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Archive for the ‘1957’ Category

Harry Dean Stanton
(July 14, 1926 – September 15, 2017)

I’ve been dreading this day. The great character actor Harry Dean Stanton has passed away at 91.

He brought something to every movie he appeared in, and if you gave him enough screen time, he made the movie better. He’s second from the left in the photo above from Lesley Selander’s Tomahawk Trail (1957), one of his first films. He’s in so much good stuff: Pork Chop Hill (1959), Ride In The Whirlwind (1966), In The Heat Of The Night (1967), Kelly’s Heroes (1970), Two-Lane Blacktop (1971), Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid (1973), Dillinger (1973), The Missouri Breaks (1976), Alien (1979), Escape From New York (1981), Repo Man (1984, below), Paris, Texas (1984), The Straight Story (1999) and so many more. There’s plenty of great TV stuff, too.

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Stanton could sing, play harmonica, play guitar, write and talk all night when Marlon Brando would call. He served in the Navy in World War II.

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George Vincent “Skip” Homeier
(October 5, 1930 – June 25, 2017)

Skip Homeier, who passed away on June 25th, is one of those actors who made every picture he was in better — no matter how good, or bad, it would’ve been without him. And from The Gunfighter (1950, above) and The Tall T (1957, below) to Cry Vengeance (1954) and The Ghost In Mr. Chicken (1966), he’s in a whole bunch of my favorite movies.

You’ll find him in about every genre there is, but the vast majority of his feature work was in Westerns — and his list of cowboy credits is remarkable. In The Gunfighter, he pretty much invented the punk-kid-looking-to-make-a-name-for-himself character as we know it — everybody who came after him seemed to be doing a Skip Homeier impersonation. William Witney’s Stranger At My Door (1956) also stands out. As a kid, I knew him as “the guy who gets his face blown off in The Tall T.”

His TV work was more varied, and he was always good — The Rifleman, Death Valley Days, Climax!, The Addams Family and many, many more. But like so many actors that appeared on Star Trek, that’s what most people know him for these days (he’s in two).

In the old days, it was often the character actors who made movies truly special (particularly Westerns). Skip Homeier was one of the absolute best.

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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

This is one some of us have really been waiting for — Night Passage (1957) is finally coming to Blu-Ray, where it most certainly belongs. Elephant Films out of France have announced its hi-def debut for March 2017.

Shot in Technirama, a high-fidelity combination of VistaVision and anamorphic widescreen, this picture is as sharp as the movies ever got. And with loads of incredible location work in Durango, Colorado, it’s stunning.

The movie itself, while it’s no masterpiece, has been unjustly maligned. You’ll find the story behind all that in a post from a few year ago. It’s still one of my favorite pieces, thanks in large part to the terrific discussion that cropped up in the comments.

Thanks to Allen Smithee for the news.

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Hell Canyon Outlaws HS

Directed by Paul Landres
Produced by Jerald Zukor
Written by Allan Kaufman and Max Glandbard
Director Of Photography: Floyd Crosby, ASC
Film Editor: Elmo Williams, ACE
Music Composed and Conducted by Irving Gertz

Cast: Dale Robertson (Sheriff Caleb Wells), Brian Keith (Happy Waters), Rosanna Rory (Maria), Dick Kallman (Smiley Andrews), Don Megowan (Walt), Mike Lane (Nels), Buddy Baer (Stan), Charles Fredericks (Deputy Bear), Alexander Lockwood (Bert, the new sheriff)

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Paul Landres was one of those journeyman directors who could take practically nothing — an OK script, less than a week and a paltry budget — and put together a solid little movie. He worked mainly in TV, with a feature from time to time. Inspired by the upcoming DVD and Blu-ray release of The Return Of Dracula (1958) from Olive Films, I’ve been revisiting some of Landres’ features from the late 1950s.

Hell Canyon Outlaws (1957), known in the UK as The Tall Trouble, was an independent picture from Jerold Zukor Productions, filmed at the Corriganville Ranch. Republic released it. I think it’s one of Landres’ best.

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Four outlaws head to a small town of Goldridge to raise hell and eventually rob the bank. They take over the saloon and hotel, steal a horse, size up the bank and rough up the guy at the livery stable — just for starters. If all this isn’t bad enough, the town council has just fired the sheriff, Caleb Wells (Dale Robertson), and his deputy, Bear (Charles Fredericks). The new sheriff, well, he’s outta town. Goldridge is in a tight spot.

