AMOS FLAGG: SHOWDOWN (1969) ***½
by Clay Randall (Clifton Adams)
This paperback edition published by Cornonet Books, 13 July 1970, 144pp
Blurb: The new marshal’s problem is that he likes to kill people, and soon the town is crawling with fast-draw artists anxious to challenge the marshal’s growing reputation as a gunman. There’s still one man who stands between the marshal and the gunmen – and that’s Amos Flagg. The only question is, does Flagg want to save him?
Comment: This is the sixth and final book in Clifton Adams’ (writing as Clay Randall) Amos Flagg Western series. It is a typical tale of confilct in a town where the experienced sheriff and the gung-ho town marshall are at odds with each other. Throw in a vengeful grieving widow and outlaws out to make a name for themselves and you have the recipe for a fast-moving and entertaining, if familiar, read. The writing is concise and the characters are colourful. Adams died at the age of 51 in 1971 having written numerous westerns and also a handful of excellent crime novels. He influenced authors such as Craig Johnson (creator of the Longmire series) and is gaining appreciation through a new readership.
RAWHIDE – SEASON 8 (USA, 1965) ***½
Distributor/Production Company: CBS Television Network; Broadcast Dates: 14 September – 7 December 1965; Running Time: 13 x 50m; Colour: B&W; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
Executive Producer: Ben Brady; Producer: Robert E. Thompson; Associate Producer: Robert Stillman.
Cast: Clint Eastwood (Rowdy Yates), Paul Brinegar (Wishbone), Steve Raines (Jim Quince), John Ireland (Jed Colby), Raymond St. Jacques (Simon Blake), David Watson (Ian Cabot).
Episodes: Encounter at Boot Hill / Ride a Crooked Mile / Six Weeks to Bent Fork / Walk Into Terror / Escort to Doom / Hostage for Hanging / The Vasquez Woman / Clash at Broken Bluff / The Pursuit / Duel at Daybreak / Brush War at Buford / The Testing Post / Crossing at White Feather
Synopsis: Rowdy Yates is trail boss of a continuous cattle drive. He and his crew runs into characters and adventures along the way.
Comment: The final season of Rawhide was curtailed to thriteen episodes. Ratings had been on the wane in the previous two seasons and Eric Fleming, who played trail boss Gil Favor, had left the series at the end of season 7 following a dispute on pay. That meant Clint Eastwood was promoted to trail boss. Eastwood by now had filmed the first two of his Italian westerns with Sergio Leone. It is interesting to note that his new found big screen persona began to crossover into his Rowdy Yates character, who is tougher and more mature here. Eastwood’s sqint and laconic approach are in evidence. Despite the flagging viewing figures and loss of the lead actor, the quality of the episodes remained high with some notable guest turns (Simon Oakland, Jeff Cory, Charles Bronson, James Gregory, Bruce Dern, Claude Akins, Rip Torn, Warren Oates, Cesar Romero, Ralph Bellamy, Rory Calhoun). Standout episodes include: Encounter at Boot Hill (stylishly directed by Sutton Roley); Six Weeks to Bent Fork; Walk into Terror; Duel at Daybreak (with Bronson in great form as a sadistic ranch hand). Eastwood can be seen as a much more confident lead than playing second fiddle and he would soon be catapulted to stardom on the back of his third Spaghetti Western, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
ALIAS SMITH AND JONES (TV) (USA, 1971) ***½
Distributor: American Broadcasting Company (ABC); Production Company: Universal Television; Release Date: 5 January 1971 (USA), 19 April 1971 (UK); Filming Dates: 8-28 October 1970; Running Time: 74m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
Director: Gene Levitt; Writer: Glen A. Larson, Douglas Heyes (based on a story by Glen A. Larson); Executive Producer: Frank Price; Producer: Glen A. Larson; Director of Photography: John M. Stephens; Music Composer: Billy Goldenberg; Film Editor: Bob Kagey; Art Director: George C. Webb; Set Decorator: Mickey S. Michaels; Costumes: Grady Hunt; Make-up: Bud Westmore, Larry Germain; Sound: Melvin M. Metcalfe Sr.
