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Branded

01 May

All my life, I’ve been a snake. I’ve lived by my wits. I’ve gotten what I’ve wanted any way I wanted it. Just lately I’ve been wondering just for once if I couldn’t do something straight… do something a little decent.

There have always been movies that have been said to possess greatness. The reasons for their being labeled as such are frequently discussed and analyzed so it’s not that hard to find justification. But what of those films that are largely overlooked? Having recently been asked to participate in the selection of some underrated westerns, this thought has been buzzing around my head. How do some highly deserving movies get brushed aside and miss out on the praise heaped on others? Take a film like Branded (1950), a western which is rarely spoken of and probably unfamiliar to all but the more dedicated genre fans. Yet it has a strong story and a compelling theme, a good cast contributing very convincing performances and solid production values.

Sometimes you can tell from the opening moments that you’re going to be in for an enjoyable movie experience, and Branded is a good example of this. In a nameless town a crowd of armed men surround and lay siege to a dry goods store. Inside is the hostage storekeeper and Choya (Alan Ladd), the subject of the gunmen’s interest. The situation is tense and the dialogue is terse and we learn just enough to know that Choya gunned someone down in self-defense, but no one outside seems too bothered about the right or wrong of it. Making good his escape, Choya is followed by two apparent bystanders. When these guys catch up with the fugitive, a proposition is laid before him, one that promises to make them all rich with minimal risk. Leffingwell (Robert Keith) has been nursing a plan for years and just waiting till he could find the man he needs to pull it off. What Leffingwell has in mind is a kind of masquerade; Choya will pass himself off as the long-lost son of a wealthy Texan rancher called Lavery (Charles Bickford), the boy having been abducted when he wasn’t much more than a toddler. With a fake birthmark tattooed on his shoulder and just enough knowledge to sway people desperate to believe their child might be alive Choya duly obliges. Now while he may have spent his life hustling and doing whatever he had to in order to turn a buck, he’s by no means devoid of conscience. The kindness and warmth shown him by Lavery and his wife starts to gnaw away at him, and it doesn’t help any that his attractive “sister” Ruth (Mona Freeman) is on the scene too. Gradually, we can see that deceiving these nice people in this heartless way is eating away at him. Unable to bear it any longer, he tells Leffingwell that he’s not going through with the deal and plans to take off as soon as he gets Lavery’s herd to El Paso. Right from the beginning it’s been apparent that Leffingwell is a slippery customer with a ruthless streak, but Choya soon discovers that his partner has an even darker side to him. What he learns in El Paso not only increases the disgust he already felt for Leffingwell but also offers him the opportunity to make amends to people he’s hurt badly. By riding into a notorious bandit’s lair in Mexico there’s a chance to both earn redemption and maybe regain some sense of direction in his life.

The bedrock of any good movie is the writing; if you’re working from a solid script, you’re halfway home. Branded was sourced from a novel by the prolific Max Brand (I haven’t read the book myself but I have a copy on order), credited here under his Evan Evans pseudonym. The script itself was the work of Cyril Hume and Sydney Boehm, both of whom have an impressive list of writing credits. For me, the basic story is a strong one and the way in which it develops means that it holds the attention throughout. What’s more, and this is a feature I particularly appreciate in any film, the development of the plot and characters occurs in a natural, organic way. The opening throws the viewer straight into the middle of the action with no explanation of where we are or who the people are, all that is necessary for us to know is gradually revealed as the story progresses. As such, what exposition there is never has that slightly artificial feel that mars some films. Rudolph Maté started out as a photographer, first in Europe and then in Hollywood, before graduating to the role of director in 1947. I’ve seen a good many of his films and, as one would expect, they’re always visually interesting. Branded, photographed by Charles Lang, is no exception in this respect, and makes excellent use of the Arizona and Utah locations and the interiors. I also thought the shooting angles and compositions were very pleasing, evoking the mood of each scene perfectly.

