Ride Lonesome (1959, directed by Budd Boetticher)


In the western Ride Lonesome, Randolph Scott plays Ben Brigade. Brigade is a bounty hunter. The only thing that really differentiates him from the outlaws that he captures is that he gets paid for what he does. When Brigade arrests a young outlaw named Billy John (James Best), he gives Billy just enough time to send word to his older brother, Frank (Lee Van Cleef). And when Brigade starts to lead Billy John back to the town of Santa Cruz, he takes his time and fails to cover his tracks, almost as if he is intentionally making time for Frank to eventually catch up to him. Along the way, Brigade meets up with three others, a woman named Carrie (Karen Steele) and two outlaws named Boone (Pernell Roberts) and Whit (James Coburn). Carrie is searching for her husband while Boone and Whit want to arrest Billy John themselves so that they can turn him in and get a pardon for their own crimes.

Ride Lonesome is one of the best of the many films that Randolph Scott made with director Budd Boetticher.  Boetticher specialized in making fast-paced westerns that had deceptively simple plots.  Nobody in a Boetticher western was totally good or totally bad and that’s certainly the case with Ride Lonesome, which may seem like a typical western but which is actually a character study of 6 very different people.  Brigade is often only the hero by default and his actions are often as ruthless as those of the men who are tracking him.  It’s only after he meets and gets to know Carrie that he starts to seriously consider that his plans could lead to innocent people getting hurt. Billy John may be a wanted killer but, underneath his bravado, he’s just someone trying to live up to his brother’s example.  Meanwhile, Boone and Whit may be outlaws but they turn out to be the most morally upright characters in the film.  Ride Lonesome takes a serious look at frontier justice and suggests that maybe black-and-white morality isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

Needless to say, the cast is great.  Randolph Scott was one of the great western heroes and Karen Steele, Pernell Roberts, Lee Van Cleef, and James Best all turn in memorable performances.  Best of all is James Coburn, making his film debut and showing that, even at the start of his career, he was already the epitome of cool.  Ride Lonesome is one of the best of of the Boetticher/Scott westerns and a true classic of the genre.

 

30 More Days of Noir: The Killer Is Loose (dir by Budd Boetticher)


Film noir comes to the suburbs!

The Killer is Loose opens with the robbery of a savings and loan.  At first, it seems like meek bank teller Leon Poole (Wendell Corey) behaved heroically and kept the robbery from being far worse than it could have been.  How meek is Leon Poole?  He’s so meek that his nickname has always been Foggy.  People have always made fun of him because of his glasses and his bad eyesight.  Everyone assumes that Poole is just one of those quiet people who is destined to spend his entire life in obscurity.

However, the police soon discover that Leon Poole is not the hero that everyone thinks that he is.  Instead, he was involved in the robbery!  When Detective Sam Wagner (Joseph Cotten) leads a group of cops over to Poole’s house to arrest the bank teller, Poole’s wife is accidentally shot and killed.  At the subsequent trial, Poole swears that he’ll get vengeance.  And then he’s promptly sent off to prison.

Jump forward three years.  Leon Poole is still in prison.  He’s still deceptively meek.  He still wears glasses.  Everyone still assumes that he’s harmless.  Of course, that’s what Poole wants them to believe.  He’s still obsessed with getting his vengeance.  Meanwhile, Detective Wagner and his wife, Lila (Rhonda Fleming), are living in the suburbs and have a somewhat strained marriage.  Lila wants Wagner to find a less dangerous and less stressful job.  Wagner wants to keep busting crooks.

When Poole see a chance to escape from prison, he does so.  That’s not really a shock because even the quietest of people are probably going to take advantage of the chance to escape from prison.  What is a shock is that Poole ruthlessly murders a guard while making his escape.  He then kills a truck driver and steal the vehicle.  He then tracks down his old army sergeant and guns him down while the man’s wife watches.  Always watch out for the quiet ones, as they say.

Now, Poole has just one more target.  He wants to finish his revenge by killing Lila Wagner.

The Killer is Loose is a tough and, considering the time that it was made, brutal film noir.  (Seriously, the scene where Poole kills his former sergeant really took me by surprise.)  While both Rhonda Fleming and Joseph Cotten give good performances in their roles, it’s Wendell Corey who really steals the film.  Corey plays Poole not as an outright villain but instead as a man who has been driven mad by years and years of taunts.  After spend his entire life being told that he was a loser, Poole finally decided to do something for himself and, as a result, his wife ended up getting killed by the police.  Now that Poole’s managed to escape from prison, he’s willing to do anything just as long as he can get his final revenge.  Corey plays Poole with a smoldering resentment and the performance feels very real.  (If the film were made today, it’s easy to imagine that Poole would be an anonymous twitter troll, going through life with a smile on his face while unleashing his anger online.)  It brings a very real spark and feeling of danger to a film that would otherwise just be a standard crime film.

