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Archive for the ‘John Ireland’ Category

Directed by Mark Robson
Producer: Richard H. Berger
Screenplay by Hugo Butler and Geoffrey Homes
Cinematography: Joseph F. Biroc
Music: Roy Webb
Film Editor: Marston Fay

Cast: Robert Sterling (Clay Phillips), Gloria Grahame (Mary Wells), Claude Jarman Jr.(Steve Phillips), John Ireland (Lednov), Jeff Donnell (Elaine Wyatt), Myrna Dell (Helen Carter), Martha Hyer (Marcia), George Cooper (Jim Clayton), Jeff Corey (Jed Graham), Sara Haden (Ma Wyatt), James Bell (Pa ‘Ed’ Wyatt), Shawn McGlory (Fowler), Robert B. Williams (McCall), Steve Savage (Peters), Edward Cassidy (Sheriff Gardner)

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There’s a movie memory that’s been bugging me since I was a kid. It’s a Western, and John Ireland’s the bad guy — a really bad guy. I remembered a few things about Ireland and the film, but never enough to be able to nail it down. Well, it turns out it was Roughshod (1949), a picture I thought I’d never seen.

You hear a lot about the noir influence in Westerns — Blood On The Moon and Pursued are good examples. I’d put Roughshod near the top of the list for successfully meshing the noir style within the Western.

Robert Sterling is Clay Phillips, who’s driving a herd of horses over the Sonora Pass with his kid brother Steve (Claude Jarman Jr.). They happen upon a broken-down buggy and four saloon girls who were headed to Sonora; Clay must be the luckiest cowpoke in history, because the women he’s stumbled upon are Gloria Grahame, Martha Hyer, Myrna Dell and  Jeff Donnell. They’ve been run out of Aspen by a group of concerned citizens.

A panel from the Roughshod adaptation in Prize Comics Western.

Steve Phillips (Claude Jarman Jr.): “Were you driving?”
Mary Wells (Gloria Grahame): “I was at first. Then I was hanging on.”

Trouble is, there are three escaped convicts on the loose, and the ringleader is the truly evil Lednov (John Ireland) — who Clay helped send to prison. Lednov would love to bump into Clay out on the trail. The scene that introduces these very bad dudes is the memory I’ve had bouncing around in my head for decades. And revisiting it thanks to the DVD-R from Warner Archive, it’s easy to see why the picture made such an impression on me. This is a dark, tense, terrific movie (and I don’t want to give too much of it away).

I know very little about Robert Sterling, and he’s fine here. But Gloria Grahame and John Ireland are outstanding. Grahame was great in plenty of things, but she really cooks in this one. The romance that happens along the trail could have been hokey, but she makes it work. It’s a good part, and she really nails it.

It would’ve been easy for someone to take the Lednov part way too far (he’s as nasty as nasty gets in a 50s Western), and screwing up the entire movie in the process. John Larch comes close to doing that in another favorite of mine, Quantez (1957). Ireland is so perfect here. Claude Jarman Jr. is good, too. He always was. Mark Robson gets superb performances from his entire cast — everybody brought their A game to this one.

Warner Archive has Roughshod looking good. It’s not a full restoration or anything, but it’s nice and sharp and pretty clean — with the picture’s many dark scenes dialed in just right. This might be some of DP Joseph Biroc’s best work. The sound’s nice and crisp.

In 50s Westerns, there are so many movies you could say are “ripe for rediscovery.” The fact that Roughshod sits on that list is a real shame. Highly, highly recommended.

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960

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 Mark Robson
Starring Robert Sterling, John Ireland, Claude Jarman Jr., Gloria Grahame, Myrna Dell, Jeff Donnell, Martha Hyer

It seems fitting that the 200th DVD/Blu-ray announcement is one I’ve never seen. Shows how many of these films there are out there and what riches are still waiting to be dug up. Warner Archive’s done the digging this time, serving up an RKO Western I’ve been wanting to see for years. It’s coming in January.

Thanks to John Knight for the tip.

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Lippert

A few weeks ago, I broke my glasses and began relying on an old (pre-trifocals) pair while I scrambled for an eye exam and new frames. Reading became very, very difficult. Not the best time to receive a book you’re really excited about. But that’s exactly when Mark Thomas McGee’s Talk’s Cheap, Action’s Expensive: The Films Of Robert L. Lippert, from BearManor Media, turned up in my mailbox.

Lippert Pictures (and related companies) cranked out cheap little Westerns like 1952’s Outlaw Women, along with gems such as Sam Fuller’s I Shot Jesse James (1949) and The Quiet Gun (1957). (They covered the other genres, too.) I’m a big fan of these films and was determined to make my way through the book with or without spectacles, holding it so close I risked paper cuts on my nose.

McGee set the book up very well. The first 80 pages or so read as a biography and history of Lippert and his career, from the theater business to film production. I had a working knowledge of the Lippert story going in, but was always coming upon something I didn’t know. There’s a filmography, arranged by company, that makes up the bulk of the book. And finally, there’s a listing of the Lippert theaters (the closest to me was in Chattanooga, TN).

