Category Archives: Steve McQueen

Blu-Ray News #405: Hell Is For Heroes (1962).

Directed by Don Siegel
Starring Steve McQueen, Bobby Darin, Fess Parker, Harry Guardino, Bob Newhart, James Coburn, Nick Adams, LQ Jones

Steve McQueen and Don Siegel. How could Hell Is For Heroes (1962) not be great? 

Making the movie was hell, judging from stories you hear about the production.  Writer Robert Pirosh was to direct, but left after trying to deal with McQueen. Paramount cut the budget. McQueen threw his weight around, demanded rewrites and fought with Don Siegel. It was so hot in California in the summer of 1961, many scenes were shot at night to make things more comfortable. The prop machine guns didn’t like with the blank cartridges being used. And on and on.

But it’s a great film. The B&W cinematography of Harold Lipstein is remarkable. Siegel’s direction is as taught as always. And the performances are top-notch across the board.

And it’s finally making its way to Blu-Ray, thanks to the folks at Kino Lorber. Highly, highly recommended.

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Filed under 1962, Don Siegel, DVD/Blu-ray News, James Coburn, Kino Lorber, L.Q. Jones, Nick Adams, Paramount, Steve McQueen

Making Movies: Don Siegel At Work.

Don Siegel’s films are scattered throughout my list of all-time favorites — if I was to ever sit down and make such a list. Here are some photos I’ve come across while researching him for various things (some of these images have appeared on this blog before, but are worth repeating).

Up top, there’s Siegel directing Clint Eastwood in Two Mules For Sister Sara (1970). The original screenplay was by Budd Boetticher, who was supposed to direct (he ended up with only a story credit). Budd not happy with the finished film, which co-starred Shirley MacLaine. The Los Angeles Herald-Examiner called the picture “a solidly entertaining film that provides Clint Eastwood with his best, most substantial role to date; in it he is far better than he has ever been. In director Don Siegel, Eastwood has found what John Wayne found in John Ford and what Gary Cooper found in Frank Capra.” They’d make five movies together.

Here he is with Ronald Reagan and Vinveca Lindfors (Mrs. Siegel at the time) shooting Night Unto Night (1949).

Neville Brand and Dabbs Greer (?) get direction from Siegel on Riot In Cell Block 11 (1954).

Nick Adams and Siegel go over the script for Hell Is For Heroes (1962).

Siegel, Angie Dickinson, Claude Akins and John Cassavettes (back of his head) on the set of The Killers (1964).

With Eastwood on the set of Coogan’s Bluff (1968), their first picture together.

Andy Robinson goes over the script with Siegel on Dirty Harry (1971).

Siegel and Walter Matthau having a laugh on Charley Varrick (1973). I think Don’s wearing the same hat he has on in the photo from The Killers.

Eastwood and Siegel on location for Escape From Alcatraz (1979).

I was trying to find a picture of Siegel working on Baby Face Nelson (1957), one of his best, but had no luck. It’s highly underrated, probably because it’s almost impossible to see.

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Filed under 1954, 1957, 1964, 1968, 1970, 1971, 1973, 1979, Angie Dickinson, Budd Boetticher, Clint Eastwood, Don Siegel, Nick Adams, Steve McQueen, Universal (-International), Walter Matthau

Blu-Ray News #371: The Hunter (1980).

Directed by Buzz Kulik
Starring Steve McQueen, Eli Wallach, Kathryn Harrold, LeVar Burton, Ben Johnson, Richard Venture, Tracey Walter

Imprint out of Australia has announced a deluxe Blu-Ray of Buzz Kulik’s The Hunter (1980), Steve McQueen’s last movie.

McQueen with the real Ralph “Papa” Thorson.

Based on the real-life bounty hunter Ralph “Papa” Thorson, the picture gives McQueen a chance to play around with his image. He’s feeling the aches and pains of age and needs reading glasses. And there’s a running gag about Thorson being a terrible driver. McQueen probably had a lot of fun tolling around in his character’s 1951 Chevrolet. The Thorson character has a love of goofy old things, from gas pumps to jukeboxes to wind-up toys, as did McQueen. They say McQueen had a lot of input on this one, even directing some stuff, and it shows.

