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Archive for the ‘Harry Morgan’ 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 Fred Zimmerman
Starring Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly, Thomas Mitchell, Lloyd Bridges, Katy Jurado, Otto Kruger, Lon Chaney, Jr., Harry Morgan, Ian MacDonald, Lee Van Cleef, Sheb Wooley

High Noon (1952) is coming to Blu-ray again, like Johnny Guitar in a Signature edition from Olive Films. It’s worthy of such attention, for sure — though you’ll have to decide for yourself if this is worth any additional investment. (This double- and triple-dipping is a bit of a sore subject around here.) The new 4K transfer comes with plenty of extras, and I’m sure it’ll be a terrific disc. It’s coming in September.

In the photo above, the director and cast take a break for the 1951 World Series.

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Yellow Sky punch illus

Directed by William A. Wellman
Starring Gregory Peck, Anne Baxter, Richard Widmark, Robert Arthur, John Russell, Harry Morgan

Kino Lorber has announced that they’ll bring William Wellman’s Yellow Sky (1948) to Blu-ray here in the States sometime this year.

A dark Western take on The Tempest, it could serve as a prototype for the Westerns of the 50s. Every performance is note-perfect, and Joe MacDonald’s cinematography alone is worth the cost of the upgrade. Absolutely essential.

The illustration is by Robert Stewart Sherriffs for Punch magazine.

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Shootist HS

Directed by Don Siegel
Starring John Wayne, Lauren Bacall, Ron Howard, James Stewart, Richard Boone, John Carradine, Scatman Crothers, Richard Lenz, Harry Morgan, Sheree North, Hugh O’Brian, Bill McKinney

Word’s out that John Wayne’s last picture, The Shootist (1976), is finally making its way to Blu-ray — from Germany.

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Some folks are hard on this movie, but me, I think it’s great. You got John Wayne. You got Don Siegel. It doesn’t get any better than that. Well, there’s my typical complaint about almost any movie: it should’ve had Hank Worden in it. (I wanted a photo of Wayne and Siegel together, but this was as close as I got. And isn’t that poster terrific?)

Thanks to John Knight for the tip.

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Directed by Thomas Carr
Produced by Vincent M. Fennelly
Written by Dan Ullman
Director Of Photography: Ernest Miller

Cast: Wild Bill Elliott (Marshal Sam Nelson), Virginia Grey (Stella Walker), Henry Morgan (Alf Billings), John Doucette (Ernie Walker), Lane Bradford (William Norris), Stanford Jolley (Everett)

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Released in May 1954, The Forty-Niners (1954) was William Elliott’s last Western. He’d finish out his career with a cool series of detective films (which many of us around here like a lot), but cowboy-wise, this was the end of the trail. It’s the last picture in the Warner Archive set The Wild Bill Elliott Western Collection.

Elliott is Marshall Sam Nelson, tracking down the murderers of a marshall in gold-crazy California. He strikes up an alliance with Alf Billings (Harry Morgan), a card sharp who may know the names of the killers. They wind up in Cold Water, where they run afoul of Sheriff Lane Bradford and saloon owner John Doucette. Nelson develops a bit of respect for Billings, who he suspects isn’t all bad. I’m oversimplifying things to avoid spoilers.

Dan Ullman’s script offers up twists and turns that we don’t see coming, even though we’ve seen a million of these things. It gives Henry Morgan a good part (he’d already appeared with Elliott in Republic’s The Showdown in 1950), which of course he’s excellent in. Morgan might have more screen time than Elliott does. Virginia Grey plays Morgan’s old flame who’s now married to Doucette. And to top it all off, Elliott narrates the picture Dragnet-style.

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By the time The Forty-Niners began shooting at the Iverson Ranch and Corriganville, Monogram was called Allied Artists and the industry standard for projection was 1.85. So, thanks to the folks at Warner Archive, we’re treated to a widescreen William Elliott picture. The previous entry in the series, Bitter Creek (1954), was also 1.85 — it’s not included in this set. These films were done very cheaply, and no transfer can ever make up for that. But it was shot by a real pro, Ernest Miller, and the widescreen framing gives it a fresh look.

I can’t say enough about these films, or about how excited I am that they’ve made their way to DVD in such supreme condition. Highly recommended.

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Star In The Dust UK

Directed by Charles Haas
Starring John Agar, Mamie Van Doren, Richard Boone, Leif Erickson, Coleen Gray, James Gleason, Randy Stuart, Terry Gilkyson, Harry Morgan, Clint Eastwood

I tend to stay away from plugging foreign releases, mainly since I don’t want to encourage someone to spend their hard earned on something they may not be able to play once it shows up. Luckily, John Knight brings ’em up in the comments for those who’re interested.

In the case of Star In The Dust (1956), I’m going to break my rule. First, I really like the movie. Next, I like John Agar. He made some cool Westerns and sci-fi flicks. Plus, I met him a few times and he was a really, really nice man.

mamie_agarIt’s an Albert Zugsmith production with a great cast — Agar, Mamie Van Doren, Richard Boone, Leif Erickson, Coleen Gray, James Gleason, Harry Morgan. It’s like a master class in character acting. The story’s good, director of photography John L. Russell Jr. does a great job (shot for 2:1), and Charles Haas’ direction has a real snap to it. It’s coming in May from Koch Media with its English tracks.

As you probably know, there’s a look and texture to Universal’s Westerns of the 50s, and this one has it in spades. Highly recommended.

Thanks for the tip, John.

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