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Archive for the ‘Slim Pickens’ Category

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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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Directed by Marlon Brando
Starring Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, Katy Jurado, Ben Johnson, Slim Pickens, Timothy Carey, Hank Worden

This, folks, is a dream come true. At long last, One-Eyed Jacks (1961) is making its way to DVD and Blu-ray, in a version that will actually be worth watching. Not just that, but fully restored (by the FIlm Foundation, supervised by Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg) and presented by the Criterion Collection.

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I was able to help out with a “video essay” on the film’s tangled production and mangled editing — basically, my book boiled down to 20 minutes or so. It’s been a joy and a real honor to be part of this project. Like I said, a dream come true.

The official list of features:
• New 4K digital restoration, undertaken with the support of The Film Foundation and supervised by filmmakers Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
• New introduction by Scorsese
• Excerpts from voice-recordings director and star Marlon Brando made during the film’s production
• New video essays on the film’s production history and its potent combination of the stage and screen icon Brando with the classic Hollywood western
• Trailer
• An essay by film critic Howard Hampton

Judging from a DVD screener, the restoration is beautiful. If you’re a fan of the movie, and you get a chance to see a theatrical screening, go. And be sure to pick up this Criterion edition. One-Eyed Jacks hasn’t looked like this in decades.

 

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Directed by Marlon Brando
Starring Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, Katy Jurado, Ben Johnson, Slim Pickens, Timothy Carey

New York’s Film Forum will run the new restoration of One-Eyed Jacks (1961) for a week, October 14-20. Hope some of you can make it out.

OEJ at NYFF

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Directed by Marlon Brando
Starring Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, Pina Pellicer, Katy Jurado, Ben Johnson, Slim Pickens, Larry Duran, Sam Gilman, Timothy Carey, Ray Teal, Hank Worden

The Cannes Film Festival starts today. For me, the highlight is certainly the debut of the restoration of Marlon Brando’s One-Eyed Jacks (1961) — a movie I’ve been fascinated by since I watched it on the afternoon movie back in 1978. It’s also the subject of my first book, which I really wish was completed.

The great Charles Lang shot One-Eyed Jacks in VistaVision — it was supposedly the last film released in the process, so the new transfer should be incredible. Theatrical screenings and a Blu-ray release are in the works, they say.

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Directed by William Witney
Screen Play by John K. Butler & Richard Wormster
Based upon an Esquire magazine story by Todhunter Ballard
Music: R. Dale Butts

Cast: John Derek (Jeff Cosgrave), Joan Evans (Judy Polsen), Jim Davis (Major Linton Cosgrave), Catherine McLeod (Alice Austin), Ben Cooper (The Kid), Slim Pickens (Boone Polsen), Bob Steele (Dude Rankin), Harry Carey, Jr. (Bert), Frank Ferguson (Chad Polsen), James Millican (Cal Prince)

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Republic blogathon badgeI am delighted to be able to take part in a The Republic Pictures Blogathon and would like to thank our host, Toby, for making it possible.

Having been formed from a merger of several small film companies in 1935, Republic Pictures hit the ground running, immediately scoring huge success with their Gene Autry Western series. They followed this success with The Three Mesquiteers the next year and into the 40s with popular series heroes Don Barry, Wild Bill Elliott, Rocky Lane and, especially, Roy Rogers.

Right from the start, Republic was making a cross-section of film types even though their specialty was the Western. I often feel that Republic was at its very best with their B-Western series – their ‘comfort zone’, if you like. Some of their later, bigger-budgeted Westerns seem a little ’overblown’ by comparison with the smaller, tighter-budgeted action fests. Jubilee Trail comes to mind. This was certainly not always the case, however, and one film that I certainly feel has the spirit and the energy of their smaller fry is 1954’s The Outcast.

The fact that the film was directed by action-ace Wild Bill Witney would have had a lot to do with it certainly. The action is captured beautifully in Republic’s Trucolor hues by expert cinematographer Reggie Lanning. The screenplay was co-written by John K. Butler and Richard Wormser from an Esquire Magazine story by Todhunter Ballard. The story concerns the return to Colorado of Jet Cosgrave (John Derek) after years away with the strong intent of reclaiming his rightful heritage, the vast Circle C Ranch, from his uncle Major Cosgrave (Jim Davis) who had forged Jet’s father’s will to gain control.

