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Archive for the ‘John Dehner’ Category

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The Westerner — the short-lived 1960 Western series created by Sam Peckinpah and starring Brian Keith — is a really amazing thing. First, it’s just a good show, period. Next, for a Peckinpah fan, it’s a chance to see the whole Peckinpah Thing take shape before our eyes. From the dialogue that rings so true to his unique blend of the hard-ass and the sentimental to particular scenes or dialogue that’d crop up in his later work, The Westerner feels like a prototype for Sam’s career (or at least the early part of it). His visual style still had a way to go.

independent_press_telegram_sun__sep_25__1960_I’ve been dragging around bootleg copies of The Westerner for years. I’d never seen the pilot from Dick Powell’s Zane Grey Theatre — but Shout Factory has taken care of that with their marvelous new two-DVD set. You get the 13 regular episodes and the pilot (featuring Neville Brand at his despicable best), along with commentaries from Peckinpah scholars like Paul Seydor, who’s written some excellent books on Sam and his work. His The Authentic Death And Contentious Afterlife Of Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid: The Untold Story Of Peckinpah’s Last Western Film has become one of my favorite movie books.

Haven’t made it through both discs yet, but all the shows I’ve seen look great. This is one a lot of folks have been waiting for, and this is certainly worth the wait. Right now, it’s a Walmart exclusive — at just $14.96 — and I encourage you to put aside whatever hangups you might have about the megastore and go get one of these. It’s a must.

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Fans have been hollering for this one for quite a while. Right now, it’s a Walmart exclusive: The Westerner, the 1960 series created by Sam Peckinpah and starring Brian Keith, is out on DVD from Shout Factory. Only 13 episodes were produced (it was up against The Flintstones) — they’re all terrific, and they’re all here. Also included is the Zane Grey Theatre episode that served as the show’s pilot.

Episodes were directed by the likes of Peckinpah, Andre de Toth and Ted Post. Appearing in those 13 episodes were folks like Warren Oates, Katy Jurado, John Dehner, Slim Pickens, Robert Culp, Frank Ferguson, Virginia Gregg, R.G. Armstrong and Dub Taylor — many of them people Peckinpah would turn to time and time again. Lucien Ballard shot three of them. And Brian Keith’s dog, Brown, is played by Spike, who was also Old Yeller. Highly, highly recommended.

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Over the years, a great many movies have suffered from how they’re seen on TV — incomplete, beat-up, pan-and-scan prints (sometimes not even in color as they once were). That mistreatment eventually impacts the film’s overall reputation, as TV became how entire generations experienced older movies. (Right now, I’m thinking of how awful the Regalscope pictures have looked since they left theaters. Thank goodness for DVD and Blu-ray.)

I think TV shows have suffered a similar fate over the years, with faded prints hacked to bits to make room for more commercials. The Rebel (1959-61), now that we have the new set from Timeless Media Group, illustrates my point.

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The Rebel follows Johnny Yuma (Nick Adams), a restless young Confederate veteran after the Civil War. With nothing to return to (we learn in the first episode that his lawman father’s dead), he “wanders the West” for 76 episodes — getting pulled into various situations as he rides from town to town in search of peace.

0e9f250b7cbb6dac92241b95bebf97beNick Adams is very good as Yuma, bringing the right mix of intensity and sensitivity to the part. He’s believable as a young man who’d beat the crap out of a guy, then write about it in his journal. It could’ve come off terribly. Like so many of these 5os Western TV shows, the supporting cast each week is incredible. The first episode alone features Strother Martin, Dan Blocker and John Carradine. And over the run of the show, you’ll also find Claude Akins, Robert Blake, Elisha Cook, Jr., Royal Dano, John Dehner, Jack Elam, Virginia Gregg, L.Q. Jones, George Macready, Patricia Medina, Agnes Moorehead, Leonard Nimoy, Warren Oates, Paul Picerni, Tex Ritter, Soupy Sales, Bob Steele, Peggy Stewart, Robert Vaughn, Yvette Vickers and Marie Windsor. Adams’ wife Carole Nugent is terrific in an early episode. Johnny Cash is in one, too.

