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Archive for the ‘1957’ Category

Directed by Lesley Selander
Starring John Dehner, Gregg Palmer, Frances Helm, Don Gordon, Harry Dean Stanton

Revolt At Fort Laramie (1957) is a pretty good color Lesley Selander picture. It’s always great to see a Bel-Air movie make it to Blu-Ray.

But what’s interesting is that the Blu-Ray that’s on the way from MGM looks like part of an MOD program. Could that be cranking up again? If so, how’s about Rebel In Town (1956)?

Thanks to Paula for the tip.

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The Criterion Collection has announced an upcoming 4K set of Randolph Scott and Budd Boetticher’s Ranown Cycle: The Tall T (1957), Decision At Sundown (1957), Buchanan Rides Alone (1958), Ride Lonesome (1959) and Comanche Station (1960).

It’s coming in July, so get to shopping for 4K players and TVs!

Wish someone would convince the John Wayne estate to pave the way to get Seven Men From Now (1956), the film that launched the Scott-Boetticher collaboration, out on Blu-Ray.

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Henry Silva
(September 23, 1926 – September 14, 2022)


The great character actor Henry Silva has passed away, a few days short of his 96th birthday.

From Westerns like The Tall T (1957, above) and The Bravados (1958) to gangster pictures like Johnny Cool (1964) to Rat Pack things like Oceans 11 (1960) to a slew of foreign action movies, it was always a good sign to see Silva’s name pop up in the credits. He rarely got a role that wasn’t a villain of some sort, but when he did, he was terrific.

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Directed by Paul Landres
Starring Dale Robertson, Brian Keith, Rosanna Rory, Dick Kallman, Don Megowan, Mike Lane, Buddy Baer

Mr. Banker, a DVD/Blu-Ray label out of Germany, has announced their upcoming release of Paul Landres’ excellent Hell Canyon Outlaws (1957).

This nasty, terrific little Western, originally distributed by Republic, has been way too hard to find over the years (though you could get a decent copy from Sinister Cinema). I swore I’d release it on Blu-Ray myself if I ever won the lottery. Now, maybe that’s not necessary.

I don’t buy a lot of import DVDs and Blu-Rays, and I’ve never heard of Mr. Banker, but this is one worth taking a chance on. Highly recommended.

Thanks to Mr. John Knight for the news.

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Directed by Oliver Drake
Produced by Charles “Buddy” Rogers
Written by Oliver Drake & John Mantley
Director Of Photography: Clark Ramsey
Film Editor: Warren Adams
Music by Joe Sodja

Cast: Anthony Dexter (Billy The Kid), Sonny Tufts (Jack Slade), Marie Windsor (Tonya), Charles “Buddy” Rogers (Rev. Jericho Jones), Jean Parker (Sarah Jones), Robert Lowery (Col. Jefferson Morgan), Bob Steele (Ace Jardine), Bob Duncan (Pat Garrett)


With Pat Garrett’s help, Billy The Kid (Anthony Dexter) fakes his own death so he can live out his life in peace. Traveling to the town of Four Corners, he plans to run his small ranch under an assumed name.

When a big rancher (Robert Lowery) brings in the gunman Jack Slade (Sonny Tufts) to help him take over Four Corners, The Kid stays out of it — even when he finds out they’ve been using his ranch as a hideout. The local preacher (Charles Rogers), who knows The Kid is The Kid, finally encourages him to strap on his guns again.

The Parson And The Outlaw (1957) is a fascinating, if ultimately not very good, Western. It brings together all sorts of things that make 50s Westerns so special to me.

The picture was produced by Charles “Buddy” Rogers, a silent actor (1927’s Wings) maybe best known for marrying Mary Pickford. At various times, Rogers also worked as a writer, gag man, director, bandleader and producer. After producing The Parson And The Outlaw, he did Hot Rod Gang and High School Hellcats (both 1958).

It was directed and co-written by Oliver Drake, who seemed to live a life almost completely saturated with making Westerns. Most of them are really cheap, some aren’t very good, but he made a lifelong career out of it. If nothing else, he co-wrote Riders Of The Whistling Skull (1937) and his story became Dragoon Wells Massacre (1957). His book Written, Produced & Directed: The Autobiography Of Oliver Drake needs to be reprinted somewhere, somehow.

Then there’s Marie Windsor, my favorite actress. Her fake accent is terrible, but it’s Marie Windsor — in Technicolor! Anthony Dexter is wretched, but you can always depend on Sonny Tufts and Bob Steele. 