The Killer Is Loose also makes good use of its suburban setting, suggesting that both Fleming and Cotten have allowed themselves to get complacent with their life away from the obvious dangers of the big city.  You can buy a new house, the film seems to be saying, but you can’t escape the past.

Horror Scenes That I Love: Tor Johnson vs Richard Carlson in Behind Locked Doors


Since today is Tor Johnson’s birthday, I wanted to share a scene from Plan 9 From Outer Space or Bride of the Monster or even the Beast of Yucca Flats.

Unfortunately, YouTube would not cooperate.  I found a lot of tribute videos that people had done.  I found several videos of Tor playing Lobo with silly music playing in the background.  There were a lot of weird Tor/Bela tribute videos.  (Apparently, there’s a very active community of Lobo/Varnoff shippers, which was not something that I really needed to know.)  Anyway, try as I did, I couldn’t find any decent videos of just Tor walking into a wall or rising from the dead of reaching for the bunny in Beast of Yucca Flats.

However, I did find this clip from a film in which Tor Johnson appeared in 1948.  Apparently, Behind Locked Doors was noir about a detective who goes undercover at a sanitarium.  One of the other patients at the sanitarium?  TOR JOHNSON!

So, enjoy this chance to see Tor Johnson in a scene not directed by Ed Wood or Coleman Francis.  (The scene was directed by Budd Boetticher, who has a far different critical reputation that both Misters Wood and Francis.)

Smile When You Say That: Randolph Scott in BUCHANAN RIDES ALONE (Columbia 1958)


cracked rear viewer

The usually stoic Randolph Scott gets to show a sense of humor in BUCHANAN RIDES ALONE, his fourth collaboration with director Budd Boetticher. The humor comes from Burt Kennedy’s script, who did an uncredited rewrite of Charles Lang’s original, foreshadowing his own, later comic Westerns. The result is a good (not great) little film that’s not up to other Scott/Boetticher teamings , but still a gun notch above average.

This one finds Scott as the title character, crossing the border from Mexico to the unfriendly Agry Town, where it seems everyone’s an Agry, and they don’t cotton to strangers. Buchanan just wants to make a pit stop on his way back to West Texas, get himself a nice steak, a bottle of whiskey, and a good night’s sleep. But he runs into trouble at the saloon with young Roy Agry, who is gunned down by Juan de la Vega. Apparently…

View original post 407 more words

Lonely As The Night: Randolph Scott in COMANCHE STATION (Columbia 1960)


cracked rear viewer

COMANCHE STATION was the final entry in the Randolph Scott/Budd Boetticher/Burt Kennedy series of Westerns, and in many ways a fitting ending. The loneliness of the Westerner is again a key theme as the film begins with the solitary figure of Scott as Jefferson Cody, riding across that rocky, barren, now mighty familiar Lone Pine terrain. He bargains with hostile Comanches for a captive white woman named Nancy Lowe, wife of a wealthy rancher. Stopping at Comanche Station, Cody and Mrs. Lowe encounter three men being chased by the tribe.

We learn one of these men is Ben Lane, a bounty hunter who shares a dark past with Cody. The two were formerly in the Army together, where then-Major Cody busted Lane out of the service for the slaughter of a village of friendly Indians. We also learn Mrs. Lowe’s husband is offering a five thousand dollar reward for her…

View original post 388 more words

Lonesome Cowboy: Randolph Scott in RIDE LONESOME (United Artists 1959)


cracked rear viewer

Randolph Scott and director Budd Boetticher  teamed again for RIDE LONESOME, their sixth of seven Westerns and fourth with writer Burt Kennedy. Scott’s a hard case bounty hunter bringing in a killer, joined in his trek by an old “acquaintance” with an agenda of his own. Everyone’s playing things close to the vest here, and the stark naked desert of Lone Pine’s Alabama Hills, with its vast emptiness, plays as big a part as the fine acting ensemble.

