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Archive for the ‘1957’ Category

Directed by Henry Levin
Produced by Pat Duggan
Written by Harry Essex & Robert Smith
Cinematography: Lionel Lindon
Music by Van Cleave
Film Editor: William B. Murphy

Cast: Jack Palance (Jacob Wade), Anthony Perkins (Riley Wade), Neville Brand (King Fisher), Robert Middleton (Ben Ryerson), Elaine Aiken (Ada Marshall), Elisha Cook, Jr. (Willie), Claude Akins (Blackburn), Lee Van Cleef (Faro), Harry Shannon (Dr. Fisher), James Bell (Judge Hart), Adam Williams (Lon), Denver Pyle (Brad), John Doucette (Sundown Whipple)

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It’d be easy to call The Lonely Man (1957) another gunfighter-wants-to-hang-up-his-guns movie, with an estranged son tossed into the mix. But you’d be really selling this one short. After all, one thing you learn from watching a couple hundred 50s Westerns is that the fun often comes from seeing what each picture does with a well-worn, basic framework we’ve all seen before.

After many years, gunman Jacob Wade (Jack Palance) comes home to lead a normal, peaceful life, only to find the wife he abandoned dead (suicide?) and his son a very bitter young man. Father and son wind up at Wade’s other ranch, where Ada (Elaine Aiken), a herd of mustangs and plenty of trouble await. That trouble, it’s some guys from Wade’s past — Neville Brand, Claud Aikens, Lee Van Cleef and Elisha Cook — and they have a score to settle. And to top it all off, Jacob’s going blind.

Palance is dressed a bit like his character, Jack Wilson, in Shane (1953), but all similarities end there. Jacob Wade has a conscience here, and is filled with regret. This isn’t how he wanted things to turn out, and he hopes to make things right with his son. Anthony Perkins is quite good as Riley Wade. He has plenty to learn, but he doesn’t come off as a spineless toad. Though he’s angry and spiteful, we still like him and feel for him.

Robert Middleton, who’s always good, has a great part as the one member of Wade’s old gang who’s still loyal. We like him, but we don’t really trust him.

9209_0007__20151015141858Elaine Aiken is really good as the woman Jacob’s been with since leaving his family. She didn’t make many movies, this was her first, but she became a noted acting teacher — and a founder of the Actors Conservatory. The bad guys, from Neville Brand to Lee Van Cleef, have well-rounded parts — and the actors make the most of their limited screen time.

The dialogue by Harry Essex and Robert Smith is terrific and the direction from Henry Levin and editing by William Murphy are very tight. This is solid picture.

But for my money, the real “star” of The Lonely Man is cinematographer Lionel Lindon. He did some fine work over the course of his long career — from Road To Utopia (1945) and The Black Scorpion (1957) to The Manchurian Candidate (1962) and The Munsters, but this one is just stunning. (Let’s not forget his beautiful Trucolor work in 1955’s A Man Alone.) The rich shadows of the interiors and the deep focus of the Alabama Hills exteriors are gorgeous in black and white VistaVision.

The Paramount DVD of The Lonely Man has been around for a while, and it’s a terrific example of what a good transfer can be. The VistaVision is sharp as a tack, as it should be, and the blacks are absolutely perfect, and that’s critical to appreciating Lionel Lindon’s work on this film. The Alabama Hills have rarely been presented so beautifully. I’d love to see this make it to Blu-Ray.

The Lonely Man certainly deserves more attention than it gets. Highly, highly recommended.

Interestingly, a few months later, Anthony Perkins and Neville Brand were back in another black and white VistaVision Western for Paramount — Anthony Mann’s The Tin Star (1957).

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Directed by Ray Nazarro
Produced by Rory Calhoun & Victor M. Orsatti
Screenplay by Kenneth Gamet & Hal Biller
Cinematography: Irving Lippman
Film Editor: Gene Havlick

Cast: Rory Calhoun (Domino), Kristine Miller (Barbara Ellison), Andrew Duggan (Wade Harrington), Yvette Duguay (Rosita), Peter Whitney (Lafe), Eugene Iglesias (Juan Cortez), Robert Burton (Sheriff Travers), Roy Barcroft (Ed Sandlin), James H. Griffith (Beal), Denver Pyle (Bill Dragger). Thomas Browne Henry (Doctor)

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There’s something about this movie. It takes one of the most basic of Western plots — a young man seeks revenge after his father is killed and their ranch trashed by guerrilla raiders during the Civil War — and somehow makes you forget you’ve seen this kinda thing a thousand times. There’s a bit of a 7 Men From Now (1956) thing going, as Domino (Rory Calhoun) knows who four of the five killers are, takes care of them, and has to identify the fifth.

