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Archive for the ‘Monogram/Allied Artists’ Category

Tall Stranger ad

Directed by Tomas Carr
Produced by Walter Mirisch
Screenplay by Christopher Knopf
From a story by Louis L’Amour
Director Of Photography: Wilfred M. Cline, ASC
Music by Hans J. Salter
Film Editor: William Austin, ACE

Cast: Joel McCrea (Ned Bannon), Virginia Mayo (Ellen), Barry Kelley (Hardy Bishop), Michael Ansara (Zarata), Whit Bissell (Judson), James Dobson (Dud), George Neise (Mort Harper), Adam Kennedy (Red), Michael Pate (Charley), Leo Gordon (Stark), Ray Teal (Cap), Philip Phillips (Will), Robert Foulk (Pagones), Jennifer Lea (Mary)

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In many ways, The Tall Stranger (1957) is just another late-50s CinemaScope Western from Allied Artists — a straightforward, low-budget picture boosted by a cast full of familiar faces. But this one’s got more going for it than that. It offers up a re-teaming of Joel McCrea and Virginia Mayo from Raoul Walsh’s terrific Colorado Territory (1949). And while The Tall Stranger won’t knock the Walsh movie off your list of favorites, it has plenty to recommend it.

Tall Stranger LC5

The relationships between brothers, often strained or on opposite sides of the law, was a popular theme with Western screenwriters of the 50s, forming the basis for some of the decade’s finest cowboy pictures — often with some redemption worked in. (I’ll let you come up with your own list of examples.) Working from a short story by Louis L’Amour, The Tall Stranger is part of that sub-genre. Ned Bannon (Joel McCrea) and Hardy Bishop (Barry Kelley) are half-brothers who found themselves enemies in the Civil War. Now that the war has ended, Bishop (Conderate) sees Bannon (Union) as the reason his son was executed as one of Quantrill’s Raiders, and he’s vowed to see him dead. Bannon, on the other hand, has come to reconcile.

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Bannon’s traveling toward Bishop’s Valley with a wagon train, and along the way he’s grown fond of a widow (Mayo) and suspicious of the guides. It all comes together into a tangled-up mess — the settlers, McCrea’s brother’s cattle land, the scheming trail guides, etc. — and McCrea gets to sort it all out — and, of course, shoot people — as it makes its way to a satisfying conclusion.

Mayo Tall Stragner

Virginia Mayo: “I love Joel, but I didn’t want to be in the film. I thought the script was terrible.”

The script is a bit run-of-the-mill, and little is done to elevate it. Thomas Carr’s direction is missing the visual flair he and DP William Witley brought to Gunsmoke In Tucson (1958). The action scenes are passable, but there’s little momentum or tension in the scenes that tie them together. So what you’re left with, largely, is the appeal and chemistry of its two leads — which is still more than enough to make The Tall Stranger worth your time.

McCrea Tall Stranger

The Tall Stranger is not available on DVD or Blu-ray in the States. There is a transfer floating around that crops the 2.35 Scope image to fit our 16:9 TVs. It’s watchable, but crowded at times. While this isn’t McCrea or Mayo at their best, this picture deserves to be seen — the way it’s supposed to be seen.

Source: The Westerners by C. Courtney Joyner

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Arrow In The Dust HS

Directed by Lesley Selander
Produced by Hayes Goetz
Screenplay by Don Martin
Cinematography: Ellis W. Carter
Film Editor: William Austin

Cast: Sterling Hayden (Bart Laish), Coleen Gray (Christella Burke), Keith Larsen (Lt. Steve King), Tom Tully (Crowshaw), Jimmy Wakely (Pvt. Carqueville), Tudor Owen (Tillotson), Lee Van Cleef, Iron Eyes Cody

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With Arrow In The Dust (1954), Allied Artists seems to have splurged a little. With both Sterling Hayden and Coleen Gray in the cast, there’s a bit more star power than usual — and we’re treated to the vivid hues of Technicolor on the then-new wide screen. But this was made not long after Poverty Row’s Monogram Pictures made the transition to Allied Artists, so some of their typical B Movie trappings are very much in evidence. And that’s not a bad thing.

Sterling Hayden’s Bart Laish, a cavalry deserter who poses as an officer to lead a wagon train through Indian territory. And boy, do they need his help — the Indians attack the settlers and soldiers again and again (for reasons that become clear in the last reel).

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Along the way, Hayden is revealed as a solid leader and undergoes a real transformation (though we’re never given his reasons for deserting in the first place). Along with his redemption, he develops a relationship with Christella Burke (Coleen Gray), a woman heading west with the wagon train.

Arrow In The Dust still CG

Working with a crack team of stuntmen and a sizable amount of stock footage, Lesley Selander really piles on the action. And when it comes to action, Selander’s the guy you want in the director’s chair. While you may feel there’s little character development here, it seems to me that there’s quite a bit of it, given how much screen time is devoted to action. Hayden and Gray are as reliable as ever, rounding out their characters very well. Tom Tully, as an old scout, is also very good. Incidentally, Hayden and Gray (and Vince Edwards) would appear in Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing (1956). Think Kubrick and his team screened Arrow In The Dust during casting?

