Springfield Rifle

Having looked at a hybrid movie last time out (a western/swashbuckler mash-up), I thought I’d continue in a similar vein and feature another western which has borrowed and blended in elements of another genre. Here it’s the espionage or spy movie and the result of this cinematic marriage is Springfield Rifle (1952).  It takes place during the Civil War, which has traditionally been a setting with decidedly mixed returns in both critical and commercial terms. And I think that’s what could be said of this production too: the film is interesting in places, muddled and short on momentum in others, and ultimately not wholly satisfying, a classic mixed bag.

As far as plot is concerned, this is the type of film where one has to be careful not to give too much information away, the mystery aspect is significant and it would be churlish to spoil that for anyone who hasn’t seen this before. Right from the beginning we’re made aware that this is a tale of counterespionage, and I doubt if it’s revealing too much to say that it’s essentially a case of setting a spy to catch a spy. Anonymous raiders are rustling horses in Colorado which are bound for the Union army. The regularity and success of this rustling operation strongly indicates that a spy or traitor is playing a part. Given the nature of conflict at the time, horses are vital to the war effort. So, the top brass is pressing for something to be done, and that pressure is being felt by local commander Lt Colonel Hudson (Paul Kelly). It’s Hudson’s hope that Major Lex Kearney (Gary Cooper) can deal with the problem. When Kearney’s command is relieved of its herd of horses with a shot being fired in anger, the Major finds himself facing a court-martial for cowardice. While this brings disgrace it also opens up an opportunity to learn much more than anyone in a uniform could hope to do. A bitter and disgruntled man, despised and shunned by family and former comrades alike, is in an ideal, unique position to infiltrate the ranks of the raiders.

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When you take a look at the cast and crew of Springfield Rifle you’d think there were strong grounds for expecting a first-rate piece of cinema. Even there are good points to consider, and I’m going to do just that presently, the end product does not measure up to what the constituent parts appear to promise. A film directed by Andre de Toth, especially around this time, is going to have some strengths, and it can’t be denied that the movie looks quite spectacular in places – the location work is a joy in visual terms giving the film a real boost, and the action set pieces are memorably staged and coordinated. There’s also a powerful and distinctive Max Steiner score to add some punch and drive. The beginning, and the somewhat misleading title, raise the prospect of the film being one of those odes to the military that can all too easily run to dreary and sanctimonious. Luckily though, the espionage theme takes precedence and the story goes in some unexpected directions – questions of trust and integrity are not only raised but are explored in some depth as well.

Movies with a script by Charles Marquis Warren normally get my attention, not because I like them all or even rate them all that highly – his TV work is undoubtedly more significant – but his name does encourage a certain amount of anticipation. Frankly, I feel the plot of Springfield Rifle is excessively and unnecessarily complicated. Aside from the twisting and turning, which is par for the course for any spy movie, the structure becomes muddled in my view by the tendency to reach too many (anti) climaxes, thus watering down their effect and drawing the energy out of the picture. The film runs for an hour and a half bit it feels longer than that.

Think of Gary Cooper and 1952 and, supposing you’re a movie fan, the words High Noon must surely come to mind. Springfield Rifle is from that same year but it’s a world away when it comes to quality. Again, it’s not a bad film but it is a rather mediocre one. I try to look at material on its own terms, to avoid unfair or loaded comparisons where possible, but there are occasions when I can’t get round them. In the same year as High Noon the sheer ordinariness of this movie leaps out at one but the fact is that it fares the same when placed against a lot of Cooper’s other genre work. I don’t say Cooper delivers a poor performance – there’s the deceptive simplicity which was his trademark, and also a meanness (verging on sadism I’d say) touched on in the aftermath of a fight with Lon Chaney Jr that would be drawn on further by the actor in Anthony Mann’s later Man of the West. Nevertheless, it’s minor Cooper and I can think of at least a half dozen other westerns which used his persona and talents better.

