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Archive for January, 2019

Directed by Lesley Selander
Produced by Sherman Harris
Written by Robert Schaeffer and Eric Freiwald
Based on the Lone Ranger legend
Cinematography: Kenneth Peach
Film Editor: Robert S. Golden
Music by Les Baxter

CAST: Clayton Moore (The Lone Ranger), Jay Silverheels (Tonto), Douglas Kennedy ​(​Ross Brady​)​, Charles Watts ​(​Sheriff Oscar​), ​Noreen Nash ​(​Mrs. Frances Henderson​), ​Ralph Moody ​(​Padre Esteban​), ​Lisa Montell ​(​Paviva​), ​John Miljan ​(​Chief Tomache​), ​Norman Fredric ​(​Dr. James Rolfe​), ​Maurice Jara ​(​Redbird​), ​Bill Henry ​(​Travers​), Lane Bradford ​(Henchman​)​

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I watched the Moore-Silverheels Lone Ranger features countless times as a kid (you could get complete Super 8mm prints of them) and always preferred the second one, The Lone Ranger And The Lost City Of Gold (1958). Seeing them again recently, and placing them within the context of the 50s Western as a whole, I still love them. And I’m still convinced the second one’s the best.

The Lone Ranger And The Lost City Of Gold would be the last time Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels played The Lone Ranger and Tonto. The TV series wrapped up in June of ’57, a year before this picture would open. Luckily, they were able to go out on a high note.

“Dear Santa, all I want for Christmas…”

It begins with a brief recap of The Lone Ranger origin, set to a cool song from Les Baxter (see the record above). This gives way to the prerequisite “William Tell Overture.” It’s a shame they didn’t head to the Iverson Ranch for a big-screen shot of Moore and Silver next to Lone Ranger Rock.

The plot’s a variation on a fairly common one — a group of Masked Raiders are searching for a series of medallions that reveal the location of a vast cave filled with Indian gold. The Lone Ranger and Tonto must prevent the Raiders from getting the last of the medallions and taking the treasure that belongs to the Indians.

Of course, one of the Raiders is Douglas Kennedy. It’s always a treat when he turns up in something. Ralph Moody is great as a padre. Noreen Nash is a woman in cahoots with the Raiders. Nash didn’t have a real stellar career, though she’s in an episode of The Lone Ranger, a Dragnet and the Tim Holt picture Road Agent (1952) — so who’s complaining? Lisa Montell ​plays ​Paviva​, a lovely Indian maiden. She’s a favorite of mine thanks to World Without End (1956). Then there’s a baby boy that seems to be played by a girl — given away by tiny little earrings.

Lesley Selander cranks up the action and violence a notch for The Lone Ranger And The Lost City Of Gold. As a kid, it drove me nuts that, on TV, Clayton Moore just shot the guns out of the bad guys’ hands. Here, he actually drills somebody. So does Tonto. There’s also a terrific fistfight towards the end.

Much of this was shot at Old Tucson, and it gives you a great view of the place. The climax has Moore, Silverheels, Kennedy and others sneaking around the small houses you’ve seen in all kinds of stuff. The beautiful San Xavier del Bac Mission is also featured. And while all the location work’s gorgeous and adds plenty of production value, the absence of the familiar Iverson rocks from the TV show is a bit jarring.

the_pittsburgh_press_tue__jun_17__1958_This picture was clearly meant for kids. But there’s something about The Lone Ranger and Tonto I find more appealing the older I get. Their friendship, their fairness and their ongoing fight for justice are things we all could use some extra exposure to. I love this movie.

The Lone Ranger And The Lost City Of Gold is pretty easy to find on DVD. The VCI release from years ago presents it in its original aspect ratio, though a non-anamorphic letterboxed version. It’s the best one around. I’d love to see both of these Moore-Silverheels features make their way to Blu-Ray.

Just realized, thanks to Bob Madison, that today is the anniversary of the first Lone Ranger radio broadcast (1933).

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

Let’s mark Randolph Scott’s birthday with the original poster art for The Stranger Wore A Gun (1953). It’s by the painter and illustrator Gustav Rehberger. (Click on the image so you can see it larger. It’s really incredible. Columbia didn’t use it very well when it came to the actual posters.)

