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The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
We've Got to Get Out of This Place!
At this writing I see that there is already 6,329 reviews of "The Shawshank Redemption" on IMDb so what the heck, I'll throw in my two cents worth.
"The Shawshank Redemption" was adapted from a Stephen King novelette about a wrongly convicted murderer's 19 year odyssey through Shawshank prison in Maine. Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is sent to prison for the murder of his wife and her lover. We don't learn until later that he really was innocent. Andy is taken under the wing of veteran lifer Red Redding (Morgan Freeman) who shows him the ways of prison life.
Warden Norton (Bob Gunton) is a strict Bible thumper who together with his sadistic Captain of the Guards Captain Hadley (Clancy Brown), maintain order within the prison. A convict named Bogs (Mark Rolston) sets his sights on Andy for homosexual purposes. Andy is continuously attacked by Bogs and his friends. While working on a roof top, Andy overhears Hadley's complaints over taxes on a small inheritance. Andy tells Hadley of a way in which he can avoid any taxes. As his "fee" Andy asks for beer for his co-workers which puts him favor with the group. Later, when Bogs and his gang rough up Andy, Hadley beats Bogs to a pulp and renders him a parapalygic.
Warden Norton sees possibilities in Andy and re-assigns him to the prison library being run by lifer Brooks Hatlen (James Whitmore). Andy through an exhaustive letter writing campaign, manages to gain funding from the state to expand the library along with a supply of used books. Andy does Income taxes for the guards and tutors some prisoners as well. Norton is impressed Under a scheme where prisoners are loaned out to the community for work on public projects, Norton develops a kick back scheme and employs Andy to keep the books for him.
A young convict named Tommy (Gil Bellows) comes to the prison and after gaining the confidence of Andy and Red, tells a tale of a prisoner that he had shared a cell with who admitted to killing Andy's wife and lover. Andy goes to Warden Norton to seek a new trial. Norton not wanting to lose Andy because of his accounting skills, refuses to help him. An argument ensues and Andy is thrust into solitary.
When he is released from solitary, Andy becomes distant and becomes a loner. What he is really doing is hatching an elaborate frame-up of Norton and his cronies while also planning to escape. One morning g at roll call Andy does not answer and......................................................................................
This film deservedly was nominated for seven Academy Awards. The acting is superb. Robbins and Woodward are tremendous as the two main characters. Gunton and Brown are great as the main villains. But veteran James Whitmore almost steals the movie with his sympathetic portrayal of the paroled lifer who tries to adjust to society after 50 years in prison.
A great movie.
Beverly Hills Cop III (1994)
Motor Mouth - Action Hero!
Beverly Hills Cop III tries to depart from the original formula by making star Eddie Murphy into an action hero rather than the wise cracking smart ass cop he played in the first two entries in the series. It's hard to accept the slightly built Murphy as an action hero besting burly villains in hand to hand combat. And performing a daring rescue on a runaway midway ride....I don't think so.
Anyway, back in good old Detroit, we find Axel Foley (Murphy) about to raid a chop shop and break up a car theft ring with his own boys rather than the S.W.A.T. team. I have to pause and laud the two burly guys who danced to a Supremes song just before the real bad guys enter. Before Axel and his group can enter the chop shop, a smooth talking Ellis DeWald (Timothy Carbat) and his cohorts enter and mow down all inside in order to take a truck carrying federal packages away.
Axel and his boys engage the baddies and in the ensuing battle Inspector Todd (Gilbert R. Hill) is mortally wounded. Axel is stopped from pursuing the truck by a federal FBI agent Fullbright (Steven McHattie) who informs Axel that the Feds have been working on this case and are close to solving it.
Axel finds evidence at the crime scene that the cargo aboard the fleeing truck had federal bank note markings. He traces the truck to , where else, Beverly Hills. Without any authorization, Axel proceeds to Beverly Hills where he meets up with old pal Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold who is now a sergeant in charge of a big operation. his new partner Jon Flint (Hector Elizondo) points Axel to a large theme park called Wonder World and its head of security for assistance.
Well, wouldn't you know it the head of security turns out to be none other than Ellis DeWald. On further investigation Axel discovers that a counterfeiting ring is operating within the park grounds. Along the way, Axel forms his first romantic attachment with the lovely Janice (Theresa Randle) who is working behind the scenes. At the head of the ring is Orrin Sanderson (John Saxon). With the reluctant help from Billy and Flint and a high body count, Axel brings down the counterfeit ring and everyone surviving lives happily ever after.
John Ashton and Ronny Cox were supposed to be in this one too but when the producers were unable to decide on a final storyline and script, they were forced to bow out due to other commitments. Ashton's character is supposed to be retired but Cox's character is "disappeared". Director John Landis had a habit of casting fellow directors in cameo roles and this picture is no exception. Watch for George Lucas, Arthur Hiller, John Singleton, Joe Dante, Ray Harryhausen, Robert B. Sherman among others.
It was refreshing to see the return of Bronson Pinchot as "Serge" who is operating an arms exhibit when we meet him. The rapport between Serge and Axel is one of the high points in the film. One of the low point is a contraption called The Annihilator 2000 a some sort of super weapon. Murphy displays the ridiculousness of the thing later in the film while confronting pursuing bad guys.
Not nearly as good as the first two BHC s but if you are willing to accept Eddie Murphy as a super hero....enjoy.
Beverly Hills Cop II (1987)
Motor Mouth II - The Sequel
In Hollywood, whenever there is a hit movie such as Beverly Hills Cop (1984), everyone gathers round and says...Let's do a sequel and we'll call it (wait for it) Beverly Hills Cop II.
Many of the same characters return for BHC II. First we have Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy) the fast talking Detroit cop, Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold) and John Taggart (John Aston) the Beverly Hills cops, Capt. (He got a promotion) Bogomil (Ronny Cox) and Inspector Todd (Gilbert R. Hill) the real life cop who plays Axel's commanding officer. Paul Reiser who had a small part in the first film is elevated to Axel's Detroit partner in this one.
A gang referred to as the Alphabet killers starts off by robbing a high end Jewelry store led by a cold blooded statuesque blond named Karla Fry (Brigitte Neilsen) who doesn't hesitate to gun down anyone who gets in her way. Capt. Bogomil had been investigating the gang so they make him next on the list. He is gunned down in broad daylight by a hit man and the aforementioned Karla. Badly wounded, he is taken to the hospital where he spends most of the rest of the movie.
Axel Foley upon hearing the news, wangles his way back to Beverly Hills by conning his Commanding officer into believing he is closing in on a phony Credit Card scheme and needs to disappear for a few days. Back in Beverly Hills, Axel again hooks up with his old pals Rosewood and Taggart who have run afoul of their new Chief of Police (Allen Garfield), Axel cons his way (i.e. talks his way) into living in a a palatial mansion while the owners are away.
Axel finds a rare type of shell casing at Bogomil's crime scene and traces it back to a gun club run by Chip Cain (Dean Stockwell) who is fronting the operation for magnate Maxwell Dent (Jurgen Prochnow). He also discovers Karla there as well and begins to suspect them as being involved in the Alphabet crimes.
The gang next targets the City Depository where banks transfer their funds. During the robbery, Karla murders Cain setting him up as the head of the gang. Axel and the boys foil the robbery. Billy commandeers a cement truck and careens through the streets wrecking cars at every turn in pursuit of the bandits. Next the gang targets a local racetrack Empyrian Fields
Then Axel discovers the real reason behind all of the crimes and the setting up of Chip Cain as the fall guy. It seems that Maxwell Dent was planning to................................................................................
