I've seen them pass the same set of phony rocks a good half dozen times.
What's he trying to do-die with his boots on?
The Last Posse is directed by Alfred L. Werker and co-written by Seymour Bennett, Connie Bennett and Kenneth Gamet. It stars Broderick Crawford, Charles Bickford, John Derek and Wanda Hendrix. Primary location used for the shoot is Lone Pine, Alabama Hills, California, with Burnett Guffey on photography duties. Out of Columbia Pictures, story tells of how a returning posse on the trail of outlaw robbers, return to Roswell, New Mexico, minus their leader and with their accompanying sheriff critically wounded.
Much better than its B movie origins, The Last Posse is strong in characterisations, visually smart and being structured as it is, primarily in flashback, also getting a bit of unusual intrigue tossed into the Oatmeal. It's also very well acted, with Crawford and Bickford making for a nice gruff opposing pair, and the support cast is filled with solid performers like Henry Hull, Warner Anderson and Skip Homeier. Director Werker (He Walked By Night) does a good job of keeping the story nicely paced, dotting the plot with some well staged action along the way, and the finale, thankfully not telegraphed, doesn't disappoint at all. But in the main it's the writing and Guffey's photography that lifts it above average. The various members of the posse are either troubled or driven by motive, making for a good psychological mix, and this in turn is well realised by Guffey's crisp black and white photography of the Lone Pine, Alabama Hills landscapes. The numerous boulders and odd shaped rocks impose on the characters and the desert flats make a grim stage for the unfolding story.
Easily recommended to the Western movie fan. 7/10
Law West of the Pecos.
The Westerner is directed by William Wyler and written by Niven Busch, Jo Swerling and Stuart N. Lake. It stars Gary Cooper, Walter Brennan, Fred Stone and Doris Davenport. Music is by Dimitri Tiomkin and cinematography by Gregg Toland.
Story is a fictionalised account about Judge Roy Bean (Brennan), who here rules Vingaroon Town by his own law and punishment. When suspected horse thief Cole Harden (Cooper) comes under his judicial system, they become odd friends due to Harden claiming to know personally Lily Langtree - the object of Bean's worship.
Lots of uncredited work was involved in the making of The Westerner, while Cooper famously sulked about not having the main character role, so much so his part was expanded and he performed under contract but under protest! Fact is is that it is as everyone has said before, Brennan steals the film regardless, winning a Best Supporting Actor Oscar in the process. Cooper needn't have worried, he's very good here, turning in a number of various strains to Harden's character, bouncing off of Brennan to the pics eternal benefit.
At the core of the plot is a good old fashioned thread involving Homesteaders versus Cattlemen, with Bean throwing his weight around and Harden forced to reevaluate his standing in the town when he falls for Jane Ellen Mathews (Davenport). The Lily Langtree (Lilian Bond) strand gives the pic an offbeat sensibility, making this a sort of dramatic comedy oater, but it works really well. Toland's photography is superb, sharp black and white sequences are given ethereal qualities, hinting at the fact this at times fun picture might be leading to a darker path?
Davenport is weak and most of the supporting players struggle to make much of an impact, but come the attention grabbing finale you know you have been fed a wholesome western of substance. Propelled by two acting legends. 7/10
It's not my advice, Mr, it's the rule of the game...
..Bachelors make the best soldiers, all they have to lose is their loneliness.
A Thunder of Drums is directed by Joseph Newman and written by James Warner Bellah. It stars Richard Boone, George Hamilton, Luana Pattern, Arthur O'Connell, Charles Bronson, Richard Chamberlain, Duane Eddy and Slim Pickens. Out of MGM it's filmed on location at Old Tuscon & Sabino Canyon in Arizona, and also at Vasquez Rocks, California. It's filmed in CinemaScope and Metrocolor, with cinematography by William W. Spencer and music scored by Harry Sukman.
"There are three things a man can do to relieve the boredom of these lonely one troop posts: He can drink himself into a straight-jacket: He can get his throat cut chasing squaws: Or he can dedicate himself to the bleak monastic life of a soldier and become a great officer."
