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Archive for the ‘1958’ Category

Pillars Of The Sky HS sized

New York’s 92nd Street Y is hosting a class on Westerns of the 50s. Hosted by Kurt Brokaw, Associate Teaching Professor at The New School and senior film critic of The Independent magazine, it’s got a really terrific roster of films. The classes are Tuesday nights, beginning April 14, with two films each night.

Man, I wish I could get to this.

Week 1
Broken Lance
(1954) Directed by Edward Dmytryk, starring Spencer Tracy, Robert Wagner, Jean Peters, Richard Widmark, Katy Jurado
The Badlanders (1956) Directed by Delmer Daves, starring Alan Ladd, Ernest Borgnine, Katy Jurado

Week 2
Saddle The Wind
(1958) Directed by Robert Parrish, starring Robert Taylor, Julie London, John Cassavetes
Dawn At Socorro (1954) Directed by George Sherman, starring Rory Calhoun and Piper Laurie

Week 3
Pillars Of The Sky
(1956) Directed by George Marshall, starring Jeff Chandler, Dorothy Malone, Ward Bond, Lee Marvin
Backlash (1956) Directed by John Sturges, starring Richard Widmark, Donna Reed, William Campbell, John McIntire

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Week 4
Ride Clear Of Diablo
(1954) Directed by Jesse Hibbs, starring Audie Murphy, Dan Duryea, Susan Cabot
The Outriders (1950) Directed by Roy Rowland, starring Joel McCrea, Arlene Dahl, James Whitmore, Barry Sullivan

Week 5
Back To God’s Country
(1953) Directed by Joseph Pevney, starring Rock Hudson, Marcia Henderson, Steve Cochran, Hugh O’Brien
Black Horse Canyon (1954) Directed by Jesse Hibbs, starring Joel McCrea and Mari Blanchard

Week 6
Seven Men From Now
(1956) Directed by Budd Boetticher, starring Randolph Scott, Gail Russell, Lee Marvin, Walter Reed
Gun Fury (1953) Directed by Raoul Walsh, starring Rock Hudson, Donna Reed, Philip Carey, Lee Marvin

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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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Gunsmoke in tucson ad 11 58

Directed by Thomas Carr
Produced by William D. Coates
Screenplay by Paul Leslie Peil & Robert Joseph
Story by Paul Leslie Peil
Director Of Photography: William Whitley, ASC
Film Editor: George White
Music Composed by Sid Cutner

CAST: Mark Stevens (Chip Coburn), Forrest Tucker (John Brazos), Gail Robbins (Lou Crenshaw), Vaughn Taylor (Ben Bodeen), John Ward (Slick Kirby), Kevin Hagen (Clem Haney), John Cliff (Sheriff Cass), Gail Kobe (Katy Porter), George Keymas (Hondo), Richard Reeves (Notches Pole), Bill Henry (Sheriff Blane).

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As the titles roll, we’re looking up into a large tree. Once “Directed by Thomas Carr” dissolves away, a noose is tossed over a branch of the tree, and the camera pans down for an establishing shot of a lynching, all in CinemaScope and nicely-preserved DeLuxe Color. It’s a stylish way to open Gunsmoke In Tucson (1958), an Allied Artists Western that really delivers—and maintains that visual flair and creativity throughout its running time.

Mark Stevens and Forrest Tucker are brothers on opposite sides of the law. Stevens is Chip Coburn, who wants to put his outlaw ways behind him and settle on a ranch of his own. Tucker is John Brazos, a marshal who doubts his brother will stay on the straight and narrow. Chip winds up in the middle of a rancher-farmer dispute and his forced to pick up his guns again.

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Story-wise, it’s nothing new, but the writers—Paul Leslie Peil and Robert Joseph—manage to keep things fresh. As we all know, Westerns work well when they use one of the genre’s standard plots (or plots, in this case) as a springboard. Mark Stevens is really good at the intense, brooding, tortured tough guy, whether in Westerns like this one and Jack Slade (1953) or noir stuff like the excellent Cry Vengeance (1954), which he also directed. Of course, Forrest Tucker is always terrific. His 50s Western filmography is second to none. Gale Robbins is good as Lou, Chip’s saloon girl girlfriend. Gail Kobe’s part, as the good girl who’s loved Chip all along, doesn’t give her much to do. And Kevin Hagan, who plays farmer Clem Haney, is known the world over as Doc Baker on Little House On The Prairie. He does a good job, even though he’s forced to wear a lousy fake beard.

