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Archive for the ‘Sam Katzman’ Category

Directed by Lewis D. Collins
Produced by Vincent M. Fennelly
Written by Daniel B. Ullman
Director Of Photography: Ernest Miller
Music by Raoul Kraushaar
Film Editor: Sam Fields

Cast: Wild Bill Elliott (Matt Boone), I. Stanford Jolley (Curly Ivers), Pamela Blake (Kathy Clark), Paul Fierro (Lou Garcia), Rand Brooks (Al), Richard Avonde (Pedro), Pierce Lyden (Farley), Lane Bradford (Wallace), Terry Frost (Will Richards), Stanley Price (Sheriff), Stanley Andrews (Judge), Michael Whalen (Barnes), Ray Bennett (Bull Clark), House Peters Jr. (Doctor)

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Seems like it’s time for a Wild Bill Wednesday. So let’s go to Waco (1952).

A little backstory. William Elliott and Republic Pictures parted ways in 1950. It wasn’t long before Elliott started making low-budget Westerns at Monogram. By the time the series was over, Monogram had become Allied Artists, 1.85 had become the standard aspect ratio for American cinema, and the B Western was dead. These 11 pictures — Waco was the second — made sure the B Western went out on a high note.

Matt Boone (Elliott) leaves Waco, Texas in a hurry after killing the crooked gambler Bull Clark (Ray Bennett) in self defense — he knows he won’t get a fair trial. Boone falls in with a gang of outlaws and is shot and captured when a bank job in Pecos goes wrong. Two of Waco’s prominent citizens bring Elliott back to Waco. They believe in his innocence (they saw Clark draw first) and need him to clean up their town. He’s elected sheriff. Only trouble is, his old gang (led by I. Stanford Jolley) and the gambler’s daughter (Pamela Blake) aren’t too keen on the idea.

These Monogram and Allied Artists pictures are a bit darker, more “adult,” than your typical B Western. The budget limitations are certainly obvious, but William Elliott’s as reliable as ever — and in this one, he gets to play the “good badman” type of role he liked so much, patterned after William S. Hart.

I’m a peaceable man and I’m not lookin’ for trouble. I’m not runnin’ from it neither.”

Waco comes from a pretty tight script by Dan Ullman. Ullman wrote plenty of 50s Westerns, from programmers like Kansas Pacific (1953) with Sterling Hayden to the excellent Face Of A Fugitive (1959), starring Fred MacMurray. It was directed by Lewis D. Collins, who started with silent shorts, made a boatload of pictures and passed away a few years after this one.

Pamela Blake’s part here doesn’t give her a whole lot to do. She stayed plenty busy — everything from This Gun For Hire (1942) to the serial Ghost Of Zorro (1949) at Republic to Live Wires (1946), the first Bowery Boys movie, to The Sea Hound (1947), a Sam Katzman serial at Columbia. Waco was her last feature — she worked on TV for a while, then retired to raise a family. I. Stanford Jolley, who’s got a great part here as a not-as-bad-as-you-thought outlaw, appeared in hundreds of Westerns, including a number of these Elliott pictures. It’s always a plus when he turns up in the credits (or in the back of a crowd working without credit).

Waco is part of Warner Archive’s terrific The Wild Bill Elliott Western Collection. Shot at Corriganville and the Iverson Ranch by ace cinematographer Ernest Miller, it looks terrific on DVD. Monogram struck prints of these pictures in “glorious sepia tone,” and while I’m a stickler for preserving the original presentation, I’m glad Warner Archive stuck with black and white. Sepia doesn’t always come off well on TV. The set treats these cheap little movies with the kind of respect they (and William Elliott himself) certainly deserve. It’s great to see them looking so clean and sharp. Highly recommended.

Dan Ullman would write, produce and direct a remake of Waco — the Regalscope picture Badlands Of Montana (1957) starring Rex Reason and Beverly Garland.

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Directed by Fred F. Sears
Starring Rory Calhoun, Susan Cummings, Angela Stevens, Max Baer, Ray Teal

Sidonis out of France has announced the upcoming DVD (only) release of Utah Blaine (1957), a picture that brings together Rory Calhoun, producer Sam Katzman and director Fred F. Sears to bring a Louis L’Amour novel to the screen. By the way, Angela Stevens was in a number of Katzman pictures, including Creature With The Atom Brain and the Jungle Jim movie Devil Goddess (both 1955).

