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Archive for the ‘Warner Archive’ Category

Directed by Jacques Tourneur
Starring Virginia Mayo, Robert Stack, Ruth Roman, Alex Nicol, Raymond Burr, Leo Gordon, Regis Toomey

Jacques Tourneur’s post-Civil War picture Great Day In The Morning (1956) is coming to Blu-Ray from Warner Archive in November. Whether it’s morning or not depends on where you are in the world, but another Tourneur Western in high-definition makes for a great day indeed! The Superscope, Technicolor cinematography by William Snyder is incredible. This somewhat overlooked picture comes highly recommended.

This followed Tourneur’s better-known Westerns Stranger On Horseback and Wichita, both with Joel McCrea and both released in 1955. It’d be great to see those get a Blu-Ray release, too!

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Directed by Lewis D. Collins
Produced by Vincent M. Fennelly
Written by Daniel B. Ullman
Director Of Photography: Ernest Miller
Music by Raoul Kraushaar
Film Editor: Sam Fields

Cast: Wild Bill Elliott (Matt Boone), I. Stanford Jolley (Curly Ivers), Pamela Blake (Kathy Clark), Paul Fierro (Lou Garcia), Rand Brooks (Al), Richard Avonde (Pedro), Pierce Lyden (Farley), Lane Bradford (Wallace), Terry Frost (Will Richards), Stanley Price (Sheriff), Stanley Andrews (Judge), Michael Whalen (Barnes), Ray Bennett (Bull Clark), House Peters Jr. (Doctor)

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Seems like it’s time for a Wild Bill Wednesday. So let’s go to Waco (1952).

A little backstory. William Elliott and Republic Pictures parted ways in 1950. It wasn’t long before Elliott started making low-budget Westerns at Monogram. By the time the series was over, Monogram had become Allied Artists, 1.85 had become the standard aspect ratio for American cinema, and the B Western was dead. These 11 pictures — Waco was the second — made sure the B Western went out on a high note.

Matt Boone (Elliott) leaves Waco, Texas in a hurry after killing the crooked gambler Bull Clark (Ray Bennett) in self defense — he knows he won’t get a fair trial. Boone falls in with a gang of outlaws and is shot and captured when a bank job in Pecos goes wrong. Two of Waco’s prominent citizens bring Elliott back to Waco. They believe in his innocence (they saw Clark draw first) and need him to clean up their town. He’s elected sheriff. Only trouble is, his old gang (led by I. Stanford Jolley) and the gambler’s daughter (Pamela Blake) aren’t too keen on the idea.

These Monogram and Allied Artists pictures are a bit darker, more “adult,” than your typical B Western. The budget limitations are certainly obvious, but William Elliott’s as reliable as ever — and in this one, he gets to play the “good badman” type of role he liked so much, patterned after William S. Hart.

I’m a peaceable man and I’m not lookin’ for trouble. I’m not runnin’ from it neither.”

Waco comes from a pretty tight script by Dan Ullman. Ullman wrote plenty of 50s Westerns, from programmers like Kansas Pacific (1953) with Sterling Hayden to the excellent Face Of A Fugitive (1959), starring Fred MacMurray. It was directed by Lewis D. Collins, who started with silent shorts, made a boatload of pictures and passed away a few years after this one.

Pamela Blake’s part here doesn’t give her a whole lot to do. She stayed plenty busy — everything from This Gun For Hire (1942) to the serial Ghost Of Zorro (1949) at Republic to Live Wires (1946), the first Bowery Boys movie, to The Sea Hound (1947), a Sam Katzman serial at Columbia. Waco was her last feature — she worked on TV for a while, then retired to raise a family. I. Stanford Jolley, who’s got a great part here as a not-as-bad-as-you-thought outlaw, appeared in hundreds of Westerns, including a number of these Elliott pictures. It’s always a plus when he turns up in the credits (or in the back of a crowd working without credit).

Waco is part of Warner Archive’s terrific The Wild Bill Elliott Western Collection. Shot at Corriganville and the Iverson Ranch by ace cinematographer Ernest Miller, it looks terrific on DVD. Monogram struck prints of these pictures in “glorious sepia tone,” and while I’m a stickler for preserving the original presentation, I’m glad Warner Archive stuck with black and white. Sepia doesn’t always come off well on TV. The set treats these cheap little movies with the kind of respect they (and William Elliott himself) certainly deserve. It’s great to see them looking so clean and sharp. Highly recommended.

Dan Ullman would write, produce and direct a remake of Waco — the Regalscope picture Badlands Of Montana (1957) starring Rex Reason and Beverly Garland.

