TV Review – THE VIRGINIAN: JACOB WAS A PLAIN MAN (1966)

THE VIRGINIAN: JACOB WAS A PLAIN MAN (1966, USA) **½
Western
net. National Broadcasting Company (NBC); pr co. Universal Television; d. Don McDougall; w. Eric Bercovici; exec pr. Frank Price; pr. Joel Rogosin; ph. Enzo A. Martinelli (Technicolor. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); m. Jack Hayes, Leo Shuken; m sup. Stanley Wilson; th. Percy Faith; ed. George Ohanian; 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. 12 October 1966; r/t. 73m.

cast: James Drury (The Virginian), Charles Bickford (John Grainger), Don Quine (Stacey Grainger), Sara Lane (Elizabeth Grainger), Aldo Ray (Jacob ‘Jake’ Walker), Alfred Ryder (Ketch), Robert Pine (Curley), Edward Faulkner (Packer), Peter Duryea (Nicky), Ross Elliott (Sheriff Mark Abbott), L.Q. Jones (Belden), Larry J. Blake (Barker), Harry Harvey (Bartender), Frank J. Scannell (Ticket Seller), Tim Donnelly (2nd Cowhand), Cal Bartlett (1st Cowhand), Stephen Burnette (Townsman (uncredited)), Ross Dollarhide (Townsman (uncredited)), Harper Flaherty (Harper (uncredited)), Joseph Glick (Townsman (uncredited)), Richard LaMarr (Townsman (uncredited)), Ted Mapes (Townsman (uncredited)), Clyde McLeod (Townsman (uncredited)), Joe Phillips (Townsman (uncredited)), Harry Raven (Townsman (uncredited)), Frank Sully (Danny (uncredited)), Jack Tornek (Townsman (uncredited)), George Tracy (Townsman (uncredited)), Harry Varteresian (The Angel (uncredited)).

(s. 5 ep. 5) Jake (Ray) who can’t hear or speak runs after he accidentally kills a man in a bar. He lands at Shiloh where his hard work results in a job. Stacey (Quine) seeing Jake can’t express himself decides to teach him to read and write but puts him in danger. Told in flashback, which has little dramatic effect on the story, this is a familiar tale of a misunderstood misfit with a disability and a heart of gold. For the most part, the story avoids dropping too deep into sentimentality, largely through the sympathetic performance of Ray as the deaf-mute on the run from a murder charge. There is a side plot about two ranch hands stealing heads of cattle from the Shiloh stock and their need to keep Ray from informing on them. The story is wrapped up all too neatly and without a resolution to the incident that started it and as such leaves the viewer unfulfilled.

TV Review – GUNSMOKE: THE JAILER (1966)

Amanda Blake was scared to work with Bette Davis on GunsmokeGUNSMOKE: THE JAILER (1966, USA) ****
Western
net. CBS Television Network; pr co. CBS Television Network; d. Vincent McEveety; w. Hal Sitowitz; exec pr. Philip Leacock; pr. John Mantley; ph. Harry Stradling Jr. (Colour. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); m. Morton Stevens; ed. Albrecht Joseph; ad. John B. Goodman; set d. Herman N. Schoenbrun; cos. Alexander Velcoff; m/up. Glen Alden, Pat Whiffing; sd. Vernon W. Kramer (Mono); tr. 1 October 1966; r/t. 51m.

cast: James Arness (Matt Dillon), Milburn Stone (Doc), Amanda Blake (Kitty), Ken Curtis (Festus), Bette Davis (Etta Stone), Bruce Dern (Lou Stone), Robert Sorrells (Mike Stone), Zalman King (Jack Stone), Tom Skerritt (Ben Stone), Julie Sommars (Sara Stone), Roger Ewing (Thad), Glenn Strange (Sam Noonan), Stephen Burnette (Townsman (uncredited)), Fred McDougall (Prison Wagon Driver (uncredited)), Anthony Redondo (Guard (uncredited)).