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What’s not to like about a book like this? It’s packed with information on movies I grew up with, movies I love. Rocketship X-M (1950). The Steel Helmet (1951). Superman And The Mole Men (1951). Forty Guns (1957). Showdown At Boot Hill (1958). The Fly (1958). The Alligator People (1959). House Of The Damned (1963). They’re all in here, and you’ll come away with a better understanding of what went into getting them made. Where I think McGee really excelled was in making sure the book, as informative as it is, stayed as fun as the films it’s about. (The same goes for his previous books on Roger Corman and AIP.)

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If there’s a downside to this book, it’s that the filmography points out film after film that you’d love to track down and see. You’ll find a lot of them available from Kit Parker Films and VCI, and others scattered here and there. Some of the Fullers were even given the Criterion treatment. As for the rest, well, happy hunting.

It’s very easy to recommend Mark Thomas McGee’s Talk’s Cheap, Action’s Expensive: The Films Of Robert L. Lippert. Now that my new glasses are in, I’m reading it a second time.

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OK at AFI

Today (Monday), Tuesday and Thursday, the AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring, MD will run a 35mm print of John Sturges’ Gunfight At The O.K. Corral (1957). It’s part of a Burt Lancaster series that’s been going on since February.

Of course, the new Blu-ray of Gunfight is wonderful, but the chance to see it on film is something not to be missed.

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Gunfight at the OK Corral RLC

VistaVision is a wonderful thing on Blu-ray, and here’s one I’ve been waiting for — Gunfight At The O.K. Corral (1957).

It’s coming from Warners and Paramount on March 11, 2014. Also on the way are a couple John Wayne – Howard Hawks pictures, Hatari! (1962) and El Dorado (1967).

Thanks for the tip, Paula.

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Roger Corman’s Gunslinger (1956), maybe my daughter’s favorite 50s Western (take that, Mystery Science Theater!), has been announced for DVD release from Timeless Media Group on October 15. The set, another Movies 4 You Western Film Collection — also offers Clint Walker and Barry Sullivan in Yuma (1971), Terence Hill in the spaghetti western Man Of The East (1971) and Pioneer Woman (1973). An odd grouping, maybe, but you can’t beat the $6.95 list price.

I’ve written about Gunslinger before, and I’m happy to know it’s going to be available Stateside. Beverly Garland is always terrific, and she’s so cool in this one. Not sure if it’ll be widescreen or not — the PAL version is, and it’s as nice-looking as this cheap little picture is probably capable of looking. And as ridiculous as it sounds, all of us in the Roan household would love to see it make its way to Blu-ray.

UPDATE 9/30/13: Timeless has served up the same widescreen transfer of Gunslinger as the UK release. It’s 1.85, which AIP called “Wide Vision”on the poster. The contrast levels fluctuate a bit, probably the result of the constant rain that plagued its six-day shooting schedule — this is a nice transfer of a cheap movie. Any issues come from Iverson Ranch in 1956, not from the film transfer suite.

As far the other titles, Man Of The East looks terrific — I love the look of those Techniscope spaghetti westerns. Yuma is soft.

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What a great poster, too! Reynold Brown, I think.

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Depending on your outlook, this latest set from Sony and Turner Classics might be seen as a prayer answered. The Randolph Scott Westerns Collection gathers up four really good ones for a September release:

Coroner Creek (1948) This tough Cinecolor picture from Ray Enright, based on a Luke Short novel, is one of Scott’s best pre-Boetticher Westerns. His character here is practically a prototype for the burned-out, obsessed guy we know from the Ranowns.

The Walking Hills (1949) is John Sturges’ first Western. Scott is joined by Ella Raines, Edgar Buchanan, Arthur Kennedy and folk singer Josh White. The crisp black and white location work in Death Valley is really something to see.

The Doolins Of Oklahoma (1949, above) comes from Gordon Douglas. George Macready, Louise Allbritton, John Ireland and Noah Beery Jr. are on hand. Douglas has Yakima Canutt on his second unit, and as you’d expect, the action scenes are excellent.

7th Cavalry (1956) comes up on this blog quite often, as we’ve warned each other about some lousy DVDs. It’s a Joseph H. Lewis cavalry picture in Technicolor and widescreen (1.85), with Barbara Hale, Jay C. Flippen, Frank Faylen, Leo Gordon, Denver Pyle, Harry Carey Jr. and Michael Pate. It’s not as strong as A Lawless Street (1955), Scott and Lewis’ previous collaboration, but the cast and director alone make it worthwhile. Cross your fingers that it’s presented 16×9.

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Picture 2

You’ve got till 4/6 at 11:59PM PST to head ’em off at the pass. Mount up!

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Sometimes the story of the making of a film can be better than the film itself. And sometimes the writer can’t really add much to the source material they’ve managed to dig up.

Roger Corman: “I did four Westerns, all distributed by AIP. Two of them were my ideas and two were AIP’s ideas — the titles alone will tell you which were which. The two that were my ideas were Five Guns West and Gunslinger (both 1956). The two that were AIP’s ideas were Apache Woman and The Oklahoma Woman (both 1955).”

