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Archive for the ‘Pre-1950’ Category

Pairing John Wayne and Randolph Scott in the same movie, well, that’s about as good as it gets. Add Marlene Dietrich in there, too, and you can’t miss. It worked well enough with The Spoilers that they did it again less than a year later with Pittsburgh (both 1942). They’re both making their way to Blu-Ray from Kino Lorber. Both are highly recommended.

The Spoilers
Directed by Ray Enright
Starring Marlene Dietrich, Randolph Scott, John Wayne, Margaret Lindsay, Harry Carey

Rex Beach’s story of the Alaska Gold Rush had been filmed a number of times already when it was turned into a vehicle for Marlene Dietrich, who was a big deal thanks to Destry Rides Again (1939). This version not only has the Dietrich/Scott/Wayne star power going for it, but it boasts one of the greatest saloon brawls in Hollywood history. The story goes that some of Wayne and Scott’s punches are real.

The cinematography by Milton Krasner has always knocked me out on this one, and I’m looking forward to seeing it in high definition. I’m doing a commentary for it, which’ll give me a chance to ramble on about my hero, Randolph Scott.

Pittsburgh
Directed by Lewis Seiler
Starring Marlene Dietrich, Randolph Scott, John Wayne, Shemp Howard, Paul Fix, Nestor Paiva

This time, Wayne’s a coal miner who wants to make something or himself, no matter who he has to use and toss aside along the way. The cast in this one’s a real winner, with a few of my favorite character actors — Shemp, Paul Fix and Nestor Paiva!

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

Canyon Passage (1946) is a large-scale tale of the Oregon Territory, Jacques Tourneur’s first Western and first color film, was a big hit back in 1946. It’s got a great cast (Ward Bond is terrific) and incredible Technicolor photography from Edward Cronjager, who also shot Lang’s Western Union (1941).

It’s coming to Blu-Ray from Kino Lorber later this year. You can bet it’ll look great.

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VCI Entertainment has announced the upcoming (May) Blu-Ray release of two terrific 15-chapter Buck Jones serials from Universal — The Red Rider (1934) and The Roaring West (1935).

The Red Rider was directed by the prolific Lew Landers. This was one of his first pictures. Buck’s co-stars in this one are Grant Withers and Marion Shilling. As you might expect, Monte Montague’s around, too.

The Roaring West is from director Ray Taylor, who did a number of serials, including The Green Hornet and Flash Gordon Conquers The Universe (both 1940). Early in his long, prolific career, he was an assistant director for John Ford.

Both are sourced from original 35mm fine grain material — and both will feature first-chapter commentaries from yours truly. And if all that’s not enough, they’re bringing out The Vanishing Shadow (1934), too. Boy, am I excited about these.

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Republic Trucolor logo

Martin Scorsese has curated a retrospective of Republic movies, for February and August at the Museum Of Modern Art, from the restored material at Paramount.

There’s some great stuff in February’s lineup, including Trigger, Jr. (1950), Stranger At My Door (1956) and one of my all-time favorite films, Hellfire (1949). Three of my favorite directors are represented: William Witney, George Sherman and Allan Dwan.

Working with the fine folks at Kino Lorber on commentaries for some of their Republic releases, the quality of the material coming out of Paramount is incredible. (I’m in the middle of Singing Guns right now.) So glad to see these films are being treated with the respect they deserve.

Thanks to Laura for the news!

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Directed by Stuart Heisler
Starring Gary Cooper, Loretta Young, William Demarest, Dan Duryea

ClassicFlix has announced a new remaster of Stuart Heisler’s terrific Western spoof, Along Came Jones (1945). Actually, it’s not so much a spoof of Westerns as it is Gary Cooper poking a little fun at himself. It’s a cool movie, and I’m sure it’ll benefit from the ClassicFlix treatment. They’ve done some terrific stuff so far.

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Walter Huston listens to (or pretends to) producer/director Howard Hughes.

Directed by Howard Hughes (and Howard Hawks)
Starring Jack Buetel, Jane Russell, Thomas Mitchell, Walter Huston, Joe Sawyer

Going in, The Outlaw (1943) had so much going for it. Howard Hughes and Gregg Toland behind the camera. A cast that boasted Thomas Mitchell, Walter Huston and the great Joe Sawyer, working from a script Ben Hecht worked on. And all set to music by Victor Young.

