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Monday, May 22, 2023

Following a Ten-Year Hiatus ...

 


Greenbriar's Watch List Returns


THE HUNTERS (1958) --- Another from the 50's where jet flight was celebrated, but unlike previous Strategic Air Command and Jet Pilot, there are dog fights done at sonic speed and never mind flaccid love triangle among Robert Mitchum, May Britt, and Lee Phillips (latter late of Peyton Place). The Hunters was produced/directed by Dick Powell, who'd have a run at mid-50's features done with quiet competence. Seen in Cinemascope, ideally HD enhanced, The Hunters breaks through curtain of color fading, cropped image, all such gremlins that undercut early wide-screeners for a past half-century. Jet flight is especially enhanced by screen width: we need it to properly see warriors whizz across. The Hunters was 20th Fox's answer to flight plans filed by rivals: Yes, we can do these better, and indeed they did. Old tropes are reliably repeated, the Red Chinese have their own Red Baron called "Casey Jones," whom Mitch expectedly shoots down. Korea is the war, Bob admitting he doesn't know what scrap is about, but will fight anyhow because that's his trade.



Movies were still a decade ahead of questioning military wisdom, and besides, who'd supply shiny aircraft in event they did? Among a mostly male cast is Robert Wagner as hipster flyboy with patter even cool-cat Mitchum can't translate, this fount for fun that TV star Edd Byrnes used for 77 Sunset Strip, premiering within weeks of The Hunters open. Atrocities are reliably committed by Red opponents: at one point, they shoot an adorable and age five Korean girl in the back. Mig planes are easier brought down cause their piloting is as rotten as Communist ideology they swear by. Korean fight was well over by time The Hunters came out, so the hard-sell is surprising, but as cold war was still warm, no one was for portraying Reds as human. NBC premiered The Hunters 4/29/63 on their Monday night movie, and from there it spent decades looking lousy on the tube. A 20th Fox DVD has since come to relieve, and Vudu offers the show on HD streaming.



THREE GODFATHERS (1948) --- Purely personal reaction to this John Ford Technicolor western with John Wayne: I get nervous where a baby is subject to peril, even when it's comedy like when Laurel and Hardy adopted an infant and we're scared something bad will happen to it because they bungle so. Three Godfathers is much the same, Wayne, Pedro Armendariz, and Harry Carey, Jr. trekking across desert with a newborn in arms, the chance continual that they'll collapse and crush the kid, or latter will roast in the sun. No, I'll take repeat of the cavalry trio over this, at least from point Three Godfathers becomes Three Bad Men and a Baby. Up to then, it simmers well on harsh location, the outlaws fleeing from bank holdup and headed off at water holes by pursuing posse. Three Godfathers was Ford's first since the 30's using Technicolor, and result surely stunned in 1948. This is one of the most beautiful to look at of films he made.



There is John Wayne permitted to "act" via drawn-out recital of events taking place off-screen, Ford reprise of Henry Fonda Drums Along The Mohawk speech as Wayne reward for Red River perhaps, the latter finished, but not yet released, as Three Godfathers went into production. I'm guessing Hawks gave Ford a peek and satisfied him that Wayne could handle a demanding slew of pages. The one who got severest thesping lesson was Harry Carey, Jr., used also in Red River, but Ford liked to imagine he was discoverer of the son of past teammate Carey, Sr. Abuse heaped on the boy by his director has been recounted elsewhere and in grueling detail. Suffice to say, you have to wonder if Carey's ordeal was worth it, considering how he kowtowed to Ford from there on. JF stock players are on and off to varying degrees of satisfaction, Ward Bond outstanding, Mae Marsh his wife, but then comes Jane Darwell too broad as a man-hungry desert rat to whom you want to say, Yes, thanks, that will be enough. What Ford puts over brilliantly is what it is to thirst. I always wonder why desert crossers throw away canteens once they're empty, as does Wayne and companions here. What if they come across another water hole? There'd be nothing to refill ...