Into this main thread we find the arrival of the Major’s new intended (played by Catherine McLeod) whose affections gradually turn away from the Major when she sees how vicious and crooked he really is, towards Jet. There is another woman on the scene though who has set her sights firmly on Jet! Essentially this is a ‘range war’ western (I like those) and whilst you can always say ‘this plot is familiar’ where westerns are concerned, it is really all about how that plot plays out and how well it is dealt with.

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For me, this is a Western I am always happy to re-watch every few years as it just ‘ticks all the boxes’ for me. The storyline and the attendant action are not contrived but natural and the action which is plentiful is expertly-handled by Witney. The supporting cast reads like a “Who’s Who” of the western – Bob Steele, Harry Carey jr, James Millican, Ben Cooper, Frank Ferguson, Hank Worden… I am again struck by how good John Derek is in the leading role. He made a number of good Westerns for different studios and it struck me that he would have been a terrific Western lead for one studio, along the lines of Audie Murphy (and just as good). Good actor and he handles the gunplay and horseback stuff like a real seasoned westerner.

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The Outcast is sadly one of those many fine Republic films that are not available on DVD in the US market. The only option is an Italian release that is on sale on Amazon UK for around $200! Thankfully, the BBC transmitted the movie some years ago in the UK and I recorded it. The print is fine and the Trucolor comes across OK. This is one of those films we need to see released by someone who cares.

If a solid, well-made western made by folks who knew how to do it is your thing then this one is worth seeking out (if you can).

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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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This book falls outside the usual scope of this blog, but I’m sure many of us will be interested in it. I know I am! 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 will be available in February. I’m not sure I can wait that long.

the-authentic-death-and-contentious-afterlife-of-pat-garrett-and-billy-the-kidPat Garrett And Billy The Kid (1973) could be Sam Peckinpah’s most mangled masterpiece — as you know, he had a lot of them. Slim Pickens’ final scene, featuring Katy Jurado and set to Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door,” gets my vote as the saddest, most moving scene in cinema history. (Quick, Toby, think of something else!)

From Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid‘s troubled shooting — plagued with everything from schedule-busting camera malfunctions to liver-wrecking substance abuse — to its mutilation by MGM and eventual restoration and reappraisal, Seydor’s got a helluva story to tell. As an editor, his insight into the film’s cutting and re-cutting should be worth the cover price alone. His previous book, Peckinpah: The Western Films—A Reconsideration, and documentary, The Wild Bunch: An Album In Montage (1996), show that he knows his way around this subject. Man, I can’t wait!

 

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Errol Flynn Westerns are a strange breed. Maybe the first thing you notice is the artificial-ness — Flynn’s displaced accent (hell, his displaced everything), the supersaturated Technicolor of some of them, Humphrey Bogart’s Mexican bandito in Virginia City (1940) and the earnest adventurousness of them all. They’re a bit on the surreal side, almost The Cowboy Of Oz.

They can also seem a little like watching the same movie over and over. The plots — or plot, since they all seem so similar — play like leftovers from Monogram or Mascot with more money thrown at them. And then there are the casts, the same character actors yanked from the Warner Bros. roster of contract players, seemingly at random. (Don’t take any of this as a complaint.)

The Flynn Westerns work pretty much like this: if you like, say, Montana, chances are you’ll like the others. (I do.) Then you get to Rocky Mountain, Flynn’s eighth and last Western. Suddenly, things are very different.

That difference isn’t just what you see on the screen. Hardly. Both the Hollywood and Errol Flynn of 1950 were quite different from just a few shorts years before. For one thing, the studio system was breaking down, and cost-savings were the order of the day. Out went Technicolor, large casts and lavish sets. Next, Flynn wasn’t the dashing young actor of old. His years of hard living were catching up with him. He’d be dead in less than a decade.

Of course, the Western was changing, too.

You can feel these harsh realities, this change, in almost every frame of Rocky Mountain, a grim, gritty little picture that stands as a clear, early example of what we now think of as a Fifties Western. They may have trimmed the budget, but they sure  didn’t scrimp when it came to fatalism. It absolutely oozes from this film.

