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Archive for the ‘MGM’ Category



Directed by Anthony Mann
Written by Sam Rolfe & Harold Jack Bloom
Director Of Photography: William Mellor
Film Editor: George White
Music by Bronisław Kaper

Cast: James Stewart (Howard Kemp, Janet Leigh (Lina Patch), Robert Ryan (Ben Vandergroat), Ralph Meeker (Roy Anderson), Millard Mitchell (Jesse Tate)

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As great as The Naked Spur (1953) is, and even with Warner Archive’s incredible track record, I didn’t have high hopes for this Blu-Ray. Boy, was I wrong.

Anthony Mann’s The Naked Spur is certainly one of the finest Westerns ever made, but it’s been one of the most consistently terrible-looking great movies on home video. From VHS to laserdisc to DVD, the Technicolor palette was muted and the picture itself way too soft. What was supposed to be sharp and vibrant looked like a pastel — in other words, it never stopped looking like VHS. Pair all that with the sad economics of home video these days — that the demand for older films hardly justifies the expense of a major restoration, and you can see why I wasn’t expecting the gorgeous presentation we can thank Warner Archive for today. 

But enough on that (for now).

The Naked Spur was the third of the Anthony Mann-James Stewart Westerns, coming after Winchester ’73 (1950) and Bend Of The River (1952). The Far Country (1954) and Man From Laramie (1955) would follow. This was a cinematic hot streak that will probably never be equaled.

The entire cast of The Naked Spur: (L-R) Millard Mitchell, Robert Ryan, Janet Leigh, Ralph Meeker, James Stewart.

Howard Kemp (Stewart) is bringing in Ben Vandergroat (Robert Ryan) to stand trial for murder. Vandergroat is accompanied by his girl, Lina Patch (Janet Leigh). Along for the ride are a prospector (Millard Mitchell) and a dishonorably discharged Cavalryman (Ralph Meeker). At first, folks think Stewart’s a lawman — with the knowledge that he’s a bounty hunter and there’s $5,000 at the end of the trail, things change. Mitchell and Meeker want a share of the reward — and they know how to make that piece of the pie a bit bigger. Vandergroat sees all this, and he starts working at everyone to create a chance to get away.

I’m not going any further than that. Don’t want to spoil anything.

Anthony Mann and Janet Leigh on location.

Stewart’s his usual torn, tormented, edgy Mann-picture cowboy in this one — he needs the reward to buy back his ranch. Ryan is at his best as the manipulative, slimy-but-somehow-charming Vandergroat. Ralph Meeker has maybe the best scumbag role of his career — he plays almost the entire picture with a sneer. Millard Mitchell would only make one more movie; he died of lung cancer not too long after this. And Janet Leigh is just perfect. She’s totally believable as an easy target for Ryan who slowly sees him for the murderous sociopath he really is. Much of the picture’s considerable tension comes from these characters.

The Naked Spur seems like a prototype for the Scott-Boetticher Westerns that would come a few years later: the small cast, the tightness, the tone, the incredible use of the landscape, the male lead who’s trying to right a wrong or live something down, the charismatic or even likable villain, etc. I’m not suggesting, not for a second, that Burt Kennedy and Budd Boetticher were ripping Mann off. It’s just a particular type of Western that really worked well in the 50s. Some of my all-time favorite movies fit this pattern.

Now back to the Blu-Ray. Many of y’all out there had an understandable wait-and-see approach to this one. I’m happy to report you can proceed with complete confidence — this is one of the most significant upgrades I’ve seen from DVD to Blu-Ray. The care that went into this is obvious in every frame.

It’s a near perfect transfer of three-strip Technicolor — the color and sharpness are impeccable. It’s clean without signs of noise reduction. The sound has a nice range to it and the extras from the old DVD  — a Pete Smith Specialty, Tex Avery’s Little Johnny Jet (1953) and the trailer — have been brought over.

The Naked Spur is certainly one of the best classic films to hit Blu-Ray this year. It’s so nice to see it get the attention it so richly deserves — especially William Mellor’s incredible outdoor Technicolor work. Absolutely essential.

