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Archive for the ‘Sam Fuller’ Category

Written, Produced, Directed by Samuel Fuller
Cinematography: Joseph Biroc
Art Direction: John Mansbridge
Music: Harry Sukman
Film Editing: Gene Fowler Jr.

Cast: Barbara Stanwyck (Jessica Drummond), Barry Sullivan (Griff Bonnell), Dean Jagger (Sheriff Ned Logan), John Ericson (Brockie Drummond), Gene Barry (Wes Bonnell), Robert Dix (Chico Bonnell), Jidge Carroll (Barney Cashman), Paul Dubov (Judge Macy), Gerald Milton (Shotgun Spanger), Ziva Rodann (Rio), Hank Worden (Marshal John Chisum)

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With a Sam Fuller movie, there’s always something kinda off. Not off in a bad way, off as in different from anything else you’ve ever seen — except another Sam Fuller movie. The performances, pacing, editing, dialogue — they’re just different. And that’s before you get to the story itself.

A great example of this is Fuller’s Forty Guns (1957). It’s unlike any Western you’ve ever seen.

Forty Guns is a big sweeping epic on one hand and a glorified Regalscope picture on the other. There’s a scene pretty early in the movie where John Ericson and his gang of punks are busting up the town. They throw stuff, shoot stuff and just generally create total mayhem. Fuller cuts back and forth across the street as they shoot from one side and their bullets hit windows or whatever on the other side — then to the helpless, wigged-out townspeople watching all this. The footage doesn’t cut together in the smooth, traditional Hollywood way, but it perfectly creates the chaos and movement the scene needs.

Barbara Stanwyck is terrific as Jessica Drummond, a female take on the rancher who runs the town. Barry Sullivan is Griff Bonnell, a former gunman now working for the government. So far, it sounds like one of your standard B Western plots — how many times was Roy Rogers a government agent? But that’s where the similarities end, as Forty Guns goes off in directions only Sam Fuller would even think of taking it. And he’s got a cast and crew eager to help him get there.

It has one of the damnedest opening sequences I’ve ever seen, as the Drummond and her 40 guns come thundering along a deserted and pass by Sullivan and his brothers. I’d love to experience it on a big curved CinemaScope screen.

But from one end to the other, Forty Guns is a movie absolutely filled with striking images, cooked up by Fuller and delivered in gorgeous B&W CinemaScope by Joseph Biroc — and all flawlessly captured on Blu-Ray by Criterion. They’ve really got the contrast perfectly dialed-in on this one. Wish every black and white movie looked like this on video — everybody who helps bring old movies to TV and video needs to take a look at this.

Of course, it’s got a typically Criterion-ish slew of extras — interviews, a documentary, even a chapter of Fuller’s autobiography. It’s a pretty deep dive, and it’s always a treat to wallow in Sam Fuller. He was a real character, a true original and one helluva filmmaker. Highly, highly recommended.

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Directed by Sam Fuller
Starring Barbara Stanwyck, Barry Sullivan, Dean Jagger, John Ericson, Gene Barry

Criterion has announced a December 11 date for their edition of Sam Fuller’s Forty Guns (1957). The extras sound terrific and I can’t wait to see its black and white Scope in high definition.

This is one of those movies where you find something new to be dazzled by each time you see it. Absolutely essential.

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Abile Town signed still

First, thanks to everyone who sent in their picks — we had a larger turnout this year. Your responses were very thorough, and they made it clear to me what a good year this was for 50s Westerns on DVD and Blu-ray — you brought up tons of em. Here are the Top 10, ordered by the number of votes they received.

Abilene Town (1946, Blu-ray, Panamint Cinema)
This one topped the list in a big way. I was so stoked to see this fairly obscure Randolph Scott picture rescued from the PD purgatory where it’s been rotting for years — a lot of you seemed to feel the same. Mastered from 35mm fine-grain material, it’s stunning.

Shane (1953, Blu-ray, Eureka)
The Blu-ray release from Paramount made last year’s list, and this UK release was a strong contender this time around. Eureka gives us the opportunity to see what Paramount’s controversial 1.66 cropping looked like.