Cast: Pete Duel (Hannibal Heyes (alias Joshua Smith)), Ben Murphy (Jed ‘Kid’ Curry (alias Thaddeus Jones)), Forrest Tucker (Deputy Harker Wilkins), Susan Saint James (Miss Porter), James Drury (Sheriff Lom Trevors), Jeanette Nolan (Miss Birdie Pickett), Earl Holliman (Wheat), Dennis Fimple (Kyle), Bill Fletcher (Kane), John Russell (Marshall), Charles Dierkop (Shields), Bill McKinney (Lobo), Sid Haig (Outlaw), Jerry Harper (Outlaw), Jon Shank (Outlaw), Peter Brocco (Pincus), Harry Hickox (Bartender), Owen Bush (Engineer), Julie Cobb (Young Girl).
Synopsis: 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.
Comment: Light-hearted spin on BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID (1969) coasts on the charm of Duel and Murphy who are backed by a strong guest cast. Duel and Murphy play Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry, two outlaws who are seeking amnesty as technology and improved communication systems put their train and bank robbing days behind them. The rest of their gang, led by the excellent Holliman, arrive in a town where Duel and Murphy have taken on honest jobs working as security in Saint James’ bank whilst Sheriff Drury puts their case to the governor. Tucker also scores as Drury’s dim-witted deputy, whilst Larson and Howard’s script is witty and entertaining. Levitt directs with a good feel for the tone required. This was the pilot for the subsequent TV series (1971-73), which ran for three seasons and 50 episodes with Roger Davis replacing Duel midway through the second season following the actor’s tragic suicide.
BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID (USA, 1969) *****
Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox; Production Company: Campanile Productions / Newman-Foreman Company; Release Date: 23 September 1969 (USA), 5 February 1970 (UK); Filming Dates: 16 September 1968 – 13 March 1969; Running Time: 110m; Colour: DeLuxe; Sound Mix: Mono (Westrex Recording System); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
Director: George Roy Hill; Writer: William Goldman; Executive Producer: Paul Monash; Producer: John Foreman; Director of Photography: Conrad L. Hall; Music Composer: Burt Bacharach; Film Editor: John C. Howard, Richard C. Meyer; Art Director: Philip M. Jefferies, Jack Martin Smith; Set Decorator: Chester Bayhi, Walter M. Scott; Costumes: Edith Head; Make-up: Daniel C. Striepeke, Edith Lindon; Sound: David Dockendorf, Bill Edmondson; Visual Effects: L.B. Abbott, Art Cruickshank.
Cast: Paul Newman (Butch Cassidy), Robert Redford (The Sundance Kid), Katharine Ross (Etta Place), Strother Martin (Percy Garris), Henry Jones (Bike Salesman), Jeff Corey (Sheriff Bledsoe), George Furth (Woodcock), Cloris Leachman (Agnes), Ted Cassidy (Harvey Logan), Kenneth Mars (Marshal), Donnelly Rhodes (Macon), Jody Gilbert (Large Woman), Timothy Scott (News Carver), Don Keefer (Fireman), Charles Dierkop (Flat Nose Curry), Pancho Córdova (Bank Manager), Nelson Olmsted (Photographer), Paul Bryar (Card Player #1), Sam Elliott (Card Player #2), Charles Akins (Bank Teller), Eric Sinclair (Tiffany’s Salesman).
Synopsis: Two Western bank/train robbers flee to Bolivia when the law gets too close.
Comment: Classic Western came after the end of the golden period for the genre but was massively popular due to the charismatic chemistry between Newman and Redford as Butch and Sundance. The stars make the most of Goldman’s witty screenplay dealing with the outlaws’ final days as they flee a dogged posse to Bolivia. The themes of the passing of the old west and its values into a more modern society is given poignancy through Hill’s direction and 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). The movie also inspired the TV series Alias Smith and Jones (1970-3).