The rest of the cast of Springfield Rifle is extremely impressive: Lon Chaney Jr, Phil Carey, Paul Kelly, James Millican, David Brian, Phyllis Thaxter, Alan Hale Jr & Fess Parker. By anybody’s standards, that’s quite a list. However, with the exception of Kelly and, to a lesser extent Brian, these people are wasted and their abilities are never exploited as fully as they ought to have been. Many of them are written into the movie and then written out abruptly or, in a few cases, simply dropped with next to no explanation. In some ways, this failure to get the best out of such a bank of talent is the most disappointing thing about the movie.

Springfield Rifle was released years ago on DVD in the US by Warner Brothers as part of a Cooper box set. The film looks OK but there are some marks here and there and there’s the potential, with a bit of restoration, to have the film looking really splendid. I doubt that will happen though, and maybe it’s not something worth getting upset about. While the movie could be spruced up visually that won’t address the weaknesses inherent in the script. My final verdict? A picture which is very attractive to look at, a cast to stoke up your enthusiasm, but a complex stop-start script that eventually trips you up in the overabundance of peaks and troughs.

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56 thoughts on “Springfield Rifle

  1. Excellent review, Colin. This film is more in my personal ‘comfort zone’ than some recent reviews, though I have enjoyed all of them.

    Coincidentally, I (re)watched “SPRINGFIELD RIFLE” only a week or two back and found myself enjoying it rather more than on previous occasions. Not entirely sure why that is. In the past, I have always found the film not delivering its full potential, considering the talents involved, as you have written, but found it more satisfying overall this time. Now what could explain this? Either I am becoming less critical in my advancing years (doesn’t seem likely) OR much of what passes for entertainment now makes a film like “SPRINGFIELD RIFLE” look better by comparison? Probably, the answer lies in both possibilities, or maybe somewhere between.

    I found myself well involved in the storyline and felt it flowed pretty well. Paul Kelly was a strong presence, as he always was, “BRANDED” particularly, and contributed greatly to my enjoyment. Cooper was also in good form here though.
    It becomes almost impossible to not make comparisons with the other film Cooper made in 1952 but at the end of the day it is putting a true classic in comparison with an enjoyable film but certainly no classic.

    These discussions, and I look forward to reading other folks’ thoughts on this film, are not just good fun but really raise awareness and make one rewatch films sometimes from new perspectives. It has brought much renewed enjoyment for these films for me.

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    • Cheers, Jerry. Kelly is fine, as always, and both he and Cooper do all that could be asked of them – no major complaints there.
      As for your liking it better this time round, maybe you just found you connected better with the stronger aspects (and there certainly are strong points) of the movie on this viewing?
      And if anything I feature here gets people talking about and, even better, watching stuff for the first or the fortieth time, then that’s just about as good as it gets for me.

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  2. I too found it to be a disappointment considering the cast , director etc. In fact have watched it twice, but did not change my view thereafter. The only comfort is that it is in colour and I do admire the picturesque location. Lest I forget, thank you for the frequent posting of late. Best regards.

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    • Hi, Chris. Yes, the location work and the general look of the movie are definite points in its favor.
      I’ve tried to be more active here lately so I’m pleased that’s gone down well – not sure if I can keep the pace up indefinitely of course. 🙂

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  3. The note in my handy-dandy little journal reads “Civil war espionage story failed to excite”.

    I watched it for the first time on TCM this past Saturday. I missed most of Ms. Vasquez’s introduction, but heard something about the plot being similar to Roy Rogers pictures. I wished they had shown a couple of Roy’s movies. If I were writing an intro, I would have mentioned how different the characters and their relationship played by Cooper and Chaney were from their other 1952 film. But that’s just me.

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    • That journal entry is as good a summary of the film as cold be hoped for.
      I like your idea about comparing and contrasting Chaney and Cooper’s roles in this and High Noon – I’ll bear that in mind if/when I get round to featuring that film here. Chaney himself is such a fascinating guy with regard to how his star rose and gradually fell.

