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Archive for the ‘Columbia’ Category

Directed by Andre de Toth
Starring Randolph Scott, Claire Trevor, Joan Weldon, George Macready, Alfonso Bedoya, Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine

The Stranger Wore A Gun (1953), one of six Randolph Scott pictures directed by Andre de Toth, had all sorts of interesting technical things going for it — which makes the announcement that Koch is bringing it to Blu-Ray in Germany something worth celebrating.

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The one-sheet for The Stranger Wore A Gun bragged about it all: 3-Dimensions, wide screen and stereophonic sound.

Andre de Toth was chosen to test-drive and fine tune a number of Hollywood’s technical developments of the 50s. For instance, the second of the De Toth Scotts, Carson City (1952), was the first Warnercolor filmHouse Of Wax (1953), the first major-studio 3-D movie, was filmed in the Natural Vision 3-D format and Warnercolor, with the added bonus of stereophonic sound.

The Stranger Wore A Gun was the first film composed and shot to be projected at 1.85. This aspect ratio is still the standard, in use in theaters and on video today. This framing in, for me, the key benefit of this upcoming Blu-Ray, along with the high definition, of course. It will not be offered in 3-D, and sadly, the three-track stereo elements were lost years ago.

This is not the best of the de Toth Scott movies, but it’s got Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine and Claire Trevor. And George Macready is totally despicable as the bad guy. Scott is so cool in the movies from this period, no matter how strong the movie around him is.

Not sure what Koch’s region policy is. I’m sure hoping The Stranger Wore A Gun is something we can all enjoy. Can’t wait.

Thanks, John, for the tip.

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Directed by Raoul Walsh
Starring Rock Hudson, Donna Reed, Phil Carey, Roberta Haynes, Leo Gordon, Lee Marvin, Neville Brand

UPDATE: The release date for this has been listed as September 19. Thanks for the news, Paula.

Raoul Walsh said he didn’t like CinemaScope, but was excited about 3-D. Funny, given that he only had one eye and couldn’t see depth. He’d end up using Scope a few times, but he’d go with 3-D just once, with 1953’s Gun Fury.

It’s a pretty simple chase/revenge story, as Rock Hudson goes after Phil Carey, who’s kidnapped Donna Reed. Of course, Walsh applies his typical speed and efficiency — and the picture moves like a rocket.

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Twilight Time has announced a 2-D/3-D Blu-Ray release of Gun Fury for 2017. Personally, I’m more excited about the proper framing than I am 3-D. This is a really solid picture.

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Directed by Ray Nazarro
Screenplay by Ray Buffum and DeVallon Scott
Director Of Photography: Ellis W. Carter
Film Editor: Aaron Stell

Cast: Gary Merrill (Brock Marsh), Wanda Hendrix (Ruth Lawrence), John Bromfield (Mike Daugherty), Noah Beery, Jr. (Gimpy Joe), Fay Roope (John Lawrence), Howard Wendell (Judge Baker), Robert Simon (Marshal Whit Collins), James H. Griffith (Warren), Richard Webb (Frank Gibbs), Peter Whitney (Grimes), John War Eagle (Chief War Cloud), Jay Silverheels (Black Buffalo), Clayton Moore (Stone)

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At only 65 minutes long, The Black Dakotas (1954) was clearly meant to fill out a double bill. But for a film that’s not all that noteworthy, there are a number of things about it worth noting.

First, there’s the cast. Gary Merrill, in his first Western, is the bad guy — a Confederate hoping to stir up things with the Sioux to keep Union soldiers tied up. He gets a lot of screen time for a villain, maybe because he’s far more interesting than the good guy (John Bromfield). Wanda Hendrix, Audie Murphy’s ex-wife, was about to retire from the movies (at least for a few years), and she’s fine here. Noah Beery, Jr. does what he can with a rather odd part. The great James H. Griffith doesn’t have a whole lot to do as one of the bad guys.

John Bromfield and Wanda Hendrix

More on the cast. The Black Dakotas was shot during the period when Clayton Moore left The Lone Ranger TV series (over a salary dispute, reportedly) and returned to B Movie character parts. Moore’s not listed in the credits, but he’s there. You’ll also see Jay Silverheels (Tonto to Moore’s Lone Ranger) as one of the Sioux chiefs. From Moore and Silverheels to Beery and Griffith, the characters actors run rings around the leads.

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Here, Ray Nazarro does what we’ve seen him do so many times — put together a brisk little movie that delivers in the action department. It seems like no matter how small the budget or tight the schedule, Nazarro delivers the goods, the same way Lesley Selander always does. Of course, having Ellis Carter as director of photography doesn’t hurt. Why isn’t Carter brought up more often? He shot The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), for God’s sake! He gives The Black Dakotas a much bigger look than you’d expect. An early sequence was shot on a cloudy day — at Iverson, I think — and Carter really makes a positive out of a negative.

Carter’s fine work is well presented (in widescreen) in Mill Creek’s 7 Western Showdown Collection, a two-DVD set that contains seven Westerns. All the pictures look terrific, and the price is hard to beat. Recommended. I hope Mill Creek keeps up the good work, and I’d love to see movies like this make their way to Blu-Ray.

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Mill Creek Entertainment has announced another set of films — the 7 Western Showdown Collection. Many of us may have these on separate discs, but it’s got some excellent 40s and 50s Westerns (along with the 1971 rodeo picture J.W. Coop).

The Black Dakotas (1954)
Directed by Ray Nazarro
Starring Gary Merrill, Wanda Hendrix, John Bromfield, Noah Beery, Jr.

This is the highlight for me, a Ray Nazarro Technicolor picture I’ve never seen. It was put out a few years ago as part of Sony’s MOD program, and I believe it was widescreen.