This was only Alan Ladd’s second western, following on from Whispering Smith, and his comfort in the genre is evident. He transposes the edgy, taciturn quality of his film noir characterizations to the frontier setting smoothly and, backed by that solid writing I’ve spoken about, creates a rounded and sympathetic figure in Choya. Successful movies force their leads to undertake a journey, to grow and develop as the narrative moves along. Ladd first appears as something of an enigma, a man about whom we know very little beyond the fact he’s living a lawless existence. While the script obviously plays a significant part in opening up the character of Choya, it’s Ladd’s intelligent and nuanced performance that makes the viewer care. Ladd seems to have been a man riddled with personal insecurities and he taps into that very well in this film. In short, he brings truth to his portrayal of a man who is self-aware, a little lost, and dissatisfied with his own shortcomings. As the chief villain, Robert Keith is extremely good in the role of Leffingwell. His calculating, dangerous nature is apparent from the beginning, but he manages to make the character almost sympathetic (although perhaps it’s more appropriate to refer to him as deserving of pity) for a brief time before revealing his real darkness and evil. Charles Bickford was born to play prickly, irascible types and the part of Lavery fits him well – he’s upright, determined and credible throughout. Mona Freeman was handed some thankless roles at times but here she got something a bit meatier. There’s a genuinely sweet and trusting quality to Ruth, something vital as she’s a large part of the reason Choya feels his conscience pick away at him before setting out on that rocky road towards redemption. Finally, Joseph Calleia gets to indulge in some showy theatrics while Peter Hansen offers a sensitive and affecting turn.

Branded came out on DVD some years ago via Paramount and then, like many of the studio’s releases, quietly slipped out of print for a time. Recently, it’s been reissued via the Warner Archive, although I have no idea whether the presentation of the new iteration is any different. The old Paramount disc I own features a reasonably good, if unrestored, transfer. For the most part, the level of detail is strong and colors look very nice – there are, however, a few instances where they waver a little but it’s nothing serious as far as I’m concerned. There are no extra features offered. As I said at the beginning, Branded is one of those films I feel ought to have a better reputation. It’s never less than solid and boasts first class performances from Alan Ladd and Robert Keith in particular. The story too has that tough sensitivity that distinguishes the best 50s westerns – it’s pacy, exciting, warm and intriguing, and it’s well worth an hour and a half of anyone’s time.

 

 

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66 Comments

Posted by on May 1, 2014 in 1950s, Alan Ladd, Rudolph Maté, Westerns

 

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66 responses to “Branded

  1. Clayton

    May 1, 2014 at 5:37 am

    Absolutely on my top list of westerns. If I could have worn out my DVD, I’m sure it wouldn’t function by now. :) Nice write-up!

     
    • Colin

      May 1, 2014 at 5:46 am

      Good to hear you’re another fan too, Clayton. It’s a top movie and one that has the best elements of the 50s western in place right at the beginning of the decade. It needs to be better known though, if only to show that Alan Ladd did marvelous genre work apart from, and in addition to, Shane.

       
      • Clayton

        May 1, 2014 at 5:51 am

        I completely agree. SHANE is my favourite western (who can draw a gun faster than Ladd?), but the guy was a powerhouse in whatever he did. For me, it helps that BRANDED seems unconventionally paced; it has an odd rhythm and unpredictable plot choices at times. Refreshing stuff.

         
        • Colin

          May 1, 2014 at 5:59 am

          Yes, the film goes in all kinds of directions you don’t expect right from the off, and that aspect continues all the way through. Refreshing is a very apt description.

          As for Ladd, well you won’t hear a bad word about him from me. Even in some later films, which could be routine affairs at times, Ladd always gave a fine performance.

           
  2. Dafydd Jones

    May 1, 2014 at 6:35 am

    Thanks for the review Colin. I haven’t watched this one since the original DVD (to which you refer) was released. Time for a revisit I think.

     
    • Colin

      May 1, 2014 at 6:57 am

      Hello Dafydd! I definitely recommend giving the film another look, especially if you haven’t seen it in all that time. I find it a really satisfying movie on every level.

       
  3. Vienna

    May 1, 2014 at 7:01 am

    Thanks for bringing this western to the fore. I saw it for the first time a couple of years ago and liked the plot.
    I love your descriptive phrases which always capture the essence – ‘rocky road to redemption ‘ for one.
    All your posts on 50s westerns could add up to a book. How about it!

     
    • Colin

      May 1, 2014 at 7:11 am

      You’re far too kind. I’m not sure there would be much of a market for my meandering thoughts, but I certainly do appreciate the compliment.

       
  4. chrisk

    May 1, 2014 at 8:27 am

    I have been waiting for a review of an Alan Ladd western for some time . It is a pleasant surprise. Its been some time since I last saw this. Great review as usual. Best regards.

