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HOUR OF THE GUN (Twilight Time Blu Ray)

HOUR OF THE GUN (U.A.,1967) Twilight Time Blu Ray. 1:41:26 length.  Color . $29.95  . Region Free (A/B/C).https://www.twilighttimemovies.com/hour-of-the-gun-blu-ray/

I grew up watching Westerns. During my childhood , the major channels and the syndicated ones all carried series that dealt with the Wild Frontier.  I found that I never cared for most of the ones wherein they battled the American Indians, feeling that the natives were just defending their lands from invaders ,but I was most fascinated with those tales  that were built around law and order ,and the attempts to enforce it and civilize the society.  ryan-slappin-leather-the-hour-of-the-gun

Often it was the American ideal, of one man ( or perhaps a small group) who took on lawlessness and injustice , and won. As the 1970s rolled around, westerns began to fade from popularity ,perhaps from oversaturation , perhaps from changing tastes. Still ,tales of the old west still resonate with our culture .

The story of the Earps and the O.K. Corral is one that is known by most, though the details for most are sketchy. They know there was a famous gun battle ,of which the Earps survived. The true facts are much more muddy .Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp was at different times a brothel keeper, gambler,  bar keep , miner, stage coach guard , as well as a lawman .

(Tombstone Today ,with the Gun battle recreated )

Earp and his brothers (James,Virgil, and their younger brother Morgan ) and their familes ended up in Tombstone in 1879 ,wherein they encountered “The Cowboys”,a gang of outlaws that included Tom  and Frank McLaury, and Ike & Billy Clanton , The Earps were lawmen ,and they were threatened with death over the course of their time in Tombstone. It resulted in the Earps , and friend,  a former dentist turned gambler dying of tuberculosis named John “Doc”Holliday. facing The Cowboys at the O.K. Corral on October 26,1881. The battle, which took all of 30 seconds with 30 shots being fired,resulted in Bill Clanton and the McLaury brothers dead,with Virgil ,Morgan, and Holliday all wounded. Clanton and Clairborne fled.

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Sheriff John Behan , who witnessed the shootout, charged the Earps and Holliday with murder. A  Tombstone judge found the men not guilty at trial a month later, ruling that they were “fully justified in committing these homicides”.

Virgil was later shot and crippled by hidden attackers, and Morgan was murdered by other killers  while  he was playing pool with his brother Wyatt.

Unable to get proper justice, Wyatt deputized Holliday, and with some other volunteers, tracked down and killed the men they felt responsible. Another local sheriff issued a warrant for the arrest of Earp and company on charges of murder. They fled to the New Mexico Territory. Earp arranged a pardon for Holliday ,who died of T.B. at the age of 36.5524g

Earp escaped punishment for the murders, and led a colorful life ,even becoming an unpaid consultant on silent westerns, before dying January 23,1929 at the age of 80. He spent most of his life defending his actions of the faithful shootout, which many in the press and friends of the Clantons and McLaurys sought to disparage the Earps.

Several books published about Earp (he could not get his own authorized biography published) turned him into the modern myth whom we know of today. That he was never wounded in any of the gunfights he took part in increases this legend.

Oddly, considering how popular Westerns were in the silent era (Edison’s 1903 THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY for one) and with Earp serving as advisor, it is surprising that the earliest film to deal with the legend of the infamous Tombstone shootout did not happen until 50 years after the event.

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LAW & ORDER was a 1932 Universal 75 minute sound film starring Walter Huston,written by his son John with additional dialogue by Tom Reed . Based upon the  novel SAINT JOHNSON(A.L.Burt Publishers,NY 1930) by  W.R. Burnett(who also wrote the book that LITTLE CAESAR (WB,1931) was based upon),Walter Huston plays Frame Johnson ,a stand in for Wyatt Earp. Harry Carey plays the Doc Holliday character ,whose death in the movie leads to the gunfight ! Huston is the only survivor, and he drops his badge and walks off, foreshadowing the ending of HIGH NOON (U.A.,1952) by 30 years.  The story was remade in 1940(Johnny Mack Brown) and 1953 (with Ronald Reagan).

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FRONTIER MARSHALL(Fox,1934) had George O’Brien as MICHAEL Earp. This version is apparently “lost”. It was remade in 1939 by Fox with  Randolph Scott finally playing a character named WYATT . Caesar Romero was Doc Holliday and John Carradine  is also in the flick .Both films are based upon the novel WYATT EARP FRONTIER MARSHALL   by  Stuart N. Lake (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt,NY 1931).Earp’s widow had sued the studio about the novel and the films, getting  a nice settlement.

