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Directed by Andre de Toth
Starring Randolph Scott, Claire Trevor, Joan Weldon, George Macready, Alfonso Bedoya, Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine

The Stranger Wore A Gun (1953), one of six Randolph Scott pictures directed by Andre de Toth, had all sorts of interesting technical things going for it — which makes the announcement that Explosive Media is bringing it to Blu-Ray in Germany something worth celebrating.

Stranger Wore A Gun 3D poster

The one-sheet for The Stranger Wore A Gun bragged about it all: 3-Dimensions, wide screen and stereophonic sound.

Andre de Toth was chosen to test-drive and fine tune a number of Hollywood’s technical developments of the 50s. For instance, the second of the De Toth Scotts, Carson City (1952), was the first Warnercolor filmHouse Of Wax (1953), the first major-studio 3-D movie, was filmed in the Natural Vision 3-D format and Warnercolor, with the added bonus of stereophonic sound.

The Stranger Wore A Gun was the first film composed and shot to be projected at 1.85. This aspect ratio is still the standard, in use in theaters and on video today. This framing in, for me, the key benefit of this upcoming Blu-Ray, along with the high definition, of course. It will not be offered in 3-D, and sadly, the three-track stereo elements were lost years ago.

This is not the best of the de Toth Scott movies, but it’s got Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine and Claire Trevor. And George Macready is totally despicable as the bad guy. Scott is so cool in the movies from this period, no matter how strong the movie around him is.

Not sure what Koch’s region policy is. I’m sure hoping The Stranger Wore A Gun is something we can all enjoy. Can’t wait.

Thanks, John, for the tip.

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RIP, Harry Dean Stanton.

Harry Dean Stanton
(July 14, 1926 – September 15, 2017)

I’ve been dreading this day. The great character actor Harry Dean Stanton has passed away at 91.

He brought something to every movie he appeared in, and if you gave him enough screen time, he made the movie better. He’s second from the left in the photo above from Lesley Selander’s Tomahawk Trail (1957), one of his first films. He’s in so much good stuff: Pork Chop Hill (1959), Ride In The Whirlwind (1966), In The Heat Of The Night (1967), Kelly’s Heroes (1970), Two-Lane Blacktop (1971), Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid (1973), Dillinger (1973), The Missouri Breaks (1976), Alien (1979), Escape From New York (1981), Repo Man (1984, below), Paris, Texas (1984), The Straight Story (1999) and so many more. There’s plenty of great TV stuff, too.

MSDREMA EC002

Stanton could sing, play harmonica, play guitar, write and talk all night when Marlon Brando would call. He served in the Navy in World War II.

Directed by John Sturges
Screen Play by William Bowers
Based on the novel by Marvin H. Albert
Director Of Photography: Robert Surtees
Film Editor: Ferris Webster

Cast: Robert Taylor (Jake Wade), Richard Widmark (Clint Hollister), Patricia Owens (Peggy), Robert Middleton (Ortero), Henry Silva (Rennie), DeForest Kelley (Wexler)

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The Law And Jake Wade (1958) seems to be one of those Westerns everybody likes. The few times I’ve read or heard something negative about it, I always come way wondering if the dissenter had seen the same movie I saw.

John Sturges was a master at building suspense over the span of about 90 minutes. And with Escape From Fort Bravo (1953), Jake Wade and Last Train From Gun Hill (1959), he did it within the 50s Westerns bracket.

Jake Wade (Robert Taylor) wants to go straight and start a new life with his fiancé Peggy (Patricia Owens), but his old partner Clint Hollister (Richard Widmark) turns up — accompanied by psychopaths Henry Silva and DeForest Kelley — and wants to know where Wade buried the loot from an old bank job.

Before long (probably still in the first reel; this thing moves fast), Widmark’s abducted Patricia Owens and they’re all headed into Comanche territory to dig up the money — with the Comanches on the warpath.

