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Archive for the ‘Paul Landres’ Category

I’ve been doing research on Andre de Toth’s The Indian Fighter (1955) for a commentary on Kino Lorber’s Blu-Ray. (When it comes to research like this, my wife Jennifer does a lot of the heavy lifting.)

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The Indian Fighter was the first picture from Kirk Douglas’ Bryna Productions, and they built an elaborate 200-foot square fort for it. It looks terrific in those CinemaScope tracking shots.

The stockade belonged to the Bend, Oregon, Chamber Of Commerce (it was built by a local construction company), and they rented it out for various things, including Oregon Passage (1958), a Paul Landres picture I really like. A forest fire damaged the area around the fort, really hurting its usefulness as a movie location. It was burned in the early 60s and the area replanted. It’s a shame, since it’s really impressive, compared to other movie forts I’ve seen.

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Oregon Passage HS

Directed by Paul Landres
Written by Jack DeWitt
Based on the novel by Gordon D. Shirreffs
Director Of Photography: Ellis Carter
Music by Paul Dunlap
Film Editor: Maury Wright

Cast: John Ericson (Lt. Niles Ord), Lola Albright (Sylvia Dane), Toni Gerry (Little Deer), Edward Platt (Major Roland Dane), H.M. Wynant (Black Eagle), Rachel Ames (Marion), Walter Barnes (Sgt. Jed Erschick), Harvey Stephens (Capt. Boyson), Jon Shepodd (Lt. Baird Dobson), Paul Fierro (Nato)

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Director Paul Landres worked largely in TV, with a feature from time to time. My Paul Landres binge continues, inspired by the DVD and Blu-ray release of The Return Of Dracula (1958) from Olive Films.

Paul Landres

Landres got his start as an editor, cutting series Westerns and serials at Universal, and made the move to director in the very early 50s — in both features and TV. He retired after a 1972 episode of Adam-12.

Oregon Passage is an Allied Artists Western from 1958, shot on location in Oregon’s Deschutes National Forest, in both CinemaScope and DeLuxe color. These gorgeous vistas, in color and ‘Scope, and a really good score form Paul Dunlap give the picture production values beyond what we’re used to in a Landres picture. The fort, which had appeared in The Indian Fighter (1955), is impressive. The small Indian camp and undermanned cavalry patrols do give things away, however. No matter, this is one of Landres’ best.

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Lieut. Niles Ord (John Ericson) returns from a month-long patrol — he’s been trying to track down the Shoshoni warrior Black Eagle — to find the fort under a new, by-the-book commanding officer, Major Dane (Edward Plat, Chief on Get Smart). Niles once dated Dane’s wife Sylvia (Lola Albright), and he’s soon battling his C.O. as much as Black Eagle. The fact that Sylvia’s grown to detest her jealous husband and life on the frontier doesn’t help much.

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While Oregon Passage doesn’t always manage to ride around the usual cavalry movie conventions, it’s a tough, taut picture with a real edge to it. The action scenes, particularly the final raid on the fort, are well staged and rather brutal.

John Ericson is good as the dedicated young officer — he’d already been in Bad Day At Black Rock (1955) and Forty Guns (1957). Edward Platt is easy to hate as the despicable Major. And Lola Albright and Toni Gerry manage to flesh out fairly typical roles as the cavalry wife and Indian squaw, respectively.

Cinematographer Ellis W. Carter was a real craftsman, often working at Universal-International. He shot some of my favorites of the studio’s late-50s films: A Day Of Fury (1956), The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), The Land Unknown (1957, so cool in CinemaScope!) and The Monolith Monsters (1957) — along with Showdown (1963), Audie Murphy’s last Universal picture. Carter’s outdoor work on Oregon Passage is often beautiful. He and his crew certainly made the most of their two weeks on location.

Oregon Passage UK LC

Oregon Passage is available on DVD from Warner Archive. At times, the transfer is sharp as a tack; there are problems at other times, often with the color. No doubt, these are problems with the source material used — no surprise since the picture was shot in DeLuxe Color. None of this takes away from the movie, which as a fan of Paul Landres’ work, I am overjoyed to have in my hot little hands. Recommended.

By the way, the working title for Oregon Passage was Rio Bravo. It’s easy to understand the title change, being that Howard Hawks’ own Rio Bravo (1959) was in production around the same time.

