Friday, August 28, 2020
Kino Lorber continues its acclaimed history of releasing silent films on home video with the 1916 adaptation of Jules Verne's 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA.
This was the first full-length cinematic adaptation of the Verne novel, produced by Universal Pictures. The film also includes much material from Verne's THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND. The eccentric Captain Nemo (Allen Holubar) rescues Professor Arronax, his daughter, and Ned Land after ramming the ship that the group was on. He takes them on a tour featuring the wonders of the sea, and his submarine Nautilus stops near a mysterious island, where a group of Civil War soldiers have been stranded. There's someone else on the island as well--a young girl living a Tarzan-like existence. The girl just so happens to be Nemo's long-lost daughter! All is revealed at the end in a flashback showing that Nemo was once known as Prince Daakar of India.
This first movie version of 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA is historically and technically significant, due to the underwater photography pioneered by the Williamson brothers. The pair went to the ultra-clear waters of the Bahamas to get these for-the-time spectacular shots. The underwater sequences may not seem all that exciting today--they come off now as somewhat stiff--but one must take into consideration that this film was made over 100 years ago. How many of the audience members who viewed this film when it originally came out had seen such sights??
The Williamsons were also responsible for the models of the Nautilus, including a life size version that the actors could actually walk on top of. They also built a giant octopus, which of course attacks a diver during the course of the story. This special effect doesn't stand the test of time, but it is a precursor to all the many big-screen human vs. sea creature battles that would follow.
As for the non-technical aspects of the film....the narrative is very choppy at times, switching back and forth between scenes involving the Nautilus and those dealing with the stranded men on the mysterious island. There's also a rather haphazardly dropped-in flashback concerning Nemo's daughter. After the two main storylines finally converge, we get another flashback, this time dealing with Nemo's past as a prince in his homeland. This sequence feels like it comes from another movie altogether. The credited director is one Stuart Paton, but the underwater sequences and those outside the Nautilus were handled by Ernest Williamson.
This version of 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA proves that even 100 years ago Hollywood was making major changes to notable source material. Female roles are added to the mix here, and Nemo gets a backstory that "explains" his character. This silent Nemo is very exotically dressed and made up--but we do get to see him play the organ.
Kino touts this Blu-ray as featuring a new 4K restoration of the film by Universal. Some of the scenes show some wear--but others are crystal clear. Once again one must realize that this is a movie that is over 100 years old--the fact that it has gotten a major restoration and a major home video release is an achievement in itself. The running time is 86 minutes, and I wonder if there might be some scenes missing, due to the sometimes confusing nature of the story.
The Blu-ray has a new music score by Orlando Perez Rosso. It's a fine one, in that it doesn't try to overwhelm the film. There's also a new audio commentary by historian Anthony Slide, who gives out reams of detail and info about the making of the movie.
When the 1916 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA was first released, it was considered a major film epic. Having seen it for the first time, I have to say that it is more interesting than entertaining. Those who have read Verne's original works will appreciate it, as will those who are fans of the Disney 20,000 LEAGUES and the Harryhausen MYSTERIOUS ISLAND (there's plenty of comparisons that can be made). Kino is starting a series of releases of Universal silents, and that's great news--they've already got some intriguing Tod Browning films on the way.
Thursday, August 27, 2020
Another Region A Hammer Blu-ray from Shout Factory--this time it is FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL. Made in 1972 but not released until 1974, this was the last Frankenstein film made by Hammer, the last time Peter Cushing played the role of Baron Frankenstein, and the very last film ever directed by Terence Fisher.
FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL was also Hammer's last truly effective Gothic tale. Fittingly, the movie has a bleak and forlorn aspect to it, with a brownish-grey color palette. Somewhere in Europe, sometime in the 19th Century, a young Dr. Helder (Shane Briant) is sent to an asylum due to his experiments with corpses. Helder soon finds that his medical idol, Baron Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) is also at the asylum, posing as the facility's doctor. Helder also learns that the Baron is using the asylum's patients to provide parts for his latest creation. Helder assists the Baron in this latest endeavor, but despite giving this misshapen beast (David Prowse) the brain of a professor, the ultimate result is violent death--as it has been throughout Frankenstein's lifetime.
