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466  Films of Sergio Leone / Other Films / Apache Rifles (1964) on: February 09, 2017, 03:46:36 PM
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0057851/reference

Caught in the Crossfire of Passions and Greed!

Apache Rifles is directed by William Witney and adapted to screenplay by Charles B. Smith from a story written by Kenneth Gamet and Richard Schayer. It stars Audie Murphy, Michael Dante, Linda Lawson, L.Q. Jones, Ken Lynch, Joseph Vitale and Robert Brubaker. Music is by Richard La Salle and De Luxe cinematography is by Arch R. Dalzell.

Murphy stars as Capt. Jeff Stanton, a cavalry officer in Arizona territory, 1879, who is assigned to bring to the reservation the runaway Apaches who have had enough of the greedy gold miners pillaging from their promised land. Originally driven by his hatred towards Native Americans, Stanton's cause is muddied when he starts to fall for half Indian Dawn Gillis (Lawson), who in turn is courted by Red Hawk (Dante).

By 1964 the conventional B Western was very much on the wane, with the theme of being sympathetic to the Native Americans having already been explored significantly in far better Westerns than Apache Rifles. Though it never hurts to have another one in any day and age, mind! Apache Rifles is pretty standard stuff, it's decently constructed and paced by Witney, who gets to show his talent for action scenes, Murphy is his usual affable self, even getting to put some emotion conflict into the portrayal, and exterior photography out of Mojave and the Bronson and Red Rock Canyons is most pleasing. It never quite hits the dramatic heights it aims for because the simmering love triangle often stops the picture in its tracks, a shame especially as some political shenanigans could have been explored further, while a quick about turn in the finale smacks of audience manipulation and comes off as a cheat. But it's inoffensive stuff for the most part, enjoyable for the right reasons within its low budget, even if it's just one for Murphy fans to tick off their lists, never to be seen again. 6/10
467  Films of Sergio Leone / Other Films / Apache Drums (1951) on: February 09, 2017, 03:43:00 PM
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0043291/reference

The Devil's Creatures.

Produced by Val Lewton, Apache Drums is directed by Hugo Fregonese and adapted for the screen by David Chandler from the book "Stand at Spanish Boot" written by Harry Brown. It stars Stephen McNally, Coleen Gray, Willard Parker and Arthur Shields. Music is by Hans J. Salter and cinematography is courtesy of Charles P. Boyle. It was shot on location at Red Rock Canyon State Park, California & it's a Technicolor production. Plot sees McNally as notorious gambler Sam Leeds, who after shooting a man in self defence, is forced to leave the town of Spanish Boot. However, outside of town Sam happens across a terrible scene that forces him back into town to warn the folk of an impending attack by the Mescalero Apaches.

The name Val Lewton is synonymous with atmospheric horror, the likes of Cat People, The Body Snatcher, I Walked With a Zombie and Bedlam, have carried the brooding Lewton production stamp. For this, his last film before he sadly passed away, we find him entering the realm of the Western. An odd coupling without doubt, yet as odd as that seems, the oddest thing of all is that the film manages to rise above its budget restrictions and come out just about on top. Working with his director, Fregonese (The Raid), Lewton has produced a final movie that whilst not oozing those eerie atmospherics he's known for, does have enough about it to make it of interest to Lewton completists.

Plot and narrative are simple, where on the surface it appears to be a run of the mill Western where the Indians are the bad guys, and the white man stand up to repel them. Yet to dismiss this as solely being formula fodder is unfair, for it has interesting characters, plenty of tension, a grand piece of action and a couple of genuinely haunting images. There's also some smarts in the writing, where racism and ethical principals are scrutinised. While the work involved for the final third of the film, as our group are holed up in a church awaiting Apache incursion, is of a very high standard. Here Fregonese and camera never leaves the room, as the town burns and the Apache chant and bang the drums, we along with the characters are left to our own imaginations, awaiting a savage death in semi darkness. It's a fine claustrophobic set up that's executed admirably. So why isn't the film better known and regarded, then?

