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Archive for the ‘United Artists’ Category

Directed by Gerd Oswald
Produced by John Beck
Executive Producer: Bob Goldstein
Screenplay by Jason James
From a novel (Showdown Creek) by Lucas Todd
Director Of Photography: Joseph LaShelle
Music by Harry Sukman

Cast: John Derek (Brock Mitchell), John Smith (Miley Sutton), Carolyn Craig (Ginny Clay), Nick Adams (Tracy Mitchell), Gage Clarke (Chad Deasy), Robert E. Griffin (Sheriff Clay), Malcolm Atterbury (Norris), Rusty Lane (Riley), Sydney Smith (Van Steeden), Frances Morris (Mrs. Williams), Tyler McDuff (Tom Williams), Robert Adler (Alabam), Norman Leavitt (Swamper), Ken Christy (Mr. Phelps), Tom McKee (Sheriff of Buckhorn), Kermit Maynard, Buddy Roosevelt

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Just for grins, I decided to post a portion of a chapter-in-progress from my book, 50 Westerns From The 50s.

Pretty much ignored when it came out, Fury At Showdown (1957) can be seen today as a solid 50s Western — and an absolute miracle of low-budget film-making. Director Gerd Oswald somehow pulled this picture off in a week!

After a year in jail for a shooting in self-defense, Brock Mitchell (John Derek) returns to the family ranch, now run by his younger brother Tracy (Nick Adams). Brock finds himself an outcast in his own hometown, and the target of a crooked lawyer (Gage Clarke), whose brother is the man he killed. To make matters worse, the lawyer brings a hired gun (John Smith) to town — and is about to foreclose on the brothers’ ranch.

Gerd Oswald (from a terrific Filmfax interview): “That was one of my six or seven day epics… The line producer, John Brett, said, ‘You are only allowed so much money for this picture and tomorrow we’ve got a big lynch scene. We’re supposed to have 50 extras, and I can only give you 12. That’s all — we just don’t have any more money.’ So by necessity I was forced to do certain set-ups that I normally wouldn’t have done. I filled half the screen with the profile of one man, then filled the background. I created a mob scene with just 12 people.”

Oswald certainly wasn’t the only director to make a movie with no time and no money. But with Fury At Showdown, he found a way to make these limitations work for the film, not against it. Many dialogue scenes play out in a single take, with the actors moving toward, and away from, the camera to create different “shots” within these long takes. It’s obvious these scenes were extensively rehearsed. Other scenes place actors in both the foreground and the background, as a way to combine bits of action into a single set-up. And the making-a-mob-out-of-12-people approach is carried throughout, giving the whole film a minimalist feel in keeping with its loner lead character.

Of course, you need a good script, capable actors and an ingenious cameraman to cut corners like that and end up with a decent movie. The screenplay is by Jason James, adapted from the 1955 novel Showdown Creek by Lucas Todd. Todd is a pen-name for Stanley Kauffmann, the noted film and theater critic for The New Republic and The New York Times.

There’s a solid performance from John Derek, a terrific one from Nick Adams, who underplays nicely, and appropriately hateful turns from John Smith and Gage Clarke. Carolyn Craig, as Derek’s old flame, and a stable of trusty character actors hold their own.

Director of photography Joseph LaShelle was known for his gritty realism, making him an ideal choice for noirs like Laura (1944, which landed him an Oscar), Hangover Square (1945) and Road House (1948). LaShelle also an ability to make a budget look bigger than it really is, which made him perfect for something like I Was A Teenage Werewolf (1957). LaShelle and Oswald came to Fury At Showdown shortly after completing Crime Of Passion (1957), a mini-noir with Barbara Stanwyck and Sterling Hayden.

A one-week picture tends to have a rushed, ragged feel. Think of something from Monogram, like a Bowery Boys movie or one of Bela Lugosi’s Monogram Nine. The haphazard, one-take-and-move-on tone of those pictures is replaced by a feeling of tight control in Fury At Showdown. Obviously, planning and rehearsal made all the difference. It was shot on the RKO Western street (later Desilu) and at the Iverson Ranch in mid-July 1956.

