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Archive for December, 2015

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Here’s wishing you all the merriest of Christmases.

If you’re not into football, or you want to get away from Uncle Bob and Aunt Edna’s constant bickering, I suggest Roy Rogers’ Trail Of Robin Hood (1950), a Christmas movie done up Republic style! It’s a tradition here at the 50s Westerns hacienda — and one of my all-time favorite films.

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This’ll be the third year we’ve done this, and while it’s a long, long way from being any kind of official competition, I couldn’t resist the chance to share Roy Rogers’ belt buckle — presented to him at the Madison Square Garden World Championship Rodeo in 1944. Between now and New Year’s Eve, send me your favorite DVD and Blu-ray releases for 2015 — I’ll do all the accounting and put together our Best Of 2015 list.

The only requirements: they have to have been released during the calendar year and have some relation to 50s Westerns. Since so many terrific movies have come out overseas this year, we’ll count non-U.S. releases.

One of the real joys of this blog, as I see it, is all the sharing and recommending that goes on. So while you’re at it, let me know what your favorite discoveries were for 2015. Doesn’t matter if it’s been on DVD for years, you saw it on GetTV last week or borrowed a bootleg from a friend — what 50s Westerns did you get acquainted with this year?

For both lists, drop your picks in the comments to this post or email fiftieswesterns AT gmail DOT com.

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Directed by Mark Robson
Starring Robert Sterling, John Ireland, Claude Jarman Jr., Gloria Grahame, Myrna Dell, Jeff Donnell, Martha Hyer

It seems fitting that the 200th DVD/Blu-ray announcement is one I’ve never seen. Shows how many of these films there are out there and what riches are still waiting to be dug up. Warner Archive’s done the digging this time, serving up an RKO Western I’ve been wanting to see for years. It’s coming in January.

Thanks to John Knight for the tip.

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ALLIED ARTISTS LOGO sized

The Allied Artists Blogathon is coming, January 29-31, 2016.

Some terrific DVD releases, typically from Warner Archive, have (re-)introduced us to many of the studio’s pictures lately. From Bill Elliott’s last films to some cool crime pictures, we’ve been coming across some good stuff, and this seems like a good excuse to write about some of ’em.

Here’s what you do:
• Pick an Allied Artists-related topic: the possibilities are almost endless. (Later-period Monogram stuff is OK, as is the later stuff like The Wild Geese.)
• Let me know you want to ride along (email fiftieswesterns@gmail.com), what subject you want to cover and when you plan to post it. Your posts can be in any form, of any length, and on any topic as long as it relates to Allied Artists, but I’d like to manage things a bit to make sure we don’t end up with 14 people writing about the same thing.
• Post your piece on the scheduled day, using the official blogathon banner and link (to come).
• Send me the link so I can post it on the master list.

Thanks to Jerry Entract for planting the seed for this thing. And to the fine folks at Warner Archive for bringing is these movies in such stunning condition.

This should be a lot of fun.

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Hitler's Children 6 sheet

Directed by Edward Dmytryk
Produced by Edward A. Golden
Screen Plat by Emmet Lavery
Based on the novel Education For Death by Gregor Ziemer
Director Of Photography: Russell Metty, ASC
Film Editor: Joseph Noriega
Music: Roy Webb

Cast: Tim Holt (Karl Bruner), Bonita Granville (Anna Muller), Kent Smith (Prof. Nichols), Otto Kruger (Col. Henkel), H.B. Warner (The Bishop), Hans Conried (Dr. Graf), Nancy Gates (Brenda), Lloyd Corrigan (Franz Erhart), Peter Van Eyck, Edward Van Sloan, Richard Martin

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What’s a movie about the Hitler Youth from 1943 doing on a blog dedicated to Westerns from the 1950s? That’s easy. It stars Tim Holt, one of the handful of actors, directors, writers and technical folks I swore to plug tirelessly when starting this thing up six years ago. Plus, it’s really good.

Hitler's Children still Tim

Tim Holt’s career is certainly an interesting one. He chose the cowboy star path rather than the typical leading man route, while showing time and time again that he was a more than capable actor. Films like The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre (1948) and this one, Hitler’s Children (1942), show just how good he was. Holt’s performances and chemistry with Richard Martin (as Chito) are a big part of what makes their series of B Westerns so special. (Boy, am I preaching to the choir here!)

Hitler’s Children was seen by RKO as an exploitation picture, using the romance between an American student (Bonita Granville) and a young Nazi (Tim Holt) as a way to catalog various Nazi atrocities (the ones known at the time), from sterilization to flogging.

Director Edward Dmytryk: “Taken from a novel titled Education For Death, its story concerned the treatment of youthful nonconformists in Nazi Germany. A title with the word ‘Hitler’ in it was considered box-office poison, and the exhibitors asked [producer] Doc Golden and RKO to change ours. Doc was stubborn — and he was right. The film cost a little over $100,000, and, running only in England and the Western Hemisphere… grossed, by some accounts, $7,500,00.”

Dmytryk didn’t start the picture. He replaced Irving Reis after the first few days of shooting. Hitler’s Children stands as RKO’s highest-grossing film, taking in even more than the mighty King Kong (1933)! Dmytryk soon made his way to A pictures, with Murder, My Sweet coming in 1944.

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Something like this needs a good cast to keep the melodrama from falling into parody. Holt and Granville are excellent, and they’re supported by some real pros: Kent Smith, Otto Kruger, H.B. Warner, Hans Conried, Nancy Gates, Peter Van Eyck, Edward Van Sloan and more. They say Richard Martin’s in there somewhere as a Gestapo stooge!

Russell Metty’s cinematography deserves a lot of credit for the film’s overall effectiveness. He sets the mood and menace perfectly, more than making up for the meager budget. The Nazi rally long shot that opens the film appears to be a miniature. It’s incredible. Metty simply does not get the respect he deserves.

Warner Archive has done its typically stellar work with this one. It’s a movie that really needs its strong contrast levels and solid blacks — and they’re near-perfect on this DVD-R. Hitler’s Children is a movie I’ve been championing for years, and I have no trouble recommending it highly — even though Tim’s packing a Luger, not a Colt.

And isn’t that six-sheet up top terrific?

 

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Directed by Edward Dmytryk
Starring Tim Holt, Bonita Granville, Kent Smith, Otto Kruger, H.B. Warner, Hans Conried, Nancy Gates

Sometimes a B Movie will pull off something in a way no A picture ever could. This is one of those times. Hitler’s Children (1943) was clearly meant to be an exploitation picture about the Hitler Youth, but it ended up being so much more. One of Tim Holt’s finest performances, and a real home run for both director Edward Dmytryk and cinematographer Russell Metty.

It’a available today from Warner Archive. Highly, highly recommended.

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