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Arrow In The Dust is no epic. No one’s ever gonna mistake it for one. But it’s a revelation to see its 1.85 framing (presented as a more TV-friendly 1.78) reinstated. And while the DVD from Warner Archive is the best I’ve seen the movie look, there are some problems — and I fear they come from the original material, not the transfer. The stock footage doesn’t match the rest of the film, which is a small gripe. The day-for-night scenes are painfully obvious, and I suspect the print material doesn’t reflect the lab work that went into first-run prints. And you’ll see some dust and scratches here and there.

Sterling Hayden’s performance really boosts Arrow In The Dust, and Lesley Selander’s command of action and pacing keep things moving toward a very satisfying conclusion (I’m a sucker for a redemption story and would watch a movie of Hayden brushing his teeth). This is a solid, if slightly cheap, mid-budget Western that’s certainly worth another look — especially given the improved picture quality and original framing. Recommended.

Laura’s already reviewed this one.

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Lesley_SelanderNext Thursday, April 9, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) will highlight director Lesley Selander by running nine of his films, three of them part of RKO’s excellent series of B Westerns starring Tim Holt (Gunplay is a very good one).

Arrow In The Dust (1954) stars Sterling Hayden and Coleen Gray. Tall Man Riding (1955) is a solid Randolph Scott picture. And The Lone Ranger And The Lost City Of Gold (1958) is the second TV spinoff feature to star Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels.

I’m a big fan of Lesley Selander. When it comes to action, he’s one of the best. It’s good to see him get this kind of attention. His films are short, smart, fast — and highly recommended.

Selander on TCM

The times listed are Eastern Standard Time. This is a “restoration” of a shorter post. Thanks to Blake for pointing out all I’d missed.

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Hired_Gun_3

Warner Archive has some great stuff promised for April.

The Hired Gun (1957)
Directed by Ray Nazarro
Starring Rory Calhoun, Anne Francis, Vince Edwards, Chuck Connors
This is one I’ve been wanting for a long time. Black and white Scope with Rory Calhoun and Anne Francis, directed by Ray Nazarro. What’s not to like?

Black Patch (1957)
Directed by Allen H. Miner
Starring George Montgomery, Diane Brewster, Tom Pittman, Leo Gordon, Lynn Cartwright
A solid Montgomery Western written by character actor Leo Gordon.

Arrow In The Dust HS

Arrow In The Dust (1954)
Directed by Lesley Selander
Starring Sterling Hayden, Coleen Gray, Jimmy Wakely, Lee Van Cleef
Hayden and Gray appear together a couple years before The Killing (1956), directed by the great Lesley Selander.

The Marauders (1955)
Directed by Gerald Mayer
Starring Dan Duryea, Jeff Richards, Keenan Wynn
Duryea as the bad guy gets first billing. Enough said.

Son Of Belle Starr (1953)
Directed by Frank McDonald
Starring Keith Larsen, Dona Drake, Peggie Castle, Regis Toomey
Peggie Castle and Regis Toomey in 70 minutes of Cinecolor from Allied Artists.

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Wild Bill Bitter Creek LC

Rumors of this one have been floating around for quite a while, but now it’s come from Warner Archive’s own Facebook page — so I feel safe passing it along. They’re working on a set of the 11 Westerns William Elliott made for Monogram (later Allied Artists) after leaving Republic. These were the Peaceable Man’s last cowboy pictures, and I’m a huge fan of them. The scripts, often by Daniel B. Ullman, and direction by the likes of Lewis Collins, along with the fact that the latter ones were shot to be shown 1.85, really take them up a notch — especially since the series Western was riding into the sunset by this time.

Hopefully, this collection will help raise their status among fans of these kinds of films. To me, they’re essential stuff. By the way, Elliott followed these pictures with a solid series of detective pictures (already served up by Warner Archive) before retiring.

Thanks to John Knight.

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bad men of tombstone

Directed by Kurt Neumann
Starring Barry Sullivan, Marjorie Reynolds, Broderick Crawford, Fortunio Bonanova, Guinn “Big Boy” Williams

We’ve know about this one for a while, but I’ve been meaning to give it a post all its own. Bad Men Of Tombstone (1949) will make its way to DVD from Warner Archive on April 7.

Kurt Neumann is probably best know for a handful of the Weissmuller Tarzan pictures and The Fly (1958, which he produced and directed). I’ve always found him a solid director, able to put every dollar of his limited budgets on the screen, and that certainly applies to his work on Bad Men Of Tombstone. Plus, I like Barry Sullivan in Westerns.

Coming at the same time from Warner Archive is Seven Angry Men (1955) and Black Midnight (1949).

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5 angry men LC

Directed by Charles Marquis Warren
Story and Screenplay by Daniel B. Ullman
Starring Raymond Massey, Debra Paget, Jeffrey Hunter, Larry Pennell, Leo Gordon, Dennis Weaver, Guy Williams

How can Seven Angry Men (1955) miss? Raymond Massey plays abolitionist John Brown (a role he’d already tackled on stage and in Santa Fe Trail). It was written by Daniel Ullman, who wrote a number of William Elliott’s Allied Artists pictures, among other things. It’s directed by Charles Marquis Warren, the same year he helped bring Gunsmoke to TV. And it’s got a supporting cast that includes Debra Paget, Jeffrey Hunter, Leo Gordon and a pre-Zorro Guy Williams.

It’s probably a lousy history lesson, but a great addition to the Allied Artists stuff available from Warner Archive. And it’s coming at the end of March.

Thanks for the tip, John.

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