Film Review – MAN IN THE SADDLE (1951)

      Distributor: Columbia Pictures; Production Company: Columbia Pictures / Scott-Brown Productions; Release Date: 2 December 1951 (USA), 18 July 1952 (UK); Filming Dates: 17 April–15 May 1951; Running Time: 87m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono (RCA Sound System); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
      Director: André De Toth; Writer: Kenneth Gamet (based on the novel by Ernest Haycox); Producer: Harry Joe Brown; Associate Producer: Randolph Scott; Director of Photography: Charles Lawton Jr.; Music Composer: George Duning; Film Editor: Charles Nelson; Art Director: George Brooks; Set Decorator: Frank Tuttle; Sound: Frank Goodwin.
      Cast: Randolph Scott (Owen Merritt), Joan Leslie (Laurie Bidwell Isham), Ellen Drew (Nan Melotte), Alexander Knox (Will Isham), Richard Rober (Fay Dutcher), John Russell (Hugh Clagg), Alfonso Bedoya (Cultus Charley), Guinn ‘Big Boy’ Williams (Bourke Prine), Clem Bevans (Pay Lankershim), Cameron Mitchell (George Vird), Richard Crane (Juke Vird), Frank Sully (Lee Repp).
      Synopsis: An angry rancher resorts to violence when he learns that his wife has fallen in love with another man.
      Comment: Tough Western is well directed by De Toth, notably the energetic action sequences – both gunplay and fist fights. Scott plays a rancher at war with his neighbour Knox, who is marrying Scott’s former flame Leslie. Knox is out to expand his cattle empire and Scott stands in his way leading to tit for tat confrontation. Drew plays another rancher who has a soft spot for Scott. The screenplay lacks depth but De Toth makes the most of the scenario. The finale may feel a little too pat, but otherwise, this is a good first run for De Toth and Scott, who would go on to make five more Westerns together before Scott upped the quality levels even further with Budd Boetticher. This was also the first of the lucrative collaborations between star Scott and producer Harry Joe Brown. Song “Man in the Saddle,” m/l. Harold Lewis, Ralph Murphy (sung by Tennessee Ernie). Aka: THE OUTCAST.

Film Review – A LAWLESS STREET (1955)

Randolph Scott, Angela Lansbury, Warner Anderson, and Michael Pate in A Lawless Street (1955)A LAWLESS STREET (USA, 1955) ***
      Distributor: Columbia Pictures Corporation; Production Company: Columbia Pictures Corporation; Release Date: 15 December 1955 (USA), 5 February 1956 (UK); Filming Dates: 5 May 1955 – 25 May 1955; Running Time: 78m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono (Western Electric Recording); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: U.
      Director: Joseph H. Lewis; Writer: Kenneth Gamet (based on the novel “The Marshal of Medicine Bend” by Brad Ward); Executive Producer: ; Producer: Harry Joe Brown; Associate Producer: Randolph Scott; Director of Photography: Ray Rennahan; Music Composer: Paul Sawtell; Film Editor: Gene Havlick; Art Director: George Brooks; Set Decorator: Frank Tuttle; Sound: Frank Goodwin.
      Cast: Randolph Scott (Marshal Calem Ware), Angela Lansbury (Tally Dickenson), Warner Anderson (Hamer Thorne), Jean Parker (Cora Dean), Wallace Ford (Dr. Amos Wynn), John Emery (Cody Clark), James Bell (Asaph Dean), Ruth Donnelly (Molly Higgins), Michael Pate (Harley Baskam), Don Megowan (Dooley Brion), Jeanette Nolan (Mrs. Dingo Brion).
      Synopsis: A Marshal must face unpleasant facts about his past when he attempts to run a criminal gang out of town.
      Comment: Well-mounted Western with strong production values sees Scott as a marshal keeping the peace in a once tough mining town. Scrupulous businessmen want to ride the town of Scott and recapture the old days in order to line their pockets. Into the mix comes saloon singer Lansbury as Scott’s long-absent wife. Pate is the hired gunman who comes to challenge Scott. Hefty morality tale is well-acted and directed with bursts of action interspersed between the key ingredients of the morality tale. The message is a little heavily delivered, but this is ultimately a solid Western drama with Scott as imposing as ever.