(s. 12 ep. 3) Etta Stone (Davis) is a very bitter, older, woman who has Kitty and Matt captured and thrown into a homemade jail, and now she plans on hanging Matt for the execution of her husband 6 years before. This is an exceptional episode of the long-running TV series with a top-notch cast and excellent direction from McEveety. Davis is all brooding, dominant matriarch and vengeful psychotic as she seeks revenge on Matt (Arness) for the hanging sentence handed to her husband through her kidnapping of Kitty (Blake). She uses her sons – including Dern and Skerritt – as her instruments of retribution, as well as Dern’s wife Sommars, who unbeknownst to Dern has picked up with Skerritt whilst Dern had been serving time in prison. Arness and Blake begin to play on the sibling tension leading to the final confrontation. It is undoubtedly Blake’s best performance in the series (she acknowledges the episode as a personal favourite) and her scenes with Davis are electric. It is a great example of how superb acting and strong direction can lift a story.

TV Review – THE VIRGINIAN: AN ECHO OF THUNDER (1966)

An Echo of Thunder (1966) in 2020 | Doug mcclure, The virginian ...THE VIRGINIAN: AN ECHO OF THUNDER (1966, USA) ***½
Western
net. National Broadcasting Company (NBC); pr co. Universal Television; d. Abner Biberman; w. Don Ingalls; exec pr. Frank Price; pr. Cy Chermak; ph. Enzo A. Martinelli (Technicolor. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); m. Franz Waxman; m sup. Stanley Wilson; th. Percy Faith; ed. John Elias; 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. 5 October 1966; r/t. 75m.

cast: James Drury (The Virginian), Doug McClure (Trampas), Linden Chiles (Ben Fancher), John Anderson (Deputy Sheriff Sam Morrell), Jason Evers (Sheriff Harry Lundy), Indus Arthur (Margaret Lundy), Barbara Werle (Delores), Brendon Boone (Griff), Les Tremayne (Horatio Troast), Mark Miranda (Chico), Shug Fisher (Telegrapher), William Keene (Minister), Jon Drury (Hank), Harold ‘Hal’ Frizzell (Cowboy (uncredited)).

(s. 5 ep. 4) After helping deliver a herd of horses, Trampas decides to take a few days to visit an old friend nearby but he arrives in time for his friend’s funeral. He is bothered by the circumstances of his death, so he decides to investigate. Another strong episode sees McClure give one of his best performances in the series as he tries to uncover the events leading to the death of his old friend. Whilst the guest cast performances are a little mixed, Anderson stands out as a gunfighter turned deputy who tangles with McClure. The story builds nicely to its final shootout, which is seemingly resolved all too quickly given the swift import of five gunmen to support Anderson. The tension, however, is heightened by Waxman’s music score, a luxury for a TV series using such a distinguished composer. Jon Drury is the brother of series star James Drury.

TV Review – GUNSMOKE: WHICH DR. (1966)

GUNSMOKE: WHICH DR. (1966, USA) ***
Western
net. CBS Television Network; pr co. CBS Television Network; d. Peter Graves; w. Les Crutchfield; pr. Philip Leacock; ph. Harry Stradling Jr. (B&W. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); m sup. Morton Stevens; th. Rex Koury, Glenn Spencer (both uncredited); ed. Albrecht Joseph; set d. Herman N. Schoenbrun; cos. Alexander Velcoff; m/up. Glen Alden, Pat Whiffing; sd. Vernon W. Kramer (Mono); tr. 19 March 1966; r/t. 50m.

cast: James Arness (Matt Dillon), Milburn Stone (Doc), Amanda Blake (Kitty), Ken Curtis (Festus), Roger Ewing (Thad), R.G. Armstrong (Argonaut Moonercan), Gregg Palmer (Herk), Glenn Strange (Sam), Shelley Morrison (Addie Moonercan), George Lindsey (Skeeter), Elisabeth Fraser (Daisy Lou), Claire Wilcox (Piney), Noble ‘Kid’ Chissell (Buffalo Hunter (uncredited)), Chick Hannan (Buffalo Hunter (uncredited)), Pete Kellett (Buffalo Hunter (uncredited)), Cherokee Landrum (Buffalo Hunter (uncredited)), Jerry Schumacher (Buffalo Hunter (uncredited)), George Sowards (Buffalo Hunter (uncredited)), Lucian Tiger (Buffalo Hunter (uncredited)).

