Category Archives: William Schallert

Blu-Ray Review: Shield For Murder (1954).

Directed by Edmond O’Brien and Howard W. Koch
Screenplay by Richard Alan Simmons and John C. Higgins
Adaptation by Richard Alan Simmons
From a book by William P. McGivern
Music by Paul Dunlap
Photography by Gordon Avil
Film Editor: John F. Schreyer

Cast: Edmond O’Brien (Barney Nolan), Marla English (Patty Winters), John Agar (Mark Brewster), Emile Meyer (Capt. Gunnarson), Carolyn Jones (Girl at bar), Claude Akins (Fat Michaels), Larry Ryle (Laddie O’Neil), Hugh Sanders, William Schallert, Richard Deacon, Vito Scotti

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One the best things for any old-movie nut is to come across something new — not new as in released last week, but new in that you’ve never seen it. Well, Shield For Murder (1954) was a new one for me. And I loved every frame of it.

“If ever a picture was crammed with guts — this is it!” Even the ad copy for this movie is great.

Barney Nolan (Edmond O’Brien) is a good cop gone really, really bad. Before the main title even appears, he’s killed a bookie for the $25,000 he’s got on him. Barney does it because he wants to buy a Castle Heights tract home and marry his girlfriend Patty (Marla English). The cops get the idea that Barney might’ve done it, but his best friend on the force (John Agar) refuses to believe. As the evidence mounts (and bodies stack up), we watch Barney get more desperate, more bitter, more violent as things spin out of control. Eventually, of course, Barney’s on the run and there’s nothing left of his hopes for a nice, quiet life in the suburbs with his girl.

O’Brien co-directed Shield For Murder with producer Howard W. Koch. The division of labor worked like this — O’Brien rehearsed the actors, and once the cameras rolled, Koch was at the helm. They gave the picture a sparse, bare-bones, almost documentary feel — with perfectly gritty camerawork from Gordon Avil (who shot the 1930 Billy The Kid in 70mm).

The performances are good across the board. Carolyn Jones really knocked me out here as a girl O’Brien meets in a bar. Claude Akins is great as a thug trying the retrieve the missing $25,000. Here and there, folks like Hugh Sanders, William Schallert, Richard Deacon and Vito Scotti turn up. You can’t go wrong with those guys.

But Shield For Murder is Edmond O’Brien’s picture all the way. He’s terrific. Watching Barney slide into the gutter is downright uncomfortable, as his American Dream turns to crap. You cringe with every wrong turn he takes, knowing Fate’s gonna kick in at any minute.

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This movie’s perfect, down to Edmond O’Brien’s loafers.

Researching the commentary for Kino Lorber’s Blu-Ray of A Strange Adventure (1956) a couple months ago, I got to focus on Marla English and her brief, very interesting career. (Wish I’d been able to do a commentary for this one!) Marla was a teenage beauty queen and swimsuit model from San Diego who signed to Paramount in 1952. They put her in a few little parts — she’s one of the partygoers in Rear Window (1954). But when she turned down a role in The Mountain with Spencer Tracy, Paramount dumped her. She was soon doing independent pictures for Bel-Air, Republic, AIP and the like. And as we all know, that’s when things usually get interesting. Marla’s in stuff like Runaway Daughters, The She Creature — she’s the She Creature, Flesh And The Spur with John Agar (all 1956) and Voodoo Woman (1957) with Mike Connors. She gave up on acting after Voodoo Woman. Though she was in a few pictures before Shield For Murder (she was only 19 when it was released), she gets an “introducing” credit in it.

Shield For Murder was a first for both of our co-directors. O’Brien would only direct a few more things, but Koch kept at it. His next picture, Big House, USA (1955), is a B Movie masterpiece. And he gave us jewels like Untamed Youth (1957), Violent Road (1958) and Frankenstein 1970 (1958). Koch also produced a string of very successful A pictures — things like The Manchurian Candidate (1962), The Odd Couple (1968) and Airplane! (1980).

From a Castle Heights subdivision to West Hollywood alleys to a great public pool, Shield For Murder makes excellent use of LA locations. It’s perfectly rough around the edges and captured by Gordon Avil in all its gritty, appropriately grainy glory. And all of that’s perfectly preserved on the Blu-Ray from Kino Lorber. Highly, highly recommended.

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Filed under 1954, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Edmond O'Brien, Howard W. Koch, John Agar, Kino Lorber, Marla English, United Artists, William Schallert

Blu-Ray News #149: Charley Varrick (1973).

Directed by Don Siegel
Starring Walter Matthau, Joe Don Baker, Felicia Farr, Andy Robinson, Sheree North, Norman Fell, William Schallert, John Vernon, Bob Steele

I love the good old US of A, but there’s one thing where the rest of the world has us beat — outside the US, you can find a Blu-Ray of Don Siegel’s incredible Charley Varrick (1973). Still no hi-def release here, and our only DVD release was full-frame. No wonder the rest of the world hates us. I’ve proclaimed my undying love for this movie many times before, it’s one of my favorites, easy, from one of my favorite directors.

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So when I saw it pop up on blu-ray.com, I was overjoyed. This time, Indicator/Powerhouse Films in the UK have announced Charley Varrick on Blu-Ray coming in January with a slew of terrific-sounding extras. The Indicator/Powerhouse release is limited to 3,000 copies. Essentially, this thing is essentially essential.

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Filed under 1973, Andy Robinson, Don Siegel, DVD/Blu-ray News, Joe Don Baker, Universal (-International), Walter Matthau, William Schallert

Blu-Ray News #109: The Man From Planet X (1951).

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Directed by Edgar G. Ulmer
Starring Robert Clarke, Margaret Field, Raymond Bond, William Schallert

Another no-budget miracle from the incredible Edgar G. Ulmer. The Man From Planet X (1951) movie creeped me out so bad as a kid — and it still has an odd, unsettling quality to it unlike any other film I can think of.

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Filmed in just six days at Hal Roach Studios, on sets left over from Joan Of Arc (1948), it looks like most of the shoestring budget went to juice for the fog machine. It ended up being one of the first ( some say the first) alien-comes-to-earth movies. And I’d put it near the top of my Edgar Ulmer list.

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Shout Factory has this one touching down on Blu-Ray this summer. Highly, highly recommended. Let’s hope more Ulmer makes its way to Blu-Ray.

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Filed under 1951, DVD/Blu-ray News, Edgar G. Ulmer, Shout/Scream Factory, William Schallert

Blu-ray News #61: Shield For Murder (1954).

shield-for-murder-movie-poster-1954-1020416538Directed byEdmond O’Brien and Howard W. Koch
Starring Edmond O’Brien, John Agar, Marla English, Emile Meyer, Carolyn Jones, Claude Akins, Hugh Sanders, William Schallert, Richard Deacon, Vito Scotti

Howard W. Koch directed one of my all-time favorite sleazeball crime pictures, Big House, USA (1955). He preceded it with Shield For Murder (1954), starring Edmond O’Brien (who co-directed).

O’Brien’s a detective who kills a bookie for the cash he’s carrying. When he finds out there was a witness, guess it’s time for more killing. O’Brien is joined by a dream cast that includes John Agar, Marla English, Carolyn Jones, Claude Akins, William Schallert, Richard Deacon and Vito Scotti.

Where has this movie been all my life? Lucky for us all, it’s coming to Blu-ray from Kino Lorber. Man, I can’t wait.

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Filed under 1954, DVD/Blu-ray News, Edmond O'Brien, Howard W. Koch, John Agar, Kino Lorber, Uncategorized, William Schallert

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

Hoodlum Empire TC

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.

Hoodlum Empire still

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