Distant Drums

How does one get the measure of a filmmaker? I guess received wisdom has it that a viewing of their best works is the ideal way to go about it; this assertion appears to be self-evident and it’s not one I’m not going to dispute. However, I can’t help wondering if there’s not something be gained from an examination of what might be thought of as their mediocre efforts as well. It just occurred to me as I was watching Distant Drums (1951) that Raoul Walsh’s strengths as a director were still on display despite the fact the movie in question was very much a routine affair. In fact, a great deal of what makes this film worthwhile derives from the skill of the man ultimately calling the shots.

Distant Drums is one of only a handful of movies that use the conflict with the Seminole in Florida as a backdrop. I use the word backdrop because that is very much the case here, with no examination whatsoever of that conflict taking place. In narrative terms it merely serves as a frame on which to hang a straightforward story of pursuit and danger. In brief, the Seminole are being armed by gunrunners operating out of an old Spanish fort and this supply needs to be cut off if the army is to be successful in subduing them. To this end, a young naval officer (Richard Webb) is sent to the island retreat of the reclusive Captain Wyatt (Gary Cooper) to accompany him and his small force and assist them during the essential lake crossing en route to their target. While the initial assault on the fort is a success the return to the prearranged rendezvous proves problematic. Wyatt and his party,  now supplemented by a rescued hostage (Mari Aldon) and her maid, are forced to abandon their original plan and instead plunge into the steamy, crocodile infested Everglades.

If one takes the movie as an uncomplicated adventure,  Distant Drums works just fine. There is no shortage of incident, the action scenes are frequent and absorbing, and there is enough suspense generated at key moments to quicken the pulse. The assault on the fort is a grand bit of work, shot and cut together with a fine eye for the geography of the building and never drifting into the type of muddle a complex set piece such as this always flirts dangerously with. And this leads me to Raoul Walsh. He was one of the great directors, in my opinion, a man of boundless skill and possessed of the kind of practical artistry that allowed him to tackle even the most unpromising and prosaic projects with the same dedicated flair as one would expect were he making a prestige picture. It’s sometimes said that Walsh was the consummate action director, but it’s maybe more accurate to think of him as a master of drive and motion. His movies always appear to move effortlessly forward, smoothly shifting gears and bringing the audience along for the ride even when the journey itself hasn’t all that much to offer. This is what I was alluding to at the beginning, how the capabilities of a director like Walsh remain apparent despite the limitations of the material he was handling.

I can’t fault Walsh’s direction, and neither the gorgeous location cinematography of Sidney Hickox nor the score by Max Steiner disappoint. So where is the film lacking? Surprisingly, I think the responsibility has to be laid at the door of of the writers. I say it’s surprising because the name of Niven Busch on the credits generally has me expecting a bit more depth; perhaps some  probing into character, some heightened emotion, or even a hint of twisted psychology. Yet none of that is present, and in the end we know little more about any of the characters than we did at the outset. I certainly haven’t seen all of the movies Busch provided a screenplay for but of those I have (mainly his later pictures) I think it’s fair to say that Distant Drums is easily the least interesting. For what it’s worth, I have another of this writer’s scripted movies in mind for a future write up – and no, it’s not Duel in the Sun before anyone asks.

The thing about great movie stars is how even unremarkable films gain by their presence. There are those who dislike or are unconvinced by Gary Cooper’s style, and that’s of course fine, but I’d have thought his place among cinema’s pantheon is undisputed. Sure he’s laconic and his work is understated but he commands the screen whenever he’s present and dares anyone to look away. Still, I feel the script let him down somewhat. Next to nothing is made of the potential suggested by his character’s late wife or their mixed race son. The danger the latter is exposed to at the end and the effect on Cooper is worth noting but it never feels like it’s center stage. Mari Aldon makes for an attractive co-star and the romance which develops is gentle and light. This may well have been her most substantial role, certainly of what I’ve seen. However, I’ll remember her more for her small part as the world weary companion of Warren Steven’s abusive and uptight producer in the superior The Barefoot Contessa. Richard Webb has probably the most thankless role of all, the point of view figure who introduces the whole thing and then ends up relegated to merely tagging along. Had there been some more serious rivalry with Cooper’s character injected then it might have added another layer of interest. The support is provided by Arthur Hunnicutt playing one of his patented frontier types and the seemingly ubiquitous Ray Teal as a discontented soldier.