     
    • Colin

      May 1, 2014 at 10:45 am

      Thanks Chris. As I said, this seems to be a western that doesn’t get mentioned, nor perhaps viewed, as often as it deserves. It’s always a pleasure to remind those who have forgotten or, maybe even more importantly, those who have never seen such movies of their existence.

       
  5. Jerry Entract

    May 1, 2014 at 11:20 am

    Great review, Colin, of a western that is very much a favourite of mine. The word “redemption” is often mentioned in respect of westerns of the Fifties and I know it is a feature that strikes a strong chord with Blake. This has to be considered an early example and “redemption” is what this film is all about.

    Ladd is often under-rated but he is just fine in this film especially, I feel. And pretty well any film co-starring Charles Bickford is given a huge boost by his very presence.

    My favourite Ladd western after “Shane”.

     
    • Colin

      May 1, 2014 at 11:28 am

      Jerry, I feel the redemption aspect, which runs throughout this film, sets it firmly among the better 50s westerns. I think it’s almost impossible to discuss a western from this era without making reference to the theme – it’s integral to the 50s western. It’s handled very well in the script and given wonderful expression by Ladd, who is at or near his best.

      And no arguments on Bickford either, a highly accomplished character actor and a guy I always enjoy watching too.

       
  6. mikestakeonthemovies

    May 1, 2014 at 11:33 am

    I always felt like this was a warm up for Ladd as he was about to star in Shane for Stevens shortly after this. It is overlooked but I find many of Ladd’s films are. Where is an Alan Ladd box set for us collectors? So many titles in the vaults that are hard to come by.

     
    • Colin

      May 1, 2014 at 2:53 pm

      Mike, I’d love a boxset of Ladd movies too. There’s more available than a few years ago of course, but an awful lot still MIA. I’d snap up copies of stuff like Calcutta and Saigon in a heartbeat.

       
      • mikestakeonthemovies

        May 1, 2014 at 6:45 pm

        I hear you. Calcutta I have but a rough copy. Hoping to find Hell on Frisco Bay as well. Hopefully some of his films are not beyond repair.

         
        • Colin

          May 1, 2014 at 6:56 pm

          Of course there are some Ladd movies available in Europe – The Black Knight, Hell Below Zero, The Red Beret – that haven’t been released in the US or Canada yet.

           
          • mikestakeonthemovies

            May 1, 2014 at 7:03 pm

            I have them all. 2 from tcm and one import. I was a big Ladd fan at one time a tv played most of them when I was a kid but many seemed to have disappeared. Drum Beat is a good, i am sure u are aware of that one.

             
            • Colin

              May 1, 2014 at 7:11 pm

              Being a big fan of both Ladd and Delmer Daves, I like Drum Beat a lot. I have the Australian DVD but it’s far from ideal – cropped to around 1.78:1 and looking a bit soft and faded.

               
              • mikestakeonthemovies

                May 1, 2014 at 7:29 pm

                Once again i have the tcm copy. For me originally it was the Bronson factor. First film under the name change.

                 
                • Colin

                  May 1, 2014 at 7:33 pm

                  Well the Bronson factor – nice phrase – is not to be underestimated either. And he’s very good in the movie.
                  Was that TCM broadcast in scope, by the way?

                   
                  • Blake Lucas

                    May 1, 2014 at 9:47 pm

                    TCM did broadcast DRUM BEAT in ‘Scope, I’m happy to say (I saw it–looked very good, and I had not seen in ‘Scope since 1954). This was the first Jaguar production and so it seems like rights issues might have been settled, at least for these to be shown, even if there are no DVDs yet. TCM also showed THE BIG LAND and GUNS OF THE TIMBERLAND (saw the second for the first time and in this case, it’s not one of the best). HELL ON FRISCO BAY has not surfaced–that is a movie I have never seen and would very much like to.

                    Some other good Westerns with Ladd for those who haven’t see them–SASKATCHEWAN, with wonderful direction by Raoul Walsh, THE IRON MISTRESS (Gordon Douglas, who also directed THE BIG LAND but MISTRESS, with Ladd as Jim Bowie–though doesn’t follow him all the way to the Alamo–is a more individual and striking movie), WHISPERING SMITH as cited already. Ladd’s other Daves Western THE BADLANDERS, which transposes the plot of THE ASPHALT JUNGLE (making it very different in the process), is commonly felt to be the least of Daves Westerns. And though I think that’s probably right, it shows how consistent Daves was in his Westerns because without being great, it’s a satisfying (and like so many others underrated) movie that sustains repeat viewings.

