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Archive for the ‘1959’ Category

Directed by Paul Landres
Produced by Jack Leewood
Screenplay by James Landis & Jack Thomas
Music by Paul Dunlap
Cinematography: Walter Strenge
Film Editor: Robert Fritch

Cast: Willard Parker (Clint Banister), Grant Williams (Greg Banister), Audrey Dalton (Susan Harvey), Douglas Kennedy (Maj. Phillip Harvey), June Blair (Florrie Stuart), Dabbs Greer (Doc Jansen), Barbara Heller (Amy Todd), Rayford Barnes (Finch), Tyler McVey (Henry Biggs), Lee Farr (Riff)

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Clint Banister (Willard Parker) returns to Texas after the Civil War. Since he chose to fight for the Union instead of the Confederacy, he gets a chilly reception when he gets back his home town. He also learns that his younger brother (Grant Williams) is sheriff, and he’s running the town into the ground.

Paul Landres’ Lone Texan (1959) was the last of the Regalscope pictures. In the mid-50s, B producer Robert Lippert entered into an arrangement with 20th Century-Fox where his Regal Films, Inc. would produce a series of second features for the studio — two black and white CinemaScope pictures a month. They called the “process” Regalscope — black and white CinemaScope, nothing more. Lippert made around 50 Regalscope features between 1956 and 1959 — all of them cheap, most of them Westerns. 

These films were made in about a week, often using sets left over from other pictures. Paul Landres was quite adept at making something out of nothing, with a string of excellent B movies to prove it — The Vampire, Hell Canyon Outlaws (both 1957) and The Return Of Dracula (1958). He worked largely in TV, where his efficiency was certainly appreciated. I sure wish he’d done more features.

Director Paul Landres: “On Lone Texan, we worked on the Western street over at Fox. I had six days on this show. I had a crane and I had lots of stuff that I was doing on the crane. I shot all day on that crane and every cut, every setup was unrelated. And the producer (Richard E. Lyons), who didn’t have the greatest experience, came to me and said ‘Paul, what are you doing? I can’t follow anything!’ Well, when it all went together, it made sense. You don’t shoot in continuity, and when you’re on that crane you shoot all the crane shots you need on the Western street throughout the picture.” I’m happy to report that Lyons eventually caught on to the whole moviemaking thing, and he went on to do pictures like Ride The High Country (1962) and Coogan’s Bluff (1968).

The cinematographer on that crane was Walter Strenge, who shot a number of the Reglalscope pictures, including the first one, Stagecoach To Fury (1956), which was nominated an Oscar for best B&W cinematography. You’d never know he was working on such a tight schedule — these films look good and use lots of long takes, which are so effective in early ‘Scope movies.

Paul Dunlap scored a number of the Regalscope movies, along with lots of other B pictures. It’s a shame he’s not better known. His music adds a lot to pictures ranging from Jack Slade (1953) to The Angry Red Planet (1959). Dunlap scored bigger films every once in a while, such as Big Jim McLain (1952) and Sam Fuller’s The Naked Kiss (1964).

The lovely Audrey Dalton has already appeared in Titanic (1953), Casanova’s Big Night (1954), Drum Beat (1954) and The Monster That Challenged The World (1957). In a couple years, she’d do William Castle’s Mr. Sardonicus (1961).

Willard Parker made plenty of B movies, and he’s as good here as he ever is. Grant Williams did this one a couple years after The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), the movie he’s known for today. Douglas Kennedy and Dabbs Greer are always great to bump into. 

The Regalscope pictures are hard to see, especially if you want to see ’em in their original 2.35 Regalscope framing. Very few are out there on Blu-Ray. Lone Texan is probably one of the better ones, thanks largely to its director and cast. It’s a nice mix of a number of common 50s Western themes — post-Civil War life, the relationship between brothers, a town run by a corrupt businessman, etc. There are certainly worse ways to 70 minutes. Recommended.

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Directed by John Ford
Starring John Wayne, William Holden, Constance Towers, Althea Gibson, Judson Pratt, Ken Curtis, Willis Bouchey, Hank Worden, Denver Pyle, Strother Martin, Hoot Gibson

When John Ford’s The Horse Soldiers (1959) first arrived on Blu-Ray (in 2011, if memory serves), it was a huge improvement on the old DVD, and there’s plenty of reasons to believe Kino Lorber’s new 4K restoration will be another leap forward.

The Horse Soldiers is a better picture than it gets credit for being, and getting better and better looking on video is a great way to crank up interest in it — and hopefully a bit of a reappraisal.

After a stuntman was killed on location, Ford lost his enthusiasm for the film and pretty much checked out on its completion — but even watered-down Ford is better than just about anything else you’ll see.