One thing I need to point out right away about this Blu-ray is that it is the 1974 American theatrical release of the movie by Paramount. It is NOT the uncut British version of the film. This has ticked off a lot of people on the internet. When Shout Factory announced they were going to give FATMFH an American release, I was hoping it would be the uncut version. It's not, and that's disappointing....but I'm not going to go crazy over it (heaven knows there's plenty of other major problems going on in the world already). The missing footage is basically a few more extra bits of gore. The thing is, FATMFH is pretty gory even in its edited state. The gore is combined with a dark and somewhat strange sense of humor from John Elder's script.
Peter Cushing's Baron is icily precise as always, but there's a sense here that he's basically come to the end, and he hasn't really accomplished much of anything. As Bruce Lanier Wright aptly puts it in his book NIGHTWALKERS, "Frankenstein seems trapped on a treadmill, an endless loop of pointless suffering and cruelty." Shane Briant, giving another of his typically quirky performances, at first seems very much like the younger Baron we saw in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN. But his Helder eventually realizes that there isn't much to admire about Frankenstein (except perhaps his obsessive persistence).
Terence Fisher handles the material in a way that no other director working for Hammer in the early 1970s ever could. Fisher may not have had a "modern" sensibility, but he knew how to get his point across with quiet shot compositions and expert editorial style. He also knew how to let actors carry the scene, and there's plenty that do it here, including old Hammer hands Charles Lloyd Pack, Patrick Troughton, Peter Madden, Sydney Bromley, and a cameo from an almost unrecognizable Bernard Lee. Dave Prowse is restricted by an ugly body suit and mask (which looks even worse on razor-sharp Blu-ray), but he still is able to make the audience identify with and understand the monster's plight. At first viewing one might think that Madeline Smith is stuck with a boring part as the exquisite but mute Angel, an inmate who assists the Baron and Helder. Smith actually makes more of an impression than most of the busty babes Hammer used in their other films made during the same period.
Shout Factory's Blu-ray of FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL is presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. It is a crisp-looking transfer, but I personally thought it looked rather dark overall.
This Blu-ray doesn't have as much extras as other Shout Factory Hammer releases. There's no Mark Maddox cover artwork, or no alternate aspect ratios. "The Men Who Made Hammer" series continues, with Richard Klemensen from LITTLE SHOPPE OF HORRORS this time discussing Hammer executive Roy Skeggs, who started with the company as an accountant and wound up running it when it was barely surviving. Mr. K's talks are always entertaining and informative, and he adds his own personal recollections.
There's a new audio commentary from the now-expected Steve Haberman and Constantine Nasr. It's one of their best, as the duo discuss Terence Fisher's style, the state of Hammer when the movie was made, and how the closed-in asylum setting is sort of a purgatory for the film's characters. An older commentary is included with Madeline Smith, David Prowse, and Jonathan Sothcott, and it's a treat to listen to Smith and Prowse relate their memories about the production. There's also a trailer and a very silly radio promo.
I know some will dismiss this disc because it is not the unedited version....but I think this is still a decent Shout Factory release. Now the only Hammer Frankenstein film not on Region A Blu-ray is THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN.
Sunday, August 23, 2020
The final film in the three-disc Kino Carole Lombard Blu-ray set I am reviewing is NO MAN OF HER OWN, a 1932 Paramount production. This movie is famous for being the only onscreen pairing between Lombard and Clark Gable, long before they became an item in real life.
Gable plays Jerry "Babe" Stewart, a con artist and gambling cheat. Stewart's activities have attracted the attention of the New York City police, so he decides to hide out in the sticks for a while. In a bucolic spot called Glendale, Stewart comes across the very attractive Connie (Carole Lombard), a librarian who is exasperated with small town life. Stewart desires Connie, and on a coin flip, he decides to marry her. He takes her back to New York, but he doesn't intend for the marriage to last--or his gambling lifestyle to change. But Connie is no naive fool, and she finds out how Stewart makes his living. Stewart begins to realize that Connie is indeed worth changing his ways over.
Out of all the films in the Kino Lombard box set, NO MAN OF HER OWN is by far the best. It has a vibrant pace and spunk to it, and Gable and Lombard work very well onscreen together. The role of Jerry Stewart is perfect for Gable--a brash, independent-minded handsome rogue who expects to get his way at all times, but is brought down to earth by a strong woman who is willing to stand up to him. Gable's best attribute as an actor was that he could play men who were basically jerks, yet still be likable and entertaining to an audience. Lombard's small-town librarian isn't meek or weak--she may be attracted to Gable's Stewart but she more than holds her own against him. The actress is very natural and self-assured here, and her sarcastic byplay with Gable carries the story. (The role of Connie was originally supposed to be filled by Miriam Hopkins.)
