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Archive for the ‘Sterling Hayden’ Category

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Directed by Nicholas Ray
Produced by Herbert J. Yates
Screenplay by Philip Yordan
Cinematography: Harry Stradling, Sr.
Film Editor: Richard L. Van Enger
Original Music by Victor Young and Peggy Lee

Cast: Joan Crawford (Vienna), Sterling Hayden (Johnny Guitar), Mercedes McCambridge (Emma Small), Scott Brady (Dancin’ Kid), Ward Bond (John McIvers), Ben Cooper (Turkey Ralston), Ernest Borgnine (Bart Lonergan), John Carradine (Old Tom), Royal Dano (Corey), Paul Fix (Eddie)

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s-l1600-15Johnny Guitar (1954) has always been one of my favorite 50s Westerns.

Now, I could go on and on about how it’s a Feminist Western, a Psychological Western, an Existential Western, an HUAC allegory and lots of other things — or maybe it’s none of those. Depends on how you look at it.

I could rattle off a list of prominent filmmakers who’ve cited it as an influence or a favorite. I could cover its incredible cast, surely one of the best assembled for a 50s Western (and that’s saying something), or Victor Young’s terrific score — even that great instrumental version of the title song by The Spotnicks.

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I could even mention that at one point, there was talk of Jack Webb turning it into a TV series. Maybe it’s best to not get me started on Johnny Guitar at all.

But that’s not what this is about, not today anyway. It turns out Johnny Guitar is also one of the finest Blu-Rays I’ve ever seen.

Of course, Olive Films brought it out a few years ago, and it was marvelous. Some of us griped about it not reflecting Nick Ray’s original 1.66 cropping (I’m among the guilty), but the overall quality more than made up for it.

Well, Olive’s new Signature edition, it leaves the old release in the red, Sedona dust. This is a case where what a movie looks like on video can have a substantial impact on your appreciation of it. I saw details I’d never seen, and the restored 1.66 framing revealed little hints of Ray’s eye for color and composition (and his overall genius) that have escaped me for decades. In short, it made this great movie seem even greater.

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The extras — Martin Scorsese intro, commentary, documentaries, trailer, etc. — are outstanding, covering everything from the film and its many interpretations to Nicholas Ray to Republic pictures. Still haven’t made my way through them all. This is a movie that deserves, and stands up to, all the analysis that’s heaped on it, and this package does it justice.

I’m not here to tell you how to spend your money. So I’ll just say that if I won the lottery, I’d buy a few cases of these and send you all one. And if you hadn’t made the switch to Blu-Ray, well, I’d have to help you out with that, too. This one gets my highest recommendation.

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I’m gonna make this quick because time’s running out. Olive Films’ Signature Edition of Nicholas Ray’s Johnny Guitar (1954) comes our tomorrow. Today, the pre-order price at Amazon is only $16.99 (the list price is $39.95).

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Get the new Blu-Ray of Johnny Guitar, or Frank’ll let you have it.

Watched it over the weekend, and I really urge you to get it (a real review will be coming soon). Don’t have a Blu-ray player? Well, now’s the time. This thing’s incredible. As much as I love this movie, seeing it in hi-def and its proper 1.66 framing, I love it even more. Essential.

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Directed by Nicholas Ray
Starring Joan Crawford, Sterling Hayden, Scott Brady, Mercedes McCambridge, Ben Cooper, Ernest Borgnine, Ward Bond, John Carradine, Royal Dano, Frank Ferguson, Paul Fix, Denver Pyle

Olive Films has launched their new Signature series with a couple titles we’ll all be interested in: High Noon (1952) and Johnny Guitar (1954).

With Blu-rays from new 4K scans and a slew of extras, these should be terrific. For Nick Ray’s weird and wonderful Johnny Guitar, the best extra has to be the correct 1.66:1 framing. Ray was an absolute master at composition — and maybe the King Of CinemaScope — and I’m sure this proper aspect ratio will make all the difference. Watch for them in September.

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Arrow In The Dust HS

Directed by Lesley Selander
Produced by Hayes Goetz
Screenplay by Don Martin
Cinematography: Ellis W. Carter
Film Editor: William Austin

Cast: Sterling Hayden (Bart Laish), Coleen Gray (Christella Burke), Keith Larsen (Lt. Steve King), Tom Tully (Crowshaw), Jimmy Wakely (Pvt. Carqueville), Tudor Owen (Tillotson), Lee Van Cleef, Iron Eyes Cody

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With Arrow In The Dust (1954), Allied Artists seems to have splurged a little. With both Sterling Hayden and Coleen Gray in the cast, there’s a bit more star power than usual — and we’re treated to the vivid hues of Technicolor on the then-new wide screen. But this was made not long after Poverty Row’s Monogram Pictures made the transition to Allied Artists, so some of their typical B Movie trappings are very much in evidence. And that’s not a bad thing.

