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Archive for the ‘James H. Griffith’ Category

Directed by William Castle
Produced by Sam Katzman
Screen Play by Robert E. Kent
Director Of Photography: Lester H. White
Film Editor: Viola Lawrence

Cast: Brett King (Joe Branch), Barbara Lawrence (Kate Manning), James Griffith (Bob Dalton), Bill Phipps (Bill Dalton), John Cliff (Grat Dalton), Rory Mallinson (Bob Ford), William Tannen (Emmett Dalton), Richard Garland (Gilkie), Nelson Leigh (Father Kerrigan)

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So glad to see The Fastest Guns Of The West: The William Castle Western Collection turn up in my mailbox. Couldn’t wait to crack it open and give it a whirl. You get Klondike Kate (1943), Conquest Of Cochise (1953), Jesse James Vs. The Daltons (1953), Masterson Of Kansas (1954), Battle Of Rogue River (1954), The Gun That Won The West (1955), Duel On The Mississippi (1955) and Uranium Boom (1956). All directed by William Castle. Most produced by Sam Katzman. And all eight for less than $15.

Jesse James Vs. The Daltons is about as historically accurate as Blazing Saddles (1974) is. Joe Branch (Brett King) might be the son of Jesse James. He and Kate Manning (Barbara Lawrence) — he saves her from a being lynched — hook up with the Dalton Gang to retrieve some loot and locate Jesse, alive or dead.

It’s silly, fast-paced and loads of fun. The picture runs just over an hour, with Castle and DP Lester H. White throwing coffee pots, bullets and dying bad guys at the 3-D camera whenever possible. There’s plenty of ridin’, fightin’ and shootin’, though you can tell the schedule kept the action from getting the staging it needed. It’s a bit sloppy at times.

This might have been Brett King’s only lead, and it was certainly his last feature. He’d do nothing but TV for the rest of his career. After a couple episodes of The Green Hornet in 1967, King and his wife moved to Harbour Island, Bahamas, and opened the Coral Sands Hotel. He became a mover and shaker in the tourism industry down there.

Barbara Lawrence has a decent part here, though there seemed to have been no effort to make her even slightly resemble a woman from the late 19th century. You see that a lot in 50s Westerns. She looks good in jeans, and I guess that was more important (King just happens to have a pair that fits her in his saddlebag). Barbara’s career wasn’t a long one — she gave up movies for real estate — though she’s in some good stuff, including the cool Regalscope sci-fi picture Kronos (1957).

James H. Griffith plays one of the Daltons. He’s always worth watching, and even though he gets third billing, his part isn’t all that big in this one. Castle would give him bigger, better parts in his next two Westerns: Masterson Of Kansas (1954, included in this set) and The Law Vs. Billy The Kid (1954).

Jesse James Vs. The Daltons was shot in Technicolor and 3-D, and it was to be projected at 1.85. It appears here 2-D, of course, and full frame. The picture looks quite good, but as you can imagine, there’s a lot of dead space at the top and bottom of the frame. The zoom feature on my TV took care of some of that. (Mill Creek licenses these pictures from Columbia and works with what the studio sends them.)

The rest of the set looks even better. The real jewel is the black and white Uranium Boom (1956), which looks gorgeous. You’d almost think you were looking at a Blu-Ray. The Fastest Guns Of The West: The William Castle Western Collection is a terrific set, something many of us have been hoping for. As I see it, William Castle could do no wrong, and these movies are good, cheap fun — thanks to Mill Creek for giving us such a budget-friendly, storage-space friendly package. Highly, highly recommended.

To the fine folks at Mill Creek: while you’re serving up William Castle, how about a set of the Whistler movies?

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This is the last shot in Bedazzled (1967), the very funny Peter Cook/Dudley Moore film. Presley and I watched it recently, and I noticed the theater marquee on the right. John Wayne’s The Alamo (1960) is playing.

I reached out to some of our UK division, and as you’d expect, John Knight came through: “The cinema in question was The London Pavilion. It mainly served as a West End showcase for United Artists releases. They showed lots of United Artists horror double bills like The Monster That Challenged The World and The Vampire (both 1957). My first solo visit to a West End cinema was to the London Pavilion to see Phantom Of The Opera with Captain Clegg (both 1962).”

After hearing from John, I can’t decide what I’m the most excited about — the thought of Wayne’s epic or The Monster That Challenged The World on the Pavilion’s huge screen.

