Composed and Played by Ramez Idriss (on Fender guitars)
Supervising Film Editor: Asa Clark, ACE
Cast: Jim Davis (“Brennan”), Carl Smith (Sheriff Carl Smith), Arleen Whelan (Murdock), Lee Van Cleef (Shad Donaphin), Louis Jean Heydt (Col. Donaphin), Harry Lauter (Doc Hale), Marty Robbins (Felipe), Douglas Fowley (Marshal Matt Brennan)
I’ve been meaning to dive into Jim Davis’ pictures from the 50s — the ones where he has the lead — for quite some time. It took someone asking about such a thing to make me finally take it on, so let’s kick things off with The Badge Of Marshal Brennan (1957).
Davis is an outlaw on the run who happens upon the dying Marshal Brennan (Douglas Fowley). He takes the man’s badge and rides on to the next town. There, mistaken for the marshal, Davis helps take on a powerful rancher whose diseased cattle have created an epidemic that threatens to kill off the town.
The story’s nothing new, the sets are cheap, the music — a guitars-only score by Ramez Idriss — is kinda thin (and odd), and some of the camera set-ups seemed rushed. But there’s still something about The Badge Of Marshal Brennan I liked. It might be the cast. Davis is fine, of course. Arleen Whelan is good in one of her last roles. Lee Van Cleef, Louis Jean Heydt and Harry Lauter are as dependable as ever. And a couple country music stars from the period, Carl Smith and Marty Robbins, are thrown in for good measure.
The Badge Of Marshal Brennan was followed by Raiders Of Old California (1957), again from director Albert C. Gannaway and much of the same cast. They were both shot outside Kanab, Utah, and at Cascade Studios in Hollywood by Charles Straumer. Badge was released by Allied Artists; Republic handled Raiders.
You can find both of these on Amazon or even YouTube. While they’re not gonna knock you out, it’s a shame they’re not available on DVD.
Directed by Charles Marquis Warren
Starring Hugh Marlowe, Coleen Gray, Adele Mara, Angie Dickinson, Sheb Wooley, Strother Martin
There’s been a lot of buzz around here lately about The Hollywood Scrapheap, a “salvage operation for Hollywood’s most neglected movies.” Their selection is terrific, and reports of the quality have been encouraging.
I was excited to learn they have The Black Whip (1956)— a Regalscope picture from Charles Marquis Warren, shot by Joseph Biroc — listed among their upcoming releases. They’re promising a chance to see its full Regalscope framing. Can’t wait!