Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Directed by John Sturges
Starring Kirk Douglas, Anthony Quinn, Carolyn Jones, Earl Holliman, Brian G. Hutton, Dabbs Greer

Here’s the one so many of us, mainly me, have been waiting for. Last Train From Gun Hill (1959) is coming to Blu-Ray from Paramount in June.

An excellent Western, with terrific VistaVision camerawork from Charles B. Lang Jr., this is one of the pictures that made me a 50s Westerns nut and set me on the path to this blog and the upcoming book. It remains one of my all-time favorite films.

If you’re a reader of this blog, this one’s essential.

Mill Creek has announced the six-disc, 12-movie Blu-Ray set The Randolph Scott Collection, which gives us a great batch of Scott’s Westerns for Columbia.

The Desperadoes (1943)
Directed by Charles Vidor
Starring Randolph Scott, Claire Trevor, Glenn Ford, Evelyn Keyes, Edgar Buchanan

Scott plays a sheriff after two separate bands of outlaws who rob the same bank at about the same time. Turns out the first robbery was an inside job.

The Nevadan (1950)
Directed by Gordon Douglas
Starring Randolph Scott, Dorothy Malone, Forrest Tucker, Frank Faylen and George Macready

Scott’s a Marshal who lets an outlaw (Forrest Tucker) escape so he can recover $250,000 in stolen gold.

Santa Fe (1951)
Directed by Irving Pichel
Starring Randolph Scott, Janis Carter

Scott’s trying to help build a railroad, with even his own brothers trying to stop him.

Man In The Saddle (1951
Directed by Andre de Toth
Starring Randolph Scott, Joan Leslie, Ellen Drew, Alexander Knox, Richard Rober, John Russell, Alfonso Bedoya, Guinn ‘Big Boy’ Williams, Clem Bevans, Cameron Mitchell, Tennessee Ernie Ford

Scott’s a farmer who locks horns with Alexander Knox, who wants his land. The first, and maybe best, of the Scott pictures directed by Andre de Toth.

Hangman’s Knot (1952)
Directed by Roy Huggins
Starring Randolph Scott, Donna Reed, Claude Jarman, Jr., Frank Faylen, Richard Denning, Lee Marvin

Confederate soldiers, led by Scott, steal a shipment of Yankee gold and end up with a posse after ’em.

The Stranger Wore A Gun (1953)
Directed by Andre de Toth
Starring Randolph Scott, Claire Trevor, Joan Weldon, George Macready, Alfonso Bedoya, Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine

This time, Scott’s a Confederate spy who’s in in a big robbery but has a change of heart. Originally in 3-D, widescreen (1.85) and stereophonic sound, it’ll be interesting to see what we get here. 

A Lawless Street (1955)
Directed by Joseph H. Lewis
Starring Randolph Scott

Then we get four of the Budd Boetticher/Burt Kennedy Ranown cycle, some of the finest Westerns ever made. What’s missing from the unofficial series are Batjac’s Seven Men From Now (1956) and Warner’s Westbound (1959) which aren’t available on Blu-Ray.

The Tall T (1957)
Directed by Budd Boetticher
Starring Randolph Scott, Richard Boone, Maureen O’Sullivan, Arthur Hunnicutt, Skip Homeier, Henry Silva

Scott and Maureen O’Sullivan are held captive at a way station by a bunch of crooks. This is an incredible movie, based on a story by Elmore Leonard.

Decision At Sundown (1958)
Directed by Budd Boetticher
Starring Randolph Scott, John Carroll, Karen Steele, Valerie French, Noah Beery Jr., John Archer, Ray Teal

Scott rides in Sundown to kill John Carroll., who had an affair with his wife.

Buchanan Rides Alone (1958)
Directed by Budd Boetticher
Starring Randolph Scott, Craig Stevens, Barry Kelley, L.Q. Jones

Tom Buchanan (Scott) rides into the border town of Agry and is robbed and framed for murder. Naturally, Scott isn’t happy about this and does something about it. This was my entry point into the films of Randolph Scott, and it remains a favorite.

Ride Lonesome (1959)
Directed by Budd Boetticher
Starring Randolph Scott, Karen Steele, Pernell Roberts, Lee Van Cleef, James Coburn 

Ben Brigade (Scott) is a bounty hunter trying to take Billy John to Santa Cruz and turn him in. Standing in the way are Billy John’s brother and a group of Indians.

Comanche Station (1960)
Directed by Budd Boetticher
Starring Randolph Scott, Claude Akins, Nancy Gates, Skip Homeier 

Scott rescues a women from the Comanches, not knowing her husband has a $5,000 reward for her return, dead or alive. Along come some dirtbags, lead by Claude Akins, who know about the five grand and want her for themselves. 

This set is essential. Some of these are available on Blu-Ray elsewhere, some are not. Order yours now.

The Strand in Hartford, Connecticut, May 1950.

Directed by Robert Aldrich
Starring Gary Cooper, Burt Lancaster, Denise Darcel, Sara Montiel, Cesar Romero, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, Jack Elam

Vera Cruz (1954) was put together by Burt Lancaster’s production company, Lancaster-Hecht. Burt was going to play the hero, Benjamin Trane, but it was decided to have Lancaster to play the bad guy — and a more traditional hero type play Trane. Cray Grant turned it down, and it was offered to Gary Cooper.

