Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Rare Westerns on Netflix Instant Watch Capsule Reviews, vol.10

He Rides Tall (1964)

Tom Young is a marshal who wants to retire and get married, but is forced to kill the real son of his foster father (Dan Duryea), and this eventually leads to a showdown between the two (very eventually). Duryea is a smiling slimebag who, with hardly a care, hands over his mistress to some Indians to be scalped in order to save his own hide. Duryea makes for a very interesting villain, but Young is a pretty boring hero, and there should’ve been much more of an interesting dynamic between the two, considering they are (foster) father and son. Some nice photography, with a rousing score that nevertheless seems a little bombastic and inappropriate. Directed by R.G. Springsteen.

Very good transfer that does suffer some from what appears to be analog noise. Never released on home video.

Showdown (1963)

Audie Murphy and his buddy ride into a town where troublemakers are chained by the neck to a pole in the town square. Of course, Audie’s buddy gets drunk and starts a bar fight, forcing Audie to intervene, and they are both chained to the pole overnight. As it happens, also chained to the pole is a gang of outlaws, who manage to knock the pole over and break free. The gang shoots out the town and robs the bank, but Audie’s drunk buddy steals a stack of money bonds that a gang member drops in the middle of all the chaos. The two escape, but they are quickly accosted by the gang. Audie tries to use the money bonds to spare their lives, but his drunk buddy already mailed them to his sweetheart. So, Audie has to go off and collect the money while his buddy is being held hostage. Amusingly, his “sweetheart” doesn’t care that they’ll kill him and just wants to keep the money. Audie, of course, just wants to do the right thing and save his friend, regardless of what the lady wants (played by an actress who likes to arch her brow and yell). An interesting variation on a familiar plot, particularly in that, while Audie is a do-good hero caught up with some bad guys, he does stand by his friend, who legitimately does wrong, and Audie becomes guilty by association. However, his buddy is drunk the whole time, so I guess the real villain is booze.

Very good B & W transfer in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The original aspect ratio might be 1.66:1 or 1.85:1, but I am unable to find any info on this. Either way, it looks fine to my eyes. Never released on home video.

R.G. Springsteen directed a bunch of westerns, including the following that are currently on Netflix instant:

Under Colorado Skies (1947) – previously released on VHS
Sundown in Santa Fe (1948) – Rocky Lane tracks down the man who masterminded Lincoln’s assassination (!). Never released on home video.
Renegades of Sonora (1948) – starring Rocky Lane
Hellfire (1949) – Marie Windsor plays an outlaw, previously released on VHS
Sheriff of Wichita (1949) – starring Rocky Lane, never released on home video
Death Valley Gunfighter (1949) – starring Rocky Lane, previously released on VHS
Hills of Oklahoma (1950) – starring Rex Allen, and never released on home video
The Arizona Cowboy (1950) - starring Rex Allen, never released on home video
Frisco Tornado (1950) – starring Rocky Lane, never released on home video
Covered Wagon Raid (1950) – starring Rocky Lane, never released on home video
Taggart (1964) – also starring Tom Young and Dan Duryea, never released on home video, David Carradine’s first role
Black Spurs (1965) – Panned and scanned from 2.35:1, A.C. Lyles produced geezer western, never released on home video
Apache Uprising (1965) – Panned and scanned from 2.35:1, A.C. Lyles produced geezer western, previously released on VHS
Waco (1966, never released on home video, P&S from 2.35:1)
Hostile Guns (1967, previously released on VHS, P&S from 2.35:1)

Destry (1954)

A color remake of Destry Rides Again by the same director (George Marshall), only minus the humor. Curiously, the saloon customers are constantly laughing raucously and heartily at everything that happens, as if they are trying to trick you into thinking everything is hilarious. In fact, this might be the most laugh-filled (as in people in the movie are laughing) movie in history, even besting Punchline with Tom Hanks. Audie Murphy is miscast in the Jimmy Stewart role, but Mari Blanchard does at least give an entertaining, foot stomping camp performance in the Marlene Dietrich role, including a pretty righteous catfight in the middle of the saloon. Her overly spunky attempts at humor miss the mark enough that it reads as overcompensation, and there-in lies the camp. Does that make sense? Anyway, the original Destry Rides Again is one of the few comedic westerns that I actually find funny. This excludes western spoofs like Blazing Saddles and Evil Roy Slade, which are both fucking hilarious, but are comedies first and westerns second, so they don’t count (I make the rules around here). Alan “Skipper” Hale pops up a couple of times, if that means anything to you.

Solid color transfer, and never released on home video.

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