You really have to be a fan of Eddie Murphy to enjoy his fast talking improvisations. It gets a little annoying, at least to me, after a while. This film is far more violent than the first under the direction of Tony Scott. Many cold blooded murders and shootings take place. The old stand by, the chase through the streets (this time with a cement truck) is alive and well. Watch for a young Chris Rock as a parking lot attendant and Hugh Hefner and his main squeeze at the time, Carrie Leigh in small roles.
And as well, we get to see poster of Sylvester Stallone movies in Billy's plant filled apartment. Stallone is also mentioned by Taggart after Billy fires the bazooka. For those who do not know, Sylvester Stallone was originally cast in the lead of BHC and was marries to the leggy Brigitte Neilsen at the time this movie was being made.
Hey if this one makes money, let's do another sequel.
Beverly Hills Cop (1984)
Motor Mouth at the Top of His Game!
"Beverly Hills Cop" is one of star Eddie Murphy's best films made when he was at the top of his game in the eighties. It's about a Detroit cop who goes to Beverly Hill s to solve the murder of his best friend Mikey Tandino (James Russo).
The film opens in Detroit with Detective Axel Foley (Murphy) working under cover in a cigarette smuggling operation. He is caught up in a spectacular chase sequence involving a large semi careening through the streets smashing parked cars along the way. Back at the station house, Foley's boss Inspector Todd (Gilbert R. Hill - a real cop) chews him out. When Foley returns home he is greeted by best friend Mikey Tandino who has been working in Beverly Hills.
Mikey has with him some German bearer bonds which he took from his boss Victor Maitland (Steven Berko) Maitland sends Zack (Jonathon Banks to Detroit to retrieve the bonds and deal with Mikey. Zack and cronies murder Mikey and leave Axel unconscious on his doorstep. When Foley recovers he vows to track down Mikey's killer. Insp. Todd takes him off the case and warns him not to interfere..
Foley takes vacation time and goes to Beverly hills in his beat up Chevy Nova. There, he meets Jenny Summers (Lisa Eilbacher) an old friend and learns that Mikey had been working for Victor Maitland. He goes to see Maitland but is tossed through a front door window for his trouble. The Beverly Hills police arrest him and charge him with public mischief and carrying a concealed weapon. Jenny bails him out but Lt. Bogomil (Ronny Cox) assigns two of his detectives Taggart (John Ashton) and the young Billy Rosewood (Judge Reinhold to watch Foley. Then the fun starts.
Foley with the help of Jenny gains access to Maitland's warehouse and discovers that he is running drugs. Unable to convince Lt. Bogomil that Maitland is a drug smuggler, Foley enlists the reluctant help of Taggart and Rosewood in bringing down the drug lord. They break into Maitland's home and.........................................................................................
Much of the humor in the movie stems from Murphy's frequent ad libs which continually broke up the cast and crew. There was great chemistry between the star and supporting cast. There was also great chemistry between John Ashton and Judge Reinhold as well as Ronny Cox as the cops. Watch for a delightful cameo by Bronson Pinchot as Serge a worker at Eilbacker's art gallery.
Hard to imagine Sylvester Stallone who was originally cast as the lead in this scenario. Followed by two sequels.
Who Are Those Guys???
"Zulu" is a superior action film much like the American Indians vs. the Cavalry films covering the same period. It takes place in 1879 South Africa mostly on an isolated post called Rork's Drift.
The opening narration (spoken by Richard Burton) tells of the massacre of 1200 British Troops by Zulu warriors. Cut to a Zulu wedding ceremony where Swedish missionary Otto Witt (Jack Hawkins) and his daughter Margareta (Ulla Jacobson) are enjoying the proceedings. Suddenly a warrior arrives with news of the massacre of the British garrison. The Witts flee to their home base at the British post of Rork's Drift with news of an impending Zulu attack.
The post of about 100 men is under the command of snobbish Lieutenant Bromhead (Michael Caine). A Royal Engineer Lt. John Chard (Stanley Baker) is on sight building a bridge. When news of the coming attack by some 4,000 Zulu warriors is known, preparations have to be made to defend the post. Competition arises between the two officers with Chard imposing his seniority over Bromhead and assuming command.
Much of the first hour of the film deals with the post's preparations for the attack. The post is kept in suspense awaiting the attack. When the attack comes it is vicious and brutal. The British with their superior battle tactics survive the onslaught with few casualties. Now exhausted and spent they await the final attack when..................................................................................
This film is a true story and several members of the force were awarded the Victoria Cross , Britain's highest honour for their bravery. The battle scenes directed by Cy Endfield, are realistically depicted in spite of rubber bayonets and spears.
Baker and Caine (in his first major role) are excellent as the beleaguered officers facing their first battle and trying to mount a viable defence against a much superior force. Jack Hawkins as the fanatical preacher has little to do before he and his daughter are sent away prior to the battle. We never do find out their fates. Others in the excellent cast include Nigel Green as Colour Sgt. Bourne, James Booth as Hook the rebellious prisoner in sick bay, and Patrick Magee as the surgeon among others.
We are never told the reasons behind the Zulu attacks or why the British are camped in an isolated post in the first place. I assume it all had to do with the British colonization of South Africa and the Zulu not wanting to be colonized.
A good movie.
It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955)
"It Came From Beneath the Sea" was one of the many radio active over sized monster movies of the 1950s. In this case it is a giant octopus that was mutated as the result of atomic testing in the Pacific Ocean.
It stats out with a newly designed atomic submarine on a shakedown cruise. Under the command of Commander Pete Mathews (Kenneth Tobey), the sub encounters an unknown creature of enormous size following it. The creature attacks the sub. When the sub breaks free, the creature leaves a part of a tentacle behind.
Pete brings the specimen to a marine biology laboratory where he works with scientists Dr. John Carter (Donald Curtis) and the comely Professor Leslie Joyce (Faith Domergue) to identify the creature. After several experiments the team identifies the creature as a giant octopus. Shortly thereafter, the giant octopus surfaces and envelops a freighter killing all but a few survivors. The Navy searches for the creature with an aim of destroying it.
The octopus next surfaces outside San Francisco where it climbs up the side of the Golden Gate Bridge before returning to the deep. Pete finds the creature under water near the shoreline. He goes after it with his atomic powered submarine in order to implant a special torpedo in the beast which will be exploded remotely when all are safe.. When something goes array, Pete has to don the scuba equipment and try to plant a plastic explosive on the creature. Pete is knocked unconscious and its up to Dr. Carter to rescue him. Just as Dr. Carter reaches Pete........................................................
The creature effects were created by Ray Harryhausen who was just getting started with his stop motion creatures. You only get to see the whole creature a couple of times, otherwise all we see is a wiggling tentacle wreaking havoc in ocean front San Francisco. Back projection and miniatures are quite evident during the attacks.
Kenneth Tobey in a lead role for a change, would go on to be one of Hollywood's most popular character actors for many years to come. Faith Domergue is quite good as the brainy scientist particularly in the scene where she gets the survivor of the downed ship to explain what really happened. She had been one of Howard Hughes main squeezes but he lost Faith.
Others in the cast include veteran Ian Keith as Admiral Burns the Head of Naval Security and Harry Lauter as the skeptical Deputy Sheriff Bill Nash who gets all wrapped up in the situation.
The Giant Claw (1957)
Bird, Bird, Bird....Bird is the Word!
Everything that you may have heard about this "classic" creature film is probably true. It was produced by Sam (low budget) Katzman, so you know what to expect...cost cutting, extensive use of stock footage etc. and....cheaply made monsters. The "monster" in this movie is a marionette built on the cheap somewhere in Mexico for some say a mere $50 and it shows.
