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Archive for the ‘William Castle’ Category

A while back, I asked for Want Lists of the 50s Westerns still lost on the high-def trail. Here they are, presented in chronological order. The titles in bold are the ones that were brought up most frequently.

With the recent news about Fox/Disney’s lack of interest in their back catalogs appearing on shiny silver circles, getting this finished and posted seemed very timely. Many of these, mind you, haven’t even turned up on DVD yet.

The Virginian (1946)
Albuquerque (1948)
Coroner Creek (1948)
Whispering Smith (1948)
3 Godfathers (1949)
Colorado Territory (1949)

Hellfire (1949)
Streets Of Laredo (1949)
Ambush (1950)
Branded (1950)
Devil’s Doorway (1950)
The Nevadan (1950)
Saddle Tramp (1950)
Short Grass (1950)
Showdown (1950)

Trail Of Robin Hood (1950)
Across The Wide Missouri (1951)
Along The Great Divide (1951)
Apache Drums (1951)
Best Of The Badmen (1951)
The Great Missouri Raid (1951)
Inside Straight (1951)
Man In The Saddle (1951)
Red Mountain (1951)
The Redhead And The Cowboy (1951)
The Secret Of Convict Lake (1951)
The Texas Rangers (1951)
Westward The Women (1951)

Vengeance Valley (1951)
Warpath (1951)
The Big Sky (1952)
Bugles In The Afternoon (1952)

Hangman’s Knot (1952)
The Lawless Breed (1952)
The Lusty Men (1952)
The Naked Spur (1952)
Ride The Man Down (1952)
The Savage (1952)
The Story Of Will Rogers (1952)
Untamed Frontier (1952)
Ambush At Tomahawk Gap (1953)
Charge At Feather River (1953)
City Of Bad Men (1953)
Devil’s Canyon {1953)
Escape From Fort Bravo (1953)
The Great Sioux Uprising (1953)
Jack McCall, Desperado (1953)
Last Of The Comanches (1953)
The Last Posse (1953)
The Silver Whip (1953)
The Stranger Wore A Gun (1953)
Wings Of The Hawk (1953)

Tumbleweed (1953)
Apache (1954)
The Bounty Hunter (1954)
Cattle Queen Of Montana (1954)
The Command (1954)
Dawn At Socorro (1954)
The Law Vs. Billy The Kid (1954)
The Outcast (1954)
Ride Clear Of Diablo (1954)
Silver Lode (1954)
Wyoming Renegades (1954)
The Yellow Tomahawk (1954)
At Gunpoint (1955)
Chief Crazy Horse (1955)
The Last Frontier (1955)
The Man From Bitter Ridge (1955)
Shotgun (1955)
Smoke Signal (1955)
Tennessee’s Partner (1955)
The Violent Men (1955)
Wichita (1955)
Backlash (1956)

Dakota Incident (1956)
Fastest Gun Alive (1956)
Fury At Gunsight Pass (1956)
Great Day In The Morning (1956)
The Last Wagon (1956)
The Lone Ranger (1956)
The Maverick Queen (1956)
Reprisal! (1956)
Seven Men From Now (1956)
Stagecoach To Fury (1956)
Tribute To A Bad Man (1956)
Copper Sky (1957)
Domino Kid (1957)

Dragoon Wells Massacre (1957)
Hell Canyon Outlaws (1957)
From Hell To Texas (1958)
Frontier Gun (1958)
The Lone Ranger And The Lost City Of Gold (1958)
Face Of A Fugitive (1959)
Last Train From Gun Hill (1959)
No Name On The Bullet (1959)
Thunder In The Sun (1959)
Yellowstone Kelly (1959)
The Alamo (1960)
Hell Bent For Leather (1960)
Cheyenne Autumn (1964)
Firecreek (1968)
Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid (1973)

As this was being compiled, a few titles actually made their way to Blu-Ray, one of them being the exquisite new Wagon Master (1950) from Warner Archive.

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William Castle
(April 24, 1914 – May 31, 1977)

I’m always on the lookout for a photo of William Castle working on one of his Westerns. This one, from the set of The Americano (1955), is the only one I’ve come across. (He became a lot more visible when he started producing his own horror movies.) He’s seen here with executive producer Sam Wiesenthal and Ursula Thiess. The Americano — with Glenn Ford, Frank Lovejoy, Cesar Romero and Miss Thiess, was a troubled production begun by Budd Boetticher in Brazil and finished some time later by Castle.

William Castle might be my favorite filmmaker. From the Whistler series to gimmicky stuff like House On Haunted Hill (1958), he sure made the movies fun. The low-budget Westerns he did at Columbia for Sam Katzman — pictures like Masterson Or Kansas and The Law Vs. Billy The Kid (both 1954) are among my favorites.

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Nancy Gates
(February 1, 1926 – March 24, 2019)

Nancy Gates has passed away at 93. She was from Dallas, signed with RKO at just 15, and made some really good movies before retiring in 1969 to concentrate on her family.

