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Archive for the ‘Kit Parker’ Category

Produced and Directed by William J. Hole, Jr.
Written by James Edmiston and Dallas Gaultois
Cinematography: John M. Nickolaus, Jr.
Music by Alec Compinsky

Cast: James Craig (Tom Sabin), Martha Vickers (Mary Hoag), Edgar Buchanan (Dipper), Brett Halsey (Johnny Naco), Paul Richards (Hoag), Richard Martin (Quijano), Blu Wright (Farmer Brown), John Swift (Zodie Dawes), Paul Raymond (Bartender)

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One of my favorite things about early CinemaScope pictures: those long takes. If the Scope picture is a cheap one, with setups kept to a minimum to save money, then you can count on even more long takes. And that brings us to Four Fast Guns (1959). It’s a cheap little B&W Scope Western released by Universal-International.

The premise is terrific. A town tamer is on his way to Purgatory when he comes across Tom Sabin (James Craig). Sabin ends up gunning the guy down, then rides on to Purgatory and takes on the town tamer job. Purgatory’s run by Hoag (Paul Richards), who owns the saloon — he’s who the townspeople want “tamed.” Hoag writes to three notorious gunmen, offering each $1,000 to kill Sabin. (He even asks Sabin to mail the letters!) All three show up, and all three end up locking horns with Sabin. When the last fast gun, Johnny Naco (Brett Halsey), turns out to be Sabin’s brother — and Hoag’s wife Mary (Martha Vickers) admits she’s in love with the town tamer, things get complicated. It all makes for an interesting 72 minutes.

James Craig does a good job in his take on the world-weary gunfighter. This is a common theme in 50s Westerns, of course — ranging from Gregory Peck in The Gunfighter (1950) to Fred MacMurray in Face Of A Fugitive (1959). Not a lot of time goes into the relationship between the Sabin brothers, but it’s well done. It’s another angle you see quite a bit in these films — Night Passage and Fury At Showdown (both 1957), for instance.

Four Fast Guns was Martha Vickers’ last feature. I’ll never forget her in The Big Sleep (1946). She’d do a couple episodes of The Rebel, then retire. Her scenes with Craig are well done. Mary’s love for Sabin doesn’t come out of the blue. It actually makes sense, thanks to the performances and the script from James Edmiston and Dallas Gaultois.

It was a unique idea to put Hoag in a wheelchair, and it’s great to see Richard Martin, as one of the fast guns, do a serious take on his Chito character from the Tim Holt pictures. Edgar Buchanan is as dependable as ever as Dipper, who serves as Sabin’s makeshift deputy. His character could’ve easily become a liability, but he keeps things in check most of the time.

John M. Nickolaus, Jr. shot Four Fast Guns. He also shot a few Regalscope pictures, including Showdown At Boot Hill and Desert Hell (both 1958), so he certainly knew his way around B&W Scope. (The House Of The Damned, a cheap haunted house picture that Nickolaus shot for Maury Dexter, is worth seeking out.) The bulk of Nickolaus’ career was spent in TV, shooting many episodes of Gunsmoke, Perry Mason, The Outer Limits and more. The blocking of scenes within the wide frame, bringing real life to those long takes, is very effective.

Four Fast Guns is usually listed as a 1960 picture. But it played at the Palms Theatre in Detroit (with 4D Man) in December of 1959. Released by Universal-International, it was often paired with Operation Petticoat (1959).

I love cheap movies like this, where talent and ingenuity make or break the picture. (Today’s budget-equals-quality approach to cinema is why I rarely go to the movies anymore.) Four Fast Guns is available on DVD from Kit Parker Films and VCI Entertainment in two ways — first as part of their Darn Good Westerns set, then as a standalone DVD. Either way, it looks terrific and comes highly recommended. (I’d love to see it make its way to Blu-Ray.)

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L-R: Maury Dexter, Mara Corday, Jody McCrea on the set of The Hanging Judge, which was released as Naked Gun (1956).

Maury Dexter
June 12, 1929 – May 29, 2017

Maury Dexter was an extremely nice man. He didn’t know me from Adam, but after an introduction from Kit Parker, he spent hours telling me all about how Lippert, Regal and AIP operated — and how he fit into the operation. Being that I’m kinda obsessed with the Regalscope Westerns, I was in movie geek heaven.

Mr. Dexter worked as an assistant director on Little House On The Prairie for much of the show’s run (when Michael Landon died, Maury decided it was time to retire), so knowing him helped me score plenty of cool points with my daughter.

A friend and I helped Maury put together his memoirs. It’s a fun read, and I’m honored to have played a tiny part in getting it out there. He covers his childhood, stint in the military and Hollywood career — which includes everything from acting in a Three Stooges short to working for Lippert during the Regalscope years to directing The Mini-Skirt Mob to being a key member of Michael Landon’s production team.

After we got the memoirs finished, Maury’d call me up every so often just to say hello. I’d have a question about Frontier Gun or something, and we’d end up talking movies for quite a while. And you all know how much fun that is.

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Rawhide Trail HS

Help Kit Parker track down this movie, and you’re doing us all a favor.

The Rawhide Trail (1958) is the only picture Kit Parker Films has the rights to that he has no material for. It’s an Allied Artists Western starring Rex Reason and Nancy Gates, and I’m sure we’d all like a chance to see it. It was shot by the great Karl Struss, who did everything from Chaplin’s The Great Dictator (1940) to The Alligator People (1959), at the Iverson Ranch.

So, if you have a print stashed under your bed, or if one of your film-collector buddies does, please let Kit know — you can reach him through me.

Wouldn’t it be great to check another 50s Western off the MIA on DVD list?

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