To get to the good stuff you have to suffer the bad, quite a bit of bad in fact. Running at only 75 minutes the film just about gets away with its drawn out periods of chatter, much of which is mundane; especially where the love triangle is concerned. And the acting ranges from the effective: McNally (Winchester '73/ Criss Cross) & Gray (Red River/Nightmare Alley) to the solid-Shields (The Quiet Man/She Wore a Yellow Ribbon), but away from those three it's pretty wooden fare. Problems also exist with the colour, with low budget comes very basic Technicolor lensing, Red Rock Canyon is reduced to being a dull observer on proceedings and the fiery flames during the finale lack colourful snap. There's also the bizarre use of the song "Men of Harlech". Zulu aficionados (and I'm one of them) know the song well, and the use here in Apache Drums is the same as in Cy Endfield's film, only here it's performed in native Welsh; with the actors dubbed! It's a poor fit all round. History tells us, tho, that the defenders of Rorke's Drift did not sing the song, so it's a distinct possibility that the film Zulu owes a debt of gratitude to Apache Drums. Thank you Lewton and Co.

Good and bad every where you look in the film, but the final third swings it well above average in my book. A generous 7/10 rating to my fellow Western movie fans, 6/10 to the casual Sunday afternoon lounge lizard.
468  Films of Sergio Leone / Other Films / Re: Apache (1954) on: February 09, 2017, 03:40:10 PM
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0046719/reference

Number 43

Apache is directed by Robert Aldrich and adapted to screenplay by James R. Webb from the novel "Broncho Apache" written by Paul Wellman. It stars Burt Lancaster, Jean Peters, John McIntire, John Dehner, Charles Bronson and Paul Guilfoyle. Music is by David Raksin and cinematography by Ernest Laszlo.

"This is the story of Massai, the last Apache warrior. It has been told and re-told until it has become one of the great legends of the Southwest. it began in 1886 with Geronimo's surrender."

Apache has problems, undoubtedly, from the casting of overtly bright eyed Americans in the principal Native American roles, to the shift into love story territory, and on to the studio enforced compromised ending, it's a mixed bag for sure. If you can get over these "issues" then there is still a lot to enjoy here.

You're not a warrior any more; you're just a whipped Injun.

Apache follows in the footsteps made by Broken Arrow and Devil's Doorway that saw a shift in how Native Americans were being represented on screen. The story of Massai (Lancaster) is a fascinating one, even if the movie doesn't quite be all that it can be. It shows him as a stoic and complex individual, fiercely determined in a last man standing type of way, while his confusion with the world he no longer understands - or cares to be part of - is expertly realised by Lancaster and Aldrich. One sequence has Massai walk through town observing the alien white man world at work, including Chinese folk busying themselves in a laundry, it's a smart piece of writing, proving that there is intelligence and points of worth in the story.

You are like a dying wolf biting at its own wounds.

Thankfully the film doesn't go too far the other way and paint Massai as a saint, we know what he is capable off, and he shows us his skills as a warrior as the story moves on. There's even a scene of major manhandling of Nalinle (Peters) that is uncomfortable viewing but actually integral to Massai's emotional state and how the story between the two unfolds. Here in is the problem, once Massai and Nalinle "fall" for each other the picture loses its edge, where even though Aldrich inserts some more action sequences, the grit, intelligence and narrative thrust has disappeared. This all leads to the ending, that as written originally should have seen a cold and dark finish along the lines of the brilliant Devil's Doorway. Instead we get something approaching cuteness and not as profound as the studio obviously thought it was.

The casting of Lancaster and Peters gives the film athletic muscularity and beauty (respectively), certainly in Lancaster's case he throws himself into a role he actively courted to take him onto another acting level (he co-produced it with Harold Hecht). It takes some getting used to, but they provide wholesome characterisations even if they never convince as Native Americans. Support work from McIntire and Dehner is strong, but unfortunately Bronson (here billed as Buchinsky) is short changed by a screenplay that doesn't enhance a very promising character. Raksin's score blends the usual Indian thrums with a love theme that is not dissimilar to the love theme used by Alex North for Spartacus six years later. While Laszlo's Technicolor photography is grade "A" stuff where the landscapes (a number of locations were used, primarily in California) form a telling part of the plotting.