Distant Drums is one of those productions that depends heavily on its visuals as a result of the lush cinematography in Florida. This is one of the movie’s principal attractions and needs to be shown off to its best advantage. The Blu-ray and DVD released by Olive Films some years ago does highlight this aspect most satisfactorily, even if it offers no supplementary material. I may sound as though I dislike the movie, but that’s not true. It remains serviceable, attractive and entertaining. That said, it feels like an opportunity was missed, that the talent involved wasn’t exploited as it might have been. Nevertheless, it helps cement, in my mind anyway, an appreciation of the apparently effortless skills of Raoul Walsh.

96 thoughts on “Distant Drums

  1. “Serviceable, attractive and entertaining” is a very good summation of this good but not great action film. I very much go along with your view of “DISTANT DRUMS”, Colin.
    Oddly, I re-watched it only recently and found quite a lot more to enjoy than previous viewings. Maybe that is partly down to the way the film glistens in high definition.
    I completely concur about Walsh, a director of ‘moving pictures’ (with the emphasis on moving). And I’m in the faction that loves Coop’s laconic style and underplaying (much expressed with his eyes, always).

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    • I think it might add a little to this discussion to remind readers that in fact the not very interesting Distant Drums is a virtual remake of an earlier and for different reasons, somewhat controversial Walsh film, Objective Burma. Both are routine efforts by a master screen craftsman, But see eg The Tall Men, for an altogether richer, more full realised expression of his great talent.

      Yours etc.,,
      HCM

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      • Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Walsh wasn’t shy about revisiting his own material – he remade High Sierra as the western Colorado Territory. In that case I fully believe the remake is superior, no mean feat given High Sierra is a fine piece of work in itself.

        While I agree with you on the quality of The Tall Men, I can’t go along with your feelings about Objective, Burma!, a movie which I reckon is right out of the top drawer.

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    • It is enjoyable on the whole. The location work is splendid and it remains a pleasure to look at all the way through. Neither Walsh nor Cooper sell themselves short but the film leaves me feeling underwhelmed and I can’t help but think it ought to have been a richer experience given the personnel involved.

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  2. I’m with you Colin, a modest, no frills standard product made during the studio era can tell you a lot about what directors like Walsh were capable of. His career may have peaked with WHITE HEAT shortly before this but I have good memories of the films he made with Gable later in the 1950s. Must admit have no recollection of having ever seen this one. Don’t think it’s been on TV for a bit! Thanks as always for going in-depth here.

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    • No, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen this on TV an it wasn’t until it was initially released on a somewhat lackluster DVD that I had a chance to view it. When it was upgraded (both on DVD and Blu-ray) some years later it looked so much better.

      On Walsh, I actually think he was still turning out excellent work in the latter stages of his career – although not every movie of course. I’m fond of The Naked and the Dead and I believe Band of Angels deserves to be more highly praised. And A Distant Trumpet is a great picture, coming right at the end of the director’s career and helping to round off the classic western era too.

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      • Band I remember liking but Distant bored me rather at the time. But we’re talking about viewing in the 1980s here so pinch of salt required I think! The obvious Warners comparison is with Curtiz but I never had any trouble yelling gheir films apart. STRAWBERRY BLONDE is a real favourite.

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        • I haven’t seen The Strawberry Blonde since a TV viewing some time in the 80s – a long time ago now. I know I liked it then and I must try to watch it again.
          Yes, Curtiz is a complementary figure – both studio directors who handled just about every genre with ease and who had the talent to not only make sometimes mediocre material shine a little brighter than it perhaps had a right to but were also able to leave their own indelible stamp on that material.

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      • Certainly on Band of Angels, agreed. The flaws are not directorial, but even d despite them, dubbing Poitier’s song, and badly, a poorly presented Patric Knowles, and a not quite up to it Yvonne De Carlo, it remains a helluva picture. Oh, and a heavy-handed performance from Rex Reason, and I do understand some of that was by design, but I see it as a design flaw.

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        • For some reason this film doesn’t appear to be as well known as it ought to be. Generally, those who have seen it speak well of it but there are far too many who seem completely unaware of it.

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      • I thought “Distant Drums” was a good action film that was immeasurably enhanced by the on-location filming by Sidney Hickox who shot a lot of films for Walsh. However, for me, there are problems with the film. I think Steiner’s score is weak and is often out of tune with what’s on the screen. The Seminoles are simply used as stock villains and we never hear their side of the story. It’s interesting that the U.S. wanted to relocate them to Oklahoma while some Western tribes were later shipped to Florida. Marie Aldon doesn’t have much to do here but I agree she was superb in her small role in “The Barefoot Contessa”. Based on her performance in Mankiewicz’s film, I’m surprised that didn’t have a bigger career.

        Colin, I’m glad that you like “The Naked and the Dead”. I’m a big fan of the film and am baffled that some critics dismiss it. I believe Norman Mailer even complained that Walsh was too old to direct the film. But I always took everything Mailer ever said with a grain of salt. I think Walsh did a great job with the three leads (Ray, Robertson, and Massey) as well as with the ensemble cast. l also love his daydream sequences.