                     
                    • Colin

                      May 1, 2014 at 10:17 pm

                      Thanks Blake. That’s really good to hear about those Jaguar titles. Sure they may not be available on DVD right now but it does indeed seem to indicate any potential rights difficulties may be resolved.

                      On some of those other Ladd movies, I was just chatting about Saskatchewan today as it happens. It’s not as good as this film but very enjoyable all the same. I agree with your assessment of The Badlanders too, Blake. Maybe it’s not the best work Daves did. Even so, it remains a perfectly good movie.

                       
                  • mikestakeonthemovies

                    May 1, 2014 at 10:09 pm

                    it was widescreen and came out nice. :)

                     
                    • Colin

                      May 1, 2014 at 10:20 pm

                      Thanks for getting back to me on that Mike. Blake just beat you to the punch as it happens but the important thing is knowing that a good OAR version of the movie is out there.

                       
  7. Cavershamragu

    May 1, 2014 at 1:33 pm

    Well, you’re right, never seen it and I’m a fan of Rudolph Maté’s work as a director too – sounds really good chum (but then you’re always doing that)

     
    • Colin

      May 1, 2014 at 2:57 pm

      I think Maté is very underrated and I always enjoy his films. I really like The Violent Men and I’d love to one day own a decent copy of The Green Glove.

       
      • Cavershamragu

        May 1, 2014 at 3:17 pm

        Never seen Green Glove actually …

         
        • Colin

          May 1, 2014 at 3:58 pm

          It’s no world beater but it’s not a bad little movie. The PD prints available are extremely grotty and I’m sure that’s a reason it’s not more widely known.

           
  8. john k

    May 1, 2014 at 2:01 pm

    Very nice choice Colin,and perhaps this film should have appeared on the “underrated Westerns” list over at the Rupert Pupkin site. Like Jerry, this is my favorite Ladd Western after SHANE and my favorite Rudolph Mate Western by far. The Ladd was certainly on a roll at the time with the very fine RED MOUNTAIN out round about the same time and SHANE soon to follow. I thought the the film also featured Mona Freeman in one of her best roles, tremendous chemistry between her and Ladd. Darned if I can figure why RED MOUNTAIN has been denied a DVD release, such a strong cast.

     
    • Colin

      May 1, 2014 at 3:02 pm

      Yes John, this could easily have made my underrated list, and did come awfully close. It’s been on my mind since that time and I thought the least I could do under the circumstances was to flag it up here.

      As for Red Mountain, I guess there must be some problem with the rights that’s left it unreleased thus far.

       
  9. john k

    May 1, 2014 at 3:23 pm

    I think the problem with RED MOUNTAIN is that it’s a Paramount picture and Paramount as we know have no interest now in their back catalog. The only hope of seeing Paramount titles released is through Olive Films or Warners. There are a couple of very good Paramount Westerns from the same time (early Fifties) that have been denied a release namely THE GREAT MISSOURI RAID and FLAMING FEATHER, though I must admit they lack the star power of RED MOUNTAIN.
    Also Olive Films decided to withdraw the very fine WARPATH from their release schedule. That film is certainly Edmond O Brien’s best starring Western.
    Another Paramount Western on the missing list is THUNDER IN THE SUN starring Jeff Chandler and Susan Hayward.
    As we have discussed before “rights issues” are holding back the release of the Ladd films released on his own Jaguar imprint; namely DRUM BEAT and THE BIG LAND.

     
    • Colin

      May 1, 2014 at 4:01 pm

      Ah, for some reason I had it in my head that Red Mountain was a Jaguar production.
      It could be that the elements are in poor shape then.

       
      • Jerry Entract

        May 1, 2014 at 4:40 pm

        “Red Mountain” was in the schedules last year for the TCM UK TV channel but was pulled before broadcast so maybe it is a rights thing?

         
        • Colin

          May 1, 2014 at 4:58 pm

          And round we go again! :)

          It’s all very confusing, isn’t it?

           
  10. Blake Lucas

    May 1, 2014 at 5:23 pm

    Not much to say about BRANDED except that I agree with what you and others here have said about it. I’ve only seen it once–it was at least 25 years ago on VHS tape and made a great impression on me. Your piece resonated in every detail with my memory of it.

