Ever watch a movie and find yourself struggling to quite get a handle on it? I don’t mean in terms of following the plot, rather the direction in which the plot wants to lead your thoughts. Frankly, I’ve seen lots of films where the storyline has meandered all over the place and the focus seemed to shift continually. But it’s a whole different matter when we start talking about a small, tightly structured production, one where there’s an essentially simple story being told, yet where the theme and tone appear to vary almost from scene to scene. As I watched Riding Shotgun (1954) the other day I was struck by tonal shifts throughout, a kind of capriciousness in the scripting that meant a potentially interesting little movie fell short of what it might have been.
As soon as the credits roll there’s a sense that we’re going to get one of those noir-tinged westerns that can prove so satisfying, Firstly, we get a voice-over narration by the hero, Larry Delong (Randolph Scott), which lets us know that he took the job riding shotgun for the stagecoach line, and traveling all over the west as a result, for a very special reason – to find one particular man, and to kill him. The man in question is Dan Marady (James Millican), a notorious road agent or outlaw, and he’s well aware of the fact his nemesis is dogging his tracks. I don’t think I’m giving too much away here, as the following all occurs in the first 10 minutes or so of the film, by saying that Marady has a plan in place to lure Delong away from the stagecoach and then fake a raid on it to draw a posse out from the neighboring town. With the law off chasing the apparent attackers of the stage, the town will be left wide open so Marady and his men can enter at their leisure and pick off all they want in safety. That’s the plan, but a little carelessness means Delong remains alive and free, and in a position to warn the defenseless settlement of the impending raid. It’s at this point that the movie takes a turn off into more unusual territory – instead of being greeted as a savior, Delong first becomes the object of suspicion and distrust, and later an outright threat who has to be eliminated.
Coincidence, misfortune and misunderstanding provide the impetus for the plot of Riding Shotgun, the kind of circumstances that make for good drama,and can add to that sense of noir fatalism I alluded to earlier. With the revenge motif, the narration and the sight of Randolph Scott grimly determined to kill a man as opposed to, let’s say, bring him back for trial, everything appears to be in place for a solid B western suspenser. And yet it doesn’t really come off, and the reason is the uneven or uncertain tone I spoke about. For a story like this to work as it should, to be truly effective, it needs to be tackled as a straightforward and straight-faced yarn. The setting and build-up are suitably minimalist and claustrophobic, and director André de Toth frames some excellent compositions. As Scott’s character finds himself increasingly isolated and literally backed into a corner, there’s tension in abundance. However, we also get humorous undercurrents – the over-cautious and ever-hungry deputy (Wayne Morris), the grotty saloon keeper fretting about his costly mirror and addressing his son in Spanish while getting answered in German, and the (seemingly) deliberately obtuse townsfolk. The net result of it all is that the film is neither fish nor fowl, shying away from full-on suspense and flirting with the comedic elements, we end up with a film which feels slightly arch.
I wonder how this movie was received on release since, even now, I find it a little odd to see Randolph Scott so hell bent on killing off his enemy. I know he went to similarly dark places in a couple of the Budd Boetticher films a few years later but it still gives me pause. While I have reservations about the script I can’t fault Scott’s performance, but he rarely gave an unsatisfying performance by this stage in his career anyway. It’s nice to see James Millican, who often got cast in smaller but always memorable roles, handed a more substantial part as the chief villain; it doesn’t call for any great subtlety but there’s plenty of opportunity for some solid snarling and meanness. Millican’s principal sidekick is played by a young Charles Bronson (still being billed as Buchinsky) and his presence and potential can be clearly seen at this point. OK, I’m harping on the (not all that successful and also unnecessary) comic aspects again but I feel Wayne Morris is ill-served as a result. His conflicted deputy is an important character in the film, providing a lot of balance and accessibility. But the way the part is written undermines him at every turn and diminishes the role considerably, a great shame. There’s a good supporting cast featuring the likes of Joan Weldon, James Bell, Joe Sawyer, Frank Ferguson, Vic Perrin and John Baer, although many of them are given very little to do.
Warner Brothers put Riding Shotgun out on DVD years ago as part of a triple feature set with Man Behind the Gun and Thunder Over the Plains. Scott’s westerns were harder to find back then and only few were available to buy compared to now, and I remember being very pleased to see these films come on the market. The presentation is as basic as it gets with no bonus features included. Still, the film looks reasonably good with nice colors and no major print damage. I’ve spent a fair bit of time highlighting what I see as the deficiencies of this film but I feel I should also point out that even a relatively weak Randolph Scott western benefits greatly and is elevated by his presence alone. I don’t think I’ve seen a Scott western I didn’t enjoy on some level at least, which is a testament to the man’s talents. If I seem unduly critical of this one, then it’s mainly because I can see how a few minor tweaks to the script could have left us with a far stronger picture. Nevertheless, and despite its faults, it’s still worth a look.
68 thoughts on “Riding Shotgun”
One suspects that many might lose patience with a a films where the story feels wayward. I have certainly had that experience of feeling let down due to a shift in tone that has not been adequately prepared for as it can feel so irksome. Some stories are meant to twist and turns and keep you off-balance, but you are only likely to accept that if you think it is the intention, right?