THE VIRGINIAN: THE MOUNTAIN OF THE SUN ***
1963 USA 75m Colour
National Broadcasting Company (NBC) / Revue Studios
The Virginian (Drury) acts as guide to three missionary women (Hart, Nolan and Strickland) who wish to take medicine and the word of God into the desert to a tribe of Yaqui Indians. The story has a strong script by Kleiner, which explores the wone’s motivations (they are trying to complete the work their husbands started before they were killed). Drury is commanding as ever and his gradual falling for Hart and her ultimate rejection of him is well-judged and handled by McEveety. The story only suffers in its rushed climax, which seems too pat in its exposition. Otherwise, this is another example of how strong the first season of The Virginian was. This was the last acting role for Hart, who devoted the rest of her life to religion as a nun.
exec pr. Roy Huggins; sup pr. Frank Price; pr. Warren Duff; d. Bernard McEveety; w. Harry Kleiner (based on a story by Lou Morheim); ph. Lionel Lindon; m. Sidney Fine, Richard Shores, Morton Stevens; m sup. Stanley Wilson; theme m. Percy Faith; ed. Edward Haire; ad. George Patrick; set d. John McCarthy Jr., James M. Walters Sr.; cos. Vincent Dee; m/up. Leo Lotito Jr., Florence Bush.
James Drury (The Virginian), Dolores Hart (Cathy Maywood), Jeanette Nolan (Helen Dyer), Amzie Strickland (Ruth Arlen), Joe De Santis (Gen. Rodello), Rico Alaniz (Bandido Leader), George Wallace (Dixon), Carlos Romero (Pedro), Clancy Cooper (Murphy), King Calder (Myers), Dale Johnson (Hotel Clerk), K.L. Smith (Bartender), Alex Montoya (Rafael), Gil Barreto (Mexican Peasant), Ida Augustian (Mexican Child), Rodolfo Acosta (Yaqui Leader).
BANDOLERO! (USA, 1968) ***
Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox; Production Company: Twentieth Century Fox; Release Date: 1 June 1968 (USA), 2 August 1968 (UK); Filming Dates: 2 October–early or mid December 1967; Running Time: 106m; Colour: DeLuxe; Sound Mix: 4-Track Stereo (Westrex Recording System); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: PG-13/15.
Director: Andrew V. McLaglen; Writer: James Lee Barrett (based on the unpublished short story “Mace” by Stanley Hough); Producer: Robert L. Jacks; Director of Photography: William H. Clothier; Music Composer: Jerry Goldsmith; Music Supervisor: Lionel Newman (uncredited); Film Editor: Folmar Blangsted; Art Director: Jack Martin Smith, Alfred Sweeney; Set Decorator: Chester Bayhi, Walter M. Scott; Make-up: Del Acevedo, Daniel C. Striepeke, Edith Lindon; Sound: David Dockendorf, Herman Lewis; Visual Effects: L.B. Abbott, Emil Kosa Jr.
Cast: James Stewart (Mace Bishop), Dean Martin (Dee Bishop), Raquel Welch (Maria Stoner), George Kennedy (Sheriff July Johnson), Andrew Prine (Deputy Sheriff Roscoe Bookbinder), Will Geer (Pop Chaney), Clint Ritchie (Babe Jenkins), Denver Pyle (Muncie Carter), Tom Heaton (Joe Chaney), Rudy Diaz (Angel), Sean McClory (Robbie O’Hare), Harry Carey Jr. (Cort Hayjack), Don ‘Red’ Barry (Jack Hawkins), Guy Raymond (Ossie Grimes), Perry Lopez (Frisco), Jock Mahoney (Stoner), Dub Taylor (Attendant), Big John Hamilton (Bank Customer), Robert Adler (Ross Harper), John Mitchum (Bath House Customer).
Synopsis: An outlaw rescues his brother from a hanging and is pursued by a sheriff to Mexico, where they join forces against a group of Mexican bandits.
