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Archive for the ‘DVD reviews, releases, TV, etc.’ Category

leevancleef_desperado

Directed by Thomas Carr
Starring Wayne Morris, Jimmy Lydon, Beverly Garland,Dabbs Greer, Lee Van Cleef, Nestor Paiva, Roy Barcroft, John Dierkes, Lyle Talbot

The B Western was heading for the last roundup when The Desperado (1954) came around. But it’s got a dream cast and Warner Archive is offering it with its original 1.85 framing. Can’t wait.

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Short Grass LC RC and JMBDirected by Lesley Selander
Starring Rod Cameron, Cathy Downs, Johnny Mack Brown, Raymond Walburn, Alan Hale, Morris Ankrum, Jack Ingram, Myron Healey

I am delighted to be able to take part in The Allied Artists Pictures Blogathon and would like to thank our host, Toby, for making it possible.

Having come together around 1932, Monogram Pictures was a main player on Poverty Row in Hollywood and was known by fans for providing thrills and excitement although their product never matched their rivals over at Republic for slickness and overall quality. They sure tried though! As WW2 ended they formed Allied Artists Pictures with the intent of producing bigger-budgeted pictures alongside their ‘bread-and-butter’ product. As the industry changed Monogram was phased out finally in 1953 and everything went out under AA.

Scott R. Dunlap had worked at Monogram for a number of years and had been a producer and close friend to cowboy star Buck Jones and had nearly died with Jones in 1942 in the Coconut Grove fire. His heart was in westerns and by the end of the decade he was involved in some with a higher budget and aspirations. In 1950, he produced a classy range Western called Short Grass.

SHORTGRASS51As a Western fan of long-standing and diehard nature, some of my all-time favorite Westerns came from either the Republic banner or Allied Artists. An actor who made his name in Westerns was Rod Cameron. Over a period of nearly a decade, Rod alternated between the two studios in some mighty fine Westerns. Three or four of those are in my list of all-time favorites — Brimstone (1949) and Ride The Man Down (1952) for Republic and Stampede (1949) and Short Grass (1950) for AA come most to mind.

Short Grass comes with some impressive western credentials. Apart from Cameron, it was directed by the unsung (though not here) Lesley Selander from a screenplay by Tom W. Blackburn, adapted from his own novel. Starring alongside Rod was cowboy star Johnny Mack Brown whose own starring series was still filming at Monogram. The cast was a ‘deep’ Western one — Harry Woods, Jack Ingram, Myron Healey and many more. Of particular note in the cast was Cathy Downs as the female lead. Her character was feminine, flesh-and-blood and believable.

054202041Blackburn’s story is set at a time when the west was on the cusp of becoming more civilised and people were moving west to seek a new life but wanting schools, churches, newspapers and, of course, law and order. From the start when Steve Llewellyn (Cameron) drifts into the middle of a saloon robbery and gets shot, then is found and nursed back to health by Sharon (Downs), a rancher’s daughter, he finds himself slap-dab in the middle of a land grab. Sharon is horrified by the brutality of the West and abhors the use of guns. Unable to avoid gunplay with the landgrabbers, Steve rides away, knowing that he cannot be with Sharon though they are in love. Five years later, he returns to New Mexico and finds a town starting to embrace civilisation but unable to free itself from the land grabbers who more or less control things. In the meantime, Sharon had married a newspaperman who unfortunately is weak and unable to control his need for booze. To cut the story short, Rod eventually is forced to strap his guns back on, this time with Sharon’s support and that of Marshal Mack Brown to face down the gang. At the end he removes his guns “for good” — you know the way will now be clear for the kind of civilization that has been hovering.

shortgrass

Short Grass is happily readily available on DVD in a beautiful print thanks to our friends at Warner Archive. The lovely cinematography of Harry Neumann stands out with some beautiful cloud formations above stunning New Mexico locations near Albuquerque. As Rod Cameron muses early in the film, the attraction to him of the wildness of the country is its space and beauty — and Neumann’s lens work makes sure the point is made!

Jerry Entract does not run his own blog or have any involvement in the film industry but is an English lifelong movie fan and amateur student of classic cinema (American and British). Main passions are the western and detective/mystery/film noir. Enjoys seeking out lesser-known (even downright obscure) old movies.

