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The Rider of the Law (1935)
Scrappy Steele vs. Bandit Gang
A tenderfoot arrives in a tough cowtown that's being terrorized by a gang headed by the vicious Tolliver brothers. He finds himself on the receiving end of the gang's ire when two of them are killed and he is blamed for it. However, it turns out that the tenderfoot's feet may not be all that tender.
The film packs a lot of ridin' and shootin' into less thlan an hour. Steele ie scrappy as always, Si Jenks provides comedy relief as a braggart who takes on the job of town marshal thinking it's an easy way to make money, Gertrude Messenger is pretty but doesn't have much to do, and everything gets tied up neatly at the end. It's about par for Steele's westerns for Supreme Pictures. Competently directed by his father Robert Bradbury, it's nothing special but a harmless enough way to pass an hour.
Lackluster mini-western, but Hayden stalwart as always
Sterling Hayden plays the commander of a fort in Apache country with a major problem on his hands: he has captured the son of an Apache war chief, but the Apaches have attacked a wagon transporting the wives f the fort's garrison to another post, and the chief says that if Hayden doesn't return his son and give the Apaches 50,000 rounds of ammunition by 6:00 a.m. the next morning, he will kill all the women. Hayden, for his part, threatens to hang the chief's son if the women aren't returned by that same time. A battle of wills ensues.
This episode of "Schlitz Playhouse" is not one of its better ones, despite a good cast--in addition to Hayden, there's Walter Coy,James Seay and Jim Brown, all veterans of numerous western films. If you're looking for "action", there isn't any. There's tension between Hayden and the hostages' husbands, but that's about it. The production values are minimal, and--at least in the print I saw--the photography is so poor you often can't see who's talking; you only know by recognizing their voice.
Hayden is authoritative and no-nonsense, as usual, but he's done this kind of thing 1000 times before and really doesn't put anything new or different into it. The cast tries hard, but the script is trite hackwork and the "direction" by Roy Kellino is mechanical and by-the-numbers, and the show ends pretty much the way you thought it would.
Worth a look maybe if you're a Sterling Hayden fan, but otherwise it's nothing special.
The Marshall of Trail City (1950)
Failed pilot--for good reason
Wild Bill Elliott plays a rancher who reluctantly takes the job of marshal of a tough cowtown. This was a pilot for a proposed series for Eliott that was aimed squarely at kids, and it shows.The script by veteran wrirer Harold Shumate is sloppy and juvenile; he has done much, much better work. The reliable Dub Taylor plays Elliott's sidekick "Cannonball" and he manages to bring some life to the goings-on, but otherwise the supporting performances are uniformly poor and the photography is dark and muddy. Production values are rock-bottom, even for an early '50s TV show, and its cheapness shows in every frame. The few "action" scenes are poorly done and there's a particularly inept fight scene between Elliott and a former pal who is now a wanted criminal.
There's a reason this wasn't picked up as a series. It's poor all around and an embarrassment to those who fondly remember Elliott's great westerns for Republic. After this misfire he went back to making westerns for Monogram and Allied Artists, all of which are far better than this. Maybe worth a look just for historical purposes, since--as far as I can tell--ttis was Elliott's only appearance on TV. Otherwise, don't bother.
Lively retelling of the old Mark Twain story
Bright, fun musical comedy version of the Mark Twin story about a modern-day mechanic who finds himself transported back to the medieval time of King Arthur. Crosby is his usual relaxed, charming self, Rhonda Fleming has seldom if ever looked so ravishing, William Bendix is hilarious as Crosby's dim-witted sidekick, and Cedric Hardwicke seems to be having the time of his life singing and dancing. The songs are catchy, the Technicolor photography is spectacular, and it's altogether a lot of fun. Highly recommended.
Jiggers, My Wife (1946)
Shemp tries, but nothing works
Tired, forced comedy, obvious and predictable at every turn. Shemp and the rest of the cast have done this kind of thing a thousand times before--and better-- and they give it "the old college try", but the script by Zion Myers is pure by-the-numbers hackwork and producer Jules White does his usual terrible "everything but the kitchen sink" style of directing. It looks cheap, it IS cheap and it doesn't work at all. Not worth your time.
