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Archive for the ‘George Sherman’ Category

George Sherman (above, between Gilbert Roland and Shelley Winters on location for 1955’s The Treasure Of Pancho Villa) made a number of excellent Westerns in the 50s, usually for Universal or Columbia. He was a true craftsman, with a real flair for location work — and he could knock your eyes out with Technicolor.

I’m preaching to the choir here, I know. We’ve all sung the praises of his Dawn At Socorro (1954), Reprisal! (1956) and Last Of The Fast Guns (1958) many times. But for a new article on the ClassicFlix website, Blake Lucas and I cooked up an overview of Sherman’s career and highlighted the films available on DVD here in the States. While a good sampling of his pictures are easy to get ahold of, some of his work is frustratingly hard to find. But I assure you, they’re worth the effort.

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While doing some research on George Sherman’s The Treasure Of Pancho Villa (1955), I came across The Odessa American from October 9, 1955. What was playing around town was incredible.

Ector: The Treasure Of Pancho Villa
Scott Theater: Night Of The Hunter 
Rio Theater (next door to the Scott): The Big Combo
Twin Terrace Drive-In: Wichita and New Orleans Uncensored
Twin Cactus Drive-In: The Seven Little Foys and Coroner Creek
Broncho Drive-In: Las Vegas Shakedown and The End Of The Affair
Twin-Vue Drive-In: The Seven Little Foys and The Denver And Rio Grande

You could spend your night with Randolph Scott, Joel McCrea, Robert Mitchum or Rory Calhoun. If all that wasn’t enough, you could head to the Odessa High School field house on the 11th for The Western Revue Of 1955 with Lash LaRue and “Fuzzy” St. John in person — or wait a couple more days for Elvis Presley (“with Scotty and Bill”), Johnny Cash, Wanda Jackson and Porter Wagoner.

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By the way, the Ector Theater was restored in 2001 and runs classic movies from time to time. I love Texas.

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Pillars Of The Sky HS sized

New York’s 92nd Street Y is hosting a class on Westerns of the 50s. Hosted by Kurt Brokaw, Associate Teaching Professor at The New School and senior film critic of The Independent magazine, it’s got a really terrific roster of films. The classes are Tuesday nights, beginning April 14, with two films each night.

Man, I wish I could get to this.

Week 1
Broken Lance
(1954) Directed by Edward Dmytryk, starring Spencer Tracy, Robert Wagner, Jean Peters, Richard Widmark, Katy Jurado
The Badlanders (1956) Directed by Delmer Daves, starring Alan Ladd, Ernest Borgnine, Katy Jurado

Week 2
Saddle The Wind
(1958) Directed by Robert Parrish, starring Robert Taylor, Julie London, John Cassavetes
Dawn At Socorro (1954) Directed by George Sherman, starring Rory Calhoun and Piper Laurie

Week 3
Pillars Of The Sky
(1956) Directed by George Marshall, starring Jeff Chandler, Dorothy Malone, Ward Bond, Lee Marvin
Backlash (1956) Directed by John Sturges, starring Richard Widmark, Donna Reed, William Campbell, John McIntire

Diablo TC

Week 4
Ride Clear Of Diablo
(1954) Directed by Jesse Hibbs, starring Audie Murphy, Dan Duryea, Susan Cabot
The Outriders (1950) Directed by Roy Rowland, starring Joel McCrea, Arlene Dahl, James Whitmore, Barry Sullivan

Week 5
Back To God’s Country
(1953) Directed by Joseph Pevney, starring Rock Hudson, Marcia Henderson, Steve Cochran, Hugh O’Brien
Black Horse Canyon (1954) Directed by Jesse Hibbs, starring Joel McCrea and Mari Blanchard

Week 6
Seven Men From Now
(1956) Directed by Budd Boetticher, starring Randolph Scott, Gail Russell, Lee Marvin, Walter Reed
Gun Fury (1953) Directed by Raoul Walsh, starring Rock Hudson, Donna Reed, Philip Carey, Lee Marvin

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Apache Drums LC

Yesterday, I posted our favorite DVD releases of the year. Today’s list is made up of films we discovered during 2014. Titles that made the list were mentioned by at least three people. It’s a great lineup of fairly obscure, medium-budgeted 50s Westerns — and if you haven’t discovered them yourself, search them out.

Ambush At Tomahawk Gap (1953) Fred F. Sears was extremely prolific, and his 50s Westerns are worth seeking out. This is one of the better ones, available through Columbia’s on-demand DVD program.

Apache Drums (1951) A suspense picture dressed up in cowboy clothes, produced by Val Lewton and directed by Hugo Fregonese. With Stephen McNally, Coleen Gray, Willard Parker, Arthur Shields, James Griffith and Clarence Muse (who’s superb in a small part).

Border River (1954) With George Sherman directing Joel McCrea, Yvonne De Carlo and Pedro Armendáriz, how could it not be great? Shot around Moab, Utah.

Cow Country (1953) Coming across a new Lesley Selander picture is always a treat. This one features Edmond O’Brien, Helen Wescott, Bob Lowery, Barton MacLane, Peggie Castle, James Millican and Robert Wilke.

A Day Of Fury (1956) One of the most unusual, and overlooked, Westerns of the 50s. Harmon Jones directs Dale Robertson, Mara Corday and Jock Mahoney. I’m so glad this one’s being rediscovered.

Four Guns To The Border (1954) Rory Calhoun, Colleen Miller and Walter Brennan in an excellent Universal Western directed by Richard Carlson.

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Fury At Gunsight Pass (1956) Another good one from Fred F. Sears. Wish this one would see a real DVD release — black and white widescreen is so cool.

