Film Review – TALL IN THE SADDLE (1944)

Image result for tall in the saddle 1944Tall in the Saddle (1944; USA; B&W; 87m) ***½  d. Edwin L. Marin; w. Michael Hogan, Paul Fix, Gordon Ray Young; ph. Robert De Grasse; m. Roy Webb.  Cast: John Wayne, George “Gabby” Hayes, Ward Bond, Ella Raines, Audrey Long, Elisabeth Risdon, Paul Fix, Raymond Hatton, Frank Puglia, George Chandler. When a stranger arrives in a western town he finds that the rancher who sent for him has been murdered. Fast-paced tale of deception with a love triangle thrown into the pot. Wayne is in his element as the stranger and Raines is feisty as a rancher’s hot-headed daughter. Hayes provides comic relief and whilst the story becomes more formulaic in its final act, it is never less than thoroughly enjoyable. This was the first Wayne film to be shown on American network television. Based on the novel by Gordon Ray Young. Also available in a computer colourised version. [U]

Film Review – THE FIGHTING SEABEES (1944)

Image result for the fighting seabees 1944Fighting Seabees, The (1944; USA; B&W; 100m) ***½  d. Edward Ludwig; w. Borden Chase, Æneas MacKenzie; ph. William Bradford; m. Walter Scharf.  Cast: John Wayne, Susan Hayward, Dennis O’Keefe, William Frawley, William Forrest, Leonid Kinskey, J.M. Kerrigan, Grant Withers, Paul Fix, Addison Richards, Roy Brent, Jay Norris, Duncan Renaldo, Roy Barcroft, Charles D. Brown. Construction workers in World War II in the Pacific are needed to build military sites, but the work is dangerous and they doubt the ability of the Navy to protect them. Action-packed WW2 drama tells the story of the creation of the Construction Batallion known as the “Seabees”. Wayne is hot-headed head of construction whose methods are at odds with navy commander O’Keefe whilst both fight for the attentions of journalist Hayward. Jingoistic and full of macho banter, it nevertheless is propelled via well-handled battle scenes and strong cast. Also available in a computer colourised version. [U]

Film Review – THE SPOILERS (1942)

Image result for the spoilers 1942Spoilers, The (1942; USA; B&W; 87m) ***  d. Ray Enright; w. Rex Beach, Lawrence Hazard; ph. Milton R. Krasner; m. Hans J. Salter, Frederick Hollander, Frank Loesser.  Cast: Marlene Dietrich, Randolph Scott, John Wayne, Margaret Lindsay, Harry Carey, Richard Barthelmess, George Cleveland, Samuel S. Hinds, Russell Simpson, William Farnum, Marietta Canty, Jack Norton, Ray Bennett, Forrest Taylor, Art Miles. An Alaskan miner and his partner financed by a saloon entertainer, fight to save their gold claim from a crooked commissioner. Rousing, if simplistic, entertainment benefits from star power of its three leads and strong production values. Enright directs efficiently and Wayne and Scott spar well for the attentions of Dietrich. Filmed three times previously (in 1914, 1923 and 1930) and remade again in 1955. [PG]

Film Review – DARK COMMAND (1940)

Image result for dark command 1940Dark Command (1940; USA; B&W; 94m) ***  d. Raoul Walsh; w. Grover Jones, Lionel Houser, F. Hugh Herbert, Jan Fortune; ph. Jack A. Marta; m. Victor Young.  Cast: John Wayne, Claire Trevor, Walter Pidgeon, Roy Rogers, George “Gabby” Hayes, Marjorie Main, Porter Hall, Raymond Walburn, Joe Sawyer, J. Farrell MacDonald, Helen MacKellar, Trevor Bardette, Richard Alexander, Roy Bucko, Mildred Gover. A cowpoke becomes a rival for a ruthless renegade.  Strong production values and well directed action sequences cover cracks in this rushed and uneven Western. Wayne is a likeable hero and Pidgeon a charismatic villain who both court rich banker’s daughter, Trevor. Hayes adds comic relief. Plot takes a dark turn as Pidgeon’s guerrilla army loots its way across Kansas and there is a rousing climax. The character of Will Cantrell is loosely based on the real-life Confederate guerrilla leader William Quantrill. [U]

Film Review – STAGECOACH (1939)

Image result for stagecoach 1939Stagecoach (1939; USA; B&W; 96m) ****½  d. John Ford; w. Dudley Nichols, Ernest Haycox; ph. Bert Glennon; m. Gerard Carbonara.  Cast: John Wayne, Claire Trevor, John Carradine, Andy Devine, Thomas Mitchell, Donald Meek, George Bancroft, Berton Churchill, Tim Holt, Tom Tyler, Louise Platt, Yakima Canutt, Si Jenks, Chris-Pin Martin, Merrill McCormick. A group of people travelling on a stagecoach find their journey complicated by the threat of Geronimo and learn something about each other in the process. Highly influential western became the first classic of its genre by taking it from low-budget B-picture fillers to something with more substance and no little art. Whilst some of the set pieces and characterisations may now seem overly familiar, it must not be forgotten that this was the film that started it all. Wayne became a star following his imposing performance as the Ringo Kid and Trevor is his equal as a woman trying to escape her past. There is top-class support from Carradine as a dignified gambler with a violent past and Mitchell as a drunk doctor. Spectacular stunt chase sequences and a moodily shot showdown finale add to what is a winning mix. Ford handles the story and characters with his trademark confidence. Won Oscars for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Mitchell) and Best Music (adapted from folk songs by Richard Hageman, W. Franke Harling, John Leipold, Leo Shuken). Also available in a computer-colourised version. Remade in 1966 and again for TV in 1986. [U]

