Film Review – THE ALAMO (1960)

Image result for THE ALAMO 1960Alamo, The (1960; USA; Technicolor; 193m) ****  d. John Wayne; w. James Edward Grant; ph. William H. Clothier; m. Dimitri Tiomkin.  Cast: John Wayne, Richard Widmark, Laurence Harvey, Richard Boone, Frankie Avalon, Patrick Wayne, Linda Cristal, Joan O’Brien, Chill Wills, Joseph Calleia, Ken Curtis, Carlos Arruza, Jester Hairston, Veda Ann Borg, Guinn ‘Big Boy’ Williams, Cliff Lyons. In 1836, as General Santa Anna and the Mexican army sweep across Texas, Colonel William Travis is tasked with defending a small mission on the Mexicans’ route at all costs. Grand spectacle, notably the closing final battle scenes, are the main draw for this exercise in logistics. Wayne handles the whole thing with considerable aplomb. Whilst the inevitability of the story’s conclusion has been laid down by history, there is a sense of admiration for the spirit of the volunteers that only occasionally veers into the overly-patriotic and preachy. Wayne, Widmark and Harvey all bring star quality to the proceedings. Great score by Tiomkin. Wayne assumed huge personal debt to get film finished after United Artists refused funding once budget was exceeded. Oscar winner for Best Sound. Original video release cut to 161m. Remade in 2004. [PG]

Film Review – THE HORSE SOLDIERS (1959)

Image result for the horse soldiers 1959Horse Soldiers, The (1959; USA; DeLuxe; 115m) ***½  d. John Ford; w. John Lee Mahin, Martin Rackin; ph. William H. Clothier; m. David Buttolph.  Cast: John Wayne, William Holden, Constance Towers, Althea Gibson, Strother Martin, Hoot Gibson, Anna Lee, Russell Simpson, Carleton Young, Ken Curtis, Judson Pratt, Willis Bouchey, Bing Russell, O.Z. Whitehead, Hank Worden. A Union Cavalry outfit is sent behind confederate lines in strength to destroy a rail/supply centre. Solid Civil-War Western sees Cavalry Colonel Wayne and army medic Holden sparring with their ideals as rebel hostage Towers watches over and gradually warms to Wayne. Ford directs efficiently, handling the action scenes and spectacle with his usual aplomb. Whilst not amongst Ford-Wayne’s classics, this is still a sturdy character study. Loosely based on Harold Sinclair’s 1956 novel of the same name, which in turn was based on the historic 17-day Grierson’s Raid and Battle of Newton’s Station in Mississippi during the Civil War. [PG]

Film Review – THE SEARCHERS (1956)

Image result for the searchers 1956Searchers, The (1956; USA; Technicolor; 119m) *****  d. John Ford; w. Frank S. Nugent; ph. Winton C. Hoch; m. Max Steiner.  Cast: John Wayne, Natalie Wood, Jeffrey Hunter, Ward Bond, Vera Miles, John Qualen, Harry Carey Jr., Patrick Wayne, Henry Brandon, Antonio Moreno, Lana Wood, Olive Carey, Hank Worden, Pippa Scott, Ken Curtis. As a Civil War veteran spends years searching for a young niece captured by Indians, his motivation becomes increasingly questionable. Wayne gives a career-best performance as embittered ex-soldier in this truly memorable Western that rightly belongs with the very best of the genre. Gorgeously photographed by Hoch with dramatic Steiner score. Wonderful support cast with Bond notable as Texas Ranger on trail of rampaging Commanches. Ford’s best work as director with bookend shots becoming part of movie legend.  Lana Wood played young Debbie Edwards and Natalie Wood, who was Lana’s older sister by eight years, played teenaged Debbie Edwards. Film debut of Pippa Scott. Based on the novel by Alan LeMay. [PG]