The thing is there’s no real twisting or turning going on – the plot remains solidly on course but there’s this odd feeling about it all. Al through there’s a recurring narration, which isn’t really necessary as it’s clear to see what’s going on. And there’s this undercurrent of almost farcical humor that doesn’t sit all that well (for me anyway) with what’s unfolding on screen.
Do you think the narration was added afterward to try and give it more of a sense of unity?
Maybe. It kind of makes sense at the beginning, setting the scene and the mood to some extent, but it pops up again and again and you do get the impression it might have been a later addition – although it’s mostly used to make thumpingly obvious points that are readily apparent anyway.
It comes back to tone I suppose, trying to smooth it over. It is in my opinion the worst way to use narration, which in other occasions can work so splendidly. I like the way this seems to play to de Toth’s strengths in noir and western genres, so am sorry to hear it doesn’t quite sit with the humour. Seems like maybe they lost confidence in the material.
There’s much here that feeds into de Toth’s sensibilities, and his direction is fine for the most part. Perhaps I’m being overcritical as the whole thing wraps up in about an hour and a quarter and includes some good moments and scenes.
But I take your points here because there are so many films where ultimately you do lose interest because the final product doesn’t quite seem to be able to decide what kind of film it wants to be.
Yes, the running tine works in its favor here so everything moves along but I could see my interest waning had the story been stretched out further.
I was attracted to it when I found its a Randolph Scott and an Andre De Toth western. However, I was quite disappointed after seeing it. Agreed its not among Randy’s best. Best regards.
Yes, it’s not awful or anything but the star, director and premise raise expectations a bit and the movie doesn’t really live up to those. I think it’s worth seeing but it needs to be approached realistically.
When I first saw the two-page spread for this film in the 1954 Speed’s Western Film Annual it looked terrific, the stills chosen making the film look very exciting. When I finally got to actually see the movie years later my sense of anticipation was dashed somewhat. The film starts really well but I find that it feels ‘bogged down’ rather when it becomes town-bound. It is very unusual for a Scott-De Toth western but the film feels rather ‘flat’ to me as it develops.
Having said all that – heck, it may be lesser Scott but…… I wonder if it would be too simple to just say it is one of Scott’s Warner westerns as opposed to his generally superior Columbia films and that those rather tacked-on comedic elements can be found in some of his other Warners (eg ‘Man Behind The Gun)??
I still watch it and still enjoy it though……
I think that’s a very fair comment indeed, Jerry. While I could never say I actually dislike any of Scott’s westerns, I agree that the WB titles tend to be less interesting than the Columbia ones. Mind you, I do like The Bounty Hunter quite a lot, and I seem to remember enjoying Carson City & Colt 45, although it’s been some time since I viewed the latter two.
Now having said that, I watched Ten Wanted Men (a Columbia title) not that long ago and felt that, despite the presence of Richard Boone and Skip Homeier, it could have been a lot better.
The thing about the Columbia ones is that (from THE GUNFIGHTERS in 1947) they are produced by Scott’s own company with Harry Joe Brown (called Ranown just in the last two Boettichers). That goes some way, at least for me, in explaining why they are generally much better–Scott himself seems to care more about them, looking for good scripts and moving in the direction of sympathetic directors that finally led him (ironically, by way of Batjac and Warner Bros.) to Budd Boetticher. That doesn’t mean all the Scott-Browns are equal of course and I too would put TEN WANTED MEN among the least of those but still like it better than most of those of Warners and other studios.
But not more than RIDING SHOTGUN. I guess I’m a voice of dissent here in what appears to be a low opinion of this film, as I had a good impression of it. For years it was hard to see, and I finally saw it–just once and I’m very much wanting to get back to it–and thought it was one of the best Scotts outside of the Columbias. Of the six De Toths, the first MAN IN THE SADDLE is surely the best (and I think most of us agree on that) and was a Scott/Brown for Columbia, but the only other one they made is THE STRANGER WORE A GUN, which I consider hampered by 3D, so that leaves the four Warners ones and I liked RIDING SHOTGUN best, so second best De Toth/Scott. For me, it was taut and I liked Wayne Morris’ character–he was kind of unusual. And it’s not just that Scott is bent on killing someone in some of the best films, Colin–those are, after all, films in the Ranown cycle; just think of RIDE LONESOME where he lures Lee Van Cleef to that “hang tree” by putting a rope around the neck of Van Cleef’s brother James Best–and he gets the revenge he seeks. How we are supposed to feel about this in context of the whole film is complex, but we don’t find this film less because of this part of the resolution–surely, we all agree it is one of the very finest of all Randolph Scott movies.
As for the comedic elements in RIDING SHOTGUN, I’m not remembering that part of it too well, and maybe it wasn’t so great there, but humor is generally a virtue and there is plenty in Burt Kennedy’s scripts for the Ranown cycle, making those movies richer and always beautifully realized, so it isn’t necessarily a weakness. I think you’re on strongest ground about the narration, probably–when a narration comes over as an afterthought (even if it may not have been), it tends not to work well; I know that one film I feel that way about is DUEL AT SILVER CREEK (1954)-my impression, supported by Don Siegel’s own comments though he didn’t address this specifically (just complained of tampering after he had finished) is that this narration was needlessly added there and for me it did hurt it.
