Back From Memorial Day
I've been on GPS hiatus since the man came and replaced my Direct TV with Dish Network. Thanks to that, there's been helpings one after another on so-called TCM-HD, not really high-definition at present, but an up-convert with improved enough quality to warrant Turner re-visit for titles so far unavailable through Warner Archive, plus what the network leases from Universal, Sony (Columbia), etc. Easter-egg hunting for a best broadcast is fun and a viewing challenge. Couple of weeks ago, I watched She Wore a Yellow Ribbon on standard DVD, as good a home view as could be had to that time, then comes news that Retro-Plex HD, off an obscure corner of Dish Network, will play John Ford's cavalry classic in High-Def beginning 6/10, a first as- such broadcast for SWAYR that I've been aware of. Warners and the rest have been busy transferring to optimum quality --- classics surface either on HD satellite, Amazon On-Demand, or streaming via Netflix, Hulu, VuDu, plus any number of providers I may be ignorant of. Hence my distraction from Greenbriar'ing of late, along with Cinevent's run-up to Memorial Day and driving Columbus-way. Can one's brain implode trying to juggle so much choice?
|Chaney at his expressive best sans the heavy make-up.|
War being a TCM weekend theme, there came Paratrooper off star Alan Ladd's lower shelf. This was one of his Warwick Productions, British-lensed and not a little raggedy compared with slick Paramounts the star had lately given up. Ladd like others on top salary was fed up giving its bulk to US tax collectors and so grabbed opportunity to shelter income via movies done off-shore. Trouble was budgets stripped after above-line Ladd took his. Paratrooper was called The Red Beret to start, then The Big Jump. James Bond personnel to come was involved ... Albert Broccoli produced, Terence Young directed, and Richard Maibaum wrote. This would be one of several Ladd did on momentum from Shane. Paratrooper, Hell Below Zero, and The Black Knight all lacked
Red Light played during TCM's Roy Del Ruth night. This was an independent set-up the director initiated after years spent on studio payrolls. Del Ruth got production loans for having a name and expertise at genre fare. Like so many lone producing wolves, he started out grandiose for Red Light casting, then settled for names easier got. James Cagney was first approached to star, a past Del Ruth colleague at Warners also going it solo. He passed. There were feelers to Alice Faye and Lizabeth Scott, with neither interested. Trouble in main was Del Ruth association with starting-out Allied Artists, a company just spun off lowly Monogram Pictures, and not among firms contract players could do outside pictures with. Del Ruth and Allied ended up agreeing for United Artists to release Red Light, this so they could lure class talent before cameras (another AA project also diverted to UA for distribution was Gun Crazy).
George Raft after Warners is for me a blur of downward crime and action pics culminating at Lippert with likes of Loan Shark or dullish foreign legion stuff. I'd have let Red Light pass if not for the new Dish, but glad now for trying this '49 thriller on. There was effort here and no little success at noir-ing in the RKO/Eagle-Lion mold. Red Light reminded me of the round-same-time D.O.A., owing in part to Dimitri Tiomkin's score. Ray Burr and Harry Morgan are heavies to compensate for Raft not being Cagney. Variety reported Del Ruth seeking just-off Streetcar Marlon Brando for a Red Light support spot --- might he have supplied villainy here? There's a billboard climbing finish that anticipates indie to-soon-come Love Happy. Did freebooting producers pinch ideas off each other during lunch? I like George Raft more as these obscurities turn up. He gets a bad rap for having turned down so many leads that immortalized others (The Maltese Falcon, Double Indemnity, more) ... and bearing ridicule of John Huston, Billy Wilder, plus any number of writer/historians for years to follow.
Callaway Went Thataway was MGM heaping fun on B cowpokes who'd been revived thanks to television, their far-back exploits proving a stronger early 50's draw than many a Metro theatrical program, including Callaway, which despite its clever premise and sometimes bright comedy, took a loss of $284K (against a negative cost of just $1.1 million). 1951 showmen needed a Quo Vadis to pry patrons away from the home box, not B/W gentle spoofing of filmgoing's enemy. Callaway walked gingerly, thanks to intervention by William "Hopalong" Boyd's management team, alerted to a possible dig at money-spinning Cassidy. They demanded a pre-release screening that led to a post-end-title disclaimer assuring viewers all was in harmless fun ...
|Clark Gable is among MGM stars doing cameos in Callaway Went Thataway.|
From Cinevent came a got-to-be-rare set pose from My Man Godfrey (at least I've never seen it before). This actually appeared in
Finally, a trip to Wal-Mart. I try making as few of these as necessity demands, despite the joint being nearly visible from my porch, but how could one resist with a just-released Blu-Ray of The Big Country available only from member locations? Despite ours being a "Superstore," I doubted they'd stock so vintage a title, even if it was theirs alone to sell (wonder what Wal-Mart paid MGM for the exclusivity). Turns out there was but one copy in stock --- that means some one (or more) around my berg purchased William Wyler's 1958 western-to-beat. Greenbriar has visited this one before --- suffice to say there are few bigger, if not better. I watched even though last occasion seemed recent (turned out to be January 2008). What a stunner disc! It puts even MGM-HD's broadcast to rout. Well worth a wade into Wal-Mart quicksand to get.