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Archive for the ‘Robert Aldrich’ Category

Burton Stephen “Burt” Lancaster
(November 2, 1913 – October 20, 1994)

This would’ve been the 107th birthday of one of my favorite movie stars, Mr. Burt Lancaster.

Here his is with Gary Cooper in Vera Cruz (1954), which his production company produced. It’s terrific, it was a huge hit and its ultimate influence on the spaghetti western can’t be overstated.

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Kino Lorber’s bringing a couple of underrated Anthony Quinn Westerns to Blu-Ray in early 2021 — Man From Del Rio (1956) and The Ride Back (1957). These two pictures illustrate all the riches that were turning up in theaters during the 50s. Major stars like Anthony Quinn were doing medium-budget Westerns like this, along with the stuff guys like George Montgomery and Guy Madison were doing.

Man From Del Rio (1956)
Directed by Harry Horner
Starring Anthony Quinn, Katy Jurado, Peter Whitney, Douglas Fowley, John Larch, Douglas Spencer, Guinn “Big Boy” Williams

Man From Del Rio has a great cast and has overlooked far too long. Hopefully, a nice widescreen HD transfer of Stanley Cortez’s cinematography will give it a bit of a reappraisal. Cortez, of course, shot a few films you might’ve heard of — The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), The Night Of The Hunter (1955) and The Naked Kiss (1964).

Wish Harry Horner had directed more. This and Beware, My Lovely (1952) show he really had the chops. His production design work is incredible. He did pictures like The Wonderful Country (1959), The Hustler (1961) and The Driver (1978).

The Ride Back (1957)
Directed by Allen H. Miner
Starring Anthony Quinn, William Conrad, Lita Milan

William Conrad produced and co-stars in this one. He’s a lawman who heads to Mexico to bring back outlaw Quinn. Director Allen H. Miner did the George Montgomery picture Black Patch the same year. Black Patch went a bit too far with the stylistics, but that’s not a problem here. Joseph Biroc shot The Ride Back, by the way. He’d just shot Attack (1956) for Robert Aldrich, who was a producer on The Ride Back. Biroc’s B&W cinematography is always a plus, and it’ll be stunning on Blu-Ray.

I love the tagline “It rides a trail no Western ever rode before!”

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Directed by Robert Aldrich
Starring Burt Lancaster, Jean Peters, John McIntire, Charles Buchinsky, John Dehner, Paul Guilfoyle, Ian MacDonald, Walter Sande, Morris Ankrum, Monte Blue

Kino Lorber has announced that a Blu-Ray of Robert Aldrich’s Apache (1954) will be available later this year.

It’s a solid little picture with a great cast. The downbeat ending was changed to something United Artists felt audiences would like. Apache was a big hit, so maybe UA was right. But Lancaster and Aldrich were not. The success of this one landed Aldrich the chance to director Lancaster and Gary Cooper in Vera Cruz (1954), a much bigger picture.

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6twu

Directed by Allan Dwan
Screen Play by Steve Fisher
Photographed by Reggie Lanning
Film Editor: Fred Allen, ACE
Special Effects: Howard and Theodore Lydecker

CAST: John Lund (Lance Horton), Brian Donlevy (Charles Quantrill), Audrey Totter (Kate Quantrill/Kitty McCoy), Joan Leslie (Sally Maris), Ben Cooper (Jesse James), Nina Varela (Mayor Delilah Courtney), Jim Davis (Cole Younger), Reed Hadley (Bitterroot Bill Maris), Frank Ferguson.

Allan Dwan approached Woman They Almost Lynched (1953) as a parody. As he told Peter Bogdanovich, “If you treat that seriously, where would you be?”

Released a few months before Nick Ray’s Johnny Guitar (1954), and from the same studio, Republic, Dwan’s picture is just as personal. To me, it feels like he’s trying to see just how much he could get away with, really biting the hand that was feeding him. Maybe he was. His time at Republic was almost up, and he’d soon begin a terrific run with producer Benedict Bogeaus.

Olive Films has announced Woman They Almost Lynched for DVD and Blu-ray release in January. It’s good to see Olive come through with another key Republic title. As a huge fan of Dwan’s late-period work, I’d put this on the esential list. (At the same time, Robert Aldrich’s World For Ransom, released by Allied Artists in 1954 and starring Dan Duryea, will hit the streets.)

image93

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Vera Cruz pressbook sized

With Burt Lancaster’s 100th birthday on the horizon, UCLA has put together a terrific program to celebrate one of the greatest stars of them all. Running through June, it offers up a great sampling of Lancaster’s career.

