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Archive for the ‘Denver Pyle’ Category

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Directed by Nicholas Ray
Produced by Herbert J. Yates
Screenplay by Philip Yordan
Cinematography: Harry Stradling, Sr.
Film Editor: Richard L. Van Enger
Original Music by Victor Young and Peggy Lee

Cast: Joan Crawford (Vienna), Sterling Hayden (Johnny Guitar), Mercedes McCambridge (Emma Small), Scott Brady (Dancin’ Kid), Ward Bond (John McIvers), Ben Cooper (Turkey Ralston), Ernest Borgnine (Bart Lonergan), John Carradine (Old Tom), Royal Dano (Corey), Paul Fix (Eddie)

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s-l1600-15Johnny Guitar (1954) has always been one of my favorite 50s Westerns.

Now, I could go on and on about how it’s a Feminist Western, a Psychological Western, an Existential Western, an HUAC allegory and lots of other things — or maybe it’s none of those. Depends on how you look at it.

I could rattle off a list of prominent filmmakers who’ve cited it as an influence or a favorite. I could cover its incredible cast, surely one of the best assembled for a 50s Western (and that’s saying something), or Victor Young’s terrific score — even that great instrumental version of the title song by The Spotnicks.

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I could even mention that at one point, there was talk of Jack Webb turning it into a TV series. Maybe it’s best to not get me started on Johnny Guitar at all.

But that’s not what this is about, not today anyway. It turns out Johnny Guitar is also one of the finest Blu-Rays I’ve ever seen.

Of course, Olive Films brought it out a few years ago, and it was marvelous. Some of us griped about it not reflecting Nick Ray’s original 1.66 cropping (I’m among the guilty), but the overall quality more than made up for it.

Well, Olive’s new Signature edition, it leaves the old release in the red, Sedona dust. This is a case where what a movie looks like on video can have a substantial impact on your appreciation of it. I saw details I’d never seen, and the restored 1.66 framing revealed little hints of Ray’s eye for color and composition (and his overall genius) that have escaped me for decades. In short, it made this great movie seem even greater.

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The extras — Martin Scorsese intro, commentary, documentaries, trailer, etc. — are outstanding, covering everything from the film and its many interpretations to Nicholas Ray to Republic pictures. Still haven’t made my way through them all. This is a movie that deserves, and stands up to, all the analysis that’s heaped on it, and this package does it justice.

I’m not here to tell you how to spend your money. So I’ll just say that if I won the lottery, I’d buy a few cases of these and send you all one. And if you hadn’t made the switch to Blu-Ray, well, I’d have to help you out with that, too. This one gets my highest recommendation.

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I’m gonna make this quick because time’s running out. Olive Films’ Signature Edition of Nicholas Ray’s Johnny Guitar (1954) comes our tomorrow. Today, the pre-order price at Amazon is only $16.99 (the list price is $39.95).

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Get the new Blu-Ray of Johnny Guitar, or Frank’ll let you have it.

Watched it over the weekend, and I really urge you to get it (a real review will be coming soon). Don’t have a Blu-ray player? Well, now’s the time. This thing’s incredible. As much as I love this movie, seeing it in hi-def and its proper 1.66 framing, I love it even more. Essential.

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After a stint at Republic Pictures that resulted in some terrific Westerns (including a personal favorite, 1949’s Hellfire), William Elliott made his way to Monogram. By the time the series was over, Monogram had become Allied Artists and 1.85 had become the standard aspect ratio for American cinema. And the B Western was dead. These 11 pictures made sure it went out on a high note.

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Warner Archive has gathered eight of these films for a three-disc set — The Wild Bill Elliott Western Collection.

The Longhorn (1951)
Waco (1952)
Kansas Territory (1952)
The Maverick (1952)
Rebel City (1953)
Topeka (1953)
Vigilante Terror (1953)
The Forty-Niners (1954, widescreen)

Following these rather adult B Westerns, Elliott would make a dynamite series of detective pictures (again for Allied Artists) then go into retirement. Cancer would take him in 1964.

For me, this is the DVD release of the year. It’s due October 13. Between this set and the double feature that’s already out, you’ll have everything but Bitter Creek (1954), which WA promises for a later release. Essential stuff.

Thanks to John Knight for the tip.

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Directed by John Ford
Starring John Wayne, James Stewart, Vera Miles, Lee Marvin, Edmond O’Brien, Andy Devine, Woody Strode

One of the greatest Westerns of them all — and in my opinion, one of the finest American films ever made — is coming to Blu-ray in October. From the performances to the stunning black-and-white cinematography to the direction, John Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) comes as close to perfection as any film I can think of. Every time I see it, I find something new to marvel at, from the huge steaks hanging of the sides of giant plates to a particular shot (like the one below) to John Wayne kicking Strother Martin in the face. The last time, it was the grace Woody Strode brought to his part as Pompey, Wayne’s ranch hand.

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I can’t think of a film I’d rather see make the move to Blu-ray.

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FORT MASSACRE poster

Directed by Joseph H. Newman
Written by Martin M. Goldsmith
Director Of Photography: Carl Guthrie
Starring Joel McCrea, Forrest Tucker, Susan Cabot, John Russell, George N. Neise, Anthony Caruso, Denver Pyle

Every so often, someone will complain about how light Joel McCrea’s 50s Westerns were, but that’s something Fort Massacre (1958) will never be accused of being. It’s a really good picture with a tough, dark turn from McCrea — one of his best performances, I’d say. And Kino Lorber will bring it to Blu-ray before the year’s up.

