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Archive for the ‘Thomas Carr’ Category

Directed by Thomas Carr
Produced by Vincent M. Fennelly
Written by Milton R. Raison
Director Of Photography: Ernest Miller

Cast: Wild Bill Elliott (Marshal Sam Nelson), Phyllis Coates (Marian Harrison), Rick Vallin (Ray Hammond), Fuzzy Knight (Pop Harrison), John James (Marv Ronsom), Denver Pyle (Jonas Bailey), Dick Crockett (Will Peters), Harry Lauter (Mack Wilson)

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It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted a Wild Bill Wednesday, a serious oversight on my part. Well, I really felt like watching a Bill Elliott picture the other night, so let’s take a look at Topeka (1953).

The notorious bank robber Jim Levering (Elliott) and his gang wind up in Topeka, Kansas, where Mack Wilson (Harry Lauter) and his thugs are pressuring the local businesses for “protection money.” Elliott winds up as sheriff, seeing the opportunity to gain the citizens’ trust, run Wilson and his henchmen out of town and take over things for himself.

But Levering’s conscience, the lovely Marian Harrison (Phyllis Coates), and his closest friend among the gang, Ray (Rick Vallin), convince him that maybe it’s time to go straight. But, of course, we’ve seen enough of these things to know that’s easier said than done.

I’m a big fan of the common theme of redemption in 50s Westerns. Director Thomas Carr and writer Milton R. Raison do a good job with it in Topeka, leveraging Elliott’s typical good-badman persona. What’s interesting here is that we don’t see Elliott’s good side right away, and even he seems surprised by his turnaround. His transformation is totally believable.

The B Western was heading into the sunset when Elliott made his series of pictures for Monogram (later Allied Artists), and while the budgets hold things back a bit, I’m always impressed by the effort and imagination that went into them. The subject matter’s a bit more adult, Elliott’s a more complex hero than what the matinee crowds were probably used to, and the camerawork is inventive at times (though a little rushed and wobbly at others). For Topeka, it looks like cinematographer Ernest Miller brought a crane out to Iverson and Corriganville. This, for my money, is one of the best of the series.

And one more thing. I really liked Fuzzy Knight in this. He was also good in the offbeat B Western Rimfire (1949).

Topeka is part of Warner Archive’s terrific The Wild Bill Elliott Western Collection — which I hope you already own. The set gives these cheap little movies the red-carpet treatment, which they (and William Elliott himself) certainly deserve.

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Back in 2014, gathering everybody’s favorite DVD and Blu-Ray picks for the year turned out to be a lot of fun. It’s since become an annual thing.

Thanks to everybody who sent in their picks for 2016. This was a great year for 50s Westerns on DVD and Blu-Ray (and 2017 is shaping up to be just as good, or maybe better). Here’s the Top 10, according to your votes.

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10. Desperado (1954, Warner Archive, DVD)
It was a tie between this Wayne Morris picture and his earlier Desert Pursuit (1952). They’re both solid, offbeat little Westerns — and it’s real treat to have them available in such stellar condition.

9. Yellow Sky (1948, Kino Lorber, Blu-Ray)
Thanks to William Wellman, we didn’t have to wait till the 50s for Hollywood to start making 50s Westerns. The town of Yellow Sky is populated by only an old prospector and his daughter — until some slimy outlaws come riding up.

8. Western Union (1941, Kino Lorber, Blu-Ray)
Randolph Scott in Fritz Lang’s second Technicolor movie. There’s so much cool stuff in this movie, and it looks wonderful.

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7. Black Horse Canyon (1954, Universal Vault, DVD)
For years, Joel McCrea’s Universal Westerns were missing on DVD. It’s great to have them so easy to track down. This is a good one.

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6. Comanche Station (1960, Explosive Media, Blu-Ray)
The last of the Scott-Boetticher Westerns turns out to be the first to make its way to Blu-Ray, and as I see it, the others can’t get here soon enough. This thing’s incredible.

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5. She Wore A Yellow Ribbon (1948, Warner Archive, Blu-Ray)
John Ford’s She Wore A Yellow Ribbon (1948, above) is one of the most beautiful color movies ever shot. The proof is pressed oh-so-magnificently into this Blu-Ray. It also features one of John Wayne’s finest performances.

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4. Roughshod (1949, Warner Archive, DVD)
This gets my vote as the best of the “noir Westerns.” I was real happy to see the response this picture got. It’s a shame it’s not better known.

3. Cariboo Trail (1950, Kino Lorber, DVD/Blu-Ray)
The transfer here is a minor miracle, demonstrating how good CineColor can look. They wisely didn’t go overboard with the cleanup, so it still retains its true film look. And, of course, this is a solid picture from Edwin Marin and Randolph Scott.

