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Dakota HS

Directed by Joseph Kane
Starring John Wayne, Vera Hruba Ralston, Walter Brennan, Ward Bond

Kino Lorber has gotten hold of some of the Republic titles under Paramount’s control. They’ve announced Dakota (1945), a solid Western from Joe Kane starring John Wayne, for release before the end of the year. This could be a terrific arrangement, folks!

Canyon Passage DJ

Directed by Jacques Tourneur
Produced by Walter Wanger
Screenplay by Ernest Pascal
Adapted from the Saturday Evening Post story by Ernest Haycox
Director Of Photography: Edward Cronjager
Film Editor: Milton Carruth

Cast: Dana Andrews (Logan Stuart), Brian Donlevy (George Camrose), Susan Hayward (Lucy Overmire), Patricia Roc (Caroline Marsh), Ward Bond (Honey Bragg), Hoagy Carmichael (Hi Linnet), Fay Holden (Mrs. Overmire), Stanley Ridges (Jonas Overmire), Lloyd Bridges (Johnny Steele), Andy Devine (Ben Dance), the Devine Kids, Frank Ferguson, Ray Teal

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There seems to be a general consensus around here that Canyon Passage (1946) is a damn good Western, typically fine work from Jacques Tourneur, and a picture that has been unjustly overlooked over the years. We also tend to agree that the DVD from Universal is a terrific example of how to present three-strip Technicolor on our hi-def TVs. So much so, that a few folks have commented that they couldn’t imagine how much difference a Blu-ray upgrade would make.

Well, the new Blu-ray from Panamint offers up a stunning example of just what Blu-ray can do — that beautiful transfer of Edward Cronjager’s Technicolor photography is, well, even more beautiful than it was before. Sharper, crisper, more detailed — and with a real sense of depth. After viewing this, the old DVD seems way too bright by comparison. The extras — from newsreel footage of the premiere to a series of radio shows to a nice booklet on the film — really make this a premium package.

Patricia Roc and Jacques Tourneur

Patricia Roc and Jacques Tourneur

Then there’s the movie itself. Director Jacques Tourneur’s first Western, and his first time working in Technicolor, Canyon Passage is a big, beautiful, complex tale of the Oregon territory in 1856. Dana Andrews runs a freight business and winds up in a love triangle with Susan Hayward and Brian Donlevy — while dealing with both Indians and a positively evil Ward Bond.

Canyon Passage Bond Andrews

Ward Bond and Dana Andrews duke it out

It’d be easy for Canyon Passage to get bogged down in melodrama, but Tourneur’s too smart for that. He treats us to incredible vistas of the Oregon locations (Crater Lake is one of them), gets top-notch performances from the entire cast and offers up a great fistfight between Andrews and Bond. Bond deserves special mention: he’s a real scumbag in this one, a sharp contrast to roles that came later like Wagon Master (1950) and The Searchers (1956).

Jacques Tourneur came to this film with some classic horror movies under his belt — Cat People (1942) and I Walked With A Zombie (1943), and he’d follow it with one of the finest noirs, Out Of The Past (1947). Tourneur’s body of work is certainly worth seeking out. Case in point: his other Westerns include Stars In My Crown (1950) and Wichita (1955).

It’s easy to recommend Canyon Passage — both the film and Panamint’s high-definition, Region B presentation of it. It takes a good thing and makes it better.

Whistling Hills LC

Stephen Lodge is a very nice man who, as a kid, got to visit some Western movie and TV sets. (His aunt worked for Monogram.) One of those visits was to the Iverson Ranch while Johnny Mack Brown was shooting Whistling Hills (1951).  I’ve “borrowed” the next few snapshots from his website, which I encourage you to check out.

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First, Stephen and his brother meet Johnny Mack Brown.

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Brown with his costar, Noel Neill.

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Brown at the saloon on Iverson’s Western street. There are plenty of other photos on Lodge’s site, along with a great writeup of his time on the Iverson Ranch.

Whistling Hills is available on Warner Archive’s Monogram Cowboy Collection Volume 7.

Kit Parker Needs Your Help.

Rawhide Trail HS

Help Kit Parker track down this movie, and you’re doing us all a favor.

The Rawhide Trail (1958) is the only picture Kit Parker Films has the rights to that he has no material for. It’s an Allied Artists Western starring Rex Reason and Nancy Gates, and I’m sure we’d all like a chance to see it. It was shot by the great Karl Struss, who did everything from Chaplin’s The Great Dictator (1940) to The Alligator People (1959), at the Iverson Ranch.

So, if you have a print stashed under your bed, or if one of your film-collector buddies does, please let Kit know — you can reach him through me.

Wouldn’t it be great to check another 50s Western off the MIA on DVD list?

Code Of The Saddle TC

Warner Archive is about to offer up their ninth volume of their Monogram Cowboy Collection. This one’s all Johnny Mack Brown, nine pictures on three discs.