The story starts off OK with Flight Engineer Mitch McAfee flying a test flight when he sees a blurred, "big as a battleship" UFO fly by. When he reports it, it is not visible on the radar so of course no one believes him. OK so far. A report reaches Major General Van Buskirk (Robert Shayne). When a the creature is again spotted there is concern. When the creature attacks a plane and kills the crew Lt. General Considine ((Morris Ankrum) gets involved.
The creature when revealed, turns out to be a cross between a vulture and a wild turkey. From here the film becomes laughable. I'm sure I saw strings manipulating the creature in a very amateurish way. There only seems to be the two Generals involved here although Ankrum does alert the pentagon.
McAfee, his assistant Sally Caldwell (Mara Corday) and a scientist Dr. Noymann (Edgar Barrier) work feverishly to develop a method of penetrating the creature's "anti-matter" shield which protects it from harm. McAfee discovers the correct formula after several failed attempts and.............................
I wonder how this film got by studio head Harry Cohn? It's a stinker. With the legendary Ray Harryhausen working on the lot at the time on the much superior "20 Million Miles to Earth", it's a wonder that the "flying turkey" ever got past studio executives.
20 Million Miles to Earth (1957)
"20 Million Miles to Earth" is another of those 50s monster on the loose movies so popular at the time. This one is different however, due to the creature effects created by the legendary Ray Harryhausen. Using stop motion, miniatures , back projection et al Harryhausen gives us a believable monster.
The story begins with a spaceship crashing into the Mediterranian Sea south of Sicily. Three fisherman, including little Pepe (Bart Braverman) enter the sinking ship and rescue the pilot Col. Calder (William Hopper) and Dr. Sharman (Arthur Space). The ship was returning from a mission to the planet Venus.
Major General McIntosh (Thomas Browne Henry) rushes to the scene. Dr. Sharmam has contracted a fatal diease and soon dies. Other members of the crew also have perished. Why Col. Calder was not affected by the disease is not explained. He is treated by an "almost doctor" Maris Leonardo (Joan Taylor and a love/hate relationship begins.
Young Pepe finds a cylinder containing a specimen from Venus. He brings it to Dr. Lepnardo (Frank Puglia), a zoologist to sell. The specimen is an embryo of a creature native to Venus. The embryo hatches and a small lizard like creature emerges. Through the night the creature grows and manages to escape into the nearby forest.
Col. Calder, now recovered, pursues the creature hoping to capture it. Local Commissari Unte (Tito Vuolo) wants to destroy it because the creature had attacked a farmer's dog and the farmer when they attacked it. Anyway, Calder and his crew final y capture the creature which has now grown to gigantic proportions, and take it to Rome for study.
Of course, in all such pictures, the monster escapes. The creature wreaks havoc all over Rome and ends up at the Roman Colosseum where......................................
The acting is so so here . There are several Italian roles in the film with many unintelligible accents. It was nice to see William Hopper in a one of his rare lead roles. He of course, is best remembered for his role as Detective Paul Drake on the long running Perry Mason TV series. Joan Taylor is there merely as a love interest for Hopper.
But it is Ray Harryhausen's humanoid alien creature that steals the film. This was his final B&W film (pity) as he would move on to those mythical monsters of the sword and sandal era in color and CinemaScope..
Ride a Crooked Trail (1958)
Dull Murphy Western Except for Matthau!
There's not much to recommend this Audie Murphy western except for the performance of Walter Matthau as a whiskey guzzling, shotgun toting Judge. There's little action and the female lead is totally miscast. Gia Scala, an Italian, plays a Cajun with little conviction. Her heavy European accent is all too evident.
Murphy plays Joe Maybe who is on the run from the law for an attempted bank hold-up. The marshal pursuing him accidently is killed and Murphy, taking the marshal's horse and badge, rides into Judge Kyle's (Walter Matthau) town. When confronted by the Judge, Maybe is forced to assume the identity of the dead marshal and become Judge Kyle's marshal.
Into the mix comes Teassa Milette (Gia Scala) a Cajun saloon girl who recognizes Maybe. He quickly silences her and introduces her to the Judge as his wife. Well the crafty old judge sets them up in a vacant house as man and wife. You can imagine the hilarity that this creates. Maybe plans to rob the local bank when the Texas herds arrive. Tessa has a deal with Sam Teeler (Henry Silva) to do likewise. Maybe convinces Teeler to await the arrival of the Texas herds. But some of Teeler's gang have other ideas and try to rob the bank as they had originally planned but fail.
Although Judge Kyle has taken a liking to Maybe, he is growing increasingly suspicious. Well, the cattle arrive, Maybe meets up with Teeler and......................................................................................
There are other casting questions here as well. Veteran western bad guys Leo Gordon and Mort Mills are given only "blink or you'll miss them" roles and are hardly seen. Morgan Woodward appears as Teeeler's rebellious gang member and Joanna Moore is Little Brandy who sets her sights on Murphy. I f you watch real carefully, you may spot Bob Steele being questioned by Matthau at the beginning of the picture. But it is Walter Matthau who was just emerging as a major star who steals the picture. I'd hate to imagine what the picture would be without him.
Baby Face Audie in an Early Western!
Audie Murphy, the baby faced WWII hero, was quickly snapped up by the movies. In this his second starring role for Universal, he plays Ring Haasard the son of a fugitive father Jeff Hassard (Dean Jagger) who has been accused of murder 15 years ago. They have been hiding out on an isolated mountain while capturing and selling wild horses in order to survive.
Ring comes upon a lost young woman, Riley Martin (Wanda Hendrix) and brings her back to the Hassard cabin. They plan to return her to her home but Jeff is seriously injured in a horse fall. Ring sends for neighbor Lonesome, a guitar strumming troubadour (Burl Ives) but he is unable to help. Ring goes for a doctor taking Riley and six horses with him. When Riley is snake bitten, Riley is forced to leave his horses behind and bring Riley to town for treatment. There he meets Riley's fiancé Duke Lafferty (Elliott Reid) a big rancher and learns that Riley is in actuality, a lawyer.
When ring returns for his horses, he discovers them taken by Lafferty's ranch foreman Matt Rango (Richard Rober) and his gang. Ring goes to Sheriff Knudsen (Roy Roberts) but he informs Ring that since the mustangs were not branded, there is nothing he can do. When the townsfolk discover who Ring is they want to lynch him. Ring is put on trial with Riley trying to defend him, but is found guilty of concealing his father's whereabouts.
Lonesome helps Ring escape and he flees to the mountains where he recruits a gang of fugitives to help him round up wild horses while evading the pursuing posse. The Coulters, Sam (Houseley Stevenson), Brent (Tony Curtis), Little Sam (James Arness), Jed (John Doucette) and Jim (Ted Jordan) along with Snake Willens (I. Stanford Jolley) join up with Ring.
They manage to capture a large number of horses and pen them up in a large corral. Lafferty and Rango stampede the horses but when Riley is caught in the open the horses are turned and.................................................................
Hendrix who was married to Murphy at the time receives top billing over him. Apparently Murphy was suffering from PTSD from his war experiences and the marriage collapsed. Hendrix career quickly faded thereafter while Murphy went on to a lengthy career in "B" plus western over the next 15 years.
It's interesting to see Anthony (aka Tony) Curtis and Jim (aka James) Arness in early roles. Other notables in the cast include veteran actresses Elisabeth Risdon and Sara Allgood as well as veteran bad guy Jack Ingram as a Deputy Sheriff.
Boy, did Audie ever look young in this one.
The Iron Horse (1924)
John Ford Finally Gets On Track!