Of course, Randolph Scott rides tall around here. His run of Westerns in the 50s is maybe the strongest of the decade, from the six he did with Andre de Toth (which includes The Stranger Wore A Gun) to those written by Burt Kennedy and directed by Budd Boetticher. This would be a good night to watch one.

UPDATE: I’ve been in contact with Rehberger’s widow, Pamela Demme, over the course of all the research for my One-Eyed Jacks book. She commented to this post —

“Rehberger was a big Western fan.  When he arrived in this country at age 13, his cousin took him to see his first movie. It was a Western with a big fight scene. He said he was never the same after it. His most favorite movie was Shane. He saw it dozens of times.  We would run to see every Clint Eastwood movie.

His first full day in Chicago was the Fourth of July. Between seeing his first Western and the fireworks, the farm boy was in paradise!  He loved Westerns for another big reason…lots of horses. Which he loved from the age of three when he was given a rocking horse.  Every Fourth of July, he’d say this is the anniversary of my first day in America. ‘Coming to America was the best thing that could happen to me.’”

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Nick Redman
(1955 – 2019)

I didn’t know Nick Redman, but I sure knew his work. We all do. He made two excellent documentaries that Western fans (should) hold near and dear: The Wild Bunch: An Album In Montage (1996) and A Turning Of The Earth: John Ford, John Wayne And The Searchers (1998). He passed away last week.

He was also one of the founders of Twilight Time, a company that’s released some terrific 50s Westerns on Blu-Ray — Gun Fury (1953, in 3-D) and The True Story Of Jesse James (1957). I’m always grateful to anyone who presents these old movies the way they ought to be seen.

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I first became aware of Mr. Redman from the series of Lalo Schifrin soundtrack CDs he produced. The CDs of the Dirty Harry (1971) and Magnum Force (1973) scores have been in almost constant rotation in my office since the day they came out. He did a terrific job putting those together, and I was always hoping he’d get around to Schifrin’s music for Don Siegel’s Charley Varrick (1974). He also did a series of excellent Jerry Fielding CDs, including the complete score to The Wild Bunch (1969).

Western and action movie fans like us certainly owe a debt to Mr. Redman.

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Written and directed by Blake Edwards
Starring William Holden, Ryan O’Neal, Karl Malden, Lynn Carlin, Tom Skerritt, Joe Don Baker, James Olson, Leora Dana, Moses Gunn, Victor French, Rachel Roberts, Sam Gilman

Warner Archive is bringing Blake Edwards’ wonderful The Wild Rovers (1971) to Blu-Ray. Philip Lathrop’s photography deserves nothing less.

This is another one of those movies mangled by its studio — MGM cut about half an hour out of it without Edwards’ knowledge. This Blu-Ray (like the previous DVD) will be Edwards’ longer cut, which rights MGM’s wrongs.

William Holden is so good in this. And it makes an interesting companion piece to his work in Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch (1969) — these are two of the best films ever done about the changing West.

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Been meaning to do a piece on Hank Worden for quite a while. He turned up in an episode of The Lone Ranger last night, so I figured now’s the time.

His real name was Norton Earl Worden, and he was born in Rolfe, Iowa in 1901. He grew up on a ranch in Montana, attended both Stanford University and the University of Nevada, served in the Army, and worked on the rodeo circuit as a bronco rider. While rodeoing in Madison Square Garden, he and Tex Ritter were chosen to play cowhands in Green Grow The Lilacs on Broadway.

That’s Hank in the yellow shirt to the right of Tex Ritter.

Worden broke into the movies with Cecil B. DeMille’s The Plainsman in 1936, and was soon appearing in Tex Ritter’s B Westerns.

Hank with Joanne Dru in Red River (1948)

Hank had a small part in Howard Hawks’s Come And Get It (1936), and they say Hawks recommended Worden to John Ford. For Hawks, he did Red River (1948) and The Big Sky (1952). (Why wasn’t he in Rio Bravo?)

Right, as one of the vile, dim-witted Cleggs in Ford’s Wagon Master (1950)*

As a member of John Ford’s stock company, Worden’s in Stagecoach (1939), Fort Apache (1948), Three Godfathers (1948), Wagonmaster (1950), The Searchers (1956, up top) and more.

