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Archive for the ‘United Artists’ Category

FORT MASSACRE poster

Directed by Joseph H. Newman
Written by Martin M. Goldsmith
Director Of Photography: Carl Guthrie
Starring Joel McCrea, Forrest Tucker, Susan Cabot, John Russell, George N. Neise, Anthony Caruso, Denver Pyle

Every so often, someone will complain about how light Joel McCrea’s 50s Westerns were, but that’s something Fort Massacre (1958) will never be accused of being. It’s a really good picture with a tough, dark turn from McCrea — one of his best performances, I’d say. And Kino Lorber will bring it to Blu-ray before the year’s up.

McCrea is Sgt. Vinson, a bitter cavalryman driven by a hatred of the Apaches, who massacred his family. When the commanding officer is killed in an ambush, McCrea takes the opportunity to lead the troops through Apache territory — for what the men begin to suspect are personal reasons.

It was written by Martin M. Goldsmith, known for a couple of top-notch noirs — Detour (1945) and The Narrow Margin (1952). He brought a lot of Detour‘s fatalism to Fort Massacre (1958). Joseph. Newman’s direction is tight and assured, making the most of a small budget, and Carl Guthrie makes sure it all looks terrific. Highly, highly recommended. No, make that essential.

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Gunfight Dodge Coty HS

Directed by Joseph H. Newman
Screenplay by Daniel B. Ullman and Martin M. Goldsmith
Starring Joel McCrea, Julie Adams, John McIntire, Nancy Gates, Don Haggerty, Timothy Carey

The Gunfight At Dodge City (1959) is a solid Joel McCrea picture, with a great cast and terrific CinemaScope photography from Carl Guthrie (whose late-50s Westerns are a thing of beauty). This is another fine example of what a middle-budget Western could be, and it’s coming to Blu-ray from Kino Lorber.

Bat Masterson (McCrea) winds up in Dodge City, pinning on the sheriff’s badge to clean up the town and avenge the death of his brother. Along the way, he has to choose between Julie Adams and Nancy Gates — if only real life was like this!

McCrea went into The Gunfight At Dodge City (1959) with retirement in mind — this was to be his last picture. But Sam Peckinpah (and Randolph Scott) lured him back in the saddle with Ride The High Country (1962).

Thanks to John Knight.

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Wonderful Country LC

Directed by Robert Parrish
Starring Robert Mitchhum, Julie London, Gary Merrill, Albert Dekker, Charles McGraw, Jack Oakie, Leroy ‘Satchel’ Paige, Anthony Caruso

It’s great to see Robert Mitchum’s independent, self-produced pictures — some of his best work, in my opinion — making their way to Blu-ray. First, Thunder Road (1958) just came out from Shout Factory. And now, Kino Lorber has announced The Wonderful Country (1959) for Blu-ray release in September. Based on Tom Lea’s novel, this is an unusual Western, to say the least (just look at that cast), and a really terrific movie.

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Lesley_SelanderNext Thursday, April 9, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) will highlight director Lesley Selander by running nine of his films, three of them part of RKO’s excellent series of B Westerns starring Tim Holt (Gunplay is a very good one).

Arrow In The Dust (1954) stars Sterling Hayden and Coleen Gray. Tall Man Riding (1955) is a solid Randolph Scott picture. And The Lone Ranger And The Lost City Of Gold (1958) is the second TV spinoff feature to star Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels.

I’m a big fan of Lesley Selander. When it comes to action, he’s one of the best. It’s good to see him get this kind of attention. His films are short, smart, fast — and highly recommended.

Selander on TCM

The times listed are Eastern Standard Time. This is a “restoration” of a shorter post. Thanks to Blake for pointing out all I’d missed.

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Directed by Thomas Carr
Produced by Walter M. Mirisch
Screenplay by Martin M. Goldsmith and John McGreevey
Screen story by Martin M. Goldsmith
Based on the novel by Wayne D. Overholser
Director of Photography: Wilfrid M. Cline
Music by Gerard Fried

CAST: Audie Murphy (Matt Brown), Terry Moore (Janet Calvert), John Dehner (Chip Donahue), James Best (Sam Mullen), Rita Lynn (Hortensia), Denver Pyle (Preacher Harrison), Ann Doran (Charlotte ‘Ma’ Calvert).