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Directed by John Ford
Starring Ben Johnson, Joanne Dru, Harry Carey, Jr., Ward Bond, Charles Kemper, Russell Simpson, Hank Worden, James Arness, Francis Ford

John Ford’s Wagon Master (1950) is not just one of my favorite movies, but I consider it one of the best Westerns ever made. There’s a gentleness and an authenticity to it that no other Western can match. It’s easy to see why Ford named it his personal favorite of his own films. For me, putting this thing on is like inviting some old friends to stop by for a spell.

The performances are perfect, from Ben Johnson and Harry Carey, Jr. as the young cowboys who hire on to lead the Mormon wagon train west to Ward Bond as an elder in the group of settlers to Joanne Dru as part of a medicine show that tags along. And Russell Simpson as, what else, a grumpy old man.

Then there are the Cleggs. It seems odd to say a gentle movie has some of the vilest bad guys you’ll ever see, but it does. If you know the movie, you know what I mean. And if you haven’t seen it, well, I feel truly sorry for you.

I could go on and on. But I’ll leave it at this: Wagon Master is coming to Blu-Ray from Warner Archive. If you haven’t made the leap to high-definition yet, this should be all the reason you need. Essential.

Thanks for the tip, Paula.

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Written and directed by Blake Edwards
Starring William Holden, Ryan O’Neal, Karl Malden, Lynn Carlin, Tom Skerritt, Joe Don Baker, James Olson, Leora Dana, Moses Gunn, Victor French, Rachel Roberts, Sam Gilman

Warner Archive is bringing Blake Edwards’ wonderful The Wild Rovers (1971) to Blu-Ray. Philip Lathrop’s photography deserves nothing less.

This is another one of those movies mangled by its studio — MGM cut about half an hour out of it without Edwards’ knowledge. This Blu-Ray (like the previous DVD) will be Edwards’ longer cut, which rights MGM’s wrongs.

William Holden is so good in this. And it makes an interesting companion piece to his work in Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch (1969) — these are two of the best films ever done about the changing West.

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Directed by Leslie Goodwins
Screenplay by Edgar B. Anderson Jr. & Cliff Lancaster
From a story by John Calvert
Music by Johnny Richards
Directors Of Photography: Glen Gano & Clark Ramsey
Film Editor: John F. Link

John Calvert (John Bonar), Ralph Morgan (Nugget Jack), Ann Cornell (Rusty), Gene Roth (Bill Johnson), Tom Kennedy (Big Tom), Judd Holdren (Jud Jerson), Danny Rense (Ward Henry), Robert Graham (Cougar), George Morrell (Recorder Of Claims)
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Gold Fever is a really cheap, pretty obscure Monogram Western from 1952 with incredible poster art (above). That was about all I knew about it, until our friends at Warner Archive cleaned it up and stuck it on a DVD.

John Calvert is better known as a magician — he was still at it when he died at 102 — than as a movie star. But he had a pretty impressive list of credits, stuff like Bombardier (1943), Mark Of The Whistler (1944), The Return Of The Durango Kid (1945) and a few Poverty Row Falcon pictures.

Gold Fever was written by, produced by, and starring Calvert. The female lead, Ann Cornell, was his wife. Director Leslie Goodwins did tons of TV after years doing shorts and stuff like Mexican Spitfire (1940) and The Mummy’s Curse (1944).

Calvert plays John Bonar, who teams up with Nugget Jack (Ralph Morgan) to help set up his mining claim. That turns out to be more trouble than anybody bargained for, since Bill Johnson (Gene Roth) is out to snag Nugget Jack’s mine. Added to the mix is a pretty, pistol-packing gal named Rusty (Ann Cornell).

The dialogue is stilted, the acting is pretty terrible across the board, and even at 62 minutes, it drags a bit in the middle. But there’s something about this one that really grabbed me. It was Ralph Morgan. He’s a real hoot as Nugget Jack, in what turned out to be his last movie. He overplays it, but it somehow works. And given the rest of the performances, he’s a source of energy the picture really needs. Morgan did a ton of pictures like the serial Dick Tracy Vs. Crime Inc. (1941), Hitler’s Madman (1943), The Monster Maker (1944) and Song Of The Thin Man (1947).
Gold Fever boasts not one, but two, cinematographers, Glen Gano and Clark Ramsey. Gano shot The Return Of The Durango Kid (1945), a few Three Stooges shorts, Untamed Women (1952) and The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant (1971). Clark Ramsey was DP on I Killed Geronimo (1950), Superman And The Mole Men (1951), Hidden Guns (1956) and The Parson And The Outlaw (1957). I was surprised to see that Ramsey was from Palo Pinto County in central Texas (the tiny town of Brad, with just a couple dozen people). My grandparents lived in nearby (and quite tiny) Strawn. I love that area.
Gold Fever

The editor, John F. Link, cut everything from Bowery Champs (1944) to Anthony Mann’s The Great Flamarion (1945) to the Regalscope Western Escape From Red Rock (1957). He was nominated for an Oscar for For Whom The Bell Tolls (1943), and his last film was Russ Meyer’s The Immortal Mr. Teas (1959). That’s quite a variety.

