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Archive for the ‘Sam Peckinpah’ Category

Directed by Sam Peckinpah
Starring Randolph Scott, Joel McCrea, Mariette Hartley, Ron Starr, James Drury, Edgar Buchanan, R.G. Armstrong

Here’s one so many of us have been waiting for. Warner Archive has announced an upcoming Blu-Ray release for Sam Peckinpah’s Ride The High Country (1962).

Surely one of the finest Westerns ever made. Absolutely essential.

Thanks to Dick Vincent for the great news.

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The Westerner — the short-lived 1960 Western series created by Sam Peckinpah and starring Brian Keith — is a really amazing thing. First, it’s just a good show, period. Next, for a Peckinpah fan, it’s a chance to see the whole Peckinpah Thing take shape before our eyes. From the dialogue that rings so true to his unique blend of the hard-ass and the sentimental to particular scenes or dialogue that’d crop up in his later work, The Westerner feels like a prototype for Sam’s career (or at least the early part of it). His visual style still had a way to go.

independent_press_telegram_sun__sep_25__1960_I’ve been dragging around bootleg copies of The Westerner for years. I’d never seen the pilot from Dick Powell’s Zane Grey Theatre — but Shout Factory has taken care of that with their marvelous new two-DVD set. You get the 13 regular episodes and the pilot (featuring Neville Brand at his despicable best), along with commentaries from Peckinpah scholars like Paul Seydor, who’s written some excellent books on Sam and his work. His The Authentic Death And Contentious Afterlife Of Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid: The Untold Story Of Peckinpah’s Last Western Film has become one of my favorite movie books.

Haven’t made it through both discs yet, but all the shows I’ve seen look great. This is one a lot of folks have been waiting for, and this is certainly worth the wait. Right now, it’s a Walmart exclusive — at just $14.96 — and I encourage you to put aside whatever hangups you might have about the megastore and go get one of these. It’s a must.

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Fans have been hollering for this one for quite a while. Right now, it’s a Walmart exclusive: The Westerner, the 1960 series created by Sam Peckinpah and starring Brian Keith, is out on DVD from Shout Factory. Only 13 episodes were produced (it was up against The Flintstones) — they’re all terrific, and they’re all here. Also included is the Zane Grey Theatre episode that served as the show’s pilot.

Episodes were directed by the likes of Peckinpah, Andre de Toth and Ted Post. Appearing in those 13 episodes were folks like Warren Oates, Katy Jurado, John Dehner, Slim Pickens, Robert Culp, Frank Ferguson, Virginia Gregg, R.G. Armstrong and Dub Taylor — many of them people Peckinpah would turn to time and time again. Lucien Ballard shot three of them. And Brian Keith’s dog, Brown, is played by Spike, who was also Old Yeller. Highly, highly recommended.

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The character Joel McCrea played in so many of his Westerns was a confident, moral man — absolutely true to his word (even when he was an outlaw). Many say that character is a perfect match for McCrea himself. Here in the States, with our contentious, divisive 2016 election coming to an end just a few days after McCrea’s birthday, there’s an irony there that’s hard to miss. There’s also a realization that we could sure use someone like McCrea today.

I could go on and on about Joel McCrea’s incredible career, working with some of Hollywood’s greatest directors on some of their finest films (many of which will be covered over the course of this blogathon), but there’s a quote from a 1978 interview that pretty much says it all —

“I liked doing comedies, but as I got older, I was better suited to do Westerns. Because I think it becomes unattractive for an older fellow trying to look young, falling in love with attractive girls in those kinds of situations… Anyway, I always felt so much more comfortable in the Western. The minute I got a horse and a hat and a pair of boots on, I felt easier. I didn’t feel like I was an actor anymore. I felt like I was the guy out there doing it.”

Below you’ll find links for a series of posts from a very fine roster of bloggers, writers, fans, etc. Keep checking back.

Day 3

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South Of St. Louis (1949)
50 Westerns Of The 50s

Day 2

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These Three (1936)
The Jade Sphinx

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The Outriders (1950)
50 Westerns From The 50s, by Blake Lucas

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Gunsight Ridge (1957)
Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings

Day 1

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Ride The High Country (1962, by Jerry Entract)
50 Westerns From The 50s

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The Virginian (1946)
Caftan Woman

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Wichita (1955)
The Round Place In The Middle

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Four Faces West (1948)
Speakeasy

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The Most Dangerous Game (1932)
The Hannibal 8 (by Jerry Entract)

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Stranger On Horseback (1955)
50 Westerns From The 50s by Allen Smithee

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Directed by Sam Peckinpah
Produced by Richard E. Lyons
Screenplay by N.B. Stone, Jr.
Cinematography: Lucien Ballard
Film Editor: Frank Santillo
Music by George Bassman

Cast: Joel McCrea (Steve Judd), Randolph Scott (Gil Westrum), Mariette Hartley (Elsa Knudsen), Ron Starr (Heck Longtree), James Drury (Billy Hammond), Edgar Buchanan (Judge Tolliver), R.G. Armstrong (Joshua Knudsen), Jenie Jackson (Kate)

joel-mccrea-blogathon-badgeI am delighted to be able to take part in the Joel McCrea Blogathon and would like to thank our host, Toby, for making it possible.

