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Archive for the ‘1959’ Category

RIP, Jack N. Young.

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Jack N. Young
(September 25, 1926 – September 12, 2018)

Just heard that Jack N. Young, a veteran stuntman from a slew of 50s Westerns, has passed away at 91.

I interviewed Mr. Young in 2014, and he was a blast to speak with. He performed my favorite stunt in my favorite Western — he’s the guy Dean Martin shoots off the balcony in the saloon in Rio Bravo (1959).

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Came across this in an old issue of American Cinematographer. John Wayne watches Dean Martin shoot one of his scenes in Rio Bravo (1959).

Rio Bravo BTS AC2And another. This time, it’s Wayne with Ward Bond.

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Produced and Directed by William J. Hole, Jr.
Written by James Edmiston and Dallas Gaultois
Cinematography: John M. Nickolaus, Jr.
Music by Alec Compinsky

Cast: James Craig (Tom Sabin), Martha Vickers (Mary Hoag), Edgar Buchanan (Dipper), Brett Halsey (Johnny Naco), Paul Richards (Hoag), Richard Martin (Quijano), Blu Wright (Farmer Brown), John Swift (Zodie Dawes), Paul Raymond (Bartender)

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One of my favorite things about early CinemaScope pictures: those long takes. If the Scope picture is a cheap one, with setups kept to a minimum to save money, then you can count on even more long takes. And that brings us to Four Fast Guns (1959). It’s a cheap little B&W Scope Western released by Universal-International.

The premise is terrific. A town tamer is on his way to Purgatory when he comes across Tom Sabin (James Craig). Sabin ends up gunning the guy down, then rides on to Purgatory and takes on the town tamer job. Purgatory’s run by Hoag (Paul Richards), who owns the saloon — he’s who the townspeople want “tamed.” Hoag writes to three notorious gunmen, offering each $1,000 to kill Sabin. (He even asks Sabin to mail the letters!) All three show up, and all three end up locking horns with Sabin. When the last fast gun, Johnny Naco (Brett Halsey), turns out to be Sabin’s brother — and Hoag’s wife Mary (Martha Vickers) admits she’s in love with the town tamer, things get complicated. It all makes for an interesting 72 minutes.

James Craig does a good job in his take on the world-weary gunfighter. This is a common theme in 50s Westerns, of course — ranging from Gregory Peck in The Gunfighter (1950) to Fred MacMurray in Face Of A Fugitive (1959). Not a lot of time goes into the relationship between the Sabin brothers, but it’s well done. It’s another angle you see quite a bit in these films — Night Passage and Fury At Showdown (both 1957), for instance.

Four Fast Guns was Martha Vickers’ last feature. I’ll never forget her in The Big Sleep (1946). She’d do a couple episodes of The Rebel, then retire. Her scenes with Craig are well done. Mary’s love for Sabin doesn’t come out of the blue. It actually makes sense, thanks to the performances and the script from James Edmiston and Dallas Gaultois.

It was a unique idea to put Hoag in a wheelchair, and it’s great to see Richard Martin, as one of the fast guns, do a serious take on his Chito character from the Tim Holt pictures. Edgar Buchanan is as dependable as ever as Dipper, who serves as Sabin’s makeshift deputy. His character could’ve easily become a liability, but he keeps things in check most of the time.

John M. Nickolaus, Jr. shot Four Fast Guns. He also shot a few Regalscope pictures, including Showdown At Boot Hill and Desert Hell (both 1958), so he certainly knew his way around B&W Scope. (The House Of The Damned, a cheap haunted house picture that Nickolaus shot for Maury Dexter, is worth seeking out.) The bulk of Nickolaus’ career was spent in TV, shooting many episodes of Gunsmoke, Perry Mason, The Outer Limits and more. The blocking of scenes within the wide frame, bringing real life to those long takes, is very effective.

Four Fast Guns is usually listed as a 1960 picture. But it played at the Palms Theatre in Detroit (with 4D Man) in December of 1959. Released by Universal-International, it was often paired with Operation Petticoat (1959).

I love cheap movies like this, where talent and ingenuity make or break the picture. (Today’s budget-equals-quality approach to cinema is why I rarely go to the movies anymore.) Four Fast Guns is available on DVD from Kit Parker Films and VCI Entertainment in two ways — first as part of their Darn Good Westerns set, then as a standalone DVD. Either way, it looks terrific and comes highly recommended. (I’d love to see it make its way to Blu-Ray.)