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  4. Yep! I like Patricia’s journal entry as well and I might add that your review is spot on too! Cooper’s Warners Westerns are for me unremarkable though
    SPRINGFIELD RIFLE is better than DALLAS despite that film also having a good director. DISTANT DRUMS is probably the best of the bunch though both
    Cooper and Walsh have done far better. I did like Chaney having his butt slashed for ill treating Coop’s horse.I recall in De Toth’s THE BOUNTY HUNTER Randy placing a baddie butt down on a scalding stove.Also in De Toth’s PLAY DIRTY I seem to recall a sniper shooting someone in the butt as well. Well,as I have often stated before you can always rely on me to lower the tone of any blog. 🙂

    SPRINGFIELD RIFLE was a film more suited to Randolph Scott I always thought; but as you say the scenery is great.-(Lone Pine?) Fess Parker pops up in all sorts of Warner films like THE BOUNTY HUNTER and THEM! I wonder if they were grooming him for future stardom or just considered him a bit part contract player. His big break was soon to arrive as Disney’s DAVY CROCKETT

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    • Yes, Lone Pine one of the locations used. Even though I think Cooper ids fine in the role, the movie might have benefited from Scott in the role as he would (I think) have brought a different sensibility to it all.
      I hadn’t thought about rear end abuse as a possible motif for de Toth’s films but I’ll have to keep an eye out for it in the future. 😀

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  5. This is one of those westerns that leaves you wanting more. Like you point out, with all the talent involved, it’s just sooooo average. I too have that Coop set from WB. While it might not get a restoration, I wouldn’t be surprised if Kino picks it up for blu release. They did Man of The West not long ago and plenty of other flicks one wouldn’t expect.

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    • Kino and other labels have put out some left-field titles on BD but the rights for this ought to still be with WB. If it was with someone else then I’d say there was greater probability of it being licensed out. WB, for them most part, tend to hang onto their own stuff and their restored Archive Blu-rays are usually the ones they reckon will sell better. Still, as a certain musician once said, you never can tell.

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  6. Berry picking in the High Country? 🙂

    Stil, I guess Jerry will know what I’m on about
    I bet he’s also got the original vinyl of the Bluegrass
    tribute to the Great Man.
    Berry Picking In The Country by Jim & Jesse
    with liner notes by the man himself.

    Now back on-topic.
    DISTANT DRUMS was a United States Production
    (Milton Sperling) released by Warner Brothers but rights
    now owned by Paramount hence the Olive Films release.
    As Colin states Warners rarely lease out titles to other
    outfits and they are stepping up their Blu Ray releases,.
    They recently re-issued SPRINGFIELD RIFLE as an MOD (DVD).
    The Warner title I overlooked was THE HANGING TREE
    Cooper’s last great Western…now that’s one I would get on
    Blu Ray in a heartbeat.

    Kino at the moment have on-going deals with Fox (which
    includes old United Artists titles) and Paramount which
    also includes the Republic titles that they own.
    They are striking new deals all the time-recently leasing titles
    from the old Cinerama imprint-I’d love them to sort out something
    with Sony/Columbia so many great unreleased films in their library.

    What I do find odd is that when they announce a Spaghetti Western
    release it gets far more “likes” on their Facebook page than a traditional
    Fifties Western…I guess that’s down to folk’s tastes these days.
    Lee Van Cleef’s DEATH RIDES A HORSE has already generated 200
    “likes” and that’s OK ‘cos the film is one of Lee’s very best.

    I note our pal Toby has previewed some of Kino’s Spaghetti releases
    over at his Hannibal 8 a first for this fine blog I might add.
    Toby,of all people might know what is generating better sales,
    the Spaghetti’s or the traditional (American) Westerns-it would be
    most interesting to find out.

    Explosive Media,Germany are certainly upping their output they have
    just announced THE RARE BREED making it’s Worldwide Blu Ray
    debut in June.They are certainly on a Jimmy Stewart “kick” at the moment
    with WINCHESTER ’73,BEND OF THE RIVER and NIGHT PASSAGE
    due for Blu Ray releases soon. Explosive discs are normally “region Free”

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    • A BD of The Hanging Tree would get my money too, without question, as it’s one of my all-time favorite westerns.

