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Archive for the ‘Ray Nazarro’ Category

Directed by Ray Nazarro
Screen Play by Don Martin and Richard Schayer
Story by L.L. Foreman
Director Of Photography: Lester White
Film Editor: Buddy Small

Cast: George Montgomery (Cruze), Dorothy Malone (Charlotte Downing), Frank Faylen (Fairweather), Neville Brand (Tray Moran), Skip Homeier (Cass Downing), Douglas Kennedy (Gad Moran), Fay Roope (Mayor Booth), Douglas Fowley (Bartender), Robert J. Wilke (Hort Moran)

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I covered Lone Gun (1954) shortly after it appeared on Shout Factory’s four-movies-on-one-DVD package, Movies 4 You Western Classics. A solid George Montgomery picture, it’s worth a second look.

It’s easy to dismiss a movie like The Lone Gun as just a programmer. From its original reviews to DVD reviews, that’s the way a lot of folks have seen it. The plot’s nothing new. They were obviously working on a tight budget and short schedule. They ride past the same Iverson rocks you’ve seen in dozens of pictures like this.

But in some ways, these things that seem like liabilities are some of the key strengths of The Lone Gun. Because, interestingly, they let us see what a huge difference good writing, direction and acting can make to something familiar.

Mayor Booth (Fay Roope): “Robert Booth’s the name. I own the Malpine Hotel.”
Cruze (George Montgomery): “Mine’s Cruze. I own this shirt and those two horses out there.”

The story’s so simple. Montgomery ends up the marshal of Malpine, and he’s soon on the trail of the Moran brothers (Neville Brand, Douglas Kennedy and Robert J. Wilke), brothers/rustlers/killers/trash who are hiding their rustled cattle among the small herd of Charlotte and Cass Downing (Dorothy Malone, Skip Homeier), siblings trying to keep their small ranch afloat. Also on hand is Fairweather (Frank Faylen), a gambler who’s cleaned out the pockets of just about everybody in town — and one of Cruze’s only friends.

Glance back at that previous paragraph (above the Moran brothers), and consider those names. That’s one helluva cast, and it’s a joy to spend 74 minutes with them. Ray Nazarro is an old hand at stuff like this, and his direction is as brisk and efficient as you’d expect. Everyone else involved, from editor Buddy Small to director of photography Lester White, is up to the same high standard.

The Lone Gun is in color “by the Color Corporation Of America.” That translates to SuperCinecolor. It was shot to be projected at 1.66. The Shout Factory DVD offers pretty decent color — remember, this is SuperCineColor. It’s full frame, with plenty of that annoying dead space at the top and bottom. My TV lets me zoom it a bit to approximate the original 1.66, which looks a whole lot better.

The reason folks dismiss movies like this is often because there are so many of them. Which for those of us who can’t get enough of these things, is good news indeed. The Lone Gun, thanks largely to its cast, is one I like a lot.

Oh, and another thing. It’s original title was Adios, My Texas. If you ask me, they were wise to change it.

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Mill Creek has announced a 10-movie set of Durango Kid movies. Some, if not all, of these have been available before, but who cares?

Charles Starrett starred in The Durango Kid, in 1940. Columbia didn’t get around to The Return Of The Durango Kid till 1945. Making up for lost time, Columbia cranked out 62 more Durango Kid pictures before shutting down the series in 1952 — at which point Starrett retired from movies.

The Fighting Frontiersman (1946)
Directed by Derwin Abrahams
Starring Charles Starrett, Smiley Burnette, Helen Mowery

Blazing Across The Pecos (1948)
Directed by Ray Nazarro
Starring Charles Starrett, Smiley Burnette, Charles Wilson

Laramie (1949)
Directed by Ray Nazarro
Starring Charles Starrett, Smiley Burnette, Fred F. Sears

Trail Of The Rustlers (1950)
Directed by Ray Nazarro
Starring Charles Starrett, Smiley Burnette, Gail Davis, Tommy Ivo

Streets Of Ghost Town (1950)
Directed by Ray Nazarro
Starring Charles Starrett, Smiley Burnette, Mary Ellen Kay, George Chesebro

Lightning Guns (1950)
Directed by Ray Nazarro
Starring Charles Starrett, Smiley Burnette, Gloria Henry, Jock Mahoney

Snake River Desperadoes (1951)
Directed by Fred F. Sears
Starring Charles Starrett, Smiley Burnette, Don Reynolds, Tommy Ivo

Bonanza Town (1951)
Directed by Fred F. Sears
Starring Charles Starrett, Smiley Burnette, Fred F. Sears, Myron Healey, Robert J. Wilke

The Hawk Of Wild River (1952)
Directed by Fred F. Sears
Starring Charles Starrett, Smiley Burnette, Jock Mahoney, Clayton Moore

The Kid From Broken Gun (1952)
Directed by Fred F. Sears
Starring Charles Starrett, Smiley Burnette, Jock Mahoney
Charles Starrett’s final appearance as The Durango Kid. Actually, his last movie, period.

This is a great collection at an incredible price, just $14.98. Remember, Sony’s Columbia Classics Collection, or whatever it’s called, was pricing these things at $20 apiece! Highly recommended.