I’m not saying RIDING SHOTGUN is great, mostly that I liked it and want to see it again. It’s the only one of the six De Toth/Scott pictures I’ve only seen once and further viewings of each of the others mostly confirmed my impressions of each of them. I did once like STRANGER WORE A GUN more than I do now, liked THE BOUNTY HUNTER a little more now, don’t respond very strongly to CARSON CITY (though I know others do), like THUNDER OVER THE PLAINS well enough, and again MAN IN THE SADDLE, with a terrific script, holds up wonderfully well and I saw it again in the last year. If you read what De Toth said about Scott, unfortunately he didn’t much appreciate him, unlike Budd Boetticher, and maybe that explains the unevenness of that group after such a good first collaboration.
I haven’t actually read de Toth’s comments on Scott, so that’s news to me, and I think it’s kind of a pity as these were two guys whose take on the western ought to have left them with more in common. Still, there you go.
I didn’t have any problem with Scott as the avenging killer, as you say it’s a characterization that appears with great success in the Ranown movies, but that kind of setup left me expecting something a little different, maybe a kind of depth that the film around him doesn’t provide.
Again, I did like Wayne Morris but felt he was sold short by the way the script treated his character.
Again, I may not have got as much from this movie as I might have hoped from the director and star but I cannot criticize any Scott western too much – this guy and his movies were responsible for getting me into westerns in the first place all those years ago and nurturing my love of the genre.
This is why I love this site: a terrific review by Colin and then people like Blake come in with very well informed, thoughtful comments. They can disagree with Colin and other commenters, but do so with respect and appreciation of the others’ points of view. Here Blake has provided a very nice survey of several Randolph Scott movies, economically identifying their strengths and weaknesses. I’m a huge fan of RS but in recent years have tended to limit my viewing to rewatching the brilliant Boetticher movies. After reading Colin and Blake today, I’m going to revisit the others I have on my shelves.
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Steve, it’s very gratifying to hear that some of the comments and discussion here has put you in the mood to dig out some movies you’d put to one side – I guess we must be doing something right!
Hi, Colin – inspired by your review, I’ve dusted off Broken Lance and watched it last night. I must say your review nails the qualities of this film and I heartily endorse your high rating of it.
Things that stood out to me about the movie were:
The fact that the issue at the heart of the story is an economic one: the intrusion of industrial development onto pastoral land;
The realistic way the confrontation at the mine develops – it’s hard to say who’s really to blame for it getting out of hand;
Spencer Tracy’s acting: strong throughout and electrifying at times. The scene in which the governor reveals his racism prompts a brilliant portrayal by Tracy of a man capable of volcanic rage and violence, a man who would whip his children, punch opponents in an argument and summarily execute thieves;
The realism of the climactic fight between the Widmark and Wagner characters – it’s an ugly, desperate scrap.
The main weakness for me is, as you have pointed out, that some of the characters are not just underdeveloped, they’re no better than wallflowers. This applies to the Widmark character for most of the film, the O’Brian and Holliman characters throughout and the E.G. Marshall character just disappears from sight.
I guess that, as is the case with almost all films, Steve, we have to weigh the stronger and weaker elements and see how they stack up for us personally. Taken as a whole, I feel Broken Lance has plenty to recommend it and it does reward the viewer.
I found the humour in the Warners rather less subtle but I agree a little humour, if it’s good, adds balance.
Funny you should mention “TEN WANTED MEN”, Colin – It is in my immediate to re-watch pile as I need a reminder of the film. A number of the other Warners, aside from the film under review and the other one I mentioned, are all Scotts I like a lot – “CARSON CITY”, “COLT.45”, “THE BOUNTY HUNTER” (the three you mentioned) and “THUNDER OVER THE PLAINS” are all very enjoyable to me.
I think the fact that Scott’s Columbias were all co-produced by Harry Joe Brown maybe gave those films a consistency. And, as Blake says, would have been more personal to Scott probably.
I never tire of watching, discussing or re-evaluating this man’s westerns. I also love sharing my enthusiasm for them with others who also clearly love them.
Yes, it’s relative. In the main, if one loves Westerns, especially in these years, Randolph Scott is somewhere pretty close to the heart of that. His greatest movies are much better than his least, of course, but I always want to see them and just his persona will always sustain my interest.
Jerry’s right the humor is not so subtle in some Warners movies (like MAN BEHIND THE GUN where Dick Wesson is supposed to provide it) while it’s quite rich and gracefully interwoven in the Ranown cycle, where it’s provided by Burt Kennedy’s writing, Budd Boetticher’s direction, and some inspired actors. I’m sure that we don’t disagree much about that, if at all.
Colin, I don’t remember the motive for Scott wanting to kill Millican now. Perhaps it’s less deep than in the Ranowns. In those movies (as in very early, effective Scott-Brown CORONER CREEK), it’s around the death of his wife–and a lot of emotion is carried by that. One feels a natural affinity for Scott’s desire for revenge in those circumstances, and then the films interrogate whether that is really so good, not just abstractly but for his character too. If you say RIDING SHOTGUN doesn’t go to that place, you’re probably right.
