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Archive for the ‘Columbia’ Category

Directed by George Sherman
Starring Van Heflin, Joanne Woodward, Phil Carey, Raymond Burr, Allison Hayes, Myron Healey, Nancy Kulp, James H. Griffith

Van Heflin comes home from the Civil War an ordained minister. It doesn’t go over too well since he was known in his hometown as a real hell raiser. George Sherman directed, Burnett Guffey shot it in ‘Scope and Technicolor, and it’s got a great supporting cast: Phil Carey, Raymond Burr, Allison Hayes, Myron Healey, Nancy Kulp, James H. Griffith. But it’s known today for being Joanne Woodward’s first film. It goes without saying that Heflin is terrific.

Sony has announced its September Blu-Ray release.

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Directed by Ray Nazarro
Produced by Rory Calhoun & Victor M. Orsatti
Screenplay by Kenneth Gamet & Hal Biller
Cinematography: Irving Lippman
Film Editor: Gene Havlick

Cast: Rory Calhoun (Domino), Kristine Miller (Barbara Ellison), Andrew Duggan (Wade Harrington), Yvette Duguay (Rosita), Peter Whitney (Lafe), Eugene Iglesias (Juan Cortez), Robert Burton (Sheriff Travers), Roy Barcroft (Ed Sandlin), James H. Griffith (Beal), Denver Pyle (Bill Dragger). Thomas Browne Henry (Doctor)

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There’s something about this movie. It takes one of the most basic of Western plots — a young man seeks revenge after his father is killed and their ranch trashed by guerrilla raiders during the Civil War — and somehow makes you forget you’ve seen this kinda thing a thousand times. There’s a bit of a 7 Men From Now (1956) thing going, as Domino (Rory Calhoun) knows who four of the five killers are, takes care of them, and has to identify the fifth.

Maybe it’s the direction from Ray Nazarro at sets it apart. He did so many of these things, and he had a real knack for keeping em moving. There’s a snap to his movies that others’ pictures lacked. The script’s pretty good, especially at going Rory Calhoun cool things to say. Calhoun, who co-produced and worked on the story, leads a great cast. Kristine Miller is good as the woman Domino left behind when he went gunning for the guys who killed his father. She didn’t have a real long career, but she worked at Republic quite a bit, which is enough of a recommendation for me. Andrew Duggan is the local bigwig who wants to buy Calhoun’s ranch — and make off with his girl. He made some solid Westerns in the late 50s — his next was Decision At Sundown (1957).

Yvette Duguay and Eugene Iglesias are both likable (and Duguay’s very pretty) as a couple of Domino’s only loyal friends in town. Then you’ve got James H. Griffith, one of my favorites, and Denver Pyle as a couple of the men Domino tracks down and blows away. Peter Whitney is the elusive fifth man, who comes to town to put an end to Domino’s “vengeance trail.” You’ll remember him as Amos Agry in Buchanan Rides Alone (1958). And there’s Roy Barcroft and Thomas Browne Henry in a couple small parts (you hardly see Henry’s face in his approximately 15 seconds of screen time).

Cinematographer Irving Lippman gets high marks on this one. It’s a good-looking movie, with deep, moody shadows and some interesting shots throughout — nicely framed for 1.85, another way Domino Kid stays fresh. Lippman was a staff cinematographer at Columbia, shooting pictures like  Hellcats Of The Navy and 20 Million Miles To Earth (both 1957). He also has the distinction of having shot some of the later Three Stooges shorts, a few of their features and almost every episode of both the Jungle Jim and The Monkees TV shows. He started out as a still photographer for the studio.

Domino Kid is not available on DVD or Blu-Ray. The transfer that used to turn up on The Westerns Channel looked great. This is the kind of picture that would be terrific as part of a set similar to those wonderful film noir collections Kit Parker has been doing. It’s a near-textbook example of a medium-budgeted 50s Western. Highly recommended.

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Directed by Fred F. Sears
Starring Rory Calhoun, Susan Cummings, Angela Stevens, Max Baer, Ray Teal

Sidonis out of France has announced the upcoming DVD (only) release of Utah Blaine (1957), a picture that brings together Rory Calhoun, producer Sam Katzman and director Fred F. Sears to bring a Louis L’Amour novel to the screen. By the way, Angela Stevens was in a number of Katzman pictures, including Creature With The Atom Brain and the Jungle Jim movie Devil Goddess (both 1955).