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I had to make sure this wasn’t April Fool’s Day — because a set of eight Westerns directed by William Castle (all but one produced by Sam Katzman!) sounds too good to be true. But here it is, coming from our friends at Mill Creek Entertainment.

Klondike Kate (1943)
Starring Ann Savage, Tom Neal and Glenda Farrell
One of Castle’s first directing credits — it came out a year before the first of The Whistler series.

Conquest Of Cochise (1953)
Starring John Hodiak, Robert Stack, Joy Page
Stack and Page had already appeared together in Budd Boetticher’s Bullfighter And The Lady (1951). Hodiak makes a good Cochise.

Masterson Of Kansas (1954)
Starring George Montgomery, Nancy Gates, James Griffith
James Grifftih’s performance as Doc Holliday really elevates this one.

Jesse James Vs. The Daltons (1954)
Starring Barbara Lawrence, James Griffith, William Phipps
This one was originally in 3-D and Technicolor. As you’d imagine, Castle throws everything he can think of at the camera.

Battle Of Rogue River (1954)
Starring George Montgomery, Richard Denning, Martha Hyer
Katzman cast “all six winners of the National Indian Beauty Contest” in this picture. I wouldn’t be surprised if this contest didn’t exist before Katzman and Castle came along.

The Gun That Won The West (1955)
Starring Dennis Morgan, Paula Raymond, Richard Denning
This tale of the US Cavalry taking on Chief Red Cloud makes good use of stock footage from Buffalo Bill (1944).

Duel On The Mississippi (1955)
Starring Lex Parker, Patricia Medina, Warren Stevens, John Dehner
Not really a Western, but it’s got a solid Western cast doing the Louisiana river pirate thing.

Uranium Boom (1956)
Starring Dennis Morgan, Patricia Medina, William Talman
A modern-day Western with Dennis Morgan and William Talman fighting over their uranium mine — and the lovely Patricia Medina.

Can’t tell you how excited I am about this set. Castle’s one of my favorite filmmakers, and I’ve got a real soft spot for these Castle-Katzman movies. Highly, highly recommended.

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Here are a couple of interesting movie marquees from 1958. First, Gary Cooper in Anthony Mann’s Man Of The West playing in Buenos Aires.

Next is a marquee for a theatre on a military base somewhere. Friday’s feature is Frontier Gun, a Regalscope picture with John Agar, Joyce Meadows, Barton MacLane, Robert Strauss, James H. Griffith and Morris Ankrum. It was directed by one of my favorite unsung directors, Paul Landres. On Tuesday is It! The Terror From Beyond Space, a terrific little science fiction thing starring Marshall Thompson and directed by Edward L. Cahn.

That marquee is as good a pitch for joining the military as anything I’ve ever seen. Take me back to 1958 and sign me up!

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Directed by Ray Nazarro
Screenplay by Ray Buffum and DeVallon Scott
Director Of Photography: Ellis W. Carter
Film Editor: Aaron Stell

Cast: Gary Merrill (Brock Marsh), Wanda Hendrix (Ruth Lawrence), John Bromfield (Mike Daugherty), Noah Beery, Jr. (Gimpy Joe), Fay Roope (John Lawrence), Howard Wendell (Judge Baker), Robert Simon (Marshal Whit Collins), James H. Griffith (Warren), Richard Webb (Frank Gibbs), Peter Whitney (Grimes), John War Eagle (Chief War Cloud), Jay Silverheels (Black Buffalo), Clayton Moore (Stone)

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At only 65 minutes long, The Black Dakotas (1954) was clearly meant to fill out a double bill. But for a film that’s not all that noteworthy, there are a number of things about it worth noting.

First, there’s the cast. Gary Merrill, in his first Western, is the bad guy — a Confederate hoping to stir up things with the Sioux to keep Union soldiers tied up. He gets a lot of screen time for a villain, maybe because he’s far more interesting than the good guy (John Bromfield). Wanda Hendrix, Audie Murphy’s ex-wife, was about to retire from the movies (at least for a few years), and she’s fine here. Noah Beery, Jr. does what he can with a rather odd part. The great James H. Griffith doesn’t have a whole lot to do as one of the bad guys.

John Bromfield and Wanda Hendrix

More on the cast. The Black Dakotas was shot during the period when Clayton Moore left The Lone Ranger TV series (over a salary dispute, reportedly) and returned to B Movie character parts. Moore’s not listed in the credits, but he’s there. You’ll also see Jay Silverheels (Tonto to Moore’s Lone Ranger) as one of the Sioux chiefs. From Moore and Silverheels to Beery and Griffith, the characters actors run rings around the leads.