Comment: Stewart poses as a hangman to rescue his brother Martin and his gang from a public execution. On their escape, they capture Welch, whose husband (Mahoney) was killed during a bank robbery led by Martin. Kennedy is the sheriff who leads a posse into Mexican bandit territory to rescue Welch and recapture Stewart and Martin. This Western is memorable for Stewart’s charm and Martin’s assured performance. The action is often violent and nasty, but the scenes are well-handled by McLaglen. The developing romance between Martin and Welch is subtly played if a little stilted, whilst Stewart has the best lines and is the most sympathetic character despite his outlaw status. Goldsmith supplies a memorable score and Clothier’s photography is crisp. A veteran support cast helps to make this an above-average genre film.
BADMEN OF TOMBSTONE (USA, 1949) **½
Distributor: Allied Artists Pictures (USA), Associated British Film Distributors (ABFD) (UK); Production Company: King Brothers Productions; Release Date: 22 January 1949 (USA), 31 October 1949 (UK); Running Time: 75m; Colour: B&W; Sound Mix: Mono (Western Electric Recording); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1; BBFC Cert: U.
Director: Kurt Neumann; Writer: Philip Yordan, Arthur Strawn (based on the novel “Last of the Badmen” by Jay Monaghan); Producer: Frank King, Maurice King; Director of Photography: Russell Harlan; Music Composer: Roy Webb; Film Editor: Richard V. Heermance; Art Director: Theobold Holsopple; Set Decorator: George Sawley; Make-up: Tony Carnagle, Beth Langston; Sound: Harold M. McNiff, Earl Sitar; Special Effects: Jack R. Glass, Jack Shaw.
Cast: Barry Sullivan (Tom Horn), Marjorie Reynolds (Julie), Broderick Crawford (William Morgan), Fortunio Bonanova (John Mingo), Guinn ‘Big Boy’ Williams (Red Fisk), John Kellogg (Curly), Mary Newton (Ma Brown), Louis Jean Heydt (John Stover), Virginia Carroll (Matilda Stover), Dick Wessel (Bartender), Claire Carleton (Nellie), Ted Hecht (Blackie), Harry Hayden (John Mattson), Lucien Littlefield (Old Man in Claims Office), William Yip (Chinese Boy), Olin Howland (Store Proprietor (as Olin Howlin)), Robert Barrat (Leadville Sheriff), Julie Gibson (Dolly Lane), Joseph Crehan (Mine Superintendent), Ted Mapes (Mine Foreman).
Synopsis: A marshal goes up against a collection of vicious outlaws terrorizing his town.
Comment: Sullivan plays Tom Horn, a gunman who would rather rob and pillage his way to wealth than work hard. When he falls in with Crawford and his gang a rampage across the west brings its yield. Sullivan then falls for Reynolds, who recognises him from a hold-up and reckons she will bring about her own personal wealth by sticking around with him. The gang finally arrive at Tombstone and hole up in a ghost town near a disused mine. Ultimately, the gang fall out and Sullivan looks to escape with Reynolds to San Francisco. This Western is an interesting take on the genre by focusing solely on the bad men of the west, who have no real redeeming qualities. That is also the film’s main weakness in that there is no-one to root for. Sullivan and Crawford add their acting chops but there is a distinctly B-movie feel to the production not helped by the corny bookend narration, aimed at adding an import to the story.
APPALOOSA (USA, 2008) ***
Distributor: New Line Cinema; Production Company: Axon Films / Groundswell Productions; Release Date: 12 September 2008; Filming Dates: 1 October 2007 – 24 November 2007; Running Time: 116m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: DTS | Dolby Digital | SDDS; Film Format: 35 mm (Kodak Vision 2383); Film Process: Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format), Panavision (anamorphic) (source format); Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: 15.