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Directed by Ray Nazarro
Starring George Montgomery, Audrey Long, Carl Benton Reid, Eugene Iglesias, Joe Sawyer, Douglas Kennedy, Hugh Sanders, George Chesebro, Robert J. Wilke

This has happened a time or two before — just when you think Sony’s Columbia Classics series has headed to the happy hunting grounds, they announce something else. This time, that something else is Ray Nazarro’s Indian Uprising (1952), and it’s due next week.

It’s a cavalry picture, shot at Corriganville, Bronson Canyon and the Iverson Ranch in Super Cinecolor by Ellis Carter. It’s always great to add a little Montgomery or Nazarro to our DVD shelves, and this is a pretty good one.

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Rory Calhoun
(August 8, 1922 – April 28, 1999)

Rory Calhoun would be 95 today.

His run of 50s Westerns stands up to about anybody’s. Red Sundown (1956) really knocked me out, but others are just as good — The Silver Whip (1953), Dawn At Socorro (1954), The Hired Gun (1957) and on it goes. He worked with Ray Nazarro a lot, especially when he developed his own films, which guarantees you a pretty solid 80 minutes.

This newspaper piece plugs The Treasure Of Pancho Villa (1955) from George Sherman. Wish Warner Archive or somebody would get around to that one.

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Directed by Ray Nazarro
Screenplay by Ray Buffum and DeVallon Scott
Director Of Photography: Ellis W. Carter
Film Editor: Aaron Stell

Cast: Gary Merrill (Brock Marsh), Wanda Hendrix (Ruth Lawrence), John Bromfield (Mike Daugherty), Noah Beery, Jr. (Gimpy Joe), Fay Roope (John Lawrence), Howard Wendell (Judge Baker), Robert Simon (Marshal Whit Collins), James H. Griffith (Warren), Richard Webb (Frank Gibbs), Peter Whitney (Grimes), John War Eagle (Chief War Cloud), Jay Silverheels (Black Buffalo), Clayton Moore (Stone)

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At only 65 minutes long, The Black Dakotas (1954) was clearly meant to fill out a double bill. But for a film that’s not all that noteworthy, there are a number of things about it worth noting.

First, there’s the cast. Gary Merrill, in his first Western, is the bad guy — a Confederate hoping to stir up things with the Sioux to keep Union soldiers tied up. He gets a lot of screen time for a villain, maybe because he’s far more interesting than the good guy (John Bromfield). Wanda Hendrix, Audie Murphy’s ex-wife, was about to retire from the movies (at least for a few years), and she’s fine here. Noah Beery, Jr. does what he can with a rather odd part. The great James H. Griffith doesn’t have a whole lot to do as one of the bad guys.

John Bromfield and Wanda Hendrix

More on the cast. The Black Dakotas was shot during the period when Clayton Moore left The Lone Ranger TV series (over a salary dispute, reportedly) and returned to B Movie character parts. Moore’s not listed in the credits, but he’s there. You’ll also see Jay Silverheels (Tonto to Moore’s Lone Ranger) as one of the Sioux chiefs. From Moore and Silverheels to Beery and Griffith, the characters actors run rings around the leads.

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Here, Ray Nazarro does what we’ve seen him do so many times — put together a brisk little movie that delivers in the action department. It seems like no matter how small the budget or tight the schedule, Nazarro delivers the goods, the same way Lesley Selander always does. Of course, having Ellis Carter as director of photography doesn’t hurt. Why isn’t Carter brought up more often? He shot The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), for God’s sake! He gives The Black Dakotas a much bigger look than you’d expect. An early sequence was shot on a cloudy day — at Iverson, I think — and Carter really makes a positive out of a negative.

Carter’s fine work is well presented (in widescreen) in Mill Creek’s 7 Western Showdown Collection, a two-DVD set that contains seven Westerns. All the pictures look terrific, and the price is hard to beat. Recommended. I hope Mill Creek keeps up the good work, and I’d love to see movies like this make their way to Blu-Ray.

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Mill Creek Entertainment has announced another set of films — the 7 Western Showdown Collection. Many of us may have these on separate discs, but it’s got some excellent 40s and 50s Westerns (along with the 1971 rodeo picture J.W. Coop).

The Black Dakotas (1954)
Directed by Ray Nazarro
Starring Gary Merrill, Wanda Hendrix, John Bromfield, Noah Beery, Jr.

This is the highlight for me, a Ray Nazarro Technicolor picture I’ve never seen. It was put out a few years ago as part of Sony’s MOD program, and I believe it was widescreen.

The set also includes:

Texas (1941)
Directed by George Marshall
Starring William Holden, Glenn Ford

Blazing Across The Pecos  (1948)
Directed by Ray Nazarro
Starring Charles Starrett, Smiley Burnette, Charles Wilson

They Came To Cordura (1959)
Directed by Robert Rossen
Starring Gary Cooper, Rita Hayworth, Van Heflin, Tab Hunter

The Man From Colorado (1948)
Directed by Henry Levin
Starring William Holden, Glenn Ford, Ellen Drew, Edgar Buchanan

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Gun Fury (1953)
Directed by Raoul Walsh
Starring Rock Hudson, Donna Reed, Philip Carey, Lee Marvin, Leo Gordon

The old DVD of Gun Fury was full-frame (and 2-D) instead of its intended 1.85. Not sure if Columbia will provide Mill Creek with new material or not, but a widescreen version would be reason alone to pick up this set.

