Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to pay our respects to the detective fiction novel Halfway House (1936) written by Manfred Lee and Frederic Dannay under their Ellery Queen nom de plume. As the title suggest, there will be spoilers — lots and lots of spoilers, so only proceed if you’ve done the necessary pre-reading…
Yes, things have been a little quiet here of late, mainly due to a rather packed work schedule and other tedious matters. Hopefully, I’ll get back to at least semi-regular posting when things feel a little less hectic. In the meantime though, I want to take the time to flag up a collaborative effort my blogging buddy JJ of The Invisible Event invited me to take part in. Read on…
As part of his ongoing investigations into the wonders, intricacies and delights of classic detective fiction, JJ has hosted a number of spoiler heavy discussions on a range of notable works. I’ve enjoyed reading along and adding the odd comment when I thought I could sneak one in as unobtrusively as possible amid a lot of well-informed contributions from people who are far better read than I, and so it was very flattering to be asked to participate in one myself!
Anyway, to cut to the chase, next Saturday, if all goes well, should see JJ posting the chat he and I had about the 1936 Ellery Queen novel Halfway House, as announced here. I’ll put up a link here when it goes live, but wanted to flag it up in advance for anyone interested in perusing our back and forth.
So, see you soon…
A recent viewing and post on Kiss the Blood Off My Hands reminded me that the only major Burt Lancaster noir title still unavailable in a decent edition was 1948’s I Walk Alone. Happily though, Kino Lorber in the US have just posted on Facebook that the title is due out on DVD and Blu-ray in the summer:
• Coming this Summer!
• First Time on DVD and Blu-ray!
• Brand New HD Master – From a 4K Scan of the 35mm Safety Dupe Negative by Paramount Pictures Archive!
• First Film Co-starring Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas (The Gunfight at O.K. Corral, The Devil’s Advocate, Seven Days in May, Tough Guys)
I Walk Alone (1947) Starring Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Lizabeth Scott, Wendell Corey, Kristine Miller, Marc Lawrence and Mike Mazurki – Shot by Leo Tover (The Day the Earth Stood Still, Dead Reckoning) – Music by Victor Young (Johnny Guitar, Around the World in Eighty Days) – Edited by Arthur P. Schmidt (Sunset Boulevard, The Blue Dahlia) – Produced by Hal B. Wallis (Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon) – Screenplay by Charles Schnee (The Bad and the Beautiful, They Live by Night) – Adaptation by Robert Smith (Sudden Fear, Quicksand) and John Bright (Public Enemy, She Done Him Wrong) – Directed by Byron Haskin (The War of the Worlds, Too Late for Tears)
FIVE TALL TALES: BUDD BOETTICHER & RANDOLPH SCOTT AT COLUMBIA, 1957-1960
THE TALL T (1957)
DECISION AT SUNDOWN (1957)
BUCHANAN RIDES ALONE (1958)
RIDE LONESOME (1959)
COMANCHE STATION (1960)
Release date: 21 May 2018
Limited Blu-ray Edition (Blu-ray premieres)
Five classic, iconic and slyly subversive westerns collected on Blu-ray for the very first time. Containing a selection of new and archival extras – including interviews with director Budd Boetticher and an appreciation by film critic Kim Newman – this collectable five-disc box set also contains an 80-page book with newly commissioned essays, archival interviews and full credits, and is strictly limited to 6,000 units.
INDICATOR LIMITED BLU-RAY EDITION SPECIAL FEATURES:
• 2K restoration of Ride Lonesome
• HD restorations of The Tall T, Decision at Sundown, Buchanan Rides Alone and Comanche Station
• Original mono audio
• The John Player Lecture with Budd Boetticher (1969): archival audio interview conducted by Horizons West author Jim Kitses at the National Film Theatre, London
• The Guardian Interview with Budd Boetticher (1994): an extensive filmed interview conducted by film historian David Meeker at the National Film Theatre, London
• Budd Boetticher on the Ranown Cycle (1999): excerpts from Eckhart Schmidt’s documentary Visiting… Budd Boetticher
• Kim Newman on the Ranown Cycle (2018): an appreciation and analysis by the critic and author of Wild West Movies
• The Guardian Interview with Elmore Leonard (1997): the celebrated author, and writer of the short story upon which The Tall T is based, in conversation at London’s National Film Theatre
• Original theatrical trailers
• Ride Lonesome trailer commentary (2013): a short critical appreciation by filmmaker John Sayles
• Comanche Station trailer commentary (2014): a short critical appreciation by screenwriter Sam Hamm
• Image galleries: extensive promotional and on-set photography, poster art and marketing materials
• Limited Edition exclusive 80-page book containing newly commissioned essays by Pamela Hutchinson, Glenn Kenny, James Oliver, Neil Sinyard and Farran Smith Nehme, archival interviews with director Budd Boetticher and screenwriter Burt Kennedy, a critical anthology, and full film credits
• World Blu-ray premieres of The Tall T, Decision at Sundown, Buchanan Rides Alone and Ride Lonesome
• UK Blu-ray premiere of Comanche Station
• Limited Edition Box Set of 6,000 numbered copies
• …AND MORE TBC
• All extras subject to change
Wonderful news about some films which cannot be praised highly enough! This set can be ordered direct from the distributor here. If anyone is unfamiliar with the films and wants a quick overview, here are some pieces I wrote after the DVD release some years ago:
No, I haven’t decided to transform this place into a restaurant review site. The “house” I’m referring to here is the Hollywood studio, and the question is which one, or ones, we are most partial to.
While all of the major studios, and most of the minor ones too, made movies in every conceivable genre in their heyday, they tended to have their own characteristic or in-house style, not to mention the films they either specialized in or seemed to do more successfully. Warner Brothers gave us the better gangster films of the 30s and retained that grit and social awareness even as time moved on and the range of output expanded. MGM was gloss, glitz and musical spectaculars. And although RKO had Astaire & Rogers, it also turned out some of the most memorable films noir. Of course different decades brought different directions and developments, and 20th Century Fox with its pioneering of the Scope format, took the production of the epic to a whole new level in the 50s.
For me though, my favorite of the classic era studios is possibly Universal; this is something I’ve lately settled on though, and I’m well aware that my preferences may shift again in the future. Anyway, for now at least, Universal is the one. Why? Well, there is the wonderful horror cycle running from the 30s through to the mid-40s, and then the Rathbone/Bruce Sherlock Holmes movies that borrowed those old sets and a touch of the macabre sensibility too. Then there were the budget-conscious noir and crime movies that were so common in the 40s and 50s, so many of which are now neglected and half-forgotten. And let’s not forget the Universal-International period, those marvelous years when some of the most visually attractive and thematically rich westerns seemed to be constantly on tap.
So there it is. Do you have a studio you’re happiest visiting? Is there one whose output appeals more, or does it vary from decade to decade?
Just been made aware of this event in February (with a follow-up scheduled for the summer) which highlights the restoration of the Republic Pictures library. Some of the names featured, and indeed the studio itself, will be well known and equally well regarded by regular visitors to this site. For instance, there’s Frank Borzage, George Sherman, Allan Dwan, Joe Kane, William Witney and others. Sounds great – more here.
It’s just come to my attention that Ralph Nelson’s gritty 1966 western Duel at Diablo is being released on Blu-ray by Koch Media in Germany at the end of March. It’s already had a US release but this is welcome news for those of us in Europe looking for a Region B version.
I remember writing about the film almost a decade ago (!) and I was ambivalent about it at the time. It’s grown on me some since then and I feel better about it now, and that Neal Hefti score.
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.
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
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.
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.