The Gentleman From Texas (1946)
Trailing Danger (1947)
Flashing Guns (1947)
Land Of The Lawless (1947)
Code Of The Saddle (1947)
Law Comes To Gunsight (1947)
The Fighting Ranger (1948)
Frontier Agent (1948)
The Sheriff Of Medicine Bow (1948)

All feature Raymond Hatton and were directed by Lambert Hillyer, except for Code Of The Saddle coming from Thomas Carr.

JMB and RH

The release date is September 13.

Hell Canyon Outlaws (1957).

Hell Canyon Outlaws HS

Directed by Paul Landres
Produced by Jerald Zukor
Written by Allan Kaufman and Max Glandbard
Director Of Photography: Floyd Crosby, ASC
Film Editor: Elmo Williams, ACE
Music Composed and Conducted by Irving Gertz

Cast: Dale Robertson (Sheriff Caleb Wells), Brian Keith (Happy Waters), Rosanna Rory (Maria), Dick Kallman (Smiley Andrews), Don Megowan (Walt), Mike Lane (Nels), Buddy Baer (Stan), Charles Fredericks (Deputy Bear), Alexander Lockwood (Bert, the new sheriff)

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Paul Landres was one of those journeyman directors who could take practically nothing — an OK script, less than a week and a paltry budget — and put together a solid little movie. He worked mainly in TV, with a feature from time to time. Inspired by the upcoming DVD and Blu-ray release of The Return Of Dracula (1958) from Olive Films, I’ve been revisiting some of Landres’ features from the late 1950s.

Hell Canyon Outlaws (1957), known in the UK as The Tall Trouble, was an independent picture from Jerold Zukor Productions, filmed at the Corriganville Ranch. Republic released it. I think it’s one of Landres’ best.

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Four outlaws head to a small town of Goldridge to raise hell and eventually rob the bank. They take over the saloon and hotel, steal a horse, size up the bank and rough up the guy at the livery stable — just for starters. If all this isn’t bad enough, the town council has just fired the sheriff, Caleb Wells (Dale Robertson), and his deputy, Bear (Charles Fredericks). The new sheriff, well, he’s outta town. Goldridge is in a tight spot.

Hell Canyon Outlaws DR still

Dale Robertson is terrific in this. You just know he’s going to be pushed to his breaking point, it’s just a matter of when. That tension, as the town is trashed and Robertson does the slow burn, is what drives Hell Canyon Outlaws. Landres builds the suspense perfectly — with the help of Elmo Williams, who edited High Noon (1952) — to a very satisfying last reel. This and Fred F. Sears’ Fury At Gunsight Pass (1956) would make a great double bill.

Hell Canyon Outlaws LC2

Brian Keith is great in one of those somewhat-likable dirtbag roles he excelled at (remember Fort Dobbs?). Keith would’ve made an ideal foil to Randolph Scott in one of the Boetticher pictures.

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Rossana Rory doesn’t have much to do but look pretty as Robertson’s girlfriend, but she’s fine. The rest of the cast — especially the rest of Keith’s gang: Don Megowan, Mike Lane and Buddy Baer — are effective. Dick Kallman is suitably obnoxious as the punk kid with a gun (I really wanted to see him gunned down).

The great Floyd Crosby, another High Noon veteran, gives the picture the feel of something a lot bigger than it is — a trick he’d perform often for Roger Corman in the early 60s.

Hell Canyon Outlaws isn’t available on DVD or Blu-ray anywhere. Given the top-notch cast and crew working at the top of their game, this would be a great one to see in a nice anamorphic transfer (it was shot for 1.85). It’s currently available from Sinister Cinema, but I haven’t seen what it looks like. If I had my own video company, this is one I’d try to track down in a hurry.

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Directed by Marlon Brando
Starring Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, Katy Jurado, Ben Johnson, Slim Pickens, Timothy Carey, Hank Worden

This, folks, is a dream come true. At long last, One-Eyed Jacks (1961) is making its way to DVD and Blu-ray, in a version that will actually be worth watching. Not just that, but fully restored (by the FIlm Foundation, supervised by Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg) and presented by the Criterion Collection.

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I was able to help out with a “video essay” on the film’s tangled production and mangled editing — basically, my book boiled down to 20 minutes or so. It’s been a joy and a real honor to be part of this project. Like I said, a dream come true.

The official list of features:
• New 4K digital restoration, undertaken with the support of The Film Foundation and supervised by filmmakers Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
• New introduction by Scorsese
• Excerpts from voice-recordings director and star Marlon Brando made during the film’s production
• New video essays on the film’s production history and its potent combination of the stage and screen icon Brando with the classic Hollywood western
• Trailer
• An essay by film critic Howard Hampton

Judging from a DVD screener, the restoration is beautiful. If you’re a fan of the movie, and you get a chance to see a theatrical screening, go. And be sure to pick up this Criterion edition. One-Eyed Jacks hasn’t looked like this in decades.

 

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