Problems for sure here, and in truth it's the weakest Western made by the Aldrich/Lancaster pairing, but it has good strengths, it was a financial success and it's a story well worth being told. 7/10
469  Films of Sergio Leone / Other Films / Re: Annie Get Your Gun (1950) on: February 09, 2017, 03:37:34 PM
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0042200/reference

Annie get your gun, your man and lift the ceiling off of those rafters.

Out of MGM, Annie Get Your Gun is primarily directed by George Sidney and adapted for the screen by Sidney Sheldon from the book written by Dorothy & Herbert Fields. It stars Betty Hutton, Howard Keel, Benay Venuta, Louis Calhern & J. Carrol Naish. Music is by Irving Berlin and photography is by Charles Rosher. It is a Technicolor production. It's loosely based on the life of sharpshooting Annie Oakley and this film production comes after the immense success of the stage play that began its run in 1946. Plot sees Hutton as Annie Oakley, a simple backwoods kinda girl, who after beating famed sharpshooter Frank Butler (Keel) in a contest, goes on to be world famous. But with fame comes tribulations, not least is that she has a thing for Frank.

Ebullient and colorful musical that asks you to leave history at the door and just enjoy the ride. The film famously had a troubled production, Judy Garland (Annie) had to leave due to ill health, Frank Morgan (Buffalo Bill) passed away and George Sidney was the third director to work on the film after Busby Berkeley and Charles Walters had left the lot. Even after the new cast and team reconvened there was bad feeling on set, with most of it aimed towards Hutton purely because she had replaced Garland. Post the film's major success, a dispute between MGM and Irving Berlin meant the film was pulled from circulation in 1973 and wasn't seen again till 2000. Thankfully since then a whole new era of musical fans can now enjoy, along with the older supporters, this marvellous piece of entertainment. With show stopping tunes like "Doin' What Comes Natur'lly", "You Can't Get a Man With a Gun", "There's No Business Like Show Business" and "Anything you Can Do" bursting out from the screen like rays of sunshine, it's film to light up the darkest of days when you're feeling blue. Oh and for the record, Hutton is an absolute delight, attacking the lead role with a zest that belies the bad time she was getting off camera. Great comic timing, too. 8/10
470  Films of Sergio Leone / Other Films / Re: Angel and the Badman (1946) on: February 09, 2017, 03:34:46 PM
What about the Bible? You can't throw it away, that would be bad luck.

Angel and the Badman is written and directed by James Edward Grant. It stars John Wayne, Gail Russell, Harry Carey, Bruce Cabot, Irene Rich, Lee Dixon and Stephen Grant. Music is by Richard Hageman and cinematography by Archie J. Stout.

Quirt Evans (Wayne), a notorious gunman is hurt and on the run. Taken in by The Worth's, a Quaker family, Quirt forms a "special" bond with daughter Penelope (Russell). With the law and other badmen on his tail, will Quirt change his ways before it's too late?

John Wayne's first film as a producer and star is also his most romantic. That's not to say it lacks action or Wayne's fine tuning of his macho image is halted, because that's not the case, but this carries a dreamy like old fashioned value that has helped the film endear over the years. It's a touch too slow at times for its own good and runs for ten minutes longer than was needed, things that no doubt stunted its financial growth at the 1947 box office, but there is much to enjoy here.

Technical values are high, from Stout's photography that beautifully realises locations in Sedona, Arizona (Monument Valley standing out, naturally!), to cast performances from Carey, Wayne and the gorgeous Miss Russell (chemistry unbound between the three actors), film never lacks for quality. Memorable scenes are plenty, such as The Duke sitting in a chair facing down three henchmen led by Cabot's Laredo Stevens; his gun empty, a free-for-all punch up in a saloon, and some very tender moments between Wayne and Russell. While narratively there's the deft pitching of Quaker values into a wild west setting.