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        • It works very well as an action picture. It’s tight, well edited and suspenseful. But it’s all very two dimensional, and even a touch of depth would have added to it. You get the impression that there may be some internal dissent centered around Ray Teal’s character but that never pans out either. What works does so very well but it often fells like there was a lot of potential squandered.

          That Mari Aldon was able to remain so memorable in The Barefoot Contessa with such a brief appearance is quite a compliment.

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  3. Distant Drums, along with Marjorie Morningstar and The Enforcer, notable titles, were part of a film package produced by Milton Sperling and including some fifteen additional films, acquired by Richard Feiner of Feiner & Company, for distribution to television and possible remakes. Dick and I screened them all, and he fell in like with Marjorie Morningstar and spent years trying to put a newer and smarter production together. And that is the key to my comment. The stars and directors, for the most part, saved the day, but the fault was not with them, nor we thought with the material, but with the company — Milton Sperling; smart and decent, but dull and as a doornail. Filled to the brim sith shallowness brought to a full half-life by an attraction to great ideas. Check out The Court Martial of Billy Mitchell, dull as pain (sang Maurice Chevalier in Gigi). The fault if not General Mitchell, nor Gary Cooper, Rod Steiger nor Otto Preminger. People will and have personally attacked me for not celebrating the auteur concept — well in commercial projects, it is not so simple.

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    • Interesting. I was initially skeptical of the notion of the auteur but I have come round to it over time. maybe by seeing it in a broader way than I did at the outset. In a way, this is what I was trying to put across in this piece. It might appear counter-intuitive but some of a filmmaker’s lesser works can actually lend credence to the idea of the auteur. I’d argue that Walsh’s talents and his motifs are evident in a movie like the one under discussion. You naturally expect that to be the case with the acknowledged great works but the fact it can still be observed in what is without doubt a routine effort seems, to me anyway, to support the idea of the auteur.

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  4. Colin
    Thanks for the memory jog here with this one. I recall sitting up one weekend with my dad watching this on the old black and white set. A quick look on You Tube produced the Olive release of the film which I bookmarked for later watching. And of course congrats on the nice write up.
    Gord

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    • If you’ve only ever seen it in B&W, then a proper presentation ought to be a revelation. Approached with realistic expectations, it offers an entertaining hour and a half.

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  5. I am in total agreement about Walsh’s “OBJECTIVE BURMA”, Colin.
    When I was growing up I remember my parents speaking of the film. Like all British who had fought in WW2, they were very critical of it, showing the Americans led by Errol Flynn taking the glory with virtually no mention of the British role in Burma. That was all a long time ago now and I can only view the film in its own terms and that is that it is top-flight movie-making by Raoul Walsh.
    His final film, “A DISTANT TRUMPET” kind of drew a line under the classic movie era and was a fine western. One of the great directors IMO.

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  6. And this weekend I will be watching…
    1- I’LL MET BY MOONLIGHT 1957- Dirk Bograde
    2- LONE WOLF AND CUB: BABY CART IN THE LAND OF DEMONS – 1973 Japan
    3- THE INVISIBLE MAN – 2019 – Elizabeth Moss
    4 – 3 BAD MEN – 1926 – George O’Brien stars and John Ford directs
    5 – RABIO CAB MURDER – 1954 -Jimmy Hanley, Lana Morris

    Gordon

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    • Gordon…….have you seen the “Lone Wolf and Cub” series before? “Demons” is number 5 of 6. IMO, better if seen in succession.

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      • Scott
        Yes, I have seen the first ones in order. They pop up on TCM here every once in a while. Fun samurai action with a sense of humor. I quite like them, though I do admit to being a fan of most Japanese cinema..

        Gord

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  7. Colin
    As for, “Ill Met by Midnight” , I have only seen the U.S. version, “Night Ambush” which has an 11 minute shorter runtime. It will be nice to see the whole film.
    Gordon

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  8. Yesterday I watched a wartime spy drama that was completely new to me. “DECISION BEFORE DAWN” (1951) directed by Anatole Litvak and starring Richard Basehart, Gary Merrill but really the central character played by Oskar Werner. Filmed entirely in Europe post-WW2 in locations that showed the bombed-out devastation in Germany for real. It told the true story of some captured German soldiers after D-Day who were willing to work for the Allies to get vital information that could speed up war’s end. Superbly done. Anyone else know this one? If not, I recommend it.