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THE ARIZONIAN(RKO,1935,remade as THE MARSHALL OF MESA CITY (RKO,1939)) featured a shootout  inspired by the OK Corral events.  TOMBSTONE,THE TOWN TOO TOUGH TO DIE (Paramount,1942) had a fairly accurate recreation of the battle,with Richard Dix as Wyatt, the part he essentially played in THE ARIZONIAN.

MY DARLING CLEMENTINE (Fox,1946) is another inaccurate but immensely entertaining telling of the legend .As director John Ford had Carleton Young  later say in THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE (Paramount 1962) “No, sir. This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” .Henry Fonda as Wyatt is out to avenge  the murder of his brother James ,and meets   hard drinking Doc Holliday (Victor Mature,who looks pretty healthy for a T.B. sufferer) who joins Wyatt in his final fight with the Clantons.

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On television , there was THE LIFE & LEGEND OF WYATT EARP (A.B.C.,1955-61) starring Hugh O’Brien in the title role.

The June 20,1961 episode called “Gunfight At The O.k. Corral” does a fairly accurate recreation that seems to mirror the actual events.  Also, and most unusual for a show from that era, it depicts the gunfight in slow motion. Hugh O’Brian had been a member of the United States Marine Corps, and he was actually the fastest quick draw of all his fellow actors on TV Westerns. He was able to draw at .08 of a second.

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The final episode “The Outlaws Cry Murder” ( June 27,1961 )deals with the trials and Johnny Ringo’s plot to kill the Earps.

O’Brien returned to the role for two t.v. movies, THE GAMBLER RETURNS( N.B.C,1991) where he cameos to the main story about Kenny Rogers’ gambler , and WYATT EARP : RETURN TO TOMBSTONE ( C.B.S, 1994) a film that lifts and colorizes various scenes from the t.v. series, and bridging new footage .

 

STORIES OF THE CENTURY “DOC HOLLIDAY” (Republic, March 25,1954) also covered the story in under 27 minutes. Kim Spalding  played “Doc” and James Craven as Wyatt .

GUNFIGHT AT THE OK CORRAL(Paramount,1957) is an exciting if inaccurate telling of the tale starring powerhouses Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas , and directed by  powerhouse John Sturges .

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 Lancaster is a hard drinking Wyatt (the real man was a non drinker) powerhouse ,while Kirk Douglas is a pretty healthy Doc Holliday (like Victor Mature , not bad for a man trying to fight consumption).John Ireland is great as fast gun Johnny Ringo. The real Ringo was a loose  associate of the Clantons ,who was suspected of having taken part in the shooting of several of the Earp family .  The final battle happens at sun up and last an exciting 8 minutes (the real battle took all of 30 seconds in the mid afternoon). Still , this is the film that most people thought of when they referenced the shoot out.

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Sturges obviously was drawn to the story, as ten years later , he convinced The Mirisch Corporation  to produce HOUR OF THE GUN (United Artists, 1967).

The picture is based on the non-fiction book   Tombstone’s Epitaph  (Univ of New Mexico Press, 1958), with a screenplay by Edward Anhalt (the Oscar nominated screenwriter of the 1964 screen adaptation of BECKET ( Paramount).

Lucien Ballard (RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY,Fox ,1962 , and later THE WILD BUNCH ,WB,1969 ,both for Sam Peckinpah) was the director of photography ,and his work shines in this film.  The score was by  the great Jerry Goldsmith, and a good budget of $1,800,000 ( by comparison, BONNIE & CLYDE (WB,1967 ),another period film that same year , cost $2.5 million).5215823122_a17673f25a_b

Tombstone Arizona was not one of the locations used, although Sonoita,Elgin, and the Empire Ranch in Elgin were all used.  The rest of the film was shot in Mexico, including the famous Estudios Churubusco Azteca in Mexico City.

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The film opens with the famous gun battle (that in real life took place in a vacant lot next to a photography studio , not in the actual corral itself.It occurred in late afternoon, and unlike the hot sunny weather of the film, it had snow upon the ground) . Doc  ( a marvelous Jason Robards ,who had his own battles with alcoholism  ) and some of the Earp  brothers were wounded ,while a few of the Clanton gang are killed .Wyatt (a stoic James Garner) emerges unscathed (which is something that added to the real life legend .He was never shot in any of his gun battles.Indeed , he was better known for coldcocking his adversaries with the barrel of his Colt).913full-hour-of-the-gun-poster

Ike Clanton (Robert Ryan) does not draw his weapon during the battle ,and survives, and wants the local sheriff to charge his opponents with murder .In real life ,Ike was never the leader of the gang, but Ryan makes an imposing figure in the role.  The  movie changed the name of the County Sheriff from John Behan to Jimmy Bryan  (played by Bill Fletcher) but they accurately got the debate as to whether he could arrest the Earps and Holliday .hourofthegun_biggerandfasterthan_FC_470x264_071220160740

A trial is held , presided over by Judge Herman Spicer ( William Schallert ).Though false testimony is given by  several of the Clanton gang, the judge shows that they were in fact lying ,and finds Holliday and the Earps not guilty and had indeed acted within their authority.