Gable and Lombard are just about the whole show here, but early 1930s star Dorothy Mackaill gets attention in a important but small role as Stewart's sexy former partner in crime. Pre-Code fans will appreciate the fact that both Mackaill and Lombard appear in lingerie.
NO MAN OF HER OWN is a nice programmer, but the climax wraps things up a bit too tidily. Nevertheless, it remains one of Carole Lombard's best pre-TWENTIETH CENTURY performances, and it makes one wonder what might have resulted if Gable and Lombard had worked together on a film with a more notable director than Wesley Ruggles and with a less generic script.
Kino presents NO MAN OF HER OWN (which has been released on DVD before by Universal) in a 1.37:1 aspect ratio, and it is the best looking of all the movies in the Carole Lombard set. A brand new audio commentary is included featuring Nick Pinkerton. He spends most of his talk giving out biographical information about the cast & crew, but he does mention that the movie was originally based on a novel by Val Lewton, and he explains how Gable was loaned to Paramount.
Now that I've looked at all three films in the Kino Carole Lombard Blu-ray set, how do I feel about it overall??
First of all, it's great that Kino decided to put this out, and that they have plans to produce more sets revolving around the actress. I hope that future sets focus on Lombard movies that have never been officially released on home video. It's nice that Kino put a couple audio commentaries on this set, and I hope they continue to do that....but I also hope that they choose people who will be a bit more Lombard-centric in their talks.
Out of the three films in this set, I had already owned two of them on DVD. Carole Lombard is my favorite actress of all time, so I probably would have bought this set no matter what. I do recommend it, but I hope that if there are later sets, we are exposed to some rare Lombard performances, and we get more extras involving true Lombard experts.
Saturday, August 15, 2020
Kino's "Carole Lombard Collection I" Blu-ray set includes MAN OF THE WORLD, a 1931 Paramount film that is known for the first onscreen pairing of William Powell and Carole Lombard.
MAN OF THE WORLD concerns one Michael Trevor (Powell), an American living in self-imposed exile in Paris. Trevor makes his living blackmailing rich Americans who like to have fun in the City of Light. Trevor falls in love with young Mary Kendall (Carole Lombard), the niece of his latest victim, and starts to think he can quit his nefarious activities and go back to having a normal life. But Michael's con artist partner Irene (Wynne Gibson) wants him for herself, and she puts doubts in his mind about any rehabilitation.
William Powell is the real highlight of MAN OF THE WORLD, and he elevates it from being a run of the mill melodrama. Powell's Michael is dapper and suave on the outside, but on the inside he can't stand what he has become. Powell ably shows Michael's mixed emotions, and he's helped by Herman Mankiewicz's script, which allows the character to wax philosophical at times. Despite Michael's "profession", the man has a strange code of honor which sets up a very somber climax.
Carole Lombard is a ray of sunshine in this movie, and she's helped out by being provided with a series of flattering outfits to wear. She's constantly gazing at Powell in admiration, which is quite understandable considering the couple would be married soon after this movie was released. There isn't much to the role of Mary Kendall, but Lombard is so appealing here that it's totally believable Powell's Michael would change his ways and put himself at risk for her.
Wynne Gibson plays the "other woman", and she takes what might be looked upon as a bad girl role and makes it sympathetic. It's always welcome to see Guy Kibbee, who plays Mary's uncle. The movie was directed by Richard Wallace, and he smartly keeps the focus on Powell and Lombard.
Kino presents MAN OF THE WORLD in a 1.20:1 aspect ratio. The picture quality is very good, if a bit soft at times. (This film was released on a Carole Lombard DVD set from Universal a few years ago.)
New to this release is an audio commentary by Samm Deighan. This is a rambling talk, with Deighan trying to cover a number of subjects (such as the director, writer, Powell, Lombard, Pre-Code, etc.).
MAN OF THE WORLD is more notable for what was going on with William Powell and Carole Lombard behind the cameras. It's a decent tale, without any Pre-Code excesses. It's also features another example of Powell's smooth and unaffected acting style.
Friday, August 14, 2020
Kino has recently released a "Carole Lombard Collection I" Blu-ray box set, featuring three of the actress' early films, when she was under contract to Paramount. Two of the movies included, MAN OF THE WORLD and NO MAN OF HER OWN, had already been available on DVD, but the one I am covering today, FAST AND LOOSE, makes its home video debut.