The set also includes:

Texas (1941)
Directed by George Marshall
Starring William Holden, Glenn Ford

Blazing Across The Pecos  (1948)
Directed by Ray Nazarro
Starring Charles Starrett, Smiley Burnette, Charles Wilson

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

The Man From Colorado (1948)
Directed by Henry Levin
Starring William Holden, Glenn Ford, Ellen Drew, Edgar Buchanan

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Gun Fury (1953)
Directed by Raoul Walsh
Starring Rock Hudson, Donna Reed, Philip Carey, Lee Marvin, Leo Gordon

The old DVD of Gun Fury was full-frame (and 2-D) instead of its intended 1.85. Not sure if Columbia will provide Mill Creek with new material or not, but a widescreen version would be reason alone to pick up this set.

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Directed by John English
Screen Play by Gerald Geraghty
Story by Alan James
Director Of Photography: William Bradford
Film Editor: James Sweeney

Cast: Gene Autry (Himself), Gail Davis (Dell Middler), Jim Davis (Wade McQuarrie), Bob Steele (Walt Middler), Pat Buttram (Pat “Cougar” Claggett), Terry Frost (Wyatt), Edgar Dearing (Colonel Middler), Paul Frees (Narrator)

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Silver Canyon (1951) is an interesting late-period Gene Autry movie. It’s a Civil War picture, with Jim Davis playing Wade McQuarrie, a Quantrill-like Confederate guerilla. McQuarrie’s wreaking havoc on the Union’s supply lines and Army scout Autry is sent to sort it all out.

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These later Autry’s give up a song or two to make room for more action, a trend with most Singing Cowboy pictures from this period. This one even tosses in a lynch mob for good measure.

You get the usual Autry cast from this period — Gail Davis and Pat Buttram — with the added benefit of Jim Davis as the stylish, ruthless guerrilla leader — and Bob Steele as a Confederate sympathizer who gets mixed up with the raiders. As we’ve all said around here a million times, it’s often the roster of character actors who take these things up a notch, and that’s the case here. Factor in the great Paul Frees as narrator, and this one stands out among Gene’s later pictures.

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Gene Autry always surrounded himself with real pros, usually folks he’d worked with time and time again. From John English to Gerald Geraghty to William Bradford, and from the Iverson Ranch to Pioneertown, this would’ve been a very familiar undertaking for all concerned — including those of us watching it.

Silver Canyon is another example of the care that’s gone into preserving Autry’s movies. The Image DVD is terrific, with the usual lineup of extras. It has not been re-issued as part of the four-picture sets from Timeless Media Group.

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Directed by John English
Written by Norman S. Hall
Director Of Photography: William Bradford
Film Editor: James Sweeney

Cast: Gene Autry (Himself), Gail Davis (Melody Colton), Kirby Grant (Lt. Randolph Mason), James H. Griffith (The Apache Kid), Philip Van Zandt (Curt Reidler), Pat Buttram (Shadrach Jones), Champion

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This might put me in the minority, but I prefer Gene Autry’s later pictures. Could be for any number of reasons. His acting’s better. There’s a greater emphasis on action. Gail Davis is often around. And some actually take place in the Old West.

Indian Territory capture 1Case in point: 1950’s Indian Territory. Autry’s a Confederate veteran serving with the U.S. cavalry now that the war’s over. He’s been sent to get to the bottom of Indian attacks on settlers — and ends up tangling with The Apache Kid (James H. Griffith) and an Austrian gunrunner (Philip Van Zandt). With the help of sidekick Shadrach Jones (Pat Buttram) and the daughter of a local rancher (Gail Davis), Gene restores order to Apache Springs.

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The supporting cast can really make a movie like this, and this one is certainly no exception. James H. Griffith wouldn’t be my top-of-mind pick to portray an Apache renegade, but he’s so good, you have no trouble looking past that. Gail Davis displays some of the spunk that made her Annie Oakley series (produced by Gene’s company) such a treat. And Pat Buttram’s sidekick role doesn’t feel nailed onto the story as is so often the case.

Indian Territory was filmed around Pioneertown, the live-in movie set not far from Joshua Tree and Palm Springs — developed by Russell Hayden, Dick Curtis and Roy Rogers.

Pat Buttram (from the Melody Ranch Theater introduction included on the DVD): “They thought it’d be a great location and they built this Western street… they built it to turn a stagecoach around in. That made it so wide, when you had a crowd scene, you had to send seven busloads of people up there to even be seen on those streets. We’d have to use a little corner here and a little corner there.”

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Indian Territory is available in Volume 2 of The Gene Autry Collection — put together by Image Entertainment and later Timeless. There was a stand-alone release (from Image) prior to that. With either one, you get a gorgeous transfer and plenty of extras, from the Melody Ranch Theater stuff featuring Gene and Pat to a radio show and still gallery. Gene’s films have been treated with great care, as Indian Territory proves. Recommended.

UPDATE: Came across this signed still of James Griffith. Judging from the costume, it’s from Indian Territory.

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Directed by Phil Karlson
Starring George Montgomery, Gale Storm, Jerome Courtland, Noah Beery, Jr., William Bishop, John Dehner, John Doucette, Jock O’Mahoney, George Chesebro

Raleigh’s Western Film Preservation Society has been at it since 1981, and their meeting this month features two of my favorites Western stars.

First up is Tim Holt in The Fargo Kid (1940). The second feature is Phil Karlson’s The Texas Rangers (1951), starring George Montgomery, Gale Storm and Noah Beery. It’s the 21st (that’s tomorrow, sorry for the short notice) at 6:45 at North Carolina State University’s McKimmon Center.

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