Ike does not take well to the news and conspires to assassinate his opponents  When one of his brothers is again wounded and another murdered viciously as they are playing billiards, Earp decides that he will step outside the law and do what he must to stop the Clantons.320full-hour-of-the-gun-poster

The film deals with a lot of the issues that the Earps dealt with, such as that the Clantons had a lot of supporters,  local elections , and even how when they finally get permission to bring in the Clantons, they are told there is no money for deputies!

HOUR OF THE GUN is an exciting telling of the famous tale, with a wonderful group of supporting players taking on minor if important roles.  A young Jon Voight plays  Curly Bill Brocius  ,here shown as a minor gun slinger. In real life, Curly Bill, along with Johnny Ringo , led the “Cowboys” after old Man Clanton died in 1881. Voight was two years away from his career defining role in MIDNIGHT COWBOY (U.A.,1969) . In 1967 ,Voight was a guest star on an episode of the TV series “N.Y.P.D.”,that starred Frank Converse. Converse appeared in HOUR OF THE GUN  as Virgil Earp.

William Windom portrays a drunken gambler who owes Doc Holliday money ,while Monte Markham was Sherman McMasters. McMasters had once been a member of the “Cowboys” but switched sides and actually rode with Wyatt Earp in his vendetta.images

The film was not a success when it was first released ,and indeed is often called dull or slow moving.   This may have been due to the influx of the “Spaghetti Westerns” of Clint Eastwood ,and the changing styles of film making. Indeed HOUR OF THE GUN still harkens back in style to classic Hollywood. However, what sets it apart is that it concentrates on the causes and effects of the violence and with the passage of time, we can now appreciate these factors which makes the tale less a black and white good vs evil story.  24c052ff6d4737bc4d82434470078468--bill-obrien-guns

TWILIGHT TIME has given this film a marvelous Blu Ray release. The film film has been cleaned up with a 1080p resolution in an aspect ratio of 2.35.1 . The sound has been mixed in 1.0 DTS-HD MA . It is clear without any special sound mixing (though the gunshots did have me reaching to lower the volume ).6c17e591a70539f368c46e9e8bd2ba72--maverick-tv-western-movies

As for extras, they are rather spare .  The original theatrical trailer is here and gives you an idea how the film looked in the past. The effects and Jerry Goldsmith’s score can be heard together on a separate track . Julie Kirgo supplies some nice facts in the enclosed booklet  The film itself is the real reason you should pick up this disc.

For anyone who thinks that TOMBSTONE (Touchstone ,1993) was the most accurate telling of the tale of the Earps, I suggest that you check out THE HOUR OF THE GUN .

RECOMMENDED.

 

-Kevin G Shinnickgiphy (2)

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ONE OF OUR AIRCRAFT IS MISSING (Olive Films Blu Ray)

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ONE OF OUR AIRCRAFT IS MISSING ( Olive Films) -Blu Ray-b&w.1942. 103 Mins. $29.95 http://store.olivefilms.com/War.67/Olive_Films.38/One_Of_Our_Aircraft_Is_Missing__Blu-Ray_.6319.html also available on DVD

ONE OF OUR AIRCRAFT IS MISSING (British National Films/U.A. (U.S.)) is a classic WWII war films is a must see for anyone who is an history buff, classic cinema, British Cinema, war films- heck anyone who enjoys a superlative film.

This was the inaugural film by The Archers, the producing team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. The two men would share directing credits on several films, including on another WWII drama, THE 49TH PARALLEL (General Films, Columbia ,1941) THE RED SHOES (General Films,1948), and BLACK NARCISSUS (General Films, U.I. ,1947) dissolving the partnership with one more WW II film, PURSUIT OF THE GRAF SPEE (J Arthur Rank,1956).

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Made as a propaganda film with full approval of the Ministry of Information, the film stands as an engrossing drama of courage of various types, with many exciting set pieces that are balanced by marvelous human moments. Done in a documentary style, the film has a marvelous sense of realism that is lacking in many other films of the period, even going so far as to shun a film score.

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It is hard to believe that the film went into production before a fully finished script was in hand, but Powell kept rewriting the film when the military consultants would mention new innovations. Powell would then work these ideas into the film. That the film seems seamless is a credit to all involved, editor David Lean (who had co directed parts of MAJOR BARBARA (General Films,1941) uncredited the year before).

