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Archive for the ‘Panamint’ Category

Canyon Passage DJ

Directed by Jacques Tourneur
Produced by Walter Wanger
Screenplay by Ernest Pascal
Adapted from the Saturday Evening Post story by Ernest Haycox
Director Of Photography: Edward Cronjager
Film Editor: Milton Carruth

Cast: Dana Andrews (Logan Stuart), Brian Donlevy (George Camrose), Susan Hayward (Lucy Overmire), Patricia Roc (Caroline Marsh), Ward Bond (Honey Bragg), Hoagy Carmichael (Hi Linnet), Fay Holden (Mrs. Overmire), Stanley Ridges (Jonas Overmire), Lloyd Bridges (Johnny Steele), Andy Devine (Ben Dance), the Devine Kids, Frank Ferguson, Ray Teal

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There seems to be a general consensus around here that Canyon Passage (1946) is a damn good Western, typically fine work from Jacques Tourneur, and a picture that has been unjustly overlooked over the years. We also tend to agree that the DVD from Universal is a terrific example of how to present three-strip Technicolor on our hi-def TVs. So much so, that a few folks have commented that they couldn’t imagine how much difference a Blu-ray upgrade would make.

Well, the new Blu-ray from Panamint offers up a stunning example of just what Blu-ray can do — that beautiful transfer of Edward Cronjager’s Technicolor photography is, well, even more beautiful than it was before. Sharper, crisper, more detailed — and with a real sense of depth. After viewing this, the old DVD seems way too bright by comparison. The extras — from newsreel footage of the premiere to a series of radio shows to a nice booklet on the film — really make this a premium package.

Patricia Roc and Jacques Tourneur

Patricia Roc and Jacques Tourneur

Then there’s the movie itself. Director Jacques Tourneur’s first Western, and his first time working in Technicolor, Canyon Passage is a big, beautiful, complex tale of the Oregon territory in 1856. Dana Andrews runs a freight business and winds up in a love triangle with Susan Hayward and Brian Donlevy — while dealing with both Indians and a positively evil Ward Bond.

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Ward Bond and Dana Andrews duke it out

It’d be easy for Canyon Passage to get bogged down in melodrama, but Tourneur’s too smart for that. He treats us to incredible vistas of the Oregon locations (Crater Lake is one of them), gets top-notch performances from the entire cast and offers up a great fistfight between Andrews and Bond. Bond deserves special mention: he’s a real scumbag in this one, a sharp contrast to roles that came later like Wagon Master (1950) and The Searchers (1956).

Jacques Tourneur came to this film with some classic horror movies under his belt — Cat People (1942) and I Walked With A Zombie (1943), and he’d follow it with one of the finest noirs, Out Of The Past (1947). Tourneur’s body of work is certainly worth seeking out. Case in point: his other Westerns include Stars In My Crown (1950) and Wichita (1955).

It’s easy to recommend Canyon Passage — both the film and Panamint’s high-definition, Region B presentation of it. It takes a good thing and makes it better.

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Directed by Jacques Tourneur
Starring Dana Andrews, Brian Donlevy, Susan Hayward, Patricia Roc, Hoagy Carmichael, Ward Bond, Andy Devine, Lloyd Bridges

Here’s a good one coming from the fine folks at Panamint Cinema — Jacques Tourneur’s first Western, Canyon Passage (1946).

This has been available elsewhere for a while, but this will be a great opportunity to experience its eye-popping Technicolor in high definition.Remember what a great job Panamint did with Abilene Town (1946)? Watch for it in July.  Highly recommended.

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Abile Town signed still

First, thanks to everyone who sent in their picks — we had a larger turnout this year. Your responses were very thorough, and they made it clear to me what a good year this was for 50s Westerns on DVD and Blu-ray — you brought up tons of em. Here are the Top 10, ordered by the number of votes they received.

Abilene Town (1946, Blu-ray, Panamint Cinema)
This one topped the list in a big way. I was so stoked to see this fairly obscure Randolph Scott picture rescued from the PD purgatory where it’s been rotting for years — a lot of you seemed to feel the same. Mastered from 35mm fine-grain material, it’s stunning.

Shane (1953, Blu-ray, Eureka)
The Blu-ray release from Paramount made last year’s list, and this UK release was a strong contender this time around. Eureka gives us the opportunity to see what Paramount’s controversial 1.66 cropping looked like.

The Wild Bill Elliott Western Collection (1951-54, DVD set, Warner Archive)
I’m pretty biased when it comes to this one, and I was happy to learn that others were as pleased with it as I was. One of the greatest Western stars goes out on a high note, even if it is a low-budget one.

The Quiet Gun (1956, Blu-ray, Olive Films)
It’s hard to believe this was a 2015 release, since it was on Olive Films’ coming-soon list for such a long time. These Regalscope movies look great in their original aspect ratio, and for my money, this is the best of the bunch.

