Face of a Fugitive

A race against the clock is usually a solid and bankable  hook upon which to hang a story; there’s that built-in  element of suspense that grows naturally from the diminishing time, and then of course there are a fair few variations to exploit. Face of a Fugitive (1959), one of the last times Fred MacMurray would feature in a western role, sees the net drawing ever tighter around a wanted man, and the complications and obstacles lying in wait.

Jim Larsen (MacMurray) starts out as a prisoner, traveling a train on his way to serve time for robbery. Down but not quite out, he’s just got the jump on his amiable if slow-witted escort when his impulsive brother shows up ready to set him loose. The result of this unsolicited “help” is an exchange of gunfire that sees the lawman killed and the brother fatally wounded. This leaves Larsen running in earnest, now with a murder rap hanging over him and no way to prove his innocence. His only chance is to disappear before the law seal up all the escape routes. A bluff on another train buys a little time but even a name change and a touch of bare-faced audacity may not be enough to allow him to slip away from a small town in time. With all exits patrolled, Larsen’s only chance is to brass it out and hope he can find a way out before the wanted posters bearing his likeness arrive the following morning.

Face of a Fugitive sits comfortably among other late 50s westerns. Its theme of an individual striving to stay one step ahead of the guilty shadows cast by his own past and his somewhat reluctant path towards redemption had been thoroughly explored by this time, but that’s not to say the film is worth any less as a result. It benefits from the weary and fatalistic lead and the frequently inventive and evocative use of studio interiors by cameraman Wilfred M Cline and director Paul Wendkos. I tend to think of the latter as primarily a television name and I think there is, on occasion, a little of that sensibility on show  – the overall pacing and some of the shot selections. He would go on to take charge of a number of noir-tinged episodes of The Untouchables and I see some of that aesthetic at work here. Jerry Goldsmith earns one of his early screen credits for the score although I’m not convinced that a tight little production such as this is the best vehicle for his  more expansive style.

As I understand it, Fred MacMurray wasn’t overly keen on his western films, but he made some impressive ones: At Gunpoint would make for an interesting double bill paired up with High Noon, and Quantez is something of a low budget masterpiece. Face of a Fugitive offered him another worthy part, of the type that sat well with his inherent ambivalence and mock cynicism. I think he was well suited to roles like this, where he never appears fully comfortable with the image of himself he projects – that shallow insolence always feels like a veil to conceal the fragility of his  supposed self-confidence.

If MacMurray was nearing the end of his western career, James Coburn was just setting out on his. Within a year he and six others would head south of the border with John Sturges and never look back. His part here is a small but showy one as the villain’s principal henchman, and he stalks and prowls around the screen with wonderful menace. It’s just as well too as the villain of the piece, Alan Baxter, is just about passable, but lacks that authoritative presence his role calls for. Dorothy Green and Lin McCarthy play the other main characters and are fine without being especially remarkable.

I’m not sure how widely available Face of a Fugitive is for  home viewing – I have  an Italian DVD which is perfectly adequate in my opinion. The widescreen print used is generally clean and the transfer is acceptably sharp. If I had any complaint, it would be that the sound can be a little  weak or muffled from time to time but it remains audible. All in all, this is a good western, pacy and made on a tight budget, it represents a nice showcase for the contrasting talents of MacMurray and Coburn.

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43 thoughts on “Face of a Fugitive

    • Nice analogy, John! OK, you don’t get that crawling dread that comes off Woolrich but there is a palpable tension, not to mention a touch of the macabre in the disposal of a body and its subsequent, slightly awkward, reappearance.

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    • As you know, some of these releases can be hit and miss but I found the image here generally pleasing – I do think the audio could do with a bit of a boost though.