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2. Johnny Guitar (1954, Olive Films Signature Edition, DVD/Blu-Ray)
Olive’s new Signature edition is a marked improvement over their old release, which was terrific. The restored 1.66 framing makes a big difference, and the supplemental stuff is excellent.

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1. One-Eyed Jacks (1961, Criterion Collection, DVD/Blu-Ray)
Opinions of Marlon Brando’s Western are all over the place, so I was really surprised to see it land in the top spot. However, judging it simply in terms of its superb presentation, I don’t see how anything could beat it. It’s stunning, a big fat reward to all of us who’ve suffered through those awful tapes and discs over the years. I’m proud and honored to have been involved with Criterion’s work here. (Note: Having worked on the One-Eyed Jacks extras, I did not feel comfortable taking part in the vote this time around.)

In closing, the discs on this list highlight the impact the video presentation can have on our appreciation of these old movies. Many of these have been available, in some form, for years. One more thing: your reasons for not buying a Blu-Ray player are rapidly running out.

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Code Of The Saddle TC

Warner Archive is about to offer up their ninth volume of their Monogram Cowboy Collection. This one’s all Johnny Mack Brown, nine pictures on three discs.

The Gentleman From Texas (1946)
Trailing Danger (1947)
Flashing Guns (1947)
Land Of The Lawless (1947)
Code Of The Saddle (1947)
Law Comes To Gunsight (1947)
The Fighting Ranger (1948)
Frontier Agent (1948)
The Sheriff Of Medicine Bow (1948)

All feature Raymond Hatton and were directed by Lambert Hillyer, except for Code Of The Saddle coming from Thomas Carr.

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The release date is September 13.

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Desperado HS

Directed by Thomas Carr
Written by Geoffrey Homes
Based on the novel by Clifton Adams
Cinematography: Joseph M. Novak
Film Editor: Sam Fields

Wayne Morris (Sam Garrett), Jimmy Lydon (Tom Cameron), Beverly Garland (Laurie Bannerman), Rayford Barnes (Ray Novak), Dabbs Greer (Marshal Langley), Lee Van Cleef (The Crayton twins), Nestor Paiva (Captain Thornton), Roy Barcroft (Martin Novack), Florence Lake (Mrs. Cameron), John Dierkes

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Thanks to a steady string of releases from Warner Archive, Wayne Morris will be showing up on this blog right regular for a while.

Though he had quite a career going at Warner Bros. — he played the title role in Kid Galahad (1937), Wayne Morris was one of the first stars to leave Hollywood to fight in World War II. He eventually flew an F6F Hellcat off the USS Essex, shooting down seven Japanese planes and helping sink five enemy ships. (His wife, Olympic swimmer Patricia O’Rourke, was the sister of Republic star Peggy Stewart.)

Back from the war with a number of decorations, Morris wasn’t able to regain his career’s momentum, and he found himself in a string of B Westerns — as Monogram was becoming Allied Artists and the B Western was heading into the sunset. One of the better ones was The Desperado (1954) from Allied Artists and director Thomas Carr.

The novel by Clifton Adams, published in 1950 by Gold Medal, was adapted for the movie by Geoffrey Homes. It takes place after the Civil War, as carpetbaggers are running Texas. In a town called John’s City, Tom Cameron (Jimmy Lydon) ends up on the run after locking horns with crooked sheriff Nestor Paiva. He crosses paths with Sam Garrett (Wayne Morris), a notorious gunman with a price on his head. Garrett takes Tom under his wing, teaching him how to use a gun and live on the lamb. After learning his father’s been killed, Tom takes all he’s learned back to John’s City for revenge.

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Sam Garrett (Wayne Morris): “Some folks will tell you a good shot only needs one gun. That’s a lot of foolishness. Two of anything is better than one.”

The movie itself feels like an attempt to do something special, to take the B Western up a notch. Maybe they didn’t quite succeed, but it’s completely unpretentious, offers up all the action we’re used to, and deviates from convention whenever it can.

Nobody ever said Wayne Morris was a great actor. But he’s easy to like and he carries himself well. In The Desperado, he makes his gunfighter-with-principles character work. The scenes as he mentors Jimmy Lydon are very well done, and when he threatens to plug someone, you know he means it. By this time, Morris had put on weight, and he looks a bit weary — both boost his effectiveness here.

The Desperado provided an early role for Beverly Garland. She said of Morris: “He was no longer a star. This was not Warner Bros.! He was nice, but heavy. He had to have a box to get on his horse. I didn’t hang around with him so I didn’t know about his drinking — but from his being puffy, I certainly suspected it.”

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Beverly would also appear with Morris in Two Guns And A Badge (1954), which is often listed as the last B Western ever made. She was also to appear in The Marksman (1953), but was replaced by Virginia Grey.