Due to a combination of factors in my early childhood movie-watching, Joel McCrea was probably my earliest Western favorite (among the bigger fish, anyway), even before the Duke perhaps. Firstly, an early favorite showing on UK TV at the time was Four Faces West (19XX) which I loved straight off. Plus, one of the earlier films I was taken to see at the cinema was The Tall Stranger (19XX) possibly the first film I saw in that great big CinemaScope!

I’ve gone on record on this blog as stating that my all-time favorite movie is Ride The High Country (1962), a fact I was reminded of by my friend Blake Lucas, who suggested this should be my contribution. I’ll try to get across just why it is my favorite.

I’ll be brief on the story as probably everybody reading this already knows it well. The screenplay was written by N.B. Stone jr. though I believe it was extensively re-written by Peckinpah. Also, screenwriter Burt Kennedy had an involvement in that he brought the script to the attention of Randolph Scott.

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Two aging former lawmen, down on their luck, are given a routine job to collect gold from a remote mining community in the ‘high country’ and transport it back through difficult territory. Times in the West are a-changin’ and the two old guys see the opportunity in different ways. Steve Judd sees an opportunity for a final task that he can bring off with integrity and dignity. His old friend Gil Westrum is bitter and sees the gold as his payoff for a career that didn’t! This brings about a clash between the two until they have to face a bunch of low-lifes from the mines who want to kill them for the gold.

I was so taken with this film on first view in 1962 that I went to see it again three days later. I was only 14 but found the film and the two central performances utterly moving. We all know, of course, that originally McCrea was offered the part of Westrum but felt it wrong for his personal image. And so… a brilliant switch was made. Scott was more than happy to play the more shaded personality for once. The result was perfection. Both men had pretty well already retired by 1962 and this was the final film for Scott and, effectively, for McCrea also. What a film with which to go out on!!

There are many wonderful subtle moments throughout the film. Right near the start we see Steve Judd going to sign up for the job – he is embarrassed by his frayed shirt cuffs and by his need for eye-glasses. A proud man then and like Westrum men past their best and out of their time.

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Many will no doubt disagree with me, but for me this was Sam Peckinpah’s true masterpiece. I was never so happy with his subsequent movies.

In 1962, Joel McCrea was a bigger favorite of mine than Randolph Scott, but time and many subsequent viewings of both their films put them almost side-by-side for me today, but with Scott ahead and at the very top because of his large and fairly consistent body of work in the Western genre.

Beautifully shot by the great Lucien Ballard in some terrific California Sierras locations – Mammoth Lakes, Inyo National Forest and that familiar landmark to all Western fans, Bronson Canyon.

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Ride The High Country was a watershed Western – in style it was of the newer, coming Western but its heart , accentuated by the pairing of McCrea and Scott, was traditional.

I believe it would have been a fine Western with other stars taking the two leads. With McCrea and Scott, it was simply splendid!

No trouble of course getting this one on DVD. My own copy was put out by Warner Video in 2006, the year I picked it up on a trip to New York. It is still awaiting a Blu-Ray release.

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Jerry Entract does not run his own blog or have any involvement in the film industry but is an English lifelong movie fan and amateur student of classic cinema (American and British). Main passions are the Western and detective/mystery/film noir. Enjoys seeking out lesser-known (even downright obscure) old movies.

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Turner Classic Movies is dedicating Monday, August 24 to the great Warren Oates. Beginning with Yellowstone Kelly (1959), they’re running 13 of his films, including Ride The High Country (1962) and The Wild Bunch (1969). The still above is from Welcome To Hard Times (1967). Times shown here are Eastern Standard Time.

For my money, Oates is one of the greatest screen actors to ever get in front of a camera — ever see Two Lane Blacktop (1971) or The Brinks Job (1978)? — and this attention is well deserved.

Warren Oates 8-24 TCM

Thanks to Dick Vincent for the tip.

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Sam Peckinpah
February 21, 1925 – December 28, 1984

Here’s to Sam Peckinpah, one of the Western’s greatest directors on what would’ve been his 90th birthday. His Ride The High Country (1962) and The Wild Bunch (1969) are among the best Westerns ever made. He had a feel for the West that really set him apart.

I’m currently reading Paul Seydor’s The Authentic Death and Contentious Afterlife Of Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid: The Untold Story of Peckinpah’s Last Western Film — and it’s fascinating.

He’s seen above talking with Edmond O’Brien on location for The Wild Bunch.

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