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Directed by Anthony Mann
Starring James Stewart, Janet Leigh, Robert Ryan, Ralph Meeker, Millard Mitchell

Mann and Stewart’s third Western, coming after Winchester ’73 (1950) and Bend Of The River (1952), has been screaming for some restoration work for quite some time. Warner Archive has announced a Blu-Ray release for September. Can’t wait to see what they’ve done with it.

These Mann-Stewart pictures are certainly among the best Westerns ever made. Beyond that, it comes down to your personal preference.

I’ll post the technical details as they become available. This one’s as essential as they get.

Love that poster art by Gustav Rehberger.

Thanks to Paula for the tip.

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Directed by John Sturges
Written by Michael Pate
Phillip Rock
Frank Fenton
Music by Jeff Alexander
Cinematography: Robert L. Surtees
Film Editor: George Boemler

Cast: William Holden (Captain Roper), Eleanor Parker (Carla Forester), John Forsythe (Captain John Marsh), William Demarest (Campbell), William Campbell (Cabot Young), Polly Bergen (Alice Owens), Richard Anderson (Lieutenant Beecher), Carl Benton Reid (Colonel Owens), John Lupton (Bailey), Forrest Lewis, Howard McNear, Glenn Strange

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Director John Sturges made lots of really good movies, but he had a real thing for Westerns. One of his earliest was Escape From Fort Bravo (1953). It’s now available on Blu-Ray from Warner Archive.

It’s the Civil War. William Holden is a captain at Fort Bravo, a Union prison camp filled with Confederate soldiers (John Forsythe, William Demarest, William Campbell). There are Mescalero Apaches outside the walls of the fort and Confederate spies (Eleanor Parker, Howard McNear) inside. The spies help Forsythe mount an escape, and Holden heads out after them.

It all comes to a head when Holden, Parker and the recaptured prisoners are pinned down in a dry creek bed by who-knows-how-many Apaches.

To tell you much more might get in the way of Sturges’ finely-crafted suspense. The last reel of this thing is as good as anything Sturges ever did. It’s terrific.

Quite a few 50s Westerns made good use of the climactic pinned-down-by-Indians thing. A few that come to mind are Apache Drums (1951), Dakota Incident (1956) and Dragoon Wells Massacre (1958).

Holden is really good as the hard-nosed captain. He was an avid outdoorsman, and it looks like he’s in his element here. Eleanor Parker makes a good spy, and she’s beautiful in both an evening gown and leather jacket. William Demarest and William Campbell have some good, well-written scenes together. And it’s great to see Howard McNear, Floyd from The Andy Griffith Show, as a Confederate spy. Where things get a little wonky is in the middle — the romantic scenes between Holden and Parker seem like a studio-dictated addition. They slow the movie down as it makes its way to its tight conclusion. (Sturges was never all that adept with the mushy stuff.) Of course, the thrilling final attack makes up for it.

Escape From Fort Bravo was one of the first pictures shot in the Ansco Color process. It’s no Technicolor, or even Eastmancolor, but it gets the job done. It was John Sturges’ first color film, period. It was shot in Death Valley, Gallop, New Mexico, Corriganville and the MGM backlot in April and May of 1953. The great Robert Surtees was the cinematographer. There was talk at one time of the picture being shot in 3-D. It was not, with MGM making it an early widescreen release instead. In some places, it played in three-track stereophonic sound.

Warner Archive’s Blu-Ray is a marked improvement over the DVD. Here, we get the original widescreen (1.75) and a surprisingly vivid look at Ansco Color’s pastel shades. Like so many stereo movies from the early 50s, the original directional tracks are probably long gone. The mono sound, however, is clean and clear.

Escape From Fort Bravo has everything going for it. A great cast. Meticulous direction. Incredible location photography, in color. And now it has a Blu-Ray that really does all that justice. Highly, highly recommended.

Of course, John Sturges would make another POW escape film, The Great Escape, in 1963. By the way, he was trying to get that one off the ground while Escape From Fort Bravo was being put together. It took him 10 years to get The Great Escape to the screen.

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Directed by John Sturges
Starring William Holden, Eleanor Parker, John Forsythe, William Demarest, William Campbell, Polly Bergen, Howard McNear, Glenn Strange

Warner Archive is working their Blu-Ray magic on John Sturges’ Escape From Fort Bravo (1953), a taut, suspenseful picture starring William Holden and Eleanor Parker.

