TV Review: THE VIRGINIAN: RIDE TO DELPHI (1966)

THE VIRGINIAN: RIDE TO DELPHI (1966, USA) ***½
Western
net. National Broadcasting Company (NBC); pr co. Universal Television; d. Anton Leader; w. Andy Lewis (based on a story by Don Tait); exec pr. Frank Price; pr. Joel Rogosin; ph. Enzo A. Martinelli (Technicolor. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); m. Russell Garcia; m sup. Stanley Wilson; th. Percy Faith; ed. Michael R. McAdam; ad. George Patrick; set d. John McCarthy Jr., James M. Walters Sr.; cos. Vincent Dee; m/up. Bud Westmore, Larry Germain; sd. Earl Crain Jr. (Mono); tr. 21 September 1966; r/t. 73m.

cast: James Drury (The Virginian), Charles Bickford (John Grainger), Don Quine (Stacey Grainger), Sara Lane (Elizabeth Grainger), Angie Dickinson (Annie Carlson), Harold J. Stone (Einar Carlson), Warren Oates (Buxton), Ron Russell (Lemoine Carlson), Bernie Hamilton (Ransome Kiley), John Kellogg (Sheriff), Robert Cornthwaite (Judge), Stephen Coit (Welk), Ross Hagen (Tern), Byron Berry (Elber Kiley), Myron Berry (Jethro Kiley), Boyd Stockman (Stagecoach Driver), George DeNormand (Courtroom Spectator (uncredited)), George Ford (Courtroom Spectator (uncredited)), Fred Krone (Brawler (uncredited)).

(s. 5 ep. 2) The Virginian counted 50 cows that were delivered to Grainger but the next morning five of them are missing. The Virginian feeling responsible tracks the stolen cattle down but finds himself arrested on murder charges and can’t explain it. Drury is at his stoic best in this episode of secrets and blackmail. Dickinson is excellent as the ex-saloon girl trying to make good as Stone’s wife. Best of all is Hamilton as a dignified black sodbuster out to make an honest living for himself and his boys. Russell overplays his spoilt brat role, but that is the only negative aspect of this strong and emotive episode.

Film Review – SHOOT-OUT AT MEDICINE BEND (1957)

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 – RIO BRAVO (1959)

Related imageRio Bravo (1959; USA; Technicolor; 141m) *****  d. Howard Hawks; w. Jules Furthman, Leigh Brackett; ph. Russell Harlan; m. Dimitri Tiomkin.  Cast: John Wayne, Walter Brennan, Ward Bond, Dean Martin, Angie Dickinson, John Russell, Ricky Nelson, Claude Akins, Bob Steele, Myron Healey, Estelita Rodriguez, Malcolm Atterbury, Yakima Canutt, Pedro Gonzalez Gonzalez, Bing Russell. A small-town sheriff in the American West enlists the help of a cripple, a drunk, and a young gunfighter in his efforts to hold in jail the brother of the local bad guy. Superb entertainment with characters you can route for and a near perfect cast. The interplay and contrast between the characters is what makes this so enjoyable. Wayne is at his stoic best as the sheriff; Martin delivers his finest performance as the recovering drunk; Brennan cackles and grumbles his way through his most memorable role as Stumpy and Dickinson oozes appeal as the girl with a past who falls for Wayne. Even Nelson gets through a slightly stiff portrayal of a young gunslinger and has time to share a tune with Martin. Escapist cinema at its very finest. Based on a short story by B.H. McCampbell (Hawks’ daughter). In 2014, the film was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. More or less remade as EL DORADO (1966) and elements were also adopted in RIO LOBO (1970). Inspiration for John Carpenter’s ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 (1976). [PG]

Film Review – KOJAK: FATAL FLAW (TV) (1989)

Image result for KOJAK FATAL FLAWKojak: Fatal Flaw (TV) (1989; USA; Technicolor; 94m) **½  d. Richard Compton; w. Albert Ruben; ph. Geoffrey Erb; m. Cameron Allan.  Cast: Telly Savalas, Andre Braugher, Angie Dickinson, Steven Weber, George Morfogen, Charles Cioffi, Richard Jenkins, Paul Guilfoyle, Kario Salem, David Ciminello, Sally Jessy Raphael, Don King. Popular book writer is murdered. Kojak finds out that shortly before his death he was working on a book about the mafia, so the mob is automatically his number one suspect.  Dickinson adds glamour to this okay mystery. Savalas seems more engaged with the material and the whole thing is competently directed by Compton. [PG]