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  1. I must comment even if briefly on this very beautiful film, just where the Western needed to be and had come to by this point—1959, when I believe the genre had reached a peak. That doesn’t mean that I don’t love QUANTEZ from 1957 about as much as this–I’d find it hard to choose as I am captivated by both them. In that film too, Fred MacMurray is a man who has followed the wrong path, left his best self far behind, and the action of both films moves toward a hard-earned redemption, playing out differently in each case. In the earlier film, one especially feels his weariness, while in this one it’s his bitterness–one of the best moments of MacMurray’s whole career is his meditative talk (mostly on his part) with his dying brother in that baggage car. One feels his better impulses have been long stilled by that bitterness, but the effect his brother has on him here, especially in his death, also seems to be the beginning of something being reawakened that Larsen doesn’t even know is there–he finds it in the end.
    SPOILERS HERE
    When the wounded Larsen, having become a hero, is arrested and taken away at the end, it’s said that he could have escaped and been “free”–as he looks up at the sky and the birds flying, his eyes show the irony of this, because in a much more profound sense, now he is “free”–spiritually–and knows this himself. This is where some of us want Westerns to come to and where many late 50s ones, and so purposefully yet unpretentiously at this point, do come to.

    ***
    Obviously, I don’t care if MacMurray was unhappy with being in Westerns in this last half of the decade. It was an ideal place for him–of his other movies in that time only THERE’S ALWAYS TOMORROW offered him as great a role as some of these Westerns. He didn’t need to see it himself to do well in them and we can value him for what he could bring to these characters. This group of movies divides to where he is an upright, uncomplicated hero in some and these more checkered characters who have gone outside the law in a few, and though he is just fine in all of them, I make no secret of preferring him in the more checkered roles (you touched on some of the reasons why he is so good for them) and they are the most interesting of the movies too, not saying I don’t find a lot to like in most of the others of this period.

    A word on James Coburn just to remind that his one big screen role before this was even better–Pernell Roberts’ easygoing partner in RIDE LONESOME (also 1959–see what I mean about that year?) where the two men have some rare repartee and share one of the warmest and funniest scenes in any movie near the end, a scene cherished by all Ranown aficionados.

    As for Paul Wendkos, just a word because I think he was very talented and in fact I once met him, complimented him on FACE OF A FUGITIVE and it was something he appreciated–he very consciously thought of it as an existential drama and had taken it very seriously. He did end up devoting himself to TV and made most of his career there (and some good things too–TV movie THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BELL is worth seeking out), but starting out he did have some very good features too, beginning with THE BURGLAR from David Goodis novel. TARAWA BEACHHEAD is another excellent one but for me, no doubt FACE OF A FUGITIVE is the best thing he ever did and I find his direction impressive as well as intelligent for the whole movie.

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    • Yes indeed, Blake, that situation where MacMurray finds himself at the end of the movie is the “right” place for him – it’s the natural destination, if the story is to have any meaning. And I agree too, that it’s fitting that such a resolution should be reached in a 1959 film – that perfect end to such a rich decade. I guess this is ground we’ve covered before but it’s worth highlighting and pointing out – I should really have touched on this here but neglected it, so thank you for raising it.

      Yes, Coburn was very good in Ride Lonesome and it’s certainly a bigger and more memorable part than this one, but his part as henchman Purdy was still another pointer towards how much he had to offer.

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  2. A celebration here, as far as I’m concerned! – Colin back riding the range, Blake making a regrettably rare but timely and telling comment, and all about a western I love.

    I ‘found’ the westerner Fred MacMurray in the 50s. My Mum and Dad had taken me to see Fred starring in “DAY OF THE BAD MAN” whilst on a family vacation. The film was on General Release in 1957. There was more Fred on the cinema big screen for me and then came “FACE OF A FUGITIVE” in 1959, again on General Release.

    Despite his own preference against appearing in westerns, I have always thought he was darned good in them, and “FOAF” may well be the very best of them. Only “THE OREGON TRAIL” was to come; again I sought it out on the big screen in 1960 but was so disappointed in comparison with what had gone before.