The rest of the cast of The Desperado is a B-Movie Who’s Who: Dabbs Greer, Lee Van Cleef (who plays twins!), Nestor Paiva (the same year he appeared in Creature From The Black Lagoon), Roy Barcroft and John Dierkes. Thomas Carr’s direction is typically tight, Joseph M. Novak’s camerawork is top-notch, and you get to see plenty of the Iverson Ranch.

The Desperado is an under-seen picture, one of those B Westerns that really rises to the top. Warner Archive has done a great job with it, presenting it with its original 1.85 framing intact — which makes a huge difference in the look of the film. Recommended.

Source: Ladies Of The Western by Michael G. Fitzgerald and Boyd Magers

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Dragoon Wells Massacre UK LC

It’s a lot of fun putting this list together every year, seeing what people are coming across for the first time. Remember, though these things are 60-something years old, if you’ve never seen it, it’s a new movie!

To make the list, a picture has to be mentioned by at least three people. This year, there were fewer titles brought up, but the frequency was a lot higher. We ended up with a solid lineup of fairly obscure, medium-budgeted 50s Westerns — and if you haven’t discovered them yourself, search them out.

And I hope this blog helped you discover some of these.

Dragoon Wells Massacre (1957)
This was my personal favorite discovery of the year, and I was so happy to have others finding it, too. William Clothier’s camerawork deserves a solid CinemaScope transfer — and Jack Elam’s performance needs to be seen by more people. (Stay tuned for the Allied Artists blogathon, where I’ll give this thing some much-deserved attention.)

Cave Of Outlaws (1951)
William Castle directs a 50s Western for Universal — shooting at Carlsbad Caverns, Vasquez Rocks and the Iverson Ranch. Needs a DVD release.

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Wyoming Mail (1950)
A fairly obscure U-I Western starring Stephen McNally and Alexis Smith. Reginald Le Borg keeps things moving at a brisk pace and Russell Metty makes sure the Technicolor looks terrific.

Gunsmoke In Tucson (1958)
A number of people picked up the DVD from Warner Archive, and it seems like most of us were impressed. If you still haven’t tracked this one down, get to it!

Thunderhoof (1948)
A Phil Karlson horse picture with a cast of only three (and the horse). Can’t to track this one down.

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Four Guns To The Border (1954)
This one was on last year’s list, too. We keep bumping into, and we all seem to like it. It’s a great example of what a Universal 50s Western can be: terrific cast, gorgeous Technicolor, plenty of action.

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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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Directed by Thomas Carr
Produced by Vincent M. Fennelly
Written by Dan Ullman
Director Of Photography: Ernest Miller

Cast: Wild Bill Elliott (Marshal Sam Nelson), Virginia Grey (Stella Walker), Henry Morgan (Alf Billings), John Doucette (Ernie Walker), Lane Bradford (William Norris), Stanford Jolley (Everett)

Forty Niners LC1

Released in May 1954, The Forty-Niners (1954) was William Elliott’s last Western. He’d finish out his career with a cool series of detective films (which many of us around here like a lot), but cowboy-wise, this was the end of the trail. It’s the last picture in the Warner Archive set The Wild Bill Elliott Western Collection.

Elliott is Marshall Sam Nelson, tracking down the murderers of a marshall in gold-crazy California. He strikes up an alliance with Alf Billings (Harry Morgan), a card sharp who may know the names of the killers. They wind up in Cold Water, where they run afoul of Sheriff Lane Bradford and saloon owner John Doucette. Nelson develops a bit of respect for Billings, who he suspects isn’t all bad. I’m oversimplifying things to avoid spoilers.

Dan Ullman’s script offers up twists and turns that we don’t see coming, even though we’ve seen a million of these things. It gives Henry Morgan a good part (he’d already appeared with Elliott in Republic’s The Showdown in 1950), which of course he’s excellent in. Morgan might have more screen time than Elliott does. Virginia Grey plays Morgan’s old flame who’s now married to Doucette. And to top it all off, Elliott narrates the picture Dragnet-style.

Forty Niners LC3

By the time The Forty-Niners began shooting at the Iverson Ranch and Corriganville, Monogram was called Allied Artists and the industry standard for projection was 1.85. So, thanks to the folks at Warner Archive, we’re treated to a widescreen William Elliott picture. The previous entry in the series, Bitter Creek (1954), was also 1.85 — it’s not included in this set. These films were done very cheaply, and no transfer can ever make up for that. But it was shot by a real pro, Ernest Miller, and the widescreen framing gives it a fresh look.

I can’t say enough about these films, or about how excited I am that they’ve made their way to DVD in such supreme condition. Highly recommended.

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