Producer Andrew J. Fenady (from a good interview here): “We would shoot one day on location. Vasquez Rocks, and a lot in Thousand Oaks. And the second day we would shoot on the lot — the (western) street at Paramount. The third day we would do the interiors, whether it was someone’s house, or a shack, or a hotel or a jail. A sheriff’s office. So that was really the formula: first day out, second day on the street, and the third day interiors.”

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About half the episodes were directed by Irvin Kirshner. He does a good job, to be sure, but there’s nothing in this to indicate that this is the guy who’d eventually direct The Empire Strikes Back (1980), maybe the last truly epic film I can remember. The size of the screen was obviously not an issue for him. Bernard L. Kowalski, Bernard McEveety, Robbert Ellis Miller and Frank Baur handled the rest.
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Some episodes were transferred from slightly worn 16mm prints with changeover cues punched in them here and there; others look like a million bucks. What’s important is that The Rebel, The Complete Series gives us all 76 episodes, complete. Johnny Cash’s vocals have been restored to the titles (the theme was replaced for syndication, which is how we’ve been seeing and hearing it for years). While the quality varies from episode to episode, and 16mm can be a little soft, to have them all looking this good is a revelation. There are plenty of extras, from interviews to stills to commercials — even the pilot for the proposed companion series The Yank. This is a good set, and a good show, ready to be rediscovered. Highly recommended.

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Buy this Blu-ray or Cooper gets it!

One of the toughest, slimiest, most brutal and just plain best-est 50s Westerns of them all, Anthony Mann’s Man Of The West (1958), is getting a much-needed upgrade this November from Kino Lorber.

It’s hard to put my finger on just why I love this one so much. For starters, it’s one of the finest Westerns ever made. But there’s other stuff, too. Like the awful Cleggs in Wagonmaster (1950), the bad guys here are of unbelievable scuzziness. (It’s hard to believe this is the same Jack Lord I love in Hawaii Five-O, not a hair out of place.) There are very few movies that impact me the way this one does: Mann is at the absolute top of his game here, twisting us around and ringing us out like a dishrag. (Just looking at this still is giving me the willies.) And Cooper brings incredible depth to Link Jones, maybe the ultimate Mann Western character—sorry, Jimmy—and certainly one of Coop’s best performances.

If you can watch this one and not be affected, check your pulse. You’re dead.

Thanks to Dick Vincent for the news. And Blake, if you don’t have a Blu-ray player yet, you’ve run out of excuses, pal.

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Directed by Lew Landers
Produced by Herman Schlom
Written by Norman Houston
Director Of Photography: Nicholas Musuraca, ASC
Music by Paul Sawtell
Film Editor: Robert Swink

CAST: Tim Holt (Ross Taylor), Richard Martin (Chito Jose Gonzalez Bustamonte Rafferty)*, Lynn Roberts (Mary Madden), Regis Toomey (Dan Madden), Robert Shayne (Jay Wingate), Don Harney (Missouri), Cleo Moore (Lulu), John Dehner (Anson Thurber), Don Haggerty (Sheriff), Ross Elliott (Stryker), Denver Pyle (Whip).

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Here at 50 Westerns From The 50s, Tuesdays belong to Tim Holt. 

From 1940 to 1952, Tim Holt made 46 B Westerns for RKO. Well written, sharply directed and beautifully filmed (usually by Nicholas Musuraca in Lone Pine), they stand as some of the best series Westerns ever made. While Holt served in the Air Force during World War II, the series was interrupted — Robert Mitchum filled in for a couple titles — but was picked up again when Holt returned. At this time, Richard Martin was added as Chito Rafferty, Holt’s Mexican-Irish sidekick. By the early 50s, television was hurting the series Western, and at RKO, Howard Hughes scaled back on B-movie production — and the Holt series came to an end in 1952.

Dynamite Pass (1950) came toward the end of the run, and RKO’s cost-cutting was beginning to show. Dan Madden (Regis Toomey) is a surveyor hired to lay a new road from Mesa City to Clifton, accompanied by his wife Mary (Lynn Roberts). Rancher John Dehner has the only road between the two towns and charges the locals outrageous tolls to pass through his land. Naturally, Dehner doesn’t want the new road to go through, and they sabotage Toomey’s effort to survey the area by stealing his equipment. However, the Maddens have Ross Taylor (Tim Holt) and Chito (Richard Martin) on their side. And, yes, there is some dynamite.