It's proved to be a divisive film amongst Western aficionados, and it's not hard to understand why. The film begins with a pre credit sequence of suggested savagery, a real attention grabber, then the credits role and the colour and vistas open up the story. From here we are placed into the lonely and fretful life at a cavalry fort in the Southwest. The company consists of tough grizzled Captain Maddocks (Boone) who carries around a burden from his past, his ire further inflamed by the arrival of greenhorn Lt. Curtis McQuade (Hamilton). He needs experienced men, not fresh faced kids, and McQuade isn't helping himself by being involved in a love triangle with Lt. Thomas Gresham's (James Douglas) lady, Tracey Hamilton (Patten). This coupled with the threat imposed by the Indians puts strain on all involved at Fort Canby. And there's the crux of the matter, the film is more interested with character dynamics than breaking out into an action packed B ranked Western.
Newcomers to the film should prepare for a talky picture, but it is a very good talky picture. Sure there's action, including a well staged battle in the final quarter (check out those Apache suddenly appearing from the rocks like ghosts!), but this is a film that is being propelled by dialogue, well written dialogue. There is no point in saying that it's well cast because it isn't, Boone is immense and intense and gets the best dialogue of all, but Hamilton is miscast and Patten totally unconvincing. Pickens is hardly in it and Bronson has a character that could be any number of things; someone who it's hard to know if we should dislike or cheer on. While Chamberlain and Eddy are in it to look nice and play the banjo respectively. Yet with the photography suitably keeping the landscape arid and harsh, and the mood around the base one of impending death or boredom (even the levity of a drunken sequence only enforces what little joy is around), the film has much going for it by way of psychology.
It's no "She Wore A Yellow Ribbon" of course, and its problems are evident, but it does have merits, and if for nothing else it deserves a look for Boone's excellent performance. 7/10
A thousand hells at Papago Wells!
Apache Territory is directed by Ray Nazarro and collectively adapted to screenplay by George W. George, Charles R. Marion and Frank L. Moss from the novel Last Stand at Papago Wells written by Louis L'Amour. It stars Rory Calhoun, Barbara Bates, John Dehner, Carolyn Craig, Tom Pittman, Frank DeKova and Leo Gordon. Music is by Mischa Bakaleinikoff and cinematography by Irving Lippman.
Saddle Tramp Logan Cates (Calhoun) takes control of an assorted group of civilians and cavalrymen when they are thrust together by fate and come under siege from marauding Apache Indians. With inner conflict threatening the group and the Apache attacking like ghosts of the desert, their chance of survival is slim. But why does Calhoun keep looking at the sky?
Canteen Bombs of the Apocalpyse.
Routine and of standard siege formula stock, Apache Territory is however brisk and enjoyable if willing to forgive the clichÃ©s and stereotypes. Plot unfolds as a group dynamic cracking under the strain whilst the nasty old Indians attack at intervals and use psychological warfare in the process. Within the group there's a double dose of love interest, with one of them featuring Calhoun and Bates as old lovers now thrust together under trying circumstance. Into the mix are a coward, an aloof racist, a cavalry Sergeant struggling to control his group, a hero in waiting and a Prima Indian who hates the Apache and also has some gold in his possession. So with no food and the water running dry, it's shaping up to be a hopeless situation.
Gila monster up the trouser leg?
Clocking in at just over 70 minutes the film never outstays its welcome, and in spite of the standard characterisations on the page, the cast do well to keep things pleasingly watchable. Calhoun (Powder River/The Hired Gun) makes for a good rugged hero, leading off the film with some telling gusto, New Yorker DeKovo (Run of the Arrow/Arrowhead) once again doesn't embarrass himself in another Native American role, while Dehner (Apache/The Fastest Gun Alive) and Gordon (Hondo/7th Cavalry) show why they were much used character actors. Filmed in Eastman Color, the budget just about stretched to feature some views of Red Rock Canyon, but mostly the action is based on a sound stage set. 6/10
There is sad trivia attached to the film. Within 12 years of this film's release three of the principal cast members would be dead. Bates in 1969 and Craig in 1970 died at their own hands and young Tom Pittman was killed in a car accident just a couple of months after Apache Territory was released to theatres, he was 26 years old.
