Our thanks to Universal...for Great Western fare
B. Cathey | Wendell, NC United States | 02/15/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is volume 2 of two box sets to be released by Universal, and containing some mighty fine oaters. If past history is any guide, the transfers will excellent, the color great, and the presentation superior! THE TEXANS was one Randolph Scott's first major "A" Western roles, and while the film was criticized as a bit "wooden," it nevertheless is an entertaining film that details the great post-war cattle drives from Texas north. Great supporting cast. Ray Milland is usually not thought of as a Western star, but, as he demonstrates here in CALIFORNIA (and later in COPPER CANYON) he is quite capable in the saddle. Glenn Ford, in THE MAN FROM THE ALAMO, stands out as an accused "deserter" who must prove his bona fides and his honor. Lastly, there is more Audie Murphy--a cause for rejoicing, indeed, with his THE CIMARRON KID (and in vol. 1, his KANSAS RAIDERS). These boxes are reasonabley priced, and all I can add, is "pardner, you'll not be disappointed." Our thanks to Universal!"
IS THIS THE LAST ROUNDUP ?
Kenneth V. Barnes | Benfleet, Essex. U.K. | 07/19/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Unlike the first volume in this series, this does not have anything as tedious as King Vidor's "The Texas Rangers" (1936) nor does it have anything as good as Jacques Tourneur's "Canyon Passage" (1946), but on balance it is just as good as volume one.
This time the productions range from 1938 to 1954. The set kicks off with "The Texans" starring Randolph Scott and Joan Bennett. It's one of those black-and-white empire-building films that were popular in the 1930s and '40s. Scott was always a serviceable hero but at this point in his career he hadn't developed that taciturn quality that distinguished his best work in the 1940s and '50s. The script, purporting to tell the story of the first great cattle drive from Texas to the new railhead in Abilene, Kansas, is patchy and James Hogan's direction is rather flat, but despite its meager 93 minutes running time the film manages to achieve quite an epic sweep. The following year, Hogan was hired as 3rd unit director on De Mille's "Union Pacific" ( an epic western if ever there was one ).
Next comes John Farrow's "California" (1946. Another empire-building opus that is easily the best film in the set. Shot in ravishing Technicolor, it tells a story of the 1848 mass migration to the Golden West taking in the start of the famous gold rush and California's struggles to achieve statehood. The film starts out like a musical with the first five minutes devoted to a choir, a group of solo voices and a large orchestra singing the praises of the Golden State - with music by Earl Robison and lyrics by the redoubtable E.Y Harburg ( of "Wizard of Oz" and "Finian's Rainbow" fame ). This opening sequence may well have been the inspiration for Mel Torme's later - and better known - "California Suite". After all this rhapsodising the film settles down with a good script and above average dialogue performed by an excellent cast.
Ray Milland - in his first western - sheds his customary debonair image
to play a scruffy,unshaven wagon train master. It's a convincing performance and he shows that he can ride as good as any established
western star. Barbara Stanwyck shines as a saloon girl with a shady past and a desire to marry into wealth. That veteran scene stealer, Barry Fitzgerald is excellent as an Irish immigant farmer who goes into politics
with tragic results. George Coulouris is the oily villain that Miss Stanwyck hopes to marry and burly Albert Dekker is his brutish aide.
Anthony Quinn is wasted in a role that anyone could have played, but the film moves along at a fair clip and benefits from a big budget and top class production values.
Miss Stanwyck sings two songs - the first with her own voice and the second with someone else's voice - but her feisty performance is one of the film's delights. Farrow's direction is firm and well-paced. He likes long takes and his actors handle the dialogue with flair and conviction. There is a climactic knife fight between Milland and Dekker that is shot in a single take - with no cutaways - and is all the better for it.
The second disc boasts two films directed by the great Budd Boetticher.
"The Cimarron Kid" (1952) starring Audie Murphy and "The Man From The Alamo" (1954) starring the ever dependable Glenn Ford as a man who leaves the battle of the Alamo to save his family and is branded a coward. He eventually redeems himself in an action-packed climax. Neither film represents Boetticher's best work, but both are entertaining with the Ford film being easily the better of the two.
Is this second volume to be "the last roundup ?" One hopes not.
Because Universal have a huge library of westerns ( which includes all of the Paramount catalogue up to 1949 ) this series could continue quite comfortably for at least another two or three volumes. Let's hope so.
Pretty doggone good
Bruce Coe | Cle Elum, WA United States | 07/10/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"If you like the classical western (pre spaghetti)format you're going to like these collections. It's a little tempting to rate these as trite but remember, they really did a lot to create the genre, from the goofy Technicolor quasi musicals like "California" (replete with angels screaming "gold!" and zombie-like miners deserting the wagon train for the gold fields) to the honest and humble Glenn Ford in "The Man From the Alamo" which also showcases High O'Brien. The man can ride!
"Man" also has, to my mind, the most incredible horse stunt ever towards the end of the film - you'll just have to watch to see it. For horse stunt aficionados it's better than the downhill ride in "The Man From Snowy River"
Real extras who can actually ride. Real pulldowns. Great acting. Plots both silly and serious, all in all, a "great ride"."