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Archive for the ‘1954’ Category

Directed by Jesse Hibbs
Starring John Payne, Mari Blanchard, Dan Duryea, Joyce Mackenzie, Barton MacLane, James Griffith, Lee Van Cleef, Myron Healey

Universal’s German “branch” has announced an upcoming nine-movie Blu-Ray set featuring a good, but somewhat random, selection of Westerns — many available on Blu-Ray for the first time.

There are two Audie Murphy pictures, Jesse Hibbs’s Ride Clear Of Diablo (1954) and Gunpoint (1966).

Jesse Hibbs’s Rails Into Laramie (1954) is a cool, sadly under-seen 50s Western with a really terrific cast. It’s been on my Want List for quite some time. 

Also in the set are Jacques Tourneur’s Canyon Passage (1946), George Sherman’s Comanche Territory (1950), Douglas Sirk’s Taza, Son Of Cochise (1954), Smoke Signal (1955), Lonely Are The Brave (1962) and The Ride To Hangman’s Tree (1967).

While packages like this tend to lead to some duplication in your DVD/Blu-Ray collection, they offer up some really good stuff. Recommended.

Thanks to (birthday boy) John Knight for the tip!

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Charles “Chuck” Hicks
(December 26, 1927 – May 4, 2021)

Veteran stuntman and charactor actor Chuck Hicks has passed away at 93.

He was in the 50s Westerns Horizons West (1952) and River Of No Return (1954) and TV’s Cheyenne, but he did some pretty memorable, even iconic, stuff in the 60s and beyond. He was the robot boxer in the great 1963 episode of The Twilight Zone, “Steel” (above). He was Chief in Cool Hand Luke (1967) and The Brow in Dick Tracy (1990).

He worked with Clint Eastwood a number of times, running from Rawhide to Dirty Harry (1971) to Bronco Billy (1980).

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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 Robert Aldrich
Starring Gary Cooper, Burt Lancaster, Denise Darcel, Sara Montiel, Cesar Romero, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, Jack Elam

Vera Cruz (1954) was put together by Burt Lancaster’s production company, Lancaster-Hecht. Burt was going to play the hero, Benjamin Trane, but it was decided to have Lancaster to play the bad guy — and a more traditional hero type play Trane. Cray Grant turned it down, and it was offered to Gary Cooper.

The picture’s a lot of fun with Cooper and Lancaster as a couple of shifty Americans down in Mexico who join forces to steal a stash of gold coins. With its macho one-upmanship, crosses and double-crosses, flawed characters — even the good guys are bad, Robert Aldrich’s Vera Cruz is one of the 50s Westerns that served as an obvious influence on the spaghetti westerns that would come in the early 60s.

Kino Lorber is working on a Blu-Ray release, which should do justice to the picture’s SuperScope 2:1 presentation (applied to the picture after the fact). Can’t wait to see it looking the way it should. Highly recommended.

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Burton Stephen “Burt” Lancaster
(November 2, 1913 – October 20, 1994)

This would’ve been the 107th birthday of one of my favorite movie stars, Mr. Burt Lancaster.

Here his is with Gary Cooper in Vera Cruz (1954), which his production company produced. It’s terrific, it was a huge hit and its ultimate influence on the spaghetti western can’t be overstated.

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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 Robert Aldrich
Starring Burt Lancaster, Jean Peters, John McIntire, Charles Buchinsky, John Dehner, Paul Guilfoyle, Ian MacDonald, Walter Sande, Morris Ankrum, Monte Blue

Kino Lorber has announced that a Blu-Ray of Robert Aldrich’s Apache (1954) will be available later this year.

It’s a solid little picture with a great cast. The downbeat ending was changed to something United Artists felt audiences would like. Apache was a big hit, so maybe UA was right. But Lancaster and Aldrich were not. The success of this one landed Aldrich the chance to director Lancaster and Gary Cooper in Vera Cruz (1954), a much bigger picture.

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There’s a lot going on these days, which is probably a huge understatement. At the same time, within the confines of each of our homes, there’s not much going on at all. I hope everyone is safe, healthy and watching a lot of movies. Thought I’d bring up a few things.

Apache Drums (1951) is coming to Blu-Ray from Sidonis out of France. This is very good news. It’s a terrific picture.

RIP, James Drury.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been asked for quite a few movie recommendations, and it’s been a blast to suggest Westerns and crime/noir movies to my homebound friends. It makes me feel good to know that yet another person has come to appreciate Man In The Saddle (1951) or Armored Car Robbery (1950).

Saw Day Of Triumph (1954), a low-budget, heartfelt, but talky story of Christ. It had a great cast — Lee J. Cobb, James H. Griffith (as Judas!), Joanne Dru (as a lovely Mary Magdalene), Burt Mustin, Robert Cornthwaite, Barbara Billingsley, Mike “Touch” Connors and Ralph Moody. The minimal sets are pretty effective, but Burbank is a long way from the Holy Land, in about every possible way.

Completed the commentary for Kino Lorber’s When The Daltons Rode (1940) last week. Due to coronavirus closings and stuff, we recorded it at the engineer’s home. We had to take a break when a train came through town — the tracks run behind his house. Ironically, it was the train robbery sequence.

Hang in there, folks!

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I recently had the extreme pleasure of being a guest on Todd Liebenow’s terrific podcast Forgotten Filmcast. Our subject was William Castle’s Jesse James Vs. The Daltons (1954). It’s up now — just click the ad above. It’s a good way to spend an hour of your “stay at home” time.

It’s a picture I’ve written about before, and it’s available in Mill Creek’s terrific set The Fastest Guns Of The West: The William Castle Western Collection

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Ben Cooper
(September 30, 1933 – February 24, 2020)

Got word this morning that Ben Cooper has passed away at 86.

He did a lot of pictures for Republic, from Woman They Almost Lynched (1953) to Johnny Guitar (1954, above, on the right) to A Strange Adventure (1956) — and he kept at it in movies and TV (mostly Westerns) into the 1990s.

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