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The music label Cherry Red out of the UK has released (or is about to release) a 3-CD set Music From The Westerns Of John Wayne And John Ford. Featuring music from Stagecoach (1939), Fort Apache (1948), Three Godfathers (1948), She Wore A Yellow Ribbon (1949), Rio Grande (1950), The Searchers (1956), Horse Soldiers (1959) and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962). Of course, music is always a huge part of a John Ford picture, so there’s plenty of good stuff here.

Sometimes it’s the original soundtrack (Rio Grande, Horse Soldiers), sometimes it’s from other sources. You can see a track listing here. This promises to be a very cool set. Can’t wait.

Thanks to Mr. Richard Vincent for the tip.

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The word on the street is that Powerhouse/Indicator out of the UK is prepping some of the Budd Boetticher – Randolph Scott pictures, the five  Columbia ones, for Blu-Ray. Of course, those were put out by Sony in a terrific set several years ago, with plenty of extra stuff — but we’ve all been pining for all of these to make their way to Blu-Ray.

Michael Dante, Randolph Scott and Budd Boetticher on the Westbound set.

Powerhouse/Indicator will do a tremendous job with these. This would leave Seven Men From Now (1956) and Westbound (1959) orphaned in high-definition. Seven Men is handled by Paramount these days, and Westbound is in the care of the Warner Archive. More news as it turns up.

Thanks to John Knight for the tip.

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Directed by Delmer Daves
Produced by Martin Jurow and Richard Shepherd
Screenplay by Wendell Mayes and Halsted Welles
From the novel by Dorothy M. Johnson
Director of photography: Ted McCord, ASC
Music by Max Steiner
Song: “The Hanging Tree” — Lyrics by Mack David, Music by Jerry Livingston,
Vocal by Marty Robbins
Film Editor: Owen Marks

CAST: Gary Cooper (Dr. Joseph Frail), Maria Schell (Elizabeth Mahler), Karl Malden (Frenchy), Ben Piazza (Rune), George C. Scott (Grubb), Karl Swenson (Mr. Flaunce), Virginia Gregg (Mrs. Flaunce), John Dierkes (Society Red)

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It was a big deal back in 2012 when Warner Archive brought Delmer Daves’ The Hanging Tree (1959) to DVD. (Hard to believe it’s been that long.) Their new Blu-Ray ought to be just as big an event, since hi-def can really add to your appreciation of the film.

Not a frame from the Blu-Ray, just a sample long shot from the film.

Cooper’s character, Doc Frail, lives in a cabin on a ridge about the mining town of Skull Creek. Throughout the picture, we’re look down on the village from Frail’s perspective. These deep-focus shots now have an almost stunning amount of detail, giving you an opportunity to really study what Daves had his cast of extras doing in the recesses of those long shots.

Gary Cooper and Maria Schell in a goofy publicity shot.

Another benefit of the new Blu-Ray is the color. Ted McCord shot The Hanging Tree in Technicolor, and Warner Archive has it looking like a million bucks. It has a slight brownish tone to it that suits all the wood we see throughout — from the trees to the makeshift buildings of Skull Creek. You also get a real feel of lamplight in the interiors, while most Technicolor films from the period seem extremely bright. The low lighting is necessary here, as Maria Schell is kept in darkness as she regains her sight.

Warner Archive frames the picture at 1.78:1, a slight variation on its theatrical 1.85. That’s becoming a bit of a norm with a lot of hi-def transfers, and it doesn’t bother me. The grain here is near perfect — it’s there, as it should be, but it’s never distracting.

The Hanging Tree is a great movie. And this is the way to see it. Highly, highly recommended.

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Directed by Delmer Daves
Starring Gary Cooper, Maria Schell, Karl Malden, Ben Piazza, George C. Scott, Karl Swenson, Virginia Gregg, John Dierkes

Delmer Daves’ The Hanging Tree (1959) was a huge deal when Warner Archive brought it to DVD back in 2012. It’d been hard to find for years — and ratty-looking when you did find it. Now it looked pretty terrific.

Warner Archive has announced an upcoming Blu-Ray rollout for The Hanging Tree in early 2018. Great news and a great, great movie.

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