Upon its release, A.H. Weiler of The New York Times called Fury At Showdown “a surprisingly decent little Western” and said “this unpretentious, low-budget entry is leanly written, tersely acted and, above all, straightforward… Under Gerd Oswald’s sure direction, this tightly authentic atmosphere, the good, blunt dialogue and some discreetly inserted music do much to project the urgency of Mr. Derek’s plight—that of a young man at his life’s crossroads.” It’s rare for the Times to see the merits of a little picture like this.

Years later, in his massive book The Western, Phil Hardy wrote: “A stylistic tour de force and undoubtedly Oswald’s best film, Fury At Showdown has a formal excellence that belies its five-day shooting schedule and shames many a bigger budgeted movie… Rarely has economy been put to such a positive use.” Amen to that.

Fury At Showdown (1957) is a real gem, one of those neglected little masterpieces that are so fun to discover. Highly, highly recommended.

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Kino Lorber’s bringing a couple of underrated Anthony Quinn Westerns to Blu-Ray in early 2021 — Man From Del Rio (1956) and The Ride Back (1957). These two pictures illustrate all the riches that were turning up in theaters during the 50s. Major stars like Anthony Quinn were doing medium-budget Westerns like this, along with the stuff guys like George Montgomery and Guy Madison were doing.

Man From Del Rio (1956)
Directed by Harry Horner
Starring Anthony Quinn, Katy Jurado, Peter Whitney, Douglas Fowley, John Larch, Douglas Spencer, Guinn “Big Boy” Williams

Man From Del Rio has a great cast and has overlooked far too long. Hopefully, a nice widescreen HD transfer of Stanley Cortez’s cinematography will give it a bit of a reappraisal. Cortez, of course, shot a few films you might’ve heard of — The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), The Night Of The Hunter (1955) and The Naked Kiss (1964).

Wish Harry Horner had directed more. This and Beware, My Lovely (1952) show he really had the chops. His production design work is incredible. He did pictures like The Wonderful Country (1959), The Hustler (1961) and The Driver (1978).

The Ride Back (1957)
Directed by Allen H. Miner
Starring Anthony Quinn, William Conrad, Lita Milan

William Conrad produced and co-stars in this one. He’s a lawman who heads to Mexico to bring back outlaw Quinn. Director Allen H. Miner did the George Montgomery picture Black Patch the same year. Black Patch went a bit too far with the stylistics, but that’s not a problem here. Joseph Biroc shot The Ride Back, by the way. He’d just shot Attack (1956) for Robert Aldrich, who was a producer on The Ride Back. Biroc’s B&W cinematography is always a plus, and it’ll be stunning on Blu-Ray.

I love the tagline “It rides a trail no Western ever rode before!”

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Directed by Robert Aldrich
Starring Burt Lancaster, Jean Peters, John McIntire, Charles Buchinsky, John Dehner, Paul Guilfoyle, Ian MacDonald, Walter Sande, Morris Ankrum, Monte Blue

Kino Lorber has announced that a Blu-Ray of Robert Aldrich’s Apache (1954) will be available later this year.

It’s a solid little picture with a great cast. The downbeat ending was changed to something United Artists felt audiences would like. Apache was a big hit, so maybe UA was right. But Lancaster and Aldrich were not. The success of this one landed Aldrich the chance to director Lancaster and Gary Cooper in Vera Cruz (1954), a much bigger picture.

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On this day in 1836, The Alamo fell as Mexican forces led by General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna stormed the fortress after a 13-day siege. All of the Texan defenders (almost 200 of them), including William Travis, James Bowie and Davy Crockett, were killed in battle.

The image is the 24-sheet poster (or billboard) for John Wayne’s epic tribute to those who served at The Alamo. Today’d be a good day to watch it.

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Came upon this the other day and thought it was worth sharing.

The Morningside Theatre in New York City has quite a lineup on Saturday, April 16, 1959. First, there was Tim Holt in The Monster That Challenged The World (1957), then Audie Murphy in Jack Arnold’s No Name On The Bullet (1959) and finally Running Target from 1956, starring Doris Dowling, Arthur Franz and Myron Healey. Tossed into the mix were a few cartoons and Marshall Reed in a chapter of the Columbia serial Riding With Buffalo Bill (1954), produced by Sam Katzman.

Of course, the stuff coming up after it — William Castle’s The Tingler (1959), The Warrior And The Slave Girl (1958) and Whip Wilson, Fuzzy Knight and Phyllis Coates in Monogram’s Canyon Riders (1951) — sounds pretty good, too.

