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Archive for January, 2016

Dragoon Wells Massacre HS

Directed by Harold Schuster
Produced by Lindsley Parsons
Screenplay by Warren Douglas
From a story by Oliver Drake
Director Of Photography: William Clothier

Cast: Barry Sullivan (Link Ferris), Dennis OKeefe (Capt. Matt Riordan), Mona Freeman (Ann Bradley), Katy Jurado (Mara Fay), Sebastian Cabot (Jonah), Casey Adams (Phillip Scott), Jack Elam (Tioga), Trevor Bardette (Marshal Bill Haney), Jon Shepodd (Tom), Hank Worden (Hopi Charlie), Warren Douglas (Jud), Judy Strangis (Susan), Alma Beltran (Station agent’s wife), John War Eagle (Yellow Claw)

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This is an entry in The Allied Artists Blogathon, a celebration of the studio’s rich and varied output.

The team of writer/actor Warren Douglas, producer Lindsley Parsons and director Harold D. Schuster turned out five excellent B-plus pictures for Allied Artists in the 50s. They were the tight, grim Western Jack Slade (1953); a terrific noir, Loophole (1954); a solid sequel, The Return Of Jack Slade (1955); Finger Man (1955), a dope picture with Forrest Tucker, Peggie Castle and Timothy Carey; and finally, the dark, tense CinemaScope Western Dragoon Wells Massacre (1957).

Producer Lindsley Parsons had been in the picture business since the 30s, starting out writing B Westerns like those Lone Star John Wayne movies. Warren Douglas was a B Movie actor who made the transition to screenwriter, often playing a part in the pictures he wrote; he’d later write for a number of TV Westerns. He based his Dragoon Wells Massacre screenplay on a story by the prolific writer/producer/director of scores of B Westerns, Oliver Drake.

Director Harold Schuster started as an actor, making the transition to editor before the Talkies came in. Though he never set the world on fire as a director, he made a few fine films before settling into TV.

Dragoon Wells Massacre LCDragoon Wells Massacre begins with a prison wagon carrying two bad men, Link Ferris (Barry Sullivan) and Tioga (Jack Elam), to trial. Before long, they come across an Indian trader, Jonah McAdam (Sebastian Cabot), and a cavalry patrol that’s been slaughtered by the Apaches, with Capt. Matt Riordan (Dennis O’Keefe) its only survivor. Soon, the drivers and passengers of a stagecoach are added to those making the desperate journey to Fort Dragoon Wells with the Apaches never far behind. This is a fairly common setup — a diverse group making their way from Point A to Point B, battling an enemy, the elements and each other along the way — that’s certainly not limited to Westerns. Douglas comes up with some solid characters, makes sure we like the good ones and hate the bad ones, then puts them all through absolute hell — and us through a tense 88 minutes — before the final fade.

Dragoon Wells Massacre Cabot SullivanWhile the basic premise may be conventional — and I’m keeping the synopsis lean on purpose, what Douglas does with it is certainly not. (I’d love to know how many of the finer points were found in Drake’s original story.) What’s more, Schuster keeps things chugging along, almost relentlessly, from one set piece to the next. The picture really benefits from all of his years at the Moviola, and he gets top-notch performances from his terrific cast — which steadily shrinks with each brush with the Apaches.

Dragoon Wells ElamSullivan and Elam are likable badguys, and we’re soon hoping these outsiders will get their chances for redemption. This could be Elam’s best performance, as a man damned by his appearance — and by the shallowness of others. Dennis O’Keefe is fine as the tough cavalryman. Sebastian Cabot is utterly despicable as the gunrunner — the movie’s real villain. Before he became Mr. French, Cabot was a terrific 50s Westerns sleazeball.

Dragoon Wells Massacre Sullivan Freeman 2Mona Freeman does a great job as a snooty, self-centered, judgmental stage passenger (and former flame of O’Keefe). Her transformation is not only satisfying, but believable. Katy Jurado is good, as always, as a saloon girl hoping to turn her life around. My one complaint is that Hank Worden doesn’t have enough to do — but that’s something you could say about almost everything he appeared in, from The Searchers (1956) to One-Eyed Jacks (1961).

William Clothier shot Dragoon Wells Massacre around Kanab, Utah, in CinemaScope and color by DeLuxe. One of the finest Western shooters ever, Clothier’s work here is tremendous. The entire picture takes place outdoors, and you really feel the heat and dryness of the desert. Just as important, you never think that you’re watching a low-budget movie.