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Hell Canyon Outlaws HS

Directed by Paul Landres
Produced by Jerald Zukor
Written by Allan Kaufman and Max Glandbard
Director Of Photography: Floyd Crosby, ASC
Film Editor: Elmo Williams, ACE
Music Composed and Conducted by Irving Gertz

Cast: Dale Robertson (Sheriff Caleb Wells), Brian Keith (Happy Waters), Rosanna Rory (Maria), Dick Kallman (Smiley Andrews), Don Megowan (Walt), Mike Lane (Nels), Buddy Baer (Stan), Charles Fredericks (Deputy Bear), Alexander Lockwood (Bert, the new sheriff)

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Paul Landres was one of those journeyman directors who could take practically nothing — an OK script, less than a week and a paltry budget — and put together a solid little movie. He worked mainly in TV, with a feature from time to time. Inspired by the upcoming DVD and Blu-ray release of The Return Of Dracula (1958) from Olive Films, I’ve been revisiting some of Landres’ features from the late 1950s.

Hell Canyon Outlaws (1957), known in the UK as The Tall Trouble, was an independent picture from Jerold Zukor Productions, filmed at the Corriganville Ranch. Republic released it. I think it’s one of Landres’ best.

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Four outlaws head to a small town of Goldridge to raise hell and eventually rob the bank. They take over the saloon and hotel, steal a horse, size up the bank and rough up the guy at the livery stable — just for starters. If all this isn’t bad enough, the town council has just fired the sheriff, Caleb Wells (Dale Robertson), and his deputy, Bear (Charles Fredericks). The new sheriff, well, he’s outta town. Goldridge is in a tight spot.

Hell Canyon Outlaws DR still

Dale Robertson is terrific in this. You just know he’s going to be pushed to his breaking point, it’s just a matter of when. That tension, as the town is trashed and Robertson does the slow burn, is what drives Hell Canyon Outlaws. Landres builds the suspense perfectly — with the help of Elmo Williams, who edited High Noon (1952) — to a very satisfying last reel. This and Fred F. Sears’ Fury At Gunsight Pass (1956) would make a great double bill.

Hell Canyon Outlaws LC2

Brian Keith is great in one of those somewhat-likable dirtbag roles he excelled at (remember Fort Dobbs?). Keith would’ve made an ideal foil to Randolph Scott in one of the Boetticher pictures.

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Rossana Rory doesn’t have much to do but look pretty as Robertson’s girlfriend, but she’s fine. The rest of the cast — especially the rest of Keith’s gang: Don Megowan, Mike Lane and Buddy Baer — are effective. Dick Kallman is suitably obnoxious as the punk kid with a gun (I really wanted to see him gunned down).

The great Floyd Crosby, another High Noon veteran, gives the picture the feel of something a lot bigger than it is — a trick he’d perform often for Roger Corman in the early 60s.

Hell Canyon Outlaws isn’t available on DVD or Blu-ray anywhere. Given the top-notch cast and crew working at the top of their game, this would be a great one to see in a nice anamorphic transfer (it was shot for 1.85). It’s currently available from Sinister Cinema, but I haven’t seen what it looks like. If I had my own video company, this is one I’d try to track down in a hurry.

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fusilladeatucson

A while back, I brought up an exclusive at Collector’s Choice on some Alan Ladd pictures from Warner Archive. Well, that arrangement has about run its course, and those titles will soon be available through normal Warner Archive channels.

Drum Beat (1954)
Directed by Delmer Daves
Starring Alan Ladd, Audrey Dalton, Charles Bronson and Elisha Cook, Jr.

The Big Land (1957)
Directed by Gordon Douglas
Starring Alan Ladd, Virginia Mayo, Edmond O’Brien, Anthony Caruso, Julie Bishop and John Qualen.

Guns Of The Timberland (1960)
Directed by Robert D. Webb
Starring Alan Ladd, Jeanne Crain, Gilbert Roland and Frankie Avalon

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There’s another exclusive, this time with Oldies.com, on a couple Allied Artists CinemaScope Westerns to be released July 15.

Oregon Passage (1958)
Directed by Paul Landres
Starring John Ericson and Lola Albright
Paul Landres made some solid low-budget Westerns (Frontier Gun, for instance), so I have high hopes for this one. Incidentally, it’s working title was Rio Bravo. Wonder how the change in title went down, with Howard Hawks’ own Rio Bravo in production around the same time?

Gunsmoke in Tucson (1958)
Directed by Thomas Carr
Starring Mark Stevens and Forrest Tucker
I’ve been on the lookout for this one for quite some time, which goes into familiar range war/brothers-on-opposite-sides-of-the-law territory. I’d also love to see Carr’s The Tall Stranger (1957), starring Joel McCrea and Virginia Mayo, turn up on DVD.