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    • Jerry,

      I watched it several years ago and I thought it was excellent. Superb production by Fox. As Gordon said, Werner is in top form. I think “Decision Before Dawn” is somewhat underrated and that it belongs on the top shelf of WWII films.

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  9. Jerry
    Saw it 5-6 years ago and liked it. Superb work by Oskar Werner here in my humble opinion. As you say, the location filming really shows the viewer the wreckage and ruin wrought by the war. I agree with you, good film.
    Gord

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  10. Like you I too was ‘underwhelmed’. Like Gord I too saw Distant Drums in black and white. Gary Cooper is one of my top 5 stars of the 50s. Best regards.

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    • Much as I like Cooper, from the 30s right through till the end of his career, I have to say he appeared in more than his fair share of indifferent films. Of course he made a significant number of bone fide classics, and even in the less interesting works it is often his presence that draws you.

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  11. “I have another of [Niven Busch’s] scripted movies in mind for a future write up – and no, it’s not Duel in the Sun before anyone asks.” I see that you have already reviewed a number of Busch’s movies. I think the most famous film of his that you haven’t reviewed is “The Postman Always Rings Twice” but I’m guessing you’ll go with a lesser know film. By the way, Mari Aldon of “Distant Drums” was married to Tay Garnett, the director of “The Postman Always Rings Twice”.

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  12. Speaking of Mari Aldon, and her name is strongly linked to the subject film of this thread, I coincidentally watched her co-starring in a British film from 1954 “MASK OF DUST” (re-titled ‘Race For Life’) in the U.S. starring Richard Conte in a motor-racing drama from Hammer Films. I thought she was good in it.

    Harking back to the previous thread, I mentioned that a 1953 Republic Korean War flag-waver called “FLIGHT NURSE” was coming to our TV screens. Watched it today and enjoyed it a lot. The treatment is much more standard than the other war film I mentioned “DECISION BEFORE DAWN” (which was superb) but enjoyable nonetheless. Joan Leslie was delightful in it.

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  13. Sorry ’bout that I’ve just had a strange experience over at one of Toby’s blogs but the darn thing got through in the end!

    Raoul Walsh ended the 1940’s with two masterworks WHITE HEAT and COLORADO TERRITORY but through the 50’s there were still great things to come. DISTANT DRUMS as most of us agree is good but not great. The three Westerns Gary Cooper made for Warners in the early 50’s are far from his best with SPRINGFIELD RIFLE, IMHO the best of the three. Even DALLAS with a good director,Stuart Heisler, fell wide of the mark. BLOWING WILD another Warners misfire (and a Milton Sperling Production) was a mess that even the talented Hugo Fregonese could not save. SPRINGFIELD RIFLE I like quiet a bit not top tier De Toth but still pretty good-wonderful scenery and action set pieces.

    I’m certainly in a minority here but I enjoy Stuart Heisler’s third re-work of HIGH SIERRA, I DIED A THOUSAND TIMES which this time had the attraction of Color and CinemaScope.The film is one of my “most wanted on Blu Ray” especially if it’s in 2.55 widescreen-love that ratio. Heisler’s THE BURNING HILLS has it’s moments too and is interesting as a big budget 50’s Westerns aimed directly at a younger (teenage) audience.

    For me THE NAKED AND THE DEAD was the last truly great Raoul Walsh picture and minor Walsh they may be I also enjoy his two Rock Hudson Westerns THE LAWLESS BREED and GUN FURY.

    Colin, you may be interested to see that Sidonis are releasing GUN FURY on Blu Ray in December and I guess it will be from the same master as the Twilight Time release. Gary at DVD Beaver had serious “issues” with the Twilight Time release but myself I was glad to finally get the film in 1.85 widescreen-the transfer is exceptionally grainy,to be sure but the screen grabs on DVD Beaver don’t look that bad/stretched on my system. Sidonis are also releasing on Blu Ray Henry Levin’s excellent THE MAN FROM COLORADO it’s fine to see these vintage Columbia Westerns getting high def editions.

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    • You’re not the only one to have problems, John. Blog platforms in general appear to be experiencing difficulties at the moment, for owners, visitors, commenters. I wonder if it has anything to do with both major hosts rolling largely unpopular “upgrades” that are making life a little less pleasant.

      Cooper’s early 50s westerns are a decidedly mixed bag. There’s High Noon and all around it there’s a good deal of mediocrity.

      As ever, thanks for those pointers on the Sidonis releases, very tempting stuff. Having said that, I need to economize a little as I’ve recently splashed out on some Blu-rays from Germany which were going in a 4 for 21 Euro offer (Johnny Guitar, How to Murder Your Wife, Soldier of Fortune & Assault on a Queen). I also picked up the German Gunman’s Walk and Love in the Afternoon as they were going cheap. And as if that weren’t enough The Entertainment Store on eBay have an Arrow promotion so I felt I had to get Dark City and Pickup Alley as they are currently 2 for £15. I think that’s enough to be getting on with for a while!