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Also, major kudos to the effects team under Douglas Woolsey, who contributed realistic battle effects to several British films like CONVOY (Ealing,1940). The effects wizards could construct an amazing large scale replica of Stuttgart thanks to art director David Rawnsley who covered the entire studio floor with his miniatures. Effects Cameraman Freddie Ford filmed the sequence by laying on his stomach from the studio rafters floor ten hours a day to get some of the shots. So, convincing is it that it is easily blended with actual flying footage. That the film cost only £700,000 is a miracle.

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When the film was first released by United Artists in the United States, they edited out 20 minutes of footage, which, while probably allowing for more showings per day, probably robbed the film of much of its power. Still, the film is so well crafted, that it received two Academy Award nominations. Oddly, this was Michael Powell’s only Oscar nomination. Due to its critical as well as financial success J Arthur Rank offered Powell and Pressburger a film by film deal to choose any subject they wanted.one-of-our-aircraft-is-missing-movie-poster-1942-1020198733

 

The movie opens with a title letting the viewer know that the film was made with the full cooperation of the Royal Air Force, the Air Ministry, and the Royal Netherland Government in exile at that time in England. It is then followed by a telegram informing us that five farmers in the Netherlands were executed by the Nazis for helping several downed British Airmen escape the country. We then jump to an airfield in England where we see that a British bombing squadron is returning, all save one. The Vickers Wellington bomber designated “B for Bertie” has not returned.
We then see the plane flying over the ocean, but that it is completely empty of crew. Finally flying over land, the ghost plane crashes into some power lines and explodes.vlcsnap-00409
This opening is an exciting tease for the tale that unfolds as we jump back in time and are introduced to the brave crew of “B for Bertie”. The flight crew is made up of
– Sir George Corbett (Godfrey Tearle, memorable from Hitchcock’s THE 39 STEPS (Gaumont-British,1935)) the old man of the group, going on one last mission as the tail gunner,
-former pro soccer player tuned radio operator Bob Ashley (Emrys Jones in his film debut, who later did a lot of British television and stage work),
-pilot John Haggard (Hugh Burden, who years later appeared in the film ONE OF OUR DINOSAURS IS MISSING (Disney,1975), a title that references this film),
-farmer turned second pilot Tom Eanshaw (Eric Portman, who a year earlier was a fleeing Nazi in THE 49TH PARALLEL for the same production team. ONE …. is a variant of that film. In 49th, a Nazi U-Boat squad must try to evade capture in Canada when their vessel is destroyed, and flee to the then neutral United States. One of his earliest film roles Portman had appeared in a Tod Slaughter production (MARIA MARTEN, or THE MURDER IN THE RED BARN (George King Productions,1936)),
-Cockney front gunner Geof Hickman (Bernard Miles, later the second actor after Lawrence Olivier to be given a peerage)
-and former actor turned navigator Frank Shelley (Hugh Williams, who later with his wife Margaret Vyner wrote the stage play and later screenplay for THE GRASS IS GREENER), who is obsessed with his wife’s upcoming BBC radio performance.

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The squadron takes off, and soon they are over their target. The bombing mission is a mixture of actual flight footage mixed in seamlessly with effects sequences. After dumping their payload, “B for Bertie” is struck by anti-aircraft fire, and the crew is forced to bail out over occupied Holland. As we had seen earlier, the plane did not crash until it had reached England.

 

Five of the crew regroup, but find that Bob is missing. Trying to decide what to do next, they come across some Dutch children. Not sure if they will turn them in or help, the children explain that they support the British, and can be identified by the safety pins that they wear, a sign against oppressors and to keep together. Currently, this symbol is once again popular, first in England due to those who opposed Brexit (feeling that everyone was stronger together) and now in the United States as a symbol against oppression perceived in the Trump administration.

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The children bring the airmen to meet teacher Else Meertens (Pamela Brown, in her film debut. A successful stage actress, she would live with director Michael Powell until her death in 1975). She questions the airmen to see if they are not disguised infiltrators. Satisfied that they are who they say they are, the Dutch disguise them and try and slip them by the Nazis via bicycle. A brief stop at a church has them nearly caught when the Nazis stop there after they discover one of the parachutes. Look for a young Peter Ustinov (later to star in ONE OF OUR DINOSAURS IS MISSING) in his film debut as the priest. The organist Alec Clunes had given Ustinov his first stage acting break, and is perhaps best known for having played Hastings in Olivier’s RICHARD III (London Films,1955).

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Stopping at the home of the local Burgomaster (Hay Petrie, famous for playing many of Shakespearean clowns on stage during the 1920s,he had a long and varied film career, hoping from comedy to drama with ease),they are confronted by Dutch collaborator De Jong (ballet dancer/actor Robert Helpmann, perhaps best known for portraying a choreographer in the film THE RED SHOES (General Films/J Arthur Rank,1948)and who in 1978 broke his back while filming the Australian horror film PATRICK (Australian Int./Filmways)!)but who has the tables turned on him.swedish_one_of_our_aircraft_is_missing_r_ja00169_l                                                                                      (Polish  film poster)

Back on the road they see a football match being played, and among the players is their missing crewman Bob! Once again, the Nazis appear, and say that there are too many people at the gathering and 50 people must leave. The Burgomaster says that then they will all disperse, to annoy the Nazis sense of control and order. The Nazis allow them all to stay. The brilliance of this simple and courageous act of defiance is truly quietly moving.