Film Review – HELLFIGHTERS (1968)

Image result for hellfighters 1968Hellfighters (1968; USA; Technicolor; 121m) ***  d. Andrew V. McLaglen; w. Clair Huffaker; ph. William H. Clothier; m. Leonard Rosenman.  Cast: John Wayne, Katharine Ross, Vera Miles, Jim Hutton, Bruce Cabot, Jay C. Flippen, Edward Faulkner, Barbara Stuart, Edmund Hashim. The story of macho oil well firefighters and their wives. Whilst it plays almost every cliché in the book – and set a few – this is still an entertaining, well-staged action-packed story. Simplistic plot and episodic nature keeps us interested. Rosenman’s theme and score is memorable. Wayne’s character of Chance Buckman is based on real-life oil well firefighter ‘Red’ Adair. Adair, “Boots” Hansen, and “Coots” Matthews, served as technical advisers on the film. [PG]

Film Review – THE SONS OF KATIE ELDER (1965)

Sons of Katie Elder, The (1965; USA; Technicolor; 122m) ∗∗∗½  d. Henry Hathaway; w. William H. Wright, Allan Weiss, Harry Essex, Talbot Jennings; ph. Lucien Ballard; m. Elmer Bernstein.  Cast: John Wayne, Dean Martin, Earl Holliman, Michael Anderson Jr., Martha Hyer, Dennis Hopper, Strother Martin, George Kennedy, James Gregory, Paul Fix, Jeremy Slate, John Litel, John Doucette, James Westerfield, Rhys Williams. Ranch owner Katie Elder’s four sons determine to avenge the murder of their father and the swindling of their mother. Enjoyable, if overlong, Western with Wayne in fine form supported by a strong cast including Martin, Holliman and Anderson Jr. as his brothers. Kennedy also good as a hired heavy. Rousing score by Bernstein. Filming was delayed after Wayne was diagnosed with lung cancer. [U]

Film Review – RIO LOBO (1970)

Image result for rio lobo blu-rayRio Lobo (1970; USA; Technicolor; 114m) ∗∗∗½  d. Howard Hawks; w. Burton Wohl, Leigh Brackett; ph. William H. Clothier; m. Jerry Goldsmith.  Cast: John Wayne, Jack Elam, Jennifer O’Neill, Jorge Rivero, Christopher Mitchum, Victor French, Mike Henry, David Huddleston, Bill Williams, Edward Faulkner. After the Civil War, Wayne searches for the traitor whose perfidy caused the defeat of his unit and the loss of a close friend. Hawks and Wayne team up for a final time in this entertaining, if derivative, Western. Wayne and Elam, as a trigger happy old rancher, stand out against a young and inexperienced cast. The finale replays that of RIO BRAVO (1959), which the team had previously riffed in EL DORADO (1966). Hawks’ final film. [PG]

Film Review – EL DORADO (1966)

Image result for el dorado blu-raYEl Dorado (1966; USA; Technicolor; 126m) ∗∗∗∗½  d. Howard Hawks; w. Leigh Brackett; ph. Harold Rosson; m. Nelson Riddle.  Cast: John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, James Caan, Charlene Holt, Paul Fix, Arthur Hunnicutt, R.G. Armstrong, Edward Asner, Christopher George, Jim Davis, Michele Carey, Marina Ghane, Robert Donner, John Gabriel, Johnny Crawford. Cole Thornton, a gunfighter for hire, joins forces with an old friend, Sheriff J.P. Hara. Together with an old Indian fighter and a gambler, they help a rancher and his family fight a rival rancher that is trying to steal their water. Western re-teams Hawks and Wayne with the second half of the movie being a re-working of RIO BRAVO (1959). Many of the elements of that classic are repeated here and whilst it doesn’t quite reach the heights of its inspiration it is still fabulous entertainment. Mitchum is superb as drunken sheriff. Caan and Hunnicutt also shine as the young protegee and old Indian fighter. The poem recited by Mississippi is an actual poem called “El Dorado” by Edgar Allan Poe. Based on the novel “The Stars in Their Courses” by Harry Brown. [PG]

Film Review – CHISUM (1970)

Image result for chisum blu-rayChisum (1970; USA; Technicolor; 111m) ∗∗∗½  d. Andrew V. McLaglen; w. Andrew J. Fenady; ph. William H. Clothier; m. Dominic Frontiere.  Cast: John Wayne, Forrest Tucker, Christopher George, Ben Johnson, Glenn Corbett, Bruce Cabot, Andrew Prine, Patric Knowles, Richard Jaeckel, John Agar, Lynda Day George, Pamela McMyler, Lloyd Battista, Robert Donner, Geoffrey Deuel. Cattle baron John Chisum joins forces with Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett to fight the Lincoln County land war. One of the best of Wayne’s latter-day Westerns may not be historically accurate, but makes for a rousing entertainment. McLaglen directs with style and a great sense of landscape. Johnson scores as Wayne’s mumbling sidekick. [PG]