Calhoun made a number of pictures for Columbia, often having a hand in the production himself. This was his only time working with Jungle Sam’s unit — cats like Fred Sears and DP Benjamin Kline who take the finished picture far beyond what Katzman had in his budget. Of late, Sidonis has stayed clear of the forced (as in you can’t get rid of ’em) subtitles that plagued some of their earlier DVDs. This should be 1.85, and I’m looking forward to seeing it again. Coming in September.

UPDATE: Word is, the subtitles can be removed.

Thanks to John Knight for the reminder.

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Directed by William Castle
Produced by Sam Katzman
Story and Screen Play by Douglas Heyes
Cinematography: Henry Freulich
Film Editor: Charles Nelson

Cast: George Montgomery (Major Frank Archer), Richard Denning (Stacey Wyatt), Martha Hyer (Brett McClain), John Crawford (Captain Richard Hillman), Emory Parnell (Sergeant McClain), Michael Granger (Chief Mike)

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Battle Of Rouge River (1954) is another William Castle Western produced by Sam Katzman for Columbia. It’s part of Mill Creek’s terrific eight-movie DVD set The Fastest Guns Of The West: The William Castle Western Collection. Also included are Klondike Kate (1943), Conquest Of Cochise (1953), Jesse James Vs. The Daltons (1953), Masterson Of Kansas (1954), The Gun That Won The West (1955), Duel On The Mississippi (1955) and Uranium Boom (1956). All eight for less than $15.

At an outpost in the Oregon Territory, the stiff, serious Major Archer (George Montgomery) replaces Major Wallach (Willis Bouchey), who hasn’t been able to defeat Chief Mike (Michael Granger). Archer meets with the chief and they agree to a 30-day truce that keeps them on either side of the Rogue River. Of course, there’s a woman — Brett McClain (Martha Hyer), the daughter of one of the solders at the fort.

But one of the Irregulars aiding the soldiers (Richard Denning) is working to keep the Indians stirred up — to hold off Oregon’s statehood, which would spoil a good thing some of the area businesses have going. Denning tricks Montgomery into breaking the truce and attacking the Indians.

George Montgomery was on a roll at this time, making one solid little Western after another, often with William Castle as director. For me, Masterson Of Kansas (1954, directed by Castle) and Robber’s Roost (1955) stand out. Martha Hyer’s career was also taking off at this time, and she’d be nominated for an Oscar for Some Came Running (1958).

Richard Denning was in the excellent Hangman’s Knot (1952), playing pretty much the same creep he is in this one. The first thing I remember seeing Denning in was Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954), along with all those sci-fi pictures like The Black Scorpion (1957). Later, I’d come to know him as the governor of Hawaii on Hawaii Five-O. Denning was married to the beautiful Universal horror star Evelyn Ankers.

Battle Of Rouge River has the hallmarks of a Sam Katzman picture — a running time of about 70 minutes and lots of stock footage.

“All six winners of the National Indian Beauty Contest”

It also boasts a pretty tacky gimmick. Willam Castle always gave Sam Katzman credit for teaching him the true value of showmanship. Battle Of Rogue River seems to be an example of one of those lessons. According to the ads, you’ll find “all six winners of the National Indian Beauty Contest” in its cast. The contest did not exist until this movie came along — and you have to look really hard to find these lovely ladies in the film.

Battle At Rogue River isn’t among Castle or Montgomery’s finest work. But it’s got a cast and crew of seasoned professionals who I’m always happy to spend time with. Cinematographer Henry Freulich always had these cheap things looking great, and that’s easy to see in the transfer offered up by Mill Creek. I can’t recommend this set enough.

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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 William Castle
Produced by Sam Katzman
Screen Play by Robert E. Kent
Director Of Photography: Lester H. White
Film Editor: Viola Lawrence

Cast: Brett King (Joe Branch), Barbara Lawrence (Kate Manning), James Griffith (Bob Dalton), Bill Phipps (Bill Dalton), John Cliff (Grat Dalton), Rory Mallinson (Bob Ford), William Tannen (Emmett Dalton), Richard Garland (Gilkie), Nelson Leigh (Father Kerrigan)

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So glad to see The Fastest Guns Of The West: The William Castle Western Collection turn up in my mailbox. Couldn’t wait to crack it open and give it a whirl. You get Klondike Kate (1943), Conquest Of Cochise (1953), Jesse James Vs. The Daltons (1953), Masterson Of Kansas (1954), Battle Of Rogue River (1954), The Gun That Won The West (1955), Duel On The Mississippi (1955) and Uranium Boom (1956). All directed by William Castle. Most produced by Sam Katzman. And all eight for less than $15.