The cabin set you see Miss Windsor in (above) looks tiny and like it cost 37 cents to construct. But there’s a sincerity to the whole thing that really helps put it over.

Director Of Photography Clark Ramsey shot pictures like I Killed Geronimo (1950), Superman And The Mole Men (1951), Gold Fever (1952) and Hidden Guns (1956). Ramsey was from Palo Pinto County in central Texas (the tiny town of Brad, with just a couple dozen people). My grandparents lived in nearby (and also quite tiny) Strawn.

In short, The Parson And The Outlaw (1957) is a cheap Western that means well, but doesn’t quite deliver — mainly because it’s so obviously cheap. But given the folks involved, it has plenty of curb appeal for fans of 50s (or earlier) Westerns. It’s a real shame it hasn’t made its way to DVD or Blu-Ray.

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Directed by Gerd Oswald
Produced by John Beck
Executive Producer: Bob Goldstein
Screenplay by Jason James
From a novel (Showdown Creek) by Lucas Todd
Director Of Photography: Joseph LaShelle
Music by Harry Sukman

Cast: John Derek (Brock Mitchell), John Smith (Miley Sutton), Carolyn Craig (Ginny Clay), Nick Adams (Tracy Mitchell), Gage Clarke (Chad Deasy), Robert E. Griffin (Sheriff Clay), Malcolm Atterbury (Norris), Rusty Lane (Riley), Sydney Smith (Van Steeden), Frances Morris (Mrs. Williams), Tyler McDuff (Tom Williams), Robert Adler (Alabam), Norman Leavitt (Swamper), Ken Christy (Mr. Phelps), Tom McKee (Sheriff of Buckhorn), Kermit Maynard, Buddy Roosevelt

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Just for grins, I decided to post a portion of a chapter-in-progress from my book, 50 Westerns From The 50s.

Pretty much ignored when it came out, Fury At Showdown (1957) can be seen today as a solid 50s Western — and an absolute miracle of low-budget film-making. Director Gerd Oswald somehow pulled this picture off in a week!

After a year in jail for a shooting in self-defense, Brock Mitchell (John Derek) returns to the family ranch, now run by his younger brother Tracy (Nick Adams). Brock finds himself an outcast in his own hometown, and the target of a crooked lawyer (Gage Clarke), whose brother is the man he killed. To make matters worse, the lawyer brings a hired gun (John Smith) to town — and is about to foreclose on the brothers’ ranch.

Gerd Oswald (from a terrific Filmfax interview): “That was one of my six or seven day epics… The line producer, John Brett, said, ‘You are only allowed so much money for this picture and tomorrow we’ve got a big lynch scene. We’re supposed to have 50 extras, and I can only give you 12. That’s all — we just don’t have any more money.’ So by necessity I was forced to do certain set-ups that I normally wouldn’t have done. I filled half the screen with the profile of one man, then filled the background. I created a mob scene with just 12 people.”

Oswald certainly wasn’t the only director to make a movie with no time and no money. But with Fury At Showdown, he found a way to make these limitations work for the film, not against it. Many dialogue scenes play out in a single take, with the actors moving toward, and away from, the camera to create different “shots” within these long takes. It’s obvious these scenes were extensively rehearsed. Other scenes place actors in both the foreground and the background, as a way to combine bits of action into a single set-up. And the making-a-mob-out-of-12-people approach is carried throughout, giving the whole film a minimalist feel in keeping with its loner lead character.

Of course, you need a good script, capable actors and an ingenious cameraman to cut corners like that and end up with a decent movie. The screenplay is by Jason James, adapted from the 1955 novel Showdown Creek by Lucas Todd. Todd is a pen-name for Stanley Kauffmann, the noted film and theater critic for The New Republic and The New York Times.

There’s a solid performance from John Derek, a terrific one from Nick Adams, who underplays nicely, and appropriately hateful turns from John Smith and Gage Clarke. Carolyn Craig, as Derek’s old flame, and a stable of trusty character actors hold their own.

Director of photography Joseph LaShelle was known for his gritty realism, making him an ideal choice for noirs like Laura (1944, which landed him an Oscar), Hangover Square (1945) and Road House (1948). LaShelle also an ability to make a budget look bigger than it really is, which made him perfect for something like I Was A Teenage Werewolf (1957). LaShelle and Oswald came to Fury At Showdown shortly after completing Crime Of Passion (1957), a mini-noir with Barbara Stanwyck and Sterling Hayden.