The Wild Bill Elliott Western Collection (1951-54, DVD set, Warner Archive)
I’m pretty biased when it comes to this one, and I was happy to learn that others were as pleased with it as I was. One of the greatest Western stars goes out on a high note, even if it is a low-budget one.

The Quiet Gun (1956, Blu-ray, Olive Films)
It’s hard to believe this was a 2015 release, since it was on Olive Films’ coming-soon list for such a long time. These Regalscope movies look great in their original aspect ratio, and for my money, this is the best of the bunch.

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Woman They Almost Lynched (1953, Blu-ray, Olive Films)
It makes me feel good to see Allan Dwan get some attention, and stellar presentations of his work, like this one, should continue to fuel his (re-)discovery.

Man With The Gun (1955, Blu-ray, Kino Lorber)
A solid Robert Mitchum Western, with the added punch of a terrific 1.85 hi-def transfer. This is a lot better movie than you probably remember it being.

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Run Of The Arrow (1957, DVD, Warner Archive)
This really knocked me out — I’d somehow missed out on what a great movie this is. It took me a while to get used to Rod Steiger and his affected accent, but this is prime Sam Fuller.

The Hired Gun (1957, DVD, Warner Archive)
Black and white CinemaScope is a big attraction for me, so I’d been waiting for this one for years. It was worth the wait.

Stranger At My Door (1954, Blu-ray, Olive Films)
A really cool little movie from Republic and William Witney. It was Witney’s favorite of his own pictures, and it’s pretty easy to see why he’d be partial to it. His work here is masterful.

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Star In The Dust (1956, Blu-ray, Koch)
Koch out of Germany is treating us (or those of us with a Region B player) to some great Universal 50s Westerns on Blu-ray. This one was released in Universal’s 2.0 ratio of the period. Some found it a bit tight, but it’s a gorgeous presentation of a movie not enough people have seen.

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Run Of The Arrow ad sized

Directed by Sam Fuller
Starring Rod Steiger, Sara Montiel, Brian Keith, Ralph Meeker, Jay C. Flippen, Charles Bronson, Olive Carey, Colonel Tim McCoy

Another Fuller picture making its way to DVD is always good news, even better when it’s one of his Westerns. Run Of The Arrow (1957) — coming from Warner Archive July 7, begins with the end of the Civil War as a disillusioned soldier (Rod Steiger) makes his way west and takes up with the Sioux. Sound kinda like something you might’ve seen with Kevin Costner?

This is a long way from Dances With Wolves, if for no other reason than because it was written, produced and directed by Sam Fuller. Recommended.

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Forty Guns drivein detail

Written, Produced, Directed by Samuel Fuller
Starring Barbara Stanwyck, Barry Sullivan, Dean Jagger, John Ericson, Gene Barry, Robert Dix, Hank Worden

We all want to do our part to boost international trade. And here’s an easy way to do it. Samuel Fuller’s Forty Guns (1957) will come riding onto Blu-ray in June, thanks to the folks at Eureka Entertainment in the UK.

I don’t know what you think of this crazy thing, but I love it. It’s a big sweeping epic on one hand and a glorified Regalscope picture on the other. It’s got everything we expect from a Sam Fuller movie. And it has one of the damnedest opening sequences I’ve ever seen. I’d love to see it on a big curved CinemaScope screen — which I’m sure some of you have experienced.

It’s a Blu-ray/DVD combo, part of their Masters Of Cinema series, with an audio interview with Fuller among its extras. But who needs extras when you get Joseph Biroc’s incredible black and white ‘Scope photography in high definition?

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I’ve always loved creaky old movies, especially Westerns, and have gotten used to people turning up their noses at whatever film I might mention. So one of the joys of riding herd over this blog for the last five years has been running into a gang of folks who enjoy these things as much as I do. Who discuss them, study them, and give them a level of respect that “regular people” can’t understand.