A lovely film which also manages to pump the adrenaline as well. 7.5/10

DVD version viewed was Region 2 taken out of the John Wayne Out West 6 film Box Set. A good quality black and white print.
471  Films of Sergio Leone / Other Films / Re: And God Said to Cain aka E Dio disse a Caino (1970) on: February 09, 2017, 03:30:15 PM
For whom the bell tolls.

And God said to Cain (E Dio Disse a Caino) is directed by Antonio Margheriti, who also co-writes the screenplay with Giovanni Addessi. It stars Klaus Kinski, Peter Carsten, Marcella Michelangeli, Guido Lollobrigida and Antonio Cantafora. Music is by Carlo Savina and cinematography by Riccardo Pallottini and Luciano Trasatti.

When Gary Hamilton (Kinski) receives a pardon from his sentence at a prison work camp, he has only one thing on his mind; revenge on those responsible for his unfair incarceration.

A ghost returns and he'll have, he'll have only one desire in his heart, only one thirst: Revenge.

How wonderful, a Spaghetti Western/horror hybrid with scary Kinski as an avenging angel good guy! For the first 30 minutes the film looks to be building up a head of steam for a standardised Spaghetti Western, but things shift once Hamilton approaches town and night begins to fall. From here the film plays out as a Gothic horror involving Western characters, resplendent with big creepy mansion set in a shifty looking town that is cloaked in murky moonlight.

The whole town teeters on the edge of panic as they know who is coming to visit on this dark night. Atmosphere is tightly coiled as things move in the shadows, windows blow open, strange sounds emanate on the impending storm, and the stench of death is everywhere. A bell tolls ominously, birds flee the vicinity, all while Hamilton moves about the town with deadly silence, even using a network of catacombs under the town that were left over from an aged Indian cemetery.

The production value isn't high, but Margheriti maximises what is at his disposal to great ends. The sound effects work is simply terrific, with the shrill of the birds and the dripping water in the caverns playing a tune being particularly striking. There's inventive deaths, sublime scenes (love that rider less horse sequence and the Orson Welles mirror homage) and Kinski being ace as a ghoulish phantom taking a string from the bow of the Count of Monte Cristo.

It's also great to find that Margheriti and Addessi give strength to the picture by way of psychological smarts within the characterisations. This is not merely a spooky revenge story, a chance to pile the bodies up, there is substance to the main players, their motives and means, their frailties and family fractures brutally laid bare. The dialogue is sometimes naff, the cliché's of Spaghetti Westerns rife, and of course not all the visual effects work like they should, but this is one moody and memorable movie that is well worth seeking out if you can see a decent enough print of it. 8/10
472  Films of Sergio Leone / Other Films / Ambush at Tomahawk Gap (1953) on: February 09, 2017, 03:27:59 PM
Gutsy Gusto Oater.

Ambush At Tomahawk Gap tells the story of four outlaws, McCord (John Hodiak), Egan (David Bryan), Doc (Ray Teal) & Kid (John Derek), who after being released from a five year sentence for robbery at Yuma Territorial Prison, implode from within as they yearn to find the hidden loot from their ill gotten gains. Not only that, but they are in the middle of Indian territory and Apache attacks are frequent and savage in their execution.

Bloody & brutal Western programmer out of Columbia Pictures that's produced by Wallace MacDonald and directed by Fred Sears. Written by David Lang, the principal location shoot is at Corriganville, Simi Valley, California. With Technicolor enhanced cinematography coming from Henry Freulich. Though featuring a pretty weak, and at times nutty story, the film has a high viewing factor on account of its adherence to Western action staples, it helps, too, that Sears directs with an absolutely no nonsense approach.

Running at just shy of 80 minutes, it just doesn't have time to dwell on intricacies, instead choosing more to embrace that this isn't really about redemptive qualities - which since there's barely any on show is a rather good thing! Sears movie is grim and potent enough to warrant a recommendation to the serious Western fan, and it's also very easy on the eye. Bonus plot wise comes with two lovely kickers during the pulsating finale. The cast man up and give it gusto and brawn, with Hodiak particularly standing out, while even the inevitable lady character plot strand (Maria Elena Marques) doesn't cloy or hinder the pace and mood of the piece.