The bond, or conflict, between brothers was a common theme in 50s Westerns. It can be found in pictures like Horizons West (1952), Rage At Dawn (1955), The True Story Of Jesse James (1957), Night Passage (1957), Fury At Showdown (1957) and Face Of A Fugitive (1959, though Fred MacMurray’s brother doesn’t make it past the first reel). Forrest Tucker does a good job in Gunsmoke In Tucson, striking just the right tone in his brother-or-duty scenes and keeping the dialogue from coming off hokey.

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Old Tucson was a busy place in 1958 and ’59. Buchanan Rides Alone. Rio Bravo. The BadlandersThe Lone Ranger And The Lost City Of Gold. The location adds tons of production value to this low-budget film, with director of photography William Whitley wisely letting us see the landscape surrounding the street set. The bridge that’s featured so prominently in Buchanan and Gunfight At The O.K. Corral (1957) gets some screen time as well. (I watch for that bridge like a favorite character actor.)

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One of the things that really strikes me about Gunsmoke In Tucson, something that was mentioned in its reviews back in ’58, is William P. Whitley’s camerawork. Whitley worked for Sam Katzman at Columbia in the early 50s (Jungle Jim, serials, etc.), then got into television—The Adventures Of Superman, The Lone Ranger (the fifth, color season) and eventually Bonanza. He shot over 75 episodes of Bonanza before retiring. He did three pictures for Allied Artists, all released in 1958: Quantrill’s Raiders, Queen Of Outer Space and Gunsmoke In Tucson. All are in Scope and look terrific. Whitley seems to have enjoyed the chance to shoot for the wide screen–his shots are well-composed and inventive throughout Gunsmoke In Tucson. And he made sure Gale Robbins’ red hair popped in scene after scene.

We wouldn’t be appreciating Mr. Whitley’s work if it wasn’t so well presented by Warner Archive. It’s a bit soft, perhaps, but the color is really nice and the audio’s got plenty of punch. This is a really tough, solid little movie—the kind of forgotten treasures this genre, and decade, are full of. Recommended.

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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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Badlanders TC
Directed by Delmer Daves
Produced by Aaron Rosenberg
Screenplay by Richard Collins
From a novel by W.R. Burnett
Director Of Photography: John Seitz, ASC
Film Editors: William H. Webb and James Baiotto

CAST: Alan Ladd (Peter Van Hoek), Ernest Borgnine (John McBain), Katy Jurado (Anita), Claire Kelly (Ada Winton), Kent Smith (Cyril Lounsbery), Nehemiah Perdoff (Vincente), Robert Emhardt (Sample), Anthony Caruso (Comanche)

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Today’s post marks the 101st birthday of Alan Ladd (September 3, 1913 – January 29, 1964).

Warner Archive’s recent Alan Ladd releases got me on a bit of a Ladd kick, so I was eager to see The Badlanders (1958). A Western remake of The Asphalt Jungle (1950), directed by Delmer Daves, it pairs Ladd with Ernest Borgnine.

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The Dutchman (Ladd) and McBain (Borgnine) leave Yuma to settle a couple scores in Prescott: the Dutchman was framed for a gold robbery and McBain was cheated out of his gold-rich land. The Dutchman has a plan to retrieve a tremendous amount of gold ore from an abandoned mine, and he recruits McBain for the heist. The catch is, the marshall’s warned Ladd that he’d better be on the next stage outta town, which leaves the following evening. Things are further complicated by a crooked deputy, some really crooked businessmen and Katy Jurado and Claire Kelly. But, of course, as with The Asphalt Jungle, the heist itself is the centerpiece of the picture.