    I’ve wanted to see it again and information here that there is available on DVD (I hadn’t known this) will prompt me to run it down so thanks for that. It won’t be the first time I’ve gotten back to a movie because of one of your pieces–an especially good viewing of SADDLE THE WIND last year is one that comes to mind.

    Based on my one viewing, I too consider BRANDED my second favorite Alan Ladd Western after SHANE, and say that as one who always likes him. Naturally, actors come off best when a role is good for their persona, and this one is for reasons you say. SHANE, which I’ve seen a lot more than this, was ideal for him because Ladd projected the character’s quiet confidence within the aura of sadness that he himself carries–I’m not wanting to go into biography too much about that but I think it’s something one would feel if one didn’t know anything about him.

    I support what you said about the story, the writers, the director, the other actors, the film’s visual appeal. To me, Rudolph Mate is an underrated director with a number of fetching films, and why his beautiful, captivating THE MISSISSIPPI GAMBLER is not on DVD is beyond my understanding.

     
    • Colin

      May 1, 2014 at 5:39 pm

      Blake, that’s great that I got you in the mood to check the movie out, especially since you haven’t seen it in a long time. I don’t think you’ll feel any different about it after that long gap; if anything, you may even get more from it.

      You know I’ve never seen The Mississippi Gambler, although it is on DVD in Italy and Spain.

       
  11. Vienna

    May 1, 2014 at 5:38 pm

    Mate did another Ladd film. I like a lot – THE DEEP SIX.
    CONSIDERING Ladd is still so well known, amazing really there is no box set.

     
    • Colin

      May 1, 2014 at 5:45 pm

      Indeed, I forgot about that one.
      Yes, Ladd should be a familiar enough name to warrant a box set. I think it’s maybe a result of so many of his films belonging to Paramount and Universal, studios which are patchy when it comes to releases.

       
  12. john k

    May 2, 2014 at 2:31 pm

    I remember seeing some screencaps from the Universal Spain version of MISSISSIPPI GAMBLER and they looked very pallid. The screencaps for the later French Sidonis release looked a lot better but with those “forced” subtitles that we all loathe so much. Never seen anything on the Italy version, as yet.

    BTW Colin, and off topic the Italian version of CURSE OF THE UNDEAD that you pointed me towards a while back, looks great,in widescreen too, so thanks for that. I had a very pallid off air version of RED MOUNTAIN some years back and recently someone sent me a lovely upgrade but with horrid logos and station announcements popping up all over the place…..you really just can’t win sometimes. I do believe that Warner Archive are trying to sort out something regarding the Jaguar titles so we will just have to wait and see. I will buy the lot, if in fact they do appear. There is a sort of USA bootleg of THE DEEP SIX floating around out there but would be dubious regarding the quality. I love THE BLACK KNIGHT and would love it to have an “official” release. I think there was a Spanish release a few years back but with quality issues. SASKATCHEWAN is soon to appear on Blu-Ray from Koch in Germany, but packaged with two other Westerns. That movie is so visually stunning,it should look wonderful on Blu-Ray. To confuse things even more the excellent 13 WEST STREET was released as a fine-looking Sony MOD a few years back in a lovely widescreen transfer. Oddly enough this Jaguar production was a Columbia release. This pre-DEATH WISH vigilante movie is excellent latter day Ladd. Interesting too that the young “thugs” are all from wealthy backgrounds not slum kids. Ladd looks a lot better in 13 WEST STREET than ONE FOOT IN HELL (an interesting mis-fire) where he looks incredibly unwell.

    Returning to unreleased Paramount Fifties Westerns I forgot to mention the Charlton Heston vehicle THE SAVAGE which Olive Films were going to release but decided not to. There are a couple of non Ladd Jaguar productions in the mix too; the very interesting sounding A CRY IN THE NIGHT and the oddly titled ISLAND OF LOST WOMEN. Those two films were directed by veteran Frank Tuttle who also directed HELL ON FRISCO BAY, which I have seen but when it first came out,so my memories of it are pretty distant. The film is an attempt to re-capture the vibe of Warner gangster pictures of the classic era but this time in CinemaScope and color.

     
  13. john k

    May 2, 2014 at 2:36 pm

    I should have mentioned regarding 13 WEST STREET that Rod Steiger, for a change, actually underplays his role of the police officer on the case.