She was particularly strong in Westerns such as Masterson Of Kansas (1954), Stranger On Horseback (1955), The Brass Legend (1956), The Rawhide Trail (1958), The Gunfight At Dodge City (1959) and Comanche Station (1960). Her other pictures include Hitler’s Children (1943), At Sword’s Point (1952), Suddenly (1954), World Without End (1956) and Some Came Running (1958). She was busy on TV, too, with everything from Maverick and Wagon Train to Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Perry Mason.

Around here, we’ll probably always remember her as Mrs. Lowe in Comanche Station. She’s really terrific in that one.

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Directed by William Castle
Produced by Sam Katzman
Story and Screen Play by Douglas Heyes
Cinematography: Henry Freulich
Film Editor: Charles Nelson

Cast: George Montgomery (Major Frank Archer), Richard Denning (Stacey Wyatt), Martha Hyer (Brett McClain), John Crawford (Captain Richard Hillman), Emory Parnell (Sergeant McClain), Michael Granger (Chief Mike)

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Battle Of Rouge River (1954) is another William Castle Western produced by Sam Katzman for Columbia. It’s part of Mill Creek’s terrific eight-movie DVD set The Fastest Guns Of The West: The William Castle Western Collection. Also included are Klondike Kate (1943), Conquest Of Cochise (1953), Jesse James Vs. The Daltons (1953), Masterson Of Kansas (1954), The Gun That Won The West (1955), Duel On The Mississippi (1955) and Uranium Boom (1956). All eight for less than $15.

At an outpost in the Oregon Territory, the stiff, serious Major Archer (George Montgomery) replaces Major Wallach (Willis Bouchey), who hasn’t been able to defeat Chief Mike (Michael Granger). Archer meets with the chief and they agree to a 30-day truce that keeps them on either side of the Rogue River. Of course, there’s a woman — Brett McClain (Martha Hyer), the daughter of one of the solders at the fort.

But one of the Irregulars aiding the soldiers (Richard Denning) is working to keep the Indians stirred up — to hold off Oregon’s statehood, which would spoil a good thing some of the area businesses have going. Denning tricks Montgomery into breaking the truce and attacking the Indians.

George Montgomery was on a roll at this time, making one solid little Western after another, often with William Castle as director. For me, Masterson Of Kansas (1954, directed by Castle) and Robber’s Roost (1955) stand out. Martha Hyer’s career was also taking off at this time, and she’d be nominated for an Oscar for Some Came Running (1958).

Richard Denning was in the excellent Hangman’s Knot (1952), playing pretty much the same creep he is in this one. The first thing I remember seeing Denning in was Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954), along with all those sci-fi pictures like The Black Scorpion (1957). Later, I’d come to know him as the governor of Hawaii on Hawaii Five-O. Denning was married to the beautiful Universal horror star Evelyn Ankers.

Battle Of Rouge River has the hallmarks of a Sam Katzman picture — a running time of about 70 minutes and lots of stock footage.

“All six winners of the National Indian Beauty Contest”

It also boasts a pretty tacky gimmick. Willam Castle always gave Sam Katzman credit for teaching him the true value of showmanship. Battle Of Rogue River seems to be an example of one of those lessons. According to the ads, you’ll find “all six winners of the National Indian Beauty Contest” in its cast. The contest did not exist until this movie came along — and you have to look really hard to find these lovely ladies in the film.

Battle At Rogue River isn’t among Castle or Montgomery’s finest work. But it’s got a cast and crew of seasoned professionals who I’m always happy to spend time with. Cinematographer Henry Freulich always had these cheap things looking great, and that’s easy to see in the transfer offered up by Mill Creek. I can’t recommend this set enough.

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Directed by William Castle
Produced by Sam Katzman
Screen Play by Robert E. Kent
Director Of Photography: Lester H. White
Film Editor: Viola Lawrence

Cast: Brett King (Joe Branch), Barbara Lawrence (Kate Manning), James Griffith (Bob Dalton), Bill Phipps (Bill Dalton), John Cliff (Grat Dalton), Rory Mallinson (Bob Ford), William Tannen (Emmett Dalton), Richard Garland (Gilkie), Nelson Leigh (Father Kerrigan)

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So glad to see The Fastest Guns Of The West: The William Castle Western Collection turn up in my mailbox. Couldn’t wait to crack it open and give it a whirl. You get Klondike Kate (1943), Conquest Of Cochise (1953), Jesse James Vs. The Daltons (1953), Masterson Of Kansas (1954), Battle Of Rogue River (1954), The Gun That Won The West (1955), Duel On The Mississippi (1955) and Uranium Boom (1956). All directed by William Castle. Most produced by Sam Katzman. And all eight for less than $15.