Director: Ed Harris; Writer: Robert Knott, Ed Harris (based on the novel by Robert B. Parker); Executive Producer: Sam Brown, Caldecot Chubb, Toby Emmerich, Michael London; Producer: Robert Knott, Ed Harris; Associate Producer: Kathryn Himoff, Candy Trabuco, Janice Williams; Director of Photography: Dean Semler; Music Composer: Jeff Beal; Film Editor: Kathryn Himoff; Casting Director: Nicole Abellera, Jeanne McCarthy; Production Designer: Waldemar Kalinowski; Art Director: Steve Arnold; Set Decorator: Linda Lee Sutton; Costumes: David C. Robinson; Make-up: Julie Callihan, Geordie Sheffer; Sound: Curt Schulkey; Special Effects: Geoffrey C. Martin; Visual Effects: Ladd Lanford, Mark Freund.
Cast: Viggo Mortensen (Everett Hitch), Ed Harris (Virgil Cole), Renée Zellweger (Allison French), Jeremy Irons (Randall Bragg), Timothy Spall (Phil Olson), Lance Henriksen (Ring Shelton), Adam Nelson (Mackie Shelton), Ariadna Gil (Katie), James Gammon (Earl May), Tom Bower (Abner Raines), Rex Linn (Clyde Stringer), Corby Griesenbeck (Charlie Tewksbury), Timothy V. Murphy (Vince), Bob L. Harris (Judge Callison (as Bob Harris)), Daniel Parker (Mueller (as Daniel T. Parker)), Gabriel Marantz (Joe Whittfield), Cerris Morgan-Moyer (Tilda), Robert Jauregui (Marshall Jack Bell (as Bobby Jauregui)), Luce Rains (Dean), James Tarwater (Chalk (as Jim Tarwater)).
Synopsis: Two friends hired to police a small town that is suffering under the rule of a rancher find their job complicated by the arrival of a young widow.
Comment: Harris stars in and directs this slow-burning Western. He and Mortensen are peace-keepers for hire and when the residents of Appaloosa appoint Harris as marshal they hope he can loosen the grip that educated rancher Irons has on their town. Irons has murdered the previous town marshal and Harris and Mortensen go about their business of seeing justice done. Zellweger enters the story as the gold-digging new girl in town who seeks the companionship of the top dog, flitting between Harris, Mortensen and Irons. When Irons is arrested and put on trial, but subsequently escapes captivity the hunt is on. The character-driven script is injected with personality through its strong lead cast. The action is sporadic, but violent and deadly once it takes place. Whilst the plot is resolved, the main character stories are left in the air leading to a sense of unfinished business and a film that whilst engaging and well-mounted feels to be hesitant in coming to a conclusion. Tighter editing may also have helped to create a greater sense of urgency to the drama.
OPEN RANGE (USA, 2003) ****
Distributor: Winchester Film Distribution; Production Company: Touchstone Pictures / Cobalt Media Group / Beacon Pictures / Tig Productions; Release Date: 11 August 2003 (USA), 19 March 2004 (UK); Filming Dates: 17 June 2002 – 8 September 2002; Running Time: 139m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: DTS | Dolby Digital | SDDS; Film Format: 35 mm (anamorphic) (Kodak Vision 2383); Film Process: Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format), Super 35 (source format); Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: 12.
Director: Kevin Costner; Writer: Craig Storper (based on the novel “The Open Range Men” by Lauran Paine); Executive Producer: Armyan Bernstein, Craig Storper; Producer: Kevin Costner, Jake Eberts, David Valdes; Director of Photography: J. Michael Muro; Music Composer: Michael Kamen; Film Editor: Michael J. Duthie, Miklos Wright; Casting Director: Mindy Marin; Production Designer: Gae S. Buckley; Art Director: Gary Myers; Set Decorator: Mary-Lou Storey; Costumes: John Bloomfield; Make-up: Pearl Louie, Jon C. White; Sound: Barney Cabral.
