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Archive for the ‘TV’ Category

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Since starting this blog and allowing myself to really wallow in 50s Westerns, it’s been interesting to note how many of the 50s Western “practitioners” made the move to television in the 50s and into the 60s. For them, it probably wasn’t a real decision — they simply went where the work was.

Daniel Boone (1964-70) is one of the programs that really benefited from the Western pedigree of its cast and crew. Boone was developed to leverage Fess Parker’s incredible popularity as Disney’s Davy Crockett. Fact is, the show was to be about Crockett, but Disney wouldn’t give up the rights.

Parker at Boone Forest

Shout Factory has released the show’s first season in a 6-disc Collector’s Edition — 29 episodes with bonus material. Making your way through the set, you’re immediately struck by the familiar names and faces. This first season, the only one not in color, supplements its regular cast — Parker, Patricia Blair, Albert Salmi, Ed Ames, etc. — with the likes of Claude Akins, Dan Duryea, James H. Griffith, Jay Silverheels, Robert J. Wilke, Michael Pate, John McIntire and Hank Worden. Directors include Joseph H. Lewis, George Sherman, Thomas Carr, Nathan Juran and George Marshall — who all some some outstanding 50s Westerns.  The first episode, “Ken-Tuck-E,” directed by Marshall, was written by Borden Chase and shot by Carl Guthrie. Quite an impressive bunch.

The set looks terrific, with print quality varying a bit from episode to episode — but solid overall. The extra stuff is well done. And as for the shows themselves, I’ve always felt this first season was stronger than what came later. But you know, Parker’s so likable, that hardly seems important. Recommended.

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Over the years, a great many movies have suffered from how they’re seen on TV — incomplete, beat-up, pan-and-scan prints (sometimes not even in color as they once were). That mistreatment eventually impacts the film’s overall reputation, as TV became how entire generations experienced older movies. (Right now, I’m thinking of how awful the Regalscope pictures have looked since they left theaters. Thank goodness for DVD and Blu-ray.)

I think TV shows have suffered a similar fate over the years, with faded prints hacked to bits to make room for more commercials. The Rebel (1959-61), now that we have the new set from Timeless Media Group, illustrates my point.

13_1959 Rebel, The TV Series (Nick Adams)

The Rebel follows Johnny Yuma (Nick Adams), a restless young Confederate veteran after the Civil War. With nothing to return to (we learn in the first episode that his lawman father’s dead), he “wanders the West” for 76 episodes — getting pulled into various situations as he rides from town to town in search of peace.

0e9f250b7cbb6dac92241b95bebf97beNick Adams is very good as Yuma, bringing the right mix of intensity and sensitivity to the part. He’s believable as a young man who’d beat the crap out of a guy, then write about it in his journal. It could’ve come off terribly. Like so many of these 5os Western TV shows, the supporting cast each week is incredible. The first episode alone features Strother Martin, Dan Blocker and John Carradine. And over the run of the show, you’ll also find Claude Akins, Robert Blake, Elisha Cook, Jr., Royal Dano, John Dehner, Jack Elam, Virginia Gregg, L.Q. Jones, George Macready, Patricia Medina, Agnes Moorehead, Leonard Nimoy, Warren Oates, Paul Picerni, Tex Ritter, Soupy Sales, Bob Steele, Peggy Stewart, Robert Vaughn, Yvette Vickers and Marie Windsor. Adams’ wife Carole Nugent is terrific in an early episode. Johnny Cash is in one, too.

Producer Andrew J. Fenady (from a good interview here): “We would shoot one day on location. Vasquez Rocks, and a lot in Thousand Oaks. And the second day we would shoot on the lot — the (western) street at Paramount. The third day we would do the interiors, whether it was someone’s house, or a shack, or a hotel or a jail. A sheriff’s office. So that was really the formula: first day out, second day on the street, and the third day interiors.”

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About half the episodes were directed by Irvin Kirshner. He does a good job, to be sure, but there’s nothing in this to indicate that this is the guy who’d eventually direct The Empire Strikes Back (1980), maybe the last truly epic film I can remember. The size of the screen was obviously not an issue for him. Bernard L. Kowalski, Bernard McEveety, Robbert Ellis Miller and Frank Baur handled the rest.
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Some episodes were transferred from slightly worn 16mm prints with changeover cues punched in them here and there; others look like a million bucks. What’s important is that The Rebel, The Complete Series gives us all 76 episodes, complete. Johnny Cash’s vocals have been restored to the titles (the theme was replaced for syndication, which is how we’ve been seeing and hearing it for years). While the quality varies from episode to episode, and 16mm can be a little soft, to have them all looking this good is a revelation. There are plenty of extras, from interviews to stills to commercials — even the pilot for the proposed companion series The Yank. This is a good set, and a good show, ready to be rediscovered. Highly recommended.

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Timeless Media Group has announced The Rebel: The Complete Series for release this August. You get all 76 episodes and plenty of bonus stuff: interviews, stills, commercials and a featurette.

Nick Adams plays Johnny Yuma, a young Confederate veteran who “roamed through the west” following the Civil War. Each week, he encounters a new batch of characters, played by the typically wonderful character actors of the period, from John Carradine to Marie Windsor — and some folks we’d come to know later like Warren Oates and Strother Martin. Johnny Cash, who released a 45 of  the title tune, even turns up in one.

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There’s been a lot of great TV Westerns making their way to DVD lately, and it’s good to see The Rebel joining that group. And while we’re on the subject of Nick Adams, Fury At Showdown (1957) — an excellent little Western with a terrific performance from Nick — is out on DVD. I can’t recommend it enough.

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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.

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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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