Delmer Daves made some of the finest Westerns of the 50s: Broken Arrow (1950), 3:10 To Yuma (1957) and The Hanging Tree (1959). The Badlanders doesn’t reach that level, but it’s a solid film that easily translates the heist picture to the Old West. Ladd and Borgnine are very good. Ladd’s cool as a cucumber throughout. Borgnine’s transformation from bitter inmate to loyal friend is played very well. Its failure could’ve sunk the film. Katy Jurado is beautiful—she and Borgnine became an item and were married a couple years later. (Borgnine spent some time watching her work on One-Eyed Jacks.) Oh, and Ladd and Borgnine remained friends till Ladd’s death.

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Daves always makes great use of his locations, and The Badlanders is no exception. The Yuma Territorial Prison plays itself. Various mines around Kingman, Arizona, were supposedly used. And Old Tucson has never looked better. I always get a kick out of seeing that bridge (from Buchanan Rides Alone, Rio Bravo and many more). The previous Daves/Ladd film, 1954’s Drum Beat, made great use of the Sedona area.

There is no composer credit for The Badlanders. It’s scored entirely with stock music. I don’t know of another film of this stature (Daves, Ladd, MGM) that uses recycled music. I’d love to hear the story behind that decision. Sometimes it works fine, sometimes it seems to have been chosen at random.

A fairly early effort from Warner Archive, The Badlanders looks great. Nice and sharp, and the color is strong. A full-frame trailer is included. Recommended.

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Buy this Blu-ray or Cooper gets it!

One of the toughest, slimiest, most brutal and just plain best-est 50s Westerns of them all, Anthony Mann’s Man Of The West (1958), is getting a much-needed upgrade this November from Kino Lorber.

It’s hard to put my finger on just why I love this one so much. For starters, it’s one of the finest Westerns ever made. But there’s other stuff, too. Like the awful Cleggs in Wagonmaster (1950), the bad guys here are of unbelievable scuzziness. (It’s hard to believe this is the same Jack Lord I love in Hawaii Five-O, not a hair out of place.) There are very few movies that impact me the way this one does: Mann is at the absolute top of his game here, twisting us around and ringing us out like a dishrag. (Just looking at this still is giving me the willies.) And Cooper brings incredible depth to Link Jones, maybe the ultimate Mann Western character—sorry, Jimmy—and certainly one of Coop’s best performances.

If you can watch this one and not be affected, check your pulse. You’re dead.

Thanks to Dick Vincent for the news. And Blake, if you don’t have a Blu-ray player yet, you’ve run out of excuses, pal.

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A while back, I brought up an exclusive at Collector’s Choice on some Alan Ladd pictures from Warner Archive. Well, that arrangement has about run its course, and those titles will soon be available through normal Warner Archive channels.

Drum Beat (1954)
Directed by Delmer Daves
Starring Alan Ladd, Audrey Dalton, Charles Bronson and Elisha Cook, Jr.

The Big Land (1957)
Directed by Gordon Douglas
Starring Alan Ladd, Virginia Mayo, Edmond O’Brien, Anthony Caruso, Julie Bishop and John Qualen.

Guns Of The Timberland (1960)
Directed by Robert D. Webb
Starring Alan Ladd, Jeanne Crain, Gilbert Roland and Frankie Avalon

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There’s another exclusive, this time with Oldies.com, on a couple Allied Artists CinemaScope Westerns to be released July 15.

Oregon Passage (1958)
Directed by Paul Landres
Starring John Ericson and Lola Albright
Paul Landres made some solid low-budget Westerns (Frontier Gun, for instance), so I have high hopes for this one. Incidentally, it’s working title was Rio Bravo. Wonder how the change in title went down, with Howard Hawks’ own Rio Bravo in production around the same time?

Gunsmoke in Tucson (1958)
Directed by Thomas Carr
Starring Mark Stevens and Forrest Tucker
I’ve been on the lookout for this one for quite some time, which goes into familiar range war/brothers-on-opposite-sides-of-the-law territory. I’d also love to see Carr’s The Tall Stranger (1957), starring Joel McCrea and Virginia Mayo, turn up on DVD.

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