William H. Clothier’s cinematography here is, as always, top-notch — and should be stunning in this new restoration. A commentary from Joseph McBride will be a nice addition. Coming in June. Highly, highly recommended.

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Nashville Scene used to boast a film writer named Jim Ridley. He’s about my age and he passed away a few years ago. Came across a compilation of his writing over the weekend called People Only Die Of Love In The Movies. In it, there’s his short piece on Howard Hawks’ Rio Bravo (1959).

You may know by now that Rio Bravo is my favorite Western. I’m not gonna say it’s the best necessarily, but if I was headed to the electric chair and I got to watch one Western before they threw the switch, that’d be the one I’d pick (and not because of its long-ish running time).

Anyway, Mr. Ridley nailed Rio Bravo. What makes it special. What it is about it that’s so different. After reading his piece, I thought I would’ve loved to have met him for coffee or lunch somewhere just to geek out on Rio Bravo. That woulda really been something.

Rio Bravo cast and crew

Here’s a couple gems from his review (from Nashville Scene, November 2, 2006):

“After the big-budget thud of Land Of The Pharaohs, Howard Hawks emerged from a three-year sabbatical, including a stay in Paris and a purposeful study of TV drama, to create his 1959 rifle opera: a laid-back yet hard-headed response to the sanctimonious High Noon — which pissed off the director because no lawman worth his badge would ask civilians to risk their hides doing his job. The result is an irresistible ode to loyalty, cool under fire and masculine honor — which in the Hawks universe extends even to Angie Dickinson’s stand-up saloon girl.”

“Perhaps the most purely enjoyable Western ever made, Rio Bravo only deepens with age and repeated viewing, right down to the genial juxtaposition of Martin’s slouch and Wayne’s saunter. It’s doubtful another American movie has ever taken so much interest in the way its characters walk — or understood why it matters.”

Mr. Ridley, I’m sure sorry we never got to talk Rio Bravo. Would’ve been a blast.

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Directed by John Sturges
Starring Kirk Douglas, Anthony Quinn, Carolyn Jones, Earl Holliman, Brian G. Hutton, Dabbs Greer

Here’s the one so many of us, mainly me, have been waiting for. Last Train From Gun Hill (1959) is coming to Blu-Ray from Paramount in June.

An excellent Western, with terrific VistaVision camerawork from Charles B. Lang Jr., this is one of the pictures that made me a 50s Westerns nut and set me on the path to this blog and the upcoming book. It remains one of my all-time favorite films.

If you’re a reader of this blog, this one’s essential.

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Directed by Edward Dein
Starring Eric Fleming, Kathleen Crowley, Michael Pate, John Hoyt, Bruce Gordon

Kino Lorber has announced an October release for the terrific Western/Horror mashup Curse Of The Undead (1959). The story of vampires in the old West, it’s a better picture than you’d expect it to be — pictures like Billy The Kid Vs. Dracula (1966) set the cowboy/monster bar pretty low. U-I excelled at both Westerns and monster movies in the 50s, and Curse Of The Dead succeeds as both.

Ellis Carter’s cinematography is really nice on this one, and it should look terrific on Blu-Ray. Can’t wait to get my hands on this thing!

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Kino Lorber’s three-Blu-Ray Audie Murphy Collection is gonna be a good one. I’m not sure what I’m more excited about, that I get to do commentaries for two of ’em, or that these films are coming out, period.

Kino Lorber’s Blu-Ray of Night Passage (1957) is one of the best-looking Blu-Rays of a 50s Western I’ve seen, and these should look terrific, too. Universal International’s Westerns from this period were beautifully shot — and they’ve taken pretty good care of them.

The Duel At Silver Creek (1952)
Directed by Don Siegel
Starring Audie Murphy, Faith Domergue, Stephen McNally

Don Siegel’s first Western, and first film in color, is a fun, fast-paced little picture with gorgeous camerawork from Irving Glassberg. It’s also got a terrific supporting cast — Hal Mohr, Walter Sande, Frank Wilcox, Harry Harvey, Lee Marvin (his first Western), etc. It has fun with the conventions it tosses into the mix.

The story goes that Siegel’s cut of the picture was barely an hour long. The prologue tacked onto the picture to pad out its running time works perfectly. Siegel and Murphy would work again on The Gun Runners (1958).

Ride A Crooked Trail (1958)
Directed by Jesse Hibbs
Starring Audie Murphy, Gia Scala, Walter Matthau, Henry Silva, Joanna Moore

Audie’s an outlaw reformed more or less by circumstance. Walter Matthau is a lot of fun as a judge Murphy gets mixed up with. Gia Scala and Joanna Moore look terrific.

Jesse Hibbs was a good director for Murphy; they’d already had great success with To Hell And Back (1955). This was Hibbs’ last feature before embarking on a busy run (about a decade) as a TV director. Harold Lipstein shot it in CinemaScope and Eastmancolor.

