Film Review – STRANGERS ON A TRAIN (1951)

STRANGERS ON A TRAIN (1951, USA, 101m, PG) ****½
Crime, Film-Noir, Thriller
dist. Warner Bros.; pr co. Warner Bros.; d. Alfred Hitchcock; w. Raymond Chandler, Czenzi Ormonde, Whitfield Cook (based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith); pr. Alfred Hitchcock (uncredited); ph. Robert Burks (B&W | 1.37:1); m. Dimitri Tiomkin; ed. William H. Ziegler; ad. Ted Haworth.
cast: Farley Granger (Guy Haines), Ruth Roman (Anne Morton), Robert Walker (Bruno Antony), Leo G. Carroll (Sen. Morton), Patricia Hitchcock (Barbara Morton), Kasey Rogers (Miriam Joyce Haines (as Laura Elliott)), Marion Lorne (Mrs. Antony), Jonathan Hale (Mr. Antony), Howard St. John (Police Capt. Turley), John Brown (Prof. Collins), Norma Varden (Mrs. Cunningham), Robert Gist (Det. Leslie Hennessey).
Patricia Highsmith’s thriller is expertly adapted for the big screen by Hitchcock from a script by Chandler, Ormonde and Cook. Tennis star Granger is enraged by his estranged wife’s (Rogers) refusal to sign their divorce papers so he can marry senator Carroll’s daughter (Roman). On a train journey, he strikes up a conversation with stranger Walker and unwittingly sets in motion the killing of his wife by the psychopathic Walker. Walker then urges Granger to reciprocate by killing Walker’s father. Granger, who is now the police prime suspect in the killing of his wife, is caught in a conundrum. Whilst the premise may be a conceit, the story creates considerable suspense, all beautifully captured by Burks’ shadowy photography and emphasised by Tiomkin’s complimentary score. Walker gives an expert performance, mixing menace and charm and the pacing of the story is perfect, with key moments expertly edited by Ziegler for maximum tension.
AAN: Best Cinematography, Black-and-White (Robert Burks)

Film Review – COLT .45 (1950)

Randolph Scott interview from December, 1949 | 50 Westerns From ...COLT .45 (USA, 1950) **½
      Distributor: Warner Bros.; Production Company: Warner Bros.; Release Date: 5 May 1950 (USA), 11 December 1950 (UK); Filming Dates: mid November–mid December 1949; Running Time: 74m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono (RCA Sound System); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1; BBFC Cert: U.
      Director: Edwin L. Marin; Writer: Thomas W. Blackburn; Producer: Saul Elkins; Director of Photography: Wilfred M. Cline; Music Composer: William Lava; Film Editor: Frank Magee; Art Director: Douglas Bacon; Set Decorator: William Wallace; Costumes: Orry-Kelly (uncredited); Make-up: Perc Westmore; Sound: Dolph Thomas; Special Effects: Harry Barndollar.
      Cast: Randolph Scott (Steve Farrell), Ruth Roman (Beth Donovan), Zachary Scott (Jason Brett), Lloyd Bridges (Paul Donovan), Alan Hale (Sheriff Harris), Ian MacDonald (Miller), Chief Thundercloud (Walking Bear), Walter Coy (Carl (uncredited)), Luther Crockett (Judge Tucker (uncredited)), Charles Evans (Redrock Sheriff (uncredited)), Stanley Andrews (Sheriff (uncredited)).
      Synopsis: A gun salesman gets two of his new Colt .45 pistols stolen from him by a ruthless killer but vows to recover them.
      Comment: Whilst this B-Western is fast-paced and has plenty of action, it is also full of the cliches of the genre. The script only requires the actors to move from one shootout to another with little in the way of character development. Randolph Scott is the former army captain turned gun salesman who is duped by  Zacahary Scott out of his pair of Colt 45s. Zachary then goes on a rampage of stage holdups and joins forces with Hales’s crooked sheriff and Bridges. Roman is Bridges’ wife, who believes her husband is acting against his will. The plot lacks depth and the performances are wooden or over-the-top, with Zachary Scott’s snarling villain the worst culprit. Randolph tries to maintain his dignity and just about does so. The heavy-handed direction by Marin leaves the movie hovering uneasily between exciting and cringe-worthy. Followed by a TV series (1957-60). Aka: THUNDERCLOUD.

Film Review – THE FAR COUNTRY (1954)

James Stewart, Walter Brennan, Corinne Calvet, Jay C. Flippen, John McIntire, and Ruth Roman in The Far Country (1954)THE FAR COUNTRY (USA, 1954) ***½
      Distributor: Universal Pictures (USA), General Film Distributors (GFD) (UK); Production Company: Universal International Pictures (UI); Release Date: 22 July 1954 (UK), 12 February 1955 (USA); Filming Dates: 19 August–mid October 1953; Running Time: 97m; Colour: Technicolor; Sound Mix: Mono (Western Electric Recording); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1/2.00:1; BBFC Cert: U.
      Director: Anthony Mann; Writer: Borden Chase; Producer: Aaron Rosenberg; Director of Photography: William H. Daniels; Music Composer: Henry Mancini, Hans J. Salter, Frank Skinner, Herman Stein (all uncredited); Music Supervisor: Joseph Gershenson; Film Editor: Russell F. Schoengarth; Art Director: Alexander Golitzen, Bernard Herzbrun; Set Decorator: Oliver Emert, Russell A. Gausman; Costumes: Jay A. Morley Jr.; Make-up: Bud Westmore; Sound: Leslie I. Carey, Robert Pritchard.
      Cast: James Stewart (Jeff Webster), Ruth Roman (Ronda Castle), Corinne Calvet (Renee Vallon), Walter Brennan (Ben Tatum), John McIntire (Gannon), Jay C. Flippen (Rube), Harry Morgan (Ketchum), Steve Brodie (Ives), Connie Gilchrist (Hominy), Robert J. Wilke (Madden), Chubby Johnson (Dusty), Royal Dano (Luke), Jack Elam (Frank Newberry), Kathleen Freeman (Grits), Connie Van (Molasses).
      Synopsis: A self-minded adventurer locks horns with a crooked lawman while on a cattle drive.
      Comment: Third Western collaboration between Stewart and Mann, again scripted by Chase, is unusual in that the setting is the gold prospecting mountains of Alaska (although filmed in Canada). The subtext of Stewart’s character’s struggle with the pull of his desire to fulfil his own personal vision against that of the needs of those who surround him is played out against a tonally shifting script. At times the move from light humour to violent action feels jarring, but this is seemingly part of Mann’s overall message that life is never what you plan it to be. The wonderful locations provide a stunning backdrop and the production is handsomely mounted conjuring up an authentic view of frontier life. The story ratchets up the tension in its final act, which resorts to the familiar showdown and redemption of the hero.