Now Let Us Praise Those Shadow-Friendly Horses
Ray K. Sibul | Morris, MN USA | 09/16/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"VCI Video and Kit Parker Films have released LITTLE BIG HORN (1951) and RIMFIRE (1949) under the Western Film Noir banner.
These two almost forgotten Lippert westerns deserve the new life they have been granted on DVD in an impressive double feature format; and, above all, they should carry their noir stamp proudly.
LITTLE BIG HORN and RIMFIRE as well achieve their undeniably striking visual effectiveness through Ernest Miller's masterful camera work. Cinematographer Miller (who, by the way, was behind the camera for most of the moody Lippert westerns) imparts to both films a foreboding, fatalistic ambiance, which he renders in low-keyed black-and-white cinematography. And in addition, by frequently utilizing stark camera angles, Miller creates an undercurrent of uneasiness, which is a major noir ingredient in these somber westerns.
LITTLE BIG HORN tells the story of a small U.S. Cavalry unit that challenges destiny when it is ordered to deliver an urgent message to Custer warning him of impending mortal danger at Little Big Horn. The suspense mounts as members of the patrol commence to be eliminated by hostile Indians in a and-then-there-were-none manner.
John Ireland, Lloyd Bridges, and Marie Windsor in standout performances elevate the human drama to a nearly Shakespearean level, as patrol commander Bridges is confronted by his inner demons of jealousy and suspicion involving his wife Windsor and lower-ranked officer Ireland.
The supporting cast also shines; with Reed Hadley, Hugh O'Brian, King Donovan, and Wally Cassell tensely reacting to the dangers surrounding them.
Charles Marquis Warren guides LITTLE BIG HORN with strong, sure-handed direction. Warren exhibits a special liking for visual narrative rather than extended verbal communication. Consequently, close-ups of facial features expressing apprehensiveness, and concentration on natural objects that are present in the often shadowy western landscape abound while nature itself remains a calmly objective and impartial observer of human behavior. What a magnificent film noir this is- without an asphalt jungle but with a rocky western terrain!
Here it might be of interest to note that Charles Marquis Warren also made HELLGATE (1952), perhaps the darkest film this side of Murnau's NOSFERATU to appear in the lineup of Lippert westerns. HELLGATE (again phtographed by Ernest Miller) is not yet available on DVD; but let's hope it will show up soon, and give us a noir fix lasting at least a month.
RIMFIRE relates the story of an undercover agent in post-Civil War Texas who has problems staying alive while snooping around, looking for a stolen gold shipment in a town run by corrupt gamblers.
Well directed by B. Reeves Eason, this very obscure film benefits immensely from Ernest Miller's eerily atmospheric cinematography. But it is also the unusual script written by Frank Wisbar (together with Arthur St. Claire and producer Ron Ormond) that gives RIMFIRE much added strength and substance.
Wisbar had earlier directed STRANGLER OF THE SWAMP (1945), for which he wrote the screenplay based on his own original story. This intentionally out-of-focus, mist-drenched, and otherworldly B-horror film with a pronounced German Expressionist flavor, did actually enjoy a minor cult following and is still quite interesting today (available from Amazon). The reappearance of a man wrongly executed was the center of attention in Wisbar's STRANGLER. Interestingly, a variation on that theme found its way into RIMFIRE, helping to make it such a beautifully realized little western noir with a nice ghostly touch.
Also, James Millican; Mary Beth Hughes; Reed Hadley; and Henry Hull lend good acting talent to this film.
After almost 6 decades, both LITTLE BIG HORN and RIMFIRE hold up amazingly well today. VCI Video and Kit Parker Films deserve a standing ovation for letting us now own and enjoy these darkly stylized and engrossingly suspenseful horse opera noirs.
5 stars, unhesitatingly (10 even, had Amazon granted additional star space for this great double feature)!"
LITTLE BIG HORN-A Great, Classic Western Drama
Buxx | 09/30/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Without a doubt, had LITTLE BIG HORN been released by a major studio, it would have achieved the genre-breaking status that HIGH NOON did a year later. Fine acting, crisp dialogue and a great script lift this one high above what must have been (knowing Lippert!) a miniscule budget.
This is one of those movies that the local channels showed twice a week, every week during the fifties and early sixties. It was cut, spliced, stepped on and mistreated by most all that handled it. I am SURPRISED that VCI and Kit Parker are able to provide such a clean, complete copy of this western treasure.
Among the extras provided on the DVD is a nice selection of posters, lobby cards, and stills, accompanied by the nifty LITTLE BIG HORN theme music.
FANS OF MARIE WINDSOR AND NOIR READ ON
James D. Jones | DeFuniak Springs, FL USA | 12/23/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"As a big Marie Windsor fan I was pleased to see VCI release this along with "THE LONESOME TRAIL / THE SILVER STAR" AND "THE TALL TEXAN".Windsor has a very small part in "Little Big Horn" playing a cheating wife.This love triangle situation fits in with the rest of the picture when her Cavalry Captain husband orders her boyfriend to ride on the mission to warn General Custer.There is lots of fighting action and great tension and drama as the Cavalry scouts are picked off one by one in what is basically a suicide mission."Rimfire" is what I would describe as a good B western.Nothing more nothing less.The picture and sound are quite good on all of these new VCI releases.I was very interested in the "WESTERN FILM NOIR" catagorization of the films.After watching them I would have to reccomend "THE LONESOME TRAIL / THE SILVER STAR" as being more "Noir".While not reviewing these films here,I must say that "The Silver Star" with Marie Windsor is not to be missed ! To sum it up I highly reccomend all of the films mentioned in this review.I don't just automatically give five stars to everything that I am pleased to see released but I can honestly give "LITTLE BIG HORN / RIMFIRE" a respectable four star rating."
I Was Hoping For Better
Kurt Harding | Boerne TX | 03/01/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Never having seen either of these movies, but being a fan of the "film noir" genre, I ordered them here after being made aware of them in my amazon recommendations. Glowing reviews and a cheap price made my decision easy.
Well, I won't say I wasted my money, but I was hoping for better. Of the two films, Little Big Horn is by far the superior one. Both Lloyd Bridges and John Ireland are excellent in their respective roles. Though the introduction to the movie is hokey, there is plenty of action and plenty of interpersonal tension between Bridges and Ireland that keeps the viewer on edge. This is true noir as there are no real heroes and no happy ending. My biggest complaint would be that it is too short. I give it four stars.
Then there is Rimfire. This could have been a much better film, but the injection of some buffoonish dolts coupled with some atrociously lame dialogue nearly spoil it. Anyhow, it seems that nearly every prominent person in the frontier hamlet of Stringtown NM is involved in the disappearance of a shipment of government gold. Even the town sheriff is in on the theft. Cardsharps, superstition, and a kangaroo court all have a role in how the story ends. The film does have its moments: a great bar fight and the suspense built by way the gold thieves are eliminated one by one. But the corny comic effect created by the presence of the buffoons spoils any noirish ambience. Two stars.
No recommendation either way. I am delighted to have seen Little Big Horn, but I could have done without Rimfire. If you want to take a chance on it for yourself, the price is right."