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Archive for the ‘Paul Fix’ Category

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Back in 2014, gathering everybody’s favorite DVD and Blu-Ray picks for the year turned out to be a lot of fun. It’s since become an annual thing.

Thanks to everybody who sent in their picks for 2016. This was a great year for 50s Westerns on DVD and Blu-Ray (and 2017 is shaping up to be just as good, or maybe better). Here’s the Top 10, according to your votes.

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10. Desperado (1954, Warner Archive, DVD)
It was a tie between this Wayne Morris picture and his earlier Desert Pursuit (1952). They’re both solid, offbeat little Westerns — and it’s real treat to have them available in such stellar condition.

9. Yellow Sky (1948, Kino Lorber, Blu-Ray)
Thanks to William Wellman, we didn’t have to wait till the 50s for Hollywood to start making 50s Westerns. The town of Yellow Sky is populated by only an old prospector and his daughter — until some slimy outlaws come riding up.

8. Western Union (1941, Kino Lorber, Blu-Ray)
Randolph Scott in Fritz Lang’s second Technicolor movie. There’s so much cool stuff in this movie, and it looks wonderful.

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7. Black Horse Canyon (1954, Universal Vault, DVD)
For years, Joel McCrea’s Universal Westerns were missing on DVD. It’s great to have them so easy to track down. This is a good one.

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6. Comanche Station (1960, Explosive Media, Blu-Ray)
The last of the Scott-Boetticher Westerns turns out to be the first to make its way to Blu-Ray, and as I see it, the others can’t get here soon enough. This thing’s incredible.

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5. She Wore A Yellow Ribbon (1948, Warner Archive, Blu-Ray)
John Ford’s She Wore A Yellow Ribbon (1948, above) is one of the most beautiful color movies ever shot. The proof is pressed oh-so-magnificently into this Blu-Ray. It also features one of John Wayne’s finest performances.

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4. Roughshod (1949, Warner Archive, DVD)
This gets my vote as the best of the “noir Westerns.” I was real happy to see the response this picture got. It’s a shame it’s not better known.

3. Cariboo Trail (1950, Kino Lorber, DVD/Blu-Ray)
The transfer here is a minor miracle, demonstrating how good CineColor can look. They wisely didn’t go overboard with the cleanup, so it still retains its true film look. And, of course, this is a solid picture from Edwin Marin and Randolph Scott.

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2. Johnny Guitar (1954, Olive Films Signature Edition, DVD/Blu-Ray)
Olive’s new Signature edition is a marked improvement over their old release, which was terrific. The restored 1.66 framing makes a big difference, and the supplemental stuff is excellent.

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1. One-Eyed Jacks (1961, Criterion Collection, DVD/Blu-Ray)
Opinions of Marlon Brando’s Western are all over the place, so I was really surprised to see it land in the top spot. However, judging it simply in terms of its superb presentation, I don’t see how anything could beat it. It’s stunning, a big fat reward to all of us who’ve suffered through those awful tapes and discs over the years. I’m proud and honored to have been involved with Criterion’s work here. (Note: Having worked on the One-Eyed Jacks extras, I did not feel comfortable taking part in the vote this time around.)

In closing, the discs on this list highlight the impact the video presentation can have on our appreciation of these old movies. Many of these have been available, in some form, for years. One more thing: your reasons for not buying a Blu-Ray player are rapidly running out.

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Directed by Nicholas Ray
Produced by Herbert J. Yates
Screenplay by Philip Yordan
Cinematography: Harry Stradling, Sr.
Film Editor: Richard L. Van Enger
Original Music by Victor Young and Peggy Lee

Cast: Joan Crawford (Vienna), Sterling Hayden (Johnny Guitar), Mercedes McCambridge (Emma Small), Scott Brady (Dancin’ Kid), Ward Bond (John McIvers), Ben Cooper (Turkey Ralston), Ernest Borgnine (Bart Lonergan), John Carradine (Old Tom), Royal Dano (Corey), Paul Fix (Eddie)

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s-l1600-15Johnny Guitar (1954) has always been one of my favorite 50s Westerns.

Now, I could go on and on about how it’s a Feminist Western, a Psychological Western, an Existential Western, an HUAC allegory and lots of other things — or maybe it’s none of those. Depends on how you look at it.

I could rattle off a list of prominent filmmakers who’ve cited it as an influence or a favorite. I could cover its incredible cast, surely one of the best assembled for a 50s Western (and that’s saying something), or Victor Young’s terrific score — even that great instrumental version of the title song by The Spotnicks.

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I could even mention that at one point, there was talk of Jack Webb turning it into a TV series. Maybe it’s best to not get me started on Johnny Guitar at all.

But that’s not what this is about, not today anyway. It turns out Johnny Guitar is also one of the finest Blu-Rays I’ve ever seen.

Of course, Olive Films brought it out a few years ago, and it was marvelous. Some of us griped about it not reflecting Nick Ray’s original 1.66 cropping (I’m among the guilty), but the overall quality more than made up for it.

Well, Olive’s new Signature edition, it leaves the old release in the red, Sedona dust. This is a case where what a movie looks like on video can have a substantial impact on your appreciation of it. I saw details I’d never seen, and the restored 1.66 framing revealed little hints of Ray’s eye for color and composition (and his overall genius) that have escaped me for decades. In short, it made this great movie seem even greater.