      On the Spaghetti western popularity, I guess those movies feed into and have crossover appeal with the cult market and that typically translates into good sales. Must check out H8 actually as I haven’t been there for a bit.

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  7. Just to add to the above I note Kino are also adding
    Selznick titles to their roster…..they’ve just announced
    DUEL IN THE SUN on Blu Ray.
    Not sure I want this as I’ve never cared for the film which
    I have not seen in ages-still visually it’s sure to look
    stunning in high def,.

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  8. No, I don’t have “BERRY PICKING IN THE COUNTRY”, John, as it happens. I was a fan of Jim & Jesse but not especially, Chuck Berry, so didn’t get it on release.

    As to the sales point – an interesting one, I think – I guess it’s largely an ‘age’ issue. There are more folks now who grew up on those Spaghetti things than the traditional westerns, which I grew up on. I went to see a number of Spaghettis on release as they were westerns and almost all there was at the time. I VERY quickly tired of them though; found most of ’em a yawn. This was only a few short years after films of the calibre of “THE HANGING TREE”, “RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY” etc – chalk and cheese, as far as this old mossback is concerned!

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      • I have to say I find that a bit of a mystery really (the highly influential critics championing them). Perhaps they find great art in no script, piles of dead bodies after motiveless gunfights, explosions all over the screen…….. Maybe I was King Canute in a past life!!

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        • Leone, deservedly, draws enormous critical praise and his shadow looms large over the sub-genre, spreading goodwill for lesser material. The best spaghetti westerns are the ones which attract attention and lots of others enjoy the reflected glory, I think.
          I have no issue with the top movies getting plaudits – a good movie ought to be recognized as a good movie regardless of genre, after all – but there is a huge quantity of dross that gets, if not quite a free ride, better treatment than it probably merits.
          Aside from the altered focus in theme and philosophy, I feel one of the big differences between the spaghetti western and the classic western is steep drop in quality that occurs in the former. There is a relatively small number of genuinely great films among the spaghetti westerns, and there is a precipitous dive in quality to the next level. That inconsistency or extreme variation is not to be found in the classic western – far more greats, and then only a short step down to the next level, and so on.

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          • Yes, I agree with that wholeheartedly, Colin. But I suppose I will be in a minority when I say that I cannot think of a single Spaghetti western, with the exception of “ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST”, that I would recognise as a great movie. They virtually all encompass my comments regarding lack of a script, motiveless gunfights etc. I cannot believe the Old West was peopled by men who merely grunted and then opened fire at all and sundry. Clearly Hawks, Ford and many others didn’t think so.

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            • Yes, historical accuracy or lack of same isn’t an overriding concern for me, Jerry, as I think it’s handled with considerable flexibility in westerns in general. Bt that’s OK with me because they are movies, and movies are art, and art and reality are not the same thing. It’s the theme, tone and ethics of the Spaghetti western (in general terms) that have greater issues with; we’ve been here before,, but the approach to violence and, crucially, the consequences of violent acts on victims and perpetrators tends to be glossed over or dealt with in a glib and superficial manner, which encourages a juvenile perspective on major themes.
              Having said all that, I do still watch Spaghetti westerns from time to time, just not so often now I’ve learned they don’t speak to me in anything like the same way as the classic form, and I rarely have the desire to revisit many. I keep saying I’ll feature one (or maybe more) at some point on this site but with the exception of *I think* one Leone and a multinational effort like Red Sun I’ve not gone far down that path.

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  9. Colin – Thanks for the review. You nailed it. The script is so ordinary I can barely remember the story. What I do remember are some good outdoor action sequences on location in the mountains with running horses and so on. Yes, too bad this production did not have a better script.

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  10. Between spaghetti and American westerns, I would prefer the latter. I only went for spaghetti if the lead is an American , only to satisfy my craving for the latter. No toss up required. Best regards.

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  11. The Lincoln County Wars hit the High Country!