Film Review – THE BOUNTY HUNTER (1954)

     Distributor: Warner Bros.; Production Company: Warner Bros. / Transcona Enterprises; Release Date: 25 September 1954; Filming Dates: 14 July–early Aug 1953; Running Time: 79m; Colour: WarnerColor; Sound Mix: Mono (RCA Sound System); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: WarnerVision (dual-strip 3-D); Aspect Ratio: 1.75:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
     Director: André De Toth; Writer: Winston Miller (based on a story by Winston Miller and Finlay McDermid); Producer: Samuel Bischoff; Director of Photography: Edwin B. DuPar; Music Composer: David Buttolph; Film Editor: Clarence Kolster; Art Director: Stanley Fleischer; Set Decorator: William Wallace; Costumes: Moss Mabry; Make-up: Gordon Bau; Sound: Francis J. Scheid.
     Cast: Randolph Scott (Jim Kipp), Dolores Dorn (Julie Spencer), Marie Windsor (Alice Williams), Howard Petrie (Sheriff Brand), Harry Antrim (Dr. R.L. Spencer), Robert Keys (George Williams), Ernest Borgnine (Bill Rachin), Dub Taylor (Eli Danvers (as Dubb Taylor)), Tyler MacDuff (Vance Edwards), Archie Twitchell (Harrison), Paul Picerni (Jud), Phil Chambers (Ed), Mary Lou Holloway (Mrs. Harrison).
     Synopsis: A year after a violent train robbery the Pinkerton detective agency hires a bounty hunter to find the three remaining killers.
     Comment: Scott is in great form as a single-minded bounty hunter hired by Pinkerton’s to track down three fugitives. This takes him to a respectable town where the fugitives have blended in with the decent townsfolk. Scott takes time to romance Dorn (making her big-screen debut) whilst he slowly coaxes out his prey. This is an above-average Western, initially shot in 3-D but never released in that format. Some shots betray the process origins, but the action scenes are well-handled, the plot bubbles along nicely and De Toth gets the best out of a decent cast. A rousing score from Buttolph helps heighten the drama.

Film Review – RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY (1962)

Image result for ride the high country poster
      Distributor: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM); Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM); Release Date: 9 May 1962 (USA), 25 May 1962 (UK); Filming Dates: 16 October–22 November 1961; Running Time: 94m; Colour: Metrocolor; Sound Mix: Mono (Westrex Recording System); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision (as CinemaScope); Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
      Director: Sam Peckinpah; Writer: N.B. Stone Jr.; Producer: Richard E. Lyons; Director of Photography: Lucien Ballard; Music Composer: George Bassman; Film Editor: Frank Santillo; Art Director: Leroy Coleman, George W. Davis; Set Decorator: Henry Grace, Otto Siegel; Make-up: William Tuttle, Mary Keats; Sound: Franklin Milton.
      Cast: Randolph Scott (Gil Westrum), Joel McCrea (Steve Judd), Mariette Hartley (Elsa Knudsen), Ron Starr (Heck Longtree), Edgar Buchanan (Judge Tolliver), R.G. Armstrong (Joshua Knudsen), Jenie Jackson (Kate), James Drury (Billy Hammond), L.Q. Jones (Sylvus Hammond), John Anderson (Elder Hammond), John Davis Chandler (Jimmy Hammond), Warren Oates (Henry Hammond).
      Synopsis: An ex-lawman is hired to transport gold from a mining community through dangerous territory. But what he doesn’t realize is that his partner and old friend is plotting to double-cross him.
      Comment: Highly regarded Western makes the most of its slender storyline through a multi-layered script with strong characters and great performances from two stalwarts of the genre. McCrae and Scott are former lawmen of a bygone west, reduced to being hired guards to transport gold from a mine in the mountains. Along the way they take in young Starr and Hartley, who escapes her strictly religious father and falls in with young miner Drury and his psychotic family. The theme of men out of their time trying to recapture their pride is beautifully played by the stars, whose humorous interplay is the key attraction. Scott delivers perhaps his best performance in a flawed character role, whilst McCrae’s self-pride and sense of justice represent the old values. Peckinpah directs with flair and Ballard’s photography is gorgeous. The final film of Scott. Selected to the National Film Registry, Library of Congress, in 1992. Aka: GUNS IN THE AFTERNOON.

