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Archive for the ‘Ray Nazarro’ Category

Directed by Ray Nazarro
Produced by Rory Calhoun & Victor M. Orsatti
Screenplay by Kenneth Gamet & Hal Biller
Cinematography: Irving Lippman
Film Editor: Gene Havlick

Cast: Rory Calhoun (Domino), Kristine Miller (Barbara Ellison), Andrew Duggan (Wade Harrington), Yvette Duguay (Rosita), Peter Whitney (Lafe), Eugene Iglesias (Juan Cortez), Robert Burton (Sheriff Travers), Roy Barcroft (Ed Sandlin), James H. Griffith (Beal), Denver Pyle (Bill Dragger). Thomas Browne Henry (Doctor)

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There’s something about this movie. It takes one of the most basic of Western plots — a young man seeks revenge after his father is killed and their ranch trashed by guerrilla raiders during the Civil War — and somehow makes you forget you’ve seen this kinda thing a thousand times. There’s a bit of a 7 Men From Now (1956) thing going, as Domino (Rory Calhoun) knows who four of the five killers are, takes care of them, and has to identify the fifth.

Maybe it’s the direction from Ray Nazarro at sets it apart. He did so many of these things, and he had a real knack for keeping em moving. There’s a snap to his movies that others’ pictures lacked. The script’s pretty good, especially at going Rory Calhoun cool things to say. Calhoun, who co-produced and worked on the story, leads a great cast. Kristine Miller is good as the woman Domino left behind when he went gunning for the guys who killed his father. She didn’t have a real long career, but she worked at Republic quite a bit, which is enough of a recommendation for me. Andrew Duggan is the local bigwig who wants to buy Calhoun’s ranch — and make off with his girl. He made some solid Westerns in the late 50s — his next was Decision At Sundown (1957).

Yvette Duguay and Eugene Iglesias are both likable (and Duguay’s very pretty) as a couple of Domino’s only loyal friends in town. Then you’ve got James H. Griffith, one of my favorites, and Denver Pyle as a couple of the men Domino tracks down and blows away. Peter Whitney is the elusive fifth man, who comes to town to put an end to Domino’s “vengeance trail.” You’ll remember him as Amos Agry in Buchanan Rides Alone (1958). And there’s Roy Barcroft and Thomas Browne Henry in a couple small parts (you hardly see Henry’s face in his approximately 15 seconds of screen time).

Cinematographer Irving Lippman gets high marks on this one. It’s a good-looking movie, with deep, moody shadows and some interesting shots throughout — nicely framed for 1.85, another way Domino Kid stays fresh. Lippman was a staff cinematographer at Columbia, shooting pictures like  Hellcats Of The Navy and 20 Million Miles To Earth (both 1957). He also has the distinction of having shot some of the later Three Stooges shorts, a few of their features and almost every episode of both the Jungle Jim and The Monkees TV shows. He started out as a still photographer for the studio.

Domino Kid is not available on DVD or Blu-Ray. The transfer that used to turn up on The Westerns Channel looked great. This is the kind of picture that would be terrific as part of a set similar to those wonderful film noir collections Kit Parker has been doing. It’s a near-textbook example of a medium-budgeted 50s Western. Highly recommended.

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When I started doing DVD and Blu-Ray commentaries, it no longer felt appropriate to survey the best 50s Westerns DVD and Blu-Ray releases for the year. So, as a substitute (maybe a poor one), here’s a reminder of a few things we were treated to this year — and we’ll let all the praise, complaints or ranking come from you in the comments. Part 2 can be found next door at The Hannibal 8.

2018 didn’t see a lot of 50s Westerns turn up on DVD, but what turned up was certainly worthwhile.

The Durango Kid Collection
Mill Creek has come through with some terrific multi-picture sets over the last few years. They’re often Columbia pictures, and many have been available already as MOD releases, but they look great, the prices can’t be beat, and they’re big space savers as we watch our collections gobble up our square footage. The Durango Kid movies are fun, and this set gave me an excuse to really wallow in them for a while.

The Fastest Guns Of The West: The William Castle Western Collection
Another Mill Creek set, this offers up eight William Castle Westerns, most of them done for Sam Katzman. This was very eagerly awaited around here, and many of us are hoping for a second volume.

The True Story Of Jesse James (1957)
Twilight Time gave The True Story Of Jesse James a Blu-Ray release, giving us all a great opportunity to re-assess this Nicholas Ray picture — which was mangled by 20th Century-Fox. CinemaScope really benefits from 1080 presentation, and Ray is known for his great use of ‘Scope.

Five Tall Tales: Budd Boetticher & Randolph Scott At Columbia
It was about time somebody got around to the Ranown cycle in true high definition. So, where’s Seven Men From Now (1956)?

