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Archive for January, 2018

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

Let’s mark the birthday of my all-time favorite movie star, Randolph Scott — one of the key players in 50s Westerns. The still above is from The Bounty Hunter (1954), the last of six Westerns Scott made with director Andre de Toth.

The picture also stars my favorite actress, Marie Windsor — and that pairing makes this seem like a better movie that it really is. Despite its faults, I like it a little more every time I see it.

It’s a huge shame The Bounty Hunter is still missing on DVD and Blu-Ray, though there’s an OK-looking DVD out in Spain. Wish Warner Archive would move it to the top of their to-do list. Since it was shot in 3-D, but never released that way, it made sense a few years ago to consider a 3-D Blu-Ray. But it doesn’t seem like the world’s all that in love with 3-D television, and I wish they’d scrap those plans if they’re what’s holding it up.

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Between takes on Quantez (1957).

Dorothy Malone (Dorothy Eloise Maloney)
January 30, 1924 – January 19, 2018

One of my favorites actresses (especially in Westerns), the great Dorothy Malone, has passed away.

I first remember seeing her in The Big Sleep (1946), as the sexy girl in the Acme bookstore. And she made a huge impression on me in Harry Keller’s Quantez (1957), a sadly under-appreciated Fred MacMurray Western from Universal. She won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Douglas Sirk’s Written On The Wind (1956). But for me, it’s Quantez.

Her other Westerns include South Of St. Louis (1949), The Nevadan (1950), Saddle Legion (1951), Tall Man Riding (1955), Pillars Of The Sky (1956) and Warlock (1959). Oh, and The Last Voyage (1960) is terrific.

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Directed by Delmer Daves
Produced by Martin Jurow and Richard Shepherd
Screenplay by Wendell Mayes and Halsted Welles
From the novel by Dorothy M. Johnson
Director of photography: Ted McCord, ASC
Music by Max Steiner
Song: “The Hanging Tree” — Lyrics by Mack David, Music by Jerry Livingston,
Vocal by Marty Robbins
Film Editor: Owen Marks

CAST: Gary Cooper (Dr. Joseph Frail), Maria Schell (Elizabeth Mahler), Karl Malden (Frenchy), Ben Piazza (Rune), George C. Scott (Grubb), Karl Swenson (Mr. Flaunce), Virginia Gregg (Mrs. Flaunce), John Dierkes (Society Red)

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It was a big deal back in 2012 when Warner Archive brought Delmer Daves’ The Hanging Tree (1959) to DVD. (Hard to believe it’s been that long.) Their new Blu-Ray ought to be just as big an event, since hi-def can really add to your appreciation of the film.

Not a frame from the Blu-Ray, just a sample long shot from the film.

Cooper’s character, Doc Frail, lives in a cabin on a ridge about the mining town of Skull Creek. Throughout the picture, we’re look down on the village from Frail’s perspective. These deep-focus shots now have an almost stunning amount of detail, giving you an opportunity to really study what Daves had his cast of extras doing in the recesses of those long shots.

Gary Cooper and Maria Schell in a goofy publicity shot.

Another benefit of the new Blu-Ray is the color. Ted McCord shot The Hanging Tree in Technicolor, and Warner Archive has it looking like a million bucks. It has a slight brownish tone to it that suits all the wood we see throughout — from the trees to the makeshift buildings of Skull Creek. You also get a real feel of lamplight in the interiors, while most Technicolor films from the period seem extremely bright. The low lighting is necessary here, as Maria Schell is kept in darkness as she regains her sight.

Warner Archive frames the picture at 1.78:1, a slight variation on its theatrical 1.85. That’s becoming a bit of a norm with a lot of hi-def transfers, and it doesn’t bother me. The grain here is near perfect — it’s there, as it should be, but it’s never distracting.

The Hanging Tree is a great movie. And this is the way to see it. Highly, highly recommended.

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Republic Trucolor logo

Martin Scorsese has curated a retrospective of Republic movies, for February and August at the Museum Of Modern Art, from the restored material at Paramount.

There’s some great stuff in February’s lineup, including Trigger, Jr. (1950), Stranger At My Door (1956) and one of my all-time favorite films, Hellfire (1949). Three of my favorite directors are represented: William Witney, George Sherman and Allan Dwan.

Working with the fine folks at Kino Lorber on commentaries for some of their Republic releases, the quality of the material coming out of Paramount is incredible. (I’m in the middle of Singing Guns right now.) So glad to see these films are being treated with the respect they deserve.

Thanks to Laura for the news!

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Directed by Stuart Heisler
Starring Gary Cooper, Loretta Young, William Demarest, Dan Duryea

ClassicFlix has announced a new remaster of Stuart Heisler’s terrific Western spoof, Along Came Jones (1945). Actually, it’s not so much a spoof of Westerns as it is Gary Cooper poking a little fun at himself. It’s a cool movie, and I’m sure it’ll benefit from the ClassicFlix treatment. They’ve done some terrific stuff so far.

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Directed by Ray Nazarro
Written by Barry Shipman
Cinematography: Fayte Browne

Cast: Charles Starrett (Steve Woods/The Durango Kid), Smiley Burnette (Himself), Mary Ellen Kay (Doris Donner), George Chesebro (Bill Donner), Frank Fenton (Bart Selby)

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Mill Creek has done us a big favor by scooping up 10 of the 60-plus Durango Kid movies and putting them in one extremely budget-friendly two-disc set, The Durango Kid Collection. One of the 10 is Ray Nazarro’s Streets Of Ghost Town (1950).

In this outing, Steve and Smiley help ​the ​sheriff of Dusty Creek ​(Stanley Andrews) look for a fortune in stolen money supposedly hidden in a​n old​ ghost town — boarded up, littered wth tumbleweeds and creeking and moaning just enough to keep Smiley scared. A good chunk of the picture uses flashbacks to fill us in on how the treasure was stolen by Bart Selby (Frank Fenton, wearing a hat that seems too small for his head) and his gang, then ​taken by ​the double-crossing Bill Donner (George Chesebro). Back in the “present,” Selby and his gaggle of crooks are looking for the loot, and it’s believed Bill Donner is dead. Then Donner’s niece (Mary Ellen Kay) and nephew turn up to complicate matters.

This is no Riders Of The Whistling Skull (1937), but it handles its mystery elements pretty well. The Devil’s Cave, where the money’s hidden, is pretty cool, especially when Donner locks a couple of his cohorts in there with the treasure to die a slow death. And Smiley working a Ouija board is a pretty odd sight. The cinematography by Fayte Browne looks terrific, with lots of deep shadows to crank up the spookiness.

Ray Nazarro directed over half the Durango Kids (he did half of this set), and he keeps Streets Of Ghost Town running like a well-oiled machine. Charles Starrett is as likable as always and looks cool, and Smiley Burnette is, well, Smiley Burnette, which certainly works for me. George Chesebro is wonderful as the crazed, double-crossing crook.

What bothers me about The Durango Kid pictures is the Kid himself — he often seems nailed to the action like an obligation. But he sure looks terrific tearing through the ghost town on Raider.

The same Durango Kid titles that make up have been available from Columbia on DVD in the past, sometimes at up to 20 bucks a piece. So the economics if this set are pretty solid — and it’ll sure save you some shelf space. You can count on Columbia for terrific transfers of these older titles, and these don’t disappoint. (I love the fact that there’s some dust and dirt to remind us what film used to look like.) Recommended.

So with 10 of the series pulled together for this nifty set, when can we count on volumes two through seven?

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