Film Review – THE LONG CHASE (1972) (TV)

Image result for alias smith and jones season 3Long Chase, The (TV) (1972; USA; Technicolor; 74m) ∗∗½  d. Alexander Singer; w. Roy Huggins (as John Thomas James), Dick Nelson; ph. Gene Polito; m. John Andrew Tartaglia, Pete Rugolo.  Cast: Ben Murphy, Roger Davis, J.D. Cannon, Rod Cameron, Buddy Ebsen, Marie Windsor, James Drury, Laurie Ferrone, Dave Garroway, George Keymas, Frank Sinatra Jr., Larry Storch, Sally Field. This is actually three episodes (“The Long Chase”, “High Lonesome Country”, and “The Clementine Ingredient”) of the classic wild west cowbuddy show of the Seventies Alias Smith and Jones edited into one TV movie. Two reformed criminals are constantly on the run from the law. The story strands are loose and clumsily edited, but there is still undeniable charm in the characters. [PG]

Film Review – BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID (1969)

Image result for butch cassidy blu-rayButch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969; USA; DeLuxe; 110m) ∗∗∗∗∗  d. George Roy Hill; w. William Goldman; ph. Conrad L. Hall; m. Burt Bacharach.  Cast: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Katharine Ross, Strother Martin, Henry Jones, Cloris Leachman, Jeff Corey, George Furth, Kenneth Mars, Ted Cassidy, Donnelly Rhodes, Jody Gilbert, Timothy Scott, Don Keefer. Two Western bank/train robbers flee to Bolivia when the law gets too close. Newman and Redford establish a charismatic chemistry and make the most of Goldman’s witty screenplay. Hill’s direction is spot-on capturing the end of an era in the American West through his use of visual dynamics emphasised by Hall’s evocative cinematography. One of the great Westerns that bears repeated viewings. Sam Elliott’s feature film debut. Won Oscars for Screenplay, Cinematography, Music and Song for “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head”. Followed by a prequel BUTCH AND SUNDANCE: THE EARLY DAYS (1979). [PG]

Film Review – ALIAS SMITH AND JONES (1970)


Alias Smith and Jones
(TV) (1971; USA; Colour; 73m) ∗∗∗½  d. Gene Levitt; w. Glen A. Larson, Douglas Heyes; ph. John M. Stephens; m. Billy Goldenberg.  Cast: Pete Duel, Ben Murphy, Forrest Tucker, Susan Saint James, James Drury, Jeanette Nolan, Earl Holliman, Dennis Fimple, Bill Fletcher, John Russell, Charles Dierkop, Bill McKinney, Sid Haig. A pair of outlaws seeking amnesty from the Governor must stay incognito and out of trouble in a town while a friend pleads their case. The wait is complicated by a lovely bank manager and the arrival of members of their former gang. Light-hearted spin on BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID coasts on the charm of Duel and Murphy who are backed by a strong guest cast. Holliman scores as dim-witted gang leader. Pilot for subsequent TV series (1971-73), which ran for three seasons and 50 episodes with Roger Davis replacing Duel midway through second season following the actor’s tragic suicide. [PG]

Film Review – DAY OF THE OUTLAW (1959)

Image result for day of the outlaw blu-rayDay of the Outlaw (1959; USA; B&W; 92m) ∗∗∗∗  d. André De Toth; w. Philip Yordan; ph. Russell Harlan; m. Alexander Courage.  Cast: Robert Ryan, Burl Ives, Tina Louise, Alan Marshal, Venetia Stevenson, David Nelson, Nehemiah Persoff, Jack Lambert, Frank DeKova, Lance Fuller, Elisha Cook Jr., Dabbs Greer, Betsy Jones-Moreland, Helen Westcott, Donald Elson. Cowboys and ranchers have to put their differences aside when a gang of outlaws, led by army captain Jack Bruhn, decide to spend the night in a little Western town. Grim, relentless western immaculately shot in bleak snowy conditions against a scenic mountain range backdrop. Strong performances from a capable cast – notable Ryan and Ives. Based on the novel by Lee E. Wells. [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]

Book Review – HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER (1973) by Ernest Tidyman

hpd-paperbackHIGH PLAINS DRIFTER by ERNEST TIDYMAN (1973, Corgi, 150pp) ∗∗∗

Blurb: They whipped the last sheriff to death in the middle of the Main Street. Now a year of breaking rocks had made them hungry for revenge on the whole town. But first they had to deal with the stranger, a man with a lot of lean lightning on his hip – and a gut-urge to use it!

In the 1960s and 70s, before the advent of home video, paperback novelisations were the only way you could revisit a movie without waiting 5 years for a TV premiere or a re-release. They pretty much faded away once movies became readily available, firstly through the rental market and ultimately through retail. Tidyman’s High Plains Drifter is a solid example of how a novelisation could flesh out a screenplay, but could not always recapture the elements that made a movie special.

The novelisation of Tidyman’s screenplay for Clint Eastwood’s Western was published in May 1973 – a month after the release of the film. Tidyman had written the original screenplay during the early summer of 1972 and assigned Phillip Rock (uncredited here) to adapt the screenplay into a novel manuscript, which Tidyman would then edit. The book, therefore stays very close to Tidyman’s original draft. Eastwood saw the opportunity to add some mystical elements – suggesting the stranger was a re-incarnation of the murdered town marshal. Dean Reisner had been hired to add these elements into a final draft screenplay – although Tidyman retained sole credit on screen following a WGA ruling. It is these additional elements and Eastwood’s persona that made the film stand out from other westerns. The novel is, therefore, a much more straight forward tale. Most of the elements of Tidyman’s screenplay were used in the final version of the film, but in the novel there is no real suggestion of a link between the stranger and the marshal. The reader is left to ponder on the stranger’s motives. As a result, the novel – though well written and never less than engaging – does not stand out from the crowd in the same way as the movie.

Note: Phillip Rock wrote the novelisation of Eastwood’s Dirty Harry in 1971.

 

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]

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]