Friday, July 1, 2016

Thunder Over the Plains (1953)

An interesting movie that is sympathetic to former Confederates who function as vigilantes fighting against Carpetbaggers who are stealing and cheating the locals.

Set in 1869 Texas which is ruled over by the Union Army, functioning as an army of occupation, since texas has not been admitted back in to the Union yet.

Captain Porter (Randolph Scott), a Texan,fought for the Union in the Civil War, but sympathizes with the locals who he thinks are being taken advantage of.. He is ordered to bring in vigilante leader Ben Westman, (Charles McGraw).

Ben turns himself in to save his men and Captain Porter says he will help him at trial. But when he brings him in, Ben's execution has already been ordered under martial law. Ben has been set up for a murder he didn't commit.

Porter then sets out to prove Ben's innocence.

A very good movie showing the carpetbaggers moving in to the former Confederate states looking to make a profit. Like all of these movies though, it doesn't show what would have happened to the former slaves if the North hadn't moved in. This film had a scene with two black men laughing as two "carpetbaggers" walk back in to town after being stripped of their clothes by vigilantes.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Carson City (1952)

Carson City (1952) - cover

The "Champagne Bandits" keep robbing the gold shipments from Carson City to Virginia City. After robbing the stage they treat the passengers to a picnic with champagne.

Banker William Sharon tries to get engineer Jeff Kincaid (Randolph Scott) to work for him. Jeff is something of a brawler, but he takes the job. he is going to build railroad tracks to the mines.

Jeff's half-brother Alan works for the local newspaper, and they both like the publisher's daughter Susan.

When Susan's dad begins to suspect who is behind the robberies Big Jack Davis (Raymond Massey) shoots him in the back. Susan and some of the townspeople thinks that Jeff's railroad workers are responsible because her father had written things opposing what they were doing.

When Susan rejects Alan's advances he blames Jeff. Jeff is getting heat from all over and he isn't doing anything wrong.

There is a cave in at the mine and Jeff is caught inside. But everyone works together and Jeff and his men are freed.

The railroad is finished and the town celebrates and the first shipment of gold goes out. But Big Jack has other plans. He holds up the train, but Kincaid is on to him and shooting breaks out.

The all too predictable : Alan gets shot and makes up with his brother before he dies, Jeff shoots and kills Big Jack and Jeff goes off on a honeymoon with Susan,

A different kind of Western, more about engineering than gun-play. 

The Ranown films will stay away from the predictable happy endings and get much better results.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Riding Shotgun (1954)

Randolph Scott plays Larry Delong, a stagecoach guard,  and his is hunting for the Maraday gang, who killed members of his family. Larry said : I didn't want to capture Maraday. He is the only man I have ever known that I wanted to kill." The gang tricks him Larry and then captures him. They want to get rid of him because he has been following them for so long. They leave him leave him tied up in the desert to die, but he escapes back to town and tries to warn the townspeople.

The gang robs a stage to draw the men out of town. Then they plan to go back in to town and rob it. When Larry gets back to town, most of the men had ridden out to the stagecoach. The people there blame him for not being on the stage where he belonged. The townspeople thought he was part of the gang. Larry was seen talking to the man who tricked him and rode off with him. The townspeople knew he was part of the gang. Even the deputy who has been left behind believes he is guilty.

The whole town has turned on him, and now the gang is going to ride in to town. The movie takes on a High Noon kind of plot (it also has elements from The Gunfighter). A woman whose husband was killed on the stagecoach tried to stab him. A young boy slings a rock at him. An older man takes a shot at him. The townspeople won't let him leave so he is stuck in town.

Deputy Tub Murphy returns to town and confronts his former friend. Larry shoots another deputy who draws on him in the hand and won't let himself be arrested. 

Larry holds up in an empty cantina but the townspeople plot to get him out. Larry tells a girl who visits him that he has been chasing Maraday for three years. Maraday and his gang killed his sister and her boy during a stage hold-up. 