You will not want to ponder too much about it afterwards, but hopefully you will go away thinking that you have been royally entertained by the guns, arrows and fists that have flown and been thrown throughout the movie. 7/10
473  Films of Sergio Leone / Other Films / Ambush (1950) on: February 09, 2017, 03:23:01 PM
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0041117/reference

People only die when they have something to live for.

Ambush is directed by Sam Wood and adapted to screenplay by Marguerite Roberts from a Luke Short serial story. It stars Robert Taylor, John Hodiak, Arlene Dahl, Jean Hagen, Don Taylor and John McIntire. Music is by Rudolph G. Kopp and cinematography by Harold Lipstein.

"In 1878 the shortest trail West through the territory of Arizona crawled across the foot of Bailey Mountain...

The shortest trail but, the most dangerous. For Bailey Mountain was the stronghold seized by Diablito and his hostile Apaches"

Nice! A Western movie for Western movie lovers to sink their teeth into. It's not exactly wall to wall action on offer here, but there is an adultness to proceedings that hits all the right chords for the discerning audience. The opening scene shows us the aftermath of an Apache raid, then it's introductions to the main characters who will come together to go rescue a kidnapped white woman from Diablito's Apaches.

The build up isn't rushed, we are drawn into the lives of the American Fort residents, their love triangles and frets, while mature themes of adultery and spouse abuse are given some skilled direction and performances. Once traits and peccadilloes are established, the band of not so merry men go off to fight the Apache, the latter of which are thankfully shown as a resourceful foe with some cunning tactics.

Taylor saddles up for a scuzzy portrayal, honourable for sure, but happily dirty and his character is shown to be fallible in one of the many machismo contests that permeate the story. Hodiak offers some elegance, Hagen some emotional punch, while Dahl - costumed to enhance her curvaceous figure - lights up every scene she is in.

The great Harold Lipstein photographs much of the picture through black and white film noir filters, adding the requisite turbulence to the story, while Wood, in what was his last motion picture directorial assignment, directs with assuredness and makes the most of the Simi Valley and Gallup locations.

McIntire is wasted and Bruce Cowling as the violent husband is only just convincing, while the blending of painted backdrops with the gorgeous locales becomes a little distracting in the final quarter. Yet as any hardcore Western fan will tell you, often those sort of things are forgiven if the makers don't insult our intelligence, which is thankfully the case here. 7/10
474  Films of Sergio Leone / Other Films / Re: Alvarez Kelly (1966) on: February 09, 2017, 03:18:50 PM
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0060095/reference

In every war...in every age...the forgotten weapon is food....

Alvarez Kelly is directed by Edward Dmytryk and stars William Holden & Richard Widmark. It's written by Elliott Arnold & Franklin Coen (Dan Taradash uncredited for tidying it up), the locations for the shoot are Baton Rouge & Clinton, Louisiana, with Joseph MacDonald on photography (Panavision). Story is apparently based on a true US Civil War incident in 1864, it sees Alvarez Kelly (Holden) kidnapped by Confederate's led by Tom Rossiter (Widmark) and forced to drive a herd of Union owned cattle to the hungry Reb troops in Richmond.

Slow moving and blighted by a tepid script, Alvarez Kelly relies on its stars and photography to keep it out the trough. Evidently the makers were going for a social conscious piece based around an historical incident. All that is achieved is an overly talky piece, with periods of inane conversations; that is only briefly lit up by its action packed finale. And even then it can be argued that the "battle for the bridge" and the subsequent "stampede" isn't worth waiting 90 minutes for. The acting is solid, where Holden plays a role he could do in his sleep, and Widmark, sporting an eye patch, convinces as a rough and ready Colonel. Most pleasing is MacDonald's photography, not just for capturing the essence of the barren South in Baton Rouge, but also his choice of lenses for the top notch costuming (take a bow Seth Banks) afforded the ladies of the piece (Janice Rule & Victoria Shaw). There's a lovely print for this film, where in High Definition the colours positively ping from the screen.