Shot in Anscocolor, I’m looking forward to what WAC can do with it. Escape From Fort Bravo was originally shown in 1.66, just as the widescreen era was cranking up. But don’t let this make the movie sound like just a technical curio — it’s a damn good 50s Western. Highly recommended.

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Directed by Anthony Mann (and Charles Walters)
Starring Glenn Ford, Maria Schell, Anne Baxter, Arthur O’Connell, Russ Tamblyn, Mercedes McCambridge, Vic Morrow, Robert Keith, Charles McGraw, Aline MacMahon, Harry Morgan, Edgar Buchanan

Warner Archive is bringing MGM’s sprawling 1960 version of Edna Ferber’s Cimarron to Blu-Ray. Anthony Mann directed about half of it, leaving after a series of disagreements with the producer, Edmund Grainger. The big Land Rush sequence is incredible and makes this Blu-Ray something to spring for.

While you could certainly argue that Mann was better suited to smaller films like Raw Deal (1948) or Bend Of The River (1952), Cimarron would see him head in an epic direction — his next pictures being El Cid and The Fall of the Roman Empire.

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The_Daily_Times_News_Tue__Feb_11__1969_Directed by Victor Fleming
Starring Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Leslie Howard, Olivia de Haviland, Thomas Mitchell, Hattie McDaniel, Ward Bond, Yakima Canutt

The Graham Cinema in Graham, North Carolina is running Gone With The Wind (1939) at various times April 28 – May 2.

Sunday, April 28
2:00 PM & 7:00 PM

Monday – Thursday, April 29 – May 2
7:00 PM

They ad above was run when the Graham Cinema featured Gone With The Wind back in 1969.

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Written and directed by Blake Edwards
Starring William Holden, Ryan O’Neal, Karl Malden, Lynn Carlin, Tom Skerritt, Joe Don Baker, James Olson, Leora Dana, Moses Gunn, Victor French, Rachel Roberts, Sam Gilman

Warner Archive is bringing Blake Edwards’ wonderful The Wild Rovers (1971) to Blu-Ray. Philip Lathrop’s photography deserves nothing less.

This is another one of those movies mangled by its studio — MGM cut about half an hour out of it without Edwards’ knowledge. This Blu-Ray (like the previous DVD) will be Edwards’ longer cut, which rights MGM’s wrongs.

William Holden is so good in this. And it makes an interesting companion piece to his work in Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch (1969) — these are two of the best films ever done about the changing West.

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Directed by Richard Brooks
Starring Robert Taylor, Farley Granger, Lloyd Nolan, Debra Paget, Russ Tamblyn

Warner Archive has announced an upcoming Blu-Ray release of The Last Hunt (1956). It’s one of the harshest Westerns of the 1950s — you could make a strong case that it’s one of the best. The buffalo hunting scenes — filmed during the thinning of the herd in South Dakota — will stay with you for a while, that’s for sure. And Robert Taylor is chilling.

Can’t wait for this to hit Blu-Ray. Highly, highly recommended.

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The music label Cherry Red out of the UK has released (or is about to release) a 3-CD set Music From The Westerns Of John Wayne And John Ford. Featuring music from Stagecoach (1939), Fort Apache (1948), Three Godfathers (1948), She Wore A Yellow Ribbon (1949), Rio Grande (1950), The Searchers (1956), Horse Soldiers (1959) and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962). Of course, music is always a huge part of a John Ford picture, so there’s plenty of good stuff here.

Sometimes it’s the original soundtrack (Rio Grande, Horse Soldiers), sometimes it’s from other sources. You can see a track listing here. This promises to be a very cool set. Can’t wait.

Thanks to Mr. Richard Vincent for the tip.

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Directed by Stanley Donen
Starring Jane Powell, Howard Keel, Jeff Richards, Russ Tamblyn, Julie Newmar

I’ve been wondering when this one would show up on Blu-Ray. Well, it’s coming later this year from Warner Archive. I’m not a huge fan of movie musicals, but the ones I like, I really like. This is as good as they get, folks.

It was an early CinemaScope picture, in Ansco color (which MGM also used for Escape From Fort Bravo). A flat version was also shot, but according to some, never played theaters (even though it’s been available on video). I’m really looking forward to seeing how this looks on Blu-Ray.

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