(s. 11 ep. 26) While on a fishing trip with Festus, Doc is abducted and forced to operate on a sick child, then ordered to be a bridegroom in a true shotgun wedding. This light-hearted episode is notable for being directed by Arness’ brother, Graves. There is some neat interplay between Stone and Curtis but Arness is mainly confined to the sidelines. The story of a buffalo hunting community living in the wilderness but needing Doc’s surgical skills to the extent where he is kidnapped in order to help is a little predictable and certainly lacking any real dramatic tension. It is played largely for laughs and is entertaining enough thanks to the performances of the regulars – except for Ewing’s wooden acting.

TV Review: THE VIRGINIAN: THE CAPTIVE (1966)

The Captive (1966)THE VIRGINIAN: THE CAPTIVE (1966, USA) ***½
Western
net. National Broadcasting Company (NBC); pr co. Universal Television; d. Don Weis; w. Peter Packer; exec pr. Frank Price; pr. Winston Miller; ph. Enzo A. Martinelli (Technicolor. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); m. Sidney Fine; m sup. Stanley Wilson; th. Percy Faith; ed. John Elias; ad. George Patrick; set d. Claire P. Brown, John McCarthy Jr.; cos. Vincent Dee; m/up. Bud Westmore, Larry Germain; sd. Earl Crain Jr. (Mono); tr. 28 September 1966; r/t. 75m.

cast: James Drury (The Virginian), Charles Bickford (John Grainger), Doug McClure (Trampas), Don Quine (Stacey Grainger), Sara Lane (Elizabeth Grainger), Susan Strasberg (Liliota / Katherine Ann Emory), Virginia Vincent (Louise Emory), Don Hanmer (Roger Emory), Than Wyenn (Grey Horse), Ross Elliott (Sheriff Mark Abbott), Michael Forest (Cavalry Lieutenant), Gus Trikonis (Running Elk), Tina Menard (Elk Woman), Alex Sharp (Ranch Hand).

(s. 5 ep. 3) A white girl is caught with her adoptive Arapaho parents stealing Shiloh cattle. She stays at Shiloh while the authorities try to find her white parents. She wants to return to the Arapaho but is forced to learn to live in the white world. The diminutive Strasberg gives a good performance as the adoptive Indian with emotional conflicts splitting her bond with her adoptive Arapho guardians and her natural parents. This is a good episode for Lane whose frustration in her attempts to bond with Strasberg are sensitively played. Good direction from Weis keeps the story the right side of sentimental and the finale is genuinely touching.

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.

TV Review: THE VIRGINIAN: LEGACY OF HATE (1966)

Legacy of Hate (1966)THE VIRGINIAN: LEGACY OF HATE (1966, USA) ***½
Western
net. National Broadcasting Company (NBC); pr co. Universal Television; d. Don McDougall; w. Frank Chase; exec pr. Frank Price; pr. Winston Miller; ph. Ray Rennahan (Technicolor. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); m. Jack Hayes, Leo Shuken; m sup. Stanley Wilson; th. Percy Faith; ed. Robert F. Shugrue; 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. 14 September 1966; r/t. 75m.

cast: James Drury (The Virginian), Charles Bickford (John Grainger), Doug McClure (Trampas), Don Quine (Stacey Grainger), Sara Lane (Elizabeth Grainger), Jo Van Fleet (Lee Calder), Jeremy Slate (Jim Dawson), L.Q. Jones (Belden), Ross Elliott (Sheriff Mark Abbott), Tyler McVey (Gillman), Dennis McCarthy (Cooper), Clyde Howdy (Nash), Ed Prentiss (Parker), Elizabeth Harrower (Mrs. Grant), Troy Melton (Ed), Bob Hoy (Pete), Robert Board (Townsman (uncredited)), Jimmie Booth (Lee’s Carriage Driver (uncredited)), George DeNormand (Townsman (uncredited)).