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They are escorted out in some supply trucks, but when the Nazis wish to search them, they are confronted by Jo De Vries (Googie Withers, probably best known for appearing the haunted mirror segment of DEAD OF NIGHT (Ealing,1945) who with quiet authority gets the trucks safely through a check point. It should be pointed out that the women in this film have strength, intelligence and courage, and are in positions of authority. De Vries hides the airmen in her own home, letting the fliers know that she is thought to be pro German since she lets it be known that her husband was “killed” in a British raid, but she knows him to be safe in England working as a Voice of Freedom for Radio Orange). This is even more dangerous as the Nazis are garrisoned on her property.

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They are awaiting an air raid, when the German Soldiers are ordered into their bunkers and De Vries can slip them into the cellar unseen where there is a secret inlet that leads to the river and a boat awaits them. While they wait, there is some magnificent dialogue where courage, loyalty, and bravery are discussed.

Finally, the raid occurs, and the escape attempt begins in earnest. Will the brave air men get back home to England?

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The Blu Ray does not have any extras, but the film is so superior, it is worth the purchase price, as I feel it will be a film you would watch over and over. The movie has been out on the home video format since VHS, but the quality was always of a very washed out print. The Olive Films is the complete 103 British print from the best elements possible.   This release very sharp black and white images that complement the cinematography of Ronald Neame (later to become a producer with David Lean on such classics as BRIEF ENCOUNTER (Eagle Lion, Universal,1945) before becoming a director in his own right (POSEIDON ADVENTURE, Fox ,1972). The mono sound is clear and hiss free. Optional English subtitles are clean, easy to read and follow the action and dialogue.one-of-our-aircraft-is-missing-united-artists-1942-title-lobby-card

Highest Recommendation.
-Kevin G Shinnick4696633_l6

Thanks to John F Colaresi for catching some errors.

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RETURN OF DRACULA -Blu Ray -Olive Films

51zquv8e5slTHE RETURN OF DRACULA (April 12,1958) Blu Ray -Olive Films -Available October 18,2016. $29.95 B&W/color 77 minutes. https://www.amazon.com/Return-of-Dracula-Blu-ray/dp/B01JLWZNJU

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One of the most sadly neglected of the Dracula films is THE RETURN OF DRACULA, One of four horror films produced by Gramercy Pictures (the others being THE VAMPIRE and THE MONSTER THAT CHALLENGED THE WORLD (1957) (released as a co bill) and THE FLAME BARRIER (1958) (which was the co bill for RETURN OF DRACULA) and released through UNITED ARTISTS, they were well made well-acted horror films that are often overlooked as they were not part of the AIP or Hammer Films of the 1950s. Indeed, one month later, Hammer released its Technicolor masterpiece, HORROR OF DRACULA (distributed by Universal) and many other terror films got left in the dust.

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(In England, the film was known as THE FANTASTIC DISAPPEARING MAN !)

OLIVE FILMS new Blu Ray release gives the movie a proper release for its re-evaluation. It had previously been released on VHS by MGM and on an MGM/MIDNIGHT MOVIE co bill with THE VAMPIRE. Both have been out of print for years.

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The new OLIVE FILM Blu Ray looks a bit sharper than the MGM DVD that I compared it to. The old disc tended to sometimes be too dark in places (I have not seen the new OLIVE FILMS DVD (available via https://www.amazon.com/Return-of-Dracula/dp/B01JLW5YSU ) but I am sure that it is also less dark). The picture looks amazingly sharp for a 58-year-old film shot for $125,000.

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The film’s screenplay (by Pat Fielder, who wrote all 4 of Gramercy’s horror/sci fi films) echoes that of SHADOW OF A DOUBT and SON OF DRACULA (both Universal,1943) wherein a mysterious stranger arrives and turns the lives of a small town upside down.

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                                                                   (Old Super 8mm release )

In SHADOW, it is Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotten) who is a notorious serial killer who returns to his hometown to elude his pursuers. In SON, it is Dracula himself (Lon Chaney Jr) under the alias of Alucard who is hiding out in a small bayou Southern town.