    This is getting interesting….. now it’s personal.
    Like Chris I feel most RTHC regulars would prefer American
    (especially Fifties) Westerns over the Euro variety.
    Having said that there are some very good Euro and Spaghetti’s.
    Like Chris I am more or less attracted to the Euro’s that have
    American leads-furthermore certain American actors more or less
    had their entire careers based in Europe (Richard Harrison,
    Robert Woods)
    Not only American actors were attracted to working in Europe,
    also noted directors worked there too: John Sturges,Lesley Selander,
    George Sherman,Burt Kennedy,Paul Landres,Roy Rowland,Nathan
    Juran,Henry Levin,Edward Dmytryk,Hugo Fregonese,Mark Stevens
    to name a few.

    What constantly bemuses me is the attitude of what I call the UK
    “B Western Clique’s” attitude to Spaghetti’s and Euro Westerns in
    general.(I might add that I am a fringe member of that “clique”
    though more of a renegade or turncoat;if you will)
    While these guys will happily watch some Godawful Johnny Mack Brown
    or Bill Elliott Monogram cheapie they will turn their noses up at a really
    good Spaghetti starring say Lee Van Cleef.
    Even worse they are quiet happy to endure bottom of the barrel
    poverty row drek starring the likes of Tom Tyler or Lash Larue.

    To each his own of course,but those guys follow a pattern,apart
    from their hatred of all things Euro they also despise Eastwood
    for some reason.
    What really winds me up about “The Clique” is their attitude to
    actually buying DVD’s they hardly ever do.
    They are engaged in this “trading circuit” whereby if they can
    get a “pirate” (i.e. cloned) copy they will happily do so.
    They tend to have gargantuan collections of mostly off air or
    pirate copies which in turn are worthless as anything they could
    sell on.

    All well and good but the harm these guys do is that they
    are restricting smaller imprints from issuing minority taste
    films. Say,for example;heaven forbid one of these profiteers
    got hold of Kino’s SUNSET IN THE WEST they would bootleg
    it on an industrial scale and then be the first to moan why Kino
    are not releasing more Republic Roy Rogers films.

    Mike,a regular over at Toby’s encountered one of those crooks
    at a film convention recently-this sleazy individual was selling cloned
    copies of the Rawhide TV series at £5.00 a disc. Mike asked
    don’t your customers realize that they can buy the official release
    off Amazon for a fraction of what you are charging.
    The crook replied “let’s hope they don’t find out”

    This bootleg/trading thing really is the British disease someone I
    have known for over 50 years has been at it for ages still selling
    4×3 versions of CinemaScope films like WARLOCK that he is
    transfering from old VHS TV recorded tapes from the 1980’s.
    I asked him recently have your customers not heard of Amazon-
    evidently not
    I am sure this bootlegging of official releases goes on on a grand
    scale in The States but i do wish these guys would know the harm they are
    doing in getting more obscure films released.
    I also am bemused that none of these cats have embraced the
    Blu Ray format-I guess that’s because of years and years of
    watching “off air” films picture quality is just not an issue,

    If you think I sound like a bitter old man,then you are right but
    the attitude of these people does get my goat and in closing I
    will state that i am far from “well off” When I retired a few years
    back I was virtually penniless because of a series of ill fated
    choices I had made career wise-I’ve crashed and burned before
    several times and my only credo in life is that you have to learn
    to ride with the knocks.

    I’m at the stage now in life where I can afford most of the Blu Ray’s
    that I crave,and with all the wonderful Western releases recently
    that’s fine. I just wish the people who bootleg and sell on releases
    from boutique imprints would think about the harm they are doing
    in getting similar fare getting released.
    On a more positive note with more and more classic Westerns getting
    the Blu Ray treatment that’s one way of keeping the bootleggers at
    bay they don’t have the technology to clone them….yet,and long may that
    remain so,.