The Kansas Law Dog!
Wichita is directed by Jacques Tourneur and written by Daniel B. Ullman. It stars Joel McCrea, Vera Miles, Wallace Ford, Edgar Buchannan, Lloyd Bridges and Keith Larsen. It's filmed in Cinemascope/Technicolor with cinematography by Harold Lipstein and music by Hans J. Salter.
Wichita is an origin story, that of one Wyatt Earp (McCrea), the story is set before he gets to Dodge City, where apparently some famous gunfight occurred. From a narrative stand point it's a town tamer story, Earp arrives in a newly thriving Wichita, at this point he's a hunter of buffalo only. But as the cowboys converge on the town, and things turn very dark, Earp - a bastion of good and just righteousness - finds it impossible to continue in turning down the town superior's offers of becoming the town Marshal.
It's one of those Western movies that made Western movie fans become Western movie fans. A film you would have watched as a youngster and just bought totally into the good guy against the baddies central core. Of course as youngsters we wouldn't have cared a jot about thematics such as capitalism ruling over common sense, or metaphysical leanings ticking away, all while a genius director is composing shots and frames of great distinction. Hell! Even the intelligence and maturity in the writing would have escaped us, the dark passages merely incidents of no great concern...
Wichita is damn fine film making. OK! It isn't wall to wall action. Sure there is a good round of knuckles, a bit of trench warfare and the standard shoot-outs, but these are just conduits to smart and compelling human drama, richly performed by McCrea (brilliantly cast) and company. Tourneur, Ullman and Lipstein make sure there is no waste on the page or via location framing, the costuming authentic and pleasing, and of course the story itself, the set up of the iconic man himself, is as compelling as it is splendidly entertaining.
It be a traditional Western for the traditional Western fan. Nice! 8/10
I'm A Runaway.
Rancher and old school westerner Lee Hackett is determined to mould his two sons in his own tough gunfighting image. Something that backfires when his eldest boy, Ed, becomes a murderer.
Gunman's Walk on plot synopsis and summaries sounds like your standard B Western fare, and certainly the theme of parental influence is nothing new. But Phil Karlson's film, adapted from Ric Hardman's story, has many things going for it to keep it from being mundane and used solely as a time filler. It fuses together multiple issues, parenting, prejudice and ignorance during a time of change in the old Wild West, it's central character, Lee Hackett (Van Heflin), is seen as the link between old and new.
He has primarily lived his life as a shooter and killer of Indians, something that he is not totally committed to shaking off, but here he is now, a most respected and feared member of the community, faced with his two sons both taking different paths. One, Ed (Tab Hunter}, is full of bile and gun slinging machismo, represents the old West. The other, Davy (James Darren), doesn't need a gun to feel like a man, his affection for half Indian Clee Chouard (Kathryn Grant) clearly gives a point of reference to the new West. It gives us two sides of the coin with one Lee Hackett perched firmly on the fence, to which Van Heflin gives an emotionally driven standout performance.
I wouldn't say that Gunman's Walk is undervalued as such (its director most definitely is though), it's possibly more like it's been tarred with that old saying brush called "B Western", a saying that unfortunately some use derogatory. Whilst if the truth be told the support to Heflin is rather flat (both Hunter & Darren are average at best). But some average support acting can't stop Gunman's Walk from being an intelligent and potent genre piece. I mean if only for Heflin and the catchy central song, "I'm A Runaway", then you should see this, but as it is, if you give it your undivided attention you hopefully will find it's really rather good and clever. 7/10
And what do you call this little piece of heaven?
The American Civil War, and Union soldiers are imprisoned at Andersonville, a crude stockade establishment presided over by the inept and cruel Captain Henry Wirz. It would prove to be a another dark and soul destroying chapter from the war.
Lets get it out there right away, Andersonville was not the only hell hole prison operating during the American Civil War. Information from both sides of the coin is available on line for those wishing to explore further. That said, Andersonville is a story that deserved and is needed to be told, and this John Frankenheimer directed two - parter brings it vividly into the viewers' lives.