The Quiet Gun (1957)
Not what you'd expect--at all
To tell you the truth, I really wasn't expecting much out of this picture. William F. Claxton was an undistinguished director. Regal Films was 20th Century-Fox's low-rent "B" unit, and I didn't know anything about writer Eric Norden's work. The main reason I watched it was because it had three of my favorite western actors--Forrest Tucker, Jim Davis and Lee Van Cleef.
Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be a well-written, tightly directed, extremely well acted, solid little "B" western with a lot to recommend it. Norden's script is thoughtful and thought-provoking, showing the consequences of mob rule and how "morality" can be manipulated by those who neither have it nor care anything about it. Tucker, who had a tendency to be blustery, gives a very controlled, sympathetic performance as a sheriff whose love for his friend's wife conflicts with his duty as a lawman. and has to go up against a town which is basically one big lynch mob. Davis actually doesn't have all that much screen time, but as always makes the most of what he has. Claxton's direction is tight and controlled, and there are several plot twists that are nicely handled.
A surprising, intelligent, well-made little "B" western, it's not full of gun-blazing action--although there is some--but is a good story told well. Highly recommended.
Shoot to Kill (1947)
Surprisingly effective little Lippert thriller
This low-budget thriller about the wife of a crooked Assistant District Attorney and a reporter who sets out to expose him has some effective moments and several good performances, notably by veteran character actor Charles Trowbridge as the DA and the usually bland Edmund MacDonald as the ADA. Russell Wade, as the reporter, doesn't comer off too badly--usually he's even blander than MacDonald--and Luana Walters turns in a serviceable job as the DA's wife, but it's really Trowgbridge's and MacDonald's show, and they they do well with it. Prolific "B" director William Berke keeps things moving swiftly, and despite some weak supporting performances and a few large-ish plot holes, overall this is a very entertaining little"B".
My Name Is Earl: Pinky (2009)
Very funny, very sweet, very touching
SPOILER: During a summer stay at a lake resort when they were both children, Randy meets "Pinky"--"the only girl who ever loved me"-- a cute little critter who set her sights on him, and they had a "fling". However, before they could "consummate" their love with a romantic kiss on a bridge at night, Pinky disappeared, leaving Randy broken-hearted, disappointed and bitter.
Twenty years later Randy finds out that Earl was actually responsible for Pinky's disappearance. Furthermore, he finds out that "Pinky" was actually Joy. He demands that Earl make up for his breaking up his and "Pinky"'s budding romance.
In addition to being a very funny episode, it is also probably the sweetest one of the series--not sappy or treacly sweet, but it has a genuinely heartfelt, touching sweetness about the power and at the same time the innocence of a first love, greatly helped by John Prine's haunting "Day Is Done" playing in the background, which is the absolutely perfect song for this episode.
Bernie Kopell has a small but hilarious part as the owner of the resort where Joy and Randy met so many years before.
All in all, I think this is just about the finest episode of this wonderfully quirky series. If you haven't seen it yet, be sure to. You won't be sorry.
Adam-12: Million Dollar Buff (1971)
Interesting stories, and Lindsay Wagner's debut
Big, hulking Leo Gordon was a bad guy "to the bone". He terrorized, beat up and generally put the fear of God into scores of Hollywood's "toughest" screen heroes over the years. And it came naturally to him--he was an ex-convict who spent time in San Quentin Prison for armed robbery and once took several bullets in a shootout with police, He turned his life around, though, and eventually became one of the most familiar and in-demand villains in the business. He also turned into a first-rate writer, with several screenplays and a lot of TV series scripts to his credit. This episode of "Adam-12" was one of them--he wrote more than 20 altogether--and it's a good one.
Gordon wrote himself a good part, too, as a retiree who is a police "buff" who turns his fascination with police work into a hobby, and winds up making a nuisance of himself and actually putting himself and others in danger by showing up at the scene of crimes--he has a police scanner in his car--and inserting himself into Reed's and Malloy's cases.
The second story is about a woman who pulls the "palm switch" at jewelry stores, surreptitiously stealing expensive jewelry and replacing them with cheap copies. A young and startlingly beautiful Lindsay Wagner--this was her first TV role--plays a newly hired jewelry-store clerk who is a victim of the palm switch.
