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Archive for the ‘United Artists’ Category

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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Directed by William Wyler
Starring Gregory Peck, Jean Simmons, Carroll Baker, Charlton Heston, Burl Ives, Charles Bickford, Chuck Connors

The Big Country (1958) is coming to Blu-Ray from Kino Lorber with a slew of extras — commentary, documentary, interviews, etc.

The cast is a great one. Burl Ives won an Oscar for his incredible, and incredibly mean, performance. But, to me, Chuck Connors steals the picture — he’s absolutely perfect in a complex, tragic role.

Franz F. Planer’s Technicolor and Technirama cinematography is beautiful, offering up stunning vistas that live up to the film’s title. The opening credits were created by Saul Bass, and the score by Jerome Moross is one of the best to ever grace a Western.

The old Blu-Ray was a huge improvement over the DVD, but it had some distortion problems. Let’s hope those are sorted out for this new one. And I hear the stereo tracks still haven’t turned up.

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With The Indian Fighter (1955) making its way to Blu-Ray from Kino Lorber, this seemed like a good time to share some more of the photos my wife’s finding as she helps with the research for my commentary. (Photos don’t do too well in an audio commentary.) I’ve been really wallowing in this movie the last couple weeks.

Here, they’re shooting a scene with Hank Worden and Walter Matthau.

Elisha Cook rests between takes in Bend, Oregon, as Ira Eagleman (whose parents were working as extras) looks on. Cook, Worden, Matthau — what a cast!

A prop man fires flaming arrows at the fort.

Elsa Martinelli, an Italian fashion model, made her screen debut in The Indian Fighter. Douglas’ wife Anne saw her in Vogue and recommended her for the part.

Here, they’re shooting inside the stockade. I can’t find director Andre de Toth in this photo, but this seems to be a scene with Douglas and Walter Abel. The Indian Fighter was the first picture from Douglas’ Bryna Productions. It was also de Toth’s first time chance to work with CinemaScope. He does a couple of really cool 360-degree pans that really use the Scope frame (and show off the distortion in those early Scope lenses).

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Directed by Mark Stevens
Screenplay by Stanley H. Silverman and Mark Stevens
Starring Mark Stevens, John Lupton, Larry Storch, Maureen Hingert (Jana Davi), Aaron Saxon, Jered Barclay, Dean Fredericks

Almost didn’t post this one since, to me, Sidonis’ forced subtitles are a deal-breaker. But the movie itself — Mark Stevens in a 1958 revenge Western that ran into trouble with the PCA, sounds so cool I just had to throw it out there.

Mark Stevens co-wrote and directed Gun Fever (1958), so we can count on it being a tough little picture. (The crime picture Cry Vengeance, which he directed in 1954, is really cool.) The director of photography was Charles Van Enger, who shot Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), one of my all-time favorites.

Gun Fever should be B&W 1.85. Sidonis out of France have it listed as a May DVD release. I’ve never seen this one, and I’m dying to.

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indian-fighter-art-still

Directed by Andre de Toth
Starring Kirk Douglas, Elsa Martinelli, Walter Matthau, Diana Douglas, Walter Abel, Lon Chaney Jr., Eduard Franz, Alan Hale, Jr., Elisha Cook, Jr., Ray Teal, Hank Worden

Kino Lorber has announced the Blu-Ray release of Andre de Toth’s The Indian Fighter (1955), starring Kirk Douglas, for later this year.

L to R: Lon Chaney, Hank Worden and Walter Matthau

It’s a good one, with plenty going for it. That terrific cast — Walter Matthau in a Western, Hank Worden as an Indian. And Andre de Toth working in early CinemaScope, shot by Wilfrid M. Cline. I’m really looking forward to this one.

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Directed by Andrew V. McLaglen
Written by Burt Kennedy
Starring James Arness, Emile Meyer, Robert J. Wilke, Harry Carey, Jr., Michael Ernest, Frank Fenton, Angie Dickinson, Pedro Gonzalez Gonzalez

John Wayne’s Batjac Productions made some terrific smaller films in the mid-50s. Gun The Man Down (1956) is one of them.

Burt Kennedy followed his script for Seven Men From Now (1956), the first of the Scott/Boetticher/Kennedy movies, with this solid revenge tale. James Arness, under contract to Batjac, got the lead. Andrew V. McLaglen directed — this was his first picture. Angie Dickinson was given an “introducing” credit, even though she’d appeared in a handful of things, including Tennessee’s Partner (1955). And William H. Clothier made it all look like a million bucks.

It’s coming to Blu-ray in July from Olive Films. Like anything written by Kennedy in the 50s, this is highly recommended.

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Legend of the Lost_06

Directed by Henry Hathaway
Starring John Wayne, Sophia Loren, Rossano Brazzi, Kurt Kasznar

Legend Of The Lost (1957) isn’t a Western, and it can’t hold a candle to some of the other pictures Wayne made with Henry Hathaway. But it’s certainly big and it was shot by Jack Cardiff in Technicolor and Technirama, so it should make for a great Blu-ray. And it’s coming from Olive Films in May.

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