Maybe it’s the direction from Ray Nazarro at sets it apart. He did so many of these things, and he had a real knack for keeping em moving. There’s a snap to his movies that others’ pictures lacked. The script’s pretty good, especially at going Rory Calhoun cool things to say. Calhoun, who co-produced and worked on the story, leads a great cast. Kristine Miller is good as the woman Domino left behind when he went gunning for the guys who killed his father. She didn’t have a real long career, but she worked at Republic quite a bit, which is enough of a recommendation for me. Andrew Duggan is the local bigwig who wants to buy Calhoun’s ranch — and make off with his girl. He made some solid Westerns in the late 50s — his next was Decision At Sundown (1957).

Yvette Duguay and Eugene Iglesias are both likable (and Duguay’s very pretty) as a couple of Domino’s only loyal friends in town. Then you’ve got James H. Griffith, one of my favorites, and Denver Pyle as a couple of the men Domino tracks down and blows away. Peter Whitney is the elusive fifth man, who comes to town to put an end to Domino’s “vengeance trail.” You’ll remember him as Amos Agry in Buchanan Rides Alone (1958). And there’s Roy Barcroft and Thomas Browne Henry in a couple small parts (you hardly see Henry’s face in his approximately 15 seconds of screen time).

Cinematographer Irving Lippman gets high marks on this one. It’s a good-looking movie, with deep, moody shadows and some interesting shots throughout — nicely framed for 1.85, another way Domino Kid stays fresh. Lippman was a staff cinematographer at Columbia, shooting pictures like  Hellcats Of The Navy and 20 Million Miles To Earth (both 1957). He also has the distinction of having shot some of the later Three Stooges shorts, a few of their features and almost every episode of both the Jungle Jim and The Monkees TV shows. He started out as a still photographer for the studio.

Domino Kid is not available on DVD or Blu-Ray. The transfer that used to turn up on The Westerns Channel looked great. This is the kind of picture that would be terrific as part of a set similar to those wonderful film noir collections Kit Parker has been doing. It’s a near-textbook example of a medium-budgeted 50s Western. Highly recommended.

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Directed by Fred F. Sears
Starring Rory Calhoun, Susan Cummings, Angela Stevens, Max Baer, Ray Teal

Sidonis out of France has announced the upcoming DVD (only) release of Utah Blaine (1957), a picture that brings together Rory Calhoun, producer Sam Katzman and director Fred F. Sears to bring a Louis L’Amour novel to the screen. By the way, Angela Stevens was in a number of Katzman pictures, including Creature With The Atom Brain and the Jungle Jim movie Devil Goddess (both 1955).

Calhoun made a number of pictures for Columbia, often having a hand in the production himself. This was his only time working with Jungle Sam’s unit — cats like Fred Sears and DP Benjamin Kline who take the finished picture far beyond what Katzman had in his budget. Of late, Sidonis has stayed clear of the forced (as in you can’t get rid of ’em) subtitles that plagued some of their earlier DVDs. This should be 1.85, and I’m looking forward to seeing it again. Coming in September.

UPDATE: Word is, the subtitles can be removed.

Thanks to John Knight for the reminder.

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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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That’s Wright King to the right, appropriately enough.

Wright King
(January 11, 1923 – November 25, 2018)

Character actor Wright King passed away last month at 95.

King didn’t make a lot of features, but he’s in some good stuff: A Streetcar Named Desire (1951, he was in the original Broadway production, too), Friendly Persuasion (1956), Stagecoach To Fury (1956), Hot Rod Rumble (1957), The Gunfight At Dodge City (1959) and Planet Of The Apes (1968), to name a few.

On TV, he was on tons of stuff, including Wanted Dead Or Alive, Twilight Zone, The Gabby Hayes Show, Johnny Jupiter, Rawhide, Gunsmoke, Father Knows Best, The Fugitive and Mannix.

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Directed by Sam Fuller
Starring Barbara Stanwyck, Barry Sullivan, Dean Jagger, John Ericson, Gene Barry

Criterion has announced a December 11 date for their edition of Sam Fuller’s Forty Guns (1957). The extras sound terrific and I can’t wait to see its black and white Scope in high definition.

This is one of those movies where you find something new to be dazzled by each time you see it. Absolutely essential.

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Directed by Nicholas Ray
Starring Robert Wagner, Jeffrey Hunter, Hope Lange, Agnes Moorehead, Alan Hale Jr., Alan Baxter, John Carradine, Rachel Stephens

Nicholas Ray’s mangled masterpiece The True Story Of Jesse James (1957) is coming to Blu-Ray from Twilight Time. It’s one of my personal favorite 50s Westerns — for Ray’s incredible use of CinemaScope if nothing else, and it’s the subject of what I think is my best post ever for this blog.

It’s coming November 20. Not sure what the extras will be, but I can’t wait.

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