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Archive for the ‘1957’ Category

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Warner Archive has some great stuff promised for April.

The Hired Gun (1957)
Directed by Ray Nazarro
Starring Rory Calhoun, Anne Francis, Vince Edwards, Chuck Connors
This is one I’ve been wanting for a long time. Black and white Scope with Rory Calhoun and Anne Francis, directed by Ray Nazarro. What’s not to like?

Black Patch (1957)
Directed by Allen H. Miner
Starring George Montgomery, Diane Brewster, Tom Pittman, Leo Gordon, Lynn Cartwright
A solid Montgomery Western written by character actor Leo Gordon.

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Arrow In The Dust (1954)
Directed by Lesley Selander
Starring Sterling Hayden, Coleen Gray, Jimmy Wakely, Lee Van Cleef
Hayden and Gray appear together a couple years before The Killing (1956), directed by the great Lesley Selander.

The Marauders (1955)
Directed by Gerald Mayer
Starring Dan Duryea, Jeff Richards, Keenan Wynn
Duryea as the bad guy gets first billing. Enough said.

Son Of Belle Starr (1953)
Directed by Frank McDonald
Starring Keith Larsen, Dona Drake, Peggie Castle, Regis Toomey
Peggie Castle and Regis Toomey in 70 minutes of Cinecolor from Allied Artists.

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Directed by Arnold Laven
Starring Tim Holt, Audrey Dalton, Hans Conried, Barbara Darrow, Max Showalter, Harlan Warde, Gordon Jones, Jody McCrea

When does a movie about a giant mullosk menacing the Salton Sea make it to a blog dedicated to Westerns of the 50s? When it stars Tim Holt (that’s him with the fire extinguisher, below).

Kino Lorber will bring The Monster That Challenged The World (1957) to the surface on Blu-ray in August. This is a really terrific little movie — a prime entry in the whole 50s Big Bug sub-genre.

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This news was too good — I couldn’t wait to make this a Tim Holt Tuesday.

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Tall T TC?

Directed by Budd Boetticher
Produced by Harry Joe Brown
Screen play by Burt Kennedy
Based on a story by Elmore Leonard
Director Of Photography: Charles Lawton, Jr., ASC
Music composed and conducted by Heinz Roemheld
Film Editor: Al Clark, ACE

Cast: Randolph Scott (Pat Brennan), Richard Boone (Frank Usher), Maureen O’Sullivan (Doretta Mims), Arthur Hunnicutt (Ed Rintoon), Skip Homeier (Billy Jack), Henry Silva (Chink), John Hubbard (Willard Mims), Robert Burton (Tenvoorde), Fred E. Sherman (Hank Parker), Chris Olsen (Jeff).

This is part of The Blogathon For Randolph Scott. It contains spoilers. This is purely because most of Toby’s regulars will already have seen this film.

The premise of The Tall T is pretty basic. A trio of stagecoach robbers discover the stage they intend to rob is carrying the daughter of a wealthy copper mine owner; they decide to go for a ransom demand instead. Above anything else, however, a central theme of the film is isolation and indeed loneliness. The central character Pat Brennan (Randolph Scott) lives a solitary existence. He has a small spread, but at this time cannot afford any hired help. He lives alone in a remote place.

Visiting his friends at a stagecoach relay station father (Fred Sherman) and son (Chris Olsen) are also isolated. The wife/mother has passed on. The young boy has never visited a town — he is full of wonder about what such a place is like. In a very touching moment, the boy gives Scott the few pennies he has saved so Scott can bring him back some cherry stripe candy. Scott takes the boy’s money, not out of meanness but because he knows this is a big deal for the child — he’s actually able to buy something from town. Ironically, this is a town that he will never live to visit one day.

 

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After a leisurely 20 minutes or so with a more smiley than usual Scott, things take a darker turn. Mrs. Mimms (Maureen O’Sullivan), we discover, only married her weakling (and we later find out, cowardly) husband out of loneliness.

Boetticher and Burt Kennedy knew that the films they were making were generally classed as B Movies. They also knew that they could get a lot more past the censor because of this.

With the O’Sullivan character, we get none of the innuendo directed at Gail Russell in Seven Men From Now (1956). Furthermore, there are none of the more explicit references that were directed at Karen Steel in Ride Lonesome (1959) and Nancy Gates in Comanche Station (1960). Instead, we get lines like “she’s as plain as an adobe wall.” A deglamorized O’Sullivan has the dowdy clothes to match her character. Despite all of this we are left in no doubt that Scott and O’Sullivan will be a “couple” at the end of the picture. This becomes obvious in their first scene alone together.