(s. 5 ep. 1) The new owner of Shiloh quickly finds his hot-headed grandson accused of cattle rustling. He learns his neighbour is the widow of a friend who died with him. The sullied family name reduces their finance options putting Shiloh in jeopardy. Season five opens with a strong episode built around Bickford and Van Fleet. Lane and Quine are also introduced as Bickford’s devoted granddaughter and volatile grandson and acquit themselves well. The drama is resolved a little too neatly in its final act, but still another example of how the series retained a high quality producing up to 30 episodes a year at 75m each.

Film Review – AD ASTRA (2019)

Ad Astra (2019) — Contains Moderate PerilAD ASTRA (USA/Brazil/China, 2019) **
      Distributor: 20th Century Fox; Production Company: New Regency Pictures / Bona Film Group / Keep Your Head / MadRiver Pictures / Plan B Entertainment / RT Features / Regency Enterprises / Twentieth Century Fox; Release Date: 29 August 2019 (Italy), 18 September 2019 (USA/UK); Filming Dates: began August 2017; Running Time: 123m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: SDDS | Dolby Atmos | DTS (DTS: X) | IMAX 6-Track | Auro 11.1 | Datasat | 12-Track Digital Sound (IMAX version) | Dolby Surround 7.1; Film Format: D-Cinema; Film Process: ARRIRAW (3.4K) (source format) (some scenes), Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format); Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1; BBFC Cert: 12.
      Director: James Gray; Writer: James Gray, Ethan Gross; Executive Producer: Marc Butan, Jeffrey Chan, Paul Conway, Sophie Mas, Yariv Milchan, Anthony Mosawi, Michael Schaefer, Lourenço Sant’ Anna, Dong Yu; Producer: Dede Gardner, James Gray, Anthony Katagas, Jeremy Kleiner, Arnon Milchan, Yariv Milchan, Brad Pitt, Rodrigo Teixeira; Associate Producer: Christina Oh; Director of Photography: Hoyte Van Hoytema; Music Composer: Max Richter; Film Editor: John Axelrad, Lee Haugen; Casting Director: Douglas Aibel; Production Designer: Kevin Thompson; Art Director: Christa Munro; Set Decorator: Karen O’Hara; Costumes: Albert Wolsky; Make-up: Nana Fischer, Jaime Leigh McIntosh; Sound: Brad Semenoff; Special Effects: Scott R. Fisher; Visual Effects: Allen Maris.
      Cast: Brad Pitt (Roy McBride), Tommy Lee Jones (H. Clifford McBride), Ruth Negga (Helen Lantos), Donald Sutherland (Thomas Pruitt), Kimberly Elise (Lorraine Deavers), Loren Dean (Donald Stanford), Donnie Keshawarz (Captain Lawrence Tanner), Sean Blakemore (Willie Levant), Bobby Nish (Franklin Yoshida), LisaGay Hamilton (Adjutant General Vogel), John Finn (Brigadier General Stroud), John Ortiz (Lieutenant General Rivas), Freda Foh Shen (Captain Lu), Kayla Adams (Female Flight Attendant), Ravi Kapoor (Arjun Dhariwal), Liv Tyler (Eve), Elisa Perry (Woman in White Pants / Shirt), Daniel Sauli (Sal), Kimmy Shields (Sergeant Romano), Kunal Dudheker (Technician One).
      Synopsis: An astronaut undertakes a mission across an unforgiving solar system to uncover the truth about his missing father and his doomed expedition that now, 30 years later, threatens the universe.
      Comment: Whilst the film is a technical triumph it is also a dramatic failure. The mission for Pitt to seek out his father (Jones), who is perched in an experimental lab at the edge of the solar system, in order to prevent a life-threatening electrical pulse wave is fanciful and more than a little contrived. The space setting also ensures the story unfolds at a slow pace, with echoes of Kubrick’s 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY but actually working against the story here because in reality, it takes a long time to get to Saturn and then to Neptune. The story’s main theme of a father-son relationship turned sour is set against a canvass so broad it feels inconsequential and saps the film of any dramatic core it hoped it would provide. The performances are one-level and the script totally lacks any saving grace of humour. The result is a depressing and monotonous experience. Occasional glimpses of a more exciting movie emerge in two scenes. A buggy chase across the surface of Saturn and a bizarre encounter for Pitt, answering a distress call, with two apes aboard a Norwegian space vessel. These two set-pieces aside there is little else to connect the viewer to the characters and their plight. The visuals are outstanding and well shot but are wasted on such a shallow story. A great example of how to blend of visuals with dramatic tension can be seen in 2013’s GRAVITY.

