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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46 thoughts on “Blu News – Ramrod

  1. Thanks for the alert. Ramrod’s reputation seems to be growing. I hope there will be some attention given to Luke Short, the brilliant western author who penned this tale. The high quality of story telling is consistent with other films taken from his books. This new scan and supplements will be much appreciated. Now if only someone would get around to Robert Wise’s Blood On the Moon (also 1948), another western noir from a Luke Short novel..

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    • Yes indeed, Blood on the Moon would be another welcome title in a scrubbed up version – and the way things have been going lately, you never can tell what may appear.
      Considering how prolific Luke Short was, and how many movies were adapted from his books, it’s a wonder he’s not more celebrated. Then again, western writing has arguably been even more critically neglected than filmmaking.

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  2. I agree that it is a fine film, Colin: very dark in places, especially the chilling sequence where a character is stalked and then executed in cold blood. I expect the film will look even better with the Arrow treatement: thanks for the alert.

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    • Arrow typically do fine work so I feel confident this edition will be a winner.
      This has to be one of those movies where the fact it was only available in frankly poor condition must have weakened its reputation and limited its audience. Let’s hope that’s something that will change.

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  3. Good news for all western buffs on the US market, I guess. Fortunately this DeToth’s movie has already been released on DVD in France (Wild Side Video) and so beautifully released that I doubt any BR would improve the visual quality of this excellent film. By the way, the french title for “Ramrod” happens to be… “Femme de feu”. André DeToth is highly regarded as a director in our country, thanks to film maker Bertrand Tavernier & film critic Philippe Garnier who wrote one (or two?) books on DeToth.

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    • As is so often the case, France is a step ahead when it comes to recognizing cinematic artistry. I’d like to think that well-produced editions such as this with generous extras would boost the status of De Toth in the English-speaking world though.
      Oh, and I should say that this is a UK release of the movie by Arrow – the company does release material on both sides of the Atlantic but this is a HD first for the movie for UK fans.

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  4. Arrow generally out-performs its USA counterparts. Arrow costs a little more but they’re worth it, in my opinion.
    Indicator is another label on the rise. Are they a branch of Arrow? They did a fine job on FRAGMENT OF FEAR, an intelligent English neo-noir that I’ve always liked and had the pleasure of rediscovering on Indicator’s excellent bluray. Has it really been 47 years since I saw it. My goodness.

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      • Among my Arrows is Robert Aldrich’s THE BIG KNIFE (United Artists, 1955). At about 95 minutes 30 seconds there is a one-minute scene missing from the Arrow that’s on the inferior MGM DVD. I’ve been trying to find out if Arrow managed to put the missing footage, lasting a full minute, back into a later pressing. But I get no reply from Arrow and find no mention on the internet. Anybody know?

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  5. Well 2018 has not even begun and already it’s
    looking like a banner year for Classic Western releases.
    The tasty sounding extras alone make this essential.
    Sorry to rain on Arrow’s parade but Joel McCrea had
    TOP billing in this film not Lake!
    I guess Joel’s name does not register much with today’s
    generation of movie fans.
    Sorry to be boorish (again) but I’m going to point
    out a few points I have made many times before,
    here and elsewhere-at any rate,by now you know I’m the sort
    of cat that likes to make the same trip to the well-often over
    and over again.
    Firstly McCrea & DeToth did not get on,Joel wanted Raoul Walsh
    to direct and Andre wanted Gary Cooper to star.
    From what I have read I don’t think Joel was too keen on Lake
    despite their tremendous chemistry in the classic SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS.
    With all this going against it it’s amazing that the film turned
    out as well as it did-which is very well indeed.
    Producer Harry Sherman had intended to make about four big
    budget color Westerns with McCrea over at Eagle Lion but sadly
    the studio folded. Sherman also produced the very fine FOUR
    FACES WEST also just released on Blu Ray and getting rave reviews
    for it’s superb picture quality.
    Had the Sherman/Eagle Lion thing happened and as Anthony Mann
    was Eagle Liuon’s “house” director it might have been Joel and not
    Jimmie that had that magic partnership-just imagine a Joel McCrea
    Western directed by Mann and shot by John Alton (another Eagle
    Lion regular).
    I long for DeTho’s wonderful MAN IN THE SADDLE to be released on
    Blu Ray-it’s even more Noirish (despite being in color) than RAMROD
    especially with it’s central theme of obsessive love.
    Thanks Colin for the heads up on this wonderful news-I’m furthermore
    encouraged that more films are appearing in high def from my personal
    “Holy Trinity” of Western stars Scott,McCrea and Murphy.

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  6. Ha!
    I’ve just seen the reverse artwork,and indeed
    Joel does get top billing,as he should!
    The responses this announcement has generated,so far,
    is indeed encouraging.

