Film Review – BREAKHEART PASS (1975)

BREAKHEART PASS (1975, USA) ***
Mystery, Western
dist. United Artists; pr co. Gershwin-Kastner Productions; d. Tom Gries; w. Alistair MacLean (based on the novel by Alistair MacLean); exec pr. Elliott Kastner; pr. Jerry Gershwin; ph. Lucien Ballard (DeLuxe. 35mm. Spherical. 1.85:1); m. Jerry Goldsmith; ed. Byron ‘Buzz’ Brandt; ad. Tambi Larsen; set d. Darrell Silvera; cos. Tom Dawson, Paula Lynn Kaatz; m/up. Phil Rhodes, Alma Johnson, Evelyn Preece, Vivienne Walker; sd. Gene S. Cantamessa, Frank E. Warner (Mono); sfx. Gerald Endler, A.D. Flowers, Logan Frazee; vfx. Bill Hansard, Don Hansard, William Suhr; st. Yakima Canutt; rel. 25 December 1975 (Finland), February 1976 (UK), 10 March 1976 (USA); cert: PG/PG; r/t. 95m.

cast: Charles Bronson (Deakin), Ben Johnson (Marshal Pearce), Richard Crenna (Gov. Richard Fairchild), Jill Ireland (Marica), Charles Durning (O’Brien), Ed Lauter (Maj. Claremont), Bill McKinney (Rev. Peabody), David Huddleston (Dr. Molyneux), Roy Jenson (Chris Banion), Rayford Barnes (Sgt. Bellew), Scott Newman (Rafferty), Robert Tessier (Levi Calhoun), Joe Kapp (Henry), Archie Moore (Carlos), Sally Kirkland (Jane-Marie), Sally Kemp (Prostitute), Eddie Little Sky (White Hand), Keith McConnell (Gabriel), John Mitchum (Red Beard), Read Morgan (Capt. Oakland).

When diphtheria breaks out at Fort Humboldt, a train is dispatched with medical supplies and relief troops. Also on board are Utah’s governor (Crenna), his mistress (Ireland), a marshal (Johnson) and his prisoner, outlaw John Deakin (Bronson). As the train passes through the mountains, soldiers go missing, telegraph lines are cut, and it is discovered that there is no epidemic. There is a conspiracy afoot, and it is up to Deakin, who is actually a federal agent, to expose it. A mix of traditional Western with Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express” and Alistair MacLean’s “nothing is quite what it seems” school of fiction, this is an entertaining and well shot mystery. The confinement of the train setting adds challenges to the narrative as the narrow corridors make it difficult to buy into the skullduggery. However, a game cast is on hand to make the most of the material and the winter location photography adds a bleakness that is in sync with the material. The shootout finale does seem like a concession to Western fans, but the mystery elements work reasonably well. Although set in Nevada, the film was shot in Idaho.

Film Review – LONELY ARE THE BRAVE (1962)

LONELY ARE THE BRAVE (1962, USA) ****
Drama, Western
dist. Universal Pictures (USA), Rank Film Distributors (UK); pr co. Joel Productions; d. David Miller; w. Dalton Trumbo (based on the novel “Brave Cowboy” by Edward Abbey); exec pr. Kirk Douglas (uncredited); pr. Edward Lewis; ph. Philip H. Lathrop (B&W. 35mm. Panavision (anamorphic). 2.39:1); m. Jerry Goldsmith; m sup. Joseph Gershenson; ed. Leon Barsha; ad. Alexander Golitzen, Robert Emmet Smith; set d. George Milo; cos. Stanley Kufel, Peter V. Saldutti; m/up. Dave Grayson, Bud Westmore, Larry Germain; sd. Waldon O. Watson, Frank H. Wilkinson (Mono (Westrex Recording System)); st. Bob Herron; rel. 27 April 1962 (UK), 24 May 1962 (USA); cert: PG; r/t. 107m.

cast: Kirk Douglas (John W. “Jack” Burns), Gena Rowlands (Jerry Bondi), Walter Matthau (Sheriff Morey Johnson), Michael Kane (Paul Bondi), Carroll O’Connor (Hinton), William Schallert (Harry), George Kennedy (Deputy Sheriff Gutierrez), Karl Swenson (Rev. Hoskins), William Mims (First Deputy Arraigning Burns), Martin Garralaga (Old Man), Lalo Rios (Prisoner).

