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Showing posts from July, 2015

Dark Command (1940)

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DARK COMMAND
Dir: Raoul Walsh - Cast: Claire Trevor, John Wayne, Walter Pidgeon, Gabby Hayes, Roy Rogers, Porter Hall, Marjorie Main, Raymond Wallburn
"We gotta saying down in Texas ..."
An early John Wayne western, made one year after the monumental Stagecoach. With a budget of $750,000, Dark Command (1) was quite a prestige object for its production company, Republic, in those days best known for B-movies and serials. It also features singing cowboy Roy Rogers, in a surprisingly dramatic role as Claire Trevor’s trigger-happy younger brother. The story is set in Lawrence, Kansas, on the eve of the Civil War, as the political tensions between the states are growing. Some elements of the plot are (very loosely) based on the historic Quantrill's Raiders. The finale is a romantisized representation of the infamous raid on Lawrence that took place in full wartime, on August 21, 1863.

The film opens with the arrival in town of Doc Crunch, a traveling dentist, and his assistan…

Flaming Star (1960)

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FLAMING STAR
Dir: Don Siegel - Cast: Elvis Presley, Dolores Del Rio, Steve Forrest, John McIntire, Barbara Eden, L.Q. Jones, Richard Jaeckel, Rodolfo Acosta
Flaming Star is arguably Elvis Presley’s best movie (most people will tell you Jailhouse Rock comes nearest in quality). The screenplay, by Nunnaly Johnson, was based on a novel by Clair Huffaker, but Johnson had written it with Marlon Brando in mind. When Brando dropped out, it was rewritten for Elvis by no other than Huffaker himself.

The movie is a late entry in a series of westerns from the Fifties that tried to shed a new light on the clash between the white and the red man, between those who saw the continent as the New Land and those for whom the New Land was their Old Home (1). Like John Huston’s The Unforgiven (1960) it tells a story of a mixed (red-white) family torn apart when hostilities flare up between the Indians and the settlers.

Elvis Presley is Pacer, the half-breed son of a Texas rancher, Sam Burton, and a Kiowa…

Rough Night in Jericho (1967)

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ROUGH NIGHT IN JERICHO 
Director: Arnold Laven - Cast: Dean Martin, George Peppard, Jean Simmons, John McIntire, Slim Pickens, Don Galloway, Richard O'Brien, John Napier 
A bizarre western, if only for casting good old Dean Martin as a villain without any redeeming qualities. It was marketed with the tag line "Who says they don't make Westerns like they used to?" suggesting that this was an old school western with all the classic ingredients. The story about (the lack of) law and order in a small western town, sounds like a fifties western, but the level of violence is more in accordance with the early seventies. When a man in a white shirt is shot his blood runs on the shirt like wine on a napkin, another man is shot in the face, Jean Simmons is beaten up and almost strangled and a hand-to-hand combat between Peppard and Pickens is of a particularly nasty kind.

Martin’s character, Alex Flood, is an ex-lawman gone bad; he is determined to have total control over the…