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 The  Return of Dracula 

RETURN begins with several vampire hunters led by Dr Merryman (John Wengraf, a German actor who fled Hitler’s madness, only to be often typecast in Hollywood as a Nazi!) in an unnamed Central European country. The opening narration tells the legend of Count Dracula, though it never directly refers to the vampire in this film as the Count himself (the novel was public domain in the U.S. since Stoker failed to comply with a portion of the U.S. Copyright Law. However, it was still under the Berne Convention copyright until 1962 in the U.K. and other countries. Hence the clever way of referencing the character but never saying if it is him or not). They are in a crypt (the name on the side of the coffin is Grof Naov Istvan, but that may be one that monster has merely taken over), awaiting sunset to stake the vampire, but at the precise moment when the coffin is flung open, they find it is empty.

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We jump then to a train station wherein an artist named Bellac Gordal (an uncredited Norbert Schiller, who would later play a small role in YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, Fox,1974) is being allowed to leave and go to America. It is hinted that they are in an Iron Curtain Country, and that he is fleeing to be able to paint without government obstruction. Once he boards the train, his fellow passenger (whom we see only behind a newspaper, which is itself supernatural, changing in 3 quick cuts from the German Berliner Tageblatt to a Hungarian Maygar Szo then inside the German paper MODEN-SPEIGEL, which has English on its back page!) attacks him.

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We jump again now to a small California town of Carleton where a young boy Mickey (Jimmy Baird) plays in an abandoned mine (Bronson Cavern once again), and decides to leave his unseen kitten trapped in the mines shaft (who gave this kid a pet?) when he hears a train whistle and tells his family of the arriving train. It seems the Cora Mayberry (Greta Granstedt) is expecting her cousin Bellac whom she hasn’t seen since they were children. When they get to the station, they are told that no one has left the train but that some mysterious luggage has been left. However, a strange man well-groomed man (Czech born stage and film actor Francis Lederer) appears on the platform.” Cora?” he says. She takes him for Bellac and the family takes him home.

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Rachel Mayberry (Norma Eberhardt ),the family’s teenage daughter, is particularly drawn to her uncle as she is an artist and fascinated by his (un)worldliness. Bellac has several quirks (no mirrors in his room, sleeping throughout the day) which they accept as probably the result of artistic temperament or ill treatment in his native land. Rachel’s boyfriend Tim Hansen ( Ray Stricklyn ) is not such a big fan of the new arrival. Meanwhile, Mickey discovers that his kitten is dead, covered in blood (what did you expect though kid? You left it in a mine shaft?).

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Rachel takes Bellac to meet her friend Jenny ,( Virginia Vincent )who is ill and blind . Unfortunately, Bellac decides that she is to be is to be his next victim. We see that Bellac has his coffin within the abandoned mine.
He awakes within and in slow motion his hand creeps spiderlike out of the box and opens it. The vampire then sits up through a haze of dry ice and sits up and opens his eyes. Bellac tells the blind woman that she can see him, but when she stares, she screams and becomes a victim of the undead.

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Dr Merryman arrives in town looking for his quarry, and things start escalating with a vampire staking (a brief flash of color as blood oozes out, which must have made people jump at the time, and a bit of expense splicing that into prints), ending with a final confrontation within the old mine.

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The film moves really quickly, and wastes no time of its short span. The actors pretty much play easy stereotypes (mother, teenage daughter, bratty younger brother, the boyfriend) with the film belonging to Lederer. Wearing his overcoat as a cape and his brylcreemed hair looks like an older gigolo, but perhaps that is fitting for a great seducer. He makes great use of his voice and stillness, and draws attention to himself in every scene that he is in.

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The Blu Ray has strong deep blacks but doesn’t lose details in the night scenes (indeed, except for the first scene, the whole film takes places at night or interiors.). The mono sound is clear and free of hiss, and the score by Gerald Fried (using a frantic and booming “Die Irae “) properly propels the movie along.
The subtitles are clean and easy to read and follows the dialogue exactly. The only extra is the film’s trailer.

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While I would have liked a commentary track of some sort, I do not think that you will be disappointed by adding this Olive Films Blu Ray of THE RETURN OF DRACULA.

Recommended.

-Kevin G Shinnick

Ps- Francis Lederer returned and this time was indeed DRACULA when he appeared as the Count in an episode of T.V.’s NIGHT GALLERY. In the episode,” The Devil Is Not Mocked”, he dispatches of some very nasty Nazis.

