Six Black Horses (1962)

Mike's Take On the Movies .......... Rediscovering Cinema's Past

From the pen of western writer and eventual director, Burt Kennedy, comes this Universal-International release that not surprisingly plays like another of the Kennedy/Boetticher/Scott westerns. Instead of Randolph Scott taking the reins in the lead we have Audie Murphy while Dan Duryea steps in to play second and subbing for director Budd Boetticher is Harry Kelly.

The end result is a slightly above average “B” western from the studio that was cranking these out on what seemed like a weekly basis.

At 80 minutes in length our adventure begins with Audie, saddle in hand, on foot and looking haggard in the wilds of Utah’s filming locations. He’ll see what he believes to be a herd of wild horses and ropes one. After a short bit of bronco busting he’s ready to continue on his way but things are to take a serious turn when he’s taken as a horse thief…

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The Underworld Story

Riding the High Country

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Things are tough all over. Pretty soon a man won’t be able to sell his own mother.

There are plenty of examples of film noir weaving contemporary social issues into the tales featured. Through the 1950s it’s noticeable how the whole matter of organized crime came to play a more significant part in the world of noir. Cy Endfield’s The Underworld Story (1950) is an early example of this trend, although it also takes a look at journalistic ethics, racial prejudice, class divisions, and oblique references to the blacklist. This all adds up to a potent and varied cocktail, one which could easily have become overwhelming in its efforts to cover so many bases. However, the script remains clearly focused throughout and the end product is therefore very satisfying.

Mike Reese (Dan Duryea) is the classic slick city reporter, a man for whom the chance of a scoop and the…

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Rails Into Laramie

Riding the High Country

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There are so many Universal-International westerns that you could pretty much run a blog devoted entirely to the studio’s output alone. With such an abundance of titles, it’s only natural that there should be a wide range in terms of type, budget and overall quality. Some had more spent on them, some featured significant amounts of location filming and some were shot largely on sets. Personally, I like them all, and can generally find something positive to take away from all varieties. Rails Into Laramie (1954) is one of the lower budget efforts, using stock footage and filmed on studio interiors for the most part. It’s a movie that eluded me for a long time and I want to express my gratitude to Jerry E for his help in ensuring I finally got around to seeing it.

The railway, that powerful symbol of westward expansion and the unstoppable advance of…

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Larceny

Riding the High Country

Larceny (1948) spins a yarn which revolves around a scam, a con. The con man, the grifter if you like, is one who naturally, and as the name implies, trades on confidence. There is of course his own polished brass exterior, his professional mask, but of greater significance is the confidence he inspires, wins, and ultimately betrays in the mark. It’s a dirty business when all is said and done, the sacrifice of something as pure as trust for something as cheap and mired among our base instincts as greed  is the stuff of disillusionment. A famous parting line spoke of the stuff that dreams are made of, but then again it could be said that it’s only a short step from dreams to disillusionment, and therein lies the essence of film noir.

It opens with a sting almost gone wrong. Two sharp and smooth types, Rick Mason (John Payne)…

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