"The Iron Horse" was Director John's Ford tribute to the building of the transcontinental railroad in the 1860s. It was a monumental task to which he did himself proud. Many of the so-called "Fordisms" started here. The secondary love story plays second fiddle to the construction of the two railroads...one from the east (Union Pacific) and one from the west (Central Pacific)
In pre Civil War Springfield Illinois, David Brandon (James Gordon) and his son Davy (Winston Miller) dream of a trans continental railroad across the country. Skeptic neighbor Thomas Marsh (Will Walling) has his doubts. A pre- presidential Abraham Lincoln (Charles Edward Bull) provides encouragement.
Brandon Sr. and Jr. set off for the west leaving a teary eyed Miriam Marsh (Peggy Cartwright, her doubting father and a hopeful Lincoln behind. On the trail, the Brandons are attacked by a group of renegade Cheyenne. While Davy hides, his father is brutally murdered by a white two fingered renegade known as Deroux (Fred Kohler) (Bauman in the International version).
In 1862 Congress authorizes the building of the two railroads from opposite sides of the country. Marsh has now become the chief builder of the Union Pacific with Jesson (Cyril Chadwick) his chief engineer. Miriam (Madge Bellamy) is engaged to the oily Jesson. One day a young Pony Express rider xbeing chased by Indians comes into the camp. He turns out to be a full grown Davy Brandon (George O'Brien) who is delighted to meet his childhood sweetheart.
Davy tells Marsh of a pass he and his father had discovered years earlier that would save the railroad 200 miles. Deroux/Bauman however owns all the land in the other direction and plans to stop Davy from showing the way. He enlists prostitute Ruby (Gladys Hulette) to seduce Jesson and convince him to thwart Davy's plans. At the pass, Jesson tries to murder Davy but unknowingly fails.
When Davy walks into the camp a showdown between himself and Jesson is inevitable. Meanwhile, Deroux/Bauman orchestrates an Indian attack on the rail camp but is caught by Davy and the two battle with Davy discovering that it was Deroux.Bauman who murdered his father. Fearing Miriam's scorn if he goes after Jesson, Davy chooses to leave camp and join the Central Pacific crew. Eventually the two Railways meet and the country is united.
As would be the case in future Ford films, he introduces the three Irish ex soldiers: Sergeant Slattery (Francis Powers), Cpl. Casey (J. Farrell MacDonald) and Pvt. Schultz (Jim Welch) who provide the comedic moments in the film. Casey's visit to the dentist is a case in point. There is also a Judge Roy Bean type Judge Haller who administers "justice" across a bar. Buffalo Bill and Wild Bill Hickok also show up briefly. Although Davy takes care od Deroux/Bauman, the fate of Jeeson is left unknown.
George O'Brien became an overnight star and went on to a lengthy career. With this film, John Ford established himself as a front line director.
The First Texan (1956)
Goin' Back to Houston...Houston...Houston!
"The First Texan" is another of the Texas fight for independence tales, this time from the perspective of General Sam Houston (Joel McCrea). McCrea was an imposing figure and is perfectly cast in the lead.
In 1832 Sam Houston crosses into Texas from Tennessee and comes upon a group of revolutionaries planning for the independence of Texas from Mexico and its tyrannical president Generalissimo Santa Ana (David Silva). Jim Bowie (Jeff Morrow) is the leader of the group and asks Houston to Join them. The group includes Steven Austin (Dayton Lumis) Col. Travis (William Hopper), Col. Fannin (Lane Chandler) and others. Houston at first is reluctant to become involved.
Huston sets up a law practice and becomes attracted to Katherine Delaney (Felicia Farr) the niece of Henry Delaney (Wallace Ford), one of the revolutionaries. One day, an old friend from Tennessee, Davy Crockett (James Griffith) comes to Sam with a message from President Andrew Jackson (Carl Benton Reid). The President convinces Sam to take up the Texas cause and become its leader.
When he returns from Washington, Sam learns of the fate of Bowie, Crockett, Travis and the others at the Alamo. He then decides to form an army and gain revenge on Santa Ana. But not being ready to fight, Sam takes his makeshift army in retreat as Santa Ana and his army pursues him. His men question the fact that Sam is avoiding a fight. But Sam has a plan.
The battle of the Alamo takes place off screen but there is a dandy battle at the film's climax. I don't know whether the love story angle has any basis in fact but it wasn't hard to watch the lovely Felicia Farr (wife of Jack Lemmon).
Other notables in the cast include, Jody McCrea and William Phipps as the two soldiers who foil Myron Healey's attempt to desert Houston, Chubby Johnson as Deaf Smith the Scout, Rodolfo Hoyos as Mexican Col. Cos, Roy Roberts as Col. Sherman and Nelson Leigh as Col. Hockley Houston's commanders, and George J. Lewis as the Mexican Doctor attending Houston.
Joel McCrea makes a fine Sam Houston.
Massacre River (1949)
Wait, Wait.....You've Got the Wrong ............GUY!
The "Massacre River" of the title is a river boundary separating Indian lands from that of the white community. A treaty has been negotiated by Col. Reid (Art Baker) and Chief Yellowstone (Iron Eyes Cody) setting the boundaries.
Two young lieutenants, Larry Knight (Guy Madison) and Phil Acton (Rory Calhoun) care competing for the affection of Col. Reid's daughter Kitty (Cathy Downs). She chooses Larry over Phil and a wedding is planned. While on patrol, Kitty's younger brother Randy (Johnny Sands) is wounded. He is brought to the town of Jackson by Larry where he is treated by "saloon girl" Laura Jordan (Carole Mathews). Laura is in partnership in the local saloon with the shady Burke Kimber (Steve Brodie).
With mixed emotions, Larry falls for Laura. In a dispute with Kimber Laura is about to be shot by him when Larry intervenes and kills Kimber. Larry must now tell Kitty of his plans. Because of the situation, Larry resigns his commission and plans to go away with Laura. Randy becomes enraged that Larry has broken off his engagement to his sister. Randy goes gunning for Larry but is shot down by Laura when he tries to shoot Larry in a fight. Larry takes the blame for the shooting.
Larry and Laura flee for a new life in the west but Phil, thinking that Larry shot down Randy, pursues them. Phil catches up to the pair and..........................................
In spite of the title, there are no massacres in the movie. There are a couple of battles with renegade Indians though to satisfy action fans. Unfortunately, we have to endure a politically correct Hollywood ending but the the move flows nicely nevertheless. Madison and Calhoun's stars were on the rise at the time. Madison went on to plat "Wild Bill Hickock" on TV and Calhoun had a lengthy career playing in "B" plus westerns.
Others in the cast are Emory Parnell as Sgt. Johansson, Eddy Waller as the bartender, Kermit Maynard as a scout, Rory Mallinson as Marshal Towne, Jason Robards Sr. as a lawyer and Douglas Fowley and John Holland as a couple of gamblers.
Worth a look.
Cattle King (1963)
Enjoyable Low Budget "B' Western
"Cattle King" was a low budget (for MGM) "B" western of the type that Universal turned out at the time. It has a stellar cast including star Robert Taylor who was nearing the end of his career and life.
Taylor plays Sam Brassfield, a big time cattle rancher in 1883 Wyoming territory. His neice June (Maggie Piece is being shown around the ranch by ranch hand Hobie Renton (Richard Trotter) when they are attacked by a group of masked men. Hobie is shot down by the leader Vince Bodine (Richard Devon) while June escapes. Bodine then cuts the Brassfield barbed wire fence.
Returning to the ranch, Julie is consoled by Sam and his right hand man Johnny Quatro (Robert Loggia) who sets out after the killers. Also on hand are June's hot-headed brother Webb (Robert Ivers), Foreman Ed Winters (Ray Teal) and his wife Ruth (Virginia Christine who basically runs the household.