BTW, I believe James Millican had his share of good roles, always made the most of what he was given. And unfortunately, he died relatively young of cancer. I never tire of reminding that his final role, in RED SUNDOWN (1956), was surely the best thing he ever did. He shares the first third of the film with Rory Calhoun, playing a weary, disenchanted gunfighter whose presence influences all that follows and he was magisterial there I believe.
I felt the motivation for Scott’s thirst for revenge was solid and strong enough. However, it’s just there to justify the setup rather than provide the emotional core of the film; we know Scott has been wronged and is seeking to put that right but never see the effects of his loss all that deeply n, nor is there any sense of him taking anything away from the whole experience at the end.
I’m with you on Millican, by the way. I didn’t mean to suggest he wasn’t good in other roles, instead that those parts often didn’t give him as much prominence as he deserved.
Jerry, you’ll no doubt make up your own mind on Ten Wanted Men but I felt that Scott’s role was very flat when compared to the chief villain (Boone) and his sidekick (Leo Gordon). Also, I though the character Skip Homeier played as one of the good guys was not only annoying but downright unlikable. These aspects didn’t help it in my opinion.
Scott and DeToth hit the ground running with MAN IN THE SADDLE,far and away the best
of their Westerns together.I quiet like RIDING SHOTGUN and see it as more or less a parody
especially with Wayne Morris’ deputy called Tub-constantly wondering where his next meal
is coming from.I also like the German cantina owner called and played by a man named Fritz.
Like Colin mentions the prized mirror is a cute running gag.
It was also good to see a Fifties Western where the interior scenes look out on to real
I also enjoy THE BOUNTY HUNTER which I hope gets a proper restoration at some point.
The aforementioned TEN WANTED MEN is certainly lesser Scott,especially for a Scott Brown
production but the cast and fast pacing offer some compensation.
MAN BEHIND THE GUN is certainly the least of Scott’s Warner Westerns.
RIDING SHOTGUN was Wayne Morris’ last major studio Western and I also very much enjoy
the earlier STAGE TO TUCSON an engaging Harry Joe Brown production which teamed
him with Rod Cameron.
As I mentioned over at Toby’s recently Scott certainly ended his career with two masterpieces
COMANCHE STATION and RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY.
I feel Colin made an interesting choice selecting a lesser Scott which has already generated
some very interesting comments.
Jerry, over at Laura’s you mentioned regarding London locations on TRACK THE MAN DOWN
well there are some nice shots of Victoria Coach Station but that’s about it.
I’ve posted this here because that thread is now about a dozen behind…things sure move fast
over there especially when I’ve been off line for a few days.
I’m very happy with the varied response this one has generated, John – lots of different opinions and perspectives to chew over. I think you’re right that there’s something of the parody going on, by the way.
Colin, you prompted me to re-watch “TEN WANTED MEN” and, having just done so I thought I would report back.
Whilst being a lesser Scott-Brown perhaps I found it nonetheless very enjoyable. I think Scott’s persona may have seemed a bit flat because his character had been lulled by years of peaceful living. He was slow to react and then took control towards the end (after the murder of his brother).
I particularly enjoyed the deep western cast, including many uncredited (Francis J. Macdonald, Denver Pyle, Terry Frost) plus most of the film being shot in Old Tucson. And Leo Gordon was terrific.
That’s great that you went and watched it, Jerry. Yes, the cast is indeed deep and that’s one of its strengths. Gordon is a fine villain and utterly ruthless, unlike the vaguely sympathetic Boone. Another plus point for me was Paul Sawtell’s melancholic score.
I’ve always admired the costuming in this picture. Everyone looked real; in lived-in clothes.
Good point. There is a good deal of visual veracity in the movie – apart from the clothes, there’s the grubby, straw covered floor in the cantina.
Strong or weak, Scott westerns are still a solid choice for viewing. This is one of those films I recall seeing in my discovery years and asking Dad, is that Charles Bronson? I was soon to discover that many stars has a whole bundle of titles to their names before becoming leading players. I would scour books and magazines to learn the titles of films where actors like Charlie had bits and minor roles. A fun time of discovery.
That’s the kind of thing I used to do too, and had a lot of fun at the same time. In those pre-internet days, before IMDB, that was the way you had to go about it – I guess it was a bit laborious but it had its own rewards too.
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There must be 300 camera shots in RIDING SHOTGUN and each one is perfect on every level. de Toth was the consummate director on this film. Sometimes RIDING SHOTGUN seems to be striving toward something better than just another backlot western, than it slides back again. I understand Colin’s disappointment. It was the nature of the hour-long B western programmer to be wildly inconsistent in theme and tone, serious one moment and comical the next. One has to expect that from B westerns of the 1930s through the 1950s. Today, the inconsistency dates the films rather badly especially when it happens in the higher-budgeted features like RIDING SHOTGUN. The shifting back and forth to comedy always annoys and disappoints me. The same thing ruins THE SEARCHERS for many people, and that’s an A-list feature, one that aims higher and digs deeper than most movies, and then trashes itself with stupid comedy.