     
    • Colin

      May 2, 2014 at 7:38 pm

      John, thanks for the round-up of Ladd titles there. I must track down 13 West Street at some point as it sounds interesting at the very least.
      Regarding The Black Knight, I think the Spanish disc is still available but I can’t comment on quality. I see too that there’s an Italian release, which appears to be widescreen.

       
  14. Rod Croft

    May 3, 2014 at 2:08 am

    Colin, I understand that it was the commercial success of “Whispering Smith” that encouraged Paramount to film “Branded” with Alan Ladd – ( Audie Murphy took the role in the short-lived 1961 television series).

    It is unfortunate that many of Ladd’s adventure films of the 1950’s, including “Branded”, have been overlooked, although his early film-noir, (especially when he was teamed with Veronica Lake), and, of course, “Shane”, have been, and it seems, will always be, his most respected contribution to the cinema .

    In my youth, Alan Ladd was a major film star and the release of one his films attracted a good deal of public attention – if not always the appreciation of the critics.

    One of my favourite films of the period was “Botany Bay” (1953) an exciting seafaring adventure set in 1787. Once again Alan Ladd was given great acting support – James Mason as Captain Paul Gilbert, Sir Cedric Hardwicke as Governor Phillip, and Patricia Medina as the beautiful young woman, lusted over by both the cruel Captain as well as our hero. Guess who won Miss Medina’s heart at the conclusion of the photoplay ? As was to be expected, Mason dominated the acting but it was Ladd whom the audience had come to see. The scenes of the dreaded and vicious punishment of “keelhauling” in the film were, (and, after all these years, are still), etched in my mind.

    It was good to re-visit “Branded”, one of Alan Ladd’s sadly neglected films.

     
    • Colin

      May 3, 2014 at 5:12 am

      Ladd’s noir pictures certainly continue to have a much higher profile and a stronger critical reputation, Rod. While they are good movies, and among my favorites, I think a lot of that comes down to the fact that film noir has been afforded more critical validity over the years. For one reason or another, the western, and more generally the adventure genre, has never attained the same level of critical appreciation. It’s not a situation which I feel is fair or justified, but there you have it.

       
  15. chrisk

    May 3, 2014 at 3:26 am

    Another interesting movie by Ladd was Santiago. Have anyone missed this? Best regards.

     
    • Colin

      May 3, 2014 at 5:18 am

      Chris, I’ve never seen Santiago but I believe there is a Warner MOD of the movie available. It was a Gordon Douglas movie, a director who has often been mentioned and praised by a number of contributors on the site before, so that’s another one I need to add to the list. It appears to be set in pre-revolutionary Cuba, which is an interesting aspect in itself. Thanks for mentioning it.

       
  16. john k

    May 3, 2014 at 1:02 pm

    Interesting that Rod mentions BOTANY BAY another Paramount picture on the missing list. I have not seen that film but I would sure like to!
    I had another of my rants over at Toby’s recently about all those Republic Pictures (now owned by Paramount) on the missing list,but as usual got zero response which makes me think that I am the only nutcase on the Planet that cares about all this.

    Curious though it is, there is an outfit in Germany called Film Jewels (Film Juwelen) that seem to be putting out several vintage Republic titles. They are about to release the Rod Cameron Forrest Tucker Western OH! SUSANNA but sadly with a German only soundtrack. This film is not the best of those Cameron, Tucker, Joseph Kane Westerns but I would still like to have it.
    I note with interest that they have recently released THE ETERNAL SEA (1955) a Naval Bio-Pic starring Sterling Hayden and Alexis Smith two actors that I greatly admire. This Republic production has a strong supporting cast (Dean Jagger, Ben Cooper, Virginia Grey, Douglas Kennedy) and does have an English soundtrack. Furthermore the film has wonderful gallery of great character actors in supporting roles. Directed by the very interesting and underrated John H Auer. The only title that I have so far from Film Jewels is THE DEVIL’S AGENT which I think that we discussed before;and that DVD was a beautiful widescreen transfer with a whole host of trailers as extras.

    Germany is becoming a treasure trove for vintage films that never seem to get released in America. Koch have a high reputation for the quality of their transfers and their new improved packaging. Relative newcomers Explosive Media are also putting out some great titles. Ordering from Amazon de is great too for here in the UK their packets only take two days to arrive.
    BTW Colin,thanks for the link regarding the Italian version of THE BLACK KNIGHT but sadly the one review on Amazon Italy seems to think that there are major issues with the picture quality.