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Dale Robertson is terrific in this. You just know he’s going to be pushed to his breaking point, it’s just a matter of when. That tension, as the town is trashed and Robertson does the slow burn, is what drives Hell Canyon Outlaws. Landres builds the suspense perfectly — with the help of Elmo Williams, who edited High Noon (1952) — to a very satisfying last reel. This and Fred F. Sears’ Fury At Gunsight Pass (1956) would make a great double bill.

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Brian Keith is great in one of those somewhat-likable dirtbag roles he excelled at (remember Fort Dobbs?). Keith would’ve made an ideal foil to Randolph Scott in one of the Boetticher pictures.

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Rossana Rory doesn’t have much to do but look pretty as Robertson’s girlfriend, but she’s fine. The rest of the cast — especially the rest of Keith’s gang: Don Megowan, Mike Lane and Buddy Baer — are effective. Dick Kallman is suitably obnoxious as the punk kid with a gun (I really wanted to see him gunned down).

The great Floyd Crosby, another High Noon veteran, gives the picture the feel of something a lot bigger than it is — a trick he’d perform often for Roger Corman in the early 60s.

Hell Canyon Outlaws isn’t available on DVD or Blu-ray anywhere. Given the top-notch cast and crew working at the top of their game, this would be a great one to see in a nice anamorphic transfer (it was shot for 1.85). It’s currently available from Sinister Cinema, but I haven’t seen what it looks like. If I had my own video company, this is one I’d try to track down in a hurry.

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Produced and Directed by Albert C. Gannaway
Written by Thomas G. Hubbard, Associate Producer
Director of Photography: Charles Straumer, ASC
Music Composed and Played by Ramez Idriss (on Fender guitars)
Supervising Film Editor: Asa Clark, ACE

Cast: Jim Davis (“Brennan”), Carl Smith (Sheriff Carl Smith), Arleen Whelan (Murdock), Lee Van Cleef (Shad Donaphin), Louis Jean Heydt (Col. Donaphin), Harry Lauter (Doc Hale), Marty Robbins (Felipe), Douglas Fowley (Marshal Matt Brennan)

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I’ve been meaning to dive into Jim Davis’ pictures from the 50s — the ones where he has the lead — for quite some time. It took someone asking about such a thing to make me finally take it on, so let’s kick things off with The Badge Of Marshal Brennan (1957).

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Davis is an outlaw on the run who happens upon the dying Marshal Brennan (Douglas Fowley). He takes the man’s badge and rides on to the next town. There, mistaken for the marshal, Davis helps take on a powerful rancher whose diseased cattle have created an epidemic that threatens to kill off the town.

wayne_80The story’s nothing new, the sets are cheap, the music — a guitars-only score by Ramez Idriss — is kinda thin (and odd), and some of the camera set-ups seemed rushed. But there’s still something about The Badge Of Marshal Brennan I liked. It might be the cast. Davis is fine, of course. Arleen Whelan is good in one of her last roles. Lee Van Cleef, Louis Jean Heydt and Harry Lauter are as dependable as ever. And a couple country music stars from the period, Carl Smith and Marty Robbins, are thrown in for good measure.

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The Badge Of Marshal Brennan was followed by Raiders Of Old California (1957), again from director Albert C. Gannaway and much of the same cast. They were both shot outside Kanab, Utah, and at Cascade Studios in Hollywood by Charles Straumer. Badge was released by Allied Artists; Republic handled Raiders.

You can find both of these on Amazon or even YouTube. While they’re not gonna knock you out, it’s a shame they’re not available on DVD.

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Legend of the Lost_06

Directed by Henry Hathaway
Starring John Wayne, Sophia Loren, Rossano Brazzi, Kurt Kasznar

Legend Of The Lost (1957) isn’t a Western, and it can’t hold a candle to some of the other pictures Wayne made with Henry Hathaway. But it’s certainly big and it was shot by Jack Cardiff in Technicolor and Technirama, so it should make for a great Blu-ray. And it’s coming from Olive Films in May.

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Dragoon Wells Massacre HS

Directed by Harold Schuster
Produced by Lindsley Parsons
Screenplay by Warren Douglas
From a story by Oliver Drake
Director Of Photography: William Clothier

Cast: Barry Sullivan (Link Ferris), Dennis OKeefe (Capt. Matt Riordan), Mona Freeman (Ann Bradley), Katy Jurado (Mara Fay), Sebastian Cabot (Jonah), Casey Adams (Phillip Scott), Jack Elam (Tioga), Trevor Bardette (Marshal Bill Haney), Jon Shepodd (Tom), Hank Worden (Hopi Charlie), Warren Douglas (Jud), Judy Strangis (Susan), Alma Beltran (Station agent’s wife), John War Eagle (Yellow Claw)

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This is an entry in The Allied Artists Blogathon, a celebration of the studio’s rich and varied output.

