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Archive for the ‘Frank Faylen’ Category

Directed by Robert Wise
Produced by Theron Warth
Screen play by Lillie Hayward
Based on the novel Gunman’s Chance by Luke Short
Director Of Photography: Nicholas Musuraca
Film Editor: Samuel E. Beetley
Music by Roy Webb

Cast: Robert Mitchum (Jim Garry), Barbara Bel Geddes (Amy Lufton), Robert Preston (Tate Billing), Walter Brennan (Kris Barden), Phyllis Thaxter (Carol Lufton), Frank Faylen (Jake Pindalest), Tom Tully (John Lufton), Charles McGraw (Milo Sweet), Clifton Young (Joe Shotten), Tom Tyler (Frank Reardon), George Cooper (Fred Barden), Tom Keene (Ted Elser), Bud Osborne (Cap Willis), Zon Murray (Nels Titterton), Harry Carey Jr., Iron Eyes Cody, Chris-Pin Martin

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In a strict chronological sense, Blood On The Moon (1948) isn’t a 50s Western. But in other ways — look, themes, etc., it fits right in with the best the 50s came up with. It also stands as maybe the finest example of film noir creeping into a cowboy movie.

Drifter Jim Garry (Robert Mitchum) gets caught up in a squabble between a big rancher, John Lufton (Tom Tully), and the local homesteaders. But there’s more to it than your usual range war plot device. It’s all part of a scheme put together by Mitchum’s old friend Tate Billing (Robert Preston) to swindle Lufton out of both his herd and his lucrative contract to supply meat to the Indian reservation. Mitchum decides he wants nothing to do with Billing’s caper and sides with Lufton and his daughter (Barbara Bel Geddes).

A fairly typical Western plot from the period. What makes all the difference is how its treated, from its look to some of the performances.

In noir-ish fashion, we watch Robert Mitchum wrestle with his conscience as he decides which side of the conflict to settle on. Nobody’s better than Mitchum at the morally ambiguous stuff. Several times he tries to just ride away, only to be pulled back in. Mitchum’s excellent as the down-on-his-luck cowhand turned hired gun, making sure his transition from drifter to hero doesn’t feel forced.

The rest of the cast gathers favorites from both noir and the Western — Charles McGraw, Walter Brennan (he did Red River this same year), Clifton Young, Tom Tyler, even Harry Carey, Jr. and Iron Eyes Cody. Robert Preston was always one of the best of the likable heels, and he’s at the top of his game here. Barbara Bel Geddes (as Mitchum’s love interest) is terrific, and Phyllis Thaxter (as Bel Geddes’ sister who’s duped by Preston) does a lot with a little.

Director Robert Wise didn’t make many Westerns. He said he wasn’t a fan of them. Maybe that’s why he approached this material, based on a Luke Short novel, the way he did Lewton horror movies like The Curse Of The Cat People (1944) and The Body Snatcher (1945) and the noir Born To Kill (1947). Whatever the reason, it works, making for a post-War Western that really stands out. Wise had a pretty funny career. The later films that he’s known for, from I Want To Live! (1958) to The Sound Of Music (1965), are so far removed from earlier pictures like this one. (Wise considered Blood On The Moon his first big feature.) For instance, compare The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951) to Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979). The films got bigger, for sure, but not necessarily better. 

Robert Wise put this picture together with producer Theron Warth, getting a top-notch script from Lillie Hayward. With the cast was assembled and the shoot approaching, there was talk of replacing Wise with Jacques Tourneur — in an attempt to recapture some of the Out Of The Past (1947) magic. Dore Schary stuck with Wise.

Everything from the shadowy noir touches and more authentic costumes (Wise studied period photographs) to the stunning Sedona locations and well-propped sets make Blood On The Moon a Western unlike any other, something truly unique — as much a character study as it is an action picture. And speaking of action, it’s got one of the damnedest saloon fights you’ve ever seen (between Mitchum and Preston).

Robert Wise: “I wanted to avoid one of those extremely staged-looking fistfights used in all the movies, where the stuntmen did this elaborate, acrobatic fighting and you saw the real actors only in close-ups. I wanted this to look like a real fight, with that awkward, brutal look of a real fight, and when it was done for the winner to look as exhausted as the loser. And Mitch was excited about this. He knew exactly what I was going for. I think he probably knew more than I did about barroom fights like this one.”

Blood On The Moon gets a huge boost from the atmospherics and deep shadows of cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca. One of the true artistes of the whole noir thing, he shot Stranger On The Third Floor (1940, considered the first film noir), Out Of The Past and Roadblock (1951). He was DP on a few of Val Lewton’s RKO horror pictures, such as Cat People (1942), The Ghost Ship (1943) and Bedlam (1946). And he shot a few of RKO’s Tim Holt pictures, giving them a look way beyond their budget. Thanks to Mr. Musuraca, Blood On The Moon is one of the best-looking B&W Westerns ever made, which makes its release on Blu-Ray something to be excited about.