FAST AND LOOSE (1930) is not a starring vehicle for Lombard--Miriam Hopkins, in her big-screen debut, gets first billing. Hopkins plays Marion, the spoiled daughter of a New York millionaire (Frank Morgan). Marion is engaged to a silly-ass English aristocrat, but she doesn't love him. Abandoning her engagement party, she meets up with a handsome fellow on the beach (Charles Starrett). The fellow turns out to be her family's newly hired mechanic, and while he's interested in Marion, he's annoyed by her flighty ways. Meanwhile, Marion's brother, a lazy lush named Bertie (Henry Wadsworth), is courting a chorus girl named Alice (Carole Lombard). Marion and Bertie's snobbish mother and uncle are appalled by their romantic relationships, but her father realizes that regular folks like Henry and Alice are just what his children really need.
The dialogue to FAST AND LOOSE is credited to the legendary Preston Sturges, and the director of the film was Fred Newmeyer, who worked with Harold Lloyd. If this makes you think the movie is a laugh-out loud riot, it isn't (at least from my standpoint). FAST AND LOOSE is almost like a filmed stage play, and it's very clunky at times. This is one of those early sound films that lacks a visual and a rhythmic spark. Miriam Hopkins winds up being more annoying than appealing, and Henry Wadsworth as Bertie spends most of his time onscreen almost falling down drunk. One wishes that at the end of the film Lombard and Charles Starrett wound up together. The one performer in the film that I thought came off the most natural was Ilka Chase (who I know nothing about) as Alice's spitfire of a friend and fellow chorus girl.
Carole Lombard doesn't have all that much to do as Alice, but she does (as expected) look beautiful doing it. Despite the title of the film, I thought that Lombard was a bit restrained here, without her usual spontaneity--but one does have to take into account this was one of her earliest sound features, and she was still developing her freewheeling comedic talents.
Kino presents FAST AND LOOSE in a unusual 1.20:1 aspect ratio. The picture quality is excellent considering the rareness of this title. The sound quality is very uneven, but this is probably due to the recording equipment of the time. In a few scenes the sound level goes up and down when actors move to a different part of the set, and there are times when the dialogue is very hard to hear overall. (At least this disc features subtitles.) The only extras are a few trailers for other Lombard films. FAST AND LOOSE is the only movie in the "Carole Lombard Collection I" that does not have an audio commentary.
FAST AND LOOSE is a very strange choice to be included in this Lombard set. Yes, the movie does feature her, but she's not the main star, and there's nothing particularly notable about the film overall (other than it was Miriam Hopkins' big-screen debut). What's really enticing about this set is the "I" on the box title--hopefully that means more rare early Paramount features starring Carole Lombard. There's still plenty of them that have never been released on home video.
Monday, August 10, 2020
The title for this one doesn't lie. There is a white woman, in the luxurious form of Carole Lombard. WHITE WOMAN is a 1933 potboiler produced by Paramount and set in Malaya, although the shooting locations are strictly indoor studio jungles.
In Larry Swindell's excellent biography of Lombard, SCREWBALL, the author describes WHITE WOMAN as "trash". Carole plays Judith Denning, a cafe singer who has bounced around from one South Seas port to another, due to her bad reputation. (Judith's husband committed suicide years ago, and somehow the blame for the act fell on her.) Judith is about to be deported again when she catches the eye of Horace Prin (Charles Laughton), a bizarre-looking (and acting) owner of a large rubber plantation in Malaya. Judith agrees to marry Prin, and he takes her to their new home--a large houseboat. Judith soon realizes her situation hasn't improved very much, but she soon takes a fancy to Von Eltz (Kent Taylor), the overseer of the plantation. The quixotic Prin sends Von Eltz away to the far reaches of his spread to break up the relationship, but the new overseer (Charles Bickford) takes a shine to Judith as well. Prin winds up offending the natives who work for him, and they attack, causing Von Eltz to take Judith away.
After reading a description of the plot of WHITE WOMAN, one can imagine all sorts of salacious events that could be presented in the story, especially since this is a Pre-Code film. The reality is that WHITE WOMAN isn't all that lurid (there is a human head thrown through a window, though). Lombard and Kent Taylor spend a lot of time gazing at each other, but they don't set off a lot of sparks. For all the danger that Lombard is supposedly in, due to her being a beautiful blonde white woman in a steamy remote setting surrounded by desperate men, she has plenty of time to lounge around with perfect hair and makeup.
