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Archive for the ‘1959’ Category

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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Nancy Gates
(February 1, 1926 – March 24, 2019)

Nancy Gates has passed away at 93. She was from Dallas, signed with RKO at just 15, and made some really good movies before retiring in 1969 to concentrate on her family.

She was particularly strong in Westerns such as Masterson Of Kansas (1954), Stranger On Horseback (1955), The Brass Legend (1956), The Rawhide Trail (1958), The Gunfight At Dodge City (1959) and Comanche Station (1960). Her other pictures include Hitler’s Children (1943), At Sword’s Point (1952), Suddenly (1954), World Without End (1956) and Some Came Running (1958). She was busy on TV, too, with everything from Maverick and Wagon Train to Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Perry Mason.

Around here, we’ll probably always remember her as Mrs. Lowe in Comanche Station. She’s really terrific in that one.

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Julie Adams (Betty May Adams)
October 17, 1926 – February 3, 2019

Just heard the sad news that Julie Adams has passed away at 92. One of my favorites actresses, she made some great Westerns for Universal-International in the 50s — and she was always so beautiful in Technicolor.

She was born Betty May Adams in 1926 in Waterloo, Iowa. In 1946, at 19, she was crowned “Miss Little Rock.” From there, it was off to Hollywood. Betty May worked as a secretary and appeared in a few B Westerns. She used her real name until 1949, when she signed with Universal-International. She then became “Julia” — and eventually “Julie”.

Universal kept her plenty busy. She appeared opposite James Stewart in Anthony Mann’s Bend Of The River (1952), Van Heflin in Budd Boetticher’s Wings Of The Hawk (1953, up top) Tyrone Power in The Mississippi Gambler (1953), Rock Hudson in Raoul Walsh’s The Lawless Breed (1953, above), Glenn Ford in The Man from the Alamo (1953) and Rory Calhoun in The Looters (1955), to name just a few. Away from Universal, she was in The Gunfight At Dodge City (1959) with Joe McCrea and Tickle Me (1965) with Elvis Presley.

She had a leading man of a different sort when she starred in 1954’s Creature From The Black Lagoon. The Creature would become the last of Universal’s roster of movie monsters, a real icon. Julie in her custom-built one-piece bathing suit became pretty iconic as well.

Julie did lots of TV, too. She was a county nurse on The Andy Griffith Show. She was on Perry Mason four times, including the only episode where Mason lost a case. You’ll also find her on The Rifleman, 77 Sunset Strip, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Maverick, McMillan & Wife, Police Woman, The Streets Of San Francisco and more.

Westerns are often criticized for not having strong roles for women. Julie Adams was so good, that never seemed like a problem for her. She always impressed.

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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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