Film Review – TALL MAN RIDING (1955)

Randolph Scott and Dorothy Malone in Tall Man Riding (1955)TALL MAN RIDING (USA, 1955) ***
      Distributor: Warner Bros.; Production Company: Warner Bros.; Release Date: 18 June 1955; Filming Dates: mid June–early July 1954; Running Time: 83m; Colour: WarnerColor; Sound Mix: Mono (RCA Sound Recording); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: U.
      Director: Lesley Selander; Writer: Joseph Hoffman (based on the novel by Norman A. Fox); Producer: David Weisbart; Director of Photography: Wilfred M. Cline; Music Composer: Paul Sawtell; Film Editor: Irene Morra; Art Director: Stanley Fleischer; Set Decorator: G.W. Berntsen; Costumes: Moss Mabry; Make-up: Gordon Bau; Sound: Francis E. Stahl.
      Cast: Randolph Scott (Larry Madden), Dorothy Malone (Corinna Ordway), Peggie Castle (Reva), William Ching (Rex Willard (as Bill Ching)), John Baragrey (Cibo Pearlo), Robert Barrat (Tucker Ordway), John Dehner (Ames Luddington), Paul Richards (The Peso Kid), Lane Chandler (Hap Sutton), Mickey Simpson (Deputy Jeff Barclay), Joe Bassett (Will), Charles Watts (Al – Pearlo’s Palace Bartender), Russ Conway (Marshal Jim Feathergill (as Russell Conway)), Mike Ragan (Tom).
      Synopsis: Scott returns after several years still vowing to avenge himself against the humiliating whipping he received at the hands of a cattle baron.
      Comment: This revenge Western follows conventional lines and on the whole is well-handled by experienced director Selander. Scott delivers a strong performance as the returning ramrod looking for revenge after being run out of town at the end of a whip by Barrat. Malone is his old flame and Barrat’s daughter who remains loyal to her now near-blind father. Castle gives a spirited performance as a saloon girl who helps Scott but is also Malone’s close friend. Scott comes up against the town’s crooked businessman Baragray, who is looking to run Barrat off his land with Richards as his hired gun hand. Familiar confrontations take place and the ending is a little too neat and rushed but otherwise, this is a generally entertaining if routine entry in Scott’s filmography.
      Notes: Songs: “Oh, He Looked Like He Might Buy Wine,” m/l. Ray Heindorf, Sammy Cahn; “It Looks Like a Big Night Tonight,” m/l. Egbert Van Alstyne, Harry Williams; “As the Brass Band Played,” m/l. Ray Heindorf, Jack Scholl.

Film Review – SANTA FE (1951)