This has the same “small group in a helluva fix as they go from Point A to Point B” setup you find in pictures like Roughshod (1949), Dragoon Wells Massacre (1957) and some of the Scott-Kennedy-Boetticher films. It’s perfect for Sturges, and he sets up the story and characters, then slowly turns up the heat as the movie progresses. While the ending may not be as satisfying as it could be, getting there is quite a ride.

Robert Taylor stands as tall as you expect him to. He has to tow the line to keep his bride-to-be safe, and Sturges wrings a lot of tension from that. Widmark is terrific as Hollister — another one of his likable psychos. He creates a real sense of menace here. You know he has no qualms about killing his hostages, and figures that’s exactly what he’ll do once he’s got the money. DeForest Kelley and Henry Silva make quite an impression with their limited screen time. These are dangerous freaks, and we’re well aware of that just seconds after their first appearance. Robert Middleton also scores as the one somewhat human member of Wade’s old gang.

There’s no composer credit for The Law And Jake Wade. It uses a lot of pre-existing stuff, much of it lifted from Elmer Bernstein’s score for Saddle The Wind. There was a musicians’ strike in ’58, and it affected quite a few films (Delmer Daves’ The Badlanders, for instance). Occasionally, something seems a bit out of place, but the music’s fine for the most part.

Ferris Webster’s editing is top notch throughout. The Indian attack sequence is very well done.

In a rather odd way, the casting of The Law And Jake Wade was predicted by I Love Lucy. In the 1955 episode “The Tour,” Lucy seeks to snag some fruit from our co-stars’ back yards. “I’d just love a Richard Widmark grapefruit to go with my Robert Taylor orange.” (Thanks to my daughter for this piece of trivia.)

Warner Archive’s Blu-Ray is stunning. High-definition really brings out the detail and depth of Surtees’ Scope camerawork, making sure Lone Pine and Death Valley are a huge part of the picture’s overall effect. (Temperatures were right at zero when they shot the scenes in the High Sierras.) Sturges was always very good at emphasizing the isolation in his Westerns, and this Blu-Ray brings that front and center. The color’s good for Metrocolor and the sound is nice and clean. The only extra is an original trailer.

The Law And Jake Wade is one of the essential 50s Westerns, and this hi-def edition of it was obviously given the care it deserves.

This morning, 50s Westerns From The 50s got its two millionth view. A big fat thanks to all of you who mosey through this place.

Happy Birthday, Vera Miles.

Vera June Miles
(Born August 23, 1929)

In a film filled with one incredible image after another, this is one of my favorites. So when I realized this was Vera Miles’ birthday, there was nothing else that would do. Of course that’s a frame from John Ford’s The Searchers (1956). Ford can somehow say more in a single frame than others can get in an entire feature.

Vera Miles appears in a few of the finest films ever made: The Searchers, Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) and Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962). Not a bad run, huh? (Wichita ain’t too shabby, either.)

Maureen O’Hara (born Maureen FitzSimons)
(August 17, 1920 – October 24, 2015)

The great Maureen O’Hara was born 97 years ago today.

Here she is with John Wayne in John Ford’s Rio Grande (1950). They made it largely to get the chance to make The Quiet Man (1952), but they knocked out a masterpiece anyway. It doesn’t get near the recognition it deserves.

Directed by John Sturges
Starring Robert Taylor, Richard Widmark, Patricia Owens, Robert Middleton, Henry Silva, DeForest Kelley

The Law And Jake Wade (1958) is one of the best Westerns of the 50s. It’s tight, tense and in CinemaScope, which is exactly what you want in a John Sturges movie. Oh, and it’s coming to Blu-Ray from Warner Archive.

Jake Wade (Robert Taylor) wants to go straight, but his old partner Richard Widmark wants to know where he buried the loot from an old bank job. Before long, Widmark’s abducted Taylor’s fiancé (Patricia Owens) and they’re all headed into Comanche territory — and the Comanches are on the warpath.

This is as good as it gets, folks — and I’m sure Warner Archive will treat it right. Essential stuff.