Category Archives: 1952

Blu-Ray News #78: On Dangerous Ground (1952).

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Directed by Nicholas Ray
Starring Ida Lupino, Robert Ryan, Ward Bond, Charles Kemper, Frank Ferguson, Olive Carey

Seems like every day, another great movie’s being announced for DVD or Blu-ray. We’re on a real hot streak here, folks.

On Dangerous Ground (1952) is a great Nicholas Ray movie that hasn’t gotten its due. I know that’s kinda like saying that water is wet. Warner Archive has announced it for an upcoming Blu-Ray release.

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In a way, it’s two movies in one. The first half concerns Robert Ryan’s burned-out New York detective at the end of his rope, then it shifts gears as he’s sent to the country to investigate a murder. There, he falls in love with the killer’s blind sister (Ida Lupino). In less capable hands, such a story could’ve been laughable, but Ray and his cast pull it off with ease. Everybody in it’s terrific.

I saw a 35mm print of this a couple years ago, and George E. Diskant’s cinematography really knocked me out. This one’s essential, folks.

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Filed under 1952, Frank Ferguson, Ida Lupino, Nicholas Ray, RKO, Robert Ryan, Warner Archive

The Republic Pictures Blogathon: Radar Men From The Moon (1952).

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Directed by Fred C. Brannon
Written by Ronald Davidson
Director Of Photography: John MacBurnie
Special Effects: Howard and Theodore Lydecker

Cast: George Wallace (Commando Cody), Aline Towne (Joan Gilbert), Roy Barcroft (Retik), William Bakewell (Ted Richards), Clayton Moore (Graber), Peter Brocco (Krog), Tom Steele

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Republic blogathon badgeThis is an entry in The Republic Pictures Blogathon, a celebration of the studio’s incredible talent roster, wonderful output and lasting legacy. No one signed on for a Republic serial, and I wanted to make sure they were represented.

One of the last Republic serials, Radar Men From The Moon (1952) is a real hoot. It leans heavily on stock footage from previous Republic pictures and recycles the flying suit from King Of The Rocket Men (1949). It introduces a new character — Commando Cody, played by George Wallace — and features Clayton Moore, between stints on The Lone Ranger, as a bad guy.

Clayton Moore: “Even though I had been gone for about three years, things hadn’t changed much at Republic. Directors still had to scrape every bit of footage together for the lowest possible budget. Freddy Brannon padded Radar Men From The Moon with footage from King Of The Rocket Men, Darkest Africa (1936) and The Purple Monster Strikes (1945).”

This serial features one of my all-time favorite movie plot points: aliens enlisting American gangsters to help with their plot to conquer the earth. Moore is one of those gangsters.

Graber (Clayton Moore): “There’s a man in a flying suit chasing us. Step on it.”

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Retik (Roy Barcroft), ruler of the moon, is using an “atomic ray” to destroy strategic locations in the United States. Commando Cody (George Wallace), an inventor-adventurer with a spaceship and a flying suit, heads to the moon to investigate. Soon, he and his cohorts are battling Retik and Krog — and gangsters like Graber (Clayton Moore), both on the moon and around L.A.

There are 12 chapters of this crazy stuff, and it’s goofy, delirious fun. Maybe not so much fun for the cast and crew, however.

"Commando Cody, the Sky Marshal of the Universe," aka, George Wallace, appears to defy the laws of gravity, for a moment at least, as he lands in the arms of a prop man during production of the film " Radar Men from the Moon," at Red Rock Canyon in the Mojave Desert, 80 miles northeast of Hollywood, Calif., Dec. 12, 1951. Gravity may be defied in some the new movie serials based on the fantasies science fiction, but what goes up still comes down, even if the film wont let you see it. (AP Photo)

George Wallace: “Roy Barcroft had been well known as a Western heavy for so many years, and he was a big, lovable bear, a sweetheart of a guy. And Clayton was just fine, except in one of the fight scenes, he broke my nose accidentally! It was a good group… Up in Red Rock Canyon, it was 112 degrees in the day, and running around in that hot weather with the heavy leather jacket and all this other stuff on, you sweated quite a bit. We had to stay out there all week to shoot. We’d start first thing in the morning, as soon as the sun came up, and work until the sun went down that night… we stayed in some dinky motel right alongside of a freight yard.”

Other locations include Vasquez Rocks, the Iverson Ranch and the train station in Chatsworth (which I assume was close to Iverson).

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Republic’s frantic pace of production didn’t even slow down when Moore broke Wallace’s nose. A few minutes after returning from the ER, Wallace was back in front of the camera, a bloody towel waiting just out of the shot.

Dialogue scenes have a first-take quality to them. The actors don’t seem comfortable with the words coming out of their mouths. But they keep it moving from action scene to action scene, and from chapter to chapter — and that, of course, is what a Republic serial is all about.

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The Lydeckers’ model spaceship for Radar Men From The Moon.