The picture’s a lot of fun with Cooper and Lancaster as a couple of shifty Americans down in Mexico who join forces to steal a stash of gold coins. With its macho one-upmanship, crosses and double-crosses, flawed characters — even the good guys are bad, Robert Aldrich’s Vera Cruz is one of the 50s Westerns that served as an obvious influence on the spaghetti westerns that would come in the early 60s.

Kino Lorber is working on a Blu-Ray release, which should do justice to the picture’s SuperScope 2:1 presentation (applied to the picture after the fact). Can’t wait to see it looking the way it should. Highly recommended.

RIP, Joan Weldon.

Joan Weldon
(August 5, 1930 – February 11, 2021)

Joan Weldon, a lovely actress who appeared in some terrific pictures in the 50s, has passed away at 90.

She appeared with Randolph Scott in two Westerns, The Stranger Wore A Gun (1953) and Riding Shotgun (1954), both directed by Andre de Toth, along with The Command (1954) with Guy Madison, Gunsight Ridge (1957) with Joel McCrea and Day Of The Badman (1958) with Fred MacMurray. But the big one, the one she’s known for, is Gordon Douglas’s great giant ant picture Them! (1954).

She was quote a singer and did a lot of musical theater, including appearing with Forrest Tucker in The Music Man.

Meet Rosie!

Presley recently rescued a kitten from a shed in our neighbors’ back yard. She was very successful in finding it a home, ours, and we’ve named her Rosie — after Julie Adams in The Lawless Breed (1952). We considered names from Marie Windsor movies, too, but this one seemed perfect.

So far, the connection to The Lawless Breed has proved very appropriate.

Fury At Showdown (1957).

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

__________

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.

THIS IS AN UPDATE OF A POST FROM JULY OF 2012. It continues to be a really popular post, and it seemed due for a refresh. This will be further updated as time goes on.

Henry Cabot Beck of True West Magazine and I were emailing back and forth about the color Roy Rogers pictures (Trucolor, to be precise), how wonderful they are, and how terribly they’re represented on DVD. It’s a matter that has been beaten to death on a number of newsgroups, which shows just how important this really is. With these pictures in mind, a hastily-constructed post seemed in order.

The official releases worth your time and money are (where appropriate, clicking on the art will take you to a seller):

DVD

Bells Of Coronado (1950) is the only Roy Rogers picture Lions Gate got around to putting out on DVD during their handling of the Republic Pictures catalog. Unfortunately, Olive Films’ time with the Republic titles didn’t result in a single Rogers disc.

Bells Of Coronado is a good one, with Dale Evans, Trigger, Grant Withers and Pat Brady adding their usual support. William Witney lends his masterful direction, the songs are great and the Trucolor looks good. I think this is out of print, but it’s still listed here.

VCI’s Roy Rogers Western Double Feature Volume 1 presents Under California Stars (1948) and The Bells of San Angelo (1947) — both uncut and both looking just fine. California features Jane Frazee and Andy Devine, while San Angelo has Dale Evans, Andy Devine and Bob Nolan and the Sons of the Pioneers. Witney directed both. It’s also a deal, available through their website for just four bucks! Trailers are even included. So mosey on over and pick one up.

 

Springtime In The Sierras (1947) came out from Film Chest (in 2016) and The Film Detective, transferred from a complete 16mm print. It might be a bit soft, but it’s a good one and it’s complete.

 

 

 

 

 

BLU-RAY

Kino Lorber took over from Olive Films and released some nice stuff, including a couple of color Rogers films, from restored materials. They’re available on both Blu-Ray and DVD, and both feature commentaries from some Bozo named Toby Roan. They’re absolutely beautiful.

Sunset In The West (1950) looks incredible. It’s got Penny Edwards instead of Dale Evans, and there’s terrific  support from Gordon Jones, Will Wright and Paul E. Burns. The climax, with Trigger chasing down a locomotive, has some really amazing stuntwork.

Trigger Jr. (1950) has Dale Evans, Pat Brady, Gordon Jones, Grant Withers and Foy Willing And The Riders Of The Purple Sage. It really focuses on Trigger, so there’s a lot of great horse stuff in it.

I wish this was a lot longer post, with the rest of the color Rogers pictures listed. But at this time, Paramount owns the rights and no one has licensed anything. Maybe someday.

Till then, “may the good Lord take a liking to you.”

 

Directed by Cecil B. DeMille
Starring Barbara Stanwyck, Joel McCrea, Akim Tamiroff, Robert Preston, Lynne Overman, Brian Donlevy, Anthony Quinn

Union Pacific (1939) is a great big Cecil B. DeMille picture about the building of the railroad. It’s got a great cast, some remarkable action sequences and the overall DeMille thing we all love so much.

Kino Lorber is bringing it to Blu-Ray this summer, which should really be something to see. Highly recommended.

RIP, Marie Harmon.

Marie Harmon
October 21, 1923 – January 25, 2021

Marie Harmon, who was under contract at Republic in the late 40s, has passed away at 97.

She was in pictures like Night Time In Nevada (1948) with Roy Rogers and The El Paso Kid (1946) with Sunset Carson.

Her daughter Cherie Currie was a member of the band The Runaways.