Douglas gives one of his best performances as a cowboy out of his time who attempts to break a friend (Kane) out of jail and is then pursued through the mountains by the local sheriff (Matthau). The film is played out for the most part from Douglas’ perspective as it laments the passing of the old west, which has been taken over by technological progress. The mix of drama and dry humour may seem jarring to some but adds a sense of realism as the humour is never over-played. There is brutality, represented by Kennedy’s sadistic jail warden. The humour is mainly played out through Matthau’s sheriff’s wilting exasperation at the incompetence of his men. There are symbolic scenes demonstrating the core theme of a modern west with the unforgettable bookends and Trumbo’s screenplay adaptation is well observed, excepting the jailbreak scene, which feels a little too easy. Douglas is superb and gets into the soul of his character and Lathrop’s black and white photography adds to the yearning for nostalgia. The section showing Douglas’s ascent of the mountain with his horse is depicted with authenticity and generates considerable suspense. Reported to be Douglas’ favourite of all his films. This was Carroll O’Connor’s film debut. An overlooked gem.

Film Review – BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK (1955)

52 Before 62 – # 2 Bad Day At Black Rock (1955) | The Last Blog Name On  EarthBAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK (1955, USA) ****½
Crime, Drama, Western
dist. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM); pr co. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM); d. John Sturges; w. Millard Kaufman, Don McGuire (based on a story “Bad Time at Hondo” by Howard Breslin); pr. Dore Schary; assoc pr. Herman Hoffman; ph. William C. Mellor (Eastmancolor. 35mm. CinemaScope. 2.55:1); m. André Previn; ed. Newell P. Kimlin; ad. Malcolm Brown, Cedric Gibbons; set d. Fred M. MacLean, Edwin B. Willis; m/up. John Truwe; sd. Wesley C. Miller (Mono (35mm optical prints) (Western Electric Sound System) | 4-Track Stereo (35mm magnetic prints)); rel. 13 January 1955 (USA), 17 March 1955 (UK); cert: PG; r/t. 81m.

cast: Spencer Tracy (John J. Macreedy), Robert Ryan (Reno Smith), Anne Francis (Liz Wirth), Dean Jagger (Tim Horn), Walter Brennan (Doc Velie), John Ericson (Pete Wirth), Ernest Borgnine (Coley Trimble), Lee Marvin (Hector David), Russell Collins (Mr. Hastings), Walter Sande (Sam).

John J. MacReedy (Tracy), is a one-armed stranger who comes to the tiny town of Black Rock one hot summer day in 1945, the first time the train has stopped there in years. He looks for both a hotel room and a local Japanese farmer named Komoko, but his inquiries are greeted at first with open hostility, then with blunt threats and harassment, and finally with escalating violence. MacReedy soon realizes that he will not be allowed to leave Black Rock; town boss Reno Smith (Ryan), who had Komoko killed because of his hatred of the Japanese, has also marked MacReedy for death. MacReedy must battle town thugs, a treacherous local woman (Francis), and finally Smith himself to stay alive. The film has an excellent script that creates an air of mystery and intimidation, which Sturges maximises through his economic shooting. Tracy is superb as the mysterious visitor and is supported by an excellent cast that includes Ryan as the influential rancher; Borgnine and Marvin as Ryan’s muscle; Francis as the only girl in town whose brother played by Ericson proves to be their weak link; and Brennan and Jagger as the town doctor and drunken sheriff ashamed of their past. The confrontation between Tracy and the townsfolk grows as the story plays out to its inevitable and ironic conclusion. Whilst the ending may seem a little hurried and convenient, taken as a whole, the film is a textbook example of building suspense through character and dialogue.

AAN: Best Actor in a Leading Role (Spencer Tracy); Best Director (John Sturges); Best Writing, Screenplay (Millard Kaufman).

