Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated Westerns - Toby Roan ""

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Underrated Westerns - Toby Roan

Toby Roan runs the blog '50 Westerns From the 50's':
His focus, as you might guess, is on Western cinema of the 1950s. Great site, well worth following. Also, Toby appeared on my friend Todd Liebenow's Forgotten Films Podcast a while back to talk about LAST TRAIN FROM GUN HILL (which he mentions below):

Toby can also be found on Twitter here:
I took a good look at the lists that came before mine, and tried to offer up some stuff no one had gotten to yet. And I limited mine to the 50s. There are so many underrated 50s Westerns, and these are just a drop in the bucket.

The Showdown (1950)
Directed by Dorrell & Stuart McGowan 
This overlooked Republic Western stars Wild Bill Elliott (his last for the studio), Marie Windsor, Henry Morgan and Walter Brennan; opens with Elliott digging up his brother's grave; and even though it takes place on a cattle drive, was shot entirely on a soundstage. The fact that it works, and works really well, is a testament to everyone involved.

Apache Drums (1951)
Directed by Hugo Fregonese
Producer Val Lewton’s last film (and only color one). He takes every bit of the mood and suspense we know from his I Walked With A Zombie (1943) andThe Cat People (1942) — and easily finds it a home in the Technicolor old west. The final Indian attack is something else. Stars Stephen McNally, Coleen Gray, Willard Parker, Arthur Shields and James Griffith.

A Lawless Street (1955)
Directed by Joseph H. Lewis
Randolph Scott made so many terrific Westerns in the 50s, especially in the last half of the decade. So it makes sense that a few good ones would get lost in the shuffle. In A Lawless Street, Randy's a worn-out town-tamer who rides to his next job and finds his estranged wife singing in the saloon.

The Last Hunt (1956)
Directed by Richard Brooks
One of a number of Westerns released in 1956 that dealt with racism — others included George Sherman’s 
Reprisal! and John Ford’s The Searchers. In The Last Hunt, Robert Taylor is a crazed buffalo hunter who really enjoys his work, mainly because he’s taking food away from the Indians. Taylor’s performance is remarkable, and the buffalo-hunting scenes were shot during the actual thinning of the herds. This is as dark as the Western got in the 50s.

A Day Of Fury (1956)
Directed by Harmon Jones
A bit reminiscent of High Plains Drifter (1973), with Dale Robertson the mysterious stranger who comes to town and turns everyone against each other. Robertson said he read the script, decided his character was the Devil, and played it that way. That may not have been what everyone intended, but it sure works.
Fury At Showdown (1957)
Directed by Gerd Oswald 
John Derek returns to the family ranch after a year in prison, determined to hang up his guns and help his brother (Nick Adams) make a go of things. Of course, those guns never seem to want to stay hung up, do they? Director Gerd Oswald made this mini-masterpiece in just five days. If he'd had five months, it wouldn't have been as good. Adams is excellent.

The Quiet Gun (1957)
Directed by William F. Claxton
Maybe the best of the Regalscope Westerns, cowboy movies cheaply and quickly made to fill out all-Scope bills for 20th Century Fox. Forrest Tucker plays a sheriff who sees through the town's self-righteous stand against a rancher who's shacking up with an Indian girl. What a cast: Tucker, Mara Corday, Jim Davis, Lee Van Cleef and Hank Worden.

The True Story Of Jesse James (1957)
Directed by Nicholas Ray
Robert Wagner is Jesse James, Jeffrey Hunter his brother Frank. This was a great, great movie — till the studio got ahold of it. While Ray’s original non-linear structure was almost completely removed, it’s made up of very good scenes. Hunter is terrific, and Ray’s incredible use of CinemaScope is worth the price of admission. In my opinion, this is the Magnificent Ambersons of 50s Westerns.

Last Train From Gun Hill (1959)
Directed by John Sturges
Much of the cast and crew of Gunfight At The O.K. Corral (1957) re-unite and make an even better film. Kirk Douglas comes to Gun Hill to get the man who murdered his wife -- and leave on the last train. Dark, mature and incredibly suspenseful -- if Hitchcock had made a cowboy movie, it might've been like this.
Face Of A Fugitive (1959)
Directed by Paul Wendkos
Fred MacMurray’s an aging bank robber on the run, hiding out in a small border town and starting to make a new life for himself. He gets caught up in the sheriff's dispute with a local cattle baron, eventually torn between avoiding capture and doing what's right. James Coburn has a great early role, and things get very tense in the last reel. MacMurray made some outstanding Westerns in the late 50s; try Quantez (1957), too.

1 comment:

Hal said...

Great list, Toby. I have yet to see A DAY OF FURY and it sure sounds like I need to. THE QUIET GUN made my list too. One DVD I'll be purchasing when Olive releases it. :)