    A really fine, relatively small-scale western of the type that most appeals to me – still to this day.

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    • Jerry, I’ve still not seen Day of the Bad Man, mainly due to my reluctance to view it in the compromised ratio that seems to be the only option available these days. For that matter, I haven’t gotten round to The Oregon Trail either. In the latter case, however, I do have access to a good copy but lukewarm reactions to the movie mean I keep putting it off.

      I’ve seen his other westerns though, and I agree he was fine in them, and better than that in the best of them.

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  3. Colin, good write-up of my personal favorite Fred MacMurray Western movie. I think MacMurray was a really good Western actor. I so agree with your reasons of why MacMurray was good in the Western genre. I first saw the FACE OF A FUGITIVE on television during the 1960’s. Good old Channel 5 WMC-TV Memphis, Tennessee showed it on weekends. I liked this taut Western movie then, and I still do today. Here in the USA, the movie can be viewed on the TURNER CLASSIC MOVIE CHANNEL, or on YouTube.

    The movie was based loosely on a short story titled “Long Gone,” which was written by Peter Dawson( “nom de plume” for Jonathan Hurff Glidden, whose brother was writer Luke Short “nom de plume” for Frederick Dilley Glidden). The story was first published in the March, 1950 issue of ZANE GREY’S WESTERN MAGAZINE. The story was adapted for the screen by David Chantler and Daniel B. Ullman. I like Dawson’s short story, because it is a polished tightly plotted story, of which he was really good at, but I think Chantler and Ullman wrote a fleshed out screenplay that became, for me, a memorable movie experience. The acting chemistry between MacMurray and Ron Hayes, as the Larsen brothers, created a lasting bond that would change one brother’s life. I could go on and on about this movie.

    I highly recommend FACE OF A FUGITIVE(1959) to anyone that likes a good story filled with tense situations, action scenes, good acting, and redemption. This is a movie that cries out for a good DVD release and a wider audience.

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    • Thanks for filling the details on the writing, Walter. This was a relatively short piece by me and, again, I did skim certain aspects but that’s what we have comments sections for! 🙂

      The name of Luke short ought to be familiar to many, though I suspect his brother will be less so. Of the screenwriters, Ullman had credits on a number of films with MacMurray and as well as a handful of Joel McCrea pictures, including: Wichita, Cattle Empire and The Oklahoman.
      Chantler seems to have been less prolific but did have a credit on one of Hammer’s finest, the superior and atypical Cash on Demand.

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    • Steve, it’s nice to be able to pass on recommendation like this to others, and even better there are people like the regular contributors and commenters here who add very welcome insights and supporting evidence.

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  4. Just to note that the less well-regarded THE OREGON TRAIL, which followed these half-dozen other later Fred MacMurray Westerns, is also the one that I’ve never seen. I would see it, given an easily accessible anamorphic print, though with diminished expectations. Interestingly, I liked both of the films by this director Gene Fowler Jr. (especially well thought of as a film editor) that I have seen, one a Western SHOWDOWN AT BOOT HILL while the other is the very interesting sci-fi I MARRIED A MONSTER FROM OUTER SPACE.

    I enjoyed reading Walter’s comments on the literary source for FOAF and of course agree as noted that the relationship of the brothers is beautifully treated in the film and lifts it right away. Somehow, my love of Westerns from movies never led me to read that many, though so many do originate in the literature. I did finally get to Elmore Leonard and read a book of 50 stories he wrote through his first decade. I found them kind of hard going for a lot of reasons, and even though he does write well, I wound up not that sympathetic to someone who is lionized as he is. Leonard himself seems to have disliked the elaboration of his stories “Three-ten to Yuma” (3:10 TO YUMA) and “The Captives (THE TALL T) in the 1957 movies but I think he’s absolutely wrong in both cases. What was given in the scripts and direction of both of these, whether in additions to the narrative (3:10 TO YUMA especially) or inflections and emphasis (THE TALL T conspicuously), transforms them into something much greater and deeper, at least for me.