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Day of the Outlaw 3S

Directed by Andre de Toth
Screenplay by Philip Yordan
Director Of Photography: Russell Harlan
Starring Robert Ryan, Burl Ives, Tina Louise, Alan Marshal, Nehemiah Persoff, David Nelson

1959 was a great year for 50s Westerns, taking the decade out on a really high note. And, for me, one of the cream of the year’s crop would have to be Andre de Toth’s Day Of The Outlaw. Kino Lorber has just announced a Blu-Ray release for August. Russell Harlan’s B&W cinematography should make this a must-have Blu-ray.

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Directed by Lesley Selander
Produced by Sherman Harris
Written by Robert Schaeffer and Eric Freiwald
Based on the Lone Ranger legend
Cinematography: Kenneth Peach
Film Editor: Robert S. Golden
Music by Les Baxter

CAST: Clayton Moore (The Lone Ranger), Jay Silverheels (Tonto), Douglas Kennedy ​(​Ross Brady​)​, Charles Watts ​(​Sheriff Oscar​), ​Noreen Nash ​(​Mrs. Frances Henderson​), ​Ralph Moody ​(​Padre Esteban​), ​Lisa Montell ​(​Paviva​), ​John Miljan ​(​Chief Tomache​), ​Norman Fredric ​(​Dr. James Rolfe​), ​Maurice Jara ​(​Redbird​), ​Bill Henry ​(​Travers​), Lane Bradford ​(Henchman​)​

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I watched the Moore-Silverheels Lone Ranger features countless times as a kid (you could get complete Super 8mm prints of them) and always preferred the second one, The Lone Ranger And The Lost City Of Gold (1958). Seeing them again recently, and placing them within the context of the 50s Western as a whole, I still love them. And I’m still convinced the second one’s the best.

The Lone Ranger And The Lost City Of Gold would be the last time Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels played The Lone Ranger and Tonto. The TV series wrapped up in June of ’57, a year before this picture would open. Luckily, they were able to go out on a high note.

“Dear Santa, all I want for Christmas…”

It begins with a brief recap of The Lone Ranger origin, set to a cool song from Les Baxter (see the record above). This gives way to the prerequisite “William Tell Overture.” It’s a shame they didn’t head to the Iverson Ranch for a big-screen shot of Moore and Silver next to Lone Ranger Rock.

The plot’s a variation on a fairly common one — a group of Masked Raiders are searching for a series of medallions that reveal the location of a vast cave filled with Indian gold. The Lone Ranger and Tonto must prevent the Raiders from getting the last of the medallions and taking the treasure that belongs to the Indians.

Of course, one of the Raiders is Douglas Kennedy. It’s always a treat when he turns up in something. Ralph Moody is great as a padre. Noreen Nash is a woman in cahoots with the Raiders. Nash didn’t have a real stellar career, though she’s in an episode of The Lone Ranger, a Dragnet and the Tim Holt picture Road Agent (1952) — so who’s complaining? Lisa Montell ​plays ​Paviva​, a lovely Indian maiden. She’s a favorite of mine thanks to World Without End (1956). Then there’s a baby boy that seems to be played by a girl — given away by tiny little earrings.

Lesley Selander cranks up the action and violence a notch for The Lone Ranger And The Lost City Of Gold. As a kid, it drove me nuts that, on TV, Clayton Moore just shot the guns out of the bad guys’ hands. Here, he actually drills somebody. So does Tonto. There’s also a terrific fistfight towards the end.

Much of this was shot at Old Tucson, and it gives you a great view of the place. The climax has Moore, Silverheels, Kennedy and others sneaking around the small houses you’ve seen in all kinds of stuff. The beautiful San Xavier del Bac Mission is also featured. And while all the location work’s gorgeous and adds plenty of production value, the absence of the familiar Iverson rocks from the TV show is a bit jarring.

the_pittsburgh_press_tue__jun_17__1958_This picture was clearly meant for kids. But there’s something about The Lone Ranger and Tonto I find more appealing the older I get. Their friendship, their fairness and their ongoing fight for justice are things we all could use some extra exposure to. I love this movie.

The Lone Ranger And The Lost City Of Gold is pretty easy to find on DVD. The VCI release from years ago presents it in its original aspect ratio, though a non-anamorphic letterboxed version. It’s the best one around. I’d love to see both of these Moore-Silverheels features make their way to Blu-Ray.