Image result for santa fe 1951SANTA FE (USA, 1951) *
     Distributor: Columbia Pictures; Production Company: Scott-Brown Productions; Release Date: 1 April 1951; Filming Dates: mid Jine 1950 – late June 1950; Running Time: 87m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono (Western Electric Recording); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1; BBFC Cert: U.
     Director: Irving Pichel; Writer: Kenneth Gamet (based on a story by Louis Stevens and the novel by Donald G. Payne (as James Marshall)); Producer: Harry Joe Brown; Director of Photography: Charles Lawton Jr.; Music Composer: Paul Sawtell; Film Editor: Gene Havlick; Art Director: Walter Holscher; Set Decorator: Frank Tuttle; Sound: Frank Goodwin.
     Cast: Randolph Scott (Britt Canfield), Janis Carter (Judith Chandler), Jerome Courtland (Terry Canfield), Peter M. Thompson (Tom Canfield (as Peter Thompson)), John Archer (Clint Canfield), Warner Anderson (Dave Baxter), Roy Roberts (Cole Sanders), Billy House (Luke Plummer), Olin Howland (Dan Dugan (as Olin Howlin)), Allene Roberts (Ella Sue Canfield), Jock Mahoney (Crake (as Jock O’Mahoney)), Harry Cording (Moose Legrande), Sven Hugo Borg (‘Swede’ Swanstrom), Frank Ferguson (Marshal Bat Masterson), Irving Pichel (Harned), Harry Tyler (Rusty), Chief Thundercloud (Chief Longfeather), Paul E. Burns (Uncle Dick Wootton).
     Synopsis: After the Civil War four brothers who fought for the South head west. Yanks are building the Santa Fe Railroad and one of the brothers joins them. The other three still hold their hatred of the North and join up with those trying to stop the railroad’s completion.
     Comment: Disjointed and unevenly directed Western still has its moments, but it uneasily blends melodrama with comic relief. Whilst Scott is as capable as ever in the lead, the film is not one of his best. The story puts Scott up against his brothers in the aftermath of the Civil War. What follows is largely episodic but confines its focus to the construction race and the associated incidents. There is no real standout in production or performance other than Scott’s typically stoic persona and some nice moments of comic relief.


Randolph Scott in Shoot-Out at Medicine Bend (1957)SHOOT-OUT AT MEDICINE BEND (USA, 1957) **½
     Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures; Production Company: Warner Bros. Pictures; Release Date: 4 May 1957; Filming Dates: 5 November 1956 – late November 1956.; Running Time: 87m; Colour: B&W; Sound Mix: Mono (RCA Sound Recording); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: U.
     Director: Richard L. Bare; Writer: John Tucker Battle, D.D. Beauchamp; Producer: Richard Whorf; Director of Photography: Carl E. Guthrie; Music Composer: Roy Webb; Film Editor: Clarence Kolster; Art Director: Stanley Fleischer; Set Decorator: Ben Bone; Costumes: Marjorie Best; Make-up: Gordon Bau; Sound: Francis E. Stahl.
     Cast: Randolph Scott (Capt. Buck Devlin), James Craig (Ep Clark), Angie Dickinson (Priscilla King), Dani Crayne (Nell Garrison), James Garner (Sgt. John Maitland), Gordon Jones (Pvt. Wilbur ‘Will’ Clegg), Trevor Bardette (Sheriff Bob Massey), Don Beddoe (Mayor Sam Pelley), Myron Healey (Rafe Sanders), John Alderson (Clyde Walters), Harry Harvey (Elam King (as Harry Harvey Sr.)), Robert Warwick (Brother Abraham).
     Synopsis: Buck Devlin, whose brother was killed in a  massacre of his ranch, musters out of the service with pals John and Wilbur and vows to find the men responsible for the crime
     Comment: Uneven Western veers between outright comedy and serious drama. It commences with an Indian raid on the family of Scott’s brother, resulting in his sibling’s death. Scott vows revenge, not on the Indians who killed him but the crooked businessmen in Medicine Bend who sold his brother faulty ammunition. Scott teams up with Garner and Jones to put things right. Along the way, they are ambushed and their clothes and horses stolen. Helped by kind missionaries, they infiltrate the town undercover to put things right. Scott is as assured as ever whilst Dickinson, in an early role, and Crayne provide the glamour and Craig the villainy. The production is handsomely mounted, but it’s all very superficial and the constant changes in tone often jar.
     Notes: Song: m/l. “Kiss Me Quick” Ray Heindorf, Wayne Shanklin.