No Name On The Bullet (1959)
Directed by Jack Arnold
Starring Audie Murphy, Charles Drake, Joan Evans, Warren Stevens, R.G. Armstrong, Whit Bissell

Over the years, U-I got pretty smart with their Audie Murphy movies. They learned to give him a strong supporting cast, and they built movies around his strengths as an actor. (I don’t think he was anywhere near as limited as some say he was.) No Name On The Bullet (1959) might be the best example fo the latter approach. It’s well-written by Gene L. Coon, later of Star Trek fame, and he gave Murphy some terrific lines. Jack Arnold’s no-frills style is a perfect match for the material.

There’s nothing better than a little low-budget movie where everything clicks to create something much bigger than it should’ve been. This is one of those movies. (On a personal note, this is one of the pictures that launched my obsession with 50s Westerns.)

The set gives you the three movies on separate discs, contained in a slipcover. Trailers and commentaries are included (I’m doing the first two.) Highly recommended. Now, when will someone get around to Tumbleweed (1953) and Seven Ways From Sundown (1960)?

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Directed by Edward Dein
Starring Eric Fleming, Michael Pate, Kathleen Crowley, John Hoyt, Bruce Gordon, Edward Binns, Jimmy Murphy, Helen Kleeb, Jay Adler

If somebody’d told me way back when I started this blog that Curse Of The Undead (1959) would be coming to Blu-Ray, I would’ve told ’em they were nuts. But low and behold, Kino Lorber has announced it.

Curse Of The Undead is a real oddball in the 50s Westerns corral — a Western and vampire picture nailed together. It somehow stays fairly true to the conventions of both genres, and it’s a lot of fun.

Michael Pate is terrific, and Ellis W. Carter’s cinematography is perfectly suited to the material. He was a wise choice, since he’d done Universal sci-fi pictures like The Mole People (1956), The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), The Deadly Mantis (1957) and The Land Unknown (1957, in CinemaScope) — along with 50s Westerns like The Texas Rangers (1951) and A Day Of Fury (1956).  It should look great in high definition.

Not sure when this is coming, but I’m really glad it is.

Oh, and Reynold Brown’s poster art is really cool.

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Mill Creek has announced a twin-bill Blu-Ray of The Man From The Alamo (1953) and They Came To Cordura (1959).

The Man From The Alamo (1953)
Directed by Budd Boetticher
Starring Glenn Ford, Julie Adams, Chill Wills, Victor Jory, Hugh O’Brien, Neville Brand

Glenn Ford leaves The Alamo before the siege to notify families of what’s to come, and he’s branded a coward for it.This is a beautiful Technicolor Universal-International Western. Ford’s good, Julie Adams is gorgeous and Victor Jory is despicable. Just what you want in a 50s Western.

They Came To Cordura (1959)
Directed by Robert Rossen
Starring Gary Cooper, Rita Hayworth, Van Heflin, Tab Hunter, Dick York

This one’s in Eastmancolor and CinemaScope, with Gary Cooper and his men after Pancho Villa. Dick York was injured making this, and it plagued him for years. It’s why he had to leave the role of Darrin Stephens on Bewitched.

Let’s hope this is the beginning of a trend with Mill Creek. Their two-fer Blu-Rays of Hammer and William Castle horror films are terrific.

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Came upon this the other day and thought it was worth sharing.

The Morningside Theatre in New York City has quite a lineup on Saturday, April 16, 1959. First, there was Tim Holt in The Monster That Challenged The World (1957), then Audie Murphy in Jack Arnold’s No Name On The Bullet (1959) and finally Running Target from 1956, starring Doris Dowling, Arthur Franz and Myron Healey. Tossed into the mix were a few cartoons and Marshall Reed in a chapter of the Columbia serial Riding With Buffalo Bill (1954), produced by Sam Katzman.

Of course, the stuff coming up after it — William Castle’s The Tingler (1959), The Warrior And The Slave Girl (1958) and Whip Wilson, Fuzzy Knight and Phyllis Coates in Monogram’s Canyon Riders (1951) — sounds pretty good, too.

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Day of the Outlaw 3S

Directed by Andre de Toth
Screenplay by Philip Yordan
Director Of Photography: Russell Harlan
Starring Robert Ryan, Burl Ives, Tina Louise, Alan Marshal, Nehemiah Persoff, David Nelson

1959 was a great year for 50s Westerns, taking the decade out on a really high note. And, for me, one of the cream of the year’s crop would have to be Andre de Toth’s Day Of The Outlaw. Kino Lorber has just announced a Blu-Ray release for August. Russell Harlan’s B&W cinematography should make this a must-have Blu-ray.

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