A Man Alone (1955)
This under-appreciated Ray Milland Western got a thorough restoration from Paramount — and a nice DVD and Blu-Ray release from Kino Lorber. It even played at the Museum Of Modern Art.

So there’s a few to get us going. What Western DVD and Blu-Ray releases stood out to you this year?

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Director Fred F. Sears with the cast of Apache Ambush (1955).

Fred F. Sears
(July 7, 1913 – November 30, 1957)

Can’t remember the first time I noticed the name Fred F. Sears. Growing up a monster kid, I’m gonna guess it was a local-TV airing of either Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers or The Werewolf (both 1956).

Years later, when I began my deep dive into 50 Westerns, it quickly became obvious that Sears could lift his Westerns out of the budgetary basement to create something special. Like the terrific Fury At Gunsight Pass (1956).

Frederick Francis Sears was born 105 years ago today in Boston. After years in regional theater and teaching drama at Southwestern University in Memphis, he headed to Hollywood — and wound up at Columbia as a bit actor and dialogue director. While working on some of Durango Kid pictures (usually as a bad guy), he got to know Charles Starrett. He directed one of the Durango Kids, Desert Vigilante (1949), and eventually pretty much took over the series.

Fred F. Sears and Joan Taylor working on Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers (1957).

Sears became a preferred director for Sam Katzman, whose quickie unit at Columbia cranked out serials and genre pictures at a frantic pace. He spent the rest of his career at Columbia (except for one freelance gig, 1958’s Badman’s Country). From crime pictures to horror movies to Westerns, Sears’ ability to get ’em done on time and on budget served him well. Quality wasn’t much of a concern wit Katzman, but Sears always managed to provide some anyway. Today he’s known for Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers (1956), a picture that benefits from remarkable stop-motion animation from Ray Harryhausen, and The Giant Claw (1957), a film completely scuttled by some of the worst special effects in Hollywood history. But Fury At Gunsight Pass and The Werewolf (1956) are near-perfect examples of how good low-budget genre filmmaking can be.

Fred F. Sears died in his office at Columbia on November 30, 1957, with eight pictures waiting for release. He was 44.

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Directed by Ray Nazarro
Written by Barry Shipman
Cinematography: Fayte Browne

Cast: Charles Starrett (Steve Woods/The Durango Kid), Smiley Burnette (Himself), Mary Ellen Kay (Doris Donner), George Chesebro (Bill Donner), Frank Fenton (Bart Selby)

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Mill Creek has done us a big favor by scooping up 10 of the 60-plus Durango Kid movies and putting them in one extremely budget-friendly two-disc set, The Durango Kid Collection. One of the 10 is Ray Nazarro’s Streets Of Ghost Town (1950).

In this outing, Steve and Smiley help ​the ​sheriff of Dusty Creek ​(Stanley Andrews) look for a fortune in stolen money supposedly hidden in a​n old​ ghost town — boarded up, littered wth tumbleweeds and creeking and moaning just enough to keep Smiley scared. A good chunk of the picture uses flashbacks to fill us in on how the treasure was stolen by Bart Selby (Frank Fenton, wearing a hat that seems too small for his head) and his gang, then ​taken by ​the double-crossing Bill Donner (George Chesebro). Back in the “present,” Selby and his gaggle of crooks are looking for the loot, and it’s believed Bill Donner is dead. Then Donner’s niece (Mary Ellen Kay) and nephew turn up to complicate matters.

This is no Riders Of The Whistling Skull (1937), but it handles its mystery elements pretty well. The Devil’s Cave, where the money’s hidden, is pretty cool, especially when Donner locks a couple of his cohorts in there with the treasure to die a slow death. And Smiley working a Ouija board is a pretty odd sight. The cinematography by Fayte Browne looks terrific, with lots of deep shadows to crank up the spookiness.

Ray Nazarro directed over half the Durango Kids (he did half of this set), and he keeps Streets Of Ghost Town running like a well-oiled machine. Charles Starrett is as likable as always and looks cool, and Smiley Burnette is, well, Smiley Burnette, which certainly works for me. George Chesebro is wonderful as the crazed, double-crossing crook.

What bothers me about The Durango Kid pictures is the Kid himself — he often seems nailed to the action like an obligation. But he sure looks terrific tearing through the ghost town on Raider.

The same Durango Kid titles that make up this set have been available from Columbia on DVD in the past, sometimes at up to 20 bucks a piece. So the economics of this set are pretty solid — and it’ll sure save you some shelf space. You can count on Columbia for terrific transfers of these older titles, and these don’t disappoint. (I love the fact that there’s some dust and dirt to remind us what film used to look like.) Recommended.

So with 10 of the series pulled together for this nifty set, when can we count on volumes two through seven?

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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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