Book Review – AMOS FLAGG: SHOWDOWN (1969) by Clay Randall

AMOS FLAGG: SHOWDOWN (1969) ***½
by Clay Randall (Clifton Adams)
This paperback edition published by Cornonet Books, 13 July 1970, 144pp
ISBN: 0-340-12952-2
      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.

Film Review – A RAINY DAY IN NEW YORK (2019)

Elle Fanning and Timothée Chalamet in A Rainy Day in New York (2019)A RAINY DAY IN NEW YORK (USA, 2019) **½
      Distributor: Signature Entertainment (UK); Production Company: Gravier Productions / Perdido Productions; Release Date: 26 July 2019 (Poland), 5 June 2020 (UK – internet); Filming Dates: began 11 September 2017; Running Time: 92m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: DTS (DTS: X) | Dolby Atmos | Dolby Digital; Film Format: D-Cinema; Film Process: Digital Intermediate (4K) (master format), F65 RAW (4K) (source format); Aspect Ratio: 2.00:1; BBFC Cert: 12.
      Director: Woody Allen; Writer: Woody Allen; Executive Producer: Ronald L. Chez, Howard E. Fischer, Adam B. Stern; Producer: Erika Aronson, Letty Aronson; Director of Photography: Vittorio Storaro; Film Editor: Alisa Lepselter; Casting Director: Patricia DiCerto; Production Designer: Santo Loquasto; Set Decorator: Sarah Dennis; Costumes: Suzy Benzinger; Make-up: Stacey Panepinto; Sound: Robert Hein.
      Cast: Timothée Chalamet (Gatsby), Elle Fanning (Ashleigh), Selena Gomez (Chan), Jude Law (Ted Davidoff), Liev Schreiber (Roland Pollard), Diego Luna (Francisco Vega), Suzanne Smith (Roland’s Assistant), Olivia Boreham-Wing (Roland’s Assistant), Ben Warheit (Alvin Troller), Griffin Newman (Josh), Gus Birney (Student Film Crew), Elijah Boothe (Student Film Crew), Will Rogers (Hunter), Annaleigh Ashford (Lily), Frank Marzullo (Screening Room Tech), Kirby Mitchell (Bartender), Rebecca Hall (Connie), Mary Boyer (Aunt Grace), Ted Neustadt (Uncle Tyler), Dylan Prince (Studio Guard).
      Synopsis: Two young people arrive in New York for a weekend where they are met with bad weather and a series of adventures.
      Comment: Allen returns to modern-day New York for his latest romantic comedy, but the setting and the characters are at odds. The movie plays like it should be set in the 1940s or 1950s, with its references to the great American songbook and the ideals expressed an anachronism coming from its college student lead characters. The themes explored are nothing new for Allen, who looks at self-obsessed individuals trying to find a romantic pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The story fails to come alive as we cannot buy into the characters as anything but a contrivance to work on their angsts. Along the way, there are witty lines and Fanning has the charm of a Diane Keaton. Chalamet also does his best to breathe life into his character, but we can never really buy into his emotional baggage. At 84 years old and with more than 50 movies under his belt maybe Allen has likely said all he has to say and therefore repetition of themes and stories is inevitable. Here, however, in his attempt to freshen up his approach his use of young characters is a mistake. Allen cannot write dialogue that feels authentic spoken by the modern generation. He would be best to stick to either using older characters or choosing a period setting.