Time has been kind to The Hunter. Back in 1980, it seemed rather small compared to what we expected from McQueen, and it had a bit of a TV-movie feel about it (Buzz Kulik was a long-time TV movie director). But now, its more eccentric, character-driven nature is a big part of its appeal — along with the opportunity to watch Steve McQueen for an hour-and-a-half. (I’d take it over 1974’s The Towering Inferno any day!)

Other highlights are a nice scene with Ben Johnson and McQueen in a Massey Ferguson combine chasing a Trans Am through a cornfield! The ensemble cast does a great job of elevating a pretty lazy script, and its episodic structure actually works in its favor.

Imprint has promised a commentary and vintage documentary, along with a collection of trailers and TV spots. But, with all releases like this, the main attraction is the movie itself, restored in high definition. I’m so happy to see this cool little action movie, and its star, get a nice valentine like this.

Someone once said that Steve McQueen could act with the back of his head. Lots of folks call him the “King Of Cool.” For me, any movie he’s in comes highly recommended.

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Filed under 1980, Ben Johnson, DVD/Blu-ray News, Imprint Films, Paramount, Steve McQueen

Why Isn’t This On Blu-Ray?

Directed by Don Siegel
Starring Steve McQueen, Bobby Darin, Fess Parker, Harry Guardino, James Coburn, Bob Newhart, L.Q. Jones and Nick Adams

Don Siegel directed it. It’s got Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Fess Parker, L.Q. Jones, Nick Adams and Bob Newhart in it. Harold Lipstein’s black and white cinematography is perfect. Newhart does a GI version of his telephone routine. And Bobby Darin has a flamethrower.

It’s got everything going for it, everything but a Blu-Ray release, that is. It’s a Paramount, Olive, why don’t you license it?

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Filed under 1962, Don Siegel, James Coburn, L.Q. Jones, Nick Adams, Steve McQueen

Blu-Ray News #118: Junior Bonner (1972).

Directed by Sam Peckinpah
Starring Steve McQueen, Robert Preston, Ida Lupino, Joe Don Baker, Barbara Leigh, Ben Johnson, Dub Taylor

Sam Peckinpah’s Junior Bonner (1972) is a wonderful movie, plain and simple. And Kino Lorber’s bringing it to Blu-Ray this summer. Its previous DVD releases weren’t anamorphic, so this will be a huge leap forward.

If you haven’t seen it, you’re in for a real treat. I can’t recommend this one highly enough. Thanks to Paula for the photo of McQueen and Ben Johnson.

More Peckinpah Blu-Ray news — Criterion has announced Straw Dogs (1971) for June.

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Filed under 1972, Ben Johnson, DVD/Blu-ray News, Ida Lupino, Joe Don Baker, Kino Lorber, Sam Peckinpah, Steve McQueen, The Criterion Collection

Steve McQueen’s Bullitt Mustang Found In A Mexican Junkyard.

It’s a different kind of film preservation, and a very cool one at that.

The second of two 1968 Mustangs specially outfitted for Bullitt (1968) — and gloriously abused by Steve McQueen and the stunt team in the film’s chase scene, has been discovered in a junkyard in Mexico. (The other one’s locked away at some rich dude’s house, evidently.)

A restoration is underway — and I’m sure a lot of guys with deep pockets are making outlandish bids. I’d love to know how it got from Point A (San Francisco or the Warner Bros. lot) to Point B (painted white in Baja California Sur, Mexico) — and if any of McQueen’s Juicy Fruit gum wrappers are under the seat.

My iPod’s got Lalo Schifrin’s score going as I type this. And thanks to Jim Briggs for the tip.

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Filed under 1968, Film Preservation, Peter Yates, Steve McQueen

RIP, Robert Vaughan.

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Robert Vaughan
(November 22, 1932 – November 11, 2016)

Robert Vaughan has passed away at 83.

Everybody’s gonna be all about The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which is fine. But he always impressed me in character roles, like the punk kid in the Western Good Day For A Hanging (1959) or as a slimy politician in Bullitt (1968). The scene above, about midway through the picture, has Vaughan being a real creep and Steve McQueen being cool as he eats a peanut butter sandwich. It’s a really great scene, just two good actors doing their thing.

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Filed under 1968, Robert Vaughan, Steve McQueen

Happy July 4th.

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Here’s James Garner, Jud Taylor and Steve McQueen celebrating Independence Day in The Great Escape (1963). Here’s wishing you all a safe and happy one — try not to blow your fingers off.

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Filed under 1963, James Garner, John Sturges, Steve McQueen