The team of writer/actor Warren Douglas, producer Lindsley Parsons and director Harold D. Schuster turned out five excellent B-plus pictures for Allied Artists in the 50s. They were the tight, grim Western Jack Slade (1953); a terrific noir, Loophole (1954); a solid sequel, The Return Of Jack Slade (1955); Finger Man (1955), a dope picture with Forrest Tucker, Peggie Castle and Timothy Carey; and finally, the dark, tense CinemaScope Western Dragoon Wells Massacre (1957).

Producer Lindsley Parsons had been in the picture business since the 30s, starting out writing B Westerns like those Lone Star John Wayne movies. Warren Douglas was a B Movie actor who made the transition to screenwriter, often playing a part in the pictures he wrote; he’d later write for a number of TV Westerns. He based his Dragoon Wells Massacre screenplay on a story by the prolific writer/producer/director of scores of B Westerns, Oliver Drake.

Director Harold Schuster started as an actor, making the transition to editor before the Talkies came in. Though he never set the world on fire as a director, he made a few fine films before settling into TV.

Dragoon Wells Massacre LCDragoon Wells Massacre begins with a prison wagon carrying two bad men, Link Ferris (Barry Sullivan) and Tioga (Jack Elam), to trial. Before long, they come across an Indian trader, Jonah McAdam (Sebastian Cabot), and a cavalry patrol that’s been slaughtered by the Apaches, with Capt. Matt Riordan (Dennis O’Keefe) its only survivor. Soon, the drivers and passengers of a stagecoach are added to those making the desperate journey to Fort Dragoon Wells with the Apaches never far behind. This is a fairly common setup — a diverse group making their way from Point A to Point B, battling an enemy, the elements and each other along the way — that’s certainly not limited to Westerns. Douglas comes up with some solid characters, makes sure we like the good ones and hate the bad ones, then puts them all through absolute hell — and us through a tense 88 minutes — before the final fade.

Dragoon Wells Massacre Cabot SullivanWhile the basic premise may be conventional — and I’m keeping the synopsis lean on purpose, what Douglas does with it is certainly not. (I’d love to know how many of the finer points were found in Drake’s original story.) What’s more, Schuster keeps things chugging along, almost relentlessly, from one set piece to the next. The picture really benefits from all of his years at the Moviola, and he gets top-notch performances from his terrific cast — which steadily shrinks with each brush with the Apaches.

Dragoon Wells ElamSullivan and Elam are likable badguys, and we’re soon hoping these outsiders will get their chances for redemption. This could be Elam’s best performance, as a man damned by his appearance — and by the shallowness of others. Dennis O’Keefe is fine as the tough cavalryman. Sebastian Cabot is utterly despicable as the gunrunner — the movie’s real villain. Before he became Mr. French, Cabot was a terrific 50s Westerns sleazeball.

Dragoon Wells Massacre Sullivan Freeman 2Mona Freeman does a great job as a snooty, self-centered, judgmental stage passenger (and former flame of O’Keefe). Her transformation is not only satisfying, but believable. Katy Jurado is good, as always, as a saloon girl hoping to turn her life around. My one complaint is that Hank Worden doesn’t have enough to do — but that’s something you could say about almost everything he appeared in, from The Searchers (1956) to One-Eyed Jacks (1961).

William Clothier shot Dragoon Wells Massacre around Kanab, Utah, in CinemaScope and color by DeLuxe. One of the finest Western shooters ever, Clothier’s work here is tremendous. The entire picture takes place outdoors, and you really feel the heat and dryness of the desert. Just as important, you never think that you’re watching a low-budget movie.

Dragoon Wells stillDragoon Wells Massacre is unavailable on DVD or Blu-ray in the U.S. There’s a German DVD that presents the picture at a TV-friendly 1.78 instead of Scope’s 2.35. It’s a real shame the picture’s so hard to track down and that Clothier’s work is compromised. This is one of those 50s Westerns that gets everything right, and it now sits at the top of my Blu-ray Want List.

Someone who frequents this blog, when I once mentioned that I was watching an old Phil Karlson picture, pointed out that now matter how old it is, a movie’s new if you haven’t seen it. So, following that logic, and considering that I just saw this a few months ago, Dragoon Wells Massacre gets my vote for Best Picture of 2015.

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