It seams that Texas cattleman Clay Mathews (Robert Middleton) is planning to run large herds of cattle up from Texas, have them feed off of the Wyoming grassland and be sold off for a quick profit. To achieve this Mathews has been leasing the small ranches lands to feed his cattle. Sam resists.
Sam is sweet on small rancher Sharleen Travers (Joan Caulfield) whom he visits while on his way to Cheyenne to confront Mathews. Her brother, the weak willed Harry Travers has thrown in (reluctantly) with Mathews to try and sway the other ranchers to Mathews will. As lick would have it, the President of the United States Chester A. Arthur (Larry Gates) just happens to be passing through on his way to see Yellowstone National Park.
After meeting with Mathews and each stating their opposing views, Sam overhears Mathews at a dinner in honor of the President, telling him of his ambitious plans. Sam enters the room uninvited and gives the President his views of the situation.
Sheepherder Abe Clevenger (Malcolm Atterbury) is influential with the other small ranchers and Sam needs his support. Fearing that Abe will throw in with Mathews, Mathews sends his men led by Bodine and Tex (John Mitchum) to wreck Abe's ranch and drive him off. Abe believes that Sam was responsible and goes to Sam's ranch and tries to kill him getting shot by Sam in the process.
When President Arthur visits Sam's ranch one day, Abe overhears Sam defending Abe and calling him a true friend. Abe then abandons his plan to kill Sam and comes over to Sam's side. Mathew's men go to the travers ranch and wound Harry and kill Sharleen whom Sam was planning to marry. This sets up the inevitable showdown between Sam and Mathews and Johnny Quatro and Bodine and...........................................................................................
It was unusual to see a President of the U.S. play such an important part in a western such as this, however, his presence does play a role in the final outcome. Although made by MGM, there are still some stock footage shots of cattle herds to be seen. Taylor, well past his "best before date" does play a character more his own age than try to be the dashing hero of his youth. Robert Loggia, just staring out, doesn't really have much to do. Smart eyed viewers will recognize Jerry Lewis stock company veteran Ivers as the hot-headed nephew.
The Last Hunt (1956)
Oh Give Me a Home....................!
"The Last Hunt" is a grim disturbing tale of the slaughter of the buffalo in the 1880s, a time when the buffalo numbers had dwindled to a mere 3000 head.
The story opens with Sandy McKenzie (Stewart Granger) losing his small herd of cattle to a buffalo stampede. An ex-hunter, Sandy had been planning to set up a small cattle ranch as he was sick of hunting buffalo. Charlie Gibson (Robert Taylor - playing against type) a sadistic hunter, comes along and persuades Sandy to join up with him to go after buffalo. Sandy reluctantly agrees.
To fill out their crew They hire a one-legged skinner named Woodfoot (Lloyd Nolan) and a young red-headed half breed Jimmy O'Brien (Russ Tamblyn). Charlie takes great pleasure in mowing down the helpless buffalo while Sandy shoots the beasts only because he has to. One night a small Indian raiding party steals the group's mules. Charlie goes after them and guns them all down while smiling devilishly as he does it. He wounds a young Indian girl (Debra Paget) and takes her and an orphaned child back to the camp.
Sandy and the girl are attracted to each other but Charlie takes her unto himself, which creates a tension between the two. Among Charlie's kills is a white buffalo whose hide is big medicine to the Indians and a bonus to Charlie as it will fetch a high price. A young brave Spotted Hand (Ed Lonehill) arrives in camp and tries to obtain the white buffalo hide. Charlie claims it as his own and kills the young brave when he challenges Charlie. Unbeknownst to Charlie, Jimmy and the Girl steal the hide to honor Spotted Hand's burial pyre.
Sandy, fed up with the whole mess, decides to go to tow o sell the hides. Sick of the stench of buffalo, he gets all duded up, gets drunk and gets into a saloon brawl with a trio of buffalo hunters (Ainslie Pryor, Dale Van Sickel, Terry Wilson) and the bar tender (Fred Graham). He also gets involved with saloon girl Peg (Constance Ford).
Returning to camp Sandy is at first greeted with open arms by Charlie who quickly becomes angry when he learns that the white buffalo hide was not among the hides sold in town. He quickly suspects that Sandy has stolen the valuable hide. Sandy decides to leave the camp with the girl setting up the inevitable showdown with Charlie.
The scenes of the killing of the buffalo should look realistic as they were actual "thinning out of the herds" shots taken by wildlife sharpshooters.
Others in the cast included Joe DeSantis as the fur dealer Ed Black, Ralph Moody as the Indian Agent and Roy Barcroft as Major Smith the supply officer for the reservation.
Three Hours to Kill (1954)
String Him Up!
"Three Hours to Kill" is a suspenseful little 77 minute revenge western with Dana Andrews playing Jim Guthrie a man who was wrongly lynched and returns to exact his revenge and find the real guilty party.
Jim Guthrie an embittered man returns to the scene of his lynching three years earlier for a murder he did not commit. He seeks out the members of the lynch mob whom he believes may be guilty. First there is bartender Sam Minor (James Westerfield), the barber Deke (Whit Bissell) to whom he recounts his story through a flashback.
The flashback begins at the town dance where Guthrie and his beloved Laurie Mastin (Donna Reed) are planning to marry the next day. Her possessive brother Carter (Richard Webb) violently opposes the union. He and Guthrie fight and Guthrie is knocked out. While unconscious, Carter is shot down in the back with Guthrie's gun. Deke discovers Guthrie standing over the corpse with the smoking gun in hand.
The results in an instant lynch mob. About to be hanged, Laurie intervenes and spooks the horse and buggy team holding Guthrie. As the team bolts, the hanging rope remains attached to Guthrie's neck and he sustains a serious rope burn on his neck. He manages to escape and flees.
Returning to the present, Guthrie identifies gambler Marty Nasswell (Laurence Hugo) and banker/rancher Niles Hendricks (Richard Coogan) as the other suspects in Carter Mastin's murder. Sheriff Ben East (Stephen Elliott) an old friend of Guthrie's sympathizes with him and gives him until sundown (Three Hours to Kill) to find the killer and then leave town.
Guthrie goes to Hendrick's ranch to seek him out discovers that Laurie has married Hendricks and that she has a son by Guthrie. Gutrhrie treis to reconcile with Laurie to no avail and leaves. Hendrick's returns and fearful for his life goes after Guthrie. The two meet and a well staged fight follows. Before Guthrie can exact his revenge, Deputy Vince (Francis McDonald) intervenes and arrests Guthrie who escapes en route.. Laurie goes top Sheriff East to beg him to go find her husband before he or Guthrie are killed. Rival for Guthrie's affections Chris Palmer (Dianne Foster) pleads with Laurie to pledge her love for Guthrie to avoid any killing.
The four suspects gather at Minor's saloon and Guthrie sneaks in through a back door to confront them. After grilling the suspects he learns the identity of the killer and.................................................................................
The ending is rather neat. After killing the real killer a mob forms and again demands that Guthrie be lynched but....................................................
A better than average little western.
The King of Kings (1927)
Mary Magdalene and Judas Ascariot....An Item?
Nobody could turn out better biblical epics than the legendary director Cecil B. DeMille. This one is no exception. The prologue (in the 155 min. version) has Mary Magdalene (Jacqueline Logan) a rich and prosperous lady lamenting the loss of her lover Judas Escariot (Joseph Schildkraut) who has run off to follow Jesus Christ. The Bible has Mary as a woman of questionable morals but for some reason, DeMille chose to give her an another persona. The sequence was filmed in Technicolor but does little to improve the overall story.