The stories move along quite well, thanks to veteran director James Nielsen, with none of the choppiness that often affected this series. Gordon does a good job of playing not a villain, per se, but a man with too much time and money on his hands who doesn't realize that he's doing more harm than good, and Wagner is charming as the nervous and somewhat timid clerk who's afraid of losing her job.
All in all, a very creditable episode.
Three Missing Links (1938)
One of their best
"Three Missing Links" ranks among the best of The Three Stooges' many shorts. They're bumbling janitors in a movie studio, and after wrecking a producer's office, they wind up getting hired as actors in a jungle epic to be shot in the wilds of darkest Africa (which was actually a sound stage in the wilds of darkest Burbank). Curly is to play a gorilla who is the love interest of the beautiful Mirabel Mirabel (the stunning but unfortunately little-known Jane Hamilton, who bears a strong resemblance to the equally stunning but better known
Virginia Mayo). Moe and Larry are cast as cavemen who are competing with Curly for the charms of Mirabel Mirabel. Problems arise when a real gorilla show up on location.
This is one of the Stooges' most consistently funny outings. It's the first one directed by their producer, Jules White, who tended to go overboard on the violence but shows a much more restrained hand here. The scenes in the producer's office are hilarious, with Curly at the top of his game and the great James C. Morton, who often served as a foil for Laurel and Hardy, serving that purpose here and doing a terrific job of it. The routines on the "set" in Africa are among the Stooges' funniest.
All in all, a first-rate entry in the long-running series and one that holds up well with repeated viewings, something that many of their later entries didn't.
The Hill (2009)
Quite possibly the worst piece of crap I've ever seen
The only good thing about this pathetic mess of a "war picture" is that it's short, only about a half-hour. In that half-hour, however, the "filmmakers"--and I use the term loosely--manage to cram in some of the worst writing ("War is a demon!"), acting, photography, editing, "special effects" and laughably stupid "battle scenes" I've ever seen. The "plot" is about an American patrol sent to establish an observation post on a small hill., but when they get there the hill consists of an open field with a small rise in the middle of it. It's obvious that no one who had anything to do with this film had ever been anywhere near the military, but at least they should have gotten some kind of advice from someone who has been. Damn near NOTHING is right--officers don't salute subordinates first; privates don't tell officers "go f**k yourself"; enlisted men don't call lieutenants "L T"--not during World War Ii, anyway; the words "intel" and "the bottom line is" weren't used during World War II; and in a masterpiece of stupidity, the writer has a German machine gun crew set up in the middle of an open field with no cover that's the worst place to set up an ambush, about 50 yards from a treeline that offers plenty of cover and is the perfect place to set up an ambush. If that isn't bad enough, the writer also has the American patrol assigned to take that hill make its way to the treeline, see the German crew in the middle of the field and its lieutenant suddenly orders his men to burst out of the cover of the treeline and charge the Germans, which results in most of them getting shot to pieces (oh, and there's an SS officer in charge of a regular German army unit, which wouldn't happen because the SS isn't part of the regular army, which is something ELSE the writer didn't know).
The movie is cheap-looking, but that isn't what makes it bad; the sheer incompetence shown in every facet of its production is what makes it bad. The movie is frustratingly stupid, has nothing to say although they make a failed effort at trying to sound profound, and I've actually written more about this train-wreck of a movie than it deserves, so take my advice--you can find far better things to do with a half-hour of your life than spend it watching this.
Lady from Chungking (1942)
Wong only bright spot in this murky "actioner"
Anna May Wong lends much more dignity--and professionalism--to this cheapjack PRC production than it deserves. Directed by Monogram stalwart William Nigh--he must have misbehaved and was punished by being loaned out to PRC--and written by longtime hacks Sam Robins and Milton Raison, this bears all the hallmarks of a PRC production that we've come to know and love: tinny sound, at times barely visible photography, inconsistent scripting and amateurish performances from newcomers on their way up and over-the-top performances from veterans on their way down. This one has Wong as the leader of a Chinese group resisting the Japanese occupation of China during World War II, and must match wits with a wily Japanese general (Harold Huber, miscast again, as he often was). I gave this three stars, based entirely on Wong's presence. She was almost criminally misused by Hollywood over the years, and she deserved better-and she certainly deserved better than this. Without her, this wouldn't be worth watching.
