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Archive for the ‘VCI Entetainment’ Category

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There’s a cool twin bill coming in July from Lippert Pictures, Kit Parker Films and VCIApache Chief (1949) and Bandit Queen (1950).

Apache Chief 
Directed by Frank McDonald
Starring Alan Curtis, Russell Hayden, Carol Thurston, Tom Neal, Fuzzy Knight, Alan Wells, Billy Wilkerson

In a way this is pretty standard stuff, but it’s from the Indian’s point of view which freshens things up a bit. Russell Hayden and Fuzzy Knight are on hand, which helps out a lot.

Fans of technical stuff will appreciate that Apache Chief was one of a couple dozen films shot with the Garutso Balanced Lens. The credit reads: “Introducing the latest scientific achievement in motion picture photography, the Garutso Balanced Lens, a new optical principle which creates a three dimensional effect.” The Wild One (1953), the Brando motorcycle picture, is probably the most high-profile film shot with the lens.

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Bandit Queen
Directed by William Berke
Starring Barbara Britton, Willard Parker, Philip Reed, Barton MacLane, Jack Ingram, Margia Dean

Barbara Britton, Barton MacLane, Vasquez Rocks, 70 minutes. What else do you need to know?

William Berke was a very prolific director, working extensively for Sam Katzman (directing several Jungle Jim pictures) and Robert Lippert. See his name in the credits, and you’re pretty sure to have a good time for the next 60 minutes or so.

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The charge was this: send in your list of favorite 50s Westerns DVD releases for 2014, along with a few 50s Westerns that you discovered this year.

For today, here are your (and my) 10 favorite DVDs or Blu-rays released during the 2014 calendar year.

10. Panhandle (1948) This terrific Rod Cameron picture, directed by Lesley Selander, was released a few years ago as part of VCI’s Darn Good Western Volume 1. This year, it showed up on its on.

9. City Of Bad Men (1953) Dale Robertson leads a great cast: Jeanne Crain, Richard Boone, Lloyd Bridges, Hugh Sanders, Rodolfo Acosta, Don Haggerty, Leo Gordon, John Doucette, Frank Ferguson, James Best. Harmon Jones directs.

8. Fort Massacre (1958) Joel McCrea plays way against type. Forrest Tucker, Susan Cabot, John Russell and Denver Pyle co-star. You can get a nice regular DVD here in the States — and a stunning Blu-ray in Germany.

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7. Gunfight At The O.K. Corral (1957) The guys who developed VistaVision look down from heaven, see this Blu-ray playing in our living rooms, and are very happy indeed.

6. The Lusty Men (1952) There was a time when Nicholas Ray was a machine that cranked out Great Movies. This study of modern-day rodeo cowboys — starring Robert Mitchum, Susan Haywood and Arthur Kennedy — comes from the heart of that period.

5. Drum Beat (1954) Alan Ladd shows us he’s got more than Shane up his sleeve, and Delmer Daves delivers yet another solid Western. This is a lot better movie than you’ve heard (or remember).

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4. Gunsmoke In Tucson (1958) When an Allied Artists Western starring Mark Stevens makes a Top Ten list, I know I’m in the right place.

3. Tim Holt Western Classics Collection Volume 4 As good as the series Western ever got. For me, this fourth volume is the best — which makes it plenty great indeed.

2. Shoot-Out At Medicine Bend (1957) It’s not a stupendous Randolph Scott movie, but it’s a Randolph Scott movie — and Warner Archive has it shining like a black and white, 1.85 diamond.

1. South Of St. Louis (1949) This terrific Joel McCrea picture, with its Technicolor appropriately saturated, is stunning on Blu-ray from Olive Films. Alexis Smith and Dorothy Malone should’ve paid cinematographer Karl Freund for making them look so beautiful.

Along with all these favorites, there was a common complaint: that Olive Films’ promised The Quiet Gun (1956) didn’t make it in 2014.

Thanks to everyone who sent in their lists.

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Cyber Monday

I’m not sure I get the whole Cyber Monday thing, but who cares when Warner Archive offers up an offer like this? Have at it, folks!

A recommendation, uh, let’s see — Randolph Scott in Carson City (1952).

There’s also a discount available at VCI. Go to vcientertainment.com. The coupon code VCIBF60 will get you 60% off. A recommendation: the absolutely essential Roy Rogers TruColor double feature of Under California Stars (1948) and Bells Of San Angelo (1947).

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The Collins English Dictionary defines evangelism as “the practice of relaying information about a particular set of beliefs to others with the intention of conversion.” I think that sorta fits the overall purpose of this blog, to convince someone out there to give a particular film or TV show or whatever a shot. If you’ve read much of this thing — and God knows there’s a lot of it by now, you’ve been preached to about everything from the power of Fred MacMurray as a cowboy star to the aesthetic riches of black and white CinemaScope.

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Gail Davis and George Archainbaud

The topic of today’s sermon is Gail Davis and her Annie Oakley TV show. And I’ll be referring to the VCI DVD set Annie Oakley: The Complete Series.

Annie Oakley works a lot like The Gene Autry Show, both from Gene’s Flying A Productions. They have the feel of a theatrical B Western — just shorter and cheaper, and clearly geared towards kids. Gene brought along some of the directors who made his features so successful: guys like George Archainbaud, Ray Nazarro, Earl Bellamy and John English.