For me, and readers of this blog, the best night of the bunch might be this Friday, with a 35mm screening of both Vera Cruz (1954) and The Professionals (1966). Both are terrific, with Vera Cruz being a highlight of the 50s Western. Like Shane (1953), it’s one of the films that fell victim to the widening of theater screens in the wake of CinemaScope. This time around, Robert Aldrich’s picture was cropped/blown up to SuperScope’s 2:1 ratio (it was probably shot for 1.85).

Another great evening will be the June 7 screening of Gunfight At The O.K. Corral (1957), a film I find flawed but wonderful. Its VistaVision should be a gorgeous thing on the big screen.

Vera Cruz (1954) and The Professionals (1966)
April 12, 2013 – 7:30 pm

Gunfight At The O.K. Corral (1957) and I Walk Alone (1948)
June 7, 2013 – 7:30 pm

The Billy Wilder Theater
10899 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90024
(310) 206-8013

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UPDATE: Burt and Coop’s costar in Vera Cruz, Spanish actress Sara Montiel, passed away today at 85. She was once married to Anthony Mann.

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Burton Stephen “Burt” Lancaster
(November 2, 1913 – October 20, 1994)

Here’s a shot from Robert Aldrich’s Vera Cruz (1954) to mark Burt Lancaster’s birthday. Compared to most of the major stars we celebrate on this blog, Burt made relatively few Westerns — but what Westerns they are: Gunfight At The O.K. Corral (1957), The Professionals (1966) and Ulzana’s Raid (1972), to name just a few.

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Cowboys And Indians magazine has an interview with the late, great Ernest Borgnine in its October issue. Here’s a short piece on Gary Cooper and Vera Cruz (1954).

Ernest Borgnine: “When I got into this business, I’d have to say Gary Cooper was a huge role model. What a gentleman. I remember we were in a car together on the Vera Cruz movie set down in Mexico. I was going to get in the front with the driver to give him his privacy, but he said, ‘No, no, come back here with me.’ So we’re sitting there talking and he says to me, ‘Y’know, I sure wish I could act like you.’ Can you believe that? I said to him, ‘You’re Gary Cooper. You’ve got two Oscars in your house and you wish you could act like me?’ He said, ‘Aw, I just got them for saying ‘yup.’’ What a sweetheart of a man and an incredible talent he was. As unassuming as anything, but I learned a ton just by watching him… Just being honest, y’know? Being natural. Listening — I mean really listening — and responding in kind instead of just reciting lines and forgetting that you’re portraying an actual person. It sounds basic, and maybe it is, but it’s deceivingly hard and I think a lot of actors never really get it.”

You can read the whole thing here.

Image (L-R): Gary Cooper, Jack Elam, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, Burt Lancaster in Robert Aldrich’s Vera Cruz (1954).

 

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Denise Darcel has passed away at 87. The French actress’s film career was a short one, but it included two important 50s Westerns.

Above, she’s seen with Gary Cooper in Vera Cruz (1954). This scene with Denise in a rain barrel does not appear in the film. (Do her shoulder straps look like photo retouching to you?)

She’d previously appeared in Westward The Women (1950, below) along with Robert Taylor and an incredible ensemble female cast. She’s great in this one, handling the demanding physical stuff with ease.

You’ll find obituaries for her here and here.

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Back in July of 2010, I covered 50s Westerns on Blu-ray — which was a paltry two titles (given, they were The Searchers and Rio Bravo).

Not many have been added to that last, but the additions are substantial, pictures that are not only important titles in the genre and the decade, but films that were poorly represented in standard DVD.

We’ve got The Big Country (1958, above). A stunning transfer of the Technirama film started out as a $10 Walmart exclusive and is now available elsewhere.

There was nothing good you could say about The Horse Soldiers (1959) on DVD. The Blu-ray looks so good, however, it invites you to give the maligned John Ford film another chance. And guess what? It holds up well, especially this scene.

Robert Aldrich’s Vera Cruz (1954) has had problems with its presentation since SuperScope was thrust upon it after it had been shot. The Blu-ray recreates that 2:1 framing, but is careful enough to make it work. Rarely do you notice just how tight some shots are, and the overall transfer is miles ahead of what you’ll replace when you buy this one.

Just think, at this rate, by summer of 2012, we might have, say, eight or nine 50s Westerns to chose from when we want ride into the 1080 sunset.

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Laura has pointed out that Deep Discount’s Summer Sale has rolled around again. It’s a way to save 25% off their already discounted prices through June 19.

A number of codes usually surface as the sale progresses. Here are a few:

SUMMER11

SUMMERSAVINGS

25MORE

It’s a great way to get caught up on some things you missed or take the sting out of your gradual transition to Blu-ray. For starters, I’ll be snagging the new Vera Cruz (1954, above).

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