    I did have a wonderful time reading Paul Horgan’s A DISTANT TRUMPET, which I knew was well-regarded. It’s long, absorbing and enthralling. The 1964 Raoul Walsh movie (the director’s last) inevitably simplified and left out a lot of things (I had first seen it before I ever read the novel), and tends not to be treated well, but Walsh made it his own and at times he lifts it in his own way. It’s still a movie that I love and cherish.

    Ernest Haycox’s “Stage to Lordsburg” is a beautifully written short story in its own right–I wouldn’t take away from that by saying that good as it is, it’s just a starting point for all that John Ford did in STAGECOACH (1939). I’m sorry to say I’ve never read Haycox’s novel CANYON PASSAGE from which that sublime 1946 movie directed by Jacques Tourneur was made but expect that I’d like it.

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    • For a time I was consuming quite a lot of western fiction but I have left it for a while now, not for any special reason and not due to any conscious decision. I imagine I’ll return to it when I feel in the mood to do so.
      I still have a few of Leonard’s western novels to read, and a number of short stories too. I suppose I have a smattering of books around from a range of western authors, and while there’s a huge selection that’s part of the problem too – the quality can and does vary widely given the sheer number of writers working in the genre and the staggering volume of literature produced.

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  5. Blake, you gave some really fine insight into the FACE OF A FUGITIVE and I couldn’t agree more. Fact is, I would like to join in with Jerry Entract’s celebration.

    Concerning the source literature for Western movies. In several cases I think that the screen writers have improved on the original short stories in fleshing them out and bringing them to the screen. FACE OF A FUGITIVE is a case in point. As are Elmore Leonard’s “Three-Ten to Yuma” into Halsted Welles’ 3:10 TO YUMA, and Leonard’s “Captives” into Burt Kennedy’s THE TALL T. Also, the director isn’t standing over by the wall doing nothing, or anyone else for that matter when it comes to the huge collaborative effort it takes to make a movie. Have all well written books and stories been adapted well into movies? Of course not, but when they are, it can be something to behold.

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    • Delighted to have you celebrate with me, Walter My Friend!

      Reading novels (including western novels) and watching movies are two of life’s great pleasures for me. I tend not to worry too much personally with comparing a film of a book to its original source. They are always going to be merely adaptations really.

      I like what I have read by Ernest Haycox and there are many westerns by less well-known authors that have entertained me hugely – Wayne D. Overholser, Lewis B. Patten, and many more.

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      • Just to be clear about it, I don’t think adaptations of literature into movies need to be faithful to the source, and I wasn’t making the comparisons I did on that basis. They are separate works–if the original literary source or on the other hand the movie seems lesser its because of its own limitations, flaws or failures. They can be different but equally good, or at least both meritorious.

        I won’t go into more detail about any works I cited (and thought of others after I wrote–I once had a wonderful experience reading THE OX-BOW INCIDENT (Walter Van Tilburg Clark) by a campfire late at night high in the Rocky Mountains–pretty young then). It’s a richer work than the Wellman movie, though Wellman cared a lot about that movie and I don’t want to get after it too much but for fully realized works of art Wellman moved to a higher level with YELLOW SKY and WESTWARD THE WOMEN. I haven’t read Clark’s TRACK OF THE CAT, which Wellman turned into a movie that’s at least very interesting–and for me successful in that color/black and white experiment.

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  6. Nice to have you back reviewing a 50’s western, Colin. I saw FACE OF A FUGITIVE recently on Film 4 and think it’s one of MacMurray’s best. You mentioned AT GUNPOINT which is a film I haven’t seen in many years, I remember it being similar to the Glenn Ford western THE FASTEST GUN ALIVE. I’ve been trying to find it on dvd but the only one that seems to be available is in German. Like you I have not yet seen DAY OF THE BADMAN because I don’t want to view it in the wrong ratio.