SAYONARA (1957) --- Lavish recount of illicit love during the Japanese occupation and slam upon US military policy of parting personnel from Nippon wives/lovers. These concerns are whole of a 147 minute show where uniforms and jet planes are but background to issue of whether our boys should date their girls. That alone made plenty heat for patronage impacted by the less-than-decade-past war, sayonara said to $13.9 million by ticket-buyers worldwide. US makers had gone over to photograph post-conflict Japan before (recently as with RKO’s Escapade In Japan), others using second-units along line of 1949's Tokyo Joe, but here was vista way past postcard capacity to show what beauty the defeated empire could boast. Wide process Technirama was sort of VistaVision and then some, an astounder to pull folk away from TV at home. Sayonara was part of increasing trend toward stars slicing from whole of pies, in this case Marlon Brando's 10% off the top (his Pennebaker Productions involved), then producer William Goetz, director Joshua Logan getting theirs after Warner distrib share and recoup of production $ the company fronted. Logan, who would own a fourth of Sayonara's negative, spoke up for Brando's lush take: "I believe creative talent should get the biggest cut of profits."




Using a Japanese actress as co-lead with Brando was also a first, Logan having offered the role to Audrey Hepburn, who came near accepting, but in the end blanched at notion she could convincingly play an Oriental. Brando was scarcely less convincing as a deep-fried Southerner with accent thick to challenge Orson Welles' impenetrable Dixie talk in The Long, Hot Summer. New WB contractee James Garner told in his book of grabbing a key support part from under auditioning nose of players that included John Smith, all but cast until Garner proposed himself to Logan as the better candidate, which he was. Sayonara launched for Christmas 1957 with two million Warner dollars behind promotion, which was record for the firm, even as they otherwise entrenched on ad/pub spending elsewhere. Sayonara would by-pass a network TV run, go direct to syndication in 1964, and afterward revert to United Artists and successors for distribution since. Nice HD transfers are had at varied streaming spots.

3 Comments:

Blogger Dave K said...

Wow, both THE HUNTERS and SAYRONARA were TV regulars when I was growing up, at least I think I remember seeing both more than once when I was a kid. Have not seen either in decades but your write-up makes me want to track down both.

Alas, you can keep Ford's mucked up remake of THE THREE GODFATHERS. It certainly is beautiful, although I'm not sure that should be the point. Things are okay-ish for a while but by half way we're headin' downhill to a ghastly finale with cheerful ghosts and, god help us, a happy ending! Watch William Wyler's superb HELL'S HEROES and see if you don't come away feeling the grit between your teeth! That one features three genuine bad men, murderers and would-be rapists to boot, whose journey, literal and personal, is pretty powerful stuff almost a 100 years later. Mean, evil and ruthless, Charles Bickford's head baddie was one for the books, and his final turn (with no congratulatory recognition from the townspeople) is unforgettable. Richard Boleslawski's 1936 THREE GODFATHERS is pretty dandy too, a little more Hollywoodish than Wyler's stark version, but not bad at all. And Chester Morris, like Bickford, far more to my taste than Wayne's good guy bandit. Heck, I'd even take Walter Lantz's parody HELL'S HEELS over the 1948 disappointment!

12:56 PM  
Blogger Pacocat said...

I saw "Sayronara" with my dad, in around '73 or '74, on an enormous screen, in the enormous auditorium of Chapman College in Orange CA. It was a Sunday matinee, and the weather must have been beautiful, because no one else felt like going to the movies that day. We had the place to ourselves.

10:49 AM  
Blogger Filmfanman said...

It turns out 'The Hunters' is one of the DVDs in the binful I inherited from a late relation; after reading this write-up I thought I'd give it a look, and it wasn't half-bad.
I think it'd make a good double-feature paired with 'The Bridges At Toko-Ri', though I'm unsure which one I'd screen as the first feature.

10:39 AM  

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