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1950s, CARL FOREMAN, CLASSIC, cult, dvd, FLOYD CROSBY, Gary Cooper, genre, GRACE KELLY, HIGH NOON, LON CHANEY JR, review, tv film radio books theatremusic storytelling horror mystery fantasy science fiction thrillers drama, Uncategorized, UNITED ARTISTS, Western, westerns

HIGH NOON – Olive Films Blu Ray and DVD Signature Release

high-noon-boxHigh Noon -1952 United Artists. b&w 82 minutes. – (Olive Films Signature Edition) Blu-ray $39.95

http://store.olivefilms.com/Western.68/Olive_Films.38/High_Noon___Olive_Signature__Blu-Ray_.6289.html

Also on DVD $19.95 http://store.olivefilms.com/Classic_Cinema.62/Olive_Films.38/High_Noon__DVD_.5412.html

HIGH NOON to me is one of the great westerns yet until the very end it has little in the way of out and out action. Instead, the film is a very tense thriller that literally uses a ticking clock leading up to an explosion of violence. Instead the movie is a tense character study of what makes a hero.maxresdefault-1

The film was done on a modest budget ($750,000) on a 31 day shooting schedule, by a behind the camera team who had never done a western before. The modest film upon release became the 8th most profitable films of 1952 (in a year that gave us SINGING IN THE RAIN(MGM), THE BAD & THE BEAUTIFUL (MGM)THE QUIET MAN (Republic), and THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH (Paramount).

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Then fifty-one-year-old star Gary Cooper was in poor health (yet continued to star in 14 more films and one uncredited cameo over the next nine years) and took a pay cut for a percentage of the profits when he took the role of Sheriff Marshall Will Kane. His 22-year-old leading lady (Grace Kelly) had made only one film prior (and several TV roles) to starring with this cinematic icon, yet her personal charm kept her from becoming a merely decorative character.9402c4104d6186400401d879d33830e5

The filmmakers surrounded the leads with marvelous supporting players, such as veterans like Lon Chaney Jr (in one of his most subtle and moving performances that it still surprises me that he was not even nominated for a best supporting actor Oscar) and Thomas Mitchell as well as rising character performers as Jack Elam (here playing a town drunk) and making his film debut in a silent but important role, Lee Van Cleef.high_noon_lon_chaney_jr

The production partnership of Stanley Kramer and Carl Foreman, as well as writer Herbie Baker, publicist George Glass formed Screen Plays, Inc. in 1947. Their first film SO THIS IS NEW YORK (MGM,1948) flopped but their second CHAMPION(U.A.,1949) was a big hit both critically and financially. CHAMPION won an Academy Award for film editing as well as nominations for star Kirk Douglas and screenplay writer Carl Foreman (both of their first two films were Foreman’s adaptations of two Ring Lardner stories).

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The team went on to produce HOME OF THE BRAVE(U.A.,1949), the first of the social dramas that Stanley Kramer would be known for and again written and co-produced by Foreman. Next came THE MEN(U.A.,1950), with an original screenplay by Foreman and the first time that Kramer would work with director Fred Zinnemann. Their string of hits continued with CYRANO DE BERGERAC (U.A.,1950), based upon the 1897 Edmond Rostand, translated by Brian Hooker and a screenplay by Carl Foreman and an uncredited Orson Welles. The film flopped at the box office but earned an Oscar for star Jose Ferrer.

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Columbia Pictures offered the production team a five-year contract to form a production unit to make films of their choosing for roughly a million dollars each movie. The offer was accepted but first they had to complete their final independent production,
HIGH NOON.high-noon2-1952Ironically, for a film about a man who stands up for what he believes in as others abandon him, Kramer abandoned his partner Carl Foreman and his personal ideals for commerce. Foreman had been a member of the Communist Party ten years earlier and was called before the House of Un-American Activities (HUAC). He was considered an “uncooperative witness” by the committee. To save his deal with Columbia, Kramer dissolved their partnership. He still gave Foreman credit for his screenplay, but did not let him get a producer’s credit.

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Kramer went on to be a major Liberal voice in his films until 1979, making many films that have become classics of cinema. His treatment of his former partner is a black eye to his memory, though, to be fair, few could stand up to the monster that was HUAC. The partners never spoke again. Foreman took his family to England, as did many who were blacklisted, and continued to write screenplays for such classic as BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI (ironically for Columbia ,1958, and Foreman was only awarded his Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay posthumously).

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(producer Stanley Kramer)  

The film’s story is simple enough. Frank Miller (Ian MacDonald, who had appeared in WHITE HEAT, WB ,1949, as the truck driver who recognized undercover agent Edmond O’Brien), a criminal whom Sheriff Will Kane (Cooper, looking world weary) sent away is being released from prison and will be arriving in the small town that day on the noon train. He has vowed to kill Kane in revenge. Kane has also just married his Quaker wife Amy (Grace Kelly) who urges him to leave the town. Kane wants to stand his ground, and ties to organize the townspeople to stand up to the criminal and his gang. However, the town is more than willing to leave Kane handle things alone if it will ultimately bring peace to the town. Only a shaky eye patched man is willing to stand by Kane and he of course would be of little help. The former sheriff, Martin HoweLon Chaney Jr )would like to help but his illnesses prevent him from being of any use either. Kane sends his wife away as the time for the confrontation draws near. The sheriff now must stand alone against the murderous outlaws as the time arrives.