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It’s impossible for me to be objective about these films. I love them. And while Dynamite Pass isn’t one of the better ones, it’s plenty good enough. Holt and Martin have a real easy-going chemistry, and their friendship seems very real (turns out it was). It’s a joy to watch them at work in these things.

John Dehner makes quite an impression as the greedy rancher, even though his screen time is limited. And it’s always good to see Regis Toomey turn up in something.

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One of Hollywood’s most prolific directors, Lew Landers (real name: Louis Friedlander) worked for every studio in town, with the bulk of his work coming from RKO and Columbia. Westerns, jungle movies, crime pictures — he made them all. Like a lot of B directors, he bounced between features and TV in the 50s. He’s remembered today primarily for the 1935 Karloff-Lugosi film The Raven. Landers’ Holt pictures don’t have the snap to them that Lesley Selander’s do, but that’s more of an observation than a complaint.

At this time, Dynamite Pass has not turned up in one of Warner Archive’s Tim Holt Classic Westerns Collection sets. Like the rest of the series, it turns up on TCM from time to time.

* I’m usually strict about listing the cast according to the titles, but there was no way I could put Richard Martin last.

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Directed by Louis King
Produced by André Hakim
Screenplay by Geoffrey Homes, from a story by Sam Hellman
Based on a book by Stuart Lake (Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal)
Director of Photography: Edward Cronjager
Film Editor: William B. Murphy
Musical director: Lionel Newman

CAST: Rory Calhoun (Chino Bull), Corinne Calvet (Frenchie Dumont), Cameron Mitchell (Mitch Hardin), Penny Edwards (Debbie Allen), Carl Betz (Loney Hogan), John Dehner (Harvey Logan), Raymond Greenleaf (Prudy), Victor Sutherland (Alcalde Lowery), Ethan Laidlaw, Robert J. Wilke, Harry Carter, Frank Ferguson, Harry Hines, Hank Worden, Paul E. Burns.

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If you were to measure the quality of a film by the character actors that turn up in it, Powder River (1953) would rank with the finest movies ever made. John Dehner, Frank Ferguson, James H. Griffith, Robert J. Wilke, Paul E. Burns, Ethan Laidlaw — the list goes on. (I’ve heard Hank Worden’s in it, but I didn’t see him.)

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It’s another variation on the Earp-Holliday story, with no mention of the O.K. Corral. Rory Calhoun is Chino Bull, an Earp-ish lawman who gives up his guns and badge to try a little prospecting — but is forced to put them back on when his partner (Frank Ferguson) is killed. Cameron Mitchell is Mitch Hardin, a take on Doc Holliday (a doctor with a brain tumor this time). Corrine Calvet runs the local saloon and Peggy Edwards (who stepped in at Republic when Dale Evans was on maternity leave, appearing in Trail Of Robin Hood and others) is the woman who comes from the East in search of Mitch. John Dehner is a gambler and Robert J. Wilke is, of course, a bad guy.

While we’ve seen all this play out in other films, some of them better (and featuring some of the same cast), there’s a freshness and watchability to Powder River that delays us from making the inevitable comparisons until long after its 77 minutes are up. (Face it, to compare this film to My Darling Clementine is both unfair and ridiculous.)

Rory Calhoun has a confidence and  easygoing manner that makes him an ideal 50s Western lead, and Powder River fits him like a glove. Cameron Mitchell is a seriously underrated actor, and his take on Holliday is intense, but avoiding the histrionics of other actors. They have a few good scenes together — I especially liked them talking shop in the saloon as Mitchell showed off his flashy gun belt. Good actors, solid script.

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The rest of the cast goes about its business, doing the things that kept them so busy working in so many of these films — and making each one better in the process.

Louis King, the brother of director Henry King (The Gunfighter), began his career as an actor in the Silents, and made the shift to directing long before sound came in. He was a busy contract director throughout the 30s and 40s — Charlie Chan, Bulldog Drummond, etc., and ended his career on TV (Adventures Of Wild Bill Hickock, The Deputy). Powder River was one of his last features, and his assured, unpretentious direction is a large part of its success. Is this a great film? Of course not. Would I watch a thousand just like it? Absolutely.