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    • There are or were online copies of At Gunpoint available to view but I don’t think I’ve come across a DVD – and I’ve noticed copies on sale in at least three countries – which presented the film with anything other than a foreign language dub. Strange.

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  7. Hi, “Face of A Fugitive” has been shown on UK television a few times on Film 4 or Movies For men and is generally a good quality print. The story itself was written by well known Western author Peter Dawson (brother of the more famous Luke Short) and published in a Western Anthology called “Branded West” it was entitled “Long Gone” and had an unhappy ending for the MacMurray character as he died in the end gunfight redeeming himself. A very good short story.

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    • Seeing as the source material has been mentioned a few times now, I’ll keep an eye out for it, Bruce. I think I’d prefer the cinema ending though, for its more hopeful brand of redemption anyway.

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    • Hadn’t thought of that, Scott, or perhaps I should say I haadn’t thought of it in those terms but I guess you could say it is there. It’s something which crops up in a number of westerns, especially the late 40s and 50s variety when the notions of redemption and renewal were so widely explored.

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  8. Jerry, it is a pleasure in life to be able to read novels and watch movies, Also, to read about what other people see in those novels and movies. Thank goodness we are all able to see different things, because that is what makes it interesting. I think we all like a good story.

    Blake, I’m with you in that I don’t think adaptations of literature into movies need to be faithful to the source. I’ve always found it interesting to see how the movie makers take that source and make a movie out of it. I’m reminded of, what has become a legendary story in its self, the adaption of Ernest Hemingway’s novel TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT(1937) into Howard Hawk’s directed movie TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT(1944). Peter Bogdanovich tells the story in his book WHO THE DEVIL MADE IT: CONVERSATIONS WITH LEGENDARY FILM DIRECTORS(1997). Here is what Howard Hawks told Bogdanovich. “I told Hemingway I could make a picture out of his worst book and he said, rather grumpily, “What’s my worst book?” I said, “That bunch of junk called ‘To Have and Have Not.’ ” He said, “Well, I needed money.” I said, “Oh, I don’t care about that part.” He said, “You can’t make a picture out of that.” “Yes, I can.” So for about ten days we sat around, while we were fishing, and talked about how these characters met one another, what kind of people they were, and how they ended up. When I came back, I went over and bought the story and started in on the premise that Hemingway and I had evolved.”

    Talk about a very loose adaption of a novel made into a good movie. Yes, Blake I would like to quote you here, because I like the statement and it is fitting, “They can be different but equally good, or at least both meritorious.

    Colin, I agree that there is a huge selection of Western novels out there and that the quality can and does vary widely given the sheer number of writers working in the genre and the staggering volume of literature produced. Also, everyone has their preferences. I think Peter Dawson(Jonathan H. Glidden) is a good writer, although beware of anything published under the Peter Dawson “nom de plume” after his death in 1957. It isn’t his writing. In my humble opinion, a really good Western novel to read is Oakley Hall’s WARLOCK(1958). It is the Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Johnny Behan, and Kate Elder story with the names changed to protect the innocent, or the guilty. I think the movie WARLOCK(1959) is a really good movie on it’s own merit.

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    • Walter, thanks for the Oakley Hall recommendation, I shall bear it in mind as I liked the movie quite a lot too.
      I read a fair bit and like to vary my “diet”, I’ve been going through an awful lot of classic detective fiction and it is nice to look at something different once in a while.

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  9. Yes, I really liked Blake’s quote “They can be different but equally good, or at least both meritorious”, Walter. My wife got quite irritated watching the Peter Jackson-directed trilogy “THE LORD OF THE RINGS” as she felt some key elements from the books had been either omitted or at least changed. It didn’t bother me as I never read the books first (she loves the books) but I enjoyed the films for what they were. We all have different approaches and look at things from differing perspectives and that makes life interesting!