Film Review – GUNSMOKE: RETURN TO DODGE (TV) (1987)

Download Gunsmoke, Return to Dodge (Western 1987) James Arness 720p Torrent | 1337xGUNSMOKE: RETURN TO DODGE (TV) (1987, USA) ***
Western
dist. Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS); pr co. CBS Entertainment Production; d. Vincent McEveety; w. Jim Byrnes; pr. John Mantley, Stanley Hough; ph. Charles Correll (Colour. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); m. Jerrold Immel; m sup. Robert Drasnin; ed. Ray Daniels; pd. Albert Heschong; set d. Bruce Sinski; cos. Frances Harrison Hays; m/up. Al Magallon, Iloe Flewelling, Byrd Holland; sd. G. Michael Graham (Mono); st. Billy Burton, Brent Woolsey; rel. 26 September 1987 (USA); cert: 15; r/t. 100m.

cast: James Arness (Matt Dillon), Amanda Blake (Kitty), Buck Taylor (Newly), Fran Ryan (Hannah), Earl Holliman (Jake Flagg), Ken Olandt (Lt. Dexter), William Morgan Sheppard (Digger McCloud), Patrice Martinez (Bright Water), Tantoo Cardinal (Little Doe), Steve Forrest (Will Mannon), Mickey Jones (Oakum), Frank Totino (Logan), Robert Koons (Warden Amos Brown), Walter Kaasa (Judge Collins), Georgie Collins (Mrs. Collins), Tony Epper (Farnum McCloud), Louie Elias (Bubba), Ken Kirzinger (Potts), Denny Arnold (Clyman), Alex Green (The Flogger).

Will Mannon (Forrest) is released from a frontier prison and promptly goes in search of the people who put him there some 12 years ago — Matt Dillon (Arness) and Kitty Russell (Blake). This TV movie plays heavily on nostalgia with a few references to episodes from the latter stages of the series’ original twenty year run. This is a sequel to the episode “Mannon”, which aired in January 1969. Forrest picks up where he left off from that show as the villain sworn on revenge and who has no redeeming characteristics. He shares screen time with a secondary plot line involving Holliman, who escapes prison in an attempt to warn Arness, but become embroiled with former gang members looking to chase him down for the bounty. Arness gives a mean and gritty performance and is briefly reunited with Blake, who slips easily back into her role as Kitty. The finale is an inevitable showdown on the streets of Dodge City which harks back to the early days of the show. Filmed not in the wilds of Kansas but in the picturesque Alberta, Canada. Followed by GUNSMOKE: THE LAST APACHE (1990).

TV Review – THE VIRGINIAN: BELOVED OUTLAW (1966)

Sara Lane in “Beloved Outlaw” (5:11) – The Virginian WeblogTHE VIRGINIAN: BELOVED OUTLAW (1966, USA) ***
Western
net. National Broadcasting Company (NBC); pr co. Universal Television; d. William Witney; w. True Boardman; exec pr. Frank Price; pr. Winston Miller; ph. Enzo A. Martinelli (Technicolor. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); m. Jack Hayes, Leo Shuken; m sup. Stanley Wilson; th. Percy Faith; ed. Edward A. Biery; ad. George Patrick; set d. Claire P. Brown, John McCarthy Jr.; cos. Vincent Dee; m/up. Bud Westmore, Larry Germain; sd. Bill Ford (Mono); tr. 23 November 1966; r/t. 75m.

cast: James Drury (The Virginian), Charles Bickford (John Grainger), Doug McClure (Trampas), Don Quine (Stacey Grainger), Sara Lane (Elizabeth Grainger), John Bryant (Dr. Spaulding), James McCallion (Hostler), Bing Russell (Gabe Sloan), John Archer (Paul Nelson), James Beck (Peters), Don Wilbanks (Jenkins), John Harmon (Auctioneer).

(s. 5 ep. 11) A wild white stallion draws the attention of Elizabeth (Lane) who convinces her grandfather (Bickford) to buy it. Against his wishes, she tames and breaks the stallion when Trampas (McClure) is unable to. Her and the stallion become inseparable, but a problem occurs. The standard story of girl falls in love with wild horse and only she can tame him. All the stock story development is used in this tale, but it is done without becoming cloyingly sentimental and Lane delivers a genuinely charming and engaging performance.

TV Review – GUNSMOKE: P.S. MURRY CHRISTMAS (1971)

Gunsmoke: P.S. Murry Christmas - 1971 - Miss Kitty and Marshall Dillon  (With images) | Miss kitty, Gunsmoke, James arnessGUNSMOKE: P.S. MURRY CHRISTMAS (1971, USA) ***
Western
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.