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When the bad guy trio (Richard Boone, Henry Silva, Skip Homeier) things get really dark. After gunning down Scott’s pal (Arthur Hunnicutt), we learn that they have murdered the father and the child. Their bodies have been dumped down a well, before Scott’s return to the way station. They’ve committed that most heinous of crimes – child murder! The audience then realises that as this is a Randolph Scott picture; there is no way this trio will be alive at the end of the film. Furthermore, as this is a Boetticher picture, the trio’s deaths will be presented with as much graphic violence as the censor at that time will allow.

Most filmmakers, certainly from the Spaghetti era onwards, would have presented the Boone-Silva-Homier characters as leering repellent scum. That’s the easy option. Boetticher and Kennedy have no interest in easy options.

Boone’s Frank Usher, we discover, is quite intelligent, he would like to have become what Scott actually is. He could have become what Scott is had he not chosen a life of crime. He actually likes Scott, he at last has found someone he can hold a conversation with. Boone, too, is isolated, saddled with two cohorts that he has nothing in common with whatsoever.

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Silva, we learn, killed his first man at age 12: his own father, who was beating his mother with a tequila bottle. He goes by the derogatory nickname “Chink,” obviously a reference to Silva’s Oriental facial features. (Interestingly, Silva was cast as Mr. Moto when Lippert tried to revive the series in the mid-Sixties.) Homeier’s Billy Jack is a rather dumb, child-like character. Note the way he grabs the child’s candy from Scott, to Boone’s obvious annoyance. Silva likes to brag of his many encounters with women to the far more naive Homier. Amusingly, he details how his amorous encounters were curtailed one time because he pulled a leg muscle. Burt Kennedy used this situation again in his later Return Of The Seven (1966). All of Silva’s bragging leaves Boone totally cold and disinterested.

Despite the grim subject matter Boetticher and Kennedy mine the material for dark humour. This is best shown in the scene where Silva waits for the command to kill O’Sullivan’s weak husband (Hubbard). Silva’s facial expressions and body language convey a great sense of frustration and anticipation. Finally, as Hubbard is almost out of shot, Boone utters the command, “Bust him Chink,” a great line from a great scene.

There are tender moments too, especially when Boone takes coffee into a still-sleeping O’Sullivan. He gently covers her with a blanket, it’s a scene of a longing for a domestic existence that Boone has never had, and now never will.

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In the prelude to the graphically brutal climax, Boone with his back to Scott, attempts to ride away. He knows Scott will not be able to shoot him in the back.

“Don’t do it, Frank,” pleads Scott; the fact he uses his first name (the only time in the film) emphasises the bond that has developed between the two men.

The four Boetticher-Kennedy-Scott Westerns are among the finest ever made — and now rightly considered true classics. Furthermore, I would state that the Boetticher-Kennedy partnership is the greatest writer/director partnership in the history of the Western.

Boetticher wanted Richard Boone to play Frank Usher from the word go. “I announced to the studio I’d like to cast Richard Boone. It surprised me when Harry Joe and others didn’t exactly agree with me.”

They seriously doubted Mr. Boone had a sense of humour. Boetticher was unable to meet with Boone, as Boone’s wife was undergoing medical tests at the time. Later, on the telephone, Boetticher explained to Boone: “I had a problem with Columbia’s top executives who were of the opinion that he had no sense of humour. There was a moment’s silence then Boone’s wonderful voice said, ‘Well, Budd, you’ve got to admit those heart operations are pretty fuckin’ funny.’ He got the job! My biggest kick was that not one executive remembered not wanting Boone in the picture because he was absolutely marvelous.”

The fact that the Boetticher-Kennedy-Scott pictures were very much collaborative efforts is explained in the oft-told tale regarding the filming of Ride Lonesome. During the filming of Ride Lonesome, we were having dinner when Randy looked up from his steak. “Hey you two, what’s the name of the skinny young fella in the red underwear I played that scene with today?”

“Coburn’s his name,” Burt answered. “James Coburn.”

“Good! He’s all right. So why don’t you two dream up some new lyrics for that boy? I like his style!”

Scott, Boetticher explained, was like that with everyone who deserved it!

