I'm a jinx Larry.
Massacre River is directed by John Rawlins and written by Louis Stevens. It stars Guy Madison, Rory Calhoun, Carole Matthews, Cathy Downs, Johnny Sands and Steve Brodie. Music is by John Leipold and Lucien Moraweck and cinematography by Jack Mackenzie.
Three army buddies, two ladies, and Indians unhappy about land encroachments. Spells trouble for sure.
Massacre River is a tricky Western to recommend in that it is not one for those expecting a Cavalry and Indians actioner, this is no high energy "B" Western. It relies heavily on character dynamics and a story ripe with surprising forays into darker territories. In fact it is far from routine stuff, a tag that even the New York Times reviewer of the time was quickly wrong to call it.
We have five people caught in a devil's pentagon, friendships and passions are tested and emotions reach boiling point. Thankfully the makers involved here have the courage of their convictions to make bold decisions with some of the characters. Decisions that bring the pic into a film noir realm, which when aided by some pleasing monochrome photography, and shadow play when the story goes bleaker, marks this out as very being aware of that style of film making that was bubbling away with menace at the time.
It begins all jaunty with pals larking around, even bordering on the homo erotic as two of the guys wrestle in a bath of water (seriously), and with a meeting of the fort colonel and the Indian chief (Art Baker and Iron Eyes Cody) outlaying a problem brewing between the two factions, it appears to be heading into "formula". But once the action switches to Jackson (the last outpost bordering Massacre River), the whole tone shifts, very much so, and it becomes a spicy hotbed of human agonies and vagaries of fate.
Problems exist of course. It's nice to have Calhoun and Brodie in the same movie, but the former's fans are made to wait for him to be seen at his best, while the latter is very under used. Story wise there is a hint of under staffing at one of the forts, but it's not explored for benefit, while the Indian angle ultimately feels tacked onto the human drama. But it's nicely performed by the cast, there's some nice photography and camera work, while the comforting sight to Western fans of the Iverson Ranch locale is boosted by shots filmed at Canyon de Chelly National Monument.
Well worth a look for Western fans familiar with noirish angles of the period. 7/10
Footnote: Some sources have it listed as being in Sepiatone. Not sure if it was filmed originally in that format? But the print I saw via TCM's HD channel wasn't so, it was a straight and very nice looking monochrome print.
âI donât want to be shot in the back of the head like Mr.Lincolnâ
Legal Eagle and the Johnny Rebels.
El Paso is directed by Lewis R. Foster and Foster also adapts the screenplay from a story written by J. Robert Bren and Gladys Atwater. It stars John Payne, Gail Russell, Sterling Hayden, George 'Gabby' Hayes, Dick Foran, Eduardo Noriega, Henry Hull and Mary Beth Hughes. Music is by Darrell Calker and cinematography by Ellis W. Carter. Location filming is at the Iverson and Corrigan Ranches and El Paso and Gallup.
El Paso, and lawyer and ex-Confederate captain Clay Fletcher (Payne) is forced to go against his principles and go outside the law to bring order to the town. It's a town where the judge is alcoholic and manipulated by the corrupt sheriff and a nefarious landowner.
In the mix here is a very decent film, and certainly there's a story that if given a bit more meat could have been most potent. Unfortunately it's a bit choppy in its telling and execution, while the Cinecolor it was shot in looks washed out and cheapens still further what was already a picture being made without a big budget.
Thematically it's strong, there's a vigilante thread that's attention grabbing, with some nice suggestive shots used by the director, and a theme of ex-soldiers returning from the war - only to find their land and rights being vanquished by the self imposed powers that be - carries with it some pertinent sting. There's also some good humour in here, notably a running gag involving Hughes' Stagecoach Nellie.
Cast are fine, with Hayden and Payne fronting up for their fans, Hayes does another grand grizzled old coot turn, and Noriega, in spite of being under used, is excellent. Crude back projection work undermines some half decent action sequences, whilst the extended shoot-out finale is nicely played out during a dust storm - which may be to hide some flaws in the production? But regardless it has good effect.
Frustrating picture for sure, but for Western die-hards there's enough here to enjoy and not feel angry about. 6.5/10
Howdy, it comes to me that we ain't exactly the smartest cowboys that ever lived.
The Rounders is directed by Burt Kennedy and Kennedy adapts the screenplay from Max Evans' novel. Music is by Jeff Alexander and cinematography by Paul Vogel. It stars Glenn Ford, Henry Fonda, Sue Ane Langdon, Hope Holiday, Chill Wills and Edgar Buchanan.
Two ageing bronco-busting rounders get into (mis)adventures with a crafty old equine along for the ride...
It's one of those films that has amiable blood coursing through its veins. We are in very good company with Ford and Fonda, two likable and most reliable veterans of the silver screen, and crucially it looks like they are having fun - and it's infectious. Teamed up with a splendid comedy horse who gets up to mischief when ever possible, the boys also find some sexy lady love interests that puts a nice little risquÃ© cheek on things, cheek actually being a very literal word at times.
Technically it's a very good production. Filmed in Metrocolor/Panavision, the vistas are superbly photographed by Vogel, with Arizona locations including Coconino National Forest, Red Rock Crossing, San Francisco Peaks and Village of Oak Creek. The stunt work is high quality, well shot by the wily Western movie veteran Kennedy, while Alexander's musical compositions have the desired jolification. Rounding off is a splendid and comforting support cast that sees Denver Pyle joining Buchanan and Wills for further Western genre reassurance. 7/10