Jesse James Vs. The Daltons is about as historically accurate as Blazing Saddles (1974) is. Joe Branch (Brett King) might be the son of Jesse James. He and Kate Manning (Barbara Lawrence) — he saves her from a being lynched — hook up with the Dalton Gang to retrieve some loot and locate Jesse, alive or dead.

It’s silly, fast-paced and loads of fun. The picture runs just over an hour, with Castle and DP Lester H. White throwing coffee pots, bullets and dying bad guys at the 3-D camera whenever possible. There’s plenty of ridin’, fightin’ and shootin’, though you can tell the schedule kept the action from getting the staging it needed. It’s a bit sloppy at times.

This might have been Brett King’s only lead, and it was certainly his last feature. He’d do nothing but TV for the rest of his career. After a couple episodes of The Green Hornet in 1967, King and his wife moved to Harbour Island, Bahamas, and opened the Coral Sands Hotel. He became a mover and shaker in the tourism industry down there.

Barbara Lawrence has a decent part here, though there seemed to have been no effort to make her even slightly resemble a woman from the late 19th century. You see that a lot in 50s Westerns. She looks good in jeans, and I guess that was more important (King just happens to have a pair that fits her in his saddlebag). Barbara’s career wasn’t a long one — she gave up movies for real estate — though she’s in some good stuff, including the cool Regalscope sci-fi picture Kronos (1957).

James H. Griffith plays one of the Daltons. He’s always worth watching, and even though he gets third billing, his part isn’t all that big in this one. Castle would give him bigger, better parts in his next two Westerns: Masterson Of Kansas (1954, included in this set) and The Law Vs. Billy The Kid (1954).

Jesse James Vs. The Daltons was shot in Technicolor and 3-D, and it was to be projected at 1.85. It appears here 2-D, of course, and full frame. The picture looks quite good, but as you can imagine, there’s a lot of dead space at the top and bottom of the frame. The zoom feature on my TV took care of some of that. (Mill Creek licenses these pictures from Columbia and works with what the studio sends them.)

The rest of the set looks even better. The real jewel is the black and white Uranium Boom (1956), which looks gorgeous. You’d almost think you were looking at a Blu-Ray. The Fastest Guns Of The West: The William Castle Western Collection is a terrific set, something many of us have been hoping for. As I see it, William Castle could do no wrong, and these movies are good, cheap fun — thanks to Mill Creek for giving us such a budget-friendly, storage-space friendly package. Highly, highly recommended.

To the fine folks at Mill Creek: while you’re serving up William Castle, how about a set of the Whistler movies?

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I had to make sure this wasn’t April Fool’s Day — because a set of eight Westerns directed by William Castle (all but one produced by Sam Katzman!) sounds too good to be true. But here it is, coming from our friends at Mill Creek Entertainment.

Klondike Kate (1943)
Starring Ann Savage, Tom Neal and Glenda Farrell
One of Castle’s first directing credits — it came out a year before the first of The Whistler series.

Conquest Of Cochise (1953)
Starring John Hodiak, Robert Stack, Joy Page
Stack and Page had already appeared together in Budd Boetticher’s Bullfighter And The Lady (1951). Hodiak makes a good Cochise.

Masterson Of Kansas (1954)
Starring George Montgomery, Nancy Gates, James Griffith
James Grifftih’s performance as Doc Holliday really elevates this one.

Jesse James Vs. The Daltons (1954)
Starring Barbara Lawrence, James Griffith, William Phipps
This one was originally in 3-D and Technicolor. As you’d imagine, Castle throws everything he can think of at the camera.

Battle Of Rogue River (1954)
Starring George Montgomery, Richard Denning, Martha Hyer
Katzman cast “all six winners of the National Indian Beauty Contest” in this picture. I wouldn’t be surprised if this contest didn’t exist before Katzman and Castle came along.

The Gun That Won The West (1955)
Starring Dennis Morgan, Paula Raymond, Richard Denning
This tale of the US Cavalry taking on Chief Red Cloud makes good use of stock footage from Buffalo Bill (1944).

Duel On The Mississippi (1955)
Starring Lex Parker, Patricia Medina, Warren Stevens, John Dehner
Not really a Western, but it’s got a solid Western cast doing the Louisiana river pirate thing.

Uranium Boom (1956)
Starring Dennis Morgan, Patricia Medina, William Talman
A modern-day Western with Dennis Morgan and William Talman fighting over their uranium mine — and the lovely Patricia Medina.

Can’t tell you how excited I am about this set. Castle’s one of my favorite filmmakers, and I’ve got a real soft spot for these Castle-Katzman movies. Highly, highly recommended.

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There’s no doubt that, back in 1962, kids at the Lawton Theatre in Lawton, Oklahoma, had a very good time. I can’t imagine a better night at the movies than a twin bill of William’s Castle’s immortal House On Haunted Hill and Universal’s vampire Western Curse Of The Undead (both 1959).

Here’s hoping you all have a happy, and safe, Halloween.

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