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Archive for the ‘Iron Eyes Cody’ 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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Directed by Allan Dawn
Produced by Howard Welsch
Screen Play by Horace McCoy & Norman S. Hall
Story by M. Coates Webster & Howard Welsch
Director Of Photography: Jack Marta
Film Editor: Arthur Roberts
Special Effects: Howard & Theodore Lydecker
Music by Nathan Scott

Cast: Jane Russell (Belle Starr), George Brent (Tom Bradfield), Scott Brady (Bob Dalton), Forrest Tucker (Mac), Andy Devine (Pete Bivins), Jack Lambert (Ringo), John Litel (Matt Towner), Ray Teal (Emmett Dalton), Rory Mallinson (Grat Dalton), Mike Ragan (Ben Dalton), Roy Barcroft (Jim Clark), Glenn Strange, George Chesebro, Iron Eyes Cody

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That photo of Jane Russell’s gorgeous Mercedes prompted me to revisit Allan Dwan’s Montana Belle (1952), which I’ve been meaning to do for quite a while.

I really like Jane Russell. She made some really cool movies, including Son Of Paleface (1952), one of my all-time favorites. She didn’t take herself too seriously, didn’t take any crap from Howard Hughes (or anybody else, it seems) and wasn’t afraid to be who she was. Plus, she drove that car!

In late October and November, 1948 — the same year she appeared in The Paleface, Russell made Montana Belle. It was produced by Howard Welsch for his Fidelity Pictures. Welsch had an arrangement with Republic to use their facilities, standard crew (such as DP Jack Marta) and Trucolor. Allan Dwan, who was directed pictures for Republic at the time, signed on. Republic would handle distribution.

Detail from a Serbin Golfer ad, promoting Montana Belle as a Republic picture.

In April of ’49, Welsch sold the completed Montana Belle to RKO for $875,000 — he and Republic split about $225,000 in profits. Then, the picture fell victim to the typical RKO/Howard Hughes weirdness. It was released by RKO in November of 1952, a full four years after Dwan shot it.

The story has Belle Starr (Russell) involved with the Dalton gang, then forming her own outlaw band, and finally giving it all up for the love of a saloon owner (George Brent). Along the way, Jane impersonates a fella and dons a blonde wig to pass as a saloon singer and gambler.

Montana Belle is at its best when all the riding, robbing and shooting’s going on — well directed by Dwan and captured in Trucolor by Jack Marta (would love to see this get the restoration other Trucolor pictures have received lately).

Jane Russell isn’t as comfortable in front of the camera as she’d later become, with pictures like Macao and Son Of Paleface (both 1952), but she handles herself pretty well here. George Brent has an interesting part, or maybe he makes the part interesting. And the rest of the cast is made up of real veterans at this kind of stuff: Scott Brady, Forrest Tucker, Andy Devine, Jack Lambert, Ray Teal, Roy Barcroft and Iron Eyes Cody. Dwan and Brady would later do another overlooked little 50s Western, The Restless Breed (1957).

Montana Belle is available overseas in a PAL DVD that I’ll bet looks pretty crummy. Since it’s officially an RKO picture, it’s not part of the Republic stash over at Paramount. With Allan Dwan getting a much-deserved mini-reappraisal in recent years, it’d sure be great to see this one get a decent DVD, or better yet Blu-Ray, release. It’s no classic, but it’s easy to recommend it anyway.

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Directed by Sidney Salkow
Starring Dale Robertson, Mary Murphy, J. Carrol Naish, John Litel, Iron Eyes Cody, John Hamilton, Douglas Kennedy

Shot in Mexico to save money, Sitting Bull (1954) was the first independent production shot in CinemaScope. As history, it’s hogwash, but as a cowboy movie, it’s pretty good — especially with that cast and with a sympathetic look at the Indians.

This picture seems to have falling into the public domain, which means we’ve been looking at terrible, pan-and-scan transfers for years. Spirit Media, from Germany, have announced a Blu-Ray release. Let’s hope it presents it the way it ought to be seen, with its CinemaScope intact and it’s Eastmancolor looking, well, as good as Eastmancolor can look. (Boy, it’s good to see somebody announcing a 50s Western on DVD or Blu-Ray.)

Thanks to John Knight for the news.

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