Very funny entry in a very funny series
Toody and Muldoon find out that Joel Pokrass, one of the boys on their PAL basketball team, isn't playing well because he's worried about his upcoming Bar Mitzvah. It turns out that the boy's father is a notorious slumlord (who Schnauzer calls "The Beast of the Bronx") and, although everyone likes Joel, not one person who lives in the 53rd Precinct will come to his Bar Mitzvah because most of them have lived, at one time or another, in one of Pokrass' crumbling slum buildings and hates him. Toody and Muldoon have to find a way to get people to come to Joel's Bar Mitzvah despite everybody's feelings about his father. This is an hilarious entry in the series, very well written by Nat Hiken with Joe E. Ross at the top of his form as Toody and Al Lewis in one of his best jobs as the eternally put-upon Leo Schnauzer. Burlesque comic B.S. Pully is the skinflint Pokrass and does an excellent job of it. Hiken's plots tend to go off on tangents before coming back together for an hilarious and clever ending, and this is an excellent example of that. Very, very funny episode.
Not the worst, but hardly the best
I saw this under one of its many titles, "Hell River", and was pretty unimpressed. It has a few things going for it--for one thing the photography is quite crisp, unlike many 1970s Euro-made WW 2 "epics", which tended to be either washed-out or muddy--and the music is at least appropriate and doesn't drown out or overwhelm what's on screen--but there are a lot more cons than pro's. The performances aren't particularly good, especially Adam West, wildly miscast as a Nazi officer; he is stiff as a board, has no chemistry or connection with anyone in the cast and slips in and out of an embarrassingly bad German accent. Rod Taylor is stalwart as usual, but he's simply too old to play an action hero. Xenia Gratsos, here billed as "Brioni Farrell", matches West's wooden acting and is rather plain-looking to boot. The plethora of action scenes are done in a very by-the-numbers fashion and tend to be unrealistic, i.e., when the partisans attack a German armored column the Germans are mowed down by the dozens but only a very few partisans fall, despite the Germans opening up with everything they had.
All in all it's not as bad as a lot of the cheap WW 2 crapfests the Italians ground out like sausages in the 1960s and 1970a--my God, what a tsunami of stinkers they were--but it's nothing to write home about. Watchable, to a degree, but not memorable.
Party House (2013)
Poor all around
I haven't seen very many Nacho Vidal movies, but if this piece of crap is any indication, I don't need to see any more. Nasty, mean-spirited mess with Vidal and a couple of his buddies and a slew of not particularly attractive women sexing it up on a bed, the floor and a couch. Vidal likes to slap, choke and mishandle the women he's with-- maybe that's part of his "shtick", but I don't like it--and they don't seem to be particularly thrilled with him, either. Technically, it's abominable--whoever he hired to shoot it hasn't the slightest idea of what he's doing--and while there are four or five other women in the frame at any one time, most of the "action" focuses on Vidal. There's a scene with him and Caroline Abril on a bed with four other women, but although the other women engage in twosomes, threesomes and foursomes, the cameraman focuses almost exclusively on Vidal and Abril; every so often you'll get a glimpse of the other women in action, but that seems to be more of a side effect than deliberate.
In any case, like I said, the women are second- and third-string at best, the "action" is not particularly well shot, and I guess to enjoy this movie you have to be a fan of Vidal and his frankly contemptuous treatment of the women he works with. I'm not. I don't think I'll be seeing any more Nacho Vidal movies anytime soon.