Cast: Robert Duvall (Boss Spearman), Kevin Costner (Charley Waite), Annette Bening (Sue Barlow), Michael Gambon (Denton Baxter), Michael Jeter (Percy), Diego Luna (Button), James Russo (Sheriff Poole), Abraham Benrubi (Mose), Dean McDermott (Doc Barlow), Kim Coates (Butler), Herb Kohler (Cafe Man), Peter MacNeill (Mack), Cliff Saunders (Ralph), Patricia Stutz (Ralph’s Wife (as Pat Stutz)), Julian Richings (Wylie), Ian Tracey (Tom), Rod Wilson (Gus), Diego Diablo Del Mar (Ballester (as Diego Del Mar)), Patricia Benedict (Cafe Woman), Tim Koetting (Bartender Bill).
Synopsis: A former gunslinger is forced to take up arms again when he and his cattle crew are threatened by a corrupt lawman.
Comment: Excellent Western in the traditional format directed by Costner at a leisurely pace until the gunfight finale, one of the best-ever seen in the genre. Duvall and Costner are outstanding as free-grazers helped by young Luna and Benrubi. When they stray onto rancher Gambon’s land the battle lines are drawn. Bening plays the town doctor’s sister who falls for the awkward Costner in a romantic sub-plot. Whilst taking its time to come to the boil, the film explores the complex character motivations of Costner’s gunslinger history and Duvall’s aspirations to put down roots years after the death of his wife and daughter. Gambon is served less well by the script and his Irish rancher is a little two-dimensional. However, the film reaches an explosive finale as the two factions shoot it out on the town streets. The segment is superbly shot and is a satisfying conclusion to one of the best Westerns since the genre’s heyday.
CROSSFIRE TRAIL (TV) (USA, 2001) ***
Distributor: Turner Network Television (TNT); Production Company: Turner Network Television / Brandman Productions / TWS Productions; Release Date: 21 January 2001; Running Time: 92m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: 15.
Director: Simon Wincer; Writer: Charles Robert Carner (based on the novel by Louis L’Amour); Executive Producer: Michael Brandman, Tom Selleck; Producer: Steven J. Brandman, Thomas John Kane; Director of Photography: David Eggby; Music Composer: Eric Colvin; Film Editor: Terry Blythe; Casting Director: Sean Cossey, Lisa Freiberger, Iris Grossman; Production Designer: Roy Forge Smith; Art Director: Tracey Baryski; Set Decorator: Janice Blackie-Goodine; Costumes: Elsa Zamparelli; Make-up: Gail Kennedy; Sound: Garrell Clark.
Cast: Tom Selleck (Rafe Covington), Virginia Madsen (Ann Rodney), Wilford Brimley (Joe Gill), David O’Hara (Rock Mullaney), Christian Kane (J.T. Langston), Barry Corbin (Sheriff Walter Moncrief), Joanna Miles (Melissa Thompson), Ken Pogue (Gene Thompson), Patrick Kilpatrick (Mike Taggart), Rex Linn (Luke Taggart), William Sanderson (Dewey (the bartender)), Daniel Parker (Taggart Gang (as Daniel T. Parker)), Marshall R. Teague (Snake Corville (as Marshall Teague)), Brad Johnson (Beau Dorn), Mark Harmon (Bruce Barkow), Kyla Wise (Millie (the barmaid) (as Kyla Anderson)).
Synopsis: Rafe Covington promises a dying friend that he’ll watch over the man’s wife and ranch after he’s gone.
Comment: A handsomely-mounted Western with a strong central performance from Selleck, but an overly melodramatic villain in Harmon. Selleck honours a promise he makes to a dying man to look after his ranch and wife (Madsen). On arriving in town Selleck sees that Madsen has come under the influence of land-grabber Harmon. The result is a battle of wills that leads to the inevitable shootout finale. Whilst there is much here that is predictable, this is still an entertaining and old-fashioned tale that coasts on Selleck’s charm. There is a good support cast headed by Brimley as a wizened cowhand who helps Selleck get the ranch up and running. Director Wincer is best known for his work on the TV mini-series Lonesome Dove. Shot in Alberta, Canada.