A one-week picture tends to have a rushed, ragged feel. Think of something from Monogram, like a Bowery Boys movie or one of Bela Lugosi’s Monogram Nine. The haphazard, one-take-and-move-on tone of those pictures is replaced by a feeling of tight control in Fury At Showdown. Obviously, planning and rehearsal made all the difference. It was shot on the RKO Western street (later Desilu) and at the Iverson Ranch in mid-July 1956.

Upon its release, A.H. Weiler of The New York Times called Fury At Showdown “a surprisingly decent little Western” and said “this unpretentious, low-budget entry is leanly written, tersely acted and, above all, straightforward… Under Gerd Oswald’s sure direction, this tightly authentic atmosphere, the good, blunt dialogue and some discreetly inserted music do much to project the urgency of Mr. Derek’s plight—that of a young man at his life’s crossroads.” It’s rare for the Times to see the merits of a little picture like this.

Years later, in his massive book The Western, Phil Hardy wrote: “A stylistic tour de force and undoubtedly Oswald’s best film, Fury At Showdown has a formal excellence that belies its five-day shooting schedule and shames many a bigger budgeted movie… Rarely has economy been put to such a positive use.” Amen to that.

Fury At Showdown (1957) is a real gem, one of those neglected little masterpieces that are so fun to discover. Highly, highly recommended.

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Quantez (1957)
Directed by Harry Keller
Starring Fred MacMurray, Dorothy Malone, James Barton, Sydney Chaplin, John Gavin, John Larch, Michael Ansara

Just finished recording a commentary for Harry Keller’s Quantez (1957), a film I appreciate more every time I see it. It feels awkward to plug these things when I work on ’em, but this one is something special. The movie is ripe for rediscovery — and I think it’s the best commentary I’ve done.

It’s also a picture with superb art direction and cinematography, so high-definition will be a big plus.

Horizons West (1952)
Directed by Budd Boetticher
Starring Robert Ryan, Julia Adams, Rock Hudson, John McIntire, Raymond Burr, James Arness, Dennis Weaver

Horizons West (1952) has the great cast of contract players — Adams, Hudson, McIntire, Dennis Weaver — and gorgeous Technicolor we expect from Universal International Westerns of the early 50s. It’s a post-Civi War story of Ryan’s ambitions getting the best of him. Budd Boetticher keeps it short on running time and long on action. 

The color will make this one really pop on Blu-Ray. I’ll be recording a commentary for it next week. Both pictures are expected in May from Kino Lorber. 

There haven’t been many 50s Westerns riding up on DVD or Blu-Ray lately. These will help make up for it.

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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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Joel McCrea
November 5, 1905 – October 20, 1990

Let’s remember the great Joel McCrea on what would’ve been his 115th birthday. He’s seen here in The Tall Stranger (1957).

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Kino Lorber’s bringing a couple of underrated Anthony Quinn Westerns to Blu-Ray in early 2021 — Man From Del Rio (1956) and The Ride Back (1957). These two pictures illustrate all the riches that were turning up in theaters during the 50s. Major stars like Anthony Quinn were doing medium-budget Westerns like this, along with the stuff guys like George Montgomery and Guy Madison were doing.

Man From Del Rio (1956)
Directed by Harry Horner
Starring Anthony Quinn, Katy Jurado, Peter Whitney, Douglas Fowley, John Larch, Douglas Spencer, Guinn “Big Boy” Williams

Man From Del Rio has a great cast and has overlooked far too long. Hopefully, a nice widescreen HD transfer of Stanley Cortez’s cinematography will give it a bit of a reappraisal. Cortez, of course, shot a few films you might’ve heard of — The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), The Night Of The Hunter (1955) and The Naked Kiss (1964).

Wish Harry Horner had directed more. This and Beware, My Lovely (1952) show he really had the chops. His production design work is incredible. He did pictures like The Wonderful Country (1959), The Hustler (1961) and The Driver (1978).

The Ride Back (1957)
Directed by Allen H. Miner
Starring Anthony Quinn, William Conrad, Lita Milan

William Conrad produced and co-stars in this one. He’s a lawman who heads to Mexico to bring back outlaw Quinn. Director Allen H. Miner did the George Montgomery picture Black Patch the same year. Black Patch went a bit too far with the stylistics, but that’s not a problem here. Joseph Biroc shot The Ride Back, by the way. He’d just shot Attack (1956) for Robert Aldrich, who was a producer on The Ride Back. Biroc’s B&W cinematography is always a plus, and it’ll be stunning on Blu-Ray.

I love the tagline “It rides a trail no Western ever rode before!”

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