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Archive for the ‘1957’ Category

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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Paul Landres

Paul Landres
(August 21, 1912 – December 26, 2001)

Director Paul Landres was born 106 years ago today.

Landres got his start as an editor, cutting series Westerns and serials at Universal, and made the move to director in the very early 50s — in both features and TV. He retired after a 1972 episode of Adam-12.

He’s one of those little-heard-of directors whose films have a certain something that makes ’em special. From a very effective, yet cheap, Western like Hell Canyon Outlaws (1957) to a cool monster movie like The Vampire (1957), Landres delivered the goods. His work is worth digging around for.

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Rory Calhoun
(Francis Timothy McCown, August 8, 1922 – April 28, 1999)

Rory Calhoun was born 96 years ago today. He made a string of medium-budgeted 50s Westerns that have held up really well. Not a dud in the bunch, if you ask me. Red Sundown (1956), directed by Jack Arnold for Universal-International, is a particularly good one. This still is from Domino Kid (1957).

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This is the last shot in Bedazzled (1967), the very funny Peter Cook/Dudley Moore film. Presley and I watched it recently, and I noticed the theater marquee on the right. John Wayne’s The Alamo (1960) is playing.

I reached out to some of our UK division, and as you’d expect, John Knight came through: “The cinema in question was The London Pavilion. It mainly served as a West End showcase for United Artists releases. They showed lots of United Artists horror double bills like The Monster That Challenged The World and The Vampire (both 1957). My first solo visit to a West End cinema was to the London Pavilion to see Phantom Of The Opera with Captain Clegg (both 1962).”

After hearing from John, I can’t decide what I’m the most excited about — the thought of Wayne’s epic or The Monster That Challenged The World on the Pavilion’s huge screen.

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