TV Review – GUNSMOKE: CHATO (1970)

GUNSMOKE: CHATO (1970, USA) ****½
Western
net. CBS Television Network; pr co. CBS Television Network; d. Vincent McEveety; w. Paul F. Edwards; exec pr. John Mantley; pr. Joseph Dackow; ph. Monroe P. Askins (Colour. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); m. John Carl Parker; th. Rex Koury (uncredited); ed. Gerard Wilson; ad. Joseph R. Jennings; set d. Herman N. Schoenbrun; cos. Alexander Velcoff; m/up. Glen Alden, Irving Pringle, Cherie Banks; sd. Andrew Gilmore, Jerry Rosenthal (Mono); tr. 14 September 1970; r/t. 50m.

cast: James Arness (Matt Dillon), Ricardo Montalban (Chato), Miriam Colon (Mora), Peggy McCay (Beth Cooter), William Bryant (Marshal Dan Cooter), Rodolfo Hoyos Jr. (Juanito), Robert Knapp (Surgeon), Pedro Regas (Old Man), Jim Sheppard (Deputy Case).

(s. 16 ep. 1) Chato (Montalban) is a mixed-race Native American with a serious grudge against lawmen. He also has a remarkable athletic ability: he can run and jump over mountain ledges while keeping up a steady fire with his rifle. After an exciting duel, he kills a friend of Matt Dillon’s who was tracking him. Matt (Arness) comes to New Mexico and engages him in a duel of wits with Chato to catch him. Chato’s one soft spot is his common-law wife (Colon). She is shot and severely injured by a group of renegade tribesmen who were also gunning for Chato. Chato calls a truce with Matt so the group can escape and get her to a doctor – but it’s only a truce. Arness declared this episode his favourite of the 635 he starred in. It is easy to see why. This is an intelligent and tense story with fully formed characters and motivations. Montalban is excellent as the proud Indian waging a one-man war against the white man who slaughtered his people. Arness delivers one of his best performances as he hunts down Montalban and then forms a temporary alliance as they both fend off the threat from a renegade tribe. McEveety’s direction is also a great example of how a story can be elevated by the way it is presented. The all-location shoot gives the production the feel of a big-screen feature and Parker’s score perfectly underlines the drama. A real winner of an episode that showcased the series at its best – remarkable considering it was into its sixteenth season. Writer Paul F. Edwards won a Western Writers of America Golden Spur Award for this episode.

TV Review – THE VIRGINIAN: HIGH STAKES (1966)

The Virginian 5x10 High Stakes - ShareTVTHE VIRGINIAN: HIGH STAKES (1966, USA) ***
Western
net. National Broadcasting Company (NBC); pr co. Universal Television; d. Thomas Carr; w. Mark Rodgers, True Boardman (based on a story by Mark Rodgers); exec pr. Frank Price; pr. Winston Miller; ph. Enzo A. Martinelli (Technicolor. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); 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. Edwin J. Somers Jr. (Mono); tr. 16 November 1966; r/t. 77m.

cast: James Drury (The Virginian), Jack Lord (Roy Dallman), Michael Ansara (Paul Dallman), Terry Moore (Alma Wilson), Dirk Rambo (Wesley Hedges), Harry Hickox (Charley Kane), Mark Tapscott (Sheriff Adams), William Fawcett (Hostler), Jon Locke (Red Rennick), Walter Reed (Caleb), Robert Carson (Elias Duke), William Vaughn (Ben).

(s. 5 ep. 10) When a friend (Rambo) of The Virginian (Drury) is killed and the posse won’t follow the killer out of the county, The Virginian goes alone. He tracks the killer (Lord) and a woman (Moore) involved to a remote outlaw controlled town but can he get them back to the law? The slow-paced episode is notable for the appearances of Lord and Ansara as outlaw brothers. Unfortunately, the script does not make the most of their talent and the set-up and denouement are disappointing. Drury is at his laconic best and Moore gives a sympathetic performance as escaped prisoner Ansara’s ex-wife.

TV REVIEW – ALIAS SMITH & JONES: THE LEGACY OF CHARLIE O’ROURKE (1971)

Alias Smith & Jones Legacy Of Charlie O' Rourke Women | Notes From  Pellucidar 2 (SCROLL DOWN)ALIAS SMITH & JONES: THE LEGACY OF CHARLIE O’ROURKE (1971, USA) ***
Western
net. American Broadcasting Company (ABC); pr co. Universal/Public Arts Production; d. Jeffrey Hayden; w. Dick Nelson (based on a story by Robert Guy Barrows); exec pr. Roy Huggins; pr. Glen A. Larson; ass pr. Steve Heilpern, Jo Swerling Jr.; ph. Gene Polito (Technicolor. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); th. Billy Goldenberg; ed. Gloryette Clark; ad. Robert Emmet Smith; set d. Joseph J. Stone; cos. Vincent Dee; sd. Robert R. Bertrand (Mono); tr. 7 June 1971; r/t. 51m.