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Cowboy BTS Lemmon FordDirected by Delmer Daves
Starring Glenn Ford, Jack Lemmon, Anna Kashfi, Brian Donlevy, Dick York (Charlie), Richard Jaekel, Strother Martin

Twlight Time has announced Delmer Daves’ Cowboy (1958) for Blu-ray release on February 16. It’s a terrific movie — as we all know, Daves was on a real roll at this time, cranking out one great Western after another. This will probably be a limited edition, and it’s sure to look like a million bucks, so don’t miss out.

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belgianchainlightninglipn2Directed by Edwin L. Marin
Starring Randolph Scott, George “Gabby” Hayes, Bill Williams, Victor Jory, Karin Booth, Douglas Kennedy, Jim Davis, Dale Robertson, James Griffith

Kino Lorber has announced they’ll have Randolph Scott in The Cariboo Trail (1950) out on DVD and Blu-ray sometime this year. With a great cast (it was Gabby Hayes’ last movie), solid direction from Edwin L. Marin, and Cinecolor’s gloriously funky hues, it’s a load of fun and not to missed.

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Directed by Edwin L. Marin
Starring Randolph Scott, Jane Wyatt, J. Carrol Naish, Victor Jory, Nancy Olson

First, Scott, Marin and producer Nat Holt gave us Canadian Pacific (1949). It’s not as good as the second picture, but I’m looking forward to seeing its Cinecolor in high-definition.

Thanks to Mike Kuhns and Vitaris for the tips.

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Abile Town signed still

First, thanks to everyone who sent in their picks — we had a larger turnout this year. Your responses were very thorough, and they made it clear to me what a good year this was for 50s Westerns on DVD and Blu-ray — you brought up tons of em. Here are the Top 10, ordered by the number of votes they received.

Abilene Town (1946, Blu-ray, Panamint Cinema)
This one topped the list in a big way. I was so stoked to see this fairly obscure Randolph Scott picture rescued from the PD purgatory where it’s been rotting for years — a lot of you seemed to feel the same. Mastered from 35mm fine-grain material, it’s stunning.

Shane (1953, Blu-ray, Eureka)
The Blu-ray release from Paramount made last year’s list, and this UK release was a strong contender this time around. Eureka gives us the opportunity to see what Paramount’s controversial 1.66 cropping looked like.

The Wild Bill Elliott Western Collection (1951-54, DVD set, Warner Archive)
I’m pretty biased when it comes to this one, and I was happy to learn that others were as pleased with it as I was. One of the greatest Western stars goes out on a high note, even if it is a low-budget one.

The Quiet Gun (1956, Blu-ray, Olive Films)
It’s hard to believe this was a 2015 release, since it was on Olive Films’ coming-soon list for such a long time. These Regalscope movies look great in their original aspect ratio, and for my money, this is the best of the bunch.

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Woman They Almost Lynched (1953, Blu-ray, Olive Films)
It makes me feel good to see Allan Dwan get some attention, and stellar presentations of his work, like this one, should continue to fuel his (re-)discovery.

Man With The Gun (1955, Blu-ray, Kino Lorber)
A solid Robert Mitchum Western, with the added punch of a terrific 1.85 hi-def transfer. This is a lot better movie than you probably remember it being.

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Run Of The Arrow (1957, DVD, Warner Archive)
This really knocked me out — I’d somehow missed out on what a great movie this is. It took me a while to get used to Rod Steiger and his affected accent, but this is prime Sam Fuller.

The Hired Gun (1957, DVD, Warner Archive)
Black and white CinemaScope is a big attraction for me, so I’d been waiting for this one for years. It was worth the wait.

Stranger At My Door (1954, Blu-ray, Olive Films)
A really cool little movie from Republic and William Witney. It was Witney’s favorite of his own pictures, and it’s pretty easy to see why he’d be partial to it. His work here is masterful.

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Star In The Dust (1956, Blu-ray, Koch)
Koch out of Germany is treating us (or those of us with a Region B player) to some great Universal 50s Westerns on Blu-ray. This one was released in Universal’s 2.0 ratio of the period. Some found it a bit tight, but it’s a gorgeous presentation of a movie not enough people have seen.

