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Archive for the ‘Paramount’ Category

Pony Express foreign LC

Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 10.33.41 AMGoogle is commemorating the 155th anniversary of the Pony Express with a nifty little snatch-the-mail-sacks-without-running-into-a-rock-or-a-cactus-or-an-outlaw video game and some links about the short-lived mail service. (Judging from this game, my daughter’d make a lot better Pony Express rider than I would.)

Nat Holt and Paramount beat Google to the punch by 62 years with Pony Express (1953), a cool Western with history re-written by Charles Marquis Warren. It stars Charlton Heston (as Buffalo Bill, who really rode for the Pony Express), Rhonda Fleming, Jan Sterling and Forrest Tucker (as Wild Bill Hickock). To get the mail through, Heston and Tucker have to contend with weather, Indians, outlaws and both Rhonda Fleming and Jan Sterling taking baths. The action scenes are really well done. Olive Films brought it out on DVD back in 2011.

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M&L Pardners record

Directed by Norman Taurog
Starring Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Agnes Moorehead, Lori Nelson, Jeff Morrow, Lon Chaney, Jr., Jack Elam, Lee Van Cleef, Bob Steele

Went to a screening of Rio Bravo (1959) over the weekend, and with Dean Martin on my mind, was thinking that it’s about time to revisit him and Jerry Lewis in Pardners (1956).

Soon got to wondering where I’d find a copy, since the old Martin & Lewis DVD sets are out of print and bringing collector-type prices. Well, I didn’t need to worry. Our friends at Warner Archive have released (today, in fact), the Best of Martin & Lewis Volumes 1 and 2. Pardners is in the second batch.

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Pardners would be the next-to-last picture Martin and Jerry Lewis made together. This photo seems to sum up their relationship at the time. (The battered record sleeve seems appropriate, too.)

It’s hard to really recommend these films, since people’s opinions of them fluctuate so much, especially where Lewis is concerned. Me, I like them and grew up catching them on TV whenever I could. (Artists And Models, which is in this same volume, might be my favorite of all their pictures.) Pardners‘ VistaVision photography should look terrific on our spiffy HDTVs.

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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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A blogger friend of mine did a year-end wrap-up of his favorite DVD releases of the year. I think a lot of my friend, and imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, I decided to steal his idea. Here’s my Top Five. Comment away!

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5. Ambush At Tomahawk Gap (1953, Columbia) The work of Fred F. Sears, a prolific director at Columbia, deserves a look, and this is a tough, tight little Western that nobody seems to remember. John Derek’s good and Ray Teal gets a sizable part.

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4. Randolph Scott Western Collection (Various, TCM/Sony) Four Columbia Scotts — Coroner Creek (1948), The Walking Hills (1949), The Doolins Of Oklahoma (1949) and 7th Cavalry (1956, above) — go a long way toward making all his 40s and 50s Westerns available on DVD.

GunsightRidge

3. Movies 4 You Western Classics (Various, Shout Factory) Four medium-budget 50s Westerns — Gun Belt (1953), The Lone Gun (1954), Gunsight Ridge (1957) and Ride Out For Revenge (1957) — for an amazing price.  I’d love to have a hundred sets like this.

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2. Shane (1953, Paramount) There was so much controversy about the aspect ratio — the studio-imposed 1.66 vs. the original 1.33 George Stevens shot it in — that we all forgot to talk about what a lovely Blu-ray was ultimately released (in 1.33).

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1. Showdown At Boot Hill (1958, Olive Films) This is probably the worst movie on this list, but my favorite release. The very thought of a Regalscope Western presented widescreen and in high definition makes me very, very happy. Olive Films promises the best of the Regals, The Quiet Gun (1956), in 2014 — which you can expect to see on next year’s list.

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In my mind, Labor Day belongs to Jerry Lewis. His annual Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) telethon saw to that.

So today seems like the perfect time to highlight Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis in Pardners (1956), their next-to-last film together.

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Jerry Lewis (from his book Dean And Me: A Love Story): “The best thing about Pardners, for Dean, was — after having been in love with Westerns all his life — he was actually starring in one. If he had known then that in only four years he’d be making Rio Bravo with John Wayne, he would have been in heaven.”

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Lewis: “The best thing for me was learning, from a man named Arvo Ojala, to quick-draw and twirl a pistol…”

Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin

Lewis: “The hardest thing about the picture was the crushing irony of Dean and me singing the film’s title number, written by Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn:

You and me, we’ll always be pardners, 
You and me, we’ll always be friends…”

You can support the MDA and their Show Of Strength Telethon here.

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Picture 9

It’s been announced that the Shane (1953) Blu-ray will be 1.37 after all — not the reformatted, reconfigured, reconstituted, regurgitated version we were all scared of. Cue a huge collective sigh of relief.

ANOTHER UPDATE (4/25/13): George Stevens, Jr. talks about the whole 1.66/1.37 controversy — and why he won’t be at the TCM screening.

Thanks to Laura and Paula for the news.

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Shane Wide Screen ad

As you may know, George Stevens’ Shane (1953) became a victim of the wide screen war of the early 50s. It was shot in the standard academy ratio (1.37:1) but cropped to 1.66 in theaters. The ad above, for an engagement in Youngstown, Ohio, shows how it was promoted. It was the first film exhibited in 1.66 — on Panoramic Giant-Sized Screens, thanks to a decree from Paramount.

There’s been a lot of speculation about how, and when, this classic Western would turn up on Blu-ray. Well, it’s in the works — and George Stevens, Jr. is prepping it for a 1.66 Blu-ray release this year, its 60th anniversary. You can read all about it here, in a piece that quickly wears out its welcome. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Picture 10

While Loyal Griggs’ Oscar-winning cinematography is stunning in 1.37, which is how he composed it — and how we see it on DVD today — I’m really curious about the widescreen version. While it isn’t what Stevens (seen above with Alan Ladd and Van Heflin) intended, that’s how audiences saw it back in ’53. Either way, I bet those incredible vistas will be stunning on Blu-ray (even if we’re missing a bit of that blue Montana sky).

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UPDATE (3/29/13): This morning I received an email from David Raynor, who’s come through with some terrific information for this blog, usually about aspect ratios and exhibition. As you’ll see, prints were full frame and theaters would’ve been able to run it as they saw fit.

Hi, Toby,
I ran Shane at the cinema where I was a projectionist over 50 years ago and still have a couple of 35mm clippings from the print that I ran that I have scanned with my film scanner and here send to you as jpeg images. As the film was in Technicolor, the colour hasn’t faded and, as you can see, the film had a variable density optical soundtrack. By the time that I ran it, my cinema had adopted the 1.66:1 aspect ratio for non anamorphic films and this was later upgraded to 1.85:1, while CinemaScope was 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The idea was to get the biggest image possible on both systems, so that there was only a few feet difference on the sides of the screen between a ‘Scope and non ‘Scope picture. Shane was run at 1.66:1 at the cinema where I worked and, to avoid the actors’ heads being cropped off in some scenes due to it being composed for and shot in 1.37:1, the image was kept racked down in the projector gate… although this, of course, meant that a considerable amount of image was cropped off at the bottom of the frame.
Best Wishes from
David
SHANE 2
SHANE 1 cropped
Thanks so much, David. Yet again, I’m humbled by the knowledge and generosity of you folks out there. I also appreciate the extra treat of John Dierkes appearing in these frames!
UPDATE (4/9/13): Greenbriar Pictures Shows, a blog filled with much that is wonderful, weighs in on the Shane 1.66 issue with its usual authority and research.

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