Film Review – THE LAST WAGON (1956)

Image result for the last wagon 1956THE LAST WAGON (USA, 1956) ***½
      Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox; Production Company: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation; Release Date: 21 September 1956 (USA), 26 November 1956 (UK); Filming Dates: 17 April 1956 – early June 1956; Running Time: 99m; Colour: DeLuxe; Sound Mix: 3 Channel Stereo (Westrex Recording System) (5.0) (L-R); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: CinemaScope; Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
      Director: Delmer Daves; Writer: Delmer Daves, James Edward Grant, Gwen Bagni (based on a story by Gwen Bagni); Producer: William B. Hawks; Director of Photography: Wilfred M. Cline; Music Composer: Lionel Newman; Film Editor: Hugh S. Fowler; Art Director: Lewis H. Creber, Lyle R. Wheeler; Set Decorator: Chester Bayhi, Walter M. Scott; Costumes: Mary Wills; Make-up: Ben Nye, Helen Turpin; Sound: Bernard Freericks, Harry M. Leonard.
      Cast: Richard Widmark (Comanche Todd), Felicia Farr (Jenny), Susan Kohner (Jolie Normand), Tommy Rettig (Billy), Stephanie Griffin (Valinda Normand), Ray Stricklyn (Clint), Nick Adams (Ridge), Carl Benton Reid (Gen. Howard), Douglas Kennedy (Col. Normand), George Mathews (Sheriff Bull Harper), James Drury (Lt. Kelly), Ken Clark (Sergeant).
      Synopsis: When a handful of settlers survive an Apache attack on their wagon train they must put their lives into the hands of a white man who has lived with the Comanches most of his life and is wanted for the murder of three men.
      Comment: Widmark gives an imposing performance as a fugitive white man who has lived the life of a Comanche following the murder of his family. He falls in with a wagon train of settlers and looks to guide them through Apache country to safety. Stunning Arizona locations are gloriously captured through Cline’s lens. Whilst the story at times lapses into heavy-handedness – most notably in its final scenes, it is well directed by Daves, who manages to get good performances from his young cast. Its messaging may get preachy, but this is nevertheless a strong Western unafraid to tackle issues of racism and religion.

Film Review – DARK PASSAGE (1947)

Image result for dark passage 1947Dark Passage (1947; USA; B&W; 106m) ***½  d. Delmer Daves; w. Delmer Daves; ph. Sid Hickox; m. Franz Waxman.  Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Bruce Bennett, Agnes Moorehead, Tom D’Andrea, Clifton Young, Douglas Kennedy, Rory Mallinson, Houseley Stevenson. A man convicted of murdering his wife escapes from prison and works with a woman to try and prove his innocence. An overly contrived, if admittedly engrossing and entertaining, plot relying on too much coincidence is all but overcome by the strong cast and technical accomplishments. Using the camera as the protagonist’s point-of-view for over half its running time, the gimmick seems a little forced. Bogart doesn’t physically appear until over an hour into the story, but Bacall holds the screen well and their star chemistry is still apparent. Hickox’s photography using the San Francisco locations and dark streets is moodily effective. Daves directs his own screenplay adaptation with a sure hand and uses hand-held cameras to good effect. Moorehead stands out in the supporting cast as a schemer. Based on the novel by David Goodis. [PG]