Film Review – RIO BRAVO (1959)

Image result for rio bravo blu-rayRio Bravo (1959; USA; Technicolor; 141m) ∗∗∗∗∗  d. Howard Hawks; w. Jules Furthman, Leigh Brackett; ph. Russell Harlan; m. Dimitri Tiomkin.  Cast: John Wayne, Walter Brennan, Ward Bond, Dean Martin, Angie Dickinson, John Russell, Ricky Nelson, Claude Akins, Bob Steele, Myron Healey, Estelita Rodriguez, Malcolm Atterbury, Yakima Canutt, Pedro Gonzalez Gonzalez, Bing Russell. A small-town sheriff in the American West enlists the help of a cripple, a drunk, and a young gunfighter in his efforts to hold in jail the brother of the local bad guy. Superb entertainment with characters you can route for and a near perfect cast. The interplay and contrast between the characters is what makes this so enjoyable. Wayne is at his stoic best as the sheriff; Martin delivers his finest performance as the recovering drunk; Brennan cackles and grumbles his way through his most memorable role as Stumpy and Dickinson oozes appeal as the girl with a past who falls for Wayne. Even Nelson gets through a slightly stiff portrayal fo a young gunslinger and has time to share a tune with Martin. Escapist cinema at its best. Based on a short story by B.H. McCampbell. More or less remade as EL DORADO (1966) and elements were also adopted in RIO LOBO (1970). Inspiration for John Carpenter’s ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 (1976). [PG]

Film Review – POINT BLANK (1967)

POINT BLANK (1967, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc., USA, 92 mins, Colour, 2.35:1, Mono, Cert: 15, Crime Action Thriller) ∗∗∗∗
     Starring: Lee Marvin (Walker), Angie Dickinson (Chris), Keenan Wynn (Yost/Fairfax), Carroll O’Connor (Brewster), Lloyd Bochner (Frederick Carter), Michael Strong (Stegman), John Vernon (Mal Reese), Sharon Acker (Lynne). James Sikking (Hired gun), Sandra Warner (Waitress), Roberta Haynes (Mrs. Carter), Kathleen Freeman (First citizen), Victor Creatore (Carter’s man), Lawrence Hauben (Car salesman).
     Producer: Judd Bernard, Robert Chartoff, Irvin Winkler; Director: John Boorman; Writer: Alexander Jacobs, David Newhouse, Rafe Newhouse (based on the novel “The Hunter” by Richard Stark); Director of Photography: Philip H. Lathrop (Metrocolor); Music: Johnny Mandel; Film Editor: Henry Berman; Art Director: George W. Davis, Albert Brenner; Set Decorator: Henry Grace, Keogh Gleason; Costume Designer: Lambert Marks, Margo Weintz.

point-blank-coverAdapted from Richard Starks’ 1963 novel this is the tale of a gangster (Marvin) seeking revenge on his partner (Vernon) who double-crossed him, stole his wife (Acker) and left him for dead at a money drop at Alcatraz. In his search Marvin finds his wife dead from an overdose and subsequently blows holes in the middle of organised crime with the help of his wife’s sister (Dickinson), who has also hooked up with Vernon.

Shot on location in San Francisco and Los Angeles – being the first to make use of the then recently closed Alcatraz prison – the story is a simple take on an oft-told story. But what elevates the film is Boorman’s vision – dialling up the psychological impacts on Marvin’s character working with editor Berman in introducing strobe-like flashback techniques to show the scars on Marvin’s psyche. A little disorienting and distracting at first, the cutting style increases in effectiveness as the film progresses and it is used more sparsely. Marvin is cold and clinical in his portrayal of a man driven by nothing more than the need for retribution, showing what a good actor he was when not being asked to ham up his own image. He is given strong support by Vernon, Dickinson and O’Connor. An excellent example of the experimental film making in the sixties it has grown in reputation over the years along with Boorman’s cult status as a director.

A further adaptation of Stark’s novel was produced in 1999 as PAYBACK starring Mel Gibson.

