Archive for the ‘1957’ Category

RIP, Rex Reason.

02_1957 Badlands of Montana C

Rex Reason
(November 30, 1928 – November 19, 2015)

Rex Reason has passed away at 86. He’s best known for appearing in the great sci-fi picture This Island Earth (1955), but he’s in some solid 50s Westerns — Smoke Signal (1955), Raw Edge (1956) and Badlands Of Montana (1956, above) with Beverly Garland.

He left the movie business in the 60s and got into real estate.

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Tall Stranger ad

Directed by Tomas Carr
Produced by Walter Mirisch
Screenplay by Christopher Knopf
From a story by Louis L’Amour
Director Of Photography: Wilfred M. Cline, ASC
Music by Hans J. Salter
Film Editor: William Austin, ACE

Cast: Joel McCrea (Ned Bannon), Virginia Mayo (Ellen), Barry Kelley (Hardy Bishop), Michael Ansara (Zarata), Whit Bissell (Judson), James Dobson (Dud), George Neise (Mort Harper), Adam Kennedy (Red), Michael Pate (Charley), Leo Gordon (Stark), Ray Teal (Cap), Philip Phillips (Will), Robert Foulk (Pagones), Jennifer Lea (Mary)


In many ways, The Tall Stranger (1957) is just another late-50s CinemaScope Western from Allied Artists — a straightforward, low-budget picture boosted by a cast full of familiar faces. But this one’s got more going for it than that. It offers up a re-teaming of Joel McCrea and Virginia Mayo from Raoul Walsh’s terrific Colorado Territory (1949). And while The Tall Stranger won’t knock the Walsh movie off your list of favorites, it has plenty to recommend it.

Tall Stranger LC5

The relationships between brothers, often strained or on opposite sides of the law, was a popular theme with Western screenwriters of the 50s, forming the basis for some of the decade’s finest cowboy pictures — often with some redemption worked in. (I’ll let you come up with your own list of examples.) Working from a short story by Louis L’Amour, The Tall Stranger is part of that sub-genre. Ned Bannon (Joel McCrea) and Hardy Bishop (Barry Kelley) are half-brothers who found themselves enemies in the Civil War. Now that the war has ended, Bishop (Conderate) sees Bannon (Union) as the reason his son was executed as one of Quantrill’s Raiders, and he’s vowed to see him dead. Bannon, on the other hand, has come to reconcile.


Bannon’s traveling toward Bishop’s Valley with a wagon train, and along the way he’s grown fond of a widow (Mayo) and suspicious of the guides. It all comes together into a tangled-up mess — the settlers, McCrea’s brother’s cattle land, the scheming trail guides, etc. — and McCrea gets to sort it all out — and, of course, shoot people — as it makes its way to a satisfying conclusion.

Mayo Tall Stragner

Virginia Mayo: “I love Joel, but I didn’t want to be in the film. I thought the script was terrible.”

The script is a bit run-of-the-mill, and little is done to elevate it. Thomas Carr’s direction is missing the visual flair he and DP William Witley brought to Gunsmoke In Tucson (1958). The action scenes are passable, but there’s little momentum or tension in the scenes that tie them together. So what you’re left with, largely, is the appeal and chemistry of its two leads — which is still more than enough to make The Tall Stranger worth your time.

McCrea Tall Stranger

The Tall Stranger is not available on DVD or Blu-ray in the States. There is a transfer floating around that crops the 2.35 Scope image to fit our 16:9 TVs. It’s watchable, but crowded at times. While this isn’t McCrea or Mayo at their best, this picture deserves to be seen — the way it’s supposed to be seen.

Source: The Westerners by C. Courtney Joyner

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stuff at a terrific price.

With this two-disc set from Mill Creek, you get the five Columbia titles from 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, above). And if all that isn’t enough, they’ve thrown in Joseph H. Lewis’ A Lawless Street (1955) to sweeten the deal.

Available September 15. Buy a whole case of ’em, folks, and your holiday shopping’s done. Now, what do we have to do to get a Blu-ray version of this?

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Run Of The Arrow ad sized

Directed by Sam Fuller
Starring Rod Steiger, Sara Montiel, Brian Keith, Ralph Meeker, Jay C. Flippen, Charles Bronson, Olive Carey, Colonel Tim McCoy

Another Fuller picture making its way to DVD is always good news, even better when it’s one of his Westerns. Run Of The Arrow (1957) — coming from Warner Archive July 7, begins with the end of the Civil War as a disillusioned soldier (Rod Steiger) makes his way west and takes up with the Sioux. Sound kinda like something you might’ve seen with Kevin Costner?

This is a long way from Dances With Wolves, if for no other reason than because it was written, produced and directed by Sam Fuller. Recommended.

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Timeless Media Group has announced The Rebel: The Complete Series for release this August. You get all 76 episodes and plenty of bonus stuff: interviews, stills, commercials and a featurette.

Nick Adams plays Johnny Yuma, a young Confederate veteran who “roamed through the west” following the Civil War. Each week, he encounters a new batch of characters, played by the typically wonderful character actors of the period, from John Carradine to Marie Windsor — and some folks we’d come to know later like Warren Oates and Strother Martin. Johnny Cash, who released a 45 of  the title tune, even turns up in one.


There’s been a lot of great TV Westerns making their way to DVD lately, and it’s good to see The Rebel joining that group. And while we’re on the subject of Nick Adams, Fury At Showdown (1957) — an excellent little Western with a terrific performance from Nick — is out on DVD. I can’t recommend it enough.