Jesse James Vs. The Daltons is about as historically accurate as Blazing Saddles (1974) is. Joe Branch (Brett King) might be the son of Jesse James. He and Kate Manning (Barbara Lawrence) — he saves her from a being lynched — hook up with the Dalton Gang to retrieve some loot and locate Jesse, alive or dead.

It’s silly, fast-paced and loads of fun. The picture runs just over an hour, with Castle and DP Lester H. White throwing coffee pots, bullets and dying bad guys at the 3-D camera whenever possible. There’s plenty of ridin’, fightin’ and shootin’, though you can tell the schedule kept the action from getting the staging it needed. It’s a bit sloppy at times.

This might have been Brett King’s only lead, and it was certainly his last feature. He’d do nothing but TV for the rest of his career. After a couple episodes of The Green Hornet in 1967, King and his wife moved to Harbour Island, Bahamas, and opened the Coral Sands Hotel. He became a mover and shaker in the tourism industry down there.

Barbara Lawrence has a decent part here, though there seemed to have been no effort to make her even slightly resemble a woman from the late 19th century. You see that a lot in 50s Westerns. She looks good in jeans, and I guess that was more important (King just happens to have a pair that fits her in his saddlebag). Barbara’s career wasn’t a long one — she gave up movies for real estate — though she’s in some good stuff, including the cool Regalscope sci-fi picture Kronos (1957).

James H. Griffith plays one of the Daltons. He’s always worth watching, and even though he gets third billing, his part isn’t all that big in this one. Castle would give him bigger, better parts in his next two Westerns: Masterson Of Kansas (1954, included in this set) and The Law Vs. Billy The Kid (1954).

Jesse James Vs. The Daltons was shot in Technicolor and 3-D, and it was to be projected at 1.85. It appears here 2-D, of course, and full frame. The picture looks quite good, but as you can imagine, there’s a lot of dead space at the top and bottom of the frame. The zoom feature on my TV took care of some of that. (Mill Creek licenses these pictures from Columbia and works with what the studio sends them.)

The rest of the set looks even better. The real jewel is the black and white Uranium Boom (1956), which looks gorgeous. You’d almost think you were looking at a Blu-Ray. The Fastest Guns Of The West: The William Castle Western Collection is a terrific set, something many of us have been hoping for. As I see it, William Castle could do no wrong, and these movies are good, cheap fun — thanks to Mill Creek for giving us such a budget-friendly, storage-space friendly package. Highly, highly recommended.

To the fine folks at Mill Creek: while you’re serving up William Castle, how about a set of the Whistler movies?

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I had to make sure this wasn’t April Fool’s Day — because a set of eight Westerns directed by William Castle (all but one produced by Sam Katzman!) sounds too good to be true. But here it is, coming from our friends at Mill Creek Entertainment.

Klondike Kate (1943)
Starring Ann Savage, Tom Neal and Glenda Farrell
One of Castle’s first directing credits — it came out a year before the first of The Whistler series.

Conquest Of Cochise (1953)
Starring John Hodiak, Robert Stack, Joy Page
Stack and Page had already appeared together in Budd Boetticher’s Bullfighter And The Lady (1951). Hodiak makes a good Cochise.

Masterson Of Kansas (1954)
Starring George Montgomery, Nancy Gates, James Griffith
James Grifftih’s performance as Doc Holliday really elevates this one.

Jesse James Vs. The Daltons (1954)
Starring Barbara Lawrence, James Griffith, William Phipps
This one was originally in 3-D and Technicolor. As you’d imagine, Castle throws everything he can think of at the camera.

Battle Of Rogue River (1954)
Starring George Montgomery, Richard Denning, Martha Hyer
Katzman cast “all six winners of the National Indian Beauty Contest” in this picture. I wouldn’t be surprised if this contest didn’t exist before Katzman and Castle came along.