With regard to something Blake Lucas said about STRANGER WORE A GUN, I think 3-D distinguishes the film. The World 3-D Film Expo’s projected original 35mm prints in authentic double-interlock in 2003, 2006 and 2013 and I saw it each time. de Toth and his cameraman were true masters of the 3-D process; what they executed in 3-D in 1953 and 1954 surpasses every 3-D film made today. There were less than 30 seconds of “flat” shots in the film, stock footage as I recall, but the film is diminished in its flat version. When projected in true stereo STRANGER WORE A GUN is an entirely different film.
I saw the presentation of THE STRANGER WORE A GUN at 2006 World 3-D Film Expo. This was the least I ever enjoyed it. I originally liked it quite a bit seeing it flat in 1953 but since then it has diminished over subsequent viewings through that one.
I saw quite a few 3D movies at that festival, many I knew from 2D and some I had seen in 3D before. Even though I like 3D better in that period (better movies) it didn’t add a lot to most of these films. I was impressed by DIAL M FOR MURDER in 3D the first time and do still admire how he approached it but was less taken with it the second time and it’s a lesser Hitchcock movie for me. The director who was most imaginative about it for me is Jack Arnold, and I consider him the best 3D director, especially in IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE. I hasten to add that I already knew and admired his movies from the flat versions–they’d be good anyway, but he did think about 3D in a way that impressed me.
So we just disagree about this. No big deal.
Maybe we might talk about the interweaving of low comedy with serious drama sometime, as in the films of directors like Ford (THE SEARCHERS and others). Shifts of mood of that kind are actually the thing that I admire most and not only in movies. This was Shakespeare’s gift as well.
If Colin will indulge an irrelevant and inappropriate aside, I’ve taken a plunge into British crime. Sometime ago THE SWEENEY was recommended to me and I’ve finally made the blind buy, purchasing the pilot film REGAN (1974) and the first season (or series as the Brits refer to it) on blu-ray, a double-feature DVD of the 1977-78 feature films, and the recent theatrical remake. I plan to buy seasons 2, 3 and 4 in a few days. I’m also tempted to buy several of the crime films directed by Tom Clegg and David Wickes who helmed the series. I note that Nick Love who directed the recent theatrical remake has made a few crime films with Sean Bean. I’ll probably check those out. I make blind-buys when I have a hunch I’m going to be enthused and impressed, and usually my hunches are right. I used to buy movie tickets the same way. Of course, my favorite British crime film is Mike Hodges’ GET CARTER (1971). I’ve seen several others including ROBBERY (1967), MONA LISA and THE LONG DAY CLOSES. But now I’m going to explore the genre. Any recommendations?
I grew up with The Sweeney on TV and agree it’s an excellent crime show, and the spin off movies are fine too. I haven’t anything positive to say for the remake in all honesty and don’t think much of Love’s other work – others may disagree though.
I’d much sooner watch a couple of Mike Hodges films, Croupier and I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead.
Check out THE SQUEEZE (available from Warner Archive) this tough Brit crime thriller
has Stacy Keach on top form,very convincingly playing an alcoholic, burned out cop.
Even better is Stephen Boyd as a gangster,in a blistering return to form.
A great unheralded gem.
Avoid like the plague anything directed by the dreadful no talent Nick Love;his remake
of THE SWEENEY is drivel the only fun in watching it it deciding which is worse Love’s
horrendous direction or some jerk who calls himself “Plan B” in the old Dennis Waterman role.
My fave moment ,(of many) in THE SQUEEZE is when Brit comic Freddie Starr (excellent) calls
Stacy a “Wanker” This great Brit word seems to have crossed the pond at last I’m glad to say.:)
Underrated Stanley Baker (he smokes the VERY overrated “Sir” Michael Caine IMHO)
made some wonderful Brit crime films. Check these out HELL IS A CITY,VIOLENT PLAYGROUND,
THE CRIMINAL. all are top drawer.
I’m gonna give this more thought and may report later.
I need to check out The Squeeze myself, John. I’ve just had a look at the trailer and it looks marvelous. Wonderful cast, and I’m a huge fan of fellow Northern Irishman Stephen Boyd.
You will find much to enjoy in THE SQUEEZE Colin, especially
in Boyd’s performance. It just shows how wasted he was later in his
career and what a great return to form his role in THE SQUEEZE was.
Sorry to mention the “W” word lowering the tone as usual,but I found the
Keach/Freddie Starr relationship quiet amusing in the film.
We as Brits have brought so many “American” words into our everyday
use it’s fun to see this most English of words crossing the pond.
I was at the theatre sometime back in the late Seventies,cannot even remember
what the play was called but it was very good and it starred Nigel Patrick who was
excellent as usual.
Anyway during the play Patrick utters the “W” word and this American lady sitting
next to us says in a very loud voice,to her English friend “Harry what’s a wanker?”
Her friend then replied “I’ll tell you later my dear”
Ha! It would have been good to see her face afterwards when she learned what she’d blurted out. 🙂
I don’t know how I never heard of The Squeeze before now – definitely one I want to see. Boyd really let his career drift for a time which, combined with his shockingly early demise, meant we missed out on seeing the quality of work he was capable of given the right material and motivation. I seem to remember Euan Lloyd saying he wanted to cast Boyd in the role eventually filled (very memorably as it happens) by Jack Watson in The Wild Geese, but he passed away suddenly.
Never saw a Scott Western that was unwatchable. And he more than a few Classics. This one looks pretty good. I’ll have to cover this guy one day … and it will a long journey. But a good one.
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I fully agree, JC. Some Scott westerns are better than others but there’s no such thing as a really bad one in my view.
And yeah, Scott would make a great subject for one of those multi-part profiles you do so well. Go ahead and do it!
Richard W…..Brit Crime Flicks part two……
After a bit of thought Richard I may recommend the following…
(providing Colin will indulge this blatant high jack!!! 🙂
THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY is now considered a minor classic with Bob Hoskins scenery chewing
performance really a matter of taste.
THE KRAYS is also pretty good-although I must admit I’ve not yet seen the Tom Hardy recent
version. I tend to avoid films with so called “dangerous” Brit actors like Gary Oldman and
Tim Roth both of whom I dislike.
McVICAR directed by Tom Clegg is also pretty good and worth seeking out
VILLAIN with Richard Burton is also very good.
Fave moment a stool pigeon with his throat cut is on a balcony his blood drips onto a gangsters coat who replies “bleeding pigeons”
( I think you have to be a Brit to get that one!)
I would highly recommend you check out VINTAGE Brit crime thrillers which in most cases
smoke the more recent versions-the following are “essential”
THE BLUE LAMP
THEY MADE ME A CRIMINAL
APPOINTMENT WITH CRIME
POOL OF LONDON
NIGHT AND THE CITY (Richard,I guess you must have seen this one)
Also the following “trucker thrillers” both excellent
THE LONG HAUL.
There are loads more, finally I would like to mention my all time fave Brit Flick a Crime thriller,
Kitchen sink drama,Noir….
IT ALWAYS RAINS ON SUNDAYS.
Another recent film that you may enjoy is HARRY BROWN which was wildly overrated by some,
I found it dreadful…not as terrible as the recent SWEENEY remake but pretty bad,
Poor Randy,we’ve really gone off subject here but to return to thread I too have seen
THE STRANGER WORE A GUN in 3D quiet recently. I thought the very substandard elements
using transparencies spoiled much of the 3D effects. I’m looking forward to the forthcoming
Blu Ray from Explosive media in Germany. Scott is one actor that I would get any of his
Westerns on Blu Ray.
Please allow to me put my half-pint into this. I heartily endorse John’s recommendations but particularly the “essential” list of classics. “IT ALWAYS RAINS ON SUNDAY” is one of my all-time favourites too. Very gritty and realistic for 1947.
Hope Richard finds some of John’s great suggestions useful……
Great recommendations there, John, both from the modern and the classic era. I know crime film and TV was specifically mentioned originally, but if Richard is at all interested in espionage series from Britain, then I’d heartily recommend Callan and The Sandbaggers.
It’s funny you go off-line for a day or two and the whole World changes.
I was looking forward to checking out the SIERRA BARON thread over at Toby’s which has declined into a DVD vs Blu Ray thing again…really guys this has been done to death time to
move on. I was pleased to see Colin get involved in this cyber version of the Lincoln County Wars,
and liked the Leonard Cohen references as well.
Colin,I;m really miffed that SIERRA BARON is being released as a 4×3 I feel it;s a film that you
would find totally worthwhile if a proper CinemaScope version were available.
It’s interesting but Richard has done the unthinkable and dared to be critical of THE SEARCHERS.
Coward,that I am I would never dare do this over at Toby’s.
Now Richard has boldly gone where few dare I would like to note that I too find the “comedy”
elements in THE SEARCHERS unbearable and I might add that my dislike for many things in the
film have nothing to do with racism which is the usual negative comment applied to the film.
To be sure THE SEARCHERS has some of the most powerful moments ever in American
cinema. The so called comedy ruins the film for me. The dreadful scene between Ward Bond
(at his most overbearing) and Pat Wayne is unwatchable. Then there is John Qualen doing
his Swedish “thing” yet again,and as if that’s not bad enough we get Ken Curtis’ Texas hick
routine.Still what do I know…I’m the sort of guy that rates THE PROUD ONES above RIO BRAVO.
Richard, We had an involved exchange regarding the recent Blu Ray release of DOC over at
Toby’s. I must admit I regret posting some of the stuff regarding elements on the commentary
on the disc. I tend not to engage my brain when I post lots of my stuff on these blogs.
What I like about the film is that most people behind the camera had never done a Western
before and I thought they did a very credible job certainly regarding the “look” of the film.
However,on repeated viewings I find the film leaves a nasty taste in the mouth and my initial
positive view of the film has faded somewhat. It’s a worthwhile revival however but overall I
prefer film-makers to “print the legend” in this case at least.