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Directed by Paul Landres
Produced by Richard E. Lyons
Associate Producer: Maury Dexter
Written by Stephen Kandel
Director of Photography: Walter Strenge, ASC
Art Director: Edward Shiells
Supervising Film Editor: Robert Fritch, ACE
Music Composed by Paul Dunlap

CAST: John Agar (Sheriff Jim Crayle), Joyce Meadows (Peg Barton), Barton MacLane (Simon Crayle), Robert Strauss (Yubo), Lyn Thomas (Kate Durand), James Griffith (Cash Skelton), Morris Ankrum (Andrew Barton), Leslie Bradley (Rev. Jacob Hall), Doodles Weaver (Eph Loveman), Holly Bane (Tanner).

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In the mid-50s, B producer Robert Lippert entered into an arrangement with 20th Century-Fox where his Regal Films, Inc. would produce a series of second features for the studio — two black and white CinemaScope pictures a month. Lippert wanted to combine the economy of black and white with the draw of CinemaScope. They called the process Regalscope.

Regalscope is black and white CinemaScope, nothing more. Lippert made around 50 Regalscope features between 1956 and 1959 — all of them cheap, most of them Westerns. These Westerns feature folks like John Agar, Jim Davis, Beverly Garland and Forrest Tucker. One, Ambush At Cimarron Pass (1958) gave Clint Eastwood an early role. And each picture is a virtual parade of your favorite character actors.

Maury Dexter worked for Lippert during the Regalscope years, making sure they got a feature in the can in just a week. (He gets an associate producer credit on Frontier Gun.)

Maury Dexter: “We were shooting as many as 20 films a year… We had … first-rate production men with years of experience in their field. By name: Frank Parmenter, Herb Mendelshon, Clarence Eurist, Ralph Slosser and more. We hired directors of photography such as Floyd Crosby, Daniel Haller, James Wong Howe, Kenneth Peach, Ed Cronjager and Joe Birocletal – all top-flight cameramen, some Academy Award winners. We were churning out a feature every few weeks that included subjects such as adventures, thrillers, Westerns, Civil War and some science fiction like Kronos (1957) and The Fly (1958).”

Frontier Gun (1958) was produced by Richard Lyons.

Dexter: “[Lyon’s] claim to fame, at that time, was that his stepfather was an officer of Leows, Inc. So, Richard came to us as a wanna-be producer… Lippert assigned him to me to teach him the fine points of producing. Richard was an amiable, easygoing person and was eager to learn. He was finally given a project and I physically produced the show, but Richard learned a lot and, naturally, was given screen credit as producer.”

Lyons would eventually produce Ride The High Country (1962) for MGM. We all owe him for that one.

Frontier Gun is yet another town-tamer story. John Agar is Jim Crayle, son of noted lawman Simon Crayle (Barton MacLane). Agar’s given a badge by Honcho’s town council to take on Yubo (Robert Strauss) — one of those saloon owners intent on running the town — so Honcho can become a safe place for decent people to live. Agar’s an expert shot, but an old injury makes him slow on the draw. Eventually, the father rides into town to tell his son he’s not up to the task.

Paul Landres directed. By 1958, he was already a TV veteran, directing episodes of everything from Boston Blackie to The Lone Ranger. He was a dependable journeyman director who made only a handful of features. Here he does an admirable job with the money and schedule he had to work with. It was shot by Walter Strenge, who did a number of the Regalscope films, including Stagecoach To Fury (1956). For Frontier Gun, Landres and Strenge relied on the medium shots and long takes that make early widescreen films so interesting.

Frontier Gun was the second of three pictures Joyce Meadows made with John Agar.

Joyce Meadows: “I grew very attached to John. We worked very well together… I thought he had a very good presence on the screen. He worked hard and was very, very in favor of whomever was working with him, to share the camera.”

Robert Strauss, who usually plays comic badguys, is quite interesting as Yubo. Veteran character actors Doodles Weaver and James Griffith are on hand giving the picture a little extra B Western clout.

Joyce Meadows: “Morris Ankrum was also in that film. What a great character actor he was, and I enjoyed studying him when he performed.”

You have to cut the Regalscope pictures some slack. They’re a bit talky, and the lack of money and time can be quite obvious. But they have great casts, especially the Westerns, and the scripts usually play well. Frontier Gun is one of the better ones. It’s a real shame they’re so hard to track down, especially in some semblance of widescreen — because once you get into them, you really want to see them all. Anybody out there got a widescreen Stagecoach To Fury?

An interesting, and disturbing, bit of trivia: the 35mm print archived at UCLA is missing a couple reels.

SOURCE: Maury Dexter’s Highway To Hollywood; Ladies Of The Western by Michael Fitzgerald and Boyd Magers; Scream Sirens Scream! by Paul Parla and Charles P. Mitchell.

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