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Betsy Palmer
(November 1, 1926 – May 29, 2015)

She only made one 50s Western, and it’s a good one: Anthony Mann’s The Tin Star (1957) with Henry Fonda and Anthony Perkins. She worked extensively over the course of her 50-year career — a few soaps, a regular on I’ve Got A Secret and a really good role in Mister Roberts (1955), among other things — but today she’s largely known for playing Jason Voorhees’ mom in the first two Friday The 13th films (1980 and 1981).

Seeing one obituary after another focusing on the slasher pictures (she claimed to only take the first one because she needed a new car), I decided Betsy’s lone 50s Western was worth a post. And I’m reminded that The Tin Star has received very little coverage in the blog, which needs to be rectified.

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Produced and Directed by Allen H. Miner
Written by Leo Gordon
Director of Photography: Edward Colman, ASC
Film Editors: Jerry Young and John H. Post
Music by Jerry Goldsmith

Cast: George Montgomery (Marshal Clay Morgan), Diane Brewster (Helen Danner), Tom Pittman (Flytrap), Leo Gordon (Hank Danner), House Peters Jr. (Holman), George Trevino (Pedoline), Lynn Cartwright (Kitty), Strother Martin (Petey Walker), Sebastian Cabot (Frenchy), Dan Blocker, John Mitchum, Hope Summers


Black Patch (1957) is an odd little George Montgomery picture from his own Montgomery Productions, Inc., written by Leo Gordon. While it dishes up plenty of the elements we know and love in these films, it’s so offbeat that opinions about it are all over the place — even among diehard Montgomery fans.

Over the course of his career, character actor Leo Gordon made a name for himself as a writer, scripting everything from horror pictures like Attack Of The Giant Leeches (1959) to the war movie Tobruk (1967) to episodes of Adam-12. His first script was this one.

Leo Gordon: “When Charles Marquis Warren was directing the pilot for Gunsmoke, I told him I had an idea for an episode. ‘Don’t tell me, write it,’ he answered. I went home and the next thing I knew, I had 110 pages. I showed it to my agent. Next thing I know, George Montgomery wanted to buy it. That was Black Patch.”* a_way335

Clay Morgan (Montgomery) is the marshal of Santa Rita, New Mexico. Having lost an eye in the Civil War, he’s known as “Black Patch.” (GM looks so cool in that big black hat and eyepatch!) An old friend, Hank Danner (Gordon), arrives in town with his wife, Helen (Diane Brewster). Helen and Morgan had been deeply in love (still are), but when he never returned from the war, she married Hank. Then, as fate would have it, Morgan has to arrest Hank for bank robbery.


From there, things go downhill. Not just for our characters, but with the movie itself. As Hank sits in jail, Black Patch becomes more and more concerned with unappealing minor characters (Tom Pittman and Sebastian Cabot, to name just two) and Montgomery disappears for a substantial amount of screen time. There are some interesting scenes in there, for sure, but the shift in tone is quick and jarring. It’s almost like the first half of one movie was spliced onto the second half of another. What makes this so frustrating is that the first half is so good. Montgomery and Gordon are at the top of their game, and the scenes between Montgomery and Diane Brewster are really well done. Things manage to get back on track towards the end, but it’s a bit too late.


But there’s still plenty to like about Black Patch. Director of photography Edward Colman, from Jack Webb’s Dragnet team, was brought in. (The first Dragnet series had just wrapped up its run.) During production, Montgomery told Erskine Johnson, “Films owe TV an Oscar for getting us off our self-satisfied — er, uh, couches — and into speedy, bang-up production.” Regardless of how many setups he was getting in each day, Colman’s camerawork is inventive and appropriately moody, with the same flair he displayed on the 1954 Dragnet feature. Colman would spend the latter part of his career shooting Disney movies such as The Absent-Minded Professor (1961), Mary Poppins (1964) and The Love Bug (1968, his last credit).

Producer/director Allen H. Miner had a long career in television. This was an early feature for him. He directed another Western the same year, The Ride Back (1957) — a cool little movie starring Anthony Quinn and William Conrad. Miner’s direction is solid in Black Patch, for the most part, but I wish he’d kept the story from drifting off course.

Gene Autry’s Melody Ranch (the Monogram Ranch renamed after Autry bought it) is used to good effect. Pretty much the entire picture takes place in town, and Colman shoots it very well. Just five years after this film, the ranch would be largely destroyed by fire. While I complained about the shift in focus away from Montgomery, Gordon and Brewster, there are some great character actors to be found here. Sebastian Cabot is really slimy as Frenchie, Strother Martin’s a deputy who witnessed the bank robbery, and Leo Gordon’s wife Lynn Cartwright is Kitty, a saloon girl. What’s more, Dan Blocker (a couple years away from Bonanza), John Mitchum (Robert’s brother) and Hope Summers (Clara Edwards from The Andy Griffith Show) turn up without credit, though they all have speaking parts.


Along with this being Leo Gordon’s first script, Black Patch was the first film scored by the great Jerry Goldsmith. The music’s excellent and immediately recognizable as his work — he really hit the ground running. Verna Fields, the masterful film editor of What’s Up, Doc (1972), Jaws (1975, her Oscar-winning work may have saved the movie) and other key films of the 70s, gets an early credit here, as sound editor.

While Black Patch tends to divide people, the DVD from Warner Archive certainly won’t. Not only is a movie that’s been almost impossible to track down now just a click away, it’s beautiful — clean and sharp, with the proper framing and excellent contrast. There are lots of night scenes here, and never does it seem murky or dark. A perfect transfer that does Edward Colman proud. I was also happy to see that Warner Archive made good use of the original artwork. I’ve always loved that poster.

Why not read Laura’s take on Black Patch?

* from an interview with Boyd Magers.

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