Just realized, thanks to Bob Madison, that today is the anniversary of the first Lone Ranger radio broadcast (1933).

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This is the last shot in Bedazzled (1967), the very funny Peter Cook/Dudley Moore film. Presley and I watched it recently, and I noticed the theater marquee on the right. John Wayne’s The Alamo (1960) is playing.

I reached out to some of our UK division, and as you’d expect, John Knight came through: “The cinema in question was The London Pavilion. It mainly served as a West End showcase for United Artists releases. They showed lots of United Artists horror double bills like The Monster That Challenged The World and The Vampire (both 1957). My first solo visit to a West End cinema was to the London Pavilion to see Phantom Of The Opera with Captain Clegg (both 1962).”

After hearing from John, I can’t decide what I’m the most excited about — the thought of Wayne’s epic or The Monster That Challenged The World on the Pavilion’s huge screen.

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Directed by Sidney Salkow
Starring George Montgomery, Ann Robinson, Steve Brodie, Bobby Clark, Frank Ferguson, Denver Pyle, Don “Red” Barry, Roy Barcroft

Gun Duel In Durango (1957) is a solid little George Montgomery picture. It’s got a great cast and igoes down easy. Wish they’d 47,000 more movies just like it back in the late 50s.

It’s coming to Blu-Ray in Germany. Hope it’s Region Free — this is a good one.

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Directed by Ray Nazarro
Screen Play by Don Martin and Richard Schayer
Story by L.L. Foreman
Director Of Photography: Lester White
Film Editor: Buddy Small

Cast: George Montgomery (Cruze), Dorothy Malone (Charlotte Downing), Frank Faylen (Fairweather), Neville Brand (Tray Moran), Skip Homeier (Cass Downing), Douglas Kennedy (Gad Moran), Fay Roope (Mayor Booth), Douglas Fowley (Bartender), Robert J. Wilke (Hort Moran)

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I covered Lone Gun (1954) shortly after it appeared on Shout Factory’s four-movies-on-one-DVD package, Movies 4 You Western Classics. A solid George Montgomery picture, it’s worth a second look.

It’s easy to dismiss a movie like The Lone Gun as just a programmer. From its original reviews to DVD reviews, that’s the way a lot of folks have seen it. The plot’s nothing new. They were obviously working on a tight budget and short schedule. They ride past the same Iverson rocks you’ve seen in dozens of pictures like this.

But in some ways, these things that seem like liabilities are some of the key strengths of The Lone Gun. Because, interestingly, they let us see what a huge difference good writing, direction and acting can make to something familiar.

Mayor Booth (Fay Roope): “Robert Booth’s the name. I own the Malpine Hotel.”
Cruze (George Montgomery): “Mine’s Cruze. I own this shirt and those two horses out there.”

The story’s so simple. Montgomery ends up the marshal of Malpine, and he’s soon on the trail of the Moran brothers (Neville Brand, Douglas Kennedy and Robert J. Wilke), brothers/rustlers/killers/trash who are hiding their rustled cattle among the small herd of Charlotte and Cass Downing (Dorothy Malone, Skip Homeier), siblings trying to keep their small ranch afloat. Also on hand is Fairweather (Frank Faylen), a gambler who’s cleaned out the pockets of just about everybody in town — and one of Cruze’s only friends.

Glance back at that previous paragraph (above the Moran brothers), and consider those names. That’s one helluva cast, and it’s a joy to spend 74 minutes with them. Ray Nazarro is an old hand at stuff like this, and his direction is as brisk and efficient as you’d expect. Everyone else involved, from editor Buddy Small to director of photography Lester White, is up to the same high standard.

The Lone Gun is in color “by the Color Corporation Of America.” That translates to SuperCinecolor. It was shot to be projected at 1.66. The Shout Factory DVD offers pretty decent color — remember, this is SuperCineColor. It’s full frame, with plenty of that annoying dead space at the top and bottom. My TV lets me zoom it a bit to approximate the original 1.66, which looks a whole lot better.

The reason folks dismiss movies like this is often because there are so many of them. Which for those of us who can’t get enough of these things, is good news indeed. The Lone Gun, thanks largely to its cast, is one I like a lot.

Oh, and another thing. It’s original title was Adios, My Texas. If you ask me, they were wise to change it.

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