As the Parson with Frankie Avalon in Wayne’s The Alamo (1960)

Hank continued to work with John Wayne — as part of his stock company. Their last picture together was Cahill, US Marshall in 1973.

Left, with Forrest Tucker and Kathleen Crowley in The Quiet Gun (1957)

He turns up in so much stuff: a couple of the Ma and Pa Kettle movies, Hellfire (1949), The Quiet Gun (1957), Dragoon Wells Massacre (1957), One-Eyed Jacks (1961‚ Marlon Brando killed him off way too early), Smokey And The Bandit (1977) and Clint Eastwood’s Bronco Billy (1980). On TV, he was on The Lone Ranger, Bonanza, Wagon Train, Petticoat Junction, even a few episodes of Twin Peaks (his last role).

Hank Worden added something special to every movie he was in, but it’s Mose Harper in The Searchers that he’ll always be remembered for. And that’s not a bad thing at all.

* One of my favorite photos ever posted on this blog.

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Written, Produced, Directed by Samuel Fuller
Cinematography: Joseph Biroc
Art Direction: John Mansbridge
Music: Harry Sukman
Film Editing: Gene Fowler Jr.

Cast: Barbara Stanwyck (Jessica Drummond), Barry Sullivan (Griff Bonnell), Dean Jagger (Sheriff Ned Logan), John Ericson (Brockie Drummond), Gene Barry (Wes Bonnell), Robert Dix (Chico Bonnell), Jidge Carroll (Barney Cashman), Paul Dubov (Judge Macy), Gerald Milton (Shotgun Spanger), Ziva Rodann (Rio), Hank Worden (Marshal John Chisum)

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With a Sam Fuller movie, there’s always something kinda off. Not off in a bad way, off as in different from anything else you’ve ever seen — except another Sam Fuller movie. The performances, pacing, editing, dialogue — they’re just different. And that’s before you get to the story itself.

A great example of this is Fuller’s Forty Guns (1957). It’s unlike any Western you’ve ever seen.

Forty Guns is a big sweeping epic on one hand and a glorified Regalscope picture on the other. There’s a scene pretty early in the movie where John Ericson and his gang of punks are busting up the town. They throw stuff, shoot stuff and just generally create total mayhem. Fuller cuts back and forth across the street as they shoot from one side and their bullets hit windows or whatever on the other side — then to the helpless, wigged-out townspeople watching all this. The footage doesn’t cut together in the smooth, traditional Hollywood way, but it perfectly creates the chaos and movement the scene needs.

Barbara Stanwyck is terrific as Jessica Drummond, a female take on the rancher who runs the town. Barry Sullivan is Griff Bonnell, a former gunman now working for the government. So far, it sounds like one of your standard B Western plots — how many times was Roy Rogers a government agent? But that’s where the similarities end, as Forty Guns goes off in directions only Sam Fuller would even think of taking it. And he’s got a cast and crew eager to help him get there.

It has one of the damnedest opening sequences I’ve ever seen, as the Drummond and her 40 guns come thundering along a deserted and pass by Sullivan and his brothers. I’d love to experience it on a big curved CinemaScope screen.

But from one end to the other, Forty Guns is a movie absolutely filled with striking images, cooked up by Fuller and delivered in gorgeous B&W CinemaScope by Joseph Biroc — and all flawlessly captured on Blu-Ray by Criterion. They’ve really got the contrast perfectly dialed-in on this one. Wish every black and white movie looked like this on video — everybody who helps bring old movies to TV and video needs to take a look at this.

Of course, it’s got a typically Criterion-ish slew of extras — interviews, a documentary, even a chapter of Fuller’s autobiography. It’s a pretty deep dive, and it’s always a treat to wallow in Sam Fuller. He was a real character, a true original and one helluva filmmaker. Highly, highly recommended.

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The new year, and each and every morning, is getting off to a great start. COZI TV, which brings lots of cool old shows to NBC stations (5.2 here in Raleigh) has added four episodes of The Lone Ranger to their morning lineup.

What a great way to start the day, though it has really slowed down my morning routine.

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