It’s March of 1865. The Civil War is nearing its end, and the Confederacy needs a miracle. The weary Lafe Barstow (Flynn) has brought his men all the way to California in an effort to link up with insurrectionists, assemble a band of guerillas, and hopefully turn the tide of the war. However, this far West, they end up facing an enemy even more formidable than the Yankees: the Shoshones.

Flynn and his men come to the aid of a stagecoach being chased by a Shoshone raiding party, a gallant act that will eventually seal their fate. The lone passenger turns out to be Johanna Carter (Patrice Wymore), fiancé of a Union lieutenant. Protecting the woman compromises their mission, and puts them in conflict with both the Shoshones and the Union soldiers looking for the missing stage.

The bulk of the film works as a tense character study, as the Confederate guerillas and Wymore wait for the showdown they know is coming, against whichever enemy finds them first. The climactic scene, as the men give each other those resigned looks, their final goodbyes, is reminiscent of what would follow in The Wild Bunch (1969). They know they’re not riding away from this one. As they turn to face their foe (I’m not gonna spoil things by saying who), Flynn has a great line: “They’ve seen our backs. Let’s show ‘em our faces!”

The action takes place on the mountain of the title. There’s not a single interior in the entire film. Filmed outside Gallup, New Mexico, the terrain gives the picture production values far beyond its slim budget. (When God’s your set decorator, who needs a budget?)

The vistas are striking, largely thanks to director of photography Ted McCord. A real veteran, who started out with Silent Westerns, McCord excelled at outdoor shooting, with a career that spanned everything from Ken Maynard riding into the sunset to Julie Andrews coming over the hill in The Sound Of Music (1965), certainly one of the most-revered exterior shots in filmdom.

William Keighley spent the bulk of his Hollywood career as a contract director at Warner Bros. His list of 30s credits includes some of the studios best films: “G” Men (1935), Bullets Or Ballots (1936) and The Prince And The Pauper (1937). He was replaced by Michael Curtiz halfway through Flynn’s The Adventures Of Robin Hood (1938) — with that one, there’s still some debate about how much of Keighley’s work we’re looking at.

More good movies preceded World War II — Brother Rat (1938), for instance. When the war ended, Keighley found himself at RKO. An excellent film noir, The Street With No Name (1948), came from that period. Then he was back at Warner Bros. for Rocky Mountain. A couple more pictures followed, including The Master Of Ballantrae (1953), which would also turn out to be Flynn’s final swashbuckler and Keighley’s last picture before retiring to Paris. His assured work on Rocky Mountain keeps things moving and tension mounting.

While it was Flynn’s last Western, Rocky Mountain provided a couple guys with their firsts — Slim Pickens and Sheb Wooley. According to Wooley (in a Western Clippings interview), “We were down in New Mexico on location, and Flynn said, ‘I know you’re new at this, and I’ve been around about 15 years, so if you want to ask me anything or run lines or whatever, we’ll work on it at night if you want.’ But I never could catch the time when we were both sober enough to work on it.”

Guinn “Big Boy” Williams, a frequent Flynn costar, was also on hand. But what really generated buzz around Rocky Mountain was leading lady Patrice Wymore. She was 21, working on her second picture and engaged to Broadway producer Sammy Lambert. Flynn was 40 and engaged to a Rumanian princess, Irene Ghika. Both of those romances went by the wayside, and Flynn and Wymore were married shortly before the picture opened, which had to have made things easy for Rocky Mountain’s publicity people. And though they were separated, Patrice was Mrs. Errol Flynn when he died in 1959.

Rocky Mountain is a good picture. It’s got a tough performance from Flynn — very different from his other Westerns, and turning his hardened looks into a benefit. It’s well written by Winston Miller (My Darling Clementine), from a story by Alan LeMay (The Searchers). It’s as much character piece as it is a cowboy picture, giving its cast plenty to work with.

And it stands in marked contrast to something like San Antonio (1945), hinting at just where the Western was heading over the next 10 years.

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Rocky Mountain is one of four Flynn Westerns (he made eight) lavishly presented in the Errol Flynn Westerns Collection. The other three are Virginia City (1940), San Antonio (1945) and Montana (1950). Raoul Walsh’s Silver River (1948, their last picture together) is the only Flynn cowboy movie not on DVD. You can watch it here, however — and I recommend that you do.

UPDATE 11/29/16: Rocky Mountain will be available as a single disc in January 2017 from Warner Archive.

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