    By the way, all this discussion has made me want to dig out my copy of Fred’s nice little Allied Artists western “AT GUNPOINT” for a long-overdue rewatch.

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  10. Firstly,rather belatedly,I fear may I endorse the feelings of others that it’s great to have Colin back riding the high country once again. I have little to add to the excellent contributions of others regarding FOAF except to say that it’s a shame that a film of this calibre can only be tracked down on an Italian bootleg-it deserves better.

    Blake Lucas mentioned Gene Fowler Jr and especially the excellent I MARRIED A MONSTER FROM OUTER SPACE and the outstanding RegalScope Western SHOWDOWN AT BOOT HILL. Blake,like Colin has not seen (yet) Fowler’s THE OREGON TRAIL-I have. I should imagine Colin’s to be viewed copy is the Spanish Impulso
    release from several years back. Impulso released many “official” DVD’s of hard to find Fox Westerns,and sadly they are no more. Their transfer of THE OREGON TRAIL was excellent so that’s a good start. If Colin goes in with low expectations he may enjoy THE OREGON TRAIL. In many ways THE OREGON TRAIL was doomed from the outset.
    Fowler: “The film was a son of a bitch-Lippert really screwed that one up”
    “He made a bet with Spyros Skouras he could make a big outdoor Western
    without ever leaving the Fox lot-and like an idiot I agreed to direct it”
    On the debit side Fowler did persuade Lippert to use a crane-he agreed to cut down on extras in certain scenes-Fowler’s stylish use of the crane is,I recall
    in a scene where MacMurray gets involved in a street brawl. MacMurray seemed pleased with the salary he was paid-receiving a late final draft of the script a day before shooting Lippert’s right hand man Maury Dexter phoned MacMurray to apologize to which Fred quipped “Don’t worry about it- for the amount of money you people are paying me I’d ride a bicycle down Hollywood Boulevard in the nude!”
    THE OREGON TRAIL suffers because of extensive studio sets being used instead of actual locations-but if you bear with it there is a slam bang Indian attack at the climax. A strong supporting cast helps Gloria Talbott in particular, although a cancer ravaged William Bishop is only too evident.

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    • Yes John, you called it right on the copy of The Oregon Trail I have – Impulso used to do some good work but they could be variable too.
      Anyway, I will get round to the film sooner or later – there just always seems to be something else that comes along and shunts it further down the line.

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  11. We know legendary producer Robert Lippert through the RegalScope pictures loved by so many of us. Apart from these black & white widescreen low budget efforts Lippert’s deal with Fox also involved some more prestige titles,many in color. I’m talking about films like FORTY GUNS, CHINA GATE, CATTLE EMPIRE,
    SIERRA BARON, SON OF ROBIN HOOD, THE CANADIANS and so on.
    Among these films was the mega smash THE FLY where Lippert stretched the budget to a reported $500,000. Some of these pictures along with many interesting RegalScope titles are very hard to track down. One of those “Lippert Specials” THE DEERSLAYER is due to be released next month in Germany-it’s a much sought after title and I will report on the p.q.of the Blu Ray in due course. THE DEERSLAYER was directed by Lippert regular Kurt Neumann who helmed one of Lippert’s early hits,the excellent ROCKETSHIP XM and the later box office blockbuster THE FLY. Sadly Neumann passed away before the film was released.
    Another Gene Fowler film on the missing list GANG WAR sees him teamed again with Charles Bronson a very interesting sounding RegalScope effort,with possible
    echos of Death Wish. Fowler again teamed with Bronson directing several episodes of his Man With A Camera TV series. Sadly THE OREGON TRAIL was Fowler’s last feature-he directed TV episodes after that,and I guess apart from the two “cult” horror movies he will be best remembered as an editor working in particular for master film-makers like Lang and Fuller.