Calhoun made a number of pictures for Columbia, often having a hand in the production himself. This was his only time working with Jungle Sam’s unit — cats like Fred Sears and DP Benjamin Kline who take the finished picture far beyond what Katzman had in his budget. Of late, Sidonis has stayed clear of the forced (as in you can’t get rid of ’em) subtitles that plagued some of their earlier DVDs. This should be 1.85, and I’m looking forward to seeing it again. Coming in September.

UPDATE: Word is, the subtitles can be removed.

Thanks to John Knight for the reminder.

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Let’s mark Valentine’s Day this year with this ad from the Independent Film Journal from 1955. Ads for Ten Wanted Men (1955) drive me nuts — Scott’s head has clearly been pasted into another body.

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When I started doing DVD and Blu-Ray commentaries, it no longer felt appropriate to survey the best 50s Westerns DVD and Blu-Ray releases for the year. So, as a substitute (maybe a poor one), here’s a reminder of a few things we were treated to this year — and we’ll let all the praise, complaints or ranking come from you in the comments. Part 2 can be found next door at The Hannibal 8.

2018 didn’t see a lot of 50s Westerns turn up on DVD, but what turned up was certainly worthwhile.

The Durango Kid Collection
Mill Creek has come through with some terrific multi-picture sets over the last few years. They’re often Columbia pictures, and many have been available already as MOD releases, but they look great, the prices can’t be beat, and they’re big space savers as we watch our collections gobble up our square footage. The Durango Kid movies are fun, and this set gave me an excuse to really wallow in them for a while.

The Fastest Guns Of The West: The William Castle Western Collection
Another Mill Creek set, this offers up eight William Castle Westerns, most of them done for Sam Katzman. This was very eagerly awaited around here, and many of us are hoping for a second volume.

The True Story Of Jesse James (1957)
Twilight Time gave The True Story Of Jesse James a Blu-Ray release, giving us all a great opportunity to re-assess this Nicholas Ray picture — which was mangled by 20th Century-Fox. CinemaScope really benefits from 1080 presentation, and Ray is known for his great use of ‘Scope.

Five Tall Tales: Budd Boetticher & Randolph Scott At Columbia
It was about time somebody got around to the Ranown cycle in true high definition. So, where’s Seven Men From Now (1956)?

A Man Alone (1955)
This under-appreciated Ray Milland Western got a thorough restoration from Paramount — and a nice DVD and Blu-Ray release from Kino Lorber. It even played at the Museum Of Modern Art.

So there’s a few to get us going. What Western DVD and Blu-Ray releases stood out to you this year?

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Directed by William Castle
Produced by Sam Katzman
Story and Screen Play by Douglas Heyes
Cinematography: Henry Freulich
Film Editor: Charles Nelson

Cast: George Montgomery (Major Frank Archer), Richard Denning (Stacey Wyatt), Martha Hyer (Brett McClain), John Crawford (Captain Richard Hillman), Emory Parnell (Sergeant McClain), Michael Granger (Chief Mike)

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Battle Of Rouge River (1954) is another William Castle Western produced by Sam Katzman for Columbia. It’s part of Mill Creek’s terrific eight-movie DVD set The Fastest Guns Of The West: The William Castle Western Collection. Also included are Klondike Kate (1943), Conquest Of Cochise (1953), Jesse James Vs. The Daltons (1953), Masterson Of Kansas (1954), The Gun That Won The West (1955), Duel On The Mississippi (1955) and Uranium Boom (1956). All eight for less than $15.

At an outpost in the Oregon Territory, the stiff, serious Major Archer (George Montgomery) replaces Major Wallach (Willis Bouchey), who hasn’t been able to defeat Chief Mike (Michael Granger). Archer meets with the chief and they agree to a 30-day truce that keeps them on either side of the Rogue River. Of course, there’s a woman — Brett McClain (Martha Hyer), the daughter of one of the solders at the fort.

But one of the Irregulars aiding the soldiers (Richard Denning) is working to keep the Indians stirred up — to hold off Oregon’s statehood, which would spoil a good thing some of the area businesses have going. Denning tricks Montgomery into breaking the truce and attacking the Indians.

George Montgomery was on a roll at this time, making one solid little Western after another, often with William Castle as director. For me, Masterson Of Kansas (1954, directed by Castle) and Robber’s Roost (1955) stand out. Martha Hyer’s career was also taking off at this time, and she’d be nominated for an Oscar for Some Came Running (1958).