Kent Taylor, Carole Lombard, and Charles Laughton in WHITE WOMAN
Charles Laughton is the true star of this film, and he provides enough ham to serve fifty different Easter Sunday dinners. His Horace Prin is described as the "King of the River", a feared man who has the natives under his thrall and his white employees in constant dread. Yet Laughton for the most part plays Prin as a buffoon, with a sloppy Cockney accent, Chester A. Arthur-style whiskers, and various W.C. Fields-like under-the-breath sarcastic mutterings. It's hard to believe this guy could command the office water cooler. Laughton and Lombard make one of the most unlikeliest screen couples ever--and ironically, they would again a few years later in a movie called THEY KNEW WHAT THEY WANTED (which I have not yet seen).
Kent Taylor is another of those many 1930s leading men with a mustache who don't make much of an impression (for whatever reason Lombard would be stuck co-starring with a lot of these guys in her movie career). Charles Bickford doesn't show up until late in the tale, but he brings plenty of needed vitality as the cocky tough-talking new overseer (he should have been the one to play Horace Prin).
WHITE WOMAN was directed by Stuart Walker, who is best remembered now for helming Universal's WEREWOLF OF LONDON. Walker lets Laughton's scene-chewing and Lombard's beauty dominate the proceedings. The movie is only 68 minutes long, but it still drags in spots. It feels as if it's set up to be in the same manner as the work Josef von Sternberg was doing for Paramount at the same time. WHITE WOMAN, however, doesn't have von Sternberg's visual and atmospheric intensity.
As for Carole Lombard, WHITE WOMAN was another of the many Paramount features she appeared in that didn't give her a chance to display her natural spontaneity. She looks gorgeous, but she also appears dissatisfied with the whole affair. No doubt she was well aware that Laughton was running away with the show, and her part was not fully developed.
Tuesday, August 4, 2020
RINGO FROM NEBRASKA (also known as SAVAGE GRINGO, NEBRASKA JIM, RINGO DEL NEBRASKA, and a few other titles) is a 1966 Italian-Spanish Western. The movie's direction is credited to Antonio Roman, but according to Troy Howarth's book THE HAUNTED WORLD OF MARIO BAVA, Roman was removed from the production after only about one week of filming. Producer Fulvio Lucisano then hired Mario Bava to finish the film. Bava did not receive any official credit on it whatsoever, but many other sources state that he did work on the picture.
So RINGO FROM NEBRASKA (or whatever you choose to call it) can be considered, for the most part, a Mario Bava film. Bava had already made a Euro Western before this--the mediocre THE ROAD TO FORT ALAMO--and he would make one later--the truly bizarre ROY COLT & WINCHESTER JACK. RINGO FROM NEBRASKA, while certainly not a great film, is the best entry in Bava's Western output.
The movie stars American actor and Eurocult veteran Ken Clark as a mysterious stranger named Nebraska. (Clark also played the lead role in THE ROAD TO FORT ALAMO.) Nebraska happens to arrive at a remote ranch owned by a man named Marty Hillmann. Marty hires Nebraska to help him defend his spread against Bill Carter, a vicious fellow who happens to be Hillmann's archenemy. Complicating matters is Marty's wife Kay, a young, buxom redhead who is desired by Carter. Kay is also tired of being with the middle-aged Hillmann, and she makes a play for Nebraska. The stranger, however, feels a sense of loyalty to Marty....so he rejects Kay's advances while doing his utmost to stop Carter from killing Hillmann.
RINGO FROM NEBRASKA is not one of the wild & wooly entries in Spaghetti Western cinema. The story is very basic, and the characters are one dimensional. Nebraska is quite proficient in the use of firearms, but he's nowhere near as amoral as most Euro Western lone gunmen. One expects Nebraska to give some background on himself or his situation, but that scene never happens (at least it didn't in the version of the movie I watched). Ken Clark definitely looks heroic, and he handles himself well in the action sequences, but he has a stoic, almost bland presence.
Yvonne Bastien as Kay is able to get the viewer's attention, mainly due to the fact that she has the only major female role, and also because her cleavage is one of the film's biggest highlights. Piero Lulli is very effective as the villainous Bill Carter. A few of the supporting players I recognized from their work in other spaghetti westerns, such as those from Sergio Leone.