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Here, Ray Nazarro does what we’ve seen him do so many times — put together a brisk little movie that delivers in the action department. It seems like no matter how small the budget or tight the schedule, Nazarro delivers the goods, the same way Lesley Selander always does. Of course, having Ellis Carter as director of photography doesn’t hurt. Why isn’t Carter brought up more often? He shot The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), for God’s sake! He gives The Black Dakotas a much bigger look than you’d expect. An early sequence was shot on a cloudy day — at Iverson, I think — and Carter really makes a positive out of a negative.

Carter’s fine work is well presented (in widescreen) in Mill Creek’s 7 Western Showdown Collection, a two-DVD set that contains seven Westerns. All the pictures look terrific, and the price is hard to beat. Recommended. I hope Mill Creek keeps up the good work, and I’d love to see movies like this make their way to Blu-Ray.

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The lineup for the 54th New York Film Festival — which runs from September 30 to Octoebr 16 — includes a terrific Henry Hathaway retrospective that doesn’t skimp on his Westerns.

Rawhide (1951)
Starring Tyrone Power, Susan Hayward, Hugh Marlowe, Dean Jagger, Edgar Buchanan, Jack Elam, George Tobias, James Millican

Garden Of Evil (1954)
Starring Gary Cooper, Susan Hayward, Richard Widmark, Hugh Marlowe, Cameron Mitchell

From Hell To Texas (1958)
Starring Don Murray, Diane Varsi, Chill Wills, R.G. Armstrong, Jay C. Flippen, Harry Carey, Jr.

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North To Alaska (1960)
Starring John Wayne. Stewart Granger, Ernie Kovacks, Fabian, Capucine, Joe Sawyer, James H. Griffith

The Shepherd Of The Hills (1941), Kiss Of Death (1947) and Niagara (1953) are among the other Hathaway pictures being shown. Good stuff.

The restored One-Eyed Jacks (1961) is also part of the festival.

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Directed by John English
Written by Norman S. Hall
Director Of Photography: William Bradford
Film Editor: James Sweeney

Cast: Gene Autry (Himself), Gail Davis (Melody Colton), Kirby Grant (Lt. Randolph Mason), James H. Griffith (The Apache Kid), Philip Van Zandt (Curt Reidler), Pat Buttram (Shadrach Jones), Champion

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This might put me in the minority, but I prefer Gene Autry’s later pictures. Could be for any number of reasons. His acting’s better. There’s a greater emphasis on action. Gail Davis is often around. And some actually take place in the Old West.

Indian Territory capture 1Case in point: 1950’s Indian Territory. Autry’s a Confederate veteran serving with the U.S. cavalry now that the war’s over. He’s been sent to get to the bottom of Indian attacks on settlers — and ends up tangling with The Apache Kid (James H. Griffith) and an Austrian gunrunner (Philip Van Zandt). With the help of sidekick Shadrach Jones (Pat Buttram) and the daughter of a local rancher (Gail Davis), Gene restores order to Apache Springs.

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The supporting cast can really make a movie like this, and this one is certainly no exception. James H. Griffith wouldn’t be my top-of-mind pick to portray an Apache renegade, but he’s so good, you have no trouble looking past that. Gail Davis displays some of the spunk that made her Annie Oakley series (produced by Gene’s company) such a treat. And Pat Buttram’s sidekick role doesn’t feel nailed onto the story as is so often the case.

Indian Territory was filmed around Pioneertown, the live-in movie set not far from Joshua Tree and Palm Springs — developed by Russell Hayden, Dick Curtis and Roy Rogers.

Pat Buttram (from the Melody Ranch Theater introduction included on the DVD): “They thought it’d be a great location and they built this Western street… they built it to turn a stagecoach around in. That made it so wide, when you had a crowd scene, you had to send seven busloads of people up there to even be seen on those streets. We’d have to use a little corner here and a little corner there.”

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Indian Territory is available in Volume 2 of The Gene Autry Collection — put together by Image Entertainment and later Timeless. There was a stand-alone release (from Image) prior to that. With either one, you get a gorgeous transfer and plenty of extras, from the Melody Ranch Theater stuff featuring Gene and Pat to a radio show and still gallery. Gene’s films have been treated with great care, as Indian Territory proves. Recommended.

UPDATE: Came across this signed still of James Griffith. Judging from the costume, it’s from Indian Territory.

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