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Archive for the ‘Fritz Lang’ Category

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Back in 2014, gathering everybody’s favorite DVD and Blu-Ray picks for the year turned out to be a lot of fun. It’s since become an annual thing.

Thanks to everybody who sent in their picks for 2016. This was a great year for 50s Westerns on DVD and Blu-Ray (and 2017 is shaping up to be just as good, or maybe better). Here’s the Top 10, according to your votes.

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10. Desperado (1954, Warner Archive, DVD)
It was a tie between this Wayne Morris picture and his earlier Desert Pursuit (1952). They’re both solid, offbeat little Westerns — and it’s real treat to have them available in such stellar condition.

9. Yellow Sky (1948, Kino Lorber, Blu-Ray)
Thanks to William Wellman, we didn’t have to wait till the 50s for Hollywood to start making 50s Westerns. The town of Yellow Sky is populated by only an old prospector and his daughter — until some slimy outlaws come riding up.

8. Western Union (1941, Kino Lorber, Blu-Ray)
Randolph Scott in Fritz Lang’s second Technicolor movie. There’s so much cool stuff in this movie, and it looks wonderful.

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7. Black Horse Canyon (1954, Universal Vault, DVD)
For years, Joel McCrea’s Universal Westerns were missing on DVD. It’s great to have them so easy to track down. This is a good one.

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6. Comanche Station (1960, Explosive Media, Blu-Ray)
The last of the Scott-Boetticher Westerns turns out to be the first to make its way to Blu-Ray, and as I see it, the others can’t get here soon enough. This thing’s incredible.

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5. She Wore A Yellow Ribbon (1948, Warner Archive, Blu-Ray)
John Ford’s She Wore A Yellow Ribbon (1948, above) is one of the most beautiful color movies ever shot. The proof is pressed oh-so-magnificently into this Blu-Ray. It also features one of John Wayne’s finest performances.

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4. Roughshod (1949, Warner Archive, DVD)
This gets my vote as the best of the “noir Westerns.” I was real happy to see the response this picture got. It’s a shame it’s not better known.

3. Cariboo Trail (1950, Kino Lorber, DVD/Blu-Ray)
The transfer here is a minor miracle, demonstrating how good CineColor can look. They wisely didn’t go overboard with the cleanup, so it still retains its true film look. And, of course, this is a solid picture from Edwin Marin and Randolph Scott.

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2. Johnny Guitar (1954, Olive Films Signature Edition, DVD/Blu-Ray)
Olive’s new Signature edition is a marked improvement over their old release, which was terrific. The restored 1.66 framing makes a big difference, and the supplemental stuff is excellent.

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1. One-Eyed Jacks (1961, Criterion Collection, DVD/Blu-Ray)
Opinions of Marlon Brando’s Western are all over the place, so I was really surprised to see it land in the top spot. However, judging it simply in terms of its superb presentation, I don’t see how anything could beat it. It’s stunning, a big fat reward to all of us who’ve suffered through those awful tapes and discs over the years. I’m proud and honored to have been involved with Criterion’s work here. (Note: Having worked on the One-Eyed Jacks extras, I did not feel comfortable taking part in the vote this time around.)

In closing, the discs on this list highlight the impact the video presentation can have on our appreciation of these old movies. Many of these have been available, in some form, for years. One more thing: your reasons for not buying a Blu-Ray player are rapidly running out.

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Directed by Fritz Lang
Starring Robert Young, Randolph Scott, Dean Jagger, Virginia Gilmore, John Carradine, Chill Wills, Barton MacLane

Many of us agree that Randolph Scott became a better Western star after he got some years on him. Well, here’s one that messes with that idea a bit. In Western Union (1941), directed by Fritz Lang and based on Zane Grey’s novel, Scott’s an outlaw trying to go straight — and he’s terrific. (That’s Robert Young, Lang and Scott above. Love that photo!)

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We associate Lang with dark, creepy stuff, but he’s just as comfortable with Technicolor. The Blu-ray coming from Kino Lorber later this year should be a real looker. Can’t wait.

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If I ever had the chance to organize a 50s Westerns retrospective (something I’d love to do), this is certainly one of the evenings I’d set up: Fritz Lang’s Rancho Notorious (1952) paired with Nick Ray’s Johnny Guitar (1954). I can’t think of a better night at the movies.

It’s especially cool that Rancho Notorious is a 35mm print. If you make it out to The Castro Theatre in San Francisco on April 23, have a box of Raisinets for me.

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Russell Johnson, who just everybody in America knows as The Professor from Gilligan’s Island, passed away today at 89.

He’s seen above (center) with Alex Nicol and Ronald Reagan in Law And Order (1953). He appeared in other 50s Westerns such as Rancho Notorious (1952, he runs the chuck-a-luck wheel), Seminole (1953) and Ride Clear Of Diablo (1954).

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David Arrate earns a Name That Stock Footage badge for uncovering one of the many cost-cutting measures to be found in Masterson Of Kansas (1954), the best of William Castle’s Westerns for Sam Katzman’s unit at Columbia. Thanks, David.

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Friedrich Christian Anton “Fritz” Lang
(December 5, 1890 – August 2, 1976)

Here’s Fritz Lang directing Robert Young and Randolph Scott in Western Union (1941). Couldn’t find a shot of him working on his wonderful, whacked-out 50s Western, Rancho Notorious (1952).

William Friedkin did a terrific documentary on Lang, basically just a filmed interview. I highly recommend tracking it down.

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New York’s Film Forum is serving up a real treat — a two-week helping of Fritz Lang’s Hollywood pictures.

I love Metropolis (which I once had the extreme pleasure of watching with Forrest Ackerman) and M and all that, but I actually prefer Lang’s American films. (Please don’t beat me up.)

To name a few, Ministry Of Fear (1944), The Big Heat (1953) and Human Desire (1954) are all terrific. And the very thought of seeing Man Hunt (1941), on film, actually projected on a screen gives me goosebumps.

But the one that raises my blood pressure is a rare chance to see his whacked-out Western Rancho Notorious (1952), starring Marlene Dietrich and Arthur Kennedy. It’s showing February 6th and 7th. This overlooked masterpiece may even out-weird the only thing I can think of to compare it to — Nicholas Ray’s Johnny Guitar (1954).

They’re also running a night (Feb. 2nd) of two more Lang Westerns, The Return Of Frank James (1940) and Western Union (1941).

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