Film Review – TEN WANTED MEN (1955)

Image result for ten wanted men 1955TEN WANTED MEN (USA, 1955) **½
     Distributor: Columbia Pictures; Production Company: Columbia Pictures Corporation / Ranown Pictures Corp.; Release Date: 1 February 1955; Filming Dates: 17 April 1954 – 7 May 1954; Running Time: 80m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono (Western Electric Recording); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: U.
     Director: H. Bruce Humberstone; Writer: Kenneth Gamet (based on a story by Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank Jr.); Producer: Harry Joe Brown; Associate Producer: Randolph Scott; Director of Photography: Wilfred M. Cline; Music Composer: Paul Sawtell; Film Editor: Gene Havlick; Art Director: Edward L. Ilou; Set Decorator: Frank Tuttle; Sound: John P. Livadary, Jack A. Goodrich.
     Cast: Randolph Scott (John Stewart), Jocelyn Brando (Corinne Michaels), Richard Boone (Wick Campbell), Alfonso Bedoya (Hermando), Donna Martell (Maria Segura), Skip Homeier (Howie Stewart), Clem Bevans (Tod Grinnel), Leo Gordon (Frank Scavo), Minor Watson (Jason Carr), Lester Matthews (Adam Stewart), Tom Powers (Henry Green), Dennis Weaver (Sheriff Clyde Gibbons), Lee Van Cleef (Al Drucker), Kathleen Crowley (Marva Gibbons (uncredited)), Louis Jean Heydt (Tom Baines (uncredited)), Edna Holland (Ann (uncredited)), Francis McDonald (Deputy Warner (uncredited)), Boyd ‘Red’ Morgan (Red Dawes (uncredited)), Denver Pyle (Dave Weed (uncredited)).
     Synopsis: When his ward seeks protection with a rival cattleman an embittered, jealous rancher hires ten outlaws to help him seize power in the territory.
     Comment: This routine B-Western is one of the lesser examples of Scott and Brown’s productions through the 1950s. The story is a familiar tale of a range war between Scott and Boone following Boone’s ward resisting his advances and running to Scott’s nephew, Homeier. Shot on location at Old Tucson the film suffers from weak direction by Humberstone and some hammy performances – notably Homeier. Scott looks too classy for the material, but gamely makes the most of a by-the-numbers script whilst Boone, early in his career, is still finding his range. Some of the doubling stunt work is obvious and there are technical continuity errors that hint at the rushed nature of the production. Despite its faults, this is still a reasonably diverting entertainment.

Film Review – WESTBOUND (1959)

Related imageWESTBOUND (USA, 1959) ***
      Distributor: Warner Bros.; Production Company: Warner Bros.; Release Date: 25 April 1959 (USA), May 1959 (UK); Filming Dates: 8 October 1957-early November 1957; Running Time: 72m; Colour: WarnerColor; Sound Mix: Mono (RCA Sound Recording); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: U.
      Director: Budd Boetticher; Writer: Berne Giler (based on a story by Berne Giler and Albert S. Le Vino); Executive Producer: ; Producer: Henry Blanke; Director of Photography: J. Peverell Marley; Music Composer: David Buttolph; Film Editor: Philip W. Anderson; Art Director: Robey Cooper (uncredited); Costumes: Marie Blanchard, Alexander Velcoff (both uncredited); Sound: Samuel F. Goode.
      Cast: Randolph Scott (Capt. John Hayes), Virginia Mayo (Norma Putnam), Karen Steele (Jeanie Miller), Michael Dante (Rod Miller), Andrew Duggan (Clay Putnam), Michael Pate (Mace), Wally Brown (Stubby), John Daheim (Russ (as John Day)), Walter Barnes (Willis – Stage Depot Cook).
      Synopsis: In 1864 a Union captain goes to Colorado to take over the stagecoach line and keep the flow of Western gold flowing and help the North win the Civil War.
      Comment: This was the sixth collaboration between Scott and director Boetticher. However, this time writer Burt Kennedy is missing from the mix. The screenplay treatment here is by Giler and as such the story veers much more into the traditional B-movie territory. the story sees Union soldier Scott take over the Overland stage company to ensure gold gets from California to the Union coffers. Duggan and his confederate sympathising town are out to stop him. Duggan is aided by Pate’s gunslinger. Scott is commanding, as ever, and Steele and Duggan also turn in strong performances. Pate is a stock heavy and Dante lacks depth as the romantic hero returning from the war to his bride Steele with only one arm. Mayo is Scott’s ex-flame, now married to Duggan. The pot boils nicely toward its shootout finale before the whole thing is wrapped up a little too slickly. Perhaps the weakest of the Scott/Boetticher Westerns, but still an entertaining ride.