Maraday and his men then ride in to town. The deputy and the townspeople then begin shooting in to the cantina to draw Larry out. Larry won't shoot back.

Maraday, Pinto (Charles Bronson) and the gang then rides in to town. Pinto joins in with the townspeople to try to get Larry out of the cantina. Larry sneaks out of the saloon to go after Maraday who is robbing the saloon and bank.

Larry loosened all their saddle so the robbers fell off and were captured by the townspeople, but Maraday and Pinto are still loose. Maraday and Larry have a shootout in the saloon and Larry guns with down.Larry then guns down Pinto outside.

All of a sudden everyone is Larry's friend again.

The movie has some noir elements. It has Delong using voice over narration to explain why he is doing things. It doesn't work here, and intrudes on the movie. But Delong was a victim of circumstances so De Toth must have thought the voice over would make it more interesting. The Ranown series also has noir elements but they are handled better.

Overall, a quirky little movie, that was pretty good.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Man in the Saddle (1951)

The first of the six westerns directed by Andre de Toth and starring Randolph Scott. This movie was produced by Harry Joe Brown and Randolph Scott, like the Ranown movies would be.

The movie opens with small time rancher Owen Merritt (Scott) drinking in a bar, where everyone is toasting the upcoming wedding of the Will Isham, the owner of the Rancho Skull spread. Owen is drinking because it is his former girlfriend Laurie getting married to Isham.

Owen sneaks up to talk to Laurie to see if she is sure. Laurie says she is, and Own wishes her luck. Laurie doesn't seem to love Isham, but she wants the better things in life. Laurie is embarrassed by her father and sends him back home. She tells him she will send him money but he must stay away.

Isham buys some more land and now his spread borders Owen's.  Some of his men start a stampede of Owen's herd.  One of Owen's men, George, chase a stampeder into town, and Owen follows him. In the bar the lights go out and the shootout begins. The Rancho Skull crowd rides off, but one is left dead.

Laurie tells Owen that she is not happy with her husband, and she will run away with Owen. Owen then finds that his ranch hand George has been shot and killed. owen goes over to Skull and starts shooting stuff up. Owen then gets in a gunfight with Isham's hired gun men but he gets out alive.

The local school teacher, Nan, comes over to help Owen out. She asks him why he went back to his place. Owen said: " I got to thinking, man can't run all the time. Has to fight sooner or later." And that sounds like a quote from one of the Ranown Cycle movies!

Hugh Clagg (John Russell) is in love with Nan, and is crazy with jealous when he finds out Nam took care of Owen. he knows she is in love with him. Hugh tracks them down to an old cabin Nan's dad had. He is crazy and ready to shoot them, but Owen disarms him and the fistfight is on. Hugh eventually gets away and then tells Isham where he is. Isham shoots and kills Hugh when he thinks Hugh was talking about his wife, but Hugh was talking about Nan.

Owen confronts Isham. He tells him to sell Skull and go away so he won't be prosecuted for Hugh's death. Laurie says she will go with him, she made a bargain. Isham grees. As they walk down the steps. Isham's gunmen Fay Dutcher shoots at Owen, but Isham gets in the way and gets shot down.

Dutcher and Owen get in a shootout, and Owen eventually shoots him down.

Owen ends up with Nan and Laurie gets Skull ranch.

Unlike the Ranown series, the hero here gets the girl and all ends happily ever.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Bounty Hunter (1954)

Opening credits:  During the early days when civilization was pushing its frontiers farther and farther West, there roamed a special breed of men...neither outlaws nor officers of the law, yet more feared than either. For reward money...they tracked down criminals, wanted Dead or Alive, and made themselves both judge and executioner in some lonely court of no appeal. They were called "Bounty Hunters".

This movie was filmed in 3D, but was only released in 2D, so there are scenes in it that look out of place as objects are hurdled toward the screen and guns are pointed at the audience (as was the case in The Stranger Wore a Gun), This was the last of the six Westerns that Randolph Scott and Andre De Toth made together.