Richard,one of my previous questions that went unanswered on Wyatt Earp movies was on
TOMBSTONE,THE TOWN TOO TOUGH TO DIE….I presume you have seen this film.
I like the film very much and understand that Sidonis have it on their future release schedule.
The comedy in The Searchers is something I’ve seen people express dissatisfaction with before so you’re not alone there, John. It’s something that pops up throughout Ford’s work and I suppose one is either OK with that or not. I have no problem with it in general although I really could live without the Dodge City sequence in Cheyenne Autumn.
I know this wasn’t addressed to me but your mention of Tombstone, the Town Too Tough to Die reminds me that I’ve had a copy of that movie sitting unwatched here for ages now.
Returning to Brit Crime Thrillers another film that I have fond memories of is THE STRANGE AFFAIR (1968) Directed by Brit David Greene who worked quiet a bit in the States on classic
TV like THE DEFENDERS,he directed quiet a few interesting features on his return to England.
THE STRANGE AFFAIR was most notable for its stunning widescreen London location work.
Pretty sexy and violent as I recall,even by Swinging Sixties standards a re-issue of this film would
be most welcome. Yet another “lost” film trapped in Paramount’s vaults and one ripe for revival
from the likes of Arrow or Eureka.
Had a hectic workweek so haven’t commented, but really enjoyed both the review and the ensuing discussion — so much so that I was inspired to pull this film out of my stack and watch it. Really enjoyed it! My review was just posted. My dad emailed that he also watched and enjoyed it after reading Colin’s post.
Thanks to Colin and all here!!
Excellent. If anything I wrote here encouraged you to watch a movie, then that’s my job done. I’m delighted to hear both you and your father saw the film and responded positively to it.
Your own take, which is well worth reading, can be found here. I just popped over and left a comment, others might like to do so too.
Many thanks for the link! I love that although you weren’t hugely positive about the movie, what you said about it nonetheless sparked our interest and made us curious to see it for ourselves. 🙂 And as you say, any Randolph Scott Western is worth seeing!
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I always think people ought to make up their own minds – all I can do is offer my own impressions and mention what I feel are the positive and negative areas. I’d be a little unhappy if I thought anything I wrote actually put someone off watching a film; aside from the fact I generally like to look for the good things in any movie, I strongly believe in encouraging others to view as much as possible and as widely as possible.
“aside from the fact I generally like to look for the good things in any movie, I strongly believe in encouraging others to view as much as possible and as widely as possible.”
Ditto that, Colin!
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If not that, Laura, what are we doing this for! 🙂
On my “excited meter” on a scale of 1-10 mark me up as an 11 today!
I’ve just noted Olive Films have announced APPOINTMENT WITH CRIME on Blu Ray this June.
I did mention this above in recommended Brit Crime Thrillers for Richard W.
APPOINTMENT WITH CRIME is a cracking Brit Noir both darkly comic and subversive.
The great William Hartnell is aces as a ruthless career criminal.
Hartnell is matched by Ivor Barnard as an incredibly creepy jobbing printer who offers an
attractive range of “extra services” to his underworld clients.
The audience is left in no doubt that Alan Wheatley (sensational) and Herbert Lom are in a
Gay relationship. Film is light years ahead of it’s time in this respect.
If you remember Colin,I had this film as one of my “Underrated Thrillers” over at Rupert Pupkin’s
some time ago.
Speaking of Brian’s blog I missed your comment on my “Discoveries of 2015” recently,-the rest of
the “gang” (well all five of us! 🙂 ) chipped in and I always value your feedback.
I certainly feel at least a couple of my choices will be of great interest to you.
I saw the announcement for Appointment with Crime and did recall your speaking about it. I’ve been generally unimpressed with the recent releases by Olive, but this one looks like it’s a return to form of kinds for the company.
I didn’t know you’d contributed a new list at Brian’s and only just popped over there to peruse it. I left a comment but I don’t think it’s been approved yet.
I thought some of my choices would interest you.
Sadly the Artus Films version of the very fine CANON CITY is in very bad shape,
they do admit the only source they had was sub standard…think Alpha Video!
However Kristina informs me that the film is being shown on TCM.
I might add that Hollywood Scrapheap have it as a future release.
The product I have seen from Hollywood Scrapheap has been top-notch
so far.Furthermore one of my contacts in the “Digital Underground”
informs me that the Italian NAKED ALIBI is in very good nick.
Regarding NAKED ALIBI…thanks for the tip off.
Thanks for passing along that info, John, Naked Alibi has moved up the queue for me now.
Regarding other Italian releases we mentioned, I got my latest order today. Dangerous Mission looks kind of OK, a bit “dupey” as though struck from an ageing master. The Last Command is better – although this is only going by a quick look – but not widescreen as I’d have thought it should be. There’s a good deal of empty space top and bottom of the screen so it looks like open-matte.
Regarding THE LAST COMMAND according to imdb the ratio of the film was 1.66
so I guess in Europe at least the film would generally have been shown as 4×3.
It was certainly not a “Naturama” film…the first Republic Naturama (2.35) was
THE MAVERICK QUEEN. Sadly Republic introduced their new widescreen process
just at the point the studio was fast fading. I don’t think THE LAST COMMAND could
have helped any with it’s (according to imdb) $2 million plus budget.