Some great character actors made their way to Annie Oakley, too: Slim Pickins, Helene Marshall, James Best, John Doucette, James H. Griffith, Lee Van Cleef, Alan Hale Jr., Dickie Jones, Fess Parker, Clayton Moore, Denver Pile, LQ Jones, Glenn Strange and more. From the writers to the actors to the cameramen — these crews were a well-oiled machine, perfectly suited to the quick schedules of TV production. They rode the same ranches, climbed the same Lone Pine rocks and punched the same bad guys. It’s like hour-long features were put in the dryer, left in there too long, and shrunk down to 27 minutes. All guided by the shrewd business acumen of Gene Autry.

But what makes Annie Oakley so special is Annie herself, Gail Davis. And that’s not to take anything away from Brad Johnson as Lofty Craig and Jimmy Hawkins as Annie’s brother Tagg. Or from her horse Target, for that matter.

24q4dmoGail’s up to all the fancy riding and trick-shooting the part requires, perfectly so. She’s a real sparkplug, with enough charisma to propel each episode all by herself. It’s a role she was born to play, you hear that a lot. And it’s true, even she agreed. But it’s so much more than that. I can’t think of an actress who’s more immediately likeable than Gail Davis.

It’s easy to like the 11-disc, 81-episode set from VCI Entertainment, too. You get the entire series, looking just great, saddled with extras: photo galleries, commercials, the original pilot, a documentary and more. Gail’s daughter Terrie was along for the ride on this project, and her contribution makes a huge difference. Her mother hung onto a lot of stuff, and she shares it with us.

Like any TV show, some episodes are better than others. I’m still making my way through them, but I’ve developed an affinity for the episodes directed by the underappreciated Ray Nazarro. He’s a master at the kind of action this show served up every week.

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VCI has given this set a lot of TLC. It’s obvious from the minute you open it up. The quality and consistency never wavers. The extras are classy and comprehensive. And Gail Davis is as cool as cool could be.

My daughter’s a big fan of both Annie Oakley and Gail Davis, and her enthusiasm convinced me to look into it. She was the real evangelist here, and she was right. Highly, highly recommended.

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Annie Oakley Safety Songs cov

Stop! You’ve ordered your Annie Oakley set, haven’t you? Today’s the day.

Man, I can’t wait to get ahold of this thing.

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I’ve always loved creaky old movies, especially Westerns, and have gotten used to people turning up their noses at whatever film I might mention. So one of the joys of riding herd over this blog for the last five years has been running into a gang of folks who enjoy these things as much as I do. Who discuss them, study them, and give them a level of respect that “regular people” can’t understand.

That’s one of the things that makes David Schecter’s work at Monstrous Movie Music so special. He’s one of us. We’re his customer base. And he continues to deliver the goods.

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Western Medley
, a two-CD set, presents the scores to three Westerns from Lippert Pictures: The Great Jesse James Raid (1953, composed by Bert Shefter), The Baron Of Arizona (1950, by Paul Dunlap) and Last Of The Wild Horses (1948, from Albert Glasser). It’s a terrific release, from the music itself to the lavish packaging to the thorough liner notes.

I’m particularly enamored of Shefter’s work for The Great Jesse James Raid. Evidently, no one bothered to tell him this was just some cheap 73-minute cowboy movie. While in some ways it’s pretty conventional stuff, there’s enough music for over half the film’s running time–and it’s so well done. The film doesn’t deserve this score (or Wallace Ford, come to think of it).

Haven’t spent as much time with the other scores. I’m very familiar with Sam Fuller’s The Baron Of Arizona and a fan of Paul Dunlap. He never disappoints. Last Of The Wild Horses is a nice score; many of us know Albert Glasser for his work on 50s horror and science fiction stuff.

This is a set you’ll want to spend some quality time with. Recommended. Let’s hope there’s a Western Medley Volume 2 someday. And by the way, the films themselves are available through Kit Parker Films and VCI (Jesse, Wild Horses) and Criterion (Baron).

a_1980-Cover-GatlingGun--3Out at the same time is Paul Sawtell and Bert Shefter’s music for The Gatling Gun (1971), a near-impossible-to-see picture with a production history that’s probably more entertaining that the film itself. Before release, the film was confiscated when one of the producers was brought up on racketeering charges.

It was directed by Robert Gordon and stars Woody Strode, Guy Stockwell, Robert Forster, Patrick Wayne, John Carradine and Pat Buttram. The score’s very good, and now I’m really wanting to see the movie.

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Gail Davis is just wonderful as Annie Oakley, a part she was probably born to play. This upcoming set from VCI (due October 21) gives you all 81 Annie Oakley episodes, restored, with all sorts of extras: a documentary, the pilot, commercials, photo galleries and more.

Some terrific character actors rode through this series: Slim Pickins, Helene Marshall, James Best, John Doucette, James H. Griffith, Lee Van Cleef, Alan Hale Jr., Dickie Jones, Fess Parker, Clayton Moore, Denver Pile, LQ Jones, Glenn Strange and more. (Even Shelly Fabares!) And in the director’s chair from week to week, you might find the likes of George Archainbaud, Ray Nazarro, Earl Bellamy or John English. Produced by Gene Autry’s Flying A Productions, many of these folks were veterans of Gene’s movies and series. Then there’s Lone Pine locations and those beautiful double-action Colts.

We’re gonna get a lotta mileage out of this thing at my house. My daughter Presley really loves this show.

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