The rest of the film follows Christ (H.B. Warner) and his disciples as they travel the country side preaching the gospel and healing the sick and infirm as they went. There is also the raising of the dead (Lazarus) sequence. The story follows the Bible pretty closely complete with several biblical chapters and verse. The real villain of the piece is Calaphis, High Priest of Israel (Rudolph (father of Joseph) Schildkraut) who it seems has it in for Jeseus seeing him as a threat to his power.
The film gives Judas a more prominent role as he tries to perform a "miracle" to his eventual betrayal of Jesus and suicide. The apostles are all there with Peter (Ernest Torrence) the gruff leader and "doubting" Thomas (Sidney D'Albrock) prominently featured. The crucifixion scenes and the resurrection (in Technicolor) are quite well done. Also in the "cast of thousands" are Dorothy Cumming as Mary, Mother of God, Victor Varconi as Pontius Pilate and William Boyd (yes, THAT William Boyd) as Simon of Cyrene who helps Jesus carry his cross.
As only DeMille could do it. Very Impressive.
Johnny Guitar (1954)
Many people view "Johnny Guitar" in different ways. Some think it was a statement against the McCarthy hearings, others see symbolic statements being made through the colors worn by the actors in the film. In any event it turned out to be a darn good western.
Vienna (Joan Crawford) owns a saloon aptly named "Vienna's" outside the town of Red Butte. She, through devious means, has learned that the railroad is coming through and plans to build a town around her saloon and attract new settlers (i.e. nesters) which have angered the local ranchers and townsfolk who rely on the cattle ranches for their living in one way or another.
A stranger (Sterling Hayden) witnesses a stagecoach holdup from afar where a prominent citizen is murdered. He goes on to Vienna's and turns out to be a man hired by Vienna and uses the name Johnny Guitar. The ranchers and townsfolk led by Emma Small (Mercedes McCambridge), the sister of the murdered man and McIvors (Ward Bond) a powerful rancher storm into Vienna's and demand justice from Vienna and the Dancing Kid (Scott Brady) and his gang, Turkey (Ben Cooper), Bart (Ernest Borgnine) and Corey (Royal Dano) whom they believe were responsible. Emma tries to implicate Vienna in the holdup. It seems that the two women have an intense dislike for each other.
The gang claim to have been working their small silver mine at the time of the hold up. Vienna defends them and bring Johnny into the picture. McIvors having had enough, orders Vienna to close up her place and the gang to leave the territory within 48 hrs. or face the consequences. Meanwhile, Vienna and Johnny it seems, have had a past and renew their long lost love for each other.
Vienna innocently goes to the town bank to withdraw her savings. While there the Dancing Kid and his partners arrive and rob the bank and flee into the mountains where a crew is blasting for the railroad. The townsfolk have been attending the funeral of the murdered man arrive and give chase. The gang is unable to cross the mountain pass and are forced to return to their hideout.
In their haste, young Turkey is injured and left behind. He goes to Vienna for help. McIvors and the townsfolk storm into Vienna's which is now closed and take Turkey and Vienna prisoner with the intention of hanging both. Emma revels at the though of stringing up of her rival. She sets the saloon on fire in a spectacular sequence. Turkey is hanged and Vienna is rescued at the last moment by Johnny and the two flee.
Johnny and Vienna are forced to flee to the Dancing Kid's hideout (behind the famous Republic waterfall hiding a passage set piece) with the posse in pursuit. This sets up the final showdown where..........................................................
Joan Crawford and Mercedes McCambridge (who steals the film) simply put couldn't stand each other both on and off the screen. Hayden, no angel himself, also didn't get along with the temperamental Crawford. Crawford was welcomed with open arms by studio boss Herbert J. Yates and given pretty much what she wanted from the small studio. You will notice the fancy lighting effects and close-ups given the aging star, and what is going on with that bright yellow blouse worn by Crawford at the film's climax. Kudos to director Nicolas Ray for pulling this all together and giving us what has become a classic western.
Also in the cast were western regulars Frank Ferguson as the Marshall, Paul Fix as the roulette wheel operator, Robert Osterloh as the craps table attendant, John Carradine as handyman Tom, Rhys Williams as Andrews the railroad man, and Ian MacDonald, Trevor Bardette, Denver Pyle, Sheb Wooley and Will Wright in smaller roles.
Rancho Notorious (1952)
Dietrich's Alder Ego!
"Rancho Notorious" is famous for presenting a 50 plus star Marlene Dietrich in tight pants and gorgeous gowns. As a western it isn't bad even though there are no "A" list leading men playing opposite her. Produced by the little known Fidelity Pictures and distributed by RKO, it was directed by Fritz Lang, and is beautifully photographed in glorious Technicolor.
Small time rancher Vern Haskell (Arthur Kennedy) is engaged to marry Beth Forbes (Gloria Henry). When Vern rides away a couple of ornery characters see that she is alone in her office. Kinch (Lloyd Gough) and Whitey (John Doucette in a dreadful fright wig) rob the Assay Office killing Beth when she cries out. They flee. Kinch guns down whitey when the latter threatens to talk.
Haskell meanwhile, pursues the killiers. He finds Whitey who tells him that the pair were headed to a place called Chuck-a-luck but dies before he can give directions. Haskell goes from town to town and learns of a saloon girl named Alder Keane (Dietrich) who may be able to help. Through flashbacks we learn some of Keane's back story. She has been working saloons and has most recently been fired by saloon owner Baldy Gundon (William Frawley). Gunfighter Frenchy Fairmont (Mel Ferrer) appears and gets Alder out of a tight spot.
Later, Haskell discovers that Fairmont who is the key to finding Alder, is in jail. Haskell gets himself arrested and thrown into jail with Fairmont. The two escape and go to Chuck-a-luck that turns out to be a haven for fleeing outlaws with Alder Keane in charge. Haskell suspects that the killer of his girl is among the fugitives which include (Mort Geary (Jack Elam), Wilson (George Reeves), Preacher (Frank Ferguson), Comanche Paul (Dan Seymour), Rio (Rodd Redwing), Starr (Stuart Randall) and Harbin (Francis McDonald).
Haskell and Fairmont compete for the affections of Alder. Haskell at first suspects Wilson as the killer due to his fondness for the ladies. But then Haskell spots an expensive broach that he had given to Beth on Alder's gown. He forces her to tell him who had given it to her and learns it was Harbin who is the guilty party. After an unsuccessful robbery, the gang learns of Alder's betrayal of Harbin and return to Chuck-a-luck to confront her and................................................................................
In spite of favorable lighting and camerawork, Marlene still looks gorgeous. She gets to sing a couple of forgettable songs along the way and romance two men much younger than she. Kennedy was more at home on the stage and didn't make a convincing cowboy even though he appeared in several westerns (usually with James Stewart) in the 50s. Mel Ferrer was more of a swashbuckler than cowboy.
But what the film does have is a roster of veteran western performers: Lane Chandler, William Haade, Harry Woods, I. Stanford Jolley, Fuzzy Knight, Tom London, Kermit Maynard, Emory Parnell, Dick Wessel and Forrest Taylor all unbilled and all familiar to "B" western fans. And watch for a young Russell Johnson as the Chuck-a-luck wheel spinner at William Frawley's saloon.
Man Without a Star (1955)
Strummin' on My Old Banjo!
Although "Man Without a Star" was directed by the legendary King Vidor, it is nonetheless a routine (albeit a good one) western of the kind that Universal turned out in the 1950s. This one has the advantage of having Kirk Douglas as the star.
