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Archive for the ‘1957’ Category

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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Lori Nelson
(August 15, 1933 – August 23, 2020)

Lori Nelson, has passed away at 87. She was born Dixie Kay Nelson. Her family moved to Hollywood when she was four. Soon after, she was crowned Little Miss America.

In 1950, Ms. Nelson signed a seven-year contract with Universal-International. Her first film was Bend Of The River, followed by Ma And Pa Kettle At The Fair and Francis Goes To West Point (all 1952). In 1953, U-I put her in Douglas Sirk’s All I Desire. She appeared in two Audie Murphy pictures, Tumbleweed (1953) and Destry (1954).

In 1955, she did Ma And Pa Kettle At Waikiki, Revenge of the Creature, Roger Corman’s Day The World Ended and I Died A Thousand Times, a remake of High Sierra (1941) — which has already been remake as Colorado Territory (1949). Underwater! was released in 1955, though it’d been shot some time earlier. She was loaned to Howard Hughes and RKO for that one. She’s also in Pardners (1956), one of the last Martin and Lewis pictures, Hot Rod Girl (1956) co-starring Chuck Connors and Howard W. Koch’s Untamed Youth (1957) with  Mamie Van Doren. What a great batch of 1950s cinema.

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There’s something about this blog I’ve always been uncomfortable with. Through DVD/Blu-Ray new release information or reviews, by plugging a Kickstarter campaign to restore something, or by mentioning a book that’s on the way (including mine), I have a tiny influence on people’s buying decisions. I work in Marketing and Advertising and do this every day, so I ought to be OK with it, but it’s different at this more informal, semi-personal level. Over the years, I’ve gotten to know quite a few of you, and I make a point of not telling my friends how to spend their money.

Having said all that, now I want to tell you how to spend your money. Not really, but kinda.

Back in the 90s, before 50s Westerns took over my life, I used to watch a lot of old Poverty Row horror and 60s spy movies (especially those goofy European James Bond ripoffs). A great source for such things was a company in Oregon called Sinister Cinema. Maybe you’re familiar with them. A friend and I (how ya doing, DV?) ordered from them quite a bit (it was VHS back then) or would rent their stuff from a mail-order place called Video Vault. 

Nowadays, Sinister Cinema deals in DVDs, of course, and they’ve taken a real shine to B Westerns of the 30s and 40s. You’ll find some terrific pictures on their site, from Hoot Gibson to Bob Steele to Ken Maynard. And some titles I’d been looking for decent copies of — Riders Of The Whistling Skull (1937), Hell Canyon Outlaws (1957) and A Lust To Kill (1958).

The folks at Sinister Cinema are talking about shutting down. First, I’d hate to see that happen because old movie nuts aren’t supporting them like we should. So I encourage you to visit their site. Click on the logo above, and away you go! And I highly recommend Hell Canyon Outlaws. (Click the lobby card up top for that link.) It was directed by Paul Landres and has a great part for Dale Robertson. Sinister’s copy is from a well-worn 16mm print, but it’s very watchable. It’s full-frame, so if your TV will let you zoom a bit, you can approximate its 1.85 framing.

And since these titles are less than $10 each, I don’t feel so bad about trying to make you part with your dough. You might even thank me for it.

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John Ericson
(September 25, 1926 – May 3, 2020)

John Ericson didn’t make a lot of movies (there’s tons of TV), but he’s in some really good ones, especially when it comes to 50s Westerns — John Sturges’ Bad Day At Black Rock (1955), The Return Of Jack Slade (1955), Sam Fuller’s Forty Guns (1957, above), Day Of The Badman (1958) and Paul Landres’ Oregon Passage (1958). He has passed away at 93.

Ericson’s probably best known by folks today for TV’s Honey West (1965) with Ann Francis. Worth looking for is Pretty Boy Floyd (1960), a cheap entry in the late-50s, early-60s run of gangster bios. It’s no Baby Face Nelson (1957), but it’s well worth your time.

Thanks to Walter for the tip.

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Kino Lorber is serving up four terrific Universal Westerns in March, an announcement that gets. 2020 off to a great start.

Canyon Passage (1946)
Directed by Jacques Tourneur
Starring Dana Andrews, Brian Donlevy, Susan Hayward, Patricia Roc, Ward Bond, Hoagy Carmichael, Andy Devine, Lloyd Bridges

Canyon Passage was Jacques Tourneur’s first Western and first film in color. It’s got a great cast (Ward Bond is terrific — and very scary) and incredible Technicolor photography from Edward Cronjager, who also shot Lang’s Western Union (1941). This is a very overlooked, underrated film.

Night Passage (1957)
Directed by James Neilson
Starring James Stewart, Audie Murphy, Dan Duryea, Dianne Foster, Elaine Stewart, Brandon de Wilde, Jay C. Flippen, Robert J. Wilke, Hugh Beaumont

Shot in Technirama, a high-fidelity combination of VistaVision and anamorphic widescreen, Night Passage is as sharp as movies could get in the late 50s. And with loads of incredible location work in Durango, Colorado, it’s stunning — and a perfect candidate for Blu-Ray. The movie itself, while it’s no masterpiece, has been unjustly maligned. You’ll find the story behind all that in an old post.

Man In The Shadow (1957)
Directed by Jack Arnold
Starring Jeff Chandler, Orson Welles, Colleen Miller, Barbara Lawrence, John Larch, Royal Dano, James Gleason

There are a thousand reasons to be excited about this modern-day (well, 1957) Western — Jeff Chandler, Orson Welles, B&W CinemaScope and Jack Arnold, for starters. Welles and producer Albert Zugsmith got to talking here, which led to Touch Of Evil (1958).

The Rare Breed (1966)
Directed by Andrew V. McLaglen
Starring James Stewart, Maureen O’Hara, Brian Keith, Juliet Mills, Ben Johnson, Jack Elam, Harry Carey, Jr.

The best thing The Rare Breed has going for it is its incredible cast — how could it go wrong? Not to mention the Technicolor/Panavision cinematography of William H. Clothier.

All four films will feature a commentary (I’m doing both Passage films) and an original trailer. It’s no easy to recommend these things!

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Doing some research on Night Passage (1957), I came across an article from The LA Times, reporting that the ongoing editing of Men In War (1957) was forcing Anthony Mann to back out of Night Passage. It also pointed out that this would free up the director to do The Tin Star (1957) for Paramount.

There are lots of stories about why Anthony Mann left what would’ve been his sixth Jimmy Stewart Western. This was a new one for me.

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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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