Sterling Hayden’s Bart Laish, a cavalry deserter who poses as an officer to lead a wagon train through Indian territory. And boy, do they need his help — the Indians attack the settlers and soldiers again and again (for reasons that become clear in the last reel).

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Along the way, Hayden is revealed as a solid leader and undergoes a real transformation (though we’re never given his reasons for deserting in the first place). Along with his redemption, he develops a relationship with Christella Burke (Coleen Gray), a woman heading west with the wagon train.

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Working with a crack team of stuntmen and a sizable amount of stock footage, Lesley Selander really piles on the action. And when it comes to action, Selander’s the guy you want in the director’s chair. While you may feel there’s little character development here, it seems to me that there’s quite a bit of it, given how much screen time is devoted to action. Hayden and Gray are as reliable as ever, rounding out their characters very well. Tom Tully, as an old scout, is also very good. Incidentally, Hayden and Gray (and Vince Edwards) would appear in Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing (1956). Think Kubrick and his team screened Arrow In The Dust during casting?

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Arrow In The Dust is no epic. No one’s ever gonna mistake it for one. But it’s a revelation to see its 1.85 framing (presented as a more TV-friendly 1.78) reinstated. And while the DVD from Warner Archive is the best I’ve seen the movie look, there are some problems — and I fear they come from the original material, not the transfer. The stock footage doesn’t match the rest of the film, which is a small gripe. The day-for-night scenes are painfully obvious, and I suspect the print material doesn’t reflect the lab work that went into first-run prints. And you’ll see some dust and scratches here and there.

Sterling Hayden’s performance really boosts Arrow In The Dust, and Lesley Selander’s command of action and pacing keep things moving toward a very satisfying conclusion (I’m a sucker for a redemption story and would watch a movie of Hayden brushing his teeth). This is a solid, if slightly cheap, mid-budget Western that’s certainly worth another look — especially given the improved picture quality and original framing. Recommended.

Laura’s already reviewed this one.

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While doing some research on George Sherman’s The Treasure Of Pancho Villa (1955), I came across The Odessa American from October 9, 1955. What was playing around town was incredible.

Ector: The Treasure Of Pancho Villa
Scott Theater: Night Of The Hunter 
Rio Theater (next door to the Scott): The Big Combo
Twin Terrace Drive-In: Wichita and New Orleans Uncensored
Twin Cactus Drive-In: The Seven Little Foys and Coroner Creek
Broncho Drive-In: Las Vegas Shakedown and The End Of The Affair
Twin-Vue Drive-In: The Seven Little Foys and The Denver And Rio Grande

You could spend your night with Randolph Scott, Joel McCrea, Robert Mitchum or Rory Calhoun. If all that wasn’t enough, you could head to the Odessa High School field house on the 11th for The Western Revue Of 1955 with Lash LaRue and “Fuzzy” St. John in person — or wait a couple more days for Elvis Presley (“with Scotty and Bill”), Johnny Cash, Wanda Jackson and Porter Wagoner.

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By the way, the Ector Theater was restored in 2001 and runs classic movies from time to time. I love Texas.

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Warner Archive has some great stuff promised for April.

The Hired Gun (1957)
Directed by Ray Nazarro
Starring Rory Calhoun, Anne Francis, Vince Edwards, Chuck Connors
This is one I’ve been wanting for a long time. Black and white Scope with Rory Calhoun and Anne Francis, directed by Ray Nazarro. What’s not to like?

Black Patch (1957)
Directed by Allen H. Miner
Starring George Montgomery, Diane Brewster, Tom Pittman, Leo Gordon, Lynn Cartwright
A solid Montgomery Western written by character actor Leo Gordon.

Arrow In The Dust HS

Arrow In The Dust (1954)
Directed by Lesley Selander
Starring Sterling Hayden, Coleen Gray, Jimmy Wakely, Lee Van Cleef
Hayden and Gray appear together a couple years before The Killing (1956), directed by the great Lesley Selander.

The Marauders (1955)
Directed by Gerald Mayer
Starring Dan Duryea, Jeff Richards, Keenan Wynn
Duryea as the bad guy gets first billing. Enough said.

Son Of Belle Starr (1953)
Directed by Frank McDonald
Starring Keith Larsen, Dona Drake, Peggie Castle, Regis Toomey
Peggie Castle and Regis Toomey in 70 minutes of Cinecolor from Allied Artists.

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RIP, Rod Taylor.

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Rodney Sturt “Rod” Taylor
(11 January 1930 – 7 January 2015)

I always liked Rod Taylor and hated to see that he passed away a few days ago.

Taylor made some terrific movies: The Time Machine (1960), The Birds (1963, below), The Glass-Bottom Boat (1966), Dark Of The Sun (1968) and on and on. He had an early role in Top Gun (1955), a Sterling Hayden picture directed by Ray Nazarro.

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