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      • Hi Colin,
        The German Blu Ray of GUNMAN’S WALK is outstanding
        you will be very happy with that.
        I was toying with SOLDIER OF FORTUNE which got a rave
        review from Glenn Erickson and I do believe it’s
        in the attractive 2.55 ratio. I understand the 2.55 ratio was
        normally used by major studios so they could fit a magnetic
        stereo track onto the print and was generally used for
        “tentpole” releases.
        ASSULT ON A QUEEN I saw at the cinema..never again,
        a thudding bore of a movie with Sinatra doing a third rate
        “Bogie” turn.
        DARK CITY I spoke about on an earlier thread apart from
        a wonderful Don DeFore performance there’s not much on offer
        when DeFore exits the movie the film crashes. Furthermore
        the “happy” ending is pretty much off kilter with the rest of
        the movie.
        I thought you already had PICKUP ALLEY,I hope you have not
        double dipped here kid! The film is fast moving fun with Mature
        doing what’s required of him,nothing more.

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        • I have Soldier of Fortune and Glenn’s review was right on all counts. An aside: Gable wanted Grace Kelly, and when there were issues with Hayward unable to leave the US he presented the idea a second time, unfortunately, she had already begun work on her own next film. Hayward was fine, but this excellent film would have been just that much better had she been on location.

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    • It’s interesting you mention Blowing Wild, John. I saw it recently and I rarely ever give a classic film a bad grade but this one deserves it. I have no idea how a movie with this cast (Cooper, Stanwyck, Quinn, Ruth Roman) and director Fregonese can be such a dud. No credit to anyone involved in it.

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      • Re Blowing Wild. An awful dull film, but I am willing to bet that it read well — if anyone can find the original story it might be worth checking out. Then, make room for the ‘improvements.

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      • More on this subject. The New York Times review, written by Bosely Crowther, not with brilliance, but accuracy and insight, describes exactly what is wrong with Blowing Wild — and it goes to the story and stealing same. Bosley omits the character issues that clearly go to the production people, I mean Milton and Warners, the actors get a pass, as they are just trying to keep off the street panhandling.

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        • Aah, Bosley Crowther. Me and him just don’t hit it off, review-wise speaking. His customary, ill-conceived write-ups are so often simply insulting, at least in hindsight.

          He’s right however about Blowing Wild. It doesn’t bother me that the movie pilfers here, there and everywhere, it just does it badly.

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          • I’ve only ever read bits and pieces of Crowther’s reviews so my impressions are likely to be less than accurate, but I’ve often found myself wondering if he actually liked anything.

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          • Bosley Crowther was a terrible, unimaginative writer whose critical evaluations frequently missed the mark. But in 1967, I discovered his just-released book, “The Great Films – Fifty Golden Years of Motion Pictures”. Crowther lists chronologically the 50 best films from “Birth of a Nation” (1915) to Joseph Strick’s production of Joyce’s “Ulysses” (1967). I was fascinated reading about old (and not so old) films and films from Japan, Italy, Germany, Sweden, India, the Soviet Union and France. He started me on the path to checking out these movies and though I had watched old movies from childhood, my obsession with film really began with this book. This is not the list of greatest films that I would put together today, but, aside from a few poor selections, it isn’t bad. I check out Crowther’s reviews now and again and whether I agree with his assessment or not, I always cringe at his abominable writing.

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        • According to imdb Milton Sperling wanted
          Robert Mitchum and Joel McCrea for BLOWING WILD,
          perhaps the film might have been better but those
          two in a film together sounds mighty appealing to me.

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          • Names get kicked around, and while I agree about Mitchum and McCrea, unlikely that either would play second fiddle to the other, although Mitchum did to Cary Grant and John Wayne — not at all the same thing as McCrea.

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  14. The American critic that really annoys me is
    Pauline Kael,Alan Parker (I’m not a fan I might add)
    called her a demented bag lady.
    I’m knocking together a post and a lot of you will no
    doubt cry “that figures”
    It’s not only her views on The Man but her view that all
    vintage British films are crap and the only suspense in
    watching 50’s Joel McCrea and Randolph Scott Westerns was
    weather they could actually still mount their horses…..
    I DETEST her!
    The vintage British film writer,who was a huge influence
    on yours truly was Raymond Durgnat,there’s just nobody
    like him around these days,certainly in the UK.