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John Knight is “a ‘Muswell Hillbilly’ by birth, now retired and living on the Isle Of Wight. A lifelong film fanatic, my ‘education’ on film was mainly gained in the fleapits of London and many visits to the National Film Theatre on London’s Southbank.” For Chris Wicking and Colin McGuigan: mentors past and present.

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The charge was this: send in your list of favorite 50s Westerns DVD releases for 2014, along with a few 50s Westerns that you discovered this year.

For today, here are your (and my) 10 favorite DVDs or Blu-rays released during the 2014 calendar year.

10. Panhandle (1948) This terrific Rod Cameron picture, directed by Lesley Selander, was released a few years ago as part of VCI’s Darn Good Western Volume 1. This year, it showed up on its on.

9. City Of Bad Men (1953) Dale Robertson leads a great cast: Jeanne Crain, Richard Boone, Lloyd Bridges, Hugh Sanders, Rodolfo Acosta, Don Haggerty, Leo Gordon, John Doucette, Frank Ferguson, James Best. Harmon Jones directs.

8. Fort Massacre (1958) Joel McCrea plays way against type. Forrest Tucker, Susan Cabot, John Russell and Denver Pyle co-star. You can get a nice regular DVD here in the States — and a stunning Blu-ray in Germany.

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7. Gunfight At The O.K. Corral (1957) The guys who developed VistaVision look down from heaven, see this Blu-ray playing in our living rooms, and are very happy indeed.

6. The Lusty Men (1952) There was a time when Nicholas Ray was a machine that cranked out Great Movies. This study of modern-day rodeo cowboys — starring Robert Mitchum, Susan Haywood and Arthur Kennedy — comes from the heart of that period.

5. Drum Beat (1954) Alan Ladd shows us he’s got more than Shane up his sleeve, and Delmer Daves delivers yet another solid Western. This is a lot better movie than you’ve heard (or remember).

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4. Gunsmoke In Tucson (1958) When an Allied Artists Western starring Mark Stevens makes a Top Ten list, I know I’m in the right place.

3. Tim Holt Western Classics Collection Volume 4 As good as the series Western ever got. For me, this fourth volume is the best — which makes it plenty great indeed.

2. Shoot-Out At Medicine Bend (1957) It’s not a stupendous Randolph Scott movie, but it’s a Randolph Scott movie — and Warner Archive has it shining like a black and white, 1.85 diamond.

1. South Of St. Louis (1949) This terrific Joel McCrea picture, with its Technicolor appropriately saturated, is stunning on Blu-ray from Olive Films. Alexis Smith and Dorothy Malone should’ve paid cinematographer Karl Freund for making them look so beautiful.

Along with all these favorites, there was a common complaint: that Olive Films’ promised The Quiet Gun (1956) didn’t make it in 2014.

Thanks to everyone who sent in their lists.

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Directed by Richard L. Bare
Produced by Richard Whorf
Written by John Tucker Battle and D.D. Beauchamp
Director Of Photography: Carl Guthrie, ASC
Art Director: Stanley Fleischer
Music by Roy Webb
Film Editior: Clarence Kolster, ACE

CAST: Randolph Scott (Capt. Buck Devlin), James Craig (Ep Clark), Angie Dickinson (Priscilla King), Dani Crayne (Nell Garrison), James Garner (Sgt. John Maitland), Gordon Jones (Pvt. Wilbur “Will” Clegg), Trevor Bardette (Sheriff Bob Massey), Don Beddoe (Mayor Sam Pelley), Myron Healey (Rafe Sanders), John Alderson (Clyde Walters), Harry Harvey, Sr. (Elam King), Robert Warwick (Brother Abraham).

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Shoot-Out At Medicine Bend (1957) sticks out like a sore thumb in Randolph Scott’s filmography. It sits right in the middle of the Ranown cycle (coming between The Tall T and Decision At Sundown) — a cheap little black-and-white contract killer shot on the backlot in 19 days by a crew (and sometimes cast) more accustomed to TV than features. It’s known more today for the early work it gave Angie Dickinson and James Garner than for Scott’s participation.

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James Garner: “The movie couldn’t decide if it was a comedy or a drama, maybe because [director Richard L.] Bare had gotten his start directing the ‘Joe McDoakes’ comedy shorts in the 1940s.”

Bare made a name for himself in shorts like the McDoakes pictures, directed a few features, then really found his place in early TV. He directed episodes of both Cheyenne and Maverick (he discovered James Garner in a bar on Sunset), and would go on to direct everything from The Twilight Zone to Green Acres (over 150 episodes of that one).