Jesse James' Women (1954)
Low-budget doesn't always mean bad, but in this case it most certainly does
Donald Barry stars in, co-wrote, co-produced, directed and probably did the catering, landscaping and janitorial work on this cheesy, badly shot, ineptly written, amateurishly acted and poorly made low-budget-- VERY low-budget--western purporting to be about infamous western outlaw Jesse James. If you're going to make a movie about a real person, it would probably help if you stuck at least a few actual facts in it, and that's what you get in this stinker--few actual facts. Other than showing that Jesse had a brother Frank and that he and fellow outlaw Bob Ford didn't get along, there isn't much about this movie that has any basis in fact. The short and paunchy Barry wrote Jesse as being completely irresistible to women--and makes sure that his henchmen mention that fact every so often--and plays him like a Vegas lounge-lizard in the vein of Wayne Newton (but even smarmier) who has scads of beautiful women just throwing themselves at him. To give Barry credit he did pick some absolutely gorgeous women like Peggie Castle, Lita Baron and Joyce Barrett to fight over him, but whatever efforts they try to make at giving this film some kind of professional touch are ruined by the juvenile and pedestrian script and Barry's completely botched attempt at directing. He smirks his way through the picture and doesn't really have much chemistry with his cast, most of whom are amateurs whose "performances" consist of haltingly reciting their lines and trying to stay on their marks (a few of them even have trouble trying to stay on their horses). The whole project reeks of someone getting a little money together and telling his friends, "Let's make a movie!". Castle and Betty Brueck have a rather long catfight in a saloon, which is actually done fairly well, and there's a sequence with Barry engaged in a boxing match with a traveling prizefighter that is handled tongue-in-cheek and is mildly amusing, but other than those small pluses Barry, Castle (who is far and away the best thing about this picture) and Baron have done far better work, and I wouldn't doubt that at least those two women didn't bring up this picture in any discussion of their careers, as well they shouldn't have.
The San Antonio Kid (1944)
My first Red Ryder western. Not impressed
I'd never seen a Red Ryder western before today, although I'd read and heard about them. Based on what I've seen so far, I am not impressed.
I realize that this series was made for kids, and I've taken that into account, but it was still incredibly juvenile; I can imagine kids sitting in a theater in 1944 watching this and saying "Oh, come on, get real". The script, even for a kid's western, is puerile and sloppy, although Bill Elliott does a pretty good job of trying to make the juvenile dialog he has to recite seem not so juvenile. Elliott definitely has a screen presence and did first-rate work in a string of westerns for Republic and, later, Allied Artists, but he's not shown to his best advantage here. Linda Stirling is quite attractive and athletic--as she showed in "The Tiger Woman" serial for Republic, which came out the same year as this film--and does the best she can with what she's given. The action is, of course, fast and furious, as you would expect from Republic, and the supporting cast is full of great western players--Leroy Mason, Glenn Strange, Robert Wilke, Tom London, among others--but what really ruined this for me were Earle Hodgins as Happy Jack and Robert Blake as Little Beaver. I like both of them as actors, but Blake was definitely not even remotely convincing as an Indian kid. His performance was so grating and annoying that I found myself closing my eyes and shaking my head whenever he came on. Hodgins specialized in fast-talking medicine-show hustlers, carnival barkers, two-faced small-town politicians, etc., and he was great at that, but playing the confused and confusing sidekick Happy Jack and seeing him getting constantly bested by Blake's bratty little Indian kid was depressing, to say the least,
All in all, I'd have to say that if this is a good example of Elliott's Red Ryder series, then I don't particularly want to see the rest of them. I'll give him a couple of more chances, though. We'll see what happens.
Katanga: The Untold Story (1962)
First off, it's NOT a 'documentary'
This "documentary" about what happened in the Belgian Congo when Belgium gave the country its independence and abruptly pulled out is not a documentary but a political propaganda piece. Almost total anarchy followed the Belgian pullout, with various warlords and tribal militias fighting each other for power and civilians being caught in the middle. Things got so bad that the United Nations sent in peacekeepers to prevent a wholesale bloodbath, and they wound up getting involved in the fighting also, especially in the Congolese province of Katanga, which wanted to break away from the central Congo government.