The Gun That Won The West (1955)
Starring Dennis Morgan, Paula Raymond, Richard Denning
This tale of the US Cavalry taking on Chief Red Cloud makes good use of stock footage from Buffalo Bill (1944).

Duel On The Mississippi (1955)
Starring Lex Parker, Patricia Medina, Warren Stevens, John Dehner
Not really a Western, but it’s got a solid Western cast doing the Louisiana river pirate thing.

Uranium Boom (1956)
Starring Dennis Morgan, Patricia Medina, William Talman
A modern-day Western with Dennis Morgan and William Talman fighting over their uranium mine — and the lovely Patricia Medina.

Can’t tell you how excited I am about this set. Castle’s one of my favorite filmmakers, and I’ve got a real soft spot for these Castle-Katzman movies. Highly, highly recommended.

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Produced and Directed by Wallace MacDonald
Written by Clark E. Reynolds
Director Of Photography: Irving Lippman
Film Editor: Al Clark, ACE
Assistant Director: Leonard Katzman

CAST: Robert Knapp (Gil Reardon), Jana Davi (Rosita), Walter Coy (Ben Keefer), Paul Birch (Marshal Matt Crawford), Don C. Harvey (Deputy Dave), Clarence Straight (Deputy Frank Ross), Jerry Barclay (Jordan Keefer), Roy Hayes (Walt Keefer), Charles Horvath (Coloradas), Jean Moorhead (Katy Reardon).

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Don’t think I’d ever heard of this one. Gunmen From Laredo (1959) is a cheap, 67-minute B Western from Columbia. It doesn’t have a whole lot going for it, except for the fact that it’s a cheap, 67-minute B Western from Columbia. That’s good enough.

There’s a real Sam Katzman feel to Gunmen From Laredo — if anything, it might be even cheaper than Jungle Sam’s Westerns. The assistant director is Katzman’s nephew Leonard, who’d go on to a long, successful career in television.

Gil Reardon (Robert Knapp) is framed for murder by Ben Keefer (Walter Coy), who killed Reardon’s wife (Jean Moorhead). As Reardon tries to clear his name and bring Keefer to justice, with the help of Rosita (Jana Davi) and Laredo’s marshal (Paul Birch), we’re treated to a number of shootouts, a prison escape, a dust storm, a few fistfights and more — all cleverly spaced to keep the kids from getting restless.

Gunmen From Laredo sized

Robert Knapp worked steadily in TV from the 50s into the 70s (appearing in both incarnations of Dragnet). He didn’t make many features and had very few leads. Knapp doesn’t have the presence of, say, George Montgomery or Guy Madison, who appeared in these sorts of things, but he’s serviceable.

Jana Davi is Maureen Hingert, 1955’s Miss Ceylon. She appeared in a handful of 50s Westerns, including an uncredited part in Pillars Of The Sky (1956). Walter Coy is the bad guy here; we know him as John Wayne’s brother in The Searchers (1956). And Paul Birch, who’s in a slew of Roger Corman’s 50s films (how can you forget him in 1957’s Not Of This Earth?), is his dependable self as the marshal who comes to Knapp’s aid.

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Jean Moorhead (Playboy‘s Playmate Of The Month, October 1955) plays Knapp’s wife. She had a short film career, but somehow managed to work with both Ed Wood (The Violent Years) and John Ford (The Long Gray Line). The part of Laredo, Texas, is played by the Iverson Ranch. Bronson Canyon’s in it, too.

The director-producer was Wallace MacDonald, who hadn’t directed a film since the Silents. He’d been a busy producer between those directing jobs, from Boston Blackie Goes Hollywood (1942) to Fury At Gunsight Pass (1956). Shot in March of 1958, Gunmen From Laredo would be his last film.

Irving 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 a few of the later Three Stooges shorts, a few of  their features and almost every episode of The Monkees. For Gunmen From Laredo, he kept things bright and sharp and makes the Columbia Color behave, and nicely frames everything for 1.85. Again, it looks like a Sam Katzman film.

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Gunmen From Laredo was obviously put together for the bottom of a bill, and the kids were probably happy with it. And while it’s not very good, it’s great to know there are more of these things out there — maybe better than this one, maybe worse — waiting for us to find them.

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