The movie opens with Jim Kipp (Randolph Scott) riding along a trail and looking at tracks. A man with a rifle appears on the cliff and he then shoots at Jim. Jim then guns him down and takes his body in to town. He then goes in to the sheriff and hands him the wanted poster.

Sheriff : Never heard of you bringing on in on the hoof. You ever give 'em a chance to get away?
Jim : If you find a bullet hole in his back let me know, meanwhile I'll trouble you for 500 dollars.

Sheriff: Did anyone ever ask you why you took out being a bounty hunter? 
Jim : Yeh
Sheriff: Well
Jim: I'm counting the reasons and their ten short
Sheriff: I thought you'd like to pay for the pine box.
Jim: You thought wrong.

A representative of the Pinkerton Detective Agency then asks Jim to hunt for three men who held up a train and killed some of the guards. They made off with $100,000. Jim is offered $5000 for the men, and $5000 for the money they took.

Kipp follows a tip and goes to a store where the outlaws may have bought supplies. He then heads towards the town of Twin Falls. Kipp then heads to meet the town doctor, because one of the hold up men had a bullet in his leg from the shootout at the hold up. Doctor Spence doesn't seem to remember, but his daughter Julie does.

The hotel clerk, Bill Rachin (Ernest Borgnine), has a limp and is a suspect. A card dealer George Williams is also a suspect, and his wife who works at the saloon tries to get information out of him.

Kipp walks Julie home, but is stalked by a gunman. Vance Edwards knows who Kipp is and thinks he is after him because he escaped from jail years ago. Edwards takes a shot at Kipp after he drops Julie off. Kipp then pulls the fleeing Vance from his horse. He exposes who Kipp is to the town as a bounty hunter. Kipp lets Edwards go, telling him to go back to his wife.

Julie and Kipp go to church together, The town people are nervous, and don't want Kipp in town. They don't know who he is after.

Dr. Spencer then tells Julie that he treated the robber with a gun to his head. Now he can be held as an accessory to the crime. He won't tell Julie who the three robbers were.

Kipp then tells some people that he is getting a picture of one of the suspects delivered on the stage tomorrow. The towns people are willing to give Kipp one thousand dollars to leave town, but he isn't having any part of it. Kipp then tells Julie how his parents were killed by bandits when he was young and he is going to capture as many guilty people as he can,

Dr. Spence confronts Wiiliams and tells him that his people should leave town at once. Williams then shoots  Dr. Spence. 

Kipp goes after Williams and they are soon shooting at each other. Williams was about to tell Kipp who the other two men were when the sheriff shot him in the head.

Kipp goes to check on Dr. Spence just when Julie finds Danvers trying to smother him. Kipp calls to her and Danvers runs away. Kipp now knows he is one of the men.

Kipp chases Danvers on horseback out of town. Kipp hears someone digging and then he hears a gunshot and a horse ride off. He then finds Danvers dead next to the empty money box.

The sheriff deputizes Rachin and they want to arrest Kipp. The stagecoach comes in and Kipp says he wants to see the mail. Vance pulls a gun on the sheriff and Rachin, and Kipp gets his letter. When he opens it the sheriff draws on him and Kipp shoots him in the leg. 

The sheriff is going to tell who the third person is, and Alice Williams shoots him down. Julie then wrestles her to the ground. Alice Williams was the third person.

Kipp decides to marry Julie and become the new sheriff.

Unlike the Ranown cycle, our hero settles down with the good woman in this one. He doesn't rise off in to the sunset. But like in the Ranown series we have a hero who has been damaged by an event in the past, and is driven to do what he thinks is right.

An OK movie, which could have better.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Stranger Wore a Gun (1953)

The Stranger Wore a Gun was produced by Harry Joe Brown and Randolph Scott. They must have enjoyed doing it because they would get together again and do most of the movies in the Ranown Cycle which would be directed by Budd Boetticher and star Randolph Scott. This was the first of the 3D Westerns.