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Screen shot 2015-12-24 at 2.11.43 PM

This’ll be the third year we’ve done this, and while it’s a long, long way from being any kind of official competition, I couldn’t resist the chance to share Roy Rogers’ belt buckle — presented to him at the Madison Square Garden World Championship Rodeo in 1944. Between now and New Year’s Eve, send me your favorite DVD and Blu-ray releases for 2015 — I’ll do all the accounting and put together our Best Of 2015 list.

The only requirements: they have to have been released during the calendar year and have some relation to 50s Westerns. Since so many terrific movies have come out overseas this year, we’ll count non-U.S. releases.

One of the real joys of this blog, as I see it, is all the sharing and recommending that goes on. So while you’re at it, let me know what your favorite discoveries were for 2015. Doesn’t matter if it’s been on DVD for years, you saw it on GetTV last week or borrowed a bootleg from a friend — what 50s Westerns did you get acquainted with this year?

For both lists, drop your picks in the comments to this post or email fiftieswesterns AT gmail DOT com.

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Hitler's Children 6 sheet

Directed by Edward Dmytryk
Produced by Edward A. Golden
Screen Plat by Emmet Lavery
Based on the novel Education For Death by Gregor Ziemer
Director Of Photography: Russell Metty, ASC
Film Editor: Joseph Noriega
Music: Roy Webb

Cast: Tim Holt (Karl Bruner), Bonita Granville (Anna Muller), Kent Smith (Prof. Nichols), Otto Kruger (Col. Henkel), H.B. Warner (The Bishop), Hans Conried (Dr. Graf), Nancy Gates (Brenda), Lloyd Corrigan (Franz Erhart), Peter Van Eyck, Edward Van Sloan, Richard Martin

__________

What’s a movie about the Hitler Youth from 1943 doing on a blog dedicated to Westerns from the 1950s? That’s easy. It stars Tim Holt, one of the handful of actors, directors, writers and technical folks I swore to plug tirelessly when starting this thing up six years ago. Plus, it’s really good.

Hitler's Children still Tim

Tim Holt’s career is certainly an interesting one. He chose the cowboy star path rather than the typical leading man route, while showing time and time again that he was a more than capable actor. Films like The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre (1948) and this one, Hitler’s Children (1942), show just how good he was. Holt’s performances and chemistry with Richard Martin (as Chito) are a big part of what makes their series of B Westerns so special. (Boy, am I preaching to the choir here!)

Hitler’s Children was seen by RKO as an exploitation picture, using the romance between an American student (Bonita Granville) and a young Nazi (Tim Holt) as a way to catalog various Nazi atrocities (the ones known at the time), from sterilization to flogging.

Director Edward Dmytryk: “Taken from a novel titled Education For Death, its story concerned the treatment of youthful nonconformists in Nazi Germany. A title with the word ‘Hitler’ in it was considered box-office poison, and the exhibitors asked [producer] Doc Golden and RKO to change ours. Doc was stubborn — and he was right. The film cost a little over $100,000, and, running only in England and the Western Hemisphere… grossed, by some accounts, $7,500,00.”

Dmytryk didn’t start the picture. He replaced Irving Reis after the first few days of shooting. Hitler’s Children stands as RKO’s highest-grossing film, taking in even more than the mighty King Kong (1933)! Dmytryk soon made his way to A pictures, with Murder, My Sweet coming in 1944.

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Something like this needs a good cast to keep the melodrama from falling into parody. Holt and Granville are excellent, and they’re supported by some real pros: Kent Smith, Otto Kruger, H.B. Warner, Hans Conried, Nancy Gates, Peter Van Eyck, Edward Van Sloan and more. They say Richard Martin’s in there somewhere as a Gestapo stooge!

Russell Metty’s cinematography deserves a lot of credit for the film’s overall effectiveness. He sets the mood and menace perfectly, more than making up for the meager budget. The Nazi rally long shot that opens the film appears to be a miniature. It’s incredible. Metty simply does not get the respect he deserves.

Warner Archive has done its typically stellar work with this one. It’s a movie that really needs its strong contrast levels and solid blacks — and they’re near-perfect on this DVD-R. Hitler’s Children is a movie I’ve been championing for years, and I have no trouble recommending it highly — even though Tim’s packing a Luger, not a Colt.

And isn’t that six-sheet up top terrific?

 

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