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Archive for the ‘Fuzzy Knight’ Category

Directed by Thomas Carr
Produced by Vincent M. Fennelly
Written by Milton R. Raison
Director Of Photography: Ernest Miller

Cast: Wild Bill Elliott (Marshal Sam Nelson), Phyllis Coates (Marian Harrison), Rick Vallin (Ray Hammond), Fuzzy Knight (Pop Harrison), John James (Marv Ronsom), Denver Pyle (Jonas Bailey), Dick Crockett (Will Peters), Harry Lauter (Mack Wilson)

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It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted a Wild Bill Wednesday, a serious oversight on my part. Well, I really felt like watching a Bill Elliott picture the other night, so let’s take a look at Topeka (1953).

The notorious bank robber Jim Levering (Elliott) and his gang wind up in Topeka, Kansas, where Mack Wilson (Harry Lauter) and his thugs are pressuring the local businesses for “protection money.” Elliott winds up as sheriff, seeing the opportunity to gain the citizens’ trust, run Wilson and his henchmen out of town and take over things for himself.

But Levering’s conscience, the lovely Marian Harrison (Phyllis Coates), and his closest friend among the gang, Ray (Rick Vallin), convince him that maybe it’s time to go straight. But, of course, we’ve seen enough of these things to know that’s easier said than done.

I’m a big fan of the common theme of redemption in 50s Westerns. Director Thomas Carr and writer Milton R. Raison do a good job with it in Topeka, leveraging Elliott’s typical good-badman persona. What’s interesting here is that we don’t see Elliott’s good side right away, and even he seems surprised by his turnaround. His transformation is totally believable.

The B Western was heading into the sunset when Elliott made his series of pictures for Monogram (later Allied Artists), and while the budgets hold things back a bit, I’m always impressed by the effort and imagination that went into them. The subject matter’s a bit more adult, Elliott’s a more complex hero than what the matinee crowds were probably used to, and the camerawork is inventive at times (though a little rushed and wobbly at others). For Topeka, it looks like cinematographer Ernest Miller brought a crane out to Iverson and Corriganville. This, for my money, is one of the best of the series.

And one more thing. I really liked Fuzzy Knight in this. He was also good in the offbeat B Western Rimfire (1949).

Topeka is part of Warner Archive’s terrific The Wild Bill Elliott Western Collection — which I hope you already own. The set gives these cheap little movies the red-carpet treatment, which they (and William Elliott himself) certainly deserve.

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Directed by Lewis Collins
Produced by Vincent M. Fennelly
Story and Screenplay by Dan Ullman
Cinematography: Ernest Miller

Cast: Wild Bill Elliott (Joe Daniels), Peggy Stewart (Kay Collins), House Peters, Jr. (Ralph Carruthers), Lane Bradford (Fred Jethro), Stan Jolley (Slater), Fuzzy Knight (Cap), John Hart, Lyle Talbot

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The last couple years, we’ve compiled lists of our favorite 50s Western DVD releases for that year, which I post on this blog. Well, I’m gonna go ahead and reveal my pick for the best DVD release of 2015 — Warner Archive’s Wild Bill Elliott Western Collection.

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After The Showdown (1950), William Elliott and Republic Pictures parted ways. It wasn’t long before Elliott entered into a deal with Monogram Pictures to make some low-budget Westerns. In the end, there were 11 of them — with Monogram becoming Allied Artists midstream.

They’re a bit darker and more “adult” than your typical B Western. While the budget limitations are obvious, Elliott’s as reliable as ever — and he’s got some top-notch support from folks like Harry Morgan, Peggy Stewart, Myron Healey, Phyllis Coates, Denver Pyle, Beverly Garland, John Doucette and Fuzzy Knight. I love these little movies.

Kansas Territory still

Kansas Territory (1952) is one of the better ones. Elliott journeys to Kansas, even though he’s wanted there on an old Civil War charge, to find out who killed his brother. Along the way, he learns his sibling went bad and probably deserved what he got. That, of course, doesn’t stop Wild Bill from tracking down the killer.

Elliott’s determination to get his revenge puts a hard edge on his usual “peaceable man” image. We know he’s a good man, but he’s got some dirty business to tend to — and it’s become an obsession. Dan Ullman’s scripts for these pictures (and for the Elliott detective films that followed) are very tight, and he manages to find something a little different to toss at a familiar plot point.

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Shot at the Iverson Ranch by ace cinematographer Ernest Miller, under the working title Vengeance Trail, Kansas Territory looks great. Monogram struck prints of these pictures in “glorious sepia tone,” and while I’m a stickler for preserving the original presentation, I’m glad Warner Archive stuck with black and white. Sepia doesn’t always come off well on TV. This set is terrific, giving you eight of the 11 pictures on three DVDs. For me, it’s hard to avoid watching them all in a hard-riding, popcorn-munching binge. A must.