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Woman They Almost Lynched (1953, Blu-ray, Olive Films)
It makes me feel good to see Allan Dwan get some attention, and stellar presentations of his work, like this one, should continue to fuel his (re-)discovery.

Man With The Gun (1955, Blu-ray, Kino Lorber)
A solid Robert Mitchum Western, with the added punch of a terrific 1.85 hi-def transfer. This is a lot better movie than you probably remember it being.

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Run Of The Arrow (1957, DVD, Warner Archive)
This really knocked me out — I’d somehow missed out on what a great movie this is. It took me a while to get used to Rod Steiger and his affected accent, but this is prime Sam Fuller.

The Hired Gun (1957, DVD, Warner Archive)
Black and white CinemaScope is a big attraction for me, so I’d been waiting for this one for years. It was worth the wait.

Stranger At My Door (1954, Blu-ray, Olive Films)
A really cool little movie from Republic and William Witney. It was Witney’s favorite of his own pictures, and it’s pretty easy to see why he’d be partial to it. His work here is masterful.

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Star In The Dust (1956, Blu-ray, Koch)
Koch out of Germany is treating us (or those of us with a Region B player) to some great Universal 50s Westerns on Blu-ray. This one was released in Universal’s 2.0 ratio of the period. Some found it a bit tight, but it’s a gorgeous presentation of a movie not enough people have seen.

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Directed by Phillip Borsos
Starring Richard Farnsworth, Jackie Burroughs

Working in video stores in college, I used to push The Grey Fox (1982) off on anybody I could. “You liked Beverly Hills Cop? Then you’ll love this!” I’m happy to say that almost everyone I persuaded to take home the old Media VHS tape ended up liking it.

I’m so happy it’s coming to Blu-ray (region free!) from Panamint Cinema, folks I’m sure will treat it right. It remains one of my favorite films of the 80s, a decade that didn’t knock me out movie-wise. Panamint lists the release date as November 16. Highly, highly recommended!

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Directed by Edwin L. Marin
Produced by Jules Levey
Screen play by Harold Shumate
From the novel “Trail Town” by Ernest Haycox
Director Of Photography: Archie J. Stout, ASC
Film Editor: Richard Heermance

Cast: Randolph Scott (Marshal Dan Mitchell), Ann Dvorak (Rita), Edgar Buchanan (Bravo Trimble), Rhonda Fleming (Sherry Balder), Lloyd Bridges (Henry Dreiser), Helen Boice (Big Annie), Howard Freeman (Ed Balder), Richard Hale (Charlie Fair), Jack Lambert (Jet Younger), Dick Curtis (Ryker), Earl Schenck (Hazelhurst), Eddie Waller (Hannaberry), Hank Patterson (Doug Neil)

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After World War II, Randolph Scott would create a persona that would carry him through the rest of his career (he played his last non-Western role in 1947) and make him one of the Western’s true icons. He wore his age very, very well, and it gave him the kind of authority you find in Wayne or Cooper or Stewart.

At the same time Scott was maturing, so was the Western itself — and that maturity marks the 50s Westerns we’re so enamored of around here. Abilene Town (1946) shows both of these shifts, Scott’s and the Western’s, toward something more complex and a little darker.

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Just a few years after the Civil War, Abilene, Kansas, is a town divided, literally. On one side of the street are the merchants and homesteaders, and on the other side, the saloonkeepers, gamblers and dance hall girls. In the middle stands Marshal Dan Mitchell (Randolph Scott). There’s a range war brewing, with the homesteaders laying down stakes to build a real community and the ranchers wanting to keep the range, and the saloons, open.

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Of course, the rancher-settler conflict forms the backbone of many, many Westerns. This time around, there’s a lot of human nature woven into that familiar plot-line — the townspeople are reluctant to actually do anything about their situation, in a way that would become more common in the 50s. It’s certainly lighter here than what would come later, which provides a good role for Edgar Buchanan as an ineffective sheriff. Ann Dvorak gets plenty of screen time, and a number of songs, as Scott’s saloon-singer girlfriend. Lloyd Bridges and Rhonda Fleming get early roles. And Jack Lambert is at his creepy best.

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Edwin L. Marin’s direction is very assured, and the action scenes are very well done.

Abilene Town is in the public domain, and when it turns up on TV or on DVD at the dollar store, it invariably looks terrible. Soft, washed-out, spliced-up — just plain lousy. For that reason, I’d never seen it all the way through. The new region-free Blu-ray from Panamint Cinema, mastered from a 35mm fine grain print courtesy of the BFI National Archive, is a revelation. There’s a sound glitch or two, and changeover cues are visible, but those are welcome reminders that you’re watching a movie. I miss such things. Archie Stout’s cinematography is just incredible — it’s hard to believe this is the same movie I’ve given up on so many times over the years. We all owe a big thanks to Russell Cowe at Panamint Cinema for seeing this one through — a movie that has been almost unwatchable for decades now shines like a diamond. Abilene Town is ripe for reappraisal and this Blu-ray should make it happen. Essential.

