The Command (1954)

thecommand_3Starring Guy Madison, Joan Weldon, James Whitmore, Carl Benton Reid, Harvey Lembeck, Ray Teal, Robert Nichols, Don Shelton

Directed by David Butler

Expectations: None.

twohalfstar


The Command features an interesting premise for a fairly standard “Cowboys & Indians” western: after the Captain of the cavalry unit is killed, the unit’s doctor is given command of the company until they reach Ft. Stark and a hard-earned rest. But along they way, the cavalry runs into an Infantry Unit escorting a wagon train of civilians through Indian country. The infantry commander requests the cavalry unit to provide support on their journey, so now what was to be a short career in command for Dr. Robert MacClaw (Guy Madison) becomes a test of the doctor’s ability to save lives on a massive scale through strategy and confidence, instead of healing.

This kind of story, where an unlikely hero rises to the occasion, is nothing new (even in 1954, I’m sure), and The Command doesn’t do a lot to separate itself from the pack. Guy Madison has a great presence as the doctor turned commander, evoking the sensitivity of a caring doctor well. The only problem is that he begins the film nearly as confident as he ends it, so his struggle to find strength is more of a red herring than it initially seems. The film is actually more about MacClaw proving himself and earning the respect of the men he’s leading through dangerous territory. This is further complicated for MacClaw with the introduction of the infantry, who apparently have a long-standing rivalry with the cavalry, so the Doc must also convince these infantrymen and their commander that he’s worthy of their trust and respect.

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Sansho the Bailiff (1954)

JAPANORAMA - Yorstat  BANNER JAPAN-O-RAMA

This post is part of Japan-O-Rama at Paul’s awesome site Paragraph Film Reviews! Head over there for a paragraph version of my review, or stay here for the wordier and probably less effective version!


sansho_1Sansho the Bailiff [山椒大夫 Sanshō Dayū] (1954)
AKA Legend of Bailiff Sansho, The Bailiff

Starring Kinuyo Tanaka, Kyoko Kagawa, Yoshiaki Hanayagi, Eitaro Shindo, Ichiro Sugai, Ken Mitsuda, Masahiko Tsugawa, Masao Shimizu, Chieko Naniwa, Kikue Mori, Akitake Kono, Ryosuke Kagawa

Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi

Expectations: High, but I don’t know anything about it.

fourstar


Sansho the Bailiff trades heavily in very depressing subject matter, but its defining theme comes from a proverb spoken by our main character’s father in the first few minutes of the film. The father is the governor of a small province, but his kindness towards his subjects has led to him being transferred to a very out-of-the-way, undesirable location. His wife, Tamaki, and their two children (Zushio and Anju) are sent to live with his brother for a few years, but before they leave the father says a few words to Zushio.

“Without mercy, man is like a beast. Even if you are hard on yourself, be merciful to others. Men are created equal. Everyone is entitled to their happiness.”

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Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto (1954)

Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto [宮本武蔵] (1954)

Starring Toshiro Mifune, Rentaro Mikuni, Kuroemon Onoe, Kaoru Yachigusa, Mariko Okada, Mitsuko Mito, Eiko Miyoshi, Akihiko Hirata, Kusuo Abe

Directed by Hiroshi Inagaki

Expectations: Moderate. I liked this well enough when I saw it 10–12 years ago.


Sometimes you see films too early in your life and their intricacies are lost in a haze of unfulfilled desires and expectations. Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto is one such film for me, as I saw it roughly 10–12 years ago, hoping for a rip-roarin’ samurai action film. It’s a film about the most famous samurai of all time so he should totally kick the most ass, right? While that logic still makes sense to me, it is a flawed way to approach this film, and is a big reason why I only moderately enjoyed it back then. This time, however, I was able to fully appreciate it for what it is: a tale of how Musashi Miyamoto becomes Musashi Miyamoto.