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Hired Gun TC

Directed by Ray Nazarro
Produced by Rory Calhoun and Victor M. Orsatti
Screen Play by David Lang and Buckley Angell
Based on a story by Buckley Angell
Director Of Photography: Harold J. Marzorati, ASC
Film Editor: Frank Santillo
Music by Albert Glasser

Cast: Rory Calhoun (Gil McCord), Anne Francis (Ellen Beldon), Vince Edwards (Kell Beldon), John Litel (Mace Beldon), Bill Williams, Chuck Connors (Judd Farrow), Robert Burton (Nathan Conroy), Salvadore Baques (Domingo Ortega), Guinn “Big Boy” Williams (Elby Kirby), Regis Parton (Cliff Beldon), Buelah Archuletta

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Around the time I decided to write a book on 50s Westerns, and long before I’d thought about a blog to go with it, The Hired Gun (1957) was a movie sitting near the top of my Want List. Rory Calhoun. Anne Francis. Vince Edwards. Guinn “Big Boy” Williams. Black and white CinemaScope (an aesthetic I adore). Directed by Ray Nazarro at Lone Pine. How could this thing not be terrific? But what were my chances of ever seeing it widescreen as intended?

Dissolve to: six years later. An anamorphic widescreen DVD of The Hired Gun was released by Warner Archive a couple weeks ago. And now that I’ve had a chance to see it in all its monochromatic 2.35:1 glory, what’s the verdict?

To be honest, The Hired Gun seems like pretty standard stuff. Plot-wise, it’s nothing that couldn’t be covered in an hour-long TV show. But like so many of the lower-budgeted Westerns of the 50s, the people involved, and what they bring to these minor films, make all the difference.

The Hired Gun was produced by Rory Calhoun and his agent, Victor Orsatti. Their Rorvic Productions made a handful of films in the late 50s, along with Calhoun’s TV series The Texan; the three Westerns were directed by Ray Nazarro (his other two Rorvic pictures were The Domino Kid and Apache Territory).

With The Hired Gun set for MGM release, Anne Francis, who’d just appeared in MGM’s Forbidden Planet (1956) and was a rising star at the studio, was signed as Calhoun’s co-star.

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Francis is Ellen Beldon, who’s to be hung for the murder of her husband. She’s sprung from jail by Chuck Connors, who works on her uncle’s ranch. Very quickly, Mace Beldon (John Litel), the dead man’s father, hires gunslinger Gil McCord (Calhoun) to track her down. The jailbreak, and the chase that follows it, are really well staged — Ray Nazarro was so good with action. Here, he uses an under-cranked camera to boost the urgency and pacing. The rest of the picture, taken up by Calhoun capturing Francis and their journey together, covers more familiar territory. But it covers that territory well, thanks to the professionalism and craft of those who made it.

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Calhoun is cool as a cucumber as the gunman, whether he’s posing as a ranch hand, beating the crap outta Chuck Connors or talking tough to Anne Francis. Since the film’s so short, just 64 minutes, there’s not a lot of time for real character development. We assume all along that he’ll change his mind about his prisoner before it’s all over with.

From Forbidden Planet to Honey West, I’ve always liked Anne Francis — and she’s quite good here. She was one of the only members of the cast and crew who hadn’t experienced the rigors of shooting a Western on location. Jock Mahoney, who worked with director Ray Nazarro on a lot of pictures, once said, “Ray didn’t particularly like women in the cast and he’d make them his whipping boy.”

So, everyone on the picture was fully expecting to see the young actress suffer while in Lone Pine. She was determined to deny them that satisfaction.

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Anne Francis: “Rory and I were in the saddle from morning until night. I suspect he was tired, I know I was. But I wouldn’t have admitted it for all the gold in Fort Knox.”**

Oh, and if you look quick, you’ll see Buelah Archuletta, who played “Look” in The Searchers (1956).

Director of photography Harold J. Marzorati captures Lone Pine, with snow-covered mountaintops in the distance, in stunning black and white CinemaScope. Lone Pine always looks terrific in black and white — check out a Tim Holt picture or two for further proof — and the wide frame makes it all the more dramatic.

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Marzorati’s gorgeous work was done a real service by the folks at Warner Archive. His ‘Scope compositions are perfectly presented and the contrast levels are just right. When was the last time someone saw this movie looking like this? There’s a “textless” trailer to round out the package.

Someone recently commented here that “we’re living in a Golden Age for classic movie lovers.” And when an anamorphic widescreen DVD of a cheap little Western like The Hired Gun can be yours for a little e-commerce, I have to agree.

Laura posted a review of The Hired Gun over at her place today, too.

*From The Adventures Of The Durango Kid, Starring Charles Starrett by Bob Carman and Dan Scapperotti; ** Newspaper article, 1957

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