In the end, The Outlaw is known more for the crazy brassiere Hughes designed for Jane Russell (that she says she didn’t wear) and its trouble with the censors than anything else. There are times when everything clicks — writing, acting, direction, cinematography — and The Outlaw shows real promise. If Howard Hughes had left things to Howard Hawks, we might have an extra great Western on our hands.

Kino Lorber is bringing a spiffed-up (2K restoration) The Outlaw to DVD and Blu-Ray in February. I’m really looking forward to it — this is a film I’ve been meaning to revisit for quite a while.

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Directed by Mark Robson
Producer: Richard H. Berger
Screenplay by Hugo Butler and Geoffrey Homes
Cinematography: Joseph F. Biroc
Music: Roy Webb
Film Editor: Marston Fay

Cast: Robert Sterling (Clay Phillips), Gloria Grahame (Mary Wells), Claude Jarman Jr.(Steve Phillips), John Ireland (Lednov), Jeff Donnell (Elaine Wyatt), Myrna Dell (Helen Carter), Martha Hyer (Marcia), George Cooper (Jim Clayton), Jeff Corey (Jed Graham), Sara Haden (Ma Wyatt), James Bell (Pa ‘Ed’ Wyatt), Shawn McGlory (Fowler), Robert B. Williams (McCall), Steve Savage (Peters), Edward Cassidy (Sheriff Gardner)

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There’s a movie memory that’s been bugging me since I was a kid. It’s a Western, and John Ireland’s the bad guy — a really bad guy. I remembered a few things about Ireland and the film, but never enough to be able to nail it down. Well, it turns out it was Roughshod (1949), a picture I thought I’d never seen.

You hear a lot about the noir influence in Westerns — Blood On The Moon and Pursued are good examples. I’d put Roughshod near the top of the list for successfully meshing the noir style within the Western.

Robert Sterling is Clay Phillips, who’s driving a herd of horses over the Sonora Pass with his kid brother Steve (Claude Jarman Jr.). They happen upon a broken-down buggy and four saloon girls who were headed to Sonora; Clay must be the luckiest cowpoke in history, because the women he’s stumbled upon are Gloria Grahame, Martha Hyer, Myrna Dell and  Jeff Donnell. They’ve been run out of Aspen by a group of concerned citizens.

A panel from the Roughshod adaptation in Prize Comics Western.

Steve Phillips (Claude Jarman Jr.): “Were you driving?”
Mary Wells (Gloria Grahame): “I was at first. Then I was hanging on.”

Trouble is, there are three escaped convicts on the loose, and the ringleader is the truly evil Lednov (John Ireland) — who Clay helped send to prison. Lednov would love to bump into Clay out on the trail. The scene that introduces these very bad dudes is the memory I’ve had bouncing around in my head for decades. And revisiting it thanks to the DVD-R from Warner Archive, it’s easy to see why the picture made such an impression on me. This is a dark, tense, terrific movie (and I don’t want to give too much of it away).

I know very little about Robert Sterling, and he’s fine here. But Gloria Grahame and John Ireland are outstanding. Grahame was great in plenty of things, but she really cooks in this one. The romance that happens along the trail could have been hokey, but she makes it work. It’s a good part, and she really nails it.

It would’ve been easy for someone to take the Lednov part way too far (he’s as nasty as nasty gets in a 50s Western), and screwing up the entire movie in the process. John Larch comes close to doing that in another favorite of mine, Quantez (1957). Ireland is so perfect here. Claude Jarman Jr. is good, too. He always was. Mark Robson gets superb performances from his entire cast — everybody brought their A game to this one.

Warner Archive has Roughshod looking good. It’s not a full restoration or anything, but it’s nice and sharp and pretty clean — with the picture’s many dark scenes dialed in just right. This might be some of DP Joseph Biroc’s best work. The sound’s nice and crisp.

In 50s Westerns, there are so many movies you could say are “ripe for rediscovery.” The fact that Roughshod sits on that list is a real shame. Highly, highly recommended.

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