     
    • Colin

      May 3, 2014 at 3:02 pm

      Yes, there seems to be some interesting stuff coming in Germany these days, and often in pretty good quality editions. It’s all welcome as far as I’m concerned.
      Italy has recently upped its output too. I have a number of those A&R and Golem releases – maybe I’ve been lucky but I haven’t received an unsatisfactory transfer so far. On The Black Knight, my Italian is pretty poor but I think the Amazon reviewer you mention seems to complaining about a lack of detail, so I imagine the image must be a bit soft.

       
    • Jerry Entract

      May 3, 2014 at 4:30 pm

      John, I have seen both “Botany Bay” and “Hell On Frisco Bay”. They would have been on TV at some time, I guess, though it could be a while ago!

       
  17. Jeff Flugel

    May 4, 2014 at 3:11 am

    Late to the party as usual, Colin, but wanted to chime in to offer kudos on another terrific review. I’m a big fan of SHANE and some of Ladd’s other western roles, but have yet to see BRANDED. It sounds like a really intriguing set-up, kind of a western-style BRAT FARRAR. At first glance, Ladd seems an odd choice for a cowboy, really – small, slight, soft-spoken…but he’s a natural in the genre, and has a kind of quiet authority and sincerity that’s appealing. Sounds like this one gives him a chance to flex his acting chops as well. I’m guessing the Warner Archive DVD utilizes the same transfer…at any rate, it’s one I’ll be adding to the collection soon.

     
    • Colin

      May 4, 2014 at 8:49 am

      Thanks a lot, Jeff.
      A western-style Brat Farrar does indeed come to mind. There’s lots of dramatic potential in such a setup and Branded makes the most of it at every opportunity.
      Even if Ladd wasn’t (and arguably still isn’t) given the credit due him as an actor I think the proof of his abilities is there on film for all to see.
      I don’t know how the Archive disc presents the movie but I’d be surprised if it wasn’t the same transfer.

       
  18. Rod Croft

    May 4, 2014 at 11:50 pm

    Colin,

    For me, one of Alan Ladd’s most enjoyable family-western films of his post-“Shane” career was Samuel Goldwyn Jnr.’s production of “The Proud Rebel” (1958). As the producer tells it, he had approached at least three major male stars, who had rejected the main role of the film on the basis that it was “the kid’s picture”.

    A secretary suggested to Goldwyn Jnr., that, as Alan Ladd had a young son, David, he may be interested in accepting the leading role with David as his lad (!) in the film. Olivia De Havilland joined the cast along with Dean Jagger and Cecil Kellaway.

    In the interview, Goldwyn Jnr. made a point of mentioning that Alan Ladd did not touch alcohol during production and that he kept a wary eye upon the Director, Michael Curtiz, to ensure that David was treated kindly; a successful and enjoyable family film ensued.

    It was unfortunate that Alan Ladd’s production company, “Jaguar”, used WarnerColor to film, “Hell on Frisco Bay”, (released in Australia as “The Darkest Hour”) . The colour system from Eastman was notoriously unstable, unless handled and processed with care; such was not the case on this occasion. When it was first released in cinemas in Australia, the colour frequently altered noticably, particularily upon reel change and especially in regard to the hue of Ladd’s suit; perhaps my complaint may seem rather “churlish ” at this point in time, as technology would have by now, corrected the situation however, at that time, this was a major distraction to the enjoyment of the film.

     
    • Colin

      May 5, 2014 at 8:06 am

      Agreed Rod, The Proud Rebel is a good movie with a good role for Ladd. It’s just a pity there doesn’t seem to be a quality version of it available to buy.

      I’ve never seen Hell on Frisco Bay myself but I wouldn’t call your complaint about the unstable color “churlish” at all – that would drive me up the wall too.

       
  19. Laura

    May 13, 2014 at 10:39 pm

    I’m catching up a bit belatedly with this post and conversation on a movie I also enjoyed, though I remember having a feeling that perhaps too much had been left on the cutting-room floor.

    By coincidence I picked up this good news from the Warner Archive Facebook page, dated May 8th: “We renewed our rights to HELL ON FRISCO BAY, but underlying clearances require resolution before we can prepare a release.”

    So it sounds like it’s in the works but could take a while.

