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Archive for January, 2017

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Back in 2014, gathering everybody’s favorite DVD and Blu-Ray picks for the year turned out to be a lot of fun. It’s since become an annual thing.

Thanks to everybody who sent in their picks for 2016. This was a great year for 50s Westerns on DVD and Blu-Ray (and 2017 is shaping up to be just as good, or maybe better). Here’s the Top 10, according to your votes.

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10. Desperado (1954, Warner Archive, DVD)
It was a tie between this Wayne Morris picture and his earlier Desert Pursuit (1952). They’re both solid, offbeat little Westerns — and it’s real treat to have them available in such stellar condition.

9. Yellow Sky (1948, Kino Lorber, Blu-Ray)
Thanks to William Wellman, we didn’t have to wait till the 50s for Hollywood to start making 50s Westerns. The town of Yellow Sky is populated by only an old prospector and his daughter — until some slimy outlaws come riding up.

8. Western Union (1941, Kino Lorber, Blu-Ray)
Randolph Scott in Fritz Lang’s second Technicolor movie. There’s so much cool stuff in this movie, and it looks wonderful.

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7. Black Horse Canyon (1954, Universal Vault, DVD)
For years, Joel McCrea’s Universal Westerns were missing on DVD. It’s great to have them so easy to track down. This is a good one.

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6. Comanche Station (1960, Explosive Media, Blu-Ray)
The last of the Scott-Boetticher Westerns turns out to be the first to make its way to Blu-Ray, and as I see it, the others can’t get here soon enough. This thing’s incredible.

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5. She Wore A Yellow Ribbon (1948, Warner Archive, Blu-Ray)
John Ford’s She Wore A Yellow Ribbon (1948, above) is one of the most beautiful color movies ever shot. The proof is pressed oh-so-magnificently into this Blu-Ray. It also features one of John Wayne’s finest performances.

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4. Roughshod (1949, Warner Archive, DVD)
This gets my vote as the best of the “noir Westerns.” I was real happy to see the response this picture got. It’s a shame it’s not better known.

3. Cariboo Trail (1950, Kino Lorber, DVD/Blu-Ray)
The transfer here is a minor miracle, demonstrating how good CineColor can look. They wisely didn’t go overboard with the cleanup, so it still retains its true film look. And, of course, this is a solid picture from Edwin Marin and Randolph Scott.

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2. Johnny Guitar (1954, Olive Films Signature Edition, DVD/Blu-Ray)
Olive’s new Signature edition is a marked improvement over their old release, which was terrific. The restored 1.66 framing makes a big difference, and the supplemental stuff is excellent.

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1. One-Eyed Jacks (1961, Criterion Collection, DVD/Blu-Ray)
Opinions of Marlon Brando’s Western are all over the place, so I was really surprised to see it land in the top spot. However, judging it simply in terms of its superb presentation, I don’t see how anything could beat it. It’s stunning, a big fat reward to all of us who’ve suffered through those awful tapes and discs over the years. I’m proud and honored to have been involved with Criterion’s work here. (Note: Having worked on the One-Eyed Jacks extras, I did not feel comfortable taking part in the vote this time around.)

In closing, the discs on this list highlight the impact the video presentation can have on our appreciation of these old movies. Many of these have been available, in some form, for years. One more thing: your reasons for not buying a Blu-Ray player are rapidly running out.

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Here’s a great little speech from No Name On The Bullet (1959), maybe Audie Murphy’s best picture. He plays a gun-for-hire who rides into town and creates a wave of paranoia — as everybody’s convinced he’s here to kill them.

John Gant (Audie Murphy): “Take two men. Say they have robbed and lied, and have never paid. The man whom one of them has robbed comes to me and says, ‘Kill that man who’s robbed me.’ And I kill him. The other man becomes ill and would die, except for a physician who returns him to health to rob and lie again. Who’s the villain in this piece? Me or the physician?”

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George Randolph Scott
(January 23, 1898 – March 2, 1987)

The great Randolph Scott was born 119 years ago today. Here he is in Tall Man Riding (1955), which I realize I haven’t seen in a while. Another thing — why don’t I have this lobby card in my collection?

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Happy Birthday, Dan Duryea.

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Dan Duryea
(January 23, 1907 – June 7, 1968)

Let’s remember the great Dan Duryea —Waco Johnny Dean himself — on his birthday. This is, of course, from Winchester ’73 (1950).

Isn’t it cool to know that the baddest of the bad was really a devoted husband and father (and Boy Scout troop leader)?

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Directed by William Witney
Starring Roy Rogers, Eselita Rodriguez, Penny Edwards, Gordon Jones, Will Wright

I have the extreme honor of preparing a commentary for Kino Lorber’s upcoming Sunset In The West (1950). The work copy they sent was so gorgeous, I had to share it (and they were kind enough to say OK).

They also say there’s a little work left to do on it. Judging from this, it’s gonna be quite a thing.

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Over at my other blog, I’ve had this Dialogue Of The Day thing going for a while and have been meaning to start it up over here. The dialogue in these movies is often so rich, this should be a lot of fun.

To kick things off, here’s some tough stuff from Kirk Douglas in Last Train From Gun Hill (1959), which they say Dalton Trumbo helped write.

Matt Morgan (Kirk Douglas): “I know an old man who’d like to kill you, Belden — the Indian way: slow. That’s how I’m gonna do it: slow — but the white man’s way. First you stand trial. That takes a fair amount of time, and you’ll do a lot of sweating! Then they’ll sentence ya. I never seen a man who didn’t get sick to his stomach when he heard the kind of sentence you’ll draw. After that you’ll sit in a cell and wait, maybe for months, thinking how that rope will feel around your neck. Then they’ll come around, some cold morning, just before sun-up. They’ll tie your arms behind you. You’ll start blubbering, kicking, yelling for help. But it won’t do you any good. They’ll drag you out in the yard, heave you up on that platform, fix that rope around your neck and leave you out there all alone with a big black hood over your eyes. You know the last sound you hear? Kind of a thump when they kick the trapdoor catch — and down you go. You’ll hit the end of that rope like a sack of potatoes, all dead weight. It’ll be white hot around your neck and your Adam’s Apple will turn to mush. You’ll fight for your breath, but you haven’t got any breath. Your brain will begin to boil. You’ll scream and holler! But nobody’ll hear you. You’ll hear it. But nobody else. Finally you’re just swingin’ there — all alone and dead.”

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Directed by Andre de Toth
Starring Kirk Douglas, Elsa Martinelli, Walter Matthau, Diana Douglas, Walter Abel, Lon Chaney Jr., Eduard Franz, Alan Hale, Jr., Elisha Cook, Jr., Ray Teal, Hank Worden

Kino Lorber has announced the Blu-Ray release of Andre de Toth’s The Indian Fighter (1955), starring Kirk Douglas, for later this year.

L to R: Lon Chaney, Hank Worden and Walter Matthau

It’s a good one, with plenty going for it. That terrific cast — Walter Matthau in a Western, Hank Worden as an Indian. And Andre de Toth working in early CinemaScope, shot by Wilfrid M. Cline. I’m really looking forward to this one.

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