    When all is said and done I understand,Lippert felt, for all its ambition, THE OREGON TRAIL needed another $100.000 on the budget. Lippert should have taken note of the Lindsay Parsons production OREGON PASSAGE actual location footage is needed and that’s what we got in Paul Landres’ beautifully shot (Ellis Carter) little programmer. Landres and Carter’s work really raises the game of this film it looks like a far costlier film. Sadly the Warner Archive MOD of OREGON PASSAGE is less than stellar, and that’s a shame,it does not have the star power of OREGON TRAIL but it’s a far better film.
    Like Fowler,Landres directed several RegalScope pictures and several episodes of Bronson’s Man With A Camera series. Neither,sadly realised their full potential as directors they both deserved far more prestige projects.
    Which brings me in closing,of how much I would love to see some of these Allied Artists CinemaScope Westerns get the same love and attention Warners have
    lavished on AA Sci Fi fare like WORLD WITHOUT END and QUEEN OF OUTER SPACE high def versions of these films look wonderful. I’d love to see films like WICHITA and OREGON PASSAGE given that sort of treatment,not to mention the non-Warner owned titles like the much sought after AT GUNPOINT, DRAGOON WELLS MASSACRE and Landres’ LAST OF THE BADMEN. I live in hope that the two “missing” MacMurray CinemaScope Westerns (AT GUNPOINT, DAY OF THE BADMEN) will one day turn up in the correct ratio. Finally,I will add that I have the Blu Ray of the delightfully cheesy WORLD WITHOUT END and it’s fabulous. I’ve not seen QUEEN OF OUTER SPACE yet but advance reviews suggest it’s equally impressive. As a footnote I might mention the director of those two films Edward Bernds was another Lippert regular helming several RegalScope efforts including the highly regarded Western STORM RIDER. I’d love to see more of those RegalScope
    Westerns in the correct ratio, especially the Landres efforts…one day perhaps.

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  12. Hi Colin-firstly thanks,as always for correcting my dreadful line breaks. I’ll be happy to report regarding THE DEERSLAYER as I understand it’s a restored version and unlike previous releases has an English soundtrack. I know the film itself is no great shakes but its the sort of quirky thing that appeals very much to me,especially in high-def. I wish more of these Fox/Lippert oddities were available in high-def especially THE CANADIANS and SON OF ROBIN HOOD-I understand a high-def master of the latter already exists.
    Hard to believe,and I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before that SON OF ROBIN HOOD got a major circuit (Rank/Gaumont) release in the UK supported by the RegalScope Western FRONTIER GUN. Just imagine catching those two on the huge screen years before multiplexes were even considered, sadly this was one double bill that I missed at the time.
    Interesting relationship between Lippert and Maury Dexter, one time Dexter needed $10,000 to bankroll his brothers furniture business Lippert loaned him the money saying “pay it back,if and when you can, kid.” Six months later Dexter paid back the loan and offered Lippert an interest payment for which he got thrown out of Lippert’s office. No love lost between Dexter and Margia Dean; Lippert’s mistress, actress, co-producer. On the George Montgomery Western (Lippert’s sole venture into the Euro Western genre) THE OUTLAW OF RED RIVER Dexter threatened to walk if Margia even set foot on the set-at one time she was
    tipped for the female lead. Margia is best known as an actress as doomed Richard Wordsworth’s wife in the classic THE QUATERMASS XPERIMENT. Margia, is still with us and I believe our pal Toby has met both Margia and also Dexter before his recent passing. Certain people, you hope, got on, but sadly things don’t always work out that way.

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    • John, these background items are most welcome. I really enjoy these little snippets about people involved in moviemaking, especially those about whom we generally hear less – I’m sure others agree too, so keep ’em coming.

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  13. There’s quite a few fine movies that depict the early movement westward…..but after viewing the OREGON TRAIL this depiction is surely not one of them. Unfortunately for Fred…..it had to be an embarrassment.

