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Archive for June, 2020

Directed by Budd Boetticher
Produced by Aaron Rosenberg
Screenplay by Steve Fisher and D.D. Beauchamp
Story by Niven Busch and Oliver Crawford
Music by Frank Skinner
Cinematography: Russell Metty
Film Editor: Virgil W. Vogel

Cast: Glenn Ford (John Stroud), Julie Adams (Beth Anders), Chill Wills (John Gage), Hugh O’Brian (Lt. Lamar), Victor Jory (Jess Wade), Neville Brand (Dawes), John Day (Cavish), Myra Marsh (Ma Anders), Jeanne Cooper (Kate Lamar), Mark Cavell (Carlos), Edward Norris (Mapes), Guy Williams (Sergeant)

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It took Budd Boetticher a while to find his cinematic sweet spot with stuff like The Killer Is Loose and Seven Men From Now (both 1956). But he made some terrific pictures in the meantime. The Man From The Alamo (1953) is one of the best of those. It’s a short movie completely filled with action — from the attack on the Alamo to a number of fist fights to the climactic wagon train scenes. It’s all handled perfectly, and when you learn this was a shoot plagued by injuries, it’s easy to see why.

 

John Stroud (Glenn Ford) is the one man who left the Alamo after Travis drew his line with his sword, and he’s been labeled a coward. We know he’s not. Stroud sees the chance to help other families make their way to safety as a way to clear his name — and get his revenge on Wade (Victor Jory), the leader of a band of mercenaries who have hired on with Santa Anna.

We get an early version of the usual Boetticher hero — an outsider obsessed with a personal mission, a character Randolph Scott played to perfection in pictures like The Tall T (1957). Glenn Ford does a good job here as a man who’s lost everything, even his good name. Not many movies have us rooting for a character so clearly burned out and cynical. That’s where Ford really comes through, always showing enough of the decent family man to keep us from writing him off. It also keeps us from wondering why Julie Adams would be interested in him.

Victor Jory is Wade, the soldier for hire responsible for the death of Ford’s family. Jory is a great bad guy, and he’s at his absolute slimiest best here — though it’s hard to top him in South Of St. Louis (1949). He’s given some sweaty, sneering closeups that’ll make your skin crawl. 

Julie Adams is so beautiful in Russell Metty’s Technicolor — she was perfect for Universal International’s bright, colorful Westerns of the 50s. And she’s always able to pull something out of an underwritten part. Neville Brand is terrific, too. Chill Wills can be a bit grating, as usual.

Back to Russell Metty. He was a master, and his Technicolor work here is incredible. In a picture that takes place largely in rocks and sand, he manages to find enough of a color palette to create plenty of vibrant visuals.

And that’s what makes this new Blu-Ray from Mill Creek such a treat. It’s a gorgeous transfer of the original material, and the movie really benefits from the boost in definition, a solid improvement on the old DVD (which was nice to begin with). The color is really terrific. Mill Creek has paired it with Robert Rossen’s They Came To Cordura (1959), which also looks splendid. A pair of movies like this, looking this good, at such a great price — you can’t get too many of em. Highly recommended.

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Directed by Ford Beebe and Ray Taylor
Screen Play by Sherman L. Lowe, George Plympton, Basil Dickey, Jack O’Donnell
Original Story by Oliver Drake
Photography: Jerome Ash and William A. Sickner
Starring Dick Foran, Leo Carrillo, Buck Jones, Charles Bickford, Guinn “Big Boy” Williams, Lon Chaney, Jr., Noah Beery, Jr., Jeanne Kelly, Glenn Strange, Roy Barcroft

VCI is prepping another Universal serial for Blu-Ray release, 1941’s “million dollar super serial with a million thrills,” Riders Of Death Valley

While I doubt they spent that much on it, it certainly has a million-dollar cast — the likes of Dick Foran, Buck Jones, Charles Bickford, Guinn “Big Boy” Williams, Lon Chaney, Jr., Noah Beery, Jr., Glenn Strange and Roy Barcroft!

For the Blu-ray, VCI will use original 35mm material. A still gallery and two-chapter commentary from yours truly will be included. This is a cool serial and should be a really nice release.

A few years later, Lon Chaney, Jr. and Glenn Strange would take each other on again in Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), with Chaney as Larry Talbot, the Wolf Man, and Strange as Frankenstein’s monster.

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Directed by John Ford
Starring Harry Carey, Duke Lee, Neva Gerber, Vester Pegg

Kino Lorber is bringing a John Ford/Harry Carey silent picture, 1918’s Hell Bent, to Blu-Ray in August — from a 4K restoration. I’m sure I’m not the only one excited about this.

The extras sound terrific on this one. They include an archival 1970 audio interview with Ford by Joseph McBride, author of Searching For John Ford, along with a commentary by McBride. Other supplement round out the package. Can’t wait.

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