This time around, Warner Archive has given us one of the best-looking B&W Blu-Rays I’ve seen. It’s clean and crisp, and the contrast levels are absolutely perfect — important in a picture that goes from snow-covered landscapes in daylight to the dark woods in the dead of night. Warner Archive is getting a lot of praise, well-deserved, for restoring 15 minutes to another Mitchum Western from 1948, Rachel And The Stranger. But seeing Blood On The Moon like this, so pristine, is a revelation. Highly, highly recommended.

SOURCE: Robert Wise quote from Robert Mitchum: Baby, I Don’t Care by Lee Server.

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Kino Lorber has announced their first volume of Western Classics for June — When The Daltons Rode (1940), The Virginian (1946) and Whispering Smith (1948).

When The Daltons Rode offers up about 30 minutes of constant riding, shooting and just general mayhem in its last reels, all courtesy of the great Yakima Canutt. Amazing stuff. Whispering Smith was tailor-made for Alan Ladd — his first Western and his first color film. The Virginian puts a couple of my favorites in the same movie — Joel McCrea and William Frawley.

Working on the commentary notes for When The Daltons Rode has been a lot of fun, especially watching all the stunts again and again.

I love the first volume of sets like this, since it comes with the promise of more!

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Warner Archive has announced Blu-Ray releases for a couple of pictures we’ve all been pining for — Robert Wise’s Blood On The Moon and Norman Foster’s Rachel And The Stranger (both 1948).

From its cast (Robert Mitchum, Charles McGraw) to its brooding tone to its cinematography by Nicholas Musuraca, Blood On The Moon is one of the best examples of film noir creeping into the Western — and a big indicator of what the 1950s had in store for the genre. It’s terrific, and I can’t wait to see it in high definition.

Rachel And The Stranger is about as far from Blood On The Moon as you can get, a lighter, sweeter film with an unbeatable cast: Loretta Young, Robert Mitchum and William Holden. It was helped along at the box office by, of all things, Robert Mitchum’s marijuana arrest. Warner Archive is promising an uncut version — Howard Hughes cut over 10 minutes out of it — with Waldo Salt’s writing credit restored. This is a big, big deal.

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Directed by Ray Nazarro
Screen Play by Don Martin and Richard Schayer
Story by L.L. Foreman
Director Of Photography: Lester White
Film Editor: Buddy Small

Cast: George Montgomery (Cruze), Dorothy Malone (Charlotte Downing), Frank Faylen (Fairweather), Neville Brand (Tray Moran), Skip Homeier (Cass Downing), Douglas Kennedy (Gad Moran), Fay Roope (Mayor Booth), Douglas Fowley (Bartender), Robert J. Wilke (Hort Moran)

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I covered Lone Gun (1954) shortly after it appeared on Shout Factory’s four-movies-on-one-DVD package, Movies 4 You Western Classics. A solid George Montgomery picture, it’s worth a second look.

It’s easy to dismiss a movie like The Lone Gun as just a programmer. From its original reviews to DVD reviews, that’s the way a lot of folks have seen it. The plot’s nothing new. They were obviously working on a tight budget and short schedule. They ride past the same Iverson rocks you’ve seen in dozens of pictures like this.

But in some ways, these things that seem like liabilities are some of the key strengths of The Lone Gun. Because, interestingly, they let us see what a huge difference good writing, direction and acting can make to something familiar.

Mayor Booth (Fay Roope): “Robert Booth’s the name. I own the Malpine Hotel.”
Cruze (George Montgomery): “Mine’s Cruze. I own this shirt and those two horses out there.”

The story’s so simple. Montgomery ends up the marshal of Malpine, and he’s soon on the trail of the Moran brothers (Neville Brand, Douglas Kennedy and Robert J. Wilke), brothers/rustlers/killers/trash who are hiding their rustled cattle among the small herd of Charlotte and Cass Downing (Dorothy Malone, Skip Homeier), siblings trying to keep their small ranch afloat. Also on hand is Fairweather (Frank Faylen), a gambler who’s cleaned out the pockets of just about everybody in town — and one of Cruze’s only friends.

Glance back at that previous paragraph (above the Moran brothers), and consider those names. That’s one helluva cast, and it’s a joy to spend 74 minutes with them. Ray Nazarro is an old hand at stuff like this, and his direction is as brisk and efficient as you’d expect. Everyone else involved, from editor Buddy Small to director of photography Lester White, is up to the same high standard.

The Lone Gun is in color “by the Color Corporation Of America.” That translates to SuperCinecolor. It was shot to be projected at 1.66. The Shout Factory DVD offers pretty decent color — remember, this is SuperCineColor. It’s full frame, with plenty of that annoying dead space at the top and bottom. My TV lets me zoom it a bit to approximate the original 1.66, which looks a whole lot better.

The reason folks dismiss movies like this is often because there are so many of them. Which for those of us who can’t get enough of these things, is good news indeed. The Lone Gun, thanks largely to its cast, is one I like a lot.

Oh, and another thing. It’s original title was Adios, My Texas. If you ask me, they were wise to change it.

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