cast: Pete Duel (Hannibal Heyes (alias Joshua Smith)), Ben Murphy (Jed ‘Kid’ Curry (alias Thaddeus Jones)), Joan Hackett (Alice Banion), J.D. Cannon (Harry Briscoe), Guy Raymond (Sheriff Carver), Billy Green Bush (Charlie O’Rourke), Erik Holland (Kurt Schmitt), Hank Underwood (Vic), Steve Gravers (Parson), Gary Van Ormand (Clyde), Al Bain (Townsman (uncredited)), Roger Davis (Narrator (uncredited)), Ben Frommer (Townsman (uncredited)), Joe Phillips (Townsman (uncredited)), Bill Walker (Townsman (uncredited)).

(s. 1 ep. 15) Charlie O’Rourke (Green Bush), a friend of Heyes and Curry (Duel and Murphy) from their outlaw days, is about to be hanged for a robbery which resulted in several deaths. He recognizes Heyes and Curry from his jail-cell window and offers them a map to the gold bars he stole, wanting that to be his “legacy” to them. The boys decline, but others — including Bannerman detective Harry Briscoe (Cannon) — steal the map and head after the gold. In the interests of staying honest and turning the tables on Briscoe, an old foe who might be a friend, the boys start trailing the gold hunters. This episode feels like it has a little too much padding and crossing and double-crossing for its own good. That said, it is always a delight to see Cannon as the snake-like Bannerman man. Hackett also has a lot of charm in her role. The main problem with this episode is that everything feels a little too contrived and neat despite the enthusiastic performances and good levels of humour.

TV Review – GUNSMOKE: MANNON (1969)

GUNSMOKE: MANNON (1969, USA) ****½
Western
net. CBS Television Network; pr co. CBS Television Network; d. Robert Butler; w. Ron Bishop; exec pr. John Mantley; pr. Joseph Dackow; ph. Monroe P. Askins (Colour. 35mm. Spherical. 1.33:1); m. Jaime Mendoza-Nava; th. Rex Koury; ed. Gerard Wilson; ad. Joseph R. Jennings; set d. Herman N. Schoenbrun; cos. Alexander Velcoff; m/up. Glen Alden, Newton Jones, Gertrude Wheeler; sd. Vernon W. Kramer (Mono); tr. 20 January 1969; r/t. 50m.

cast: James Arness (Matt Dillon), Milburn Stone (Doc), Amanda Blake (Kitty), Ken Curtis (Festus), Steve Forrest (Will Mannon), Buck Taylor (Newly), Glenn Strange (Sam Noonan), James Nusser (Louie Pheeters), Roy Barcroft (Roy), Charles Seel (Barney Danches), Ted Jordan (Nathan Burke), Woody Chambliss (Woody Lathrop), Tom Brown (Ed O’Connor), Charles Wagenheim (Ed Halligan), Howard Culver (Howie Uzzell), Michelle Breeze (Chris), Fred Dale (Townsman), Nick Borgani (Townsman (uncredited)), Stephen Burnette (Townsman (uncredited)), Bert Madrid (Townsman (uncredited)), Jimmy Noel (Townsman (uncredited)).

(s. 14 ep. 17) Will Mannon (Forrest), brutal and sadistic, comes to Dodge City planning to kill Matt Dillon (Arness) and cement his fearsome reputation. He first shoots and wounds Festus (Curtis) outside of Dodge, leaving Festus lying in the dirt and taking his mule Ruth to ride into town. He intimidates Dodge City residents, claiming to hold four aces in a poker game with the other players afraid to see his actual hand. Finally, he assaults Kitty (Blake). Finally, Matt returns to Dodge to confront the brutal Mannon. This is one of the series’ greatest episodes. Well-written with an unusual depth and superbly directed, this has an adult frankness rare in the TV of the day. Forrest delivers one of his very best performances as the Quantrill rider out to maintain his reputation ten years after the end of the Civil War. Blake is excellent here and her scenes with Forrest are TV drama at its best. The final shootout is both surprising and a fitting finale. Arness, Blake, Taylor, and Forrest reprised their roles from this episode 18 years later in the television movie GUNSMOKE: RETURN TO DODGE (1987).