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  12. I had intended to not contribute to this thread-give it a rest
    for a while but the diversions that these replies take make it
    hard to refrain from contributing.
    One of the downsides of Spaghetti Westerns is that many of them
    were picked up by very small distribution networks-therefore master
    negs,if indeed they still exist-are very difficult to locate.
    Even if they can be sourced finding them in perfect condition is an
    even harder task.
    Many Spaghetti’s,were,of course, picked up by major distributors and Kino
    Lorber are having a field day sifting through the old United Artists library
    (now owned by Fox)
    One Spaghetti that I can highly endorse is A MAN CALLED SLEDGE
    available on Blu Ray from Explosive Media. The film is top heavy with
    American talent:James Garner,Dennis Weaver,Wayde Preston,John Marley,
    Tony Young,Claude Akins,Ken Clark, as well as director Vic Morrow-it’s a doozy of
    a high def transfer
    Film has been unfairly overlooked.
    On my Spaghetti “wants list” are:
    MURIETA (aka Vendetta)
    George Sherman’s only Euro Western starring Jeff Hunter and
    Arthur Kennedy. I understand Warners (USA) and Studio Canal (Europe)
    still own the rights.
    FIND A PLACE TO DIE
    Jeff Hunter again a Euro re working of GARDEN OF EVIL
    some sections directed by Hugo Fregonese. The currently available
    DVD is sadly unwatchable.
    SUNSCORCHED
    Directed by and starring Mark Stevens one of the first Euro Westerns-
    Stevens involvement means the film must be of some interest.

    These DVD vs Blu Ray-Spaghetti Western debates have raged several
    times over at Toby’s now they have hit the High Country-the feeling I got
    over at Toby’s was that few Western fans have embraced the Blu Ray format
    which is possibly why overall there are so few Westerns released on Blu Ray
    in the USA and UK as opposed to France and Germany. The French and
    Germans sure love their Westerns which in turn is great for UK Western
    fans.Sensational cover art on Explosives forthcoming Blu Ray of BEND OF
    THE RIVER…cannot wait.

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  13. Oohh, now who’s getting personal, John!! LOL

    I couldn’t really argue with your point-of-view re bootlegging. BUT, I would rather watch Bill Elliott in “MAN FROM TUMBLEWEEDS” ANY OLD DAY in preference to most Spagbol affairs. The American ‘B’ westerns may lack the colour and more extensive locations but I think them a whole lot more entertaining. I am talking here about the better quality ‘B’s though.

    I saw “A MAN CALLED SLEDGE” on General Release and found it bitterly mediocre. Very flat and indifferent. But I defend your right to like it ‘to the death’, my friend!

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    • I mentioned this in a separate reply to John, but I honestly felt A Man Called Sledge was less than mediocre – you’re a more generous soul in your assessment of it than I am.

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  14. Ha! I like your Spagbol term possibly you mean
    Spagbollocks! 🙂

    Actually A MAN CALLED SLEDGE stood up far better than
    I was expecting-I think in the UK it played as a second feature.

    As you know the thing that gets my goat is those who bootleg
    and sell on minority films like SUNSET IN THE WEST are harming
    films like this get other releases especially when Toby and Kino lorber
    are playing a long shot regarding this-Kino have no worries shifting tons
    of Van Cleef fare SABATA and the like.

    Anyway good to see you active in this “range war” as long as we keep
    it good natured.

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    • Hmm, both yourself and Jerry mentioning A Man Called Sledge had me raising an eyebrow in the style of Roger Moore. 🙂
      I haven’t seen the film in quite a while but I remember feeling unimpressed with it, but that may have been down to my mood at the time. Of course it was on DVD and the Blu-ray presentation may add something to it all – that does sometimes happen.

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  15. Nothing like a good ‘range war’ from time to time, as long as it is good-natured, as you say, John.

    Two thoughts from me: –
    A good-looking hi-def transfer may make a film look good but doesn’t unfortunately make the film itself any good. I started yesterday to watch the 1964 western “GUNFIGHTERS OF CASA GRANDE” with Alex Nicol. It did look good and the desert locations in Mexico were worth seeing. Directed by Roy Rowland (whose ‘Gun Glory’ I really like) but I turned off after a short while as the film itself was generally uninteresting – hackneyed storyline, weak script (at least this one had a script!).