Dragoon Wells stillDragoon Wells Massacre is unavailable on DVD or Blu-ray in the U.S. There’s a German DVD that presents the picture at a TV-friendly 1.78 instead of Scope’s 2.35. It’s a real shame the picture’s so hard to track down and that Clothier’s work is compromised. This is one of those 50s Westerns that gets everything right, and it now sits at the top of my Blu-ray Want List.

Someone who frequents this blog, when I once mentioned that I was watching an old Phil Karlson picture, pointed out that now matter how old it is, a movie’s new if you haven’t seen it. So, following that logic, and considering that I just saw this a few months ago, Dragoon Wells Massacre gets my vote for Best Picture of 2015.

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Allied Artists stock

Welcome to The Allied Artists Blogathon, a celebration of the studio’s rich and varied output. The studio came about as a way for Poverty Row’s Monogram Studios to make their way toward bigger pictures — TV was killing the B Movie market. Some outstanding bloggers and writers, our own little team of allied artists, have signed on for this, so check back.

Day Three

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The Cyclops (1957)
The Oak Drive-In

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House On Haunted Hill (1959)
The Jade Sphinx

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Dial Red “O” by Jerry Entract
The Hannibal 8

Dragoon Wells Massacre UK LC
Dragoon Wells Massacre (1957)
50 Westerns From The 50s

22079 - The Oklahoman
The Oklahoman (1957)
Riding The High Country

 

Day Two

HTE 4
Hell To Eternity (1960) by Blake Lucas
The Hannibal 8

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War Of The Satellites (1958)
Speakeasy

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Loophole (1954)
Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings

 

Day One

Quantrill's raiders 1958
Quantrill’s Raiders (1958)
Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings


Short Grass (1950) by Jerry Entract
50 Westerns From The 50s 

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Cry Vengeance (1954) by John Knight
The Hannibal 8

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Face Of Fire (1959)
Speakeasy

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Short Grass LC RC and JMBDirected by Lesley Selander
Starring Rod Cameron, Cathy Downs, Johnny Mack Brown, Raymond Walburn, Alan Hale, Morris Ankrum, Jack Ingram, Myron Healey

I am delighted to be able to take part in The Allied Artists Pictures Blogathon and would like to thank our host, Toby, for making it possible.

Having come together around 1932, Monogram Pictures was a main player on Poverty Row in Hollywood and was known by fans for providing thrills and excitement although their product never matched their rivals over at Republic for slickness and overall quality. They sure tried though! As WW2 ended they formed Allied Artists Pictures with the intent of producing bigger-budgeted pictures alongside their ‘bread-and-butter’ product. As the industry changed Monogram was phased out finally in 1953 and everything went out under AA.

Scott R. Dunlap had worked at Monogram for a number of years and had been a producer and close friend to cowboy star Buck Jones and had nearly died with Jones in 1942 in the Coconut Grove fire. His heart was in westerns and by the end of the decade he was involved in some with a higher budget and aspirations. In 1950, he produced a classy range Western called Short Grass.

SHORTGRASS51As a Western fan of long-standing and diehard nature, some of my all-time favorite Westerns came from either the Republic banner or Allied Artists. An actor who made his name in Westerns was Rod Cameron. Over a period of nearly a decade, Rod alternated between the two studios in some mighty fine Westerns. Three or four of those are in my list of all-time favorites — Brimstone (1949) and Ride The Man Down (1952) for Republic and Stampede (1949) and Short Grass (1950) for AA come most to mind.

Short Grass comes with some impressive western credentials. Apart from Cameron, it was directed by the unsung (though not here) Lesley Selander from a screenplay by Tom W. Blackburn, adapted from his own novel. Starring alongside Rod was cowboy star Johnny Mack Brown whose own starring series was still filming at Monogram. The cast was a ‘deep’ Western one — Harry Woods, Jack Ingram, Myron Healey and many more. Of particular note in the cast was Cathy Downs as the female lead. Her character was feminine, flesh-and-blood and believable.

054202041Blackburn’s story is set at a time when the west was on the cusp of becoming more civilised and people were moving west to seek a new life but wanting schools, churches, newspapers and, of course, law and order. From the start when Steve Llewellyn (Cameron) drifts into the middle of a saloon robbery and gets shot, then is found and nursed back to health by Sharon (Downs), a rancher’s daughter, he finds himself slap-dab in the middle of a land grab. Sharon is horrified by the brutality of the West and abhors the use of guns. Unable to avoid gunplay with the landgrabbers, Steve rides away, knowing that he cannot be with Sharon though they are in love. Five years later, he returns to New Mexico and finds a town starting to embrace civilisation but unable to free itself from the land grabbers who more or less control things. In the meantime, Sharon had married a newspaperman who unfortunately is weak and unable to control his need for booze. To cut the story short, Rod eventually is forced to strap his guns back on, this time with Sharon’s support and that of Marshal Mack Brown to face down the gang. At the end he removes his guns “for good” — you know the way will now be clear for the kind of civilization that has been hovering.

