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Archive for October, 2015

RR Ghost Mystery Rancho cover

Roy Rogers And The Ghost Of Mystery Rancho is a Whitman book from 1950 by Walker A. Tompkins. I read it as a kid — was anybody else reading these things in the 70s? — and loved it. Revisiting it more recently, it held up well.

It seemed like a good way to mark Halloween this year. Of course, you could always pull out John Wayne in Haunted Gold (1932), a picture I found impossibly cool as a kid. John Wayne and ghosts, could it get any better?

Whatever you decide to do tonight (there’s the new Blu-ray of Them!), have fun and be safe. And save the Raisinets for me!

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The_La_Crosse_Tribune_Sun__Aug_15__1954_

Directed by Thomas Carr
Produced by Vincent M. Fennelly
Written by Dan Ullman
Director Of Photography: Ernest Miller

Cast: Wild Bill Elliott (Marshal Sam Nelson), Virginia Grey (Stella Walker), Henry Morgan (Alf Billings), John Doucette (Ernie Walker), Lane Bradford (William Norris), Stanford Jolley (Everett)

Forty Niners LC1

Released in May 1954, The Forty-Niners (1954) was William Elliott’s last Western. He’d finish out his career with a cool series of detective films (which many of us around here like a lot), but cowboy-wise, this was the end of the trail. It’s the last picture in the Warner Archive set The Wild Bill Elliott Western Collection.

Elliott is Marshall Sam Nelson, tracking down the murderers of a marshall in gold-crazy California. He strikes up an alliance with Alf Billings (Harry Morgan), a card sharp who may know the names of the killers. They wind up in Cold Water, where they run afoul of Sheriff Lane Bradford and saloon owner John Doucette. Nelson develops a bit of respect for Billings, who he suspects isn’t all bad. I’m oversimplifying things to avoid spoilers.

Dan Ullman’s script offers up twists and turns that we don’t see coming, even though we’ve seen a million of these things. It gives Henry Morgan a good part (he’d already appeared with Elliott in Republic’s The Showdown in 1950), which of course he’s excellent in. Morgan might have more screen time than Elliott does. Virginia Grey plays Morgan’s old flame who’s now married to Doucette. And to top it all off, Elliott narrates the picture Dragnet-style.

Forty Niners LC3

By the time The Forty-Niners began shooting at the Iverson Ranch and Corriganville, Monogram was called Allied Artists and the industry standard for projection was 1.85. So, thanks to the folks at Warner Archive, we’re treated to a widescreen William Elliott picture. The previous entry in the series, Bitter Creek (1954), was also 1.85 — it’s not included in this set. These films were done very cheaply, and no transfer can ever make up for that. But it was shot by a real pro, Ernest Miller, and the widescreen framing gives it a fresh look.

I can’t say enough about these films, or about how excited I am that they’ve made their way to DVD in such supreme condition. Highly recommended.

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Rio Grande JW MO

Maureen O’Hara
August 17, 1920 – October 24, 2015

When I came upon this image from Rio Grande (1950) the other day, I had no idea this is what I’d end up using it for. The great Maureen O’Hara passed away today at 95.

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Shamokin_News_Dispatch_Thu__Jan_8__1953_

Directed by Lewis Collins
Produced by Vincent M. Fennelly
Story and Screenplay by Dan Ullman
Cinematography: Ernest Miller

Cast: Wild Bill Elliott (Joe Daniels), Peggy Stewart (Kay Collins), House Peters, Jr. (Ralph Carruthers), Lane Bradford (Fred Jethro), Stan Jolley (Slater), Fuzzy Knight (Cap), John Hart, Lyle Talbot

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The last couple years, we’ve compiled lists of our favorite 50s Western DVD releases for that year, which I post on this blog. Well, I’m gonna go ahead and reveal my pick for the best DVD release of 2015 — Warner Archive’s Wild Bill Elliott Western Collection.

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After The Showdown (1950), William Elliott and Republic Pictures parted ways. It wasn’t long before Elliott entered into a deal with Monogram Pictures to make some low-budget Westerns. In the end, there were 11 of them — with Monogram becoming Allied Artists midstream.

They’re a bit darker and more “adult” than your typical B Western. While the budget limitations are obvious, Elliott’s as reliable as ever — and he’s got some top-notch support from folks like Harry Morgan, Peggy Stewart, Myron Healey, Phyllis Coates, Denver Pyle, Beverly Garland, John Doucette and Fuzzy Knight. I love these little movies.

Kansas Territory still

Kansas Territory (1952) is one of the better ones. Elliott journeys to Kansas, even though he’s wanted there on an old Civil War charge, to find out who killed his brother. Along the way, he learns his sibling went bad and probably deserved what he got. That, of course, doesn’t stop Wild Bill from tracking down the killer.

Elliott’s determination to get his revenge puts a hard edge on his usual “peaceable man” image. We know he’s a good man, but he’s got some dirty business to tend to — and it’s become an obsession. Dan Ullman’s scripts for these pictures (and for the Elliott detective films that followed) are very tight, and he manages to find something a little different to toss at a familiar plot point.

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Shot at the Iverson Ranch by ace cinematographer Ernest Miller, under the working title Vengeance Trail, Kansas Territory looks great. Monogram struck prints of these pictures in “glorious sepia tone,” and while I’m a stickler for preserving the original presentation, I’m glad Warner Archive stuck with black and white. Sepia doesn’t always come off well on TV. This set is terrific, giving you eight of the 11 pictures on three DVDs. For me, it’s hard to avoid watching them all in a hard-riding, popcorn-munching binge. A must.

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Directed by Phillip Borsos
Starring Richard Farnsworth, Jackie Burroughs

Working in video stores in college, I used to push The Grey Fox (1982) off on anybody I could. “You liked Beverly Hills Cop? Then you’ll love this!” I’m happy to say that almost everyone I persuaded to take home the old Media VHS tape ended up liking it.

I’m so happy it’s coming to Blu-ray (region free!) from Panamint Cinema, folks I’m sure will treat it right. It remains one of my favorite films of the 80s, a decade that didn’t knock me out movie-wise. Panamint lists the release date as November 16. Highly, highly recommended!

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