With all due respect I don’t feel Sterling Hayden had much clout as far as box office
appeal went and THE LAST COMMAND may have been a key factor in the Studio’s
decline.ironically most of Republic’s Naturama pictures were made when the studio
reverted to a B Movie/Programmer outfit. (MAN OR GUN,THE LAWLESS EIGHTIES,
HELL’S CROSSROADS,MAN WHO DIED TWICE,LAST STAGE COACH WEST,
TAMING SUTTON’S GAL,NO PLACE TO LAND and so on…)
Having said that I’d love to see any of those films in their 2.35 format.
I have the French DANGEROUS MISSION which is pretty good and probably the
same source as the Italian copy that you have.
Eventually Warner Archive will give us a restored version,which is part of many
RKO titles needing extensive restoration work. (TENSION AT TABLE ROCK,
TREASURE OF PANCHO VILLA,DEVIL’S CANYON,MONTANA BELLE,
GREAT DAY IN THE MORNING and others.)
This is further complicated by the fact that Warners have many Monogram titles
that need extensive work as the previous owners of original elements,never
looked after them in the way that they should have.
As you probably know Olive Films had THE LAST COMMAND as a future release
but decided the Trucolor elements were not good enough.
BTW I totally agree that the recent spate of releases from Olive has been very
poor with many titles that make me wonder why they were even considered for
high definition restorations.
I haven’t tried zooming the picture to an approximation of 1.66:1 but I imagine, from my brief look at the dead space in the image, that it would frame fine around that ratio.
I like Hayden a lot but I daresay you’re right that he was never a huge box-office draw and not really a “name” capable of opening a movie on his own.
We’ve certainly moved far away from Randy on this thread-you cannot blame me this time;
it’s all Richard W’s fault for diverting us into Brit Crime Thrillers.
Actually I see very few current films but one that has great interest to me is the forthcoming
CRIMINAL. This would seem to be a Brit crime flick with Sci-Fi elements-the trailer looks
interesting to say the least. Laura’s fave Kevin Costner looks pretty craggy in this one (almost
as craggy as co-star Tommy Lee Jones.) and I dread to think what Laura will make of Kev’s
“buzz saw” haircut. Cast also includes the imposing Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman)
I for one feel that Kev has made far more interesting films as his superstar status has faded.
According to imdb the film’s budget is a mere $30 million a B Movie by today’s standards.
To think in his glory days that used to be Kev’s salary.
I like the look of the film if for nothing else the opportunity of seeing Kevin Costner in Croydon!
As a correction to the above and having watched an alternative trailer CRIMINAL looks
like an action spy thriller with sci fi elements. I doubt if it’s British financed but the location work
looks interesting.I think this sort of thing will have great appeal to Laura (me too!) and I’m already
looking forward to her review of this one.
I’ve seen the trailer for that – it has an very high powered cast and the location work is indeed interesting.
Just to return to Randolph Scott for a moment, this post at Vienna’s Classic Hollywood caught my attention. I’d not heard of that TV pilot before and was delighted to hear it’s available to view, albeit in a poor condition, online.
A minor Scott for sure, but still worth a watch.
I feel any Scott, especially the post-war films, is worth a look, even if some are inevitably weaker than others.
Colin, I have just this minute finished watching Riding Shotgun for the first time – and I call myself a Scott fan! It’s on that box set you mentioned which I’ve had for ages but never got round to this one. I watched it tonight because I had been writing about Joan Weldon and this was the third of three westerns she was in that I’ve watched in last two days. (Others were Gunsight Ridge and Day of the Badman.)
Of the three, I think I preferred Riding Shotgun, and ,like Richard W., I echo praise for De Toth’s direction. To be honest, I don’t often think much about shot composition, but I did notice the fine shots in this picture , like for instance the shoot-out in the saloon at the end.
I liked the unusual nature of the Wayne Morris character who really did the best he could in the circumstances. The rush to judgement by the townsfolk was hard to take but partially understandable.
As for Joan Weldon, she was only in a couple of scenes and her part could easily have been cut. The same thing happened in Gunsight Ridge, a disappointing Joel McCrea effort.
Thanks for coming and adding your thoughts on this after seeing it. Sounds like you had a largely positive experience, which is good, and there may now be more favorable responses than less satisfied ones expressed here.
I’m still not fully convinced by the movie However, I do wonder if some of that isn’t down to the weight of expectation – perhaps my anticipation of something else swayed my reaction to the film. Basically, I’d need to watch the whole thing again, bearing in mind the tonal shifts, narration and so on which I’d been unaware of first time round, and which may have colored my opinion.
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One of the problems I had with the tonal tonal shifts were the end scenes when Scott and Weldon and Morris walked happily off together, after a few food jokes, when 4 minutes earlier the camera panned across the Bank Club where the teller and at least 3 townspeople lay dead.
Frank, it’s been six years since I wrote this piece and that’s the last time I saw the movie too, so it’s probably understandable that the moment you’re referring to isn’t clear in my mind just now. That said, it sounds like the kind of incongruity which stood out for me at the time.