This film was produced by an ultra-right-wing outfit called American Awareness, which believed the US should leave the United Nations because it was actually a Communist-front organization that was secretly trying to impose "one-world government" on the US and turn it into a Communist dictatorship. That was pretty much a basic belief of many groups on the far right of the American political spectrum, such as the John Birch Society, and this wildly misleading and biased film tries to make that case by depicting the UN forces as the real villains and the Katangese as "the good guys". Being the Congo, things weren't that cut and dried, but you'd never know that by this film. It's determined to portray UN officials as dedicated Communists dead-set on turning the Congo over to their Russian masters to become a Communist satellite state and UN soldiers as bloodthirsty, murderous savages. This isn't a documentary as much as it is an extremely one-sided (and despicably race-baiting) propaganda film that tries to make the UN look like the personification of pure evil, with the message "See what happened in the Congo? The UN will make that happen here, too". There are many worthwhile documentaries about the tragic history of the Congo since its independence. This shrill, poorly made hit piece isn't one of them.
Very, very impressive
I started watching this movie thinking it would be a fairly typical one-reeler of the time, shot on the cheap, with a few perfunctory action scenes, a lot of smoke, some horses running around, and that would be pretty much it.
I couldn't have been more wrong.
This is an extremely impressive little film, and while I might not call it the "masterpiece" that the previous reviewer did, I do have to say that I was very, very pleasantly surprised by what I saw. This film is in no way, shape or form "cheap"--the producers put a lot of money into this little epic, with hundreds of extras and horses, elaborate (and apparently period-correct) costumes and equipment, batteries of cannons and exciting battle scenes. For an action picture the acting is actually rather subdued, as opposed to the often over-the-top ham that was common in pictures of the time, especially D.W. Griffith's. It had almost a documentary feel to it that I found quite effective.
I had heard of director J. Searle Dawley but, as far as I know, have never seen any of his films. Based on what I've seen in his work here, I've been missing out on a lot. I'll have to start looking out more for his pictures.
Hot Paprika (1935)
OK, I guess, Andy Clyde short
Besides The Three Stooges, Andy Clyde was probably the best known of the comics making Columbia two-reel shorts. This is the first one of his I've seen, and while it has its moments, it didn't impress me all that much. It has most of the same crew the Stooges used, and there are familiar faces in the cast who regularly appear in Stooges shorts (Bud Jamison, Harry Semels), but it's not really all that funny. Columbia's comedy shorts tended to be fast-paced and frantic, trying to cram a lot of gags into their short running time, but this one seems to go on forever, especially (as another reviewer mentioned) in a scene where Andy is rolling down a hill lying on top of a door. There's a neat little bit where Andy is dancing with some cute little senorita in a cantina that's actually pretty funny, but overall it just doesn't gel. Maybe his other shorts were better than this one, but they'd pretty much have to be.
The Terror of the Tongs (1961)
Color's good, lead girl is sexy, movie is terrible
Well, maybe not exactly "terrible", but not very good at all. It's nicely photographed, and Yvonne Monlaur--a French actress playing a Chinese girl--is hot, but those are pretty much the film's only good points. Everything else is subpar at best. Christopher Lee tries hard as the villainous leader of the murderous Red Dragon Tong, but he is sorely miscast, as is pretty much everyone else. The Chinese characters are, with a few exceptions, played by white British actors, and not played very well. The "hero", Geoffrey Toone, is stiff, dull and unconvincing and seems to be standing around waiting to be told what to do. There are a few perfunctory and poorly done fight scenes--although there's a somewhat better brawl on the docks at the end--and the script is predictable, anemic and lifeless. Many of the characters, especially Toone's Capt. Sale, act just plain stupidly--for instance, the Tong breaks into Sale's home and murders his daughter, then later sneaks into his home again and tries to murder him, but he takes no measures to protect himself (doesn't carry a gun, doesn't ask for police protection, when he hears a knock on the door he opens it without trying to see who it is first, etc.). The pace is leaden, thanks to Anthony Bushell's uninspired direction--it was his third and last film as a director, and I can see why it was his last--and the acting ranges from over-the-top ham (especially when the British actors try doing what they think are Chinese accents) to under-the-top inept.
Overall, despite a few small--VERY small--pluses, it's really not worth your time.
Blah French softcore
Cheap-looking, poorly edited French softcore flick about a teenage boy who has the hots not just for the sweet young thing his dad hires as the maid for the family country estate, but also for his sexy blonde stepmother, who seems to also be attracted to him--as is the maid to his father. The story--everybody bangs everybody else--is nothing new, having been done a million times before and far better. The acting is perfunctory, photography is washed-out, the women aren't all that attractive--well, maybe the new stepmother--and the only reason I gave it three stars was for the frequent gratuitous nudity, which is its only saving grace. Otherwise, skip it.