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For Memorial Day, it made sense to focus on Audie Murphy. So it seemed like a good time to take a look at the DVD of Cast A Long Shadow (1959).

Producer Walter Mirisch: “Audie Murphy had made a long series of successful Western pictures for Universal-International, and Cast A Long Shadow was made to fit into the mold of those films. It was intended to be a program picture, not terribly expensive, and was shot in black-in-white.”

In an arrangement similar to the deal Mirisch made with Joel McCrea, Audie was given a percentage. Murphy was not happy when he found out the picture wasn’t to be in color. (By the way, this film was sandwiched between two of Murphy’s best: No Name On The Bullet (1959) and The Unforgiven (1960).

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Murphy is Matt Brown, a bitter young man who inherits a sprawling ranch from the man he believes is his father. His windfall comes with a challenge — in order to clear up some old debt, he has to get his herd to market in just a few days. Naturally, there are some guys who want to prevent Murphy from getting his cattle in on time.

Joining Audie Murphy are Terry Moore as the sweethheart he left behind, John Dehner as one of the few people on Murphy’s side and Denver Pyle as a preacher. James Best is one of Murphy’s rivals, scheming to get Murphy’s ranch.

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Mirisch: “It was directed by Tom Carr, who had worked with me at Allied Artists and had directed The Tall Stranger (1957) with Joel McCrea. The screenplay was by Martin Goldsmith, who had written Fort Massacre (1958), and John McGreevey did a rewrite on Goldsmith’s script… Richard Heermance edited Cast A Long Shadow, as he had Man Of The West (1958).”

Cast A Long Shadow was shot by Wilfrid M. Cline, who’d just finished one of my favorite films, William Castle’s The Tingler (1959). And it was scored by Gerard Fried, whose credits include Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing (1956).

With so many pros working on it, it’s a shame Cast A Long Shadow isn’t better than it is. Sometimes, a cast and crew can rise above a meager budget through ingenuity and determination. Other times, they can’t. This is one of the latter times. You’re constantly reminded that this is a low-budget movie. Stock footage abounds in the cattle drive scenes, with long shots of thousands of head of cattle cut in with tighter shots of Murphy, Dehner and a couple cows. What’s more, Fried’s score is simply over the top — way too dramatic for this modest film. And Murphy’s character is hard to pull for.

But for those of us with a soft spot for these things, these criticisms are not meant to prevent you from adding this one to your collection. Not at all. A Murphy picture is always worth the time, and the DVD from Timeless Media Group is lovely — and you can find it for as little as $5. The 1.85 aspect ratio is correct, the sound has plenty of punch, the picture on the whole is sharp and clear, and the contrast ranges from perfect in one scene, and too dark and a bit flat in the next. I have a feeling that comes from the original elements — that’s what happens when you make a movie on the quick and the cheap.

SOURCE: I Thought We Were Making Movies, Not History by Walter Mirish.

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91ip3etFhjL._AA1500_Shout Factory has done us all a huge favor, pulling four 50s Westerns from the MGM/UA/Fox libraries — featuring no less than George Montgomery, Rory Calhoun and the mighty Joel McCrea — and offering them at a great price. All four pictures boast nice, clean transfers. They’re all presented full-frame, though three (the post-1953 titles) played theaters cropped to widescreen. I played around with the zoom on my HDTV and was satisfied with the results.

As we all know, there are dozens and dozens of films like these, and the more the better. Let’s hope this is the first of many.

Gun Belt still

Gun Belt (1953)
Directed by Ray Nazarro
CAST: George Montgomery, Tab Hunter, Helen Westcott, John Dehner, Jack Elam, James Millican, Willis Bouchey.

George Montgomery is Billy Ringo, a gunslinger who wants to settle down. We’ve all seen enough of these films to know how that usually works out.

