Blu News – Ramrod

The announcements are coming thick and fast these days! I wrote a piece on Ramrod back in the days when the movie was only available in ropey and generally rotten quality prints. It was always a fine film – the involvement of De Toth, McCrea and Lake ought to tell you that anyway – but the fact it’s getting the deluxe treatment from Arrow in March just means it’s in line for the respect it deserves. From Arrow:

One of the classic Westerns of its era, Ramrod stars Veronica Lake as Connie Dickson, a headstrong cowgirl who’s plans to marry a sheep rancher are thwarted when a powerful local cattle baron, Frank Ivey (Preston Foster), and her own father (Charles Ruggles), force her fiancé to flee town.

Refusing to kowtow to these powerful men, Connie inherits her ex-fiancés land and determines to run the ranch with the help of her new ramrod, reformed alcoholic Dave Nash (Joel McCrea). But Dave’s diplomatic attempts to resolve the dispute fall upon deaf ears and a bloody turf war on the open range ensues.

With Ramrod, Andre DeToth (a Hungarian-American director who has earned praise from Tarantino and Scorsese) skilfully creates a dangerous world of greed, lies and murder whilst garnering superb performances from McCrea and Lake, two of the biggest Hollywood stars of the 1940s.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation transferred from original film elements
• Uncompressed Mono 1.0 PCM audio soundtrack
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
• Audio commentary by film scholar Adrian Martin
• Andre DeToth in Conversation with Patrick Francis, far-reaching audio-only interview conducted by the documentary filmmaker
• Newly-filmed appreciation by expert on American genre films, Peter Stanfield
• Andre DeToth Interviewed at the National Film Theatre, a career-spanning archival interview from 1994, conducted by writer and broadcaster Kevin Jackson
• Gallery of original promotional images
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Sean Phillips

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Adrian Danks, contemporary reviews and production stories.

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Blu News – The Hanging Tree – Updated

While this “news” of a movie I hold in the highest esteem has already broken, I’m just adding an extra bit of info which pleased me no end when I saw it, and I think it’s worth flagging up. The Warner Archive page added the following and the part I’ve highlighted in bold and certainly caught my attention:

THE HANGING TREE (1959)
NEW 2018 1080p HD REMASTER FROM NEW 4K SCAN OF ORIGINAL CAMERA NEGATIVE
Run Time 107:00
Subtitles English SDH
DTS HD-Master Audio 2.0 – English
ORIGINAL ASPECT RATIO – 1.78:1, 16 X 9 WIDESCREEN
COLOR
BD 50
Trailer in HD

Many stars saddled up and rode into Technicolor® sunsets during the great Western revival of the 1950s, but only a few would be forever associated with the rugged individualists of the West. Among them are John Wayne, Randolph Scott and the star of The Hanging Tree, Gary Cooper.

The story takes place in Skull Creek, an 1870s Montana gold camp. Dr. Joseph Frail (Cooper) arrives, setting out his shingle near the camp’s boom-or-bust hubbub of adventurers, ladies of fortune, mountain men and just plain decent folks. As skilled with a six-gun as with a scalpel, Frail will need both. A tragic past shadows his days. The treachery of the mob clouds his future. A determined immigrant (Maria Schell), a shifty-eyed miner (Karl Malden) and a hellfire preacher (debuting George C. Scott) figure prominently in Frail’s showdown with fate. Prominent, too, is the breathtaking countryside. Here, the mountains are imposing. And a man alone looms ever taller.

Blu News – A Man Alone

A most welcome piece of news from Kino is their announcement of a forthcoming release on Blu-ray and DVD of Ray Milland’s wonderful yet underrated A Man Alone (1955). There’s no date available yet but it’s claimed that the new transfer is coming from a 4K scan. I’m pleased.

Run of the Arrow

Whatever the causes of conflict might be, the aftermath, particularly for those on the side of the vanquished, tends to follow  predictable pattern and is typically characterized by feelings of futility, division and bitterness. The taste of defeat is sour, and the man who partakes of it may well find himself raging against the only adversary worthy of his bruised and broken contempt: the inadequacy and impotence he perceives within himself. Sam Fuller’s Run of the Arrow (1957) takes the capitulation of the South in the Civil War as its starting point, clinically probing the raw wound left by that rending of a fledgling nation before cauterizing it and thus allowing the healing process to begin.

It begins at the end, the end of the war, or one war anyway. With Lee about to acknowledge defeat, one embittered soldier of the South, O’Meara (Rod Steiger), fires the last bullet of the conflict. That fateful shot strikes and critically wounds  a Yankee lieutenant. Yet in what is perhaps a telling action as far as the true character of O’Meara is concerned, he takes his stricken enemy back to his own  lines for treatment by the field surgeon. Our protagonist is an angry and frustrated man, promised much but denied more by the battles he’s lived through, he’s seen his world smashed and his family decimated. For all of the hatred he claims to have embraced and the rage he’s barely able to contain, he never loses touch with his humanity and the deceptively hard heart he notionally displays is in reality little more than a fragile shell. The short-term result is that this man is left feeling adrift in life, rootless and without a sense of loyalty – so he sets out in search of something to  which he hopes he may attach himself. To that end he heads west, to the plains and the simplicity, and in some respects, the brutality of the Sioux. All the while though, as he seeks to transform himself and rediscover his place in the world, O’Meara is in fact on a cyclical journey, one that will ultimately lead him back to his own innate morality. And so the tale can end where it began, and the path towards internal reconciliation can be accessed.

Fuller’s characteristically punchy script is nicely constructed and layered; the classic, cyclical form utilized frames it all neatly while the characters are set up to mirror one another, and the central theme of the quest for inner reconciliation which is portrayed on a personal level can also be seen as an allegory for a wider process in national terms. The figure of O’Meara is (to my mind anyway) suggestive of Fuller himself, in that we have an ethical and fundamentally sensitive man choosing to present himself as a maverick. It’s hard not to see something of the provocative director in the confrontational character portrayed by Steiger. And Steiger, who too often in his career succumbed to the temptation to feast on the scenery, turns in a relatively restrained performance – there’s only one early scene with Olive Carey where he really lets rip and seriously overcooks it.

While I take a lot of pleasure in sifting through  the theme of the picture and the overall shape of it, it’s worth bearing in mind that the movie also functions and can be approached purely as a highly professional piece of entertainment, thus combining the essential characteristics of any successful piece of filmmaking. Joseph Biroc’s photography makes the most of the harsh Utah locations, and it’s always good to see a western which predominantly features exteriors. Aside from Steiger, the cast is very sold too. Ralph Meeker and Brian Keith swagger and sympathize respectively as they offer contrasting images of the victorious Northerners, while Charles Bronson, Sarita (Sara) Montiel and Jay C Flippen fill the principal native roles with varying degrees of success.

This is a slightly shorter piece than I’ve been in the habit of writing here, and there are a couple of reasons for that. Firstly, I’m still easing my way back  into site after  lengthy lay off. And secondly, I’m toying with the idea of going down the road of writing briefer posts in the future,  ones that focus on a few aspects of a work that particularly engage my attention. We’ll see how it develops.