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  14. Thanks Colin, I like the story of the genesis of ROCKETSHIP XM which I’m sure I’ve detailed here before. Kurt Neumann cranked out this film in-between his two excellent Universal Westerns THE KID FROM TEXAS and CATTLE DRIVE. With Lippert, Neumann was able to develop his own projects,as producer/director, albeit with vastly reduced budgets. THE KID FROM TEXAS cost around $750,000 and was a box office smash and launched Audie Murphy as a Western star.
    ROCKETSHIP XM cost a mere $94,000 and again made a handsome return. Neumann’s original draft had a spaceship crashing on a prehistoric planet with stock footage, yet again re-cycled from One Million BC. Neumann liked the idea of stock footage to boost a film’s budget (MOHAWK, WATUSI) Lippert sent Neumann on his way, hired Dalton Trumbo to do a total re-write who came up with something far more mature and no prehistoric beasts. Lippert then ‘phoned Neumann saying “We’re going to the moon, kid.” Before the blacklist there was no way Lippert could have afforded a writer of Trumbo’s stature. It also seems that Trumbo had a hand in THE DEERSLAYER re-write as well.

    Apart from Neumann’s two fine Universal Westerns I feel that fare like REUNION IN RENO and SON OF ALI BABA was out of his comfort zone. Other projects Neumann developed with Lippert were two excellent and great looking Sci-Fi films SHE DEVIL and KRONOS which in the UK at least were released together as a double bill. SHE DEVIL in particular gets a lot of flak, unfairly, I feel a very underrated little gem. Before his untimely passing Neumann with Lippert was working on a remake of THE CABINET OF DR CALIGARI which was later directed by someone else.

    I feel I’ve done with Mr Lippert,for now at least so back to Fred. I note that Hollywood Scrapheap have just released AT GUNPOINT in widescreen,’though the screen grabs look like 1.85. I don’t know what other versions of this film are available and I think many of us would love to see it re-mastered/restored in 2.35. A comment on Kino Lorber’s Facebook page noted that their deal with Paramount has now ended, for now at least. AT GUNPOINT is now owned by Paramount and I wonder where that leaves other restored fare like FAIR WIND TO JAVA (MacMurray) and THE PLUNDERERS (Rod Cameron,Forrest Tucker)
    Kino Lorber still have a few tasty unreleased Paramount/Republic titles in the pipeline, but as far as I know, for now at least, that’s it.
    EL PASO, A MAN ALONE, LISBON, THE LAST COMMAND.

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    • Just to pick up on the last point there, John, I don’t think there’s ever been a DVD release anywhere of At Gunpoint in anything wider than 1.85:1, and the fact it always seems to be with dubbed soundtracks only is even more inexplicable. Actually, I can kind of understand the compromised AR – I mean I’m no happy about that but it’s something we’ve found with other titles, but that soundtrack business is just plain odd, not least because the original soundtrack has been used for full frame TV screenings and online uploads.

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  15. Nice stuff on this one, Colin. I really love this movie.

    It’s hard for me think about this one without Quantez coming up. They’re such a nice pair, tackling the same theme from different angles. Stylistically, I think Quantez comes out ahead with Guthrie’s incredible use of color and shadows. And even though he made much bigger films, I don’t think MacMurray ever gave better performances than he did in these to.

    It’s such a shame these gems aren’t better known.

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    • I quite agree on how well this movie and Quantez complement one another, and I’d go along with your preference too but, to borrow a quote, I’d hate to have to live on the difference.
      Overall though, I’d give the nod to Quantez, based on the criteria you chose and also on the fact it’s essentially a chamber piece, and I go for those in a big way.

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  16. Welcome back riding the high country. Face Of A Fugitive is a good choice. I saw it some time ago. Very entertaining and pacy, prefer it over Quantez. Best regards

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    • Thanks.
      It’s hard not to think of this film without also recalling Quantez – the presence of MacMurray and the points of similarity make that almost inevitable, I suppose. They’re both good films.

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