Across the Plains (1939)
Above-average Monogram "B"
This is the first Jack Randall western I've seen, and I must say I'm impressed. You learn not to expect too much from a Monogram picture--and that's usually what you get--but this one is different. Randall had an easy-going manner and wasn't a bad actor at all. He was a good rider and handled action well. In this above-average Monogram oater, he's a trail scout named Cherokee who was adopted by Indians as a child after his parents were killed by a bandit gang in an attack on a wagon train. His little brother (Dennis Moore) was taken by the bandits and raised as one of them, and they told him it was Indians who had killed his parents. Years later the two brothers run into each other but don't know they're brothers. Director Spencer Gordon Bennet keeps things moving swiftly, and there's some really good use made of locations at Lone Pine, California, that give the picture a very sweeping and expensive look, something you don't often see in your run-of-the-mill "B" western. Addison carries the picture well, Moore has a meatier role than he often got and does well with it, Joyce Bryant is pretty to look at, veterans Bud Osborne and Glenn Strange are around for authenticity, and there's a good gun battle at the end with somewhat of an ingenious little twist. All in all, a very pleasant and pleasing little B from Monogram. Check it out.
Poor excuse for an "epic"
Shoddy, clumsily written, hammily acted, sloppily directed with very poorly staged "action" scenes--and those are its good parts. This is an Italian mini-series, but it's much more reminiscent of the "sword-and- sandal" mini-epics that cheapjack Italian producers ground out like sausages in the 1960s, and not as entertaining as many of them. The acting is on the level of an overheated silent-era melodrama, and the script is so confusing and convoluted it's hard to follow who's doing what to who. This pitiful "spectacular" has few saving graces, and one of them is the exquisitely beautiful Karen Proia, who plays "Maria". Well, now that I think about it, she's the ONLY saving grace this film has. I gave it two stars, and that's just because watching her made viewing this claptrap a lot less painful. Otherwise, avoid this thing at all costs.
Yellowstone Kelly (1959)
It's a good one
I like Clint Walker, I'm a fan of Gordon Douglas' movies (e.g., "Them!", "Rio Conchos", "The Detective") and I can even tolerate Edd Byrnes--in small doses--but I really wasn't expecting much from "Yellowstone Kelly" when I first saw it a few days ago. Turned out that I got a lot more than I bargained for.
First off, Walker is a hell of a screen presence. I haven't seen "Cheyenne" in many, many years, and I kind of forgot just how much he can fill up the screen, and not just physically; he has the kind of commanding presence that John Wayne has, and although Wayne's a better actor, Walker's no slouch himself. He does a first-rate job here, and Burt Kennedy's script doesn't make him the kind of stock "hero" type that many "B" westerns tend to make of their stars.
Second off, the scenery--as pointed out by other reviewers--is spectacular. It has the kind of power that John Ford brought to the screen with his Monument Valley locations yet it doesn't overwhelm the overall film, as Monument Valley tended to do. In addition, Gordon Douglas' westerns are noted for their "balls to the wall" action scenes, as in "Rio Conchos", and this film doesn't disappoint in that department. There are several of them, from bar-room brawls to full-out Indian attacks, and they're all extremely well done.
Then there's Andra Martin. She's not given much to do, actually, but she is one of the most strikingly and exotically beautiful women to have ever graced the screen, and she does the most here with what she's given, and she's actually quite good.
A good supporting cast--Claude Akins and Warren Oates stand out, and even Edd Byrnes is far less annoying than he usually is--helps greatly. If there's any downside to this picture, it's the casting of white actors in Indian roles. John Russell and Ray Danton are good actors, but they don't even come close to being convincing as Indians and, as this practice usually does, actually hurt the picture.
Overall, though, I was more than pleasantly surprised with "Yellowstone Kelly". Walker turns in a first-rate performance, the scenery is beautiful, the action is well done, and on top of everything else there's Andra Martin. A very good combination. Walker made another western that I haven't seen, "Fort Dobbs", and if it's half as good as this one was, I'll have to check it out.