Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '55 - Toby Roan ""

Monday, August 10, 2015

Underrated '55 - Toby Roan

Toby Roan runs the blog '50 Westerns From the 50's':
fiftieswesterns.com
His focus, as you might guess, is on Western cinema of the 1950s. Great site, well worth following.
He can also be found here:
thehannibal8.wordpress.com
Beyond that, you should also check out the Underrated Westerns list he did for this site a while back:
http://www.rupertpupkinspeaks.com/2014/03/underrated-westerns-toby-roan.html
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Big House U.S.A. (1955, Howard W. Koch)
This exploitation masterpiece from producer-director Howard W. Koch is part crime picture, part prison movie — and one of the most incredible films I’ve ever seen. It’s so vile, so nasty, so mean, it’s hard to imagine how it made it past the Hays office to get to the local drive-ins. A buncha crooks kidnap a kid and hold him for ransom. That doesn’t go so well, paving the way for a prison-break second half. Along the way, a kid’s chucked off a cliff, a convict is trapped inside a giant boiler, and one of the leads has his face and fingertips seared off with a blowtorch to conceal his identity. It starsBroderick Crawford, Ralph Meeker, Reed Hadley, William Talman, Lon Chaney Jr. and Charles Bronson — making this movie a 50s bad-guy supercollider. (Even the fabulous Felicia Farr is evil here.)Big House U.S.A. is a jaw-dropping experience, and I’ve heard the same goes for the upcoming Blu-ray.

5 Against The House (1955, Phil Karlson)
If it’s black and white and directed by Phil Karlson, you’re in good shape. (Same goes for Don Siegel.) Phil Karlson was a master of short, tight crime movies (99 River Street, Kansas City Confidential) and this heist picture fits him like a glove. Four college buddies — Guy Madison, Brian Keith, Alvy Moore and Kerwin Mathews — pull a camper trailer, accompanied by Kim Novak in an early role, to Reno as part of a planned casino robbery. While the job comes off fine, things quickly start to unravel — crime does not pay, but it makes for really cool movies. And cool just oozes offa this one.

Abbott & Costello Meet The Mummy (1955, Charles Lamont)
They also meet Marie Windsor, which is the main reason it makes my list. This was the last of the meet-the-monster movies and Bud and Lou’s last film for Universal — and in some ways, it’s not all that good.( Lou is actually thinner than Bud this time around.) There’s a mummy, Klaris, and a sacred medallion that Madame Rontru (Windsor) wants, since it points the way to the treasure of Princess Ara. Before it’s all over, Costello eats the medallion in a hamburger and the last reel’s got three mummies running around. Eddie Parker, who doubled for Lon Chaney in Universal’s “real” Mummy movies, gets all wrapped up in his work again as Klaris. Abbott & Costello Meet The Mummy is funnier than some of the A&C pictures that came right before it — as a kid, I found the medallion/hamburger scene hilarious. So they left Universal on a bit of a high note.

Tarantula (1955, Jack Arnold)
I love the Big Bug movies of the mid-50s. Gordon Douglas’ Them!(1954) is a true classic, and this one’s not far behind. Tarantula brings together some of Universal’s finest circa 1955: director Jack Arnold, leads John Agar and Mara Corday, character actor Nestor Paiva, and a young contract player named Clint Eastwood. Some of the spiders are real, guided through tiny sets by gusts of air. And, of course, from time to time a big fake leg enters the frame to give somebody a hard time. It all comes together nicely, thanks to Arnold’s typically effective direction and some shrewd editing by William Morgan. John Agar’s great, but he’s not really much of an actor, and Mara Corday looks like a million bucks — make that 50 million bucks, adjusted for inflation. This thing really needs a widescreen Blu-ray release here in the States.

Tennessee’s Partner (1955, Allan Dwan)
Director Allan Dwan had made literally hundreds of movies by the time he took on a string of pictures for producer Benedict Borgeaus.These pictures gave Dwan a level of authority he hadn’t enjoyed since the silent days, and he really made the most of it. In this Superscope Western from RKO, John Payne is a gambler called Tennessee, Ronald Reagan is Cowpoke, Rhonda Fleming is The Duchess (with Angie Dickinson as one of her girls) and Coleen Gray is Goldie. It’s based on a Bret Harte story that had already been filmed a number of times, and Dwan filled it with humor and action. Master cinematographer John Alton makes this one of the finest-looking color Westerns I’ve ever seen — offering up some terrific camera moves and making the Iverson Ranch look absolutely exquisite.

2 comments:

livius1 said...

Some great picks there, Toby. However, I have to say I wasn't as impressed by Tarantula last time I saw it. Agar was just passable as an actor, I agree, and maybe I just wasn't in the right mood.
Similarly, and despite my liking for Karlson, Five Against the House didn't measure up as much as I'd expected, although Brian Keith is excellent in his role.

Colin

Laura said...

I'm catching up on commenting on some of the lists here! Toby, really enjoyed your list. TARANTULA sounds like my kind of sci-fi movie. :)

I enjoyed FIVE AGAINST THE HOUSE. I liked TENNESSEE'S PARTNER well enough but think I need to take a fresh look at it, as for various reasons I suspect I would appreciate it more now than when I first saw it five years ago. The other titles are new to me!

Thanks for a great list!

Best wishes,
Laura