For me, one of the appeals of any Republic serial is the promise of some first-class model work from Howard and Theodore Lydecker. Here, we’ve seen a lot of their stuff before. But we get some great rocket shots, Cody’s flying scenes and the awesome moon tank.

Cody Moon Tank

Radar Men From The Moon wouldn’t be the last of Commando Cody. A second serial, Commando Cody: Sky Marshal Of The Universe, followed. It was originally produced as a TV show, with 12 25-minute episodes — in sequence but with no cliffhangers. Union rules required that it go to theaters first. Again, it features a lot of stock footage. This time, Cody is not played by George Wallace.

sr9_radarmen-adTo be honest, Radar Men From The Moon can’t hold a candle to some of the great, early Republic serials. But it’s so fast — all 12 chapters run just a bit over two-and-a-half hours — and so much fun, I’ve always found it irresistible. What’s more, it’s readily available on DVD from various sources, though a Blu-ray would be appreciated (as a hi-def Lydecker Bros. demo reel, if nothing else).

Sources: I Was That Masked Man by Clayton Moore; Double Feature Creature Attack by Tom Weaver

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Filed under 1952, Clayton Moore, Lydecker Brothers, Republic Pictures, Roy Barcroft

The Republic Pictures Blogathon: Hoodlum Empire (1952) By Guest Blogger Jerry Entract.

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Associate Producer – Director: Joseph Kane
Screen Play byBruce Manning and Bob Considine
Director Of Photography: Reggie Lanning

Cast: Brian Donlevy (Sen. Bill Stephens), Claire Trevor (Connie Williams), Forrest Tucker (Charley Pignatalli), Vera Ralston (Marte Dufour), Luther Adler (Nick Mancani), John Russell (Joe Gray), Gene Lockhart, Grant Withers, Taylor Holmes, Richard Jaeckel, Roy Barcroft, Whit Bissell, William Schallert

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Republic blogathon badgeI am delighted to be able to take part in a “Republic Pictures Blogathon” and would like to thank our host, Toby, for making it possible.

Having been formed from a merger of several small film companies in 1935, Republic Pictures hit the ground running, immediately scoring huge success with their Gene Autry Western series. They followed this success with The Three Mesquiteers the next year and into the 40s with popular series heroes Don Barry, Wild Bill Elliott, Rocky Lane and, especially, Roy Rogers.

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Right from the start, Republic were making a cross-section of film types even though their specialty was the Western.

1950-51 saw the Kefauver Committee set up in the U.S. Senate to tackle organised crime all across the U.S. To reflect this, Republic filmed Hoodlum Empire (1952), though naturally names were changed. Journalist and author Bob Considine wrote the story on which the screenplay was adapted by Bruce Manning and Considine.

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The background to the story is the testifying to a Senate committee of various figures known as underworld leaders. Brian Donlevy plays the leader of the committee, determined to go after these crime lords, led here by Luther Adler and his vicious No. 2, Forrest Tucker. However, although he is listed sixth in the cast, the real central figure is John Russell, who is Adler’s nephew and had been heavily involved in crime pre-WW2. His wartime experiences have turned him around, however, and since 1945 he has been running a legit business. Adler and co. are determined to implicate him in criminal activity and thereby fade their own (real) involvement into obscurity. In the end, they do not succeed.

This is, of course, far away from the Western and yet the central theme is John Russell’s redemption (with the help of a good woman) — a strong Western motif, particularly throughout the 50s. Also, the director is Joseph Kane, Republic’s No. 1 go-to man for action, having by this point helmed countless Autry and Rogers films.

I even recognised the house used as John Russell’s family home as being “The Duchess’ Ranch” from the 1944-46 Red Ryder series, now tarted up with ‘modern’ frills like a picket fence and trees.

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I found the script to be both literate and adult, and the cast just fine at putting it over. Claire Trevor in particular showing a vulnerable woman beneath her tough and wisecracking front, something she was skilful at doing. Grant Withers, also in the supporting cast, came across very well. He and Roy Barcroft appear, both regular Republic Western baddies, as well as Douglas Kennedy and John Pickard (both uncredited). So… a lot of familiar and welcome faces in the quite large cast. Seeing John Russell here again makes me wonder why he didn’t achieve greater stardom than he did.

For folks who like a good gritty crime drama with a great cast, this film would get my recommendation. It’s readily available on DVD in the US and elsewhere. That is regrettably not true of all too many of Republic’s crime dramas (they didn’t do ‘noir’ so much) which are locked away in the vaults and kept from film fans hungry to see them.

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Jerry Entract does not run his own blog or have any involvement in the film industry, but is an English lifelong movie fan and amateur student of classic cinema (American and British). Main passions are the western and detective/mystery/film noir. Enjoys seeking out lesser-known (even downright obscure) old movies.

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Filed under 1952, Forrest Tucker, Joe Kane, Republic Pictures, Roy Barcroft, Whit Bissell, William Schallert