The movie opens with the following dialogue : "While the Civil War raged between the North and the South, there swept across the border from Missouri into the free state of Kansas a renowned force of guerrilla troops led by a Confederate officer, Unbeknownst to the men who blindly followed him, this leader was no longer considered a legitimate soldier by either the South or the North. He was William Clarke Quantrill: Jayhawker, border ruffian,  freebooter. His destination - Lawrence - on to Lawrence.

We then see Quantrill and his men burning and looting (we also see some shots that you can tell were set up for special 3D effects - like a gun shooting right off the screen at you or a burning torch coming right at you).

Quantrill has a list and he wants every man on it killed. Quantrill shoots an old man in cold blood who wouldn't open a safe. Lt. Jeff Travis (Randolph Scott)  had scouted out Lawrence before the raid. He tells Quantrill that the killing of civilians wasn't part of the plan. he tells a soldier "Tell Quantrill to get himself another spy."

After the war Jeff is on a riverboat. Some men are talking and blame the 150 slaughtered people from Lawrence on a spy and  then he points out Jeff as the spy, and Jeff runs off. Josie Sullivan (Claire Trevor) helps Jeff escape to Arizona.

Jeff wants to go straight, but in Prescott he meets up with former raider partner Jules Mourret and his gang which includes Dan (Lee Marvin) and Bull (Ernest Borgnine). Dan and Bull give him a hard time when they meet, but Jeff quickly shows them he can take care of himself. 

Mourret has been unable to rob the gold from the local stage line and he hires Travis as a spy to find when the gold is being shipped. Jeff talks to Jason Conroy runs the stagecoach line and gets hired as a guard. Josie arrives in town but has a rival for Jeff's affection in Shelby, the daughter Jason Conroy. 

During a robbery the gang kills Jake the stage driver, and Jeff again drops out. Jeff now decides to go straight, and along with it to go with Shelby. Shelby and her father want to quit and move on but convinces them to send out the stage one more time.

Jeff tells the gang that all the gold will be on last one shipment, and he is driving. A Mexican bandit, Degas, and his partner Shorty arrive to make things more complicated. Jeff tells Degas about the shipment and that Mourret is after it.

Jeff rides out on the coach and Dan invites himself. Now we have Bull and his men against Degas and his with Jeff in the middle. Both sides shoot it out. Morreau shows up and captures Diego. Shorty tells Morreau before he dies that it was Jeff who told them about the stage. Morreau then kills Diego.

Bull and Dan come and get Jeff and tie him up. Dan goes to get Morreau, and Jeff tricks Bull, using his greed against him. They start to fight and object start getting thrown at the screen, reminding us that it was originally a 3D movie. We also see the stunt men actors' faces and this reminds us it wasn't Budd Boetticher directing.

Jeff knocks Bull out and then gets the drop on Dan. He then has a Ranown like showdown. He ldecides to give Dan a fair shot at him. He lets him turn around. They both have their hands up in the air and then they both draw and Jeff guns him down. Boetticher would have liked this scene. The only thing missing was the mutual respect that they would have had for each other in the Ranown movies.

Morreau tells the men in the bar that Jeff was one of Quantrill's Raiders. They form a lynch party to go get him but Jeff gets away.

Jeff comes back after Morreau for the final showdown. He faces down both Morreau and Dan at the same time. Dan draws and Josie warns him. A shootout and a fire break out and Jeff and Josie make it out alive.

Like in the Ranown movies, Randolph Scott outsmarts the villains and then has the showdown at the end which he wins. Another foreshadowing of the Ranown cycle is that Jeff leaves Shelby behind as he goes off with Josie. Maybe, like in the Ranown movies, he just doesn't think he is worthy of the good woman.

Lee Marvin would show up as a  villain in Seven Men from Now with a lot more depth.

A good movie, which you could tell spent a lot of effort on the 3D, which didn't help the movie. But overall, it was still pretty good.