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    • Kael’s name gets dropped a lot but I have to confess I don’t believe I’ve ever read a word she wrote. If those snippets you mentioned are in any way representative, I’m not sure I need to.

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  15. Boy,do I need a lift these days,like many of you folks
    I guess.
    Well I got one today and a big one at that.
    In these uncertain times nothing is concrete and my scant
    details may not be 100% but here goes.
    Clint Eastwood has just announced his next project as
    director and more important star.
    CRY MACHO is the tale of a washed up rodeo star,
    horse trainer who is offered $50,000 to snatch his ex employers
    son from his alcoholic Mother in Mexico.
    As far as I understand it details their journey back to The States and
    has been mentioned as a tale of redemption.
    For me it sounds like the closest thing Clint has done to a Western
    since UNFORGIVEN but then again I may be wrong.
    The film seems to be a re working of an old screenplay by
    veteran screenwriter R Richard Nash (PORGY & BESS,THE RAINMAKER)
    As far as I can find out the script has been re-worked by Nick Schenk
    (GRAND TORINO,THE MULE)
    I loved both those Schenk titles and personally consider THE MULE Clint’s
    best movie since UNFORGIVEN.
    At any rate something to look forward to,for me at least!
    A sobering thought will we still be going to the movies when
    CRY MACHO finally gets released.
    To all RTHC readers,stay well,stay safe.

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  16. That does indeed sound like good news, John. I always go to see Clint’s new films and I thought “THE MULE” was just fine. I see that Cineworld are closing their UK cinemas so it’s not looking good for trips to the big screen any time soon sadly. They’ve lost a huge amount of income worldwide this year.
    Stay well and stay safe yourself too, John.

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  17. Yes Jerry I saw the Cineworld announcement too,
    the continued putting back of blockbusters is crippling cinemas
    I note the new Bond movie will now not appear until April.
    In the meantime,I thought it might be a good time for
    Sony to release NO TIME TO DIE (aka Tank Force)
    on DVD and Blu Ray an engaging War film with Victor
    Mature and Leo Genn.
    I remember seeing it at the ABC Cinema Bayswater
    at a Sunday one day only performance (remember them)
    in the 60’s The support feature was COMANCHE STATION
    a wonderful CinemaScope double bill.

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  18. Very surprised by the lack of love for BLOWING WILD on here. Almost the quintessential B-Movie with A list stars. A rhapsodic fever-pitched emotional tour-de-force. A slightly tawdry pulp magazine on celluloid with Stanwyck and Ruth Roman both in fine form accompanied by one of Frankie Laine’s most stirring vocals on an outstanding Dimitri Tiomkin soundtrack. I never tire of watching this one. One thing I would agree with though: Gary Cooper simply looks past it by the early Fifties. Unconvincing as a heroic leading man, except of course in HIGH NOON which plays on his world-weary demeanour. Alas, also past it is Clint. I really wanted to like THE MULE but I found it very, very slow, occasionally lifted by one or two rather contrived set pieces (Biker Dykes etc). As for the scene where he cries in court at the end of the picture……! If Clint wanted to sign off with a Western (or even a neo-Western) he could do worse than direct his doppelganger son Scott who looks good in the saddle (the offbeat EL DIABLO is worth checking out) because his best days in front of the camera are over. ” A man should know his own limitations”.

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    • Well, you’re not alone in appreciating Blowing Wild. It has quite a lot of positive reviews on imdb. The way I see it, nobody was at their best in the film. You mentioned Cooper already, Quinn’s character was mostly annoying and though I’m a big Stanwyck fan, in Blowing Wild she’s simply unconvincing as the sexpot who can seduce every man. I had the same problem with her in The Moonlighter.

      Strangely enough, in 1953 she made two more movies in which I thought she was still very attractive, Jeopardy and All I Desire.

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      • Agree that THE MOONLIGHTER is incontrovertibly a dud, Margot, despite the DOUBLE INDEMNITY reunion. Also agree that Stanwyck exuded allure in JEOPARDY, ALL I DESIRE … not too mention THERE’S ALWAYS TOMORROW and WITNESS TO
        MURDER from the same period. However, I don’t think that any of the stars of BLOWING WILD where required to be ‘at their best’. It’s not a picture that requires subtlety. It’s a roller coaster of hysteria and overwrought emotion and in that context Anthony Quinn (and Stanwyck in particular) do just fine….

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          • Miaoww ….Well Margot I’m fairly certain that the testosterone fuelled emotions of BLOWING WILD have very little to do with nights spent under canvas …… Have a good evening!

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                • I’ve been following the exchanges on the movie with interest, at first due mainly to the personnel both in front of and behind the cameras. I’d say I’m quite fascinated at the moment, which is often what happens when I come across such a diverse range of opinions expressed.