Film Review – BIG BAD MAMA (1974)

BIG BAD MAMA (1974, Santa Cruz Productions, Inc., USA, 87 mins, Colour, 1.85:1, Mono, Cert: 18, Crime Action Thriller) ∗∗∗∗∗
      Starring: Angie Dickinson (Wilma McClatchie), William Shatner (William J. Baxter), Tom Skerritt (Fred Diller), Susan Sennett (Billy Jean), Robbie Lee (Polly), Noble Willingham (Uncle Barney), Dick Miller (Bonney), Tom Signorelli (Dodds), Joan Prather (Jane Kingston), Royal Dandy (Reverend Johnson), William O’Connell (Crusade preacher), John Wheeler (Lawyer), Ralph James (Sheriff), Sally Kirkland (Barney’s woman), Wally Berns (Legionnaire).
      Producer: Roger Corman; Director: Steve Carver; Writer: William Norton, Frances Doel; Director of Photography: Bruce Logan (Metrocolor); Music: David Grisman; Film Editor: Tina Hirsch; Art Director: Peter Jamison; Set Decorator: Coke Willis; Costume Designer: Jac McAnelly.

big_bad_mama_uk_dvdRoger Corman produced this low-rent BONNIE AND CLYDE clone in which the attempts at comedy seem ham-fisted and ill-conceived when played alongside some often violent and bloody action.

Angie Dickinson stars as Wilma McClatchie who along with her teenage daughters targets 1932 small town Texas with her criminal schemes and daring robberies. Along the way she is aided by a couple of misfits in Skerritt and Shatner and remains one step ahead of the law until the film’s conclusion.

Carver doers conjure a nice sense of period and Dickinson, as ever, is capable in the lead role. The film was shot quickly (in 20 days) and the rushed nature of the production is evident on screen. But where the film mainly falls down is in its shifting tone between comedy and drama. These troubles stem from Norton and Doel’s script, which lacks focus and is episodic, merely shuffling from one set-piece to the next mixing violence and slapstick without enriching the characters or giving us anyone to root for. Alongside the problems of plot and characterisation, Dickinson’s exploitation of her seemingly young daughters (Sennett and Lee) feels a little ill-judged by today’s standards. Corman also exploits the virtues of Dickinson, Sennett and Lee as they seduce their various male accomplices in order to manipulate their involvement in their criminal activities.

Whilst the film has attracted a somewhat dubious cult status, this is primarily due to the exploitative content rather than artistic merit. A sequel, BIG BAD MAMA II, followed in 1987.

Film Review – ONE SHOE MAKES IT MURDER (TV 1982)

ONE SHOE MAKES IT MURDER (TVM, 1982, Fellows-Keegan Company / Lorimar Productions, USA, 95 mins, Colour, 1.78:1, Mono, Cert: NR, Mystery) ∗∗∗∗∗
      Starring: Robert Mitchum (Harold Shillman), Angie Dickinson (Fay Reid), Mel Ferrer (Carl Charnock), José Pérez (Det. Carmona), John Harkins (Smiley Copell), Howard Hesseman (Joe Hervey), Asher Brauner (Rudy), Bill Henderson (Chick), Cathie Shirriff (Caroline Charnock), William G. Schilling (Cab driver), Sandy Martin (Gloria), Grainger Hines (Garage attendant).
      Producer: Mel Ferrer; Director: William Hale; Writer: Felix Culver (based on the novel “So Little Cause for Caroline” by Eric Bercovici); Director of Photography: Terry K. Meade (Metrocolor); Music: Bruce Broughton; Film Editor: Jerry Young; Art Director: Donald Lee Harris; Set Decorator: Ernie Bishop; Costume Designer: Thomas E. Johnson, Joy Tierney.

51KgLaMyjzL._SX200_Robert Mitchum made his TV debut in this old-fashioned mystery. Hale’s movie echoes the noir films of the 1940s and 1950s without ever conjuring the atmosphere to match, despite Mitchum’s world-weary voiceover and Broughton’s retro music score.

Mitchum is a washed-out ex-cop hired by a rich Nevada casino owner (Ferrer) to find his wife (Shirriff) who went missing at the same time as the casino was shut down by the authorities. Along the way Mitchum also meets up with Dickinson, an ex-hooker turned good, who takes a shine to him and helps him out. When Shirriff falls from a balcony, after she has been traced to San Francisco, Mitchum suspects foul play whilst the police suspect Mitchum.

The plot unfolds in familiar fashion from here with a small cast in which both Ferrer and Pérez standout. Whilst Hale fails to inject any real rhythm to the story and it at times feels laboured, both Mitchum and Dickinson hold our interest by turning in performances which play heavily on their iconic status. Culver’s screenplay adaptation could have been tighter and the limitations of TV budget scaled back the production.

Whilst this fails to hold a candle to genre classics it remains an entertaining enough mystery on its own terms and is worth exploring by genre fans.