Douglas plays Dempsey Rae (Where DO they get these names?) a drifter on the rails to Wyoming from Kansas City. Also riding the freight is the young Jeff Jimson (William Campbell) who is caught by the brutal brakeman (Lee Roberts) who clubs him. Dempsey comes to the rescue and the young man hero worships Dempsey. The brakeman is murdered on the train by hobo Jack Elam and young Jim is accused by the sheriff's trigger happy deputy (George Wallace) of the murder. Sheriff Olsen (Roy Barcroft) accepts Dempsey's explanation and the two carry on into town.
Dempsey meets up with an old flame Idonee (Claire Trevor) who is now running a saloon. Looking for work, Dempsey and Jim sign on with the Triangle ranch with foreman Strap Davis (Jay C. Flippen). The triangle is the largest ranch in the area but has got along with the smaller ranchers led by Cassidy (Eddy Waller) and Toliva (Paul Birch)
The Triangle has been bought by an eastern buyer who turns out to be female Reed Bowman (Jeanne Crain). She has her own ideas for the ranch. She plans to fill the free range with cattle until the feed is gone, sell out and take in the profits while destroying the smaller ranches in the process. She winds up firing Davis and pursues Dempsey as his replacement as foreman.
Dempsey at first, is warm to the idea but relents when he learns that the smaller ranchers are planning to fence off their section meant for winter feed with barbed wire. Dempsey has a past hatred of barbed wire. Intending to leave the territory, Dempsey decides to help the smaller ranchers. In the meantime a large herd of cattle arrives from Texas with Steve Miles (Richard Boone) at the helm. Bowman hires Miles and his men to drive out the small ranchers.
Jim has remained behind at the Triangle as a protector of Bowman. In the saloon, Jim guns down a wrangler (Myron Healey) who was pestering Bowman. Bowman send Miles and his men to stampede a herd of cattle through the rancher's barbed wire and.......................................................................
Douglas plays Dempsey at first as a happy go lucky drifter and then a serious minded opponent of the lady rancher. I though that Claire Trevor would have been more appropriate as the lady rancher. Jeanne Crain although she does her best, simply didn't have the hard edge that Trevor could have brought to the part. I always liked Richard Boone as a villain even though he was an accomplished actor. He had that meanness. Watch for Myrna Hansen as Tess Cassidy who has her eyes on Jim, Sheb Wooley as Latigo a ranch hand and Mara Corday as Moccasin Mary, a saloon girl.
And oh yes, Douglas gets to strum a banjo to a couple of rousing saloon songs.
A Man Alone (1955)
All Alone Am I.....!
"A Man Alone" marked the first picture directed by star Ray Milland (director's credit - R. Milland). He does a pretty good job on this first effort in turning out an excellent western.
A lone stranger (Milland) is wandering across the desert when he loses his horse in a fall. Plodding ahead on foot, he comes across a stagecoach where all occupants including the driver are dead. Included in the dead are a mother and her little girl. The stranger unharnesses the team and takes one of them to ride into town. When the horses arrive in town and the stranger is spotted by the townsfolk, Deputy Sheriff Jim Anderson (Alan Hale Jr.) goes to investigate. The deputy draws on the stranger who whirls around and wounds Anderson in the shoulder not knowing he is a lawman.
The stranger is forced to flee from the townsmen and takes refuge in the town bank. There he overhears banker Clanton (Raymond Burr), his partner Luke Joiner (Grandon Rhodes) and henchman Clanton (Lee Van Cleef) discussing the holdup. It seems that Clanton's identity was exposed resulting in the murders of the passengers. Joiner is appalled at the killings and wants to pull out. The stranger makes a noise and Joiner goes to investigate. He takes a shot at the stranger but is himself shot in the back by Stanton.
The stranger flees once again and hides in the basement of a house that turns out to be that of the local sheriff who is laid up with yellow fever. The stranger meets up with Nadine Corrigan (Mary Murphy), the sheriff's daughter. He reveals himself as Wes Steele a notorious gunfighter. When Sheriff Gil Corrigan (Ward Bond) has a delusional fit, Steele stays to help out. Meanwhile the town has assumed that Steele is the killer.
Later when the bodies of the dead are brought in, undertaker Henry Slocum (Douglas Spencer) places them in the church to await the minister. Stanton suggests that an overnight guard be placed in the church. He volunteers to take the first shift. Inside the church, Stanton is confronted by Steele who accuses him of being behind the killings. The two have a knock down drag out fight with Steele fearing that he has killed Stanton.
As Steele returns to the Corrigan home, Clanton sees him enter. Clanton raises a lynch mob and goes to Corrigan's home to demand that Steele be released. Steele in the meantime has passed out from injuries he received in the fight with Stanton. At this moment Corrigan regains his health and confronts the mob promising to deliver Steele for trial. While waiting for Steele to regain consciousness, Nadine confronts her father with proof of his involvement with Stanton and his gang. In a poignant scene, Corrigan gives his reasons for acting as he did.
Believing Steele to be innocent, Corrigan spirits him out of town and releases him. Back in town, Stanton now recovered and Clanton incite the mob once more and drag Corrigan out to be hanged for releasing Steele when........................................................................
Milland's character doesn't speak and we do not learn his character's name until well into the story. Much of the first half of the movie is spent in the Corrigan home. There's a slam bang fight between two of Republic Pictures ace stunt men representing Milland and Burr at the heart of the story. The romance between Milland and Murphy is a little May/September like.
To me, Ward Bond steals the picture. Bed ridden through the first half, the picture really picks up dramatically when he recovers. Some others in the cast include Arthur Space as Dr. Mason, Richard Hale as Judge Witham, Lee Roberts as henchman Higgs and Minerva Urecal as Mrs. something or other.
The Last Command (1928)
Start the Revolution Without Me!
"The Last Command" is a film about the Russian Revolution of 1917. It stars the magnificent Emil Jannings in the lead role for which he would be awarded the first Best Actor Academy Award for his work on this film and "The Way of All Flesh" a year earlier.
The film opens in 1928 Hollywood where Russian director Lev Andreyev (William Powell) is making a film about a General in the 1917 Russian Revolution. While selecting extras to play in the film he comes across a photograph of someone he recognizes. He turns out to be the former Grand Duke Sergius Alexander (Jannings) who has been reduced to playing an extra in Hollywood following his flight from his war torn homeland.
The old General is a broken man with a tremor caused by a great shock years earlier. Andreyev, himself a former revolutionary, plans to dress up the old General as himself really and embarrass and humiliate him in front of all.
We are then told in a flashback to 1917, the circumstances that led to the Grand Duke's downfall. The Grand Duke was the commander of the Russian Army and a cousin of Czar Nicholas II during the revolution. We meet him as a verile strong willed commander who is inspecting his troops as the revolutionaries are closing inn. Watching the proceedings are Lev Andreyev and a young woman Natalie Dabrova (Evelyn Brent). During a passport check they are recognized as revolutionaries and are brought before the Grand Duke.
Andreyev speaks out of turn and is jailed. Natalie on the other hand impresses the Grand Duke and he begins to pursue her. He gifts her with an expensive string of pearls to show his devotion. She at first plans to assassinate him but relents when she realizes that she has grown to love him. Andreyev in the meantime, escapes and joins the revolutionaries.
The revolutionaries decide that the time is right to strike and they overpower the Grand Duke and his entourage while they are riding aboard a train towards the front. The grand Duke's staff are all executed but he is spared at the urging of Natalie who has returned to the ranks of the revolutionaries. The Grand Duke is forced to stoke the furnace of the train's engine as it speeds towards the capital.
Suddenly Natalie slips away from the celebrations and goes to the engine where the Grand Duke is being held. She helps him to escape professing her love, and gives him the string of pearls that he had given her to pay for his flight out of the country. He then leaps from the train and while laying on the ground witnesses a terrible accident and..........................................................