                  Liked by 1 person

    • Nick……your assessments of “Blowing Wild” squarely hit the mark. The character of Stanwyck is the driving force of this movie. To really appreciate the chain of events one has to understand the character of this individual.
      Quoting Margot……”she’s simply unconvincing as the sexpot who can seduce every man”. Personally, I respectfully disagree with Margot here. It just doesn’t fit the intent and true nature of the character. To me, she is a woman POSSESSED in thinking she can have everything she wants and desires, thus driven by the circumstances of those in her orbit and opportunistically to change such circumstances much the same way Ida Lupino did in the movie THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT.

      Like

        • Yes, she sure was a sick puppy wasn’t she? She could be very alluring with detrimental consequences to men that would succumb to her choosing. Cooper, as once prey himself, knew she was poison. Henceforth, he continually resisted her temptatious advances which set her off numerous times as we witnessed. Those early scenes of rejection we have the Frankie Laine hit song of the day ‘Blowing Wild’ blasting away to amplify the gravity of the situation. Those sequences set the pattern for what kind of an unbalanced frantically driven person we were about to be dealing with. The movie itself I liked, especially the cinematography and music score. For Cooper, he was in ill health at the time and it showed……especially, the ending sequence where he looked very worn……..but, I can still give him a pass because he was coop being coop.

          Liked by 1 person

  19. My take on my weekend film picks.

    1- I’LL MET BY MOONLIGHT 1957- Dirk Bograde – Nicely put together WW2 film based on a real event. The British send several officers to kidnap the German General in charge of the garrison on the island of Crete. I had only seen the US version of the film which ran 11 minutes shorter.

    2- LONE WOLF AND CUB: BABY CART IN THE LAND OF DEMONS – 1973 Japan – Part of a series of samurai films with plenty of squirting blood and swordplay. I like these films.

    3- THE INVISIBLE MAN – 2019 – Elizabeth Moss – Universal films has tried in the last few years to update their classic horror films from the 30’s with WOLFMAN, THE MUMMY and now THE INVISIBLE MAN. They should have left the idea alone. This one is a waste of time as were the other two. Nothing to do with what made the first one so much fun.

    4 – 3 BAD MEN – 1926 – George O’Brien stars and John Ford directs. This is the first silent Ford feature film I have seen, and it was worth the time. I had assumed wrongly, before watching that this was later remade into THE 3 GODFATHERS. This one has 3 horse thieves, Tom Santschi, Frank Campeau and J. Farrell MacDonald helping out a woman in distress, Olive Borden, from a crooked lawman, Lou Tellegen and his gang. George O’Brien plays a cow poke who falls for Borden. Roaring gun battles, horse chases and a dash across the prairie using hundreds of wagon and extras. Even here early in his career, Ford had a handle on how to use outdoor vistas to show the west. After this one and the Harry Carrey silent last week, I’m hooked on these silent dusters.

    5 – RABIO CAB MURDER – 1954 -Jimmy Hanley, Lana Morris – A just over an hour UK crime film that moves right along at a fair clip. Hanley, a cab driver who witnessed a murder during a robbery is asked by the Police to help out with their investigation. Known about this one for years but avoided it because the title did not ring any bells. Silly me, not the first time I have made that mistake. You looking for a decent low rent crime film then this is well worth the watch.
    Gord

    Like

    • Gord…….nice little review of RADIO CAB MURDER. ‘Murder’ in the title is a little much…..robbery would be more like it. Most memorable scene in the movie that seemed to come out of nowhere was when the gruff Mrs. May Evans (Madge Brindley) delivers that open fist blow to the face of bad girl Jean (Sonia Holm). Damn…..the women has no fear!!!

      Like

  20. Jeepers! what did I start with BLOWING WILD,
    nothing could make me sit through this one again,
    for me the film fails as both “Wildcatter Action Pic”
    (cripes even THE BIG GUSHER or URANIUM BOOM are
    better!!) or melodrama.
    Glad Colin is curious and I’d love to know what he
    makes of it all.
    Regarding Coop for me he was fine in GARDEN OF EVIL
    and THE HANGING TREE,miscast in MAN OF THE WEST and
    THEY CAME TO CORDURA is a stinker by anyone’s standards.
    I had no problem with Clint in THE MULE he was after all playing his
    age and I found the film involving all the way.
    At any rate it grossed $175 Million Worldwide so somebody must have
    liked it. There were also some big laughs in this film especially when the
    drug cartel hands Clint a mobile ‘phone and asks him to “text” Clint’s
    reaction was priceless.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. MULE Trivia note:
    Clifton Collins Jr who plays the guy who eventually takes
    over the drug cartel,(after seeing off Andy Garcia) is the
    grandson of Pedro Gonzalez Gonzalez and also
    happens to be Clint’s son in law!
    I looked for him in ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD but
    he seems to have ended up on the cutting room floor.
    I hope Tarantino was aware of the RIO BRAVO connection.