The Silver Whip (1953) Dale Robertson, Rory Calhoun, Robert Wagner, Kathleen Crowley and James Millican star in this taut, tight picture from editor-turned-director Harmon Jones. The staging of the climactic chase is masterful.

Stage To Tucson (1950) Rod Cameron and Wayne Morris. Lone Pine in Technicolor. Surely that’s worth an investment of 81 minutes.

Yellow Tomahawk LC

The Yellow Tomahawk (1954) Sadly, this color film is only available black and white. But it’s still a solid effort from the ever-dependable Lesley Selander — with a cast that includes Rory Calhoun, Peggie Castle, Noah Beery, Jr., Peter Graves, Lee Van Cleef and Rita Moreno.

Thanks to everyone who participated.

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Hellfire TC

So far, the great cinematographer Jack A. Marta has hardly been mentioned here. I’m ashamed and with today’s Wild Bill Wednesday, I’m taking care of it. So many outstanding movies. What Price Glory (1926). The Night Riders (1939). Dark Command (1940). Flying Tigers (1942). Hellfire (1949). Trigger, Jr. (1950). Spoilers Of The Plains (1951). The Last Command (1955). The Bonnie Parker Story (1958). Cat Ballou (1965). Duel (1971).

On that last one, Steven Spielberg’s breakthrough TV movie Duel, Marta’s experience shooting outdoors in the desert helped get the thing completed on its 10-day schedule.

Steven Spielberg (from the excellent book Steven Spielberg And Duel: The Making Of A Film Career): “Jack was a sweetheart. He was just a kind, gentle soul who you know had never worked that fast in his entire career; none of us had, and yet there was nothing he didn’t do or couldn’t do, and he really enjoyed himself.”

No offense to Mr. Spielberg, but I have a feeling Duel‘s 10-day shoot, though exhausting, was probably nothing new for Marta, who’d done beautiful work on Republic’s tight schedules, in both black and white and Trucolor, and worked on plenty of television shows like Route 66 and Batman.

When Elliott co-produced Hellfire (below) for Republic release, a film he saw as a very special project (and considered his best film), Jack Marta was the director of photography. Was he randomly assigned the job by Republic, or did Elliott request him after working together on The Gallant Legion (1948) and the Trucolor The Last Bandit (1949)? (I’m getting pretty good at finding new ways to sneak Hellfire into this blog.)

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Reprisal tree

From the pressbook for Reprisal! (1956) —

The tree in the film created quite a problem for director George Sherman, both as to finding it and transporting it to the picture’s location site, some 30 miles south of Tucson, Arizona… Sherman and producer Lewis Rachmil first thought they’d have to have such a tree fabricated in order to get what they needed. But one day, while searching for location sites in southern Arizona, they found their tree, on the outskirts of Tubac, the oldest white settlement in Arizona.

An old cottonwood, the tree stood about 30 feet high, with twisted, gnarled limbs and completely leafless. Rachmil and Sherman immediately contacted the owner of the land… and made a deal with him to cut down and remove it to the site they’d chosen for the film backgrounds.

Getting the dead cottonwood to the location site became something of a major problem; a 30-foot tree, complete with limbs and huge trunk, is quite a lot of wood to move en masse. The studio hired a huge flat trailer truck, hoisted the tree aboard by crane and then transported it 40 miles over the highway to a dirt road the company had built to the shooting site… The tree had to be moved at dawn, when there was little traffic.

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affiche-la-montagne-mysterieuse-the-beast-of-hollow-mountain-1956-7

Directed by Edward Nassour and Ismael Rodríguez
Produced: Edward Nassour and William Nassour
Screenplay by Robert Hill and Jack DeWitt
From a story by H. O’Brien
Music by Raúl Lavista
Cinematography: Jorge Stahl
Special Effects: Louis DeWitt, Jack Rabin and Henry Sharp

CAST: Guy Madison (Jimmy Ryan), Patricia Medina (Sarita), Carlos Rivas (Felipe Sanchez), Eduardo Noriega (Enrique Rios).

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The Beast Of Hollow Mountain (1956) finds Guy Madison as an American rancher in Mexico, trying to figure out why cattle are going missing — and eventually coming face to face with a dinosaur. (It takes place at the turn of the century, the time and setting of 1969’s The Wild Bunch.)

As a kid, I’d seen stills from The Beast Of Hollow Mountain in various monster magazines and books and I was dying to see it. Cowboys, dinosaurs, CinemaScope — what’s not to like? I was an adult by the time it turned up on laserdisc. And of course, as so often happens with this kinda thing, I was disappointed.

But there’s a lot to recommend The Beast Of Hollow Mountain. It’s got cowboys and a dinosaur (just one). It was shot in Mexico. It was based on a story by the great Willis O’Brien, and he spent years trying to raise the money to do it himself, unsuccessfully. It’s got Patricia Medina from The Buckskin Lady (1957) in it. And once it finally gets to the dinosaur, it really delivers the goods — even if the special effects ain’t so special.

The Valley Of Gwangi(1969) is a better-mounted version of O’Brien’s story, with excellent stop motion stuff from Ray Harryhausen. However, it doesn’t offer as much cheesy fun. Beast Of Hollow Mountain comes from a real sweet spot in Guy Madison’s career. He’d just done The Command (1954) and 5 Against The House (1955), and he’d follow this oddball sci-fi Western with two of his finest films — Reprisal! (1956) and The Hard Man (1957), both directed by George Sherman for Columbia.

Shout Factory offers Beast as a Blu-ray/DVD twin pack, paired with The Neanderthal Man (1953). Both films look terrific, with Beast‘s early CinemaScope boasting just the right amount of grain and a light scratch or two for good measure. As a bonus, Beverly Garland’s in The Neanderthal Man. It makes me happy to see low-budget genre pictures treated with such care. Recommended.

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