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  7. I thought I’d add a little bit regarding the McCrea/De Toth
    bad vibes.
    In Robert Nott’s excellent and very well researched book
    LAST OF THE COWBOY HEROES (Scott,McCrea,Murphy)
    he states that McCrea said “there was nothing I could do
    the direction needed to be more fluid”.
    He called the film “lousy”
    McCrea also states that he was less than happy with Lake’s
    performance…which Nott describes as “one note”
    Nott also,and in my opinion quiet correctly,says that the film
    would have worked better with Stanyyck or Jane Greer
    in Lake’s role.
    I personally think Ella Raines would have been wonderful in the
    Lake role.
    I also remember reading an old McCrea interview where he states
    that he wanted Walsh to direct but Harry Sherman came up with
    Andre De Toth who was married to Lake at the time and they were so-oh
    in love.Again McCrea calls the film “lousy”
    According to Mr Nott DeToth thought the film needed someone with
    a bit more guts,Gary Cooper for instance.
    De Toth also states that McCrea tried to get Harry Sherman to fire him.
    It’s interesting that in spite of all this the film is now considered,at
    the very least a minor classic.
    Time,sometimes sorts all these things out.

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    • Clearly, McCrea had bad memories of working on the film but I do feel he was unnecessarily harsh – sometimes those closest to a piece of work get a completely different perspective to viewers.

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  8. Some very interesting background provided by John there. I think McCrea’s almost ambivalent portrayal was spot-on for this film. It worked beautifully and the film is very much a favourite western of yours truly.

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  9. I actually watched the movie one time at someone’s apartment with De Toth there (brought by Todd McCarthy, who had befriended him). It seemed that by then he felt pretty good about it and said of McCrea that he felt he made him “tougher” in the role so seemed satisfied with McCrea in the end even if the feeling wasn’t mutual.

    I love the movie–it’s one of my three favorite De Toths and also one of my favorites with McCrea, and think one the direction is brilliant and McCrea typically outstanding. But I do think De Toth underrated McCrea more generally since he’s always as tough as the occasion calls for and an ideal actor in terms of genuineness and understatement and was just right for this role, no less than his other Western roles.

    I am just fine with Veronica Lake too so don’t agree with McCrea about that, nor do I wish Raoul Walsh had directed it even though Walsh directed McCrea so beautifully in my favorite McCrea movie COLORADO TERRITORY. But it really doesn’t matter to me what the participants said then or later about how they felt about it–I just go by my own reaction, always very positive with this.

    Russell Harlan photographed the first and last De Toth Westerns, this one and the even more visually stunning DAY OF THE OUTLAW, the only ones in black and white and they are the director’s best (and Harlan was so important to the genre, as his magnificent work for Howard Hawks, the first two of those Westerns in black and white and the last in color, always shows).

    Of the cast in RAMROD, the surprise was of course not McCrea, nor was it Lake. For me, as for most people, it was Don DeFore as a devil-may-care flashy gunman, McCrea’s more fallible friend–he really made the most of it, perhaps surprised himself to be cast that way.

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    • I’d pretty much agree, Blake, in that I never felt the casting of the principals was flawed or that the director could have been better. The comments of those involved surprised me a little when I was first made aware of them but then again, as I mentioned above, those more intimately involved in the production will have different experiences of the process and it probably shouldn’t be any great shock if their reactions or memories diverge from those of the viewers.
      I wasn’t familiar with DeFore until I saw this movie, and I’m not sure I’ve seen him in much else since but I too felt it was a good role and nicely played.
      And finally, it’s always a pleasure to hear praise for Harlan, whose work was vital in creating the memorable look of some fine films.

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  10. Odds & sods……
    Firstly,backtracking I believe eventually there will be a
    restored remastered version of BLOOD ON THE MOON-
    it’s one of many films that Warners are working on.
    Regarding Don DeFore his later credits are mainly TV appearances;
    of his early work and in fact a rare lead role I highly endorse
    SOUTHSIDE 1-1000 a crackerjack crime thriller/Noir
    similar in many ways to T-MEN.
    SOUTHSIDE 1-1000 was shot by Russell Harlan I might add.
    DeFore is dead on target as the relentless T Man and Andrea
    King scores as the Femme Fatale of the piece.
    The film also has a knockout performance from Morris Ankrum
    as a master forger still carrying on his operation from prison.
    The Warner Archive MOD is pretty bog standard and I hope some of
    the “second string” Noirs released as MOD’s will get a Blu Ray
    upgrade at some point.
    When all is said & done SOUTHSIDE 1-1000 needs to be
    more well known especially for fans of brisk, fast paced
    crime thrillers.
    Richard W if you are still with this;regarding Indicator;
    I give my highest recommendation to their recent THE RECKONING.
    The picture quality is sensational and for me the film smokes
    the similar themed GET CARTER.
    Their are plenty of political overtones in the film but this does not
    get in the way of the sheer power of the film or indeed Nicol
    Williamson’s magnificent performance.