shortgrass

Short Grass is happily readily available on DVD in a beautiful print thanks to our friends at Warner Archive. The lovely cinematography of Harry Neumann stands out with some beautiful cloud formations above stunning New Mexico locations near Albuquerque. As Rod Cameron muses early in the film, the attraction to him of the wildness of the country is its space and beauty — and Neumann’s lens work makes sure the point is made!

Jerry Entract does not run his own blog or have any involvement in the film industry but is an English lifelong movie fan and amateur student of classic cinema (American and British). Main passions are the western and detective/mystery/film noir. Enjoys seeking out lesser-known (even downright obscure) old movies.

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Cowboy BTS Lemmon FordDirected by Delmer Daves
Starring Glenn Ford, Jack Lemmon, Anna Kashfi, Brian Donlevy, Dick York (Charlie), Richard Jaekel, Strother Martin

Twlight Time has announced Delmer Daves’ Cowboy (1958) for Blu-ray release on February 16. It’s a terrific movie — as we all know, Daves was on a real roll at this time, cranking out one great Western after another. This will probably be a limited edition, and it’s sure to look like a million bucks, so don’t miss out.

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belgianchainlightninglipn2Directed by Edwin L. Marin
Starring Randolph Scott, George “Gabby” Hayes, Bill Williams, Victor Jory, Karin Booth, Douglas Kennedy, Jim Davis, Dale Robertson, James Griffith

Kino Lorber has announced they’ll have Randolph Scott in The Cariboo Trail (1950) out on DVD and Blu-ray sometime this year. With a great cast (it was Gabby Hayes’ last movie), solid direction from Edwin L. Marin, and Cinecolor’s gloriously funky hues, it’s a load of fun and not to missed.

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Directed by Edwin L. Marin
Starring Randolph Scott, Jane Wyatt, J. Carrol Naish, Victor Jory, Nancy Olson

First, Scott, Marin and producer Nat Holt gave us Canadian Pacific (1949). It’s not as good as the second picture, but I’m looking forward to seeing its Cinecolor in high-definition.

Thanks to Mike Kuhns and Vitaris for the tips.

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winchester-73-lc-a-smallHere’s a gun issue the government and I agree on. Anthony Mann’s Winchester ’73 (1950) has been selected for preservation in the Library Of Congress.

That means their board has deemed it “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.” It’s also a damned good movie.

Thanks to Blake Lucas for the news.

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Dragoon Wells Massacre UK LC

It’s a lot of fun putting this list together every year, seeing what people are coming across for the first time. Remember, though these things are 60-something years old, if you’ve never seen it, it’s a new movie!

To make the list, a picture has to be mentioned by at least three people. This year, there were fewer titles brought up, but the frequency was a lot higher. We ended up with a solid lineup of fairly obscure, medium-budgeted 50s Westerns — and if you haven’t discovered them yourself, search them out.

And I hope this blog helped you discover some of these.

Dragoon Wells Massacre (1957)
This was my personal favorite discovery of the year, and I was so happy to have others finding it, too. William Clothier’s camerawork deserves a solid CinemaScope transfer — and Jack Elam’s performance needs to be seen by more people. (Stay tuned for the Allied Artists blogathon, where I’ll give this thing some much-deserved attention.)

Cave Of Outlaws (1951)
William Castle directs a 50s Western for Universal — shooting at Carlsbad Caverns, Vasquez Rocks and the Iverson Ranch. Needs a DVD release.

Wyoming Mail still

Wyoming Mail (1950)
A fairly obscure U-I Western starring Stephen McNally and Alexis Smith. Reginald Le Borg keeps things moving at a brisk pace and Russell Metty makes sure the Technicolor looks terrific.

Gunsmoke In Tucson (1958)
A number of people picked up the DVD from Warner Archive, and it seems like most of us were impressed. If you still haven’t tracked this one down, get to it!

Thunderhoof (1948)
A Phil Karlson horse picture with a cast of only three (and the horse). Can’t to track this one down.

FourGunstotheBorderLobby

Four Guns To The Border (1954)
This one was on last year’s list, too. We keep bumping into, and we all seem to like it. It’s a great example of what a Universal 50s Western can be: terrific cast, gorgeous Technicolor, plenty of action.

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