Richard Denning was in the excellent Hangman’s Knot (1952), playing pretty much the same creep he is in this one. The first thing I remember seeing Denning in was Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954), along with all those sci-fi pictures like The Black Scorpion (1957). Later, I’d come to know him as the governor of Hawaii on Hawaii Five-O. Denning was married to the beautiful Universal horror star Evelyn Ankers.

Battle Of Rouge River has the hallmarks of a Sam Katzman picture — a running time of about 70 minutes and lots of stock footage.

“All six winners of the National Indian Beauty Contest”

It also boasts a pretty tacky gimmick. Willam Castle always gave Sam Katzman credit for teaching him the true value of showmanship. Battle Of Rogue River seems to be an example of one of those lessons. According to the ads, you’ll find “all six winners of the National Indian Beauty Contest” in its cast. The contest did not exist until this movie came along — and you have to look really hard to find these lovely ladies in the film.

Battle At Rogue River isn’t among Castle or Montgomery’s finest work. But it’s got a cast and crew of seasoned professionals who I’m always happy to spend time with. Cinematographer Henry Freulich always had these cheap things looking great, and that’s easy to see in the transfer offered up by Mill Creek. I can’t recommend this set enough.

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Directed by Fred F. Sears
Screenplay by David Lang and Martin Berkeley
Story by David Lang
Director Of Photography: Henry Freulich
Film Editors: Al Clark and James Sweeney

Cast: Philip Carey (Wade Harper), Roberta Haynes (Paris), Wallace Ford (McBride), Richard Webb (Ace Eliot), Lee Van Cleef (Reno), Maurice Jara (Wingfoot), Regis Toomey (Col. Markham), Jay Silverheels (Spotted Bear), Pat Hogan (Yellow Knife), Frank Fenton, Dennis Weaver

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Figured it was time for another Fred F. Sears movie. A few years ago, I assigned myself the task of doing a post on each of Sears’ Westerns (I’m not counting the Durango Kids he directed). When those are done, the plan is to focus on his non-Western movies on my other blog.

Columbia was cranking out 3-D movies like crazy in the height of the ’53-54 stereoscopic craze. One of the bigger ones was Raoul Walsh’s Gun Fury (1953) starring Rock Hudson, Donna Reed and a terrific supporting cast.

Phil Carey and Roberta Haynes were part of that cast, and as soon as they finished the Walsh picture, they were put to work on The Nebraskan (1953).

Carey’s a cavalry scout who gets caught up in a standoff with the Sioux when he won’t turn over Wingfoot (Maurice Jara), who’s been accused of murdering chief Thundercloud. With them are a gambler Ace (Richard Webb) and saloon girl Paris (Roberta Haynes) — Carey used to have a thing going with Paris — and the murderous Reno (Lee Van Cleef), who’s escaped from the brig.

They take refuge in Wallace Ford’s way station, fighting off wave after wave of Indians — along with Reno’s repeated attempts to get loose and Ace turning out to be a sniveling coward.

The small-group-under-siege-in-a-small-space part hints at Hangman’s Knot (1952), and the Indian attacks remind me of Apache Drums (1951). This approach keeps the limited budget from being too much of a hindrance.

Wallace Ford is terrific, as always, as the grumpy ex-cavalryman. Lee Van Cleef is a real bad dude in this one. The scene where he strangles the guard at the brig is pretty tough stuff. Phil Carey’s OK and Roberta Haynes gets to look pretty and load guns. Speaking of that, it was good to see the loading of weapons treated somewhat realistically.

I came across a news article on the film that said Maurice Jara also owned a restaurant in Pamona, Casa Ramirez.

What I liked about The Nebraskan is pretty much the same thing I’ve said about all the other Fred Sears pictures — the high level of craftsmanship and efficiency he brings to these things. You can tell the cast and crew were professionals, committed to making the best they could of the material, budget and schedule. That goes a long, long way with these things.

The Nebraskan was shot in Technicolor and 3-D by Henry Freulich — some of it at the Corrigan Ranch. It was intended to be cropped to 1.85. The picture got a DVD-R release from Columbia’s Choice Collection. It looked great but was presented full-frame. It’d make a swell candidate for one of those Mill Creek sets.

TheNebraskan isn’t as good as the two pictures I compared it to, Hangman’s Knot and Apache Drums. But that doesn’t stop me from recommending it, or any of Fred F. Sears’ work.

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