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The simple description above does not do justice to this wonderful film. The acting, the direction by Fred Zimmerman , the cinematography (by Floyd Crosby, who won a Golden Globe for his work on this classic, later ended up lensing a lot of A.I.P.’s horror and science fiction classics, and by the way is the father of David Cosby of THE BYRDS fame), the editing and the music all work perfectly to tell this tale of courage.

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Critics at the time were rather mixed in their reception to the film. Even John Wayne (who turned down the role of the Sheriff) attacked the film, and often said that he and Howard Hawks made RIO BRAVO (WB,1959) in response.fred-zinnemann-seated-floyd-crosby-gary-cooper-and-the-crew-ofhigh-noon-michael-j-cinema

 

Audiences, however, flocked to the film, and the film made $3.4 million dollars on its $730,000 investment. The film also won many awards, including four Oscars (Best Actor, Best Film Editing, Best Music (Dimitri Tiomkin) and best song (Dimitri Tiomkin & Ned Washington for “Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin’”, sung by Tex Ritter). Incongruously, John Wayne accepted the Oscar for Gary Cooper. Here is a clip from the 25th Academy Award, held March 19,1953, and the first one televised:

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The film was nominated for but lost Best Director, Best Picture, and Best Writing/Screenplay. Katy Jurado won a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Helen Ramírez, the first Mexican actress to receive the award. Crosby’s cinematography also was a Golden Globe recipient.

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The OLIVE FILMS BLU RAY reviewed here puts CRITERION on notice that there is another company that knows how to give classic films the Deluxe Treatment they deserve. HIGH NOON and JOHNNY GUITAR (not seen by this reviewer) are the premiere films from Olive Films’ Signature series, and if this film is any indication, film lovers will be happily paying to get these collectible treasures for their collections.

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HIGH NOON has been beautifully presented in its original 1.37:1 aspect ratio. You will note black bars or both the left and right side of the screen but after a few moments, you will cease noticing them. The 1080p 4 K scan brings out the very rich black and white details, letting you see the beads of sweat on Cooper as he desperately seeks out his posse, as well as detailing in the costuming and the sets clearer than they have been seen in years.

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The sound is presented in its original mono audio in a hiss free DTS-HD Master Audio track. Whether using the television sound or outside speakers, the sound is rich and clear. The yellow subtitles are clean and follow the action and dialogue perfectly.

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The work above would make the Olive Films Signature Release worth having, but they have added some superior extras.

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Inside the cardboard cover is a clear digipack slipcase containing the single disc. The cover art can be reversed and used with a panoramic view of Cooper walking the town’s empty streets.

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Besides the disc is a nice little booklet written by Nick James of Sight & Sound Magazine called ‘Uncitizened Kane “wherein it talks about Cooper in THE VIRGINIAN (Paramount,1929) and the Cooper in this classic film. This is also available on the disc to read by skimming through using your directional arrows.

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Also on the Disc:

“A Ticking Clock” – Director (THE PUNISHER, New World,1989) / Editor Mark Goldblatt talks in detail about the importance of the editing of HIGH NOON.

 

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“A Stanley Kramer Production”-Producer Michael Schlessinger (DARK & STORMY NIGHT, Shout Factory,2009) talks about Producer/Director Kramer and his career.

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Ulcers & Oscars: The Production History of High Noon” – the late Anton Yelchin (Chekov in STAR TREK: BEYOND, Paramount ,2016) narrates this marvelous behind the scenes story.

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Trailer – Not the original 1952 trailer (“Stanley Kramer’s Masterpiece of Suspense!”, Presented by World Entertainment Corp.), this gives you an idea how the film used to appear before the painstaking restoration.

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The only quibble (am I too greedy?) that I had is that I wish that they had found and added the 2 hour PBS documentary “Darkness at High Noon: The Carl Foreman Documents “(PBS,2002), though it was made when all the people involved were long dead, and perhaps unable to defend themselves against various charges (it was not very favorable to Kramer). Perhaps someone will release the documentary as its own separate disc.

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Still, this is a must have for any collector of classic American Films.

HIGH NOON continues to resonate in society today. A Polish Political Poster in 1989 even used the iconic Cooper sheriff image.w_samo_poludnie_4_6_89-tomasz_sarnecki

There have been indirect sequels and remakes for television, and it was recently announced that Relativity Pictures is remaking the film, though setting it Present Day. http://variety.com/2016/film/news/relativity-remaking-high-noon-present-day-1201862842/

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However, none of these have come close to the film that was the first film selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

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Rush out and get the Olive Films Signature Release of HIGH NOON.

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HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION.

-Kevin G Shinnick

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