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The extras — Martin Scorsese intro, commentary, documentaries, trailer, etc. — are outstanding, covering everything from the film and its many interpretations to Nicholas Ray to Republic pictures. Still haven’t made my way through them all. This is a movie that deserves, and stands up to, all the analysis that’s heaped on it, and this package does it justice.

I’m not here to tell you how to spend your money. So I’ll just say that if I won the lottery, I’d buy a few cases of these and send you all one. And if you hadn’t made the switch to Blu-Ray, well, I’d have to help you out with that, too. This one gets my highest recommendation.

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I’m gonna make this quick because time’s running out. Olive Films’ Signature Edition of Nicholas Ray’s Johnny Guitar (1954) comes our tomorrow. Today, the pre-order price at Amazon is only $16.99 (the list price is $39.95).

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Get the new Blu-Ray of Johnny Guitar, or Frank’ll let you have it.

Watched it over the weekend, and I really urge you to get it (a real review will be coming soon). Don’t have a Blu-ray player? Well, now’s the time. This thing’s incredible. As much as I love this movie, seeing it in hi-def and its proper 1.66 framing, I love it even more. Essential.

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Associate Producer – Director: Joe Kane
Screen Play by Mary McCall, Jr.
Based on a Saturday Evening Post story by Luke Short
Director Of Photography: Jack Marta
Music: Ned Freeman

Cast: Brian Donlevy (Bide Marriner), Rod Cameron (Will Ballard), Ella Raines (Celia Evarts), Forrest Tucker (Sam Danfelser), Barbara Britton (Lottie Priest), J. Carrol Naish (Sheriff Joe Kneen), Chill Wills (Ike Adams), Jim Davis (Red Courteen), Taylor Holmes (Lowell Priest), James Bell (John Evarts), Paul Fix (Ray Cavanaugh), Roydon Clark, Roy Barcroft, Al Caudebec, Douglas Kennedy, Jack La Rue, Claire Carleton

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This is an entry in The Republic Pictures Blogathon, a celebration of the studio’s incredible talent roster, wonderful output and lasting legacy.

Republic blogathon badgeHerbert Yates devised a rather odd hierarchy for Republic’s releases. First, there were the “Jubilee” pictures, shot in a week for about $50,000 — this was their bread and butter. Then came the “Anniversary” films, with schedules stretching to 15 days and budgets up to $200,000. The “Deluxe” projects were a decidedly bigger product, with bigger starts and costing up to half a million. And last came the “Premiere” bracket, with top directors (John Ford, Fritz Lang, Nick Ray) and budgets of about a million.

Ride The Man Down (1952) was a Deluxe, with location shooting in Utah, a terrific cast and the otherwordly hues of Trucolor. For good measure, Republic assigned it to one of their ace house directors, Joe Kane, who also gets an associate producer credit.

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When the owner of the renowned Hatchet Ranch freezes to death, his daughter inherits the whole spread, and it’s up to the dedicated, steadfast foreman, Will Ballard (Rod Cameron), to protect Hatchet from the surrounding ranchers. This range war plot is something we’re all familiar with, but Mary McCall, Jr.’s screenplay, adapted from a Luke Short story, is overly complicated (complete with a murder and a love triangle worked in), leaving the audience with a lot to sort out along the way.

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The picture’s biggest strength is certainly its cast, made up of some of Republic’s best. Rod Cameron is very good as Will Ballard. It’s a part that really suits him — he’s good at talking tough and swing his fists. Brian Donlevy is terrific as a powerful, greedy rancher. Ella Raines is good as the Hatchet Ranch’s new owner, a part that could’ve been annoying. Forrest Tucker turns out to be a rather slimy bad guy. And J. Carrol Naish makes quite an impression as a crooked sheriff.

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Ride The Man Down boasts the kind of fistfight we expect from a Republic picture. Cameron and Forrest Tucker duke it out in a cabin, practically destroying the place in the process. And there’s a cool scene where Cameron beans Jim Davis with a cue ball.

This is another Republic picture without a DVD or Blu-ray release. Marta and Kane give the film a big, lush look and it’d be nice to see Jack Marta’s cinematography closer to his original intent. Maybe one of these days.

I leave you with a final thought: Would you want to live in a town where the sheriff is J. Carrol Naish?

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HELLFIRE at BACOC poster
This is something I’ve been wanting to put together for a very, very long time. Hellfire (1949) will run at Brooks Avenue Church Of Christ here in Raleigh, NC on January 20, 2015.

First, I shopped around for a 16mm print, but what I found was either black & white or the color’d turned pink. Then I figured I’d wait for a DVD or Blu-ray from Olive Films. No luck there, as it dropped off their release schedule. So I finally decided to go with the best-looking material I could find.

Elliott considered Hellfire his best film (he was one of the producers), and Marie Windsor always listed it as a personal favorite (along with The Narrow Margin and The Killing). Who am I to argue? It’s one of my favorite Westerns, a movie that gets better every time I see it.

Believe it or not, Republic sometimes paired Hellfire with Brimstone (1949), a Rod Cameron Western.

Thanks to Jim Briggs for designing the flyer.

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