Returning to 1928 the old General is costumed and placed in the trenches depicting the Russian front and told to "take command". In a mesmerizing final sequence Jannings once again becomes the great general of the past (in his mind at least) and....................................................................
Jannings is superb in the lead role going from a confident commander to a broken and defeated man. Evelyn Brent is sexy and alluring as his lover and Powell as the director gives a performance that would help him to escape the villains and second leads that he had been portraying.
A true masterpiece of the silent screen.
Who's on Faust?
"Faust" was an ambitious effort from legendary German director F.W. Murneau to bring this classical tale to the screen. I didn't think it was as good as some of his earlier films but it is memorable nonetheless.
God and Satan are fighting over who will control earth. God's messenger an unnamed Archangel (Werner Fuetterer) and Mephisto (Emil Jannings) each believe that the deserve the honor. They make a wager that Mephisto can bring an aging and respected alchemist named Faust (Gosta Ekmann) over to the side of evil. The wager is Faust's immortal soul.
Mephisto immediately rains down a deadly plague upon Faust's city. People begin to die and panic sets in. Faust prays to God to alleviate the plague as he tries to minister to the sick. Finally he gives up and burns his books in disgust. One of the books shows him the way to summon up the devil to help him. Mephisto is conjured up and appears as an elderly agent of the devil who offers to grant Faust his every wish if he will sign a paper surrendering his soul. The two agree on a one trial period.
As a first wish, Faust asks for his youth to be restored which it is. Mephisto too takes on a more youthful appearance. Then Faust and Mephisto soar over the city to the wedding of the Duke (Eric Barclay) and Duchess (Hanna Ralph) of Parma. There the young Faust offers her priceless gifts. She is mesmerized and goes off with Faust. The Duke tries to intervene but is slain by Mephisto. Just as Faust is about to have his way with the Duchess, the 24 hour trial period ends and the two return to their starting point..
Next Faust asks to be returned to his home town where he meets the lovely young maiden Gretchen (Camilla Horn) frolicking in the garden with the children. She lives with her mother (Frida Richard) and her brother (William Dieterle) who has returned home on leave from the wars. She goes to see her Aunt Marthe (Yvette Guillbert) who sells phony love potions on the side.
Faust takes up with Gretchen eventually getting her into the sack. Mephisto meanwhile goes to her brother and tells him that his sister is being defiled. Mother catches them in the act and dies in shock. The brother returns home and challenges Faust to a duel. The evil Mephisto stabs the brother in the back but before he dies labels his sister as a harlot and asks that she be put on display in the public square. Faust and Mephisto disappear.
It seems that unbeknownst to Faust, he has left Grtechen with child. She wanders through the snow filled streets unable to gain shelter from the saintly townsfolk. The child dies and Gretchen is discovered shivering in the cold. She is charged as a child murderer and is sentenced to be burned at the stake. Fasust learns of her fate and begs Mephisto to let him return to her. But the evil Mephisto turns Faust back into an old man and..................................................
I only have a couple of problems with this film. With Murneau being such a perfectionist, I wonder why he used such obvious miniatures for the city that Faust and Mephisto fly over. They look positively toy like. And, what was the frolicking about between Mephisto and Aunt Marthe all about? It was completely out of context with the rest of the story.
This being the restored German version of the film, the character names are German and not Americanized as in the American version of the film.
Herr Tartüff (1925)
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?
Another little masterpiece from legendary German director F.W. Murneau. This one is an ambitious "film within a film" picture.
A supposedly faithful housekeeper (Rose Valetti) to an aging employer has scheme to dupe the old man out of his fortune by having him prepare a will disinheriting his grandson (Andre Mattoni). The old man prepares the will. His grandson arrives and is promptly thrown out by the old man. The grandson sees what is happening and vows to expose the hypocrite of a housekeeper.
He disguises himself and goes to his grandfather's house under the guise of a travelling movie exhibitor. He gathers the grandfather and the housekeeper into the parlor to watch a movie on hypocracy based on Moliere's "Tartuff".
In the movie within the movie, Herr Orgon (Werner Krauss) and his wife Elmire (Lil Dagover) are a once happily married couple of some considerable wealth. Herr Orgon returns home after an extended trip a changed man. It seems he has fallen under the spell of a religious fanatic whom we'll call Tartuff (Emil Jannings). Tartuff has convinced Orgon to rid himself of all of his luxuries and to live a more modest existence. Tartuff, nose stuck in a prayer book arrives at Orgon's home.
Tartuff appears to be a pious religious fanatic who is controlling Orgon through some sort of hypnosis. Frau Elmire see through his scheme. She gets her husband to consent to having her trap Tartuff into revealing his true intentions. Unfortunately, Tartuff spots Orgon hiding behind the curtains and begs off. Not to be discouraged, the voluptuous Elmire invites Tartuff to her bedroom for "some tea" where Tartuff reveals his true self guzzling down glass after glass of wine. She tries to get Tartuff to seduce her but stops short when it is revealed that the whole scam is to have Orgon sign over his fortune to the hypocrite. Tartuff leaves in disgrace.
The story reverts to the original trio, the grandson removes his disguise and..............................................................................
The performances are excellent all round but it is the great Emil Jannings steals the film as usual. Lil Dagover is really sexy as the wife. It's a better film than it is often given credit for but after all it IS a Murneau film.
I really enjoyed it and recommend it to those who have not yet seen it.
Der letzte Mann (1924)
He Who Laughs Last.....!
"The Last Laugh" is another of German Director' F.W. Murneau's silent classics. It follows an aging doorman (Emil Jannings) who is forced in to a major adjustment in his life.
The unnamed doorman of a posh hotel, "The Atlantic" has been at his post for many years. He has gained the respect and admiration of his neighborhood and family in his fancy uniform. During a rainstorm, he has trouble carrying a guest's trunk and is seen by the Hotel Manager resting up after his ordeal.
We next see the doorman walking home in his uniform to the pleasant greetings and admiration from his neighbors as he passes. We also learn of the impending marriage of his niece (Maly Delschaft) to her fiancé (Max Hiller). The next morning the doorman is shocked to find a younger man acting in his place. Being called into the manager's office, the old man is shocked to learn that he has been reduced to serving as a washroom attendant due to the his advancing age. At the same time he is forced to turn in his prized uniform. The old man is shocked and becomes despondent. He reluctantly accepts his fate.
Not wanting to be seen without his doorman's uniform, the old man steals the uniform from its cabinet and wears it home as if nothing has happened. His niece gets married and the old man is again the center of attention at the wedding party. He brings the uniform to a storage facility each day and continues to work as a washroom attendant. Finally, one night the night watchman (Georg John) catches the old man with the doorman's uniform and takes it away and locks it up. Finally, beaten, the old man is ready to end it all when.......................................................................................
It should be noted that the original title was "The Last Man" and was to end with the old man's death. Murneau wanted this ending but the producers forced him to film a feel good happy ending for the public, felling that Murneau's ending would have been to grim and therefore not popular. The unlikely ending caused the movie to be retitled "The Last Laugh".
The performance by the great German actor Emil Jannings is outstanding. A relatively young man at the time, he gives a mesmerizing performance as the aging doorman. It is totally his film.
Murneau used some pioneering techniques in his filming of the story. His skillful use of miniatures and photographic angles give the illusion of a big city. He also used children driving small cars in the background to suggest heavy traffic flow. On the KINO DVD of the restoration of the German version of the film, there is an excellent documentary in German with English subtitles that explains "The Making of The Last Laugh".
A true masterpiece.