Dmytryk (Broken Lance/Warlock), Holden (The Horse Soldiers/The Wild Bunch) & Widmark (The Last Wagon/Cheyenne Autumn) owe Western fans nothing, but this is one from the three guys that's easily forgotten once the end credit rolls. 5/10
475  Films of Sergio Leone / Other Films / Re: Along the Great Divide (1951) on: February 09, 2017, 03:16:33 PM
My name's Merrick. I'm United States Marshal here.

Along the Great Divide is directed by Raoul Walsh and written by Walter Doniger and Lewis Meltzer. It stars Kirk Douglas, Virginia Mayo, John Agar, Walter Brennan, Ray Teal, James Anderson and Morris Ankrum. Music is by David Buttolph and cinematography by Sidney Hickox.

U.S. Marshall Len Merrick (Douglas) and two deputies rescue suspected murderer Tim Keith (Brennan) from a lynch mob led by a local cattle baron who is convinced that Keith killed his son. The lawmen embark on a hazardous journey across the rugged terrains, determined to get Keith to Santa Loma for a fair trial...

Kirk Douglas' first Western is something of an undervalued treat. It was a film he didn't enjoy making, where working out in the desert with Raoul Walsh proved something of a cross to bear. Yet the director got a very good turn out of Douglas, allowing the actor to put down a marker in the genre that would serve him well throughout his career.

It sits very much in the psychological Western realm, a fact that some critics of the time failed to grasp - since complaints about not being a standard Oater were floated about! It really shouldn't have surprised anyone given that Douglas had already made a handful of superb film noir pictures, he was surely cast for this pic on the strength of his noir characters.

There's big father issues abound in the whole film, the various strands keeping the narrative edgy. Merrick is a damaged man, and his companions that make up the group will all test his metal to the max. Not just for father issues, and a lack of water, but also via the presence of Keith's daughter, Ann (Mayo), who mercifully isn't just a token female dressage character (she's feisty with believable emotional outpourings). It's a fraught journey for many reasons and Walsh, notwithstanding cheesing Douglas off, keeps it deftly wound tight.

The surroundings offer more troublesome discord to envelope the characters. Shot in gorgeous black and white by Hickox, the Alabama Hills and Mojave Desert locales provide barren landscapes that are juxtaposed with threatening looking rock formations. This often at times feels like an Anthony Mann/James Stewart landscape, which is high praise indeed. While the cast can't be faulted as they bring the drama to life, benefiting from the fine research of writers Doniger and Meltzer.

Undeniably the film's major drawback is the lack of whodunit worth. The pic unfortunately plays its hand far too early in this respect, meaning we know who the killer is. This could have lessened the excitement at story end, damagingly so, but we are never sure if we are going to be party to an Ox-Bow Incident or otherwise. This is well worth seeking out for fans of psychological Westerns, the many Oedipal themes and the scorching landscapes ensure it's a tasty little number. 8/10
476  Films of Sergio Leone / Other Films / All the Pretty Horses (2000) on: February 09, 2017, 03:14:16 PM
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0149624/reference

The 35% movie that maybe originally was a minor classic?

All the Pretty Horses is directed by Billy Bob Thornton and adapted from Cormac McCarthy's novel of the name name by Ted Tally. It stars Matt Damon, Penélope Cruz, Henry Thomas & Lucas Black. Marty Stuart scores the music and Barry Markowitz photographs it. Plot finds Damon as John Grady Cole, a young cowboy who travels with his best friend, Lacey Rawlings, from Texas across the border into Mexico. It's a journey that sees acquaintances come and go, love blossom and the harshness of the world become all too real to such young eyes.

A big financial disaster for Columbia Pictures and Miramax Films who lost nearly $40 million on the film. Serves them right I say, for Thornton's original cut was a long epic piece thought to be around three and a half hours in length. But good old Harvey Weinstein demanded drastic cuts to be made and Thornton had to trim it to just nearly two hours in running time. That's a lot of story gone astray, and boy does it show, no wonder Damon himself bitterly commented that to lose 35% of your movie ultimately leaves you with a completely different film. It's such a shame because although it's now a film chocked with flaws and flow problems, one can see that in its original cut there had to be at worst an involving rites-of-passage story.