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Directed by Roy (Ward) Baker
Produced by William Bloom
Written by Francis M. Cockrell
Director Of Photography: Lucian Ballard
Music by Paul Sawtell

Cast:Robert Ryan (Donald Whitley Carson III), Rhonda Fleming (Geraldine Carson), William Lundigan (Joseph Duncan), Henry Hull (Sam Elby), Larry Keating (Dave Emory), Carl Betz (Lt. Mike Platt), Robert Burton (Sheriff), Barbara Pepper

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Inferno (1953) isn’t a Western. But it’s got enough of our usual stuff in it — cast, crew, locations, etc. — to seem like a pretty good fit. Truthfully, I just wanted to write about it, celebrate director Roy Ward Baker and lift up Panamint Cinema’s fine work in bringing it to DVD and Blu-ray.

3-D never saved a crappy movie, and how much it enhances a film comes down to personal taste (to me, if it’s not perfectly presented, it’s a huge distraction). None of that is an issue with Inferno, because it’s a terrific “desert noir” picture — and director Roy Baker and cinematographer Lucian Ballard use the 3-D very, very well. (Have you noticed that watching a 3-D movie flat tends to show off how gimmick-y it is? Fort Ti, for instance.)

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Robert Ryan is a tough, drunken business tycoon no one seems all that fond of. When he breaks his leg horseback riding in the Mojave, his wife (Rhonda Fleming) and her new lover (William Lundigan) decide to leave him there to die — they’re not killing him, they’re just not saving him. Sounds like a perfect plan. Only they didn’t figure Ryan would sober up, patch up his leg and start making his way back to civilization.

The picture goes back and forth between Ryan’s trek through the desert and Fleming and Lundigan’s attempts to fake their way through the rescue efforts. Ryan plays his part largely without dialogue — we hear his thoughts as narration — and he’s very, very good. (As if I had to tell you that.)

Roy Baker: “I had always had an ambition to make a picture in which the leading character spends long periods alone on the screen, where the interest would be in what he does, rather than what he says.”*

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Fleming and Lundigan are good, too. As the movie progresses, their paranoia and stress levels escalate. You just know it’s going to fall apart. It’s to the credit of everyone involved that our sympathy shifts from scene to scene — and in how satisfying it is when Fate takes over in the last reel.

Director Roy (Ward) Baker was a master, and today, nobody seems to know who he is. He enjoyed a widely-varied career, bouncing from features to TV, from genre to genre, and from the US to the UK with ease. He got a great performance out of Marilyn Monroe in Don’t Bother To Knock (1952), directed some great episodes of The Avengers, made one of the best Hammer films, Five Million Miles To Earth (1968, known in the UK as Quatermass And The Pit), and gave us one of the most impossibly-great, damned-near perfect movies I’ve ever seen, A Night To Remember (1958).

His use of depth in Inferno is subtle but very effective, and he was proud of his work on the picture. A falling rock or two, a chair thrown toward the camera — that’s about it as far as the showy stuff goes. The rocks and cactus provide plenty of opportunities to play around with depth in a more natural way. He and Lucian Ballard work wonders with light and color to create the intensity of the desert. The movie looks really hot — though it was shot in the winter. (Budd Boetticher and Sam Peckinpah also lured Ballard and his cameras into the desert for pictures like Buchanan Rides Alone and The Wild Bunch.)

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The supporting cast is a good one. Henry Hull is great as the old prospector who comes to Ryan’s aid. Larry Keating, who’s wonderful on The George Burns And Gracie Allen Show, is Ryan’s business associate, and he doesn’t seem all that upset, or surprised, that his partner’s gone missing. And Barbarba Pepper, Mrs. Ziffel on Green Acres, turns up as a waitress.

They say that back in the 90s, a British retrospective on Baker was reduced to running a 16mm TV print of Inferno. Luckily, Bob Furmanek of The 3-D Film Archive tracked down 35mm Technicolor prints of both the left and right sides — which this incredible region-free Blu-ray comes from (transferred by Dan Symmes). The picture is stunning at times, sharp as a tack with vivid color and just the right amount of grain. It looks exactly like what it is — a nice 35mm dye-transfer Technicolor print. This was an early stereo picture, but there’s only mono here. Bet the stereo masters are long gone. I wasn’t able to watch the 3-D version, which would have to be impressive since it comes from the same material. There’s a healthy batch of extras, from trailers to an interview with the great Rhonda Fleming.

Inferno comes highly, highly recommended — both the movie and this beautiful Blu-ray. And I’d like to thank Bob Furmanek of The 3-D Film Archive and Russell Cowe of Panamint Cinema for getting it out there.

Sources: *Director’s Cut: A Memoir of 60 Years in Film by Roy Ward Baker; Blu-ray liner notes

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