McCrea is Sgt. Vinson, a bitter cavalryman driven by a hatred of the Apaches, who massacred his family. When the commanding officer is killed in an ambush, McCrea takes the opportunity to lead the troops through Apache territory — for what the men begin to suspect are personal reasons.

It was written by Martin M. Goldsmith, known for a couple of top-notch noirs — Detour (1945) and The Narrow Margin (1952). He brought a lot of Detour‘s fatalism to Fort Massacre (1958). Joseph. Newman’s direction is tight and assured, making the most of a small budget, and Carl Guthrie makes sure it all looks terrific. Highly, highly recommended. No, make that essential.

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Rio Bravo (1959)
Directed by Howard Hawks
Starring John Wayne, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson, Angie Dickinson, Walter Brennan, Ward Bond

My favorite Western, Rio Bravo (1959), has been missing from Blu-ray for some time now (I’d heard it had something to do with music or story rights). Was really happy to find out it was being reissued. However, I’d heard the old Blu-ray wasn’t anything to write home about, and there’s no news yet on if this new edition is remastered or not (I’m assuming not). A new 2K transfer was done not long ago, but there’s been no mention of it for the Blu-ray.

Regardless, Rio Bravo is a terrific movie and certainly worth adding to your high-definition shelf. When it arrives June 2, I’d love to toast my copy with a bit of Duke bourbon (haven’t located it in North Carolina yet).

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The Train Robbers (1973)
Directed by Burt Kennedy
Starring John Wayne, Ann-Margret, Rod Taylor, Ben Johnson

Also coming to Blu-ray are a couple of later Wayne pictures. The Train Robbers (1973) is a lot of fun, Burt Kennedy at the top of his game. Wayne and Ben Johnson are terrific together, of course. As a kid, the train stuck in the sand, on the big Panavision screen, was a striking image that really stuck with me.

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Cahill: U.S. Marshal (1973)

Directed by Andrew V. McLaglen
Starring John Wayne, George Kennedy, Neville Brand, Clay O’Brian, Marie Windsor, Harry Carey Jr., Paul Fix, Hank Worden

In some ways, Cahill: U.S. Marshal (1973) isn’t a very good movie. But as a John Wayne extended-family reunion, it can’t be beat (take a quick look at that cast). Wayne’s interplay with Neville Brand is worth the price of admission, and it’s always good to see Marie Windsor in anything.

These three titles are available separately (highly recommended, at a great price) from Warners, and as part of a John Wayne Westerns Collection set.

Thanks to Dick Vincent for the tip.

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The charge was this: send in your list of favorite 50s Westerns DVD releases for 2014, along with a few 50s Westerns that you discovered this year.

For today, here are your (and my) 10 favorite DVDs or Blu-rays released during the 2014 calendar year.

10. Panhandle (1948) This terrific Rod Cameron picture, directed by Lesley Selander, was released a few years ago as part of VCI’s Darn Good Western Volume 1. This year, it showed up on its on.

9. City Of Bad Men (1953) Dale Robertson leads a great cast: Jeanne Crain, Richard Boone, Lloyd Bridges, Hugh Sanders, Rodolfo Acosta, Don Haggerty, Leo Gordon, John Doucette, Frank Ferguson, James Best. Harmon Jones directs.

8. Fort Massacre (1958) Joel McCrea plays way against type. Forrest Tucker, Susan Cabot, John Russell and Denver Pyle co-star. You can get a nice regular DVD here in the States — and a stunning Blu-ray in Germany.

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7. Gunfight At The O.K. Corral (1957) The guys who developed VistaVision look down from heaven, see this Blu-ray playing in our living rooms, and are very happy indeed.

6. The Lusty Men (1952) There was a time when Nicholas Ray was a machine that cranked out Great Movies. This study of modern-day rodeo cowboys — starring Robert Mitchum, Susan Haywood and Arthur Kennedy — comes from the heart of that period.

5. Drum Beat (1954) Alan Ladd shows us he’s got more than Shane up his sleeve, and Delmer Daves delivers yet another solid Western. This is a lot better movie than you’ve heard (or remember).

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4. Gunsmoke In Tucson (1958) When an Allied Artists Western starring Mark Stevens makes a Top Ten list, I know I’m in the right place.

3. Tim Holt Western Classics Collection Volume 4 As good as the series Western ever got. For me, this fourth volume is the best — which makes it plenty great indeed.

2. Shoot-Out At Medicine Bend (1957) It’s not a stupendous Randolph Scott movie, but it’s a Randolph Scott movie — and Warner Archive has it shining like a black and white, 1.85 diamond.

1. South Of St. Louis (1949) This terrific Joel McCrea picture, with its Technicolor appropriately saturated, is stunning on Blu-ray from Olive Films. Alexis Smith and Dorothy Malone should’ve paid cinematographer Karl Freund for making them look so beautiful.

Along with all these favorites, there was a common complaint: that Olive Films’ promised The Quiet Gun (1956) didn’t make it in 2014.

Thanks to everyone who sent in their lists.

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