Charles B Griffith: “Roger suggested a Western in which a sheriff dies trying to clean up a town and his widow carries out his work. That became Gunslinger, the first of many pictures I wrote for Roger.”

Corman: “Gunslinger was made around February 1956, just as LATSE and the studios renegotiated a five-day work week instead of six. So I decided to squeeze in one last low-budget, six-day western before the new contract went into effect.”

Beverly: “There were no frills on Roger’s pictures; you put up with a lot, but you were young and you laughed and you certainly weren’t anywhere close to being a star. You just believed that that’s how people worked… You were out there moving furniture with the grips and everybody else… There were no stars, there were no egos; we all did our thing and worked hard at it, and we all loved it and that’s what made these pictures work!”

Corman: “My brother Gene and I co-financed this movie. We had a lot at stake and not much money. Of course, the movie was a disaster from the beginning… The shooting was dismal. Rain. Overcast skies. Wind. It was so dark outside there was almost no exposure on the camera. You couldn’t see the background scenery in any of the shots, either. Sometimes I’d have to shoot an entire sequence with actors huddled under the overhead tarp.”

Beverly Garland: “The first scene we shot of Gunslinger was an unforgettable one. It was a love scene where John Ireland and I were leaning on this tree. It was 6:30 in the morning, we were colder than good God’s head and our teeth were chattering. When it was time to say our lines we somehow had to manage to stop the chattering. And as we started to do our love scene, these huge red ants began crawling all over us — so not only was it freezing cold, but these ants were biting the hell out of us! You can actually see the ants on us when you watch the film!”

Corman: “It rained five days out of six and it was the only time I ever went over schedule — I took seven days… I stretched a tarp over a makeshift stand and shot the actors beneath it, with the rain in the background… Whenever the sun broke through, I stopped whatever I was shooting and raced to set up some long shots from my list of priority exterior shots. The rain forced me to shoot almost everything in close-ups or medium close-ups. We rewrote exterior scenes for the interiors of the ranch’s buildings.”

Allison Hayes broke her arm and had to leave the set.

Corman: “Her horse slipped in the mud and she fell off and broke her arm. While we waited for a car to get down through the mud and take her to a hospital, I shot a reel of close-ups of Allison looking left, looking right, and so on… I’d have to finish her scenes with a double and this was my only chance to get some close-ups of her. I’d figure out later how to cut them in.”

Beverly Garland: “I always wondered if Allison broke her arm just to get off the picture and out of the rain.”

Miss Garland didn’t come out of the picture unscathed.

Beverly Garland: “I was supposed to come running out of a saloon, get on a horse and ride out of town as fast as I could, I looked at this horse, and it was quite large! And I said to myself, the only thing I can do is make a flying leap and get on him and go. So I come out of the saloon, down the stairs and I leap — and over the horse I go! I went right over the side of the horse! Roger said, “Okay, let’s do it again.” Oh God, I thought! So I came running down the stairs again in those boots, and as I did my ankle just twisted underneath me and I sprained it badly — but I managed to get on the horse! When I went home that night I thought it would feel so good to put my ankle in a warm bath, so I did — and I left it there for about an hour. And the next day, my ankle was about twice its normal size! And I had to work! This was toward the end of the picture, so I couldn’t be replaced, and practically all the remaining scenes were fight scenes — you know, all the prostitutes, getting them out of town and such. Somebody had to drive me to work. When I got there, Roger looked at it and said, “Well, we have to start shooting.” Naturally, Roger! You could be dead and Roger would prop you up in a chair! So I said, “All right, what do we do? There’s no way I can walk.” I couldn’t even get my boot on! So Roger agreed then to call a doctor, and the doctor brought this giant novocaine needle. They shot the novocaine into the bone, which was the most painful thing… But then I felt marvelous! So they took the boot and split it in the back and taped it on my foot, and I worked all day. I did all the fight scenes, and I ran and jumped and did whatever — and I couldn’t walk for a week after that! I had screwed up my ankle so bad!”

Corman: “It was one of the worst experiences of my life.”

Beverly Garland: “Of all my films for Roger Corman, Gunslinger is my favorite. The picture was made under miserable conditions… there was rain, it was cold, and I injured my ankle. But I loved the part; I loved playing the sheriff and I loved working with John Ireland. Everybody tells me how much they love It Conquered The World or Not Of This Earth; they’re OK, but I like to get down and dirty. In Gunslinger, I had some good fights, I got to wear pants, I got to carry a gun — I got to be the sheriff!”

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SOURCES: How I Made A Hundred Movies in Hollywood And Never Lost A Dime by Roger Corman & Jim Jerome; The Films Of Roger Corman by Ed Naha; The World Of Roger Corman by J. Philip di Franco; Fast And Furious: The Story of AIP by Mark Thomas McGee; I Was A Monster Maker by Tom Weaver; Filmfax #46; and Scarlet Street #10

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