So what are we left with? Well it's certainly not a donkey. It drips with period atmosphere and comes resplendent with a poetic beauty thanks to Markowitz's photography. Stuart's score too has the tone absolutely right, blending the old feel of the West with evocative arrangements for the more tender moments involving the protagonists: and there are tender moments, notably between Cole (Damon youthful but not really exuding a naivety for the age of the character) & Rawlings (Thomas effective and dominating his scenes). That the crucial relationship between Cole and Alejandra Villarreal (Cruz weak and lacking believability for the romantic strand) is barely formed can be laid at Weinstein's door. So too can the fact that a number of characters file in and out with blink and you miss them parts, sad when it's the likes of Robert Patrick and Sam Sheperd; and tragic in the case of Bruce Dern's judge; the latter of which is a crucial character in the final quarter but gets about three minutes screen time. Madness. Star of the movie is Black, who as young ruffian Blevins, manages to convey a deep sense of vulnerability. It's a critical role, one that affects the main character's lives, and thanks to Black's spirited performance we anxiously await what fate has in store for the lovable rogue.

So much good to sample, then, even if it feels like going out for a three course dinner and finding the main course is no longer available. It's hoped that one day we may get a directors cut from Thornton, only then you feel will All the Pretty Horses be revealed as a potential thoroughbred. 6/10
477  Films of Sergio Leone / Other Films / Alias Jesse James (1959) on: February 09, 2017, 03:11:17 PM
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0052545/reference

Paleface 3? Not quite, but a very enjoyable Hope picture it be.

Bumbling buffoon insurance salesman Milford Farnsworth sells notorious outlaw Jesse James a $100,000 policy. When his boss finds out who the customer is, he dispatches Farnsworth after James in the hope of buying back the policy, he also gives strict orders that Farnsworth must ensure that James comes to no harm.

Bob Hope sells Jesse James an insurance policy! that alone should prepare you for what type of picture this is. There is nothing out of the ordinary here that we haven't seen before in most other Hope vehicles, and as a huge fan of The Paleface and the even better Son Of Paleface, I would point readers to those pictures by way of them being far better. However, "Alias" has some fine moments that keep it way above average, in fact for visual gags alone this picture scores higher than most of Hope's better known comedies. Be it a steaming alcohol fuelled hat or a magic mushroomed fed horse, there is still much fun to be had as Hope plays out his winning formula. Along for the ride is the supremely sexy Rhonda Fleming as Jesse James' gal, Cora Lee Collins, and as James himself we get Wendell Corey looking as though he is enjoying himself. The final reel of this film is now something of legend as we get to play spot the genre star during a protracted shoot out, stars such as Gary Cooper, Roy Rogers & Gail Davis join Bing Crosby to close the picture on a mightily high point. 6.5/10
478  Films of Sergio Leone / Other Films / Al Jennings of Oklahoma (1951) on: February 09, 2017, 03:05:58 PM
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0043272/reference

The law is an ass, so enter Al Jennings and The Long Riders.

Al Jennings of Oklahoma is directed by Ray Nazaro and adapted to screenplay by George Bricker from the book co-written by Al Jennings and Will Irwin. It stars Dan Duryea, Gale Storm, Dick Foran, Gloria Henry, Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams and Raymond Greenleaf. Music is by Mischa Bakaleinikoff and cinematography by W. Howard Greene.

Al Jennings, as played here by Duryea, follows a life trajectory that sees him born into a legal family and thus take up the family trade. Known for his hot temper, it's not long before Al runs into trouble and burnt by the folly of the law when tragedy strikes his family, throws off his legal eagle clobber and turns to the outlaw life. Moving from robbing banks to robbing trains, and with the beautiful Gale Storm's token love interest holding his attention, Al and his brother Frank (Foran) decide to leave crime and go straight. But the past catches up with them and they inevitably end up serving time for their crimes. But there's another twist! The instability of the trial sees Al serve only 5 years of his life sentence and upon release becomes something of a prime mover in the Statehood of Oklahoma.

