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Archive for the ‘1953’ Category

Directed by Anthony Mann
Starring James Stewart, Janet Leigh, Robert Ryan, Ralph Meeker, Millard Mitchell

Mann and Stewart’s third Western, coming after Winchester ’73 (1950) and Bend Of The River (1952), has been screaming for some restoration work for quite some time. Warner Archive has announced a Blu-Ray release for September. Can’t wait to see what they’ve done with it.

These Mann-Stewart pictures are certainly among the best Westerns ever made. Beyond that, it comes down to your personal preference.

I’ll post the technical details as they become available. This one’s as essential as they get.

Love that poster art by Gustav Rehberger.

Thanks to Paula for the tip.

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Bob Furmanek of The 3-D Film Archive is working on their most ambitious and labor-intensive effort yet — teaming up with TCA Television Corp. and the Lou Costello Estate to restore and preserve The Abbott & Costello Show from its original 35mm camera negatives! This mammoth project is being propelled by a Kickstarter campaign, which is nearing its completion. Click the title card above to participate. Do it today!

With these shows, what we see today comes from standard-definition transfers done back in the 80s, that have been “sharpened” and monkeyed with over the years for DVD release. (My old 16mm prints were better-looking!) For this new release, the 26 Season One episodes will be scanned from 35mm master elements in 4K — and each episode will be digitally cleaned, frame by frame.

Some episodes will have commentaries, including my own ramblings for episode 11, “The Western Story.” I’m honored.

These shows are terrific — it’s still considered one of the greatest TV shows ever, and I’m so stoked The 3-D Film Archive is giving them the four-star treatment they gave Africa Screams (1949). Can’t wait to see Stinky, Mike The Cop and Hillary Brooke in all their 4K glory. Essential.

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Directed by John Sturges
Written by Michael Pate
Phillip Rock
Frank Fenton
Music by Jeff Alexander
Cinematography: Robert L. Surtees
Film Editor: George Boemler

Cast: William Holden (Captain Roper), Eleanor Parker (Carla Forester), John Forsythe (Captain John Marsh), William Demarest (Campbell), William Campbell (Cabot Young), Polly Bergen (Alice Owens), Richard Anderson (Lieutenant Beecher), Carl Benton Reid (Colonel Owens), John Lupton (Bailey), Forrest Lewis, Howard McNear, Glenn Strange

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Director John Sturges made lots of really good movies, but he had a real thing for Westerns. One of his earliest was Escape From Fort Bravo (1953). It’s now available on Blu-Ray from Warner Archive.

It’s the Civil War. William Holden is a captain at Fort Bravo, a Union prison camp filled with Confederate soldiers (John Forsythe, William Demarest, William Campbell). There are Mescalero Apaches outside the walls of the fort and Confederate spies (Eleanor Parker, Howard McNear) inside. The spies help Forsythe mount an escape, and Holden heads out after them.

It all comes to a head when Holden, Parker and the recaptured prisoners are pinned down in a dry creek bed by who-knows-how-many Apaches.

To tell you much more might get in the way of Sturges’ finely-crafted suspense. The last reel of this thing is as good as anything Sturges ever did. It’s terrific.

Quite a few 50s Westerns made good use of the climactic pinned-down-by-Indians thing. A few that come to mind are Apache Drums (1951), Dakota Incident (1956) and Dragoon Wells Massacre (1958).

Holden is really good as the hard-nosed captain. He was an avid outdoorsman, and it looks like he’s in his element here. Eleanor Parker makes a good spy, and she’s beautiful in both an evening gown and leather jacket. William Demarest and William Campbell have some good, well-written scenes together. And it’s great to see Howard McNear, Floyd from The Andy Griffith Show, as a Confederate spy. Where things get a little wonky is in the middle — the romantic scenes between Holden and Parker seem like a studio-dictated addition. They slow the movie down as it makes its way to its tight conclusion. (Sturges was never all that adept with the mushy stuff.) Of course, the thrilling final attack makes up for it.

Escape From Fort Bravo was one of the first pictures shot in the Ansco Color process. It’s no Technicolor, or even Eastmancolor, but it gets the job done. It was John Sturges’ first color film, period. It was shot in Death Valley, Gallop, New Mexico, Corriganville and the MGM backlot in April and May of 1953. The great Robert Surtees was the cinematographer. There was talk at one time of the picture being shot in 3-D. It was not, with MGM making it an early widescreen release instead. In some places, it played in three-track stereophonic sound.

Warner Archive’s Blu-Ray is a marked improvement over the DVD. Here, we get the original widescreen (1.75) and a surprisingly vivid look at Ansco Color’s pastel shades. Like so many stereo movies from the early 50s, the original directional tracks are probably long gone. The mono sound, however, is clean and clear.

Escape From Fort Bravo has everything going for it. A great cast. Meticulous direction. Incredible location photography, in color. And now it has a Blu-Ray that really does all that justice. Highly, highly recommended.

Of course, John Sturges would make another POW escape film, The Great Escape, in 1963. By the way, he was trying to get that one off the ground while Escape From Fort Bravo was being put together. It took him 10 years to get The Great Escape to the screen.