That’s one of the things that makes David Schecter’s work at Monstrous Movie Music so special. He’s one of us. We’re his customer base. And he continues to deliver the goods.

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Western Medley
, a two-CD set, presents the scores to three Westerns from Lippert Pictures: The Great Jesse James Raid (1953, composed by Bert Shefter), The Baron Of Arizona (1950, by Paul Dunlap) and Last Of The Wild Horses (1948, from Albert Glasser). It’s a terrific release, from the music itself to the lavish packaging to the thorough liner notes.

I’m particularly enamored of Shefter’s work for The Great Jesse James Raid. Evidently, no one bothered to tell him this was just some cheap 73-minute cowboy movie. While in some ways it’s pretty conventional stuff, there’s enough music for over half the film’s running time–and it’s so well done. The film doesn’t deserve this score (or Wallace Ford, come to think of it).

Haven’t spent as much time with the other scores. I’m very familiar with Sam Fuller’s The Baron Of Arizona and a fan of Paul Dunlap. He never disappoints. Last Of The Wild Horses is a nice score; many of us know Albert Glasser for his work on 50s horror and science fiction stuff.

This is a set you’ll want to spend some quality time with. Recommended. Let’s hope there’s a Western Medley Volume 2 someday. And by the way, the films themselves are available through Kit Parker Films and VCI (Jesse, Wild Horses) and Criterion (Baron).

a_1980-Cover-GatlingGun--3Out at the same time is Paul Sawtell and Bert Shefter’s music for The Gatling Gun (1971), a near-impossible-to-see picture with a production history that’s probably more entertaining that the film itself. Before release, the film was confiscated when one of the producers was brought up on racketeering charges.

It was directed by Robert Gordon and stars Woody Strode, Guy Stockwell, Robert Forster, Patrick Wayne, John Carradine and Pat Buttram. The score’s very good, and now I’m really wanting to see the movie.

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Lippert

A few weeks ago, I broke my glasses and began relying on an old (pre-trifocals) pair while I scrambled for an eye exam and new frames. Reading became very, very difficult. Not the best time to receive a book you’re really excited about. But that’s exactly when Mark Thomas McGee’s Talk’s Cheap, Action’s Expensive: The Films Of Robert L. Lippert, from BearManor Media, turned up in my mailbox.

Lippert Pictures (and related companies) cranked out cheap little Westerns like 1952’s Outlaw Women, along with gems such as Sam Fuller’s I Shot Jesse James (1949) and The Quiet Gun (1957). (They covered the other genres, too.) I’m a big fan of these films and was determined to make my way through the book with or without spectacles, holding it so close I risked paper cuts on my nose.

McGee set the book up very well. The first 80 pages or so read as a biography and history of Lippert and his career, from the theater business to film production. I had a working knowledge of the Lippert story going in, but was always coming upon something I didn’t know. There’s a filmography, arranged by company, that makes up the bulk of the book. And finally, there’s a listing of the Lippert theaters (the closest to me was in Chattanooga, TN).

red desert HS

What’s not to like about a book like this? It’s packed with information on movies I grew up with, movies I love. Rocketship X-M (1950). The Steel Helmet (1951). Superman And The Mole Men (1951). Forty Guns (1957). Showdown At Boot Hill (1958). The Fly (1958). The Alligator People (1959). House Of The Damned (1963). They’re all in here, and you’ll come away with a better understanding of what went into getting them made. Where I think McGee really excelled was in making sure the book, as informative as it is, stayed as fun as the films it’s about. (The same goes for his previous books on Roger Corman and AIP.)

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If there’s a downside to this book, it’s that the filmography points out film after film that you’d love to track down and see. You’ll find a lot of them available from Kit Parker Films and VCI, and others scattered here and there. Some of the Fullers were even given the Criterion treatment. As for the rest, well, happy hunting.

It’s very easy to recommend Mark Thomas McGee’s Talk’s Cheap, Action’s Expensive: The Films Of Robert L. Lippert. Now that my new glasses are in, I’m reading it a second time.

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