Gold Fever is not the kind of movie you’re gonna put on to show off your new UHD TV, but that doesn’t keep Warner Archive from giving it a little TLC. It looks as good as you’d expect it to look, actually a little better.

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Directed by Leslie Goodwins
Starring John Calvert, Ralph Morgan, Ann Cornell

John Calvert is better known as a magician, still at it when he died at 102, than as a movie star. But anybody with Mark Of The Whistler (1944) in their list of credits is OK by me.

Gold Fever (1952) is a cheap little Monogram Western — which for many of us, is all the recommendation we need. It was written by, produced by, and starring Calvert. The female lead, Ann Cornell, was his wife. Ralph Morgan is, well, Ralph Morgan — a character actor who did a ton of pictures like Hitler’s Madman (1943) and The Monster Maker (1944). Director Leslie Goodwins did tons of TV after years doing shorts and stuff like The Mummy Curse (1944). And it’s coming soon from Warner Archive.

And dig that poster art!

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Directed by Lesley Selander
Screenplay by Arthur E. Orloff
From a story by William Lively
Cinematography: Nicholas Musuraca
Music by Paul Sawtell
Film Editor: Samuel E. Beetley

Cast: Tim Holt (Tim Holt), Richard Martin (Chito Rafferty), Linda Douglas (Peg Masters), Frank Wilcox (Regan), Robert Sherwood (Kenny Masters), John Pickard (Dawson), Kenneth MacDonald (Wheeler), Wendy Waldron (Maria), Patricia Wright (Saloon Girl), Tom London (Old Timer), John Merton (Dale)

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I’m way overdue for a Tim Holt Tuesday. Sorry, Mr. Holt.

By 1952, series Westerns were winding down, and Trail Guide (1952) would be one of the last of Tim Holt’s pictures for RKO. As the series began its ride into the sunset, the budgets got smaller — leaving Holt and Richard Martin, along with director Lesley Selander, to keep things going by simply being so damn good at what they do. And that’s what you have here, some real pros bringing effortless skill and charm to each and every one of the picture’s 60 minutes.

Tim and Chito lead a wagon train to Silver Springs (thanks to stock footage from Wagonmaster), a town where ranchers detest homesteaders. Tim encounters brother-and-sister ranchers (Linda Douglas and Robert Sherwood) and a crooked saloon owner (Frank Wilcox) as he tries to help the settlers stake their claims.

There’s a great fistfight, plenty of riding and the usual back-and-forth with Tim and Chito. It looks like they stayed closer to LA, probably for budget reasons, so we don’t have those stunning Lone Pine vistas. But DP Nicholas Musuraca makes the most of any location. His work is stunning in some of these things. When God’s your set decorator, budget doesn’t matter.

Linda Douglas consults the script.

Linda Douglas had a very short film career. She’d later marry Hank Greenberg of the Detroit Tigers. (There’s a great documentary on him, 1998’s The Life And Times Of Hank Greenberg. Look for it.) She’s fine here, and very pretty.

Frank Wilcox makes a great bad guy. (Why are saloon owners always crooks?) It was funny to have Wilcox talking about the oil found on the range, when a decade later, he’d play Mr. Brewster, the oil company executive who makes Jed Clampett a millionaire on The Beverly Hillbillies. Lighting isn’t around this time. Tom London is funny as an old codger with a supposedly trained dog.

It’s a shame that the series Western left us as things were getting so good — look at these Holts, the Monogram Wild Bill Elliott pictures or the Witney-directed Roy Rogers movies. Luckily, they made a lot of ’em, and they’re turning up on DVD and sometimes Blu-Ray looking terrific. Trail Guide can be found on Tim Holt Western Classics Collection, Volume 4 from Warner Archive. While there’s a fleck of dust or damaged frame here and there, it’s served up well. The four volumes leave a few pictures orphaned, probably due to problems with the available material. Hopefully they’ll turn up someday, and a fifth set will wrap ’em up. These sets are essential.

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