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      • The Warner Archive MOD is pretty muddy and I’d love to see it
        restored on Blu Ray.
        The film proves that first rate films out there that possibly
        are overlooked because of second string leads and
        more or less unknown directors.
        Are you still at the same address in Athens-I’m sure in the
        New Year either myself or Mr Beal can source you a copy.
        In the meantime if you have a new address please send me
        an e-mail.
        Speaking of underrated Noirs/Crime Thrillers Mark at
        Where Danger Lives had done a sensational piece
        and reviewed HIGHWAY 301. Mark’s piece was written
        a few months back and I’ve just discovered it.
        Colin-I DO know you have this one in your “to be viewed”
        pile and I sincerely hope Mark’s superb write up will
        encourage you to bump it right to the top.
        I might add the same goes for Laura if she-is with this thread 🙂

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        • I might add that both HIGHWAY 101 and
          SOUTHSIDE 1-1000 have VERY right wing
          prologues so typical of the era-to me this
          just enters us into the spirit of the thing-
          a place and the time. I’m sure Colin
          that you like me will find some of the “official”
          guys more scary than the hoods that they are trying to erase.

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          • Indeed, some of the political messages in films around that time were incredibly heavy-handed. It’s a legacy of that era of course and interesting from an historical and sociological perspective, but but it can still give you a jolt from time to time.

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        • Yeah, I have a copy of Highway 301, although it’s not to hand just now – it’ll have to wait a while longer. 🙂
          And another yes, I’m still at the same address in Athens.

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  11. Arrow are certainly doing right by Western fans at the moment-
    in fact they are the only UK imprint giving us high quality Western
    releases at the moment.
    Eureka are very quiet on the Western front and Indicator
    continue to ignore the genre in spite of making definite in-roads
    with Sony and now Universal.
    WINCHESTER ’73 needs a Criterion type treatment not the stand
    alone treatment due from both Germany and Australia.
    Don’t you just hate it when you buy a “stand alone” Blu Ray
    then a few months later someone brings out a 4K version with a
    raft of extras.
    I know some regulars of this blog (The two MIkes-Canadian Mike
    and West Midlands Mike-also Chris) like the occasional Spaghetti Western.
    Arrow have an enticing package due two Ringo films starring the charismatic
    Giuliano Gemma-A PISTOL FOR RINGO and THE RETURN OF RINGO.
    As always with Arrow there are a raft of extras and the films themselves are
    2K scanned from master elements-so they should look wonderful.
    You have to admire Arrow who continue to source these rare Euro titles
    despite the fact they were normally distributed by minor outfits not the
    likes of Fox and Universal.
    I always felt the 2.35 ration or better still Techniscope was ideal for Spaghetti’s-they just
    don’t seem to work in 16×9.
    Of course the genre became so popular the makers no longer relied
    on “imported” stars (Eastwood,Rod Cameron,Guy Madison….) they
    created their own Western stars like Gemma,Anthony Steffan and Peter Lee Lawrence.
    Well that’s all folks I’m off line now until 2018 so all that’s left is to wish
    all those who Ride The High Country a very Happy Christmas and
    a whole heap of cinematic treats for 2018.

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    • Yes, Indicator have stayed away, so far anyway, from westerns, but what they do put out is of a high standard. And I guess that between the boutique labels in the UK there are westerns coming bit by bit so I won’t complain too much.
      Hope you have a great Christmas and New Year, John!

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    • Thanks for the Ringo films info John.
      I haven’t seen either of those, but from my Spaghetti Westerns books, l understand they are two of his best. So that double bill will definitely be heading down the old Spanish trail to me.

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  12. Decided to follow my own recommendations and re-watched
    both HIGHWAY 301 and SOUTHSIDE 1-1000 over Christmas-
    I’ll say this both films stand up to multiple viewings.
    As mentioned before the Warner MOD of SOUTHSIDE 1-100 is
    pretty bog standard but watchable-there is a nice moment in one
    of the location shots where there is a cinema showing RED RIVER
    a nod to photographer Russell Harlan and editor Christian Nyby.
    The picture quality on the Warner HIGHWAY 301 is far better
    up to Blu Ray standard I feel.
    HIGHWAY 301 never stops moving and is supremely shot by the
    very underrated Carl Guthrie.
    I forgot to mention SOUTHSIDE 1-1000’s leading man Don DeFore
    had good supporting roles in two Douglas Sirk war pictures
    BATTLE HYMN and A TIME TO LOVE,A TIME TO DIE.
    Been off line for over a week and am attempting to catch up-
    just noticed over at Jeff Arnold’s West there is a truly epic piece
    on Randolph Scott-needless to say our Jerry is way ahead of the game
    here 🙂

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    • I hope Christmas went well for you, John, and that the New Year is even better! I’ve not seen that Randolph Scott piece at Jeff Arnold’s so I shall have to take a look – thanks for the tip.

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  13. Just heard the sad news that one of my favorite actresses
    has passed away.

    Peggy Cummins 18.12 1925-29.12 2017

    Her two all time “cult” classics will be well known to all readers of
    this blog.
    HELL DRIVERS (1957) has not achieved cult status yet but should
    over time.
    Two other very fine films starring Peggy are ripe for rediscovery

    ESCAPE (1948)
    STREET CORNER (aka Both Sides Of The Law) (1953)

    Like

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