Feeds:
Posts
Comments

lone-ranger-color-title

Here’s a great way to spend half an hour of your Christmas Eve — the 1956 (color) holiday episode of The Lone Ranger, “Christmas Story.”

It was directed by Earl Bellamy, who did episodes of nearly every TV show known to man. It stars Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels, of course. Aline Towne, who plays Mrs. Talbot, has a great list of 50s credits, — from Republic stuff like Rough Riders Of Durango (1951) and Radar Men From The Moon (1952) to TV ranging from M Squad to Maverick to Leave It To Beaver.

Click on the title card and it’s “Hi-yo Silver, away!”

1950_1343572298-th

Directed by Raoul Walsh
Starring Errol Flynn, Ann Sheridan, Thomas Mitchell, Bruce Bennett, Barton MacLane, Monte Blue

Silver River (1948), an Errol Flynn Western directed by Raoul Walsh, is finally making its way to DVD from Warner Archive. Watch for it in January.

Production was marked by the liquored-up antics of both Flynn and his leading lady, Ann Sheridan. Probably due to those antics, this was the last of eight pictures Flynn and Walsh made together (if you haven’t seen their Objective, Burma!, do it now!). In spite of the delays and frustrations, Flynn turned in a solid, complex performance — the effects of his hard living might have made him a better Western star.

2016 has been a great year for classic Westerns on DVD and Blu-Ray. 2017’s getting off to a great start, too. Thank you, Warner Archive!

florence_morning_news_sun__dec_7__1958_

Back in 1958, Acme Boots were evidently a hot item. Click on the ad and it gets a lot bigger.

four-faces-west-1948-poster-1

Directed by Alfred E. Green
Starring Joel McCrea, Frances Dee, Charles Bickford, Joseph Calleia, William Conrad

It didn’t do well when it came out. But to those familiar with it today, Four Faces West (1948) is a minor masterpiece.

It’s a movie that plays with the audience at every turn, always offering up a fresh take on convention. The performances are excellent, Alfred E. Green’s  direction is right on the money, and Russell Harlan’s cinematography is terrific.

Kino Lorber has announced a DVD and Blu-Ray release in early 2017. You don’t want to miss this one, folks.

last-train-douglas-still

Kirk Douglas turns 100 today. He’s certainly one of the last big stars from Hollywood’s Golden Era (or whatever you want to call it).

He made so many terrific movies, but the one that stands out for me — and that was a big part of my decision to take on this blog and book — is Last Train From Gun Hill (1959). Douglas uses that pent-up rage thing of his to startling effect in this movie, making it one of the most suspenseful (and to me, one of the best) Westerns of the 50s.

35mm-shippers

This will be the fourth year we’ve done this, and it’s always a lot of fun. Between now and New Year’s Eve, send me your favorite DVD and Blu-ray releases for the year — I’ll do all the accounting and put together our Best Of 2016 list. The only requirements: they have to have been released during the 2016 calendar year, somewhere on Planet Earth, and have some relation to 50s Westerns. So many great things showed up on DVD, or got a stellar Blu-Ray upgrade, this year, I wanted to give us all some extra time to pull things together.

One of the real joys of this blog, as I see it, is all the sharing and recommending that goes on. So while you’re at it, let me know what your favorite Discoveries were for 2016. Doesn’t matter if it’s been on DVD for years, you saw it on GetTV last week or borrowed a bootleg from a friend — what 50s Westerns did you get acquainted with this year?

For both lists, drop your picks in the comments to this post or email fiftieswesterns AT gmail DOT com.

s-l1600-12

Directed by Nicholas Ray
Produced by Herbert J. Yates
Screenplay by Philip Yordan
Cinematography: Harry Stradling, Sr.
Film Editor: Richard L. Van Enger
Original Music by Victor Young and Peggy Lee

Cast: Joan Crawford (Vienna), Sterling Hayden (Johnny Guitar), Mercedes McCambridge (Emma Small), Scott Brady (Dancin’ Kid), Ward Bond (John McIvers), Ben Cooper (Turkey Ralston), Ernest Borgnine (Bart Lonergan), John Carradine (Old Tom), Royal Dano (Corey), Paul Fix (Eddie)

__________

s-l1600-15Johnny Guitar (1954) has always been one of my favorite 50s Westerns.

Now, I could go on and on about how it’s a Feminist Western, a Psychological Western, an Existential Western, an HUAC allegory and lots of other things — or maybe it’s none of those. Depends on how you look at it.

I could rattle off a list of prominent filmmakers who’ve cited it as an influence or a favorite. I could cover its incredible cast, surely one of the best assembled for a 50s Western (and that’s saying something), or Victor Young’s terrific score — even that great instrumental version of the title song by The Spotnicks.

johnny-guitar-for-tv

I could even mention that at one point, there was talk of Jack Webb turning it into a TV series. Maybe it’s best to not get me started on Johnny Guitar at all.

But that’s not what this is about, not today anyway. It turns out Johnny Guitar is also one of the finest Blu-Rays I’ve ever seen.

Of course, Olive Films brought it out a few years ago, and it was marvelous. Some of us griped about it not reflecting Nick Ray’s original 1.66 cropping (I’m among the guilty), but the overall quality more than made up for it.

Well, Olive’s new Signature edition, it leaves the old release in the red, Sedona dust. This is a case where what a movie looks like on video can have a substantial impact on your appreciation of it. I saw details I’d never seen, and the restored 1.66 framing revealed little hints of Ray’s eye for color and composition (and his overall genius) that have escaped me for decades. In short, it made this great movie seem even greater.

large_johnny_guitar_04x_blu-ray_

The extras — Martin Scorsese intro, commentary, documentaries, trailer, etc. — are outstanding, covering everything from the film and its many interpretations to Nicholas Ray to Republic pictures. Still haven’t made my way through them all. This is a movie that deserves, and stands up to, all the analysis that’s heaped on it, and this package does it justice.

I’m not here to tell you how to spend your money. So I’ll just say that if I won the lottery, I’d buy a few cases of these and send you all one. And if you hadn’t made the switch to Blu-Ray, well, I’d have to help you out with that, too. This one gets my highest recommendation.