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Directed by Felix Feist
Starring Kirk Douglas, Eve Miller, Patrice Wymore, Edgar Buchanan, John Archer, Alan Hale, Jr., Ellen Corby

The Big Trees (1952) is a fun Kirk Douglas picture about loggers after the redwoods of northern California. Douglas did it for free to get out of his Warner Bros. contract. To me, the real stars of the film are Director Of Photography Bert Glennon and Patrice Wymore, who looks incredible thanks to Glennon’s masterful use of Technicolor.

It’s airing on INSP TV as part of their Saddle Up Weekends all through July — part of a solid lineup of classic films and TV.

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Associate Producer and Director: Joseph Kane
Screen Play by Kenneth Gamet
Story by Thames Williamson and Gerald Geraghty
Director of Photography: Reggie Lanning
Film Editor: Arthur Roberts
Music: Dale Butts

CAST: William Elliott (John Baker/Ringo), Adrian Booth (Livvy Weston), Grant Withers (Wade Proctor), Barbra Fuller (Louise Cole), Noah Beery Jr. (Glenn Larrabee), Jim Davis (Lt. Mike Baker), Bob Steele (Dancer), Douglass Dumbrille (Col. Price), Will Wright (Judge Cole), Roy Barcroft (Fergus), Earle Hodgins (Buck Yallop), Stuart Hamblen (Stuart), Hal Taliaferro (Sgt. Gowdy), Lloyd Ingraham, Marshall Reed, Craig Whitley, Charles Stevens and James Flavin, George Chesebro, Kermit Maynard

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It’s been quite a while since we’ve seen a Wild Bill Wednesday. This time around, let’s look at The Savage Horde (1950), Elliott’s next-to-last picture for Republic (coming between Hellfire and The Showdown.)

Savage Horde

Elliott is Ringo, a gunslinger wanted for killing a cavalry officer (in self defense, as it turns out). Pursued by the army, he ends up shooting his brother (Jim Davis) — which prompts him to put down his guns and try to begin again under a new name. He winds up in the town of Gunlock, where he becomes involved in a range war (siding with the small ranchers against Grant Withers), reconnects with an old flame (Adrian Booth) and finally faces the charges against him.

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The story, cooked up by Thames Williamson and Gerald Geraghty, is impressive in how it’s so seamlessly and solidly built around Elliott’s strengths. His peaceable man/good-badman persona is right at home here — you can easily see this as a William S. Hart picture.

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The supporting cast is outstanding: Noah Beery, Jr. as one of the smalltime ranchers; Adrian Booth and Barbra Fuller; Withers as the big, bad cattleman; Will Wright as the local judge tired of being under Withers’ thumb; Bob Steele as Dancer, a sadistic hired gun; and Stuart Hamblyn as a singing ranch hand. Something that really sets The Savage Horde apart is that the bad guys are really bad. Wade Procter (Withers) comes off as a really ruthless cattle baron, willing to do (or have someone else do) whatever is takes to make sure he gets what he wants — sole use of unclaimed rangeland. His cohorts — Bob Steele, Roy Barcroft and Marshall Reed — might be even worse. There’s plenty of menace here, and we all know what a good bad guy can add to a picture like this.

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Director and associate producer Joe Kane makes sure we see every cent of Republic’s budget, fairly large by their standards. The action scenes are bigger, the street scenes have more extras — it’s just bigger. Shooting around Sedona and Red Rock Canyon and a 90-minute running time certainly help. This was not only the last picture Elliott would make with Kane, but it was also his last A-scale movie. The Showdown, though excellent, was done for a fraction of The Savage Horde‘s budget. And the Monogram and Allied Artists pictures that Elliott closed out his career with, they were done on the cheap.

Barbra Fuller: “Bill Elliott was wonderful to work with… I don’t think he was much of an actor. He just trained himself and it came off beautifully… He had a calm masculinity, the same as he had in this picture.”

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The Savage Horde is one of William Elliott’s best pictures. And like so much of the Republic library, who knows when, or if, it’ll turn up on DVD. If you watch for it, it turns up on the Westerns Channel or on one those streaming things every so often (it’s currently on Amazon Instant).

Source: Wild Bill Elliott: A Complete Filmography by Gene Blottner

George Sherman (above, between Gilbert Roland and Shelley Winters on location for 1955’s The Treasure Of Pancho Villa) made a number of excellent Westerns in the 50s, usually for Universal or Columbia. He was a true craftsman, with a real flair for location work — and he could knock your eyes out with Technicolor.

I’m preaching to the choir here, I know. We’ve all sung the praises of his Dawn At Socorro (1954), Reprisal! (1956) and Last Of The Fast Guns (1958) many times. But for a new article on the ClassicFlix website, Blake Lucas and I cooked up an overview of Sherman’s career and highlighted the films available on DVD here in the States. While a good sampling of his pictures are easy to get ahold of, some of his work is frustratingly hard to find. But I assure you, they’re worth the effort.

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Directed by Richard Wilson
Starring Robert Mitchum, Jan Sterling, Karen Sharpe, Henry Hull, Ted De Corsia, Leo Gordon

Man With The Gun (1955) is a solid little Western that gets overlooked in favor of other Mitchum pictures like Blood On The Moon (1948) or The Wonderful Country (1959). The cast makes a big difference here. Henry Hull is terrific, as are Ted De Corsia and Leo Gordon — and having both Jan Sterling and Karen Share in the same picture is a real treat.

Kino Lorber has this one coming on Blu-ray in September, along with The Wonderful Country, and I’m really stoked about the chance to see this with its 1.85 framing in place. Recommended.

Happy Fourth Of July.

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Now this was a great way to celebrate our nation’s independence, with a double feature of High School Confidential! and Fort Massacre (both 1958) at the Palace in Marion, Ohio, in 1958. Remember, Fort Massacre is coming on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber.

Here’s hoping you all have a fun, safe Fourth.

 

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Directed by Sidney Salkow
Starring George Montgomery, Richard Boone, Sylvia Findley, Peter Graves, Warren Stevens, William Hopper, Leo Gordon

Sure has been a lot of new release stuff turning up lately. And here’s a good one: George Montgomery in Robbers Roost (1955) — coming from Kino Lorber later this year. The DVD from MGM’s MOD program was nice, and I figure this will hail from the same transfer.

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Directed by Sam Fuller
Starring Rod Steiger, Sara Montiel, Brian Keith, Ralph Meeker, Jay C. Flippen, Charles Bronson, Olive Carey, Colonel Tim McCoy

Another Fuller picture making its way to DVD is always good news, even better when it’s one of his Westerns. Run Of The Arrow (1957) — coming from Warner Archive July 7, begins with the end of the Civil War as a disillusioned soldier (Rod Steiger) makes his way west and takes up with the Sioux. Sound kinda like something you might’ve seen with Kevin Costner?

This is a long way from Dances With Wolves, if for no other reason than because it was written, produced and directed by Sam Fuller. Recommended.

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