    Best wishes,
    Laura

     
    • Colin

      May 14, 2014 at 8:01 am

      Hello, Laura. Thanks for stopping by and passing on that news.
      I’ve been browsing the HTF where there are reports of an upcoming Alan Ladd box set containing The Big Land, Drum Beat, The Deep Six and Guns of the Timberland so there does appear to be positive developments with regard to Jaguar productions.

       
  20. Laura

    May 14, 2014 at 4:46 pm

    That kind of a set would be really exciting, thanks for the news, Colin! And thanks as well for taking the time to visit my post on this film. I’ve linked to this post in the comments at my place. :)

    Best wishes,
    Laura

     
    • Colin

      May 14, 2014 at 6:39 pm

      Very kind of you, Laura. And to return the favor, visitors can find your own take on this movie here – well worth a read.

       
      • Laura

        May 16, 2014 at 7:33 pm

        Many thanks, Colin! :)

        Best wishes,
        Laura

         
        • Colin

          May 16, 2014 at 7:40 pm

          My pleasure!

           
  21. john k

    May 15, 2014 at 10:38 am

    Hi Colin,
    I did post on the Ladd titles over at Toby’s yesterday but don’t know if you read the ever
    increasing Bill Elliott threads over there! :)
    THE DEEP SIX is up for pre-order on the Archive site.
    The three Westerns are,at the moment leased to Critic’s Choice Video.
    I do hope at some point that they turn up on Amazon USA
    At any rate it’s great there is some movement on the Jaguar titles which are much sought
    after.
    Like you Colin,I was underwhelmed by the Aussie release of DRUM BEAT

     
    • Colin

      May 15, 2014 at 11:27 am

      John, I’ve been kind of busy of late and just hadn’t time to browse around as much as I’d like, so I did miss your post at Toby’s place.
      Those Ladd titles will very likely get a wider release later, and I’d like to think they may turn up in Europe at some point too.

       
  22. john k

    May 15, 2014 at 12:19 pm

    Trouble is Colin I have been after these films for so long I just cannot wait to see if
    they turn up in Europe. Furthermore the poster/press ad artwork on these releases
    looks inspired to say the least.
    A pal has an account with Import Cds so time to call in a favor. I will at any rate let you
    know regarding p.q. ratios in due course.
    Talking about ratios there was a really interesting Bob Furmanek thread over at
    Toby’s recently. I did not know that films like BORDER RIVER was in widescreen
    as was RAILS INTO LARAMIE and BLACK HORSE CANYON which were both 2.1
    It would be more than wonderful if Koch release these last two in that ratio at some point.
    Both films have yet to surface anywhere on DVD.
    I remember seeing all these films and many other Universal Westerns in UK cinemas in the
    Sixties and they were certainly shown as 4×3 then. (apart obviously from the ones in
    CinemaScope) I think that here in Europe we were late to take to the new ratios i.e. 1.85
    1.78 and so on.
    While on the subject of Universal Fifties CinemaScope Westerns I see that sadly, the recent
    Spanish release of DAY OF THE BADMEN is 4×3 not widescreen.

     
    • Colin

      May 15, 2014 at 12:31 pm

      Perfectly understandable, John. For myself, I’ve waited this long so I reckon I can hold out another while. I’d be grateful to hear any details on PQ though if or when you do get them.

      There’s been a lot of info that’s surfaced recently on aspect ratios of films at or near the beginning of the widescreen changeover, much of it courtesy of the ever diligent Mr Furmanek. I think the point you make shows how it depended on the cinema you were going to at the time. There’s plenty of documentation coming to light to indicate the correct widescreen ratio the films were composed for (while also being protected for other projection ratios) so it seems to have been a question of what screen dimensions a given cinema could cope with.

       
  23. john k

    May 16, 2014 at 2:16 pm

    I have just tried to do an epic post on Ladd over at Toby’s and it’s got lost.
    I tried to break it down into sections and that got lost too…..very frustrating.
    I thought I would try to post something here to see if it’s my computer……hope you don’t mind

     
    • Colin

      May 16, 2014 at 6:27 pm

      No problem, John. By the way, you could try asking Toby to have a look in his spam as it’s possible your post got flagged as such and ended up there.

       
  24. john k

    May 17, 2014 at 10:27 am

    Thanks Colin,
    I have broken my “epic” down into sections and they thankfully have now appeared in that
    form. It’s such a drag when stuff gets lost in cyberspace.

     
    • Colin

      May 17, 2014 at 12:53 pm

      Tell me about it!

       

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