Ben Brigade (Scott) has captured the murderous Billy John and intends to bring him to justice in Santa Cruz. Coming to a waystation, he finds Sam Boone and his lanky young companion Whit, known outlaws who’ve heard the territorial governor is granting amnesty to whoever brings in Billy. Also at the station is Mrs. Crane, whose husband has been murdered by marauding Mescaleros. Sam’s interested in forming a partnership and taking Billy…

View original post 394 more words

Well of Loneliness: Randolph Scott in THE TALL T (Columbia 1957)


cracked rear viewer

I’ve told you Dear Readers before that Randolph Scott stands behind only John Wayne in my personal pantheon of great Western stars. Scott cut his cowboy teeth in a series of Zane Grey oaters at Paramount during the 1930’s, and rode tall in the saddle throughout the 40’s. By the mid-50’s, Scott and his  producing partner Harry Joe Brown teamed with director Budd Boetticher and writer Burt Kennedy for seven outdoor sagas that were a notch above the average Westerns, beginning with SEVEN MEN FROM NOW. The second of these, THE TALL T, remains the best, featuring an outstanding supporting cast and breathtaking location cinematography by Charles Lang, Jr.

Scott plays Pat Brennen, a friendly sort trying to make a go of his own ranch. Pat, who comically lost his horse to his old boss in a wager over riding a bucking bull, hitches a ride with his pal Rintoon’s…

View original post 449 more words

Hell Bent for Vengeance: Randolph Scott in DECISION AT SUNDOWN (Columbia 1957)


cracked rear viewer

I seem to have gained some new channels along with my new DirecTV receiver. I’m not sure why, but I won’t argue…  at least until I see the bill! One of them is Sony Movie Channel, featuring the Columbia Pictures catalog, and I recently viewed DECISION AT SUNDOWN, the third of seven Western collaborations between star Randolph Scott  and director Budd Boetticher. The plot and setting are simple, yet within that framework we get a tense psychological drama about a man consumed by vengeance and hatred.

Scott, still cutting a dashing figure at age 59, plays Bart Allison, who along with his pal Sam, ride into the town of Sundown on the day of Tate Kimbrough’s wedding to Lucy Summerton. Bart’s not there to offer his congratulations though; he announces his intention to kill town boss Tate. The reason: Bart holds Tate responsible for his wife’s suicide three years ago. Bart and Sam then hole up…

View original post 398 more words

Film Review: The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond (1960, directed by Budd Boetticher)


TheRiseFallofLegsDiamondIt’s the 1920s.  Prohibition is the law of the land and gangsters control the streets of New York City.  Jack Diamond (Ray Danton) and his tubercular brother, Eddie (Warren Oates), arrives in town.  Jack and Eddie are small-time jewel thieves but Jack has ambitions to be something more.  He works with his girlfriend, Alice (Karen Steele), as a dance instructor but he dreams of being the most powerful mobster in the world.  His first step is to get a job working as a bodyguard for New York crime lord (and fixer of the 1919 World Series), Arnold Rothstein (Robert Lowery).  Though Rothstein never trusts him, Jack works his way into his inner circle and even gets a nickname.  Because he is a dancer, he is renamed “Legs” Diamond.

From the minute that he starts working with Rothstein, Legs Diamond’s cocky personality and ruthless ambition make him enemies.  When he is shot three times, Legs shocks everyone by surviving and announces that he is invulnerable and cannot be killed.  After Rothstein is mysteriously gunned down, Diamond goes to war against Leo “Butcher” Bremer (Jesse White, better known as the original Maytag repairman) for control of the New York underworld.

The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond was directed by the legendary Budd Boetticher, a bullfighter-turned-director who is best known for directing a series of low-budget westerns in the 1950s.  The violent and hard-boiled The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond was Boetticher’s only gangster film and it’s a good one.  The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond is tightly-written, fast-paced, and Lucien Ballard’s black-and-white cinematography ranks with the best of film noir.

The role of Legs Diamond was originally offered to future producer Robert Evans (of The Kid Stays In The Picture fame) but when Evans turned it down, the role was given to Ray Danton.  Though he is occasionally a little stiff, Danton still gives a good and tough performance as Diamond but it is still hard not to wonder what Evans would have been like in the role.  The rest of the cast is full of recognizable B-movie actors, all of whom do a good job.  Actress Dyan Cannon made her film debut in Legs Diamond, playing one of Diamond’s girlfriends.  Meanwhile, in only his third film role, Warren Oates is memorable and sympathetic as the sickly Eddie.  Though Oates does not get to do much in the film, his performance still shows why he went on to become one of the most popular and well-respected character actors of all time.

Though hardly historically accurate (in real life, Arnold Rothstein never knew Jack Diamond and Diamond received his nickname not because he was a dancer but because of the speed with which he ran away from the police), The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond is an exciting and entertaining Depression-era gangster film.

LegsDiamond