RINGO FROM NEBRASKA is enlivened by a major plot twist near the end, which reveals that the relationship between Marty, Kay, and Carter is far more complicated than Nebraska was led to believe. This is followed by another twist which actually caught me by surprise. These twists enable the movie to be a bit more than an average Western tale.
One has to wonder, though, how different the film would have been if Mario Bava had been involved in the script from the beginning. (I have a feeling that Bava would have spiced up the character of Nebraska somewhat.) RINGO FROM NEBRASKA is competently made, and it isn't a slog to get through...but it lacks that certain creative spark that Mario Bava brought to almost all of the films he worked on. There's nothing here that automatically marks it as a Bava entry, except for a few striking shot compositions. The action scenes (although there isn't a lot of them) are well done, particularly two drag-out knock down brawls between Nebraska and Bill Carter. Nino Oliviero contributes an effective music score, which I would describe as "Morricone Lite".
I viewed this movie on YouTube (the actual title on-screen was RINGO DEL NEBRASKA). The version I saw was dubbed in English, and it had a running time of 83 minutes (IMDB lists multiple running times for this film). The print was in widescreen, and it was in decent shape.
The most notable thing about RINGO FROM NEBRASKA is Mario Bava's involvement in it. The movie lacks the over-the-top flourishes that one associates with the most notable Euro Westerns, and it has very little in common with Bava's most renowned films. (If you didn't know that Bava had worked on it, you wouldn't have come to that conclusion on your own just by watching it.) In the end this film is more of a curiosity than an entertaining story.
Sunday, August 2, 2020
Director Jacques Tourneur is best known for making film noirish black & white thrillers such as CAT PEOPLE and NIGHT OF THE DEMON, but he also worked on a number of colorful Westerns. Tourneur directed genre star Joel McCrea multiple times, and one of their collaborations was WICHITA, a 1955 production in Cinemascope concerning Wyatt Earp.
Earp is played by Joel McCrea, although it's more accurate to say that McCrea is really playing another variation on his typical heroic Westerner role. This Wyatt Earp is one of the most virtuous and clean-cut versions of the man in movie history.
The film starts out with Earp arriving at Wichita, Kansas, hoping to start his own business with money he's saved up from hunting buffalo. The town of Wichita is trying to establish itself as a railhead for cattle drives, and an attitude of "anything goes" is in the air. Wyatt just wants to stay out of trouble and keep to himself, but he winds up stopping a bank robbery. The leading citizens of Wichita attempt to convince Earp to become town marshal, but he wants nothing to do with the job. When a wild group of drovers kill a five-year old boy while shooting up the town, Earp changes his mind. The new marshal immediately bans all firearms within the city limits, and makes it known that he will not tolerate any violence, even if it means hurting the local economy. The same leading citizens who wanted Earp to take the job now want him out, but he refuses to back down.
WICHITA is a okay Western, but it's quite predictable. As soon as Wyatt starts talking about how he doesn't like violence, you know exactly what is going to happen. McCrea uses his quiet determination and his solid as a rock persona to lay down the law in Wichita. There's more talk here than action. The subplot about what ordinary citizens are willing to accept to obtain order and security is a good one, but it isn't developed enough. The incident of a hero taking up a badge due to the killing of a young boy is very much like what happens to Errol Flynn in DODGE CITY.
WICHITA is enlivened by the supporting cast. Vera Miles plays Earp's love interest, a prim and proper young lady who is the daughter of one of the town's leading businessmen. (The real Wyatt Earp's personal relationships were far more complicated.) Mae Clarke plays Miles' mother, and there's a number of other notable character actors, such as Lloyd Bridges, Wallace Ford, Edgar Buchanan, Robert Wilkie, and Jack Elam.
Joel McCrea as Wyatt Earp in WICHITA
Keith Larsen plays a very young (and hot-headed) Bat Masterson, who in this film Wyatt Earp becomes a mentor to. (Ironically Joel McCrea would play Masterson a few years later in THE GUNFIGHT AT DODGE CITY.) Peter Graves plays Morgan Earp, and the unexpected way that Wyatt's brothers are introduced is one of the highlights of the story.
For those interested in Jacques Tourneur, there's nothing in the film that I would say is particularly significant. WICHITA is very much a standard Western, specifically designed for McCrea. In my opinion Tourneur's best Western is the dark and moody CANYON PASSAGE, a film I highly recommend.