Richard L. Bare: “I was glad to see that my few years in TV had not knocked me out of the box for feature assignments. It was a story of three ex-soldiers who dressed up like preachers to avenge the death of Scott’s brother.”

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The soldiers are Scott, a pre-Maverick James Garner and Gordon Jones, and their journey takes to them to the rather lawless prairie town of Medicine Bend. Ep Clark (James Craig) runs the town and quickly winds up in Randy’s sites.

Richard L. Bare: “We were shooting a scene that called for the three of them [Scott, Garner, Gordon Jones] to swim in a lake [on the WB backlot] and come to shore. Scott said to me, ‘I’m not going in that water.’ I said, ‘Randy, the other guys are going to do it.’ He said, ‘Not me, not in that filth.’ So what I did was put Scott’s double in the water, and in the foreground I put Scott out of view behind a huge log, and when I called action, a prop man dumped fresh water on Scott, and Garner, Jones and Scott’s double swam to shore and ran to the log, and Scott’s double disappeared behind the log and Scott, all wet, popped up. And it worked just fine.”

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It’s a bit convoluted and goofy, and often played for humor. The action scenes are well done, and the film has the look and feel of a longer-than-usual Warner Bros. TV Western, which works just fine. Garner’s inexperience shows (“…my acting still wasn’t very good”). He lacks that supreme cool that came later. Angie Dickinson was two years away from Rio Bravo (1959), and comparing the two films, it’s amazing how much she developed as an actress during that time. (How much of that was Hawks’ doing?) Randolph Scott is, of course, Randolph Scott, and he handles the lighter, humorous stuff with ease. As he masquerades as a Quaker, his delivery makes the most of each line of dialogue. It’s fun to be in on his ruse.

Dickinson, Scott, Crayne - Shoot-Out at Medicine Bend

Warner Archive has given Shoot-Out At Medicine Bend a level of respect it’s probably never received before. It looks great, framed to the proper 1.85, with the contrast dialed-in just right. The audio’s got plenty of punch, letting Roy Webb’s score really shine. You might come to this one with high curiosity and low expectations. My advice: enjoy it for what it is. Recommended.

SOURCES: The Garner Files: A Memoir by James Garner and Jon Winokur; Confessions Of A Hollywood Director by Richard L. Bare; Last Of The Cowboy Heroes by Robert Nott

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Young Guns LC

For us Westerns fans, Warner Archive’s on a real roll this week. In addition to Nick Ray’s The Lusty Men (1952), and Randolph Scott, Angie Dickinson and James Garner in Shoot-Out At Medicine Bend (1957), there’s some good Allied Artists stuff available today.

The Young Guns (1956)
Directed by Albert Band
Starring Russ Tamblyn, Gloria Talbott and Perry Lopez

This one mixes the Western with your typical 50s juvenile delinquency tale, beating both The True Story Of Jesse James (1957, Ray again) The Left-Handed Gun (1958) to theaters.

A couple Allied Artists pictures that were Oldies.com exclusives are now standard Warner Archive titles: Oregon Passage (1957) and Gunsmoke In Tucson (1958).

And if that’s not enough, there’s Raton Pass (1951), Russ Tamblyn again in Son Of A Gunfighter (1965) and a couple spaghetti westerns, including one, Ringo And His Golden Pistol, from Sergio Corbucci. Told you it was a good week.

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Directed by Richard L. Bare
CAST: Randolph Scott, James Craig, Angie Dickinson, Dani Crayne, James Garner, Gordon Jones

This is one we’ve all been waiting for and it’s on its way from Warner Archive: Shoot-Out At Medicine Bend (1957), a fairly obscure Randolph Scott movie that gave early roles to Angie Dickinson and James Garner. There’s a big connection between this film and Warner Bros.’ Cheyenne and Maverick TV series. Director Richard L. Bare directed episodes of each, Garner and Dickinson appeared in both (Garner, or course, was a lead on Maverick), and DP Carl Guthrie shot some of each show. In fact, being in black and white, Shoot-Out At Medicine Bend has the feel of a Warner Bros. TV Western. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

TCM ran this recently as part of their tribute to James Garner (it was his first Western feature), and it’s a pretty solid Western with an oddball touch here and there. Warner Bros. must not have seen much promise in it; a Scott Western hadn’t been shot in black and white since 1949. But it looks good, thanks to Carl Guthrie, who shot a number of excellent late-50s Westerns. His color work on Quantez (also 1957) is terrific.

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