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There’s a cool twin bill coming in July from Lippert Pictures, Kit Parker Films and VCIApache Chief (1949) and Bandit Queen (1950).

Apache Chief 
Directed by Frank McDonald
Starring Alan Curtis, Russell Hayden, Carol Thurston, Tom Neal, Fuzzy Knight, Alan Wells, Billy Wilkerson

In a way this is pretty standard stuff, but it’s from the Indian’s point of view which freshens things up a bit. Russell Hayden and Fuzzy Knight are on hand, which helps out a lot.

Fans of technical stuff will appreciate that Apache Chief was one of a couple dozen films shot with the Garutso Balanced Lens. The credit reads: “Introducing the latest scientific achievement in motion picture photography, the Garutso Balanced Lens, a new optical principle which creates a three dimensional effect.” The Wild One (1953), the Brando motorcycle picture, is probably the most high-profile film shot with the lens.

Bandit Queen HS

Bandit Queen
Directed by William Berke
Starring Barbara Britton, Willard Parker, Philip Reed, Barton MacLane, Jack Ingram, Margia Dean

Barbara Britton, Barton MacLane, Vasquez Rocks, 70 minutes. What else do you need to know?

William Berke was a very prolific director, working extensively for Sam Katzman (directing several Jungle Jim pictures) and Robert Lippert. See his name in the credits, and you’re pretty sure to have a good time for the next 60 minutes or so.

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Timeless Media Group has corralled all five seasons of The Gene Autry Show (1950-1955) into a single set for release on December 10.

GeneAutryShow_CompleteCEThis blog is not about TV. Other people know a lot more about it than I do and do a much better job covering it than I ever could. But when you’re familiar with the features, seeing how Gene transitioned from theaters to living rooms is fascinating — and in keeping with what happened to Gene’s career, and the Western itself, over the course of the decade.

When Autry stopped making features — the TV series began in 1950, the movies lasted into 1953 — he brought a lot of actors and crew over to the show. George Archainbaud, for instance, directed Gene’s last feature, Last Of The Pony Riders (1953), and TV shows throughout its run. William Bradford, who shot a number of the later features, did all but a handful of the TV shows. (How’d they pull all this off?) Many of the TV writers had also written for the Autry features at some point, including a single episode by brothers Dorrell and Stewart E. McGowan, who’d scripted one of Gene’s best, South Of The Border (1939). (They also wrote one of my favorite films, 1949’s Hellfire).

The shows really have the feel of an Autry feature. Shorter and cheaper, of course, with a plot that’s even more bare-bones than the movies — and usually limited to a single song. Each episode exists as its own entity, too. From one show to the other, Gene is everything from a rancher to a U.S. Marshall, it’s the Old West one week and the Fabulous Fifties the next, and sometimes Gene doesn’t even know his sidekick Pat Buttram. Gene was a great businessman, and he was smart enough to stick with a sure thing — whether it’s a cameraman or a formula.

Making my way through the series, what really struck me was the incredible stream of actors and actresses that turn up from week to week: Denver Pyle, Alan Hale, Jr. (who’s a sidekick for a while), James H. Griffith, Kermit Maynard, John Doucette, Fuzzy Knight, Lyle Talbot, Robert J. Wilke, Tom Tyler, Jack Ingram, Clayton Moore, Chill Wills, Glenn Strange, James Best, Francis Ford, Lee Van Cleef. Gloria Talbott, Nestor Paiva, Peggy Stewart, “Curly” Joe Besser, Tommy Ivo and a million more. (That has to be the longest sentence I’ve ever written.) Autry’s acting leaves a lot to be desired — though he’d come a long way since The Phantom Empire (1936), but he surrounded himself with some real pros, and they do wonders for these shows.

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You can’t help being knocked for a loop by the color episodes. Two first-season shows were done in color as an experiment and the fifth season is color all the way. The type of color isn’t identified — my guess would be Eastmancolor — and it looks pretty weird, a little blown out in spots. But that’s the fault of the original material, not something we can complain to Timeless Media Group about. It’s terrific to see Gene and Roy and Champion in color. These were transfered from Gene’s personal material and are spotless, with supplements like radio shows, photo galleries and commercials — along with an extra DVD that gives you episodes of other shows from Autry’s Flying ‘A’ Productions. Recommended.Gene Autry - GA rehearsing

Gene Autry at work on his TV show. Photo lifted from Steven Lodge’s blog.

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