Film Review – DOWNTON ABBEY (2019)

Image result for downton abbey 2019DOWNTON ABBEY (UK, 2019) ***
      Distributor: Universal Pictures International (UPI) (UK), Focus Features (USA); Production Company: Carnival Film & Television / Focus Features / Perfect World Pictures; Release Date: 13 September 2019 (UK), 20 September 2019 (USA); Filming Dates: began 10 September 2018; Running Time: 122m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Dolby Digital; Film Format: Digital (Digital Cinema Package DCP); Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1; BBFC Cert: PG – mild threat, language.
      Director: Michael Engler; Writer: Julian Fellowes (based on characters created by Julian Fellowes); Executive Producer: Nigel Marchant, Brian Percival; Producer: Julian Fellowes, Gareth Neame, Liz Trubridge; Director of Photography: Ben Smithard; Music Composer: John Lunn; Film Editor: Mark Day; Casting Director: Jill Trevellick; Production Designer: Donal Woods; Art Director: Mark Kebby; Set Decorator: Gina Cromwell; Costumes: Anna Robbins; Make-up: Elaine Browne; Sound: David Lascelles.
      Cast: Matthew Goode (Henry Talbot), Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary Talbot), Joanne Froggatt (Anna Bates), Maggie Smith (Violet Crawley), Tuppence Middleton (Lucy Smith), Elizabeth McGovern (Cora Crawley), Imelda Staunton (Maud Bagshaw), Stephen Campbell Moore (Captain Chetwode), Geraldine James (Queen Mary), Allen Leech (Tom Branson), Laura Carmichael (Lady Edith), Sophie McShera (Daisy Mason), Mark Addy (Mr. Bakewell), Kate Phillips (Princess Mary), Hugh Bonneville (Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham), Phyllis Logan (Mrs. Hughes), Raquel Cassidy (Miss Baxter), Susan Lynch (Miss Lawton), Robert James-Collier (Thomas Barrow), Jim Carter (Mr. Carson), Penelope Wilton (Isobel Merton), Brendan Coyle (Mr. Bates), Max Brown (Richard Ellis), Lesley Nicol (Mrs. Patmore), David Haig (Mr Wilson), Kevin Doyle (Mr. Molesley), Perry Fitzpatrick (Chris Webster), Harry Hadden-Paton (Bertie Hexham), Simon Jones (King George V), Michael Fox (Andy Parker), Philippe Spall (Monsieur Courbet), James Cartwright (Tony Sellick), Douglas Reith (Lord Merton).
      Synopsis: An aristocratic family and their staff have to prepare for an unexpected visit from the King and Queen.
      Comment: Fans of the TV series, which ran for six seasons, will no doubt love this big-screen adaptation. Casual viewers may get lost in the abundance of characters, well played by the ensemble cast, and their carry over backstories. The story itself is slight, based around the tensions caused by the Royal visit to the household. There are nods at the Irish hatred toward the crown and the underground gay movement, but these are not fully explored. Instead, the writer and director focus on the inter-relationships between the main characters. Sumptuously designed, it’s all very civilised and often witty, but the lack of substance means this will only really have any lasting legacy with its sizeable fan base.