THE BIG HEAT (1953, USA, 89m, 15) ****
Crime, Film-Noir, Thriller
dist. Columbia Pictures; pr co. Columbia Pictures; d. Fritz Lang; w. Sydney Boehm (based on the Saturday Evening Post serial by William P. McGivern); pr. Robert Arthur; ph. Charles Lang (B&W | 1.37:1); m. Henry Vars; ed. Charles Nelson; ad. Robert Peterson.
cast: Glenn Ford (Dave Bannion), Gloria Grahame (Debby Marsh), Jocelyn Brando (Katie Bannion), Alexander Scourby (Mike Lagana), Lee Marvin (Vince Stone), Jeanette Nolan (Bertha Duncan), Peter Whitney (Tierney), Willis Bouchey (Lt. Ted Wilks), Robert Burton (Gus Burke), Adam Williams (Larry Gordon), Howard Wendell (Commissioner Higgins), Chris Alcaide (George Rose), Michael Granger (Hugo), Dorothy Green (Lucy Chapman), Carolyn Jones (Doris), Ric Roman (Baldy), Dan Seymour (Mr. Atkins), Edith Evanson (Selma Parker).
Tough and uncompromising film noir sees Ford as tough cop Dave Bannion with a personal score to settle take on a politically powerful crime syndicate. Lang handles the material unobtrusively, focusing on the actors and allowing them to deliver top-notch performances. Ford’s transition into a bitter single-minded cop seeking revenge is stark. Grahame brings personality and wit to her role as sadistic and corrupt politician Marvin’s mistress. Lang’s no-frills approach allows the story to breathe, and Vars’ musical score is subtly effective.
GUNSMOKE: P.S. MURRY CHRISTMAS (1971, USA) ***
net. CBS Television Network; pr co. CBS Television Network; d. Herb Wallerstein; w. William Kelley; exec pr. John Mantley; pr. Leonard Katzman; ass pr. Ron Honthaner; ph. Monroe P. Askins (Colour. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); m. Richard Shores; th. Rex Koury (uncredited); ed. Thomas J. McCarthy; ad. William Craig Smith; set d. Herman N. Schoenbrun; cos. Alexander Velcoff; m/up. Glen Alden, Irving Pringle, Esperanza Corona, Gertrude Wheeler; sd. Andrew Gilmore, Jerry Rosenthal (Mono); tr. 27 December 1971; r/t. 50m.
cast: James Arness (Matt Dillon), Milburn Stone (Doc), Amanda Blake (Kitty), Ken Curtis (Festus), Buck Taylor (Newly), Jeanette Nolan (Emma Grundy), Patti Cohoon-Friedman (Mary (as Patti Cohoon)), Jodie Foster (Patricia), Erin Moran (Jenny), Josh Albee (Michael), Brian Morrison (Owen), Willie Aames (Tom), Todd Lookinland (Jake), Jack Elam (Titus Spangler), Glenn Strange (Sam Noonan), Jack Collins (J. Stedman Edgecomb), Ted Jordan (Nathan Burke), Herb Vigran (Judge Brooker), Sarah Selby (Ma Smalley), Maudie Prickett (Mrs. Pretch), Rudy Doucette (Barfly (uncredited)), Jimmy Noel (Barfly (uncredited)), Max Wagner (Barfly (uncredited)).
(s. 17 ep. 15) Handyman Titus Spangler (Elam) rescues seven orphans from an overly stern headmistress, Emma Grundy (Nolan), and winds up in Dodge City at Christmas time. This seasonal episode has all the warmth needed to deliver its typically moralistic story. It is helped by a strong guest cast including Elam as the good-hearted rogue and Nolan as the hard and embittered headmistress of the orphanage. Redemption is the keyword here and rest assured all ends happily ever after on Christmas Day in The Long Branch saloon. The peck on the cheek that Kitty gives to Matt in this episode is as close as the two came to an on- air kiss in the twenty years of Gunsmoke on television.
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.
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).
A LAWLESS STREET (USA, 1955) ***
Distributor: Columbia Pictures Corporation; Production Company: Columbia Pictures Corporation; Release Date: 15 December 1955 (USA), 5 February 1956 (UK); Filming Dates: 5 May 1955 – 25 May 1955; Running Time: 78m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono (Western Electric Recording); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: U.
Director: Joseph H. Lewis; Writer: Kenneth Gamet (based on the novel “The Marshal of Medicine Bend” by Brad Ward); Executive Producer: ; Producer: Harry Joe Brown; Associate Producer: Randolph Scott; Director of Photography: Ray Rennahan; Music Composer: Paul Sawtell; Film Editor: Gene Havlick; Art Director: George Brooks; Set Decorator: Frank Tuttle; Sound: Frank Goodwin.
Cast: Randolph Scott (Marshal Calem Ware), Angela Lansbury (Tally Dickenson), Warner Anderson (Hamer Thorne), Jean Parker (Cora Dean), Wallace Ford (Dr. Amos Wynn), John Emery (Cody Clark), James Bell (Asaph Dean), Ruth Donnelly (Molly Higgins), Michael Pate (Harley Baskam), Don Megowan (Dooley Brion), Jeanette Nolan (Mrs. Dingo Brion).
Synopsis: A Marshal must face unpleasant facts about his past when he attempts to run a criminal gang out of town.
Comment: Well-mounted Western with strong production values sees Scott as a marshal keeping the peace in a once tough mining town. Scrupulous businessmen want to ride the town of Scott and recapture the old days in order to line their pockets. Into the mix comes saloon singer Lansbury as Scott’s long-absent wife. Pate is the hired gunman who comes to challenge Scott. Hefty morality tale is well-acted and directed with bursts of action interspersed between the key ingredients of the morality tale. The message is a little heavily delivered, but this is ultimately a solid Western drama with Scott as imposing as ever.