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Lee Aker
(September 25, 1943 – April 1, 2021)

Lee Aker, who most will remember from the Rin Tin Tin TV show, has passed away at 77. He also appeared in Hondo (1953, above) with John Wayne, High Noon (1952), Ride Clear Of Diablo (1954) and Destry (1954).

Aker suffered a stroke and died April 1 near Mesa, Arizona. Sadly, his body was unclaimed.

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Directed by John Sturges
Starring William Holden, Eleanor Parker, John Forsythe, William Demarest, William Campbell, Polly Bergen, Howard McNear, Glenn Strange

Warner Archive is working their Blu-Ray magic on John Sturges’ Escape From Fort Bravo (1953), a taut, suspenseful picture starring William Holden and Eleanor Parker.

Shot in Anscocolor, I’m looking forward to what WAC can do with it. Escape From Fort Bravo was originally shown in 1.66, just as the widescreen era was cranking up. But don’t let this make the movie sound like just a technical curio — it’s a damn good 50s Western. Highly recommended.

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Joan Weldon
(August 5, 1930 – February 11, 2021)

Joan Weldon, a lovely actress who appeared in some terrific pictures in the 50s, has passed away at 90.

She appeared with Randolph Scott in two Westerns, The Stranger Wore A Gun (1953) and Riding Shotgun (1954), both directed by Andre de Toth, along with The Command (1954) with Guy Madison, Gunsight Ridge (1957) with Joel McCrea and Day Of The Badman (1958) with Fred MacMurray. But the big one, the one she’s known for, is Gordon Douglas’s great giant ant picture Them! (1954).

She was quote a singer and did a lot of musical theater, including appearing with Forrest Tucker in The Music Man.

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Kino Lorber’s second set of 50s Westerns on Blu-Ray serves up some good ones: The Redhead From Wyoming (1953), Pillars Of The Sky (1956) and Gun For A Corward (1957). It’s due April 6.

The Redhead From Wyoming (1953)
Directed by Lee Sholem
Starring Maureen O’Hara, Alex Nicol, William Bishop, Alexander Scourby, Robert Strauss, Gregg Palmer, Jack Kelly, Dennis Weaver, Stacy Harris

Maureen O’Hara runs a saloon and ends up in the middle of the usual cattlemen vs. settlers thing. It’s short, fast and beautifully shot by Winton C. Hoch.

Pillars Of The Sky (1956)
Directed by George Marshall
Starring Jeff Chandler, Dorothy Malone, Ward Bond, Keith Andes, Lee Marvin

Jeff Chandler is a calvary officer trying to keep his troops and Dorothy Malone from being scalped. Harold Lipstein shot it in CinemaScope on location in Oregon. Filmed right after The Searchers wrapped, it features a number of the same players (Ward Bond, Walter Coy, Olive Carey, Beulah Archuletta).

Gun For A Coward (1957)
Directed by Abner Biberman
Starring Fred MacMurray, Jeffrey Hunter, Janice Rule, Dean Stockwell, Bob Steele

This one weaves a family struggle into a cattle drive and rustlers story. It looks great in CinemaScope and MacMurray is terrific.

All three come with a trailer and commentary (I’m doing Pillars Of The Sky). And given Kino Lorber’s track record with their Universal movies, they’ll look terrific.

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Directed by George Stevens
Starring Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur, Van Heflin, Brandon deWilde, Jack Palance, Ben Johnson, Edgar Buchanan, Emile Meyer, Elisha Cook Jr., Douglas Spencer, John Dierkes, Ellen Corby

The Graham Cinema in Graham, NC, is running George Stevens’ Shane (1953) tonight through Thursday at 7PM.

Tuesday, November 17 thru Thursday, November 19 at 7:00 pm
Graham Cinema
119 N Main Street, Graham, NC 27253

It’s a great old theater, a real favorite of mine. Of course, Shane is terrific, too. And Loyal Griggs Oscar-winning cinematography really needs to be seen on the big screen.

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Lori Nelson
(August 15, 1933 – August 23, 2020)

Lori Nelson, has passed away at 87. She was born Dixie Kay Nelson. Her family moved to Hollywood when she was four. Soon after, she was crowned Little Miss America.

In 1950, Ms. Nelson signed a seven-year contract with Universal-International. Her first film was Bend Of The River, followed by Ma And Pa Kettle At The Fair and Francis Goes To West Point (all 1952). In 1953, U-I put her in Douglas Sirk’s All I Desire. She appeared in two Audie Murphy pictures, Tumbleweed (1953) and Destry (1954).

In 1955, she did Ma And Pa Kettle At Waikiki, Revenge of the Creature, Roger Corman’s Day The World Ended and I Died A Thousand Times, a remake of High Sierra (1941) — which has already been remake as Colorado Territory (1949). Underwater! was released in 1955, though it’d been shot some time earlier. She was loaned to Howard Hughes and RKO for that one. She’s also in Pardners (1956), one of the last Martin and Lewis pictures, Hot Rod Girl (1956) co-starring Chuck Connors and Howard W. Koch’s Untamed Youth (1957) with  Mamie Van Doren. What a great batch of 1950s cinema.

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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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