    Like

  22. This past weekend, I watched “The Lodger” (1944) a film about a family who lets out a room to a strange man during the Jack the Ripper reign of terror. Can the very weird lodger possibly be the Ripper? Director John Brahm, cinematographer Lucien Ballard, and the artistic designers create a darkly atmospheric London using sets. Merle Oberon and Laird Cregar are both excellent. You might say that this is an unhappy retelling of “Beauty and the Beast” with Oberon never looking lovelier and the huge Cregar frighteningly monstrous. George Sanders and Cedric Hardwicke are satisfactory, but Sarah Allgood shines as the landlady to takes the morbid stranger into her home. I intend to watch John Brahm’s “Hangover Square” (1945) having read the excellent novel by Patrick Hamilton. Again, Laird Cregar and George Sanders are featured with Linda Darnell taking the female lead. It was the only film in which Laird Cregar took top billing. The film was released after Cregar’s tragic death at the age of 30. A huge man, the shock of losing 100 pounds to star in “Hangover Square” killed him.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s ears since I’ve seen either of those Brahm movies, but I have good memories of both and I’m very partial to those types of gaslight thrillers anyway. Expect something of that variety on here soon…

      Like

  23. Colin
    John Brahm made a easy transfer to the small screen where he helmed over 150 episodes of various series. One I really liked was A TOUCH OF EVIL. It is an episode from the 1957-58 anthology series SUSPICION. This episode stars Audrey Totter, Bethel Leslie, Harry Guardino, Jacqueline Mayo, John Carradine and Gene Roth. Needless to say there is plenty of nasty work afoot.

    Most of the episodes of SUSPICION were produced by Alfred Hitchcock and Joan Harrison. Hitch also directed one of the episodes
    Gord

    Like

  24. Colin
    Yes, Woolrich wrote the Hitch episode. The episode I mentioned, A TOUCH OF EVIL, was by Halsted Welles. Welles of course did the screenplays for 3:10 to YUMA and the Cooper western, THE HANGING TREE.

    Gord

    Like

  25. Films for the weekend will be…
    1- ARMORED CAR ROBBERY – 1950 Time for a re-watch.
    2- THE GREEN EYED BLONDE – 1957 First watch of this girls reform school film.
    3 – BLOOD QUANTOM – 2019 Low rent Zombie film I heard good things about.
    4 – GREEN HELL – 1940 James Whale adventure. Saw it once when I was a teen then again about a decade ago.
    5- THE ANGEL WHO PAWNED HER HARP -1954 Diane Cilento, Felix Aylmer, Alfie Bass – Never even heard of this one before so it is a first time viewing.
    Gord

    Like

    • 😀 Well it is getting nearer, thankfully!

      From those movies you mentioned, I’d love to check out Green Hell again. I think I only ever saw it once on TV as a teenager but it always stuck in my mind for some reason. I believe it doesn’t have much of a reputation but the cast and director draw me.

      Like

  26. Colin
    As for GREEN HELL, I quite enjoyed it the times I caught it. You are right though that most reviews savage the film. What I like is the fact that it is one of the films George Lucas lifted some ideas from for his first INDIANA JONES effort.
    Gord

    Like

  27. Gordon,
    When you watch THE ANGEL THAT PAWNED HER HARP,
    watch the beginning when “Angel” Diane Cilento falls to earth,
    followed by a tracking shot along Islington High Street.
    The camera passes the Gaumont Cinema (now sadly a Starbucks….
    that’s progress I guess!”) showing THE FAKE supported by
    RAIDERS OF THE SEVEN SEAS then further down the road on
    the opposite side there is an enormous hoarding for the latest
    3D sensation SANGAREE.,
    THE ANGEL THAT PAWNED HER HARP is a charming little
    fantasy and Cilento is wonderful to say the least.

    Like

    • I liked Diane Cilento in pretty much everything I saw her in, she came across very well on screen. I watched Jet Storm a few months ago, which offered her a good role.

      Like

  28. Gord,
    The film for me there is “Armored Car Robbery”, a terrific RKO heist thriller. Great cast of ‘toughies’ and the film really MOVES.

    John,
    You probably know Islington much better than I but the original High Street is still there but runs parallel to the main thoroughfare. Bit strange really but the old High Street is a piece of hidden delight.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Pingback: Moss Rose | Riding the High Country

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