    My other thought is that while I could not possibly argue your point about bootlegging, it does occur to me that some films we might not want badly enough to lay out a fortune for but a good copy from a friend means you can see the film at least. The films that really mean something to one personally is a different matter. I only float this as a possible reason why some might be happy with copies. There really is no excuse for flogging lousy p&s copies when a decent DVD or BluRay exists, I agree.
    I hope my above idea is not too muddled…….. Hope you get the meaning.

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    • All this talk of good, bad and ugly (sorry, couldn’t resist) spaghetti westerns meant a posting on another forum kind of jumped out at me and reminded me of a Euro western I came across fr the first time last year and largely enjoyed. That was the Arrow release of Cemetery Without Crosses. It also helps that it has this groovy main theme by the great Scott Walker –

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      • Great theme song from Scott from one of the better Spaghetti westerns. When Arrow put out a Spaghetti, you can bet it will be a good one.
        That’s the thing with Euro westerns, even if the film is mediocre, the soundtrack can be wonderful, and that’s a whole new collecting hobby, Spaghetti westerns soundtrack LPs with great cover art.

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        • That’s right, Mike, the poster art is another big plus. Of course Italian poster art was generally excellent and highly evocative – I like to feature some here from various genres where possible.

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  16. GUNFIGHTERS OF THE CASA GRANDE is pretty thin pesto.
    Hard to believe Borden Chase had a hand in the script.
    I still champion A MAN CALLED SLEDGE especially for Garner’s
    atypical bad guy role.
    In all honesty (and I’d dare not admit this over at Toby’s)
    I’m not big on Roy Rogers or his films.
    The real attraction for me is seeing a vintage Republic Trucolor
    B Movie given a 4K restoration.
    Toby’s dry wit in the commentary is the icing on the cake.
    At some future point I’d love to see Toby and,say someone like
    Nick Redman trading views on some cinematic gem.

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    • Yes, Casa Grande is a weak one. I saw A Man Called Sledge for the first time a couple of years back, l was really impressed, a good dark western, James Garner performs well. I guess Mr Garner will always be lovable rogue Maverick for some, and it took a while for him to get tough and gritty in westerns. Duel At Diablo and Hour Of The Gun are two of his best.

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      • I may have to have another look at A Man Called Sledge after hearing a bit of support for it here. I like those other westerns with Garner quite a bit, especially the Sturges one.

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        • I think “HOUR OF THE GUN” is one of the very finest later westerns, really adult in theme and treatment and Garner is just superb – really understated.

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  17. It always amazes me how two films from the same director 10 years apart differ so much in mood. The heroics of the 1957 film have turned to cynicism and doubt about true motives by 1967. The latter, as I understand it being at least closer to the facts. I watched the two films back to back a few months ago. I have to say I love both of them.

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    • I like them both too. As for the different tone, they really are a product of their respective eras and, for me anyway, is just another example of how it’s virtually impossible to separate the tone of any piece of art from the sensibilities of the time in which it was made.

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  18. Agreed absolutely. It is the relatively small difference of 10 years that stands out for me but then the 1960s was a decade of seismic social change and change of attitudes.

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    • It’s slightly sobering to think how much can change within the space of a decade and sometimes, as you say, you come across these radical shifts which make it even more apparent. The fact this was the same director following up on the same characters underlines it all further of course.

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  19. I was fascinated by the German poster for SPRINGFIELD RIFLE and its retitling as “Gegenspionage”. Looking up the translation, I found that the film’s German title comes out as “Counter-intelligence”.

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    • Well, that is one of the main plot points, John, so it’s not a bad title really. I do like these Euro posters and try to use them for illustration when I can – I find German and Italian ones tend to be especially evocative.

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  20. After reading your review and Jerry’s liking to it after earlier viewing, I just did another viewing and find that I am beginning to enjoy it! Since it is an outdoor western, would have liked it better if it is in cinemascope . Best regards.

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