You sense it's all very romanticised from the actual life of Al Jennings, but in spite of some sub-standard acting and poorly scripted passages, it's still an enjoyable Oater. There's some decent stunt- work early on, a couple of rounds of knuckles (though the court room fight is not greatly constructed), chases, some gun-play and it's nice and colourful with Technicolor photography around the Chatsworth location shoot. So it's watchable enough, even if not very memorable then? Yes, that's about it really. 6/10
479  Films of Sergio Leone / Other Films / Re: Across the Wide Missouri (1951) on: February 09, 2017, 02:56:11 PM
Trees lie where they fall, and men were buried where they died.

One of the most frustrating things in cinema is that of the interfering studio. Too many films, since cinema became the medium so massively loved by so many, have fallen victim to this most poisonous fly in the cinematic ointment. One such film to suffer greatly is the William A. Welman directed Western, Across The Wide Missouri. All the elements were in place, a fine story written by Talbot Jennings & Frank Cavett, which is worked from Bernard DeVoto's historical study of the American fur trade in the 1830s. Wellman (The Call Of The Wild/Beau Geste/Battleground) at the helm, Hollywood's golden boy Clark Gable in the lead, and a sumptuous location shoot around the San Juan Mountains to be photographed by William Mellor. With all the talk coming out of MGM that they wanted to make an "epic" picture, hopes were high for the early 1950s to have a Western classic on its hands. Enter studio boss Dore Schary who promptly cut the piece to ribbons. So much so that the film, where once it was epic, is now a choppy and episodic 78 minute experience. With a narration by Howard Keel tacked on by Schary just so we can try to make sense of what is (has) gone on. Wellman was rightly miffed and tried to get his name taken off the credits.

Amazingly, what remains is still a recommended piece of film for the discerning Western fan. The locations are just breath taking, expertly shot in Technicolor by Mellor, at times rugged and biting, at others simply looking like God's garden. This part of the world is the perfect back drop for the story as the white man's greed brings them into conflict with the Native Americans. The film also boasts an array of interesting characters, we got the Scots and the French represented alongside the usual suspects, while the tracking and fighting sequences are expertly filmed by the astute Wellman. It was a tough shoot all told as well. Ricardo Montalban {Blackfoot Indian Ironshirt} was involved in a horse riding accident, the consequence of which would severely affect him later in his life, while stunt man Fred Kennedy suffered a broken neck when his intentional fall from a horse did not go as planned. The horses too you can see really earned their oats, trekking up hill across sharp jagged rocks and ploughing through snow drifts, magnificent beasts they be. Joining Gable and Montalban in the cast are John Hodiak, James Whitmore, María Elena Marqués, Adolphe Menjou and Alan Napier. David Raskin provides a suitably at one with the atmosphere score. With Gable on form mixing with the high points that Schary left alone, Across The Wide Missouri is more than just a time filler. But the problems do exist and it's impossible not to be affected by the annoyance that comes with the old "what might have been" that gnaws away at the viewer at every other turn. 6/10
480  Films of Sergio Leone / Other Films / Across the Rio Grande (1949) on: February 09, 2017, 02:49:34 PM
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0041087/reference

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Across the Rio Grande is directed by Oliver Drake and written by Ronald Davidson. It stars Jimmy Wakely, Dub Taylor, Reno Browne, Riley Hill and Dennis Moore. Music is by Edward Kay and cinematography by Harry Neumann.

Running at just under an hour, Across the Rio Grande is pretty much a quintessential "B" Western for the decade it was made. It crams as much as it can into the story and has no ideas above its station. Plot finds amiable Jimmy Wakely and his amusing side-kick Cannonball Taylor in amongst silver smugglers, murder, kidnapping, jail breaks and of course shoot-outs and fist-fights. There's even time for a couple of songs and a magic trick! and a gun phobia angle and also a cheeky locked room murder that adds some meat to the frothy stew.

Production value is low and the fights are the kind where the thrown punches miss by about a mile, but this is a pleasant way to spend an hour if your a Western fan purely seeking some time filling light entertainment. 6/10
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