In filmic substance terms it has all the standard POW movie cliche's. We follow a group of prisoners and a group of "convict bullies", with those in authority observing menacingly and proving desperately carefree as to the conditions of the prison and of humane traits in general.
But as formulaic as it ultimately is, there's a determination by the makers to keep the characterisations real and viable, and they achieve this in spades. Pic is also boosted by superb period detail, costuming is grade "A", while the production and art design for the prison is harrowingly effective.
Frankenheimer's tracking shots brings home the enormity of the misery, while Gary Chang's score is thankfully never bombastic. Cast are a mixed bag - to be expected in such a large ensemble piece - and you can't help but yearn for more of William H. Macy.
Yet even though 30 minutes could easily have been shaved off of the run time, Andersonville is a production that should stay with you. The coda serving to remind us that that should be the case. 7/10
The absence of a Burt Kennedy script is very evident.
Out of Warner Brothers and filmed in Warnercolor, Westbound is directed by Budd Boetticher & written by Berne Giler & Albert Shelby LeVino. It stars Randolph Scott, Virginia Mayo, Karen Steele, Michael Dante, Andrew Duggan & Michael Pate. The story is set in 1864 during the American Civil War where Scott plays John Hayes, the man charged with the task of running the Overland Stage Line between California and Julesburg, Colorado. The function of which is to transport gold and the mail to aid the Union war effort. In Julesburg, Hayes finds a host of problems with Confederate sympathisers led by Clay Putnam (Duggan), who also happens to be married to Norma (Mayo), an old flame of Hayes.
Of the seven Western film's that Boetticher and Scott made, Westbound is widely regarded as the weakest. Not part of the Ranown cycle they did that featured Harry Joe Brown on production and Burt Kennedy screen writing, it is a decent, if disposable, Western movie. The story is actually rather enticing, but with such a small running time and a condensed location shoot, the movie is never quite able to lay down some solid footings for the characters to flourish from. This leaves the supporting actors either exposed to their failings as thesps (Duggan is particularly bad), or playing underdeveloped participants (sadly the case with Mayo).
However, this being Boetticher & Scott it does have some nice passages to take in, unsurprisingly the best of which is when Scott is on screen. Be it cocking a rifle with one hand, throwing one of his best ever punches, squaring off against Pate's effective turn as henchman Mace; or laying on some reflective emotion around the two ladies of the piece, Scott is always captivating. What action there is is attention grabbing for the budget and David Buttolph provides a perky score that's at its best during the stagecoach sequences. With the exteriors primarily filmed at the Warner Ranch, J. Peverell Marley is able to photograph enough of the grassy hilled scenery to make an easy on the eye impact.
Enjoyable and safe fare for Western fans, but very much a low key affair from the normally dynamite partnership of director & star. 6/10
Old One Eye Is Back!
True Grit (A Further Adventure) is directed by Richard T. Heffron and written by Sandor Stern. It stars Warren Oates, Lisa Pelikan, Lee Meriwether, James Stephens, Jeff Osterhage and Lee Montgomery. Music is by Earle Hagen and cinematography by Stevan Larner.
This is a TV movie that follows on from the two Rooster Cogburn movies that featured John Wayne in the iconic title role. Here we have Warren Oates donning the Rooster eye patch, he's on escort duty but as he has Mattie Ross (Pelikan) trying to reform him, he winds up in a town trying to make things right - you know, bad guys to be sorted whilst looking after those he has a soft spot for.
It's actually not a bad piece as such - in that fun episodic Oater kind of way - but that's the problem, it feels like, and should have been a one hour picture. There's simply not enough weight here to carry the pic through an hour and forty minutes. Oates wisely doesn't try to mimic Duke Wayne by putting his own stamp on the character, and turns in a good perf (some serious non wild west white teeth there though!). Unfortunately the supporting cast are desperately poor, and while the playing it for jolly pulse beat entertains to a degree, the lack of serious tension undermines proceedings and renders the whole thing pretty pointless. 5/10