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The DVD-R from Fox Cinema Archives seems to have been transfered from a Technicolor print, and at certain points, it’s absolutely beautiful. But if you’ve seen a number of dye-transfer prints, you know they can be inconsistent, with registration, contrast and color varying quite a bit. That’s the case here, and while it doesn’t make for the kind of spotless, flawless experience we’re coming to expect — it’s what these films have looked like for decades. It’s sharp and clear and the audio is clean — and I like seeing those reel changeover cues make their appearance.

This is a minor Western that I certainly recommend — and a great introduction to the work of Rory Calhoun.

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Directed by Thomas Carr
Produced by Walter M. Mirisch
Screenplay by Martin M. Goldsmith and John McGreevey
Screen story by Martin M. Goldsmith
Based on the novel by Wayne D. Overholser
Director of Photography: Wilfrid M. Cline
Music by Gerard Fried

CAST: Audie Murphy (Matt Brown), Terry Moore (Janet Calvert), John Dehner (Chip Donahue), James Best (Sam Mullen), Rita Lynn (Hortensia), Denver Pyle (Preacher Harrison), Ann Doran (Charlotte ‘Ma’ Calvert).

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For Memorial Day, it made sense to focus on Audie Murphy. So it seemed like a good time to take a look at the DVD of Cast A Long Shadow (1959).

Producer Walter Mirisch: “Audie Murphy had made a long series of successful Western pictures for Universal-International, and Cast A Long Shadow was made to fit into the mold of those films. It was intended to be a program picture, not terribly expensive, and was shot in black-in-white.”

In an arrangement similar to the deal Mirisch made with Joel McCrea, Audie was given a percentage. Murphy was not happy when he found out the picture wasn’t to be in color. (By the way, this film was sandwiched between two of Murphy’s best: No Name On The Bullet (1959) and The Unforgiven (1960).

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Murphy is Matt Brown, a bitter young man who inherits a sprawling ranch from the man he believes is his father. His windfall comes with a challenge — in order to clear up some old debt, he has to get his herd to market in just a few days. Naturally, there are some guys who want to prevent Murphy from getting his cattle in on time.

Joining Audie Murphy are Terry Moore as the sweethheart he left behind, John Dehner as one of the few people on Murphy’s side and Denver Pyle as a preacher. James Best is one of Murphy’s rivals, scheming to get Murphy’s ranch.

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Mirisch: “It was directed by Tom Carr, who had worked with me at Allied Artists and had directed The Tall Stranger (1957) with Joel McCrea. The screenplay was by Martin Goldsmith, who had written Fort Massacre (1958), and John McGreevey did a rewrite on Goldsmith’s script… Richard Heermance edited Cast A Long Shadow, as he had Man Of The West (1958).”

Cast A Long Shadow was shot by Wilfrid M. Cline, who’d just finished one of my favorite films, William Castle’s The Tingler (1959). And it was scored by Gerard Fried, whose credits include Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing (1956).

With so many pros working on it, it’s a shame Cast A Long Shadow isn’t better than it is. Sometimes, a cast and crew can rise above a meager budget through ingenuity and determination. Other times, they can’t. This is one of the latter times. You’re constantly reminded that this is a low-budget movie. Stock footage abounds in the cattle drive scenes, with long shots of thousands of head of cattle cut in with tighter shots of Murphy, Dehner and a couple cows. What’s more, Fried’s score is simply over the top — way too dramatic for this modest film. And Murphy’s character is hard to pull for.

But for those of us with a soft spot for these things, these criticisms are not meant to prevent you from adding this one to your collection. Not at all. A Murphy picture is always worth the time, and the DVD from Timeless Media Group is lovely — and you can find it for as little as $5. The 1.85 aspect ratio is correct, the sound has plenty of punch, the picture on the whole is sharp and clear, and the contrast ranges from perfect in one scene, and too dark and a bit flat in the next. I have a feeling that comes from the original elements — that’s what happens when you make a movie on the quick and the cheap.

SOURCE: I Thought We Were Making Movies, Not History by Walter Mirish.

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