As the film opens Takezo (Toshiro Mifune) and Matahachi (Rentaro Mikuni) watch warriors marching to battle from their vantage point high in a tree. Takezo wants nothing more than to be out of his hometown, where people look down on him as a ruffian and a troublemaker, so he talks Matahachi into joining the troops with him. They fight together in the Battle of Sekigahara, but their faction loses and control of the area slips to the enemy party. Takezo and Matahachi now find themselves fugitives, and with Matahachi wounded they need to find shelter at all costs.

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Hell and High Water (1954)

Starring Richard Widmark, Bella Darvi, Victor Francen, Cameron Mitchell, Gene Evans, David Wayne, Stephen Bekassy, Richard Loo

Directed by Samuel Fuller

Expectations: Low. This is Fuller’s least favorite film according to his book.


Hell and High Water begins in classic Sam Fuller style, hitting hard with a stunning image designed to immediately excite the viewer and grab hold of their attention. The particular image that opens this Fuller film is a giant nuclear explosion on a remote island (which is actual footage of a test blast by the military), and we’re quickly told via narration that it’s this explosion that the film is about. Sort of. The explosion is more like the catalyst to the film and its climax, but I guess you could say that the explosion informs the entire film and gives tension to the events presented within. That’s kind of a stretch though. This conflicted feeling I have is representative of how I feel about the entire film.

Going into Hell and High Water I had virtually no idea what the film was about. All I knew was that it was a Sam Fuller film, that it was something of a military film, that it was a bigger budget studio picture made as a favor, and that it was Fuller’s least favorite of his pictures. Like the opening explosion, the knowledge that Fuller didn’t like this one informed my viewing of the film. To my surprise though (and realistically I shouldn’t be surprised), Hell and High Water is pretty damn fun, and exceedingly well produced. It is Fuller’s first film in color, as well as his first CinemaScope film and he wastes no time in utilizing both to great effect.

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Silver Lode (1954)

Silver Lode (1954)

Starring John Payne, Lizabeth Scott, Dan Duryea, Dolores Moran, Emile Meyer, Robert Warwick, John Hudson, Harry Carey Jr., Alan Hale Jr., Stuart Whitman

Directed by Allan Dwan

Expectations: Moderate.


What would you think if someone you knew was accused of murder? It is an interesting question and is the basis of the plot of Silver Lode. It’s the 4th of July and Dan Ballard (John Payne) is about to get married. In the middle of the ceremony, Marshall McCarty (Dan Duryea) busts in with a group of deputies and accuses Ballard of murdering his brother and taking $20,000 bones from him. Ballard argues to allow him two hours to clear his name and he is given it, based on the goodwill he has built up over the last two years with the townspeople.

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Brigadoon (1954)

Starring Gene Kelly, Van Johnson, Cyd Charisse, Elaine Stewart, Barry Jones, Hugh Laing, Albert Sharpe, Virginia Bosler, Jimmy Thompson

Directed by Vincente Minnelli

Expectations: I’ve seen this movie countless times as a child and always enjoyed it. Does it hold up?


I decided to watch Brigadoon again for the first time in about 12 years. Well, that’s not exactly true. I checked out the DVD from the library because I saw that it had some outtake musical numbers that I had never seen before. When I put the disc in to watch these outtakes, I decided first to watch a bit of the actual film to get myself into the mood. About two hours and one Brigadoon later, I got around to watching the outtakes. I couldn’t stop myself from watching the entire film.

Brigadoon tells the story of two hunters (played by Gene Kelly and Van Johnson) who find themselves lost in a Scottish forest. Out of the mist, the town of Brigadoon reveals itself and before Gene Kelly knows it, he’s met the girl of his dreams (Cyd Charisse). I watched this movie at least 20 times while I was growing up. It was one of the staple movies in our family. At first, I hated it. “Oh, not Brigadoon again,” I said to myself. The more times I watched it though, I found myself looking forward to parts throughout the movie. First it was the chase sequence towards the end. Then I became fond of the song I’ll Go Home With Bonnie Jean. Pretty soon, I was enjoying the whole thing.

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