Before the picture’s 77 Technicolor minutes are up, Johnny Ringo hands Ike Clanton over to Wyatt Earp! Director Ray Nazarro began his career as an assistant director in the Silents and ended it with these George Montgomery films, a few with Rory Calhoun and TV for Gene Autry’s Flying ‘A’ Productions.

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The Lone Gun (1954)
Directed by Ray Nazarro
CAST: George Montgomery, Dorothy Malone, Frank Faylen, Skip Homeier, Neville Brand, Robert J. Wilke.

Who cares what it’s about when you have Montgomery, Dorothy Malone, Skip Homeier and Frank Faylen, not to mention Ray Nazarro, on hand? For what it’s worth: George Montgomery goes after the Moran brothers — alone, thanks to the gutless townspeople.

Produced by the Color Corporation Of America, it was probably done in the SuperCineColor process. It looks good here, with the color surprisingly true. It was originally run 1.66.

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Gunsight Ridge (1957)
Directed by Francis D. Lyon
Cinematography: Ernest Laszlo
CAST: Joel McCrea, Mark Stevens, Joan Weldon, Slim Pickens.

I found this a good, tight little Western — better than its reputation. McCrea’s charm and strength, along with Ernest Laszlo’s beautiful black and white cinematography, make the most of an uneven script. Mark Stevens is a tortured, evil bandit pursued by McCrea, as a Wells Fargo agent, through and around Old Tucson.

Joan Weldon is wasted in a nothing part, but Carolyn Craig — who’s in a couple of my favorite films, Fury At Showdown (1957) and House On Haunted Hill (1959) — has a nice scene at the end of the picture. There are enough ideas here for half a dozen 50s Westerns — Stevens being a frustrated pianist is a good one — but they aren’t given the time and attention they need in this brisk 85 minutes. Those with a keen eye and a nice TV will see a jet trail and an autombile.

Ride Out For Revenge BTS

Ride Out For Revenge (1957)
Directed by Bernard Girard
CAST: Rory Calhoun, Gloria Grahame, Lloyd Bridges, Vince Edwards.

In the mid-50s, a number of Westerns went beyond the sympathetic, or apologetic, approach to Native Americans of, say, Broken Arrow (1950) and tackled racism itself. John Ford’s The Searchers (1956), of course, is the best of these — though I urge you to seek out George Sherman’s Reprisal! (1956). Ride Out For Revenge is a solid B film, from Kirk Douglas’ Bryna Productions, that manages to make its point without sacrificing action. Probably the best film in the set, and I have to admit I knew almost nothing about it beyond the title and cast. A real find.

Beulah Archuletta, “Look” in The Searchers, can be seen in a couple shots. She’s also in Calhoun’s The Hired Gun, from the same year.

This blog was set up to champion films like these, and I urge you all to give Shout Factory a strong economic reason to release further volumes.

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Shout Factory! has announced a set of four middle-budget United Artists Westerns from the 50s — coming May 14 for around $10. They call it Movies 4 You: Western Classics.

The Lone Gun (1954) was directed by Ray Nazarro and stars George Montgomery, Dorothy Malone, Frank Faylen, Neville Brand, Skip Homeier and Robert J. Wilke. It’s in color.

Ride Out For Revenge (1957) stars Rory Calhoun, Gloria Grahame, Lloyd Bridges and Vince Edwards. It was directed by Bernard Gerard and shot by the great Floyd Crosby.

Gunsight Ridge (1957) stars Joel McCrea, Mark Stevens, Joan Weldon, Slim Pickens and L.Q. Jones. It was directed by Francis D. Lyon. (As ridiculous as some of these titles seem, there is a Gunsight, Texas. My great-great grandparents lived there at one point. Not sure if it has a ridge.)

Gun Belt (1953) puts George Montgomery, Tab Hunter, Helen Westcott, John Dehner and Jack Elam in the capable hands of Ray Nazarro. In Technicolor.

Haven’t seen any aspect ratio information on these yet.

Don’t know about y’all, but I’ll buy packages like this, at these prices, as long as they can scrape up 50s Westerns to put in ’em.

A big thanks to Mr. Richard Vincent for the heads-up.

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