Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Twilight Time - TWO RODE TOGETHER & FATE IS THE HUNTER ""

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Twilight Time - TWO RODE TOGETHER & FATE IS THE HUNTER

TWO RODE TOGETHER (1961; John Ford)
For some reason this John Ford western had eluded me until last year when it finally became a blip on my film radar. Looking at the cover, my initial thought was that maybe this movie is Ford's RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY. That's just me eyeballing it though you see and thinking it's got two slightly aging actors in it (a la Joel McCrae and Randolph Scott) and maybe they find themselves on one last adventure or something. There is a little of that here, in that Widmark (an army Lt) comes to his small town marshall pal (James Stewart) with mysterious mission to drag him into. One other interesting cast note is that this movie has a direct connection to one of my favorite films of the 1980s - CLOAK & DAGGER. 
The film is actually more along the lines of THE SEARCHERS, but it delves into some even darker territory. Jimmy Stewart and Richard Widmark's characters find themselves with the less than enviable task of making their way into a Commanche camp and asking for the return of all the white folks that have been captured (kidnapped) in the past 15 years. A group of settlers has gathered near this army outpost waiting for someone to help retrieve their missing family members. Some have been waiting a very long time to get their kin back with the help of the army. Only James Stewart's somewhat scoundrel-y (see: money grubbing) lawman is brave enough to go in after these folks and only for as much money as each family could afford. More than once, Stewart 'a character rather cruelly lays out to the settlers that their children most likely don't resemble their firmer selves at all anymore. They have been overtaken by the Comanche look and way of life. It really is one of the darker characters I've ever seen Stewart play. 
I've always liked Richard Widmark and this role is no exception. He and Stewart make a nice antagonistic pair and it makes me wish they'd worked together more often. There's nothing quite like seeing two of the great actors of their time at the top of their game. It's truly amazing how a couple great actors (often in tandem with a great director) can bring any film up to a whole other level. 
In addition to Widmark and Stewart being excellent, Shirley Jones is possibly never cuter than she is here with her blonde braids. She reminds me slightly of Olivia de Havilland a bit in this film. She's another actor who rarely seems to ever turn in a bad performance. One other interesting casting note is that this film has a direct connection to one of my favorite films of that 1980s - CLOAK & DAGGER. Jeanette Nolan and John McIntire play the evil old couple in that film and both have prominent roles here as well.
Though it's pretty bare bones, this Blu-ray transfer looks very nice and will hopefully go a ways towards helping western fans rediscover this John Ford classic. 


FATE IS THE HUNTER (1964; Ralph Nelson)
In my currently running "Underrated Detective/Mystery Films" series, I somehow forgot to mention FATE IS THE HUNTER when I wrote up my list. This is a neat little thriller about a fatal airline crash wherein it is assumed that the pilot of the plane was drunk on duty and is thus responsible for the incident and the passenger deaths. Glenn Ford plays an airline exec who refuses to believe that his old war buddy could have been so negligent and begins a thorough investigation to disprove that theory. Director Ralph Nelson has done some other lesser-talked about films like SOLDIER BLUE and WRATH OF GOD which I enjoy quite a bit. He also did the Cary Grant classic FATHER GOOSE, for which he may be best known. Nelson deftly handles the investigative portion of this movie whilst interspersing flashbacks of Ford and his friend to help establish their relationship. Not sure exactly why, but it feels like Robert Zemeckis may have looked at this film perhaps in preparation for FLIGHT. I could be wrong, the fact that each movie focuses on a plane crash and the surrounding investigation and potential alcohol abuse is what makes me think they might be connected, but who knows. It always fascinates me to watch older, often more obscure films only to see potential similarities to present day stuff. Not to suggest that EVERYTHING has been done before, but we are talking about a medium that's 100 plus years old at this point so there's been plenty of time to tell plenty of stories. Fans of FLIGHT will certainly take issue with the pacing of FATE OF THE HUNTER, but I find it a charming little mystery even with that said. There is something about airlines and air travel during the 50s, 60s and 70s that fascinates me. It obviously feels quite antiquated in comparison to today in a lot of ways, but I think that since the process itself and the planes haven't changed all THAT much during the past 50 years, the antiquated things have more to do with production design and lifestyle bits. The film is loosely based on the best-selling novel by author Ernest K. Gann who was a pilot himself and wrote several other aviation based books that were also made into movies (THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY andISLAND IN THE SKY being two prime examples). Though this film spends the majority of its running time on the ground, the two flying sequences are infused with Gann's own sense of aviation and they feel quite realistic. 

This is one of those great-looking Black & White Blu-ray transfers with a good amount of detail. Anyone whoever said Blu-ray is only for color films never saw any transfers like this. Just lovely.
Included on this disc is the full-length documentary TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN - KA SHEN'S JOURNEY (2010). This doc's topic is film actress Nancy Kwan (one of the co-stars of FATE IS THE HUNTER). It covers her youth, upbringing and eventual acting career. The documtentary was directed by Twilight Time co-founder Brian Jamieson and narrated by the other TT co-founder Nick Redman and Kwan herself. The film documents her being cast in THE WORLD OF SUZY WONG and includes several vintage screen tests that Paramount had Nancy do during the casting process for the film. 
Also included here is an isolated score track with commentary by Nancy Kwan and Nick Redman. This commentary is included as part of the isolated score track which highlights Jerry Goldsmith's wonderful music for the film. As it often is, having an actor that was around for the production of a film that was made 50 years ago offers some enjoyable and unique personal insights and anectdotal material. Though I prefer filmmaker commentaries, Redman is a good moderator so he keeps things moving with this track. One thing Kwan had to say about Glenn Ford was that he apparently preferred to be photographed from the left side of his face. This was interesting to notice throughout this movie and now I'll have to watch for it in other Glenn Ford movies.

Both Blu-rays can be purchased from Twilight Time via the Screen Archives website:
http://www.screenarchives.com/display_results.cfm/category/546/TWILIGHT-TIME/

No comments: