Kendra Steiner Editions

March 31, 2017

DIME STORE HOT DANCE / PATHE & CAMEO JAZZBANDS

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 11:46 am

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DIME STORE HOT DANCE, Recorded in New York 1927-1930

Jazz Oracle (Canada), BDW 8023, released 2001

DIME STORE HOT DANCE TRACK LISTING         

1          –Billy James’ Dance Orchestra       I Wonder How You’re Spending Your Evenings Now?   

2          –Al Lynch And His Orchestra          Who Says They Don’t Care?           

3          –Billy James’ Dance Orchestra       I Wanna Go Back To Indiana         

4          –Billy James’ Dance Orchestra       They Don’t Come Better Than Betty         

5          –Adrian Schubert’s Dance Orchestra        Georgia Lullaby       

6          –Willie Creager & His Orchestra    Crying Blues 

7          –Willie Creager & His Orchestra    Cat’s Kittens 

8          –Willie Creager & His Orchestra    It’s In The Morning 

9          –Billy James’ Dance Orchestra       Long Lost Daddy      

10        –Billy James’ Dance Orchestra       Pa‘s Old Hat  

11        –Tom Gott And His Rose Room Orchestra           Get Yourself A Sweetie And Kiss Your Troubles Away  

12        –Billy James’ Dance Orchestra       I’ve Got The San Francisco Blues 

13        –Adrian Schubert’s Dance Orchestra        Where Has Mammy Gone? 

14        –Adrian Schubert’s Dance Orchestra        Loving You   

15        –Adrian Schubert’s Dance Orchestra        That’s My Idea         

16        –Adrian Schubert’s Dance Orchestra        In My Wedding Gown         

17        –Adrian Schubert’s Dance Orchestra        It’s Not A Secret Any More

18        –Adrian Schubert’s Dance Orchestra        You Know Better Than That           

19        –Adrian Schubert’s Dance Orchestra        Yearning       

20        –Adrian Schubert’s Dance Orchestra        When The Moon Shines Down On Sunshine And Me     

21        –Adrian Schubert’s Dance Orchestra        Hockey          

22        –Adrian Schubert’s Dance Orchestra        We’ll Be Married In June    

23        –Adrian Schubert’s Dance Orchestra        In Harlem‘s Araby    

24        –Adrian Schubert’s Dance Orchestra        Just A Lone Hill Billy          

25        –Adrian Schubert’s Dance Orchestra        Are You Blue?          

26        –Adrian Schubert’s Dance Orchestra        Syncopated Jamboree

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…………………………………………………

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PATHE & CAMEO JAZZBANDS 1924-1928

Timeless Historical (Holland)  CBC 1-091, released in 2007

PATHE & CAMEO JAZZBANDS TRACK LISTING

1          I Wonder What’s Become Of Sally, by Lido Venice Dance Orchestra

2          San, by Lido Venice Dance Orchestra

3          Bring Back Those Rock-A-Bye Baby Days, by Harl Smith and His Orchestra

4          When My Sugar Walks Down The Street, by Hotel Biltmore Orchestra

5          Sweet Georgia Brown, by The Texas Ten

6          Charleston, by The Texas Ten

7          Milenberg Joys, by Seven Missing Links

8          Angry, by Seven Missing Links

9          Milenberg Joys, by Seven Missing Links

10        Cheatin’ On Me, by Bill Wirges and His Orchestra

11        Shake That Thing, by Bill Wirges and His Orchestra

12        Two Ton Tessie, by Mickey Guy’s Hottentots

13        Rhythm Rag,  by Mickey Guy’s Hottentots

14        She’s A Cornfed Indiana Girl, by Mal Hallett and His Orchestra

15        Sadie Green (The Vamp Of New Orleans), by Ole Olsen and His Orchestra

16        Take Your Time, by Ole Olsen and His Orchestra

17        Snag It, by Ole Olsen and His Orchestra

18        San, by Alabama Red Peppers

19        Red Head Blues, by Alabama Red Peppers

20        The Drag, by Alabama Red Peppers

21        The New Twister, by Alabama Red Peppers

22        Riverboat Shuffle, by Alabama Red Peppers

23        Eccentric, by Alabama Red Peppers

24        Spanish Dream, by The Lumberjacks

25       Black Beauty, by The Lumberjacks

26        Traffic Jam, by Joe Ward’s Swanee Club Orchestra

27        Scorchin’, by Joe Ward’s Swanee Club Orchestra

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The 1920’s were an amazing decade in terms of the arts and entertainment, especially in film and music. The silent cinema was at its height as an art form, every small town had a theater of some kind with an incredible variety of product available, from the largest Hollywood productions to the most threadbare Z-grade westerns shot for a few thousand dollars, and all kinds of shorts. Masters like F. W. Murnau, Paul Leni, Sergei Eisenstein, and many others were doing visionary and original things with the artform of silent cinema….until sound came along, the slate was wiped clean, and to some extent things were started all over again at square one circa 1929 with sound films. In music, not only was it the height of the so-called Jazz Age, but dance establishments (despite prohibition) of all kinds thrived and recorded music was also at its height–there were major labels, budget labels, independent labels, and specialized labels. And in 1929, 200 million records were sold. However, in 1932, only 6 million were sold (!!!!!). Yes, from 200 million to 6 million. Many labels went under at that time, or were bought up for pennies on the dollar and incorporated into recording “groups.” Record collectors know that the pressings of specialized music were so small in 1932 and 1933, that records from that period are much rarer than things from the late 20’s (in the same sense that there are many lost films from 1928, as sound was going out, such as Harry Langdon’s HEART TROUBLE, because these films were considered instantly disposable and were not preserved, whereas earlier silent films went into re-release, new prints were struck, etc.). You can read an excellent overview of the early years of the recording industry here:  https://medium.com/@Vinylmint/history-of-the-record-industry-1920-1950s-6d491d7cb606

The two albums under review here are not new–they’ve been around for a decade or more, and I’ve been enjoying them since their release. What they contain could be considered on some level the flotsam and jetsam of the 20’s recording industry, but flotsam and jetsam of great value and integrity (btw, there is actually a difference between flotsam and jetsam in maritime jargon: flotsam is debris not intentionally thrown overboard, while jetsam is debris which was intentionally thrown overboard–I am using the term in its broader more generic sense, the one landlubbers use). The best art of an era rarely gets its due in its day—-of course, it does SOMETIMES, but often it is discarded as of no permanent value after its initial and limited exposure. Who put the film DETOUR on their critics’ Best of 1946 List at the time? It was considered a disposable piece of hard-boiled product from a low-rent studio which, they said, just churned out threadbare programmers. Similarly, the music on these two albums was not lionized at the time–it was PRODUCT, and low-budget product at that. A lot of it was released under pseudonyms, and the studio musicians who played on these sides might not have ever seen a copy of the actual record after they cashed the check for the session. Indeed, they might not have known what name the record ever came out under!

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The “budget labels” of the 1920’s offered product at a much lower price than the usual 75 cents or more the full-priced labels charged. Some offered discs for 50 cents, others went as low as three-for-a-dollar. Of course, the quality of the pressing was sometimes lower, a lot lower, and sometimes there were other factors–for instance, Columbia’s “Harmony” budget-label continued using acoustic recording equipment long after electric recording became the industry standard. Most jazz fans know the “Broadway Bellhops” sides on which Bix Beiderbecke played, which were acoustic sessions on Harmony. Pathe, for instance, had a budget subsidiary called Perfect….Paramount had a chain-store subsidiary called Broadway, which was sold through Montgomery Wards and the Wards catalog. Cameo offered its product, and the product on its subsidiary labels, for 50 cents each.

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The Pathe & Cameo Jazzbands album should be of great interest to fans of 1920’s jazz. Compiler Hans Eckhoff scoured the hundreds of records on these labels for the small number that were 1) hot jazz or hot dance with a large jazz content and 2) by lesser-known artists not available elsewhere (for instance, things by Fletcher Henderson were not included). What you’ve got is a solid 27-track compilation of little-known 20’s jazz which includes well-known numbers such as Milenberg Joys, The Charleston, Sweet Georgia Brown, Sadie Green (The Vamp From New Orleans), Riverboat Shuffle, and San….as well as those uniquely 20’s novelty numbers such as She’s A Cornfed Indiana Gal. These are sides by musicians who knew their Bix Beiderbecke and Louis Armstrong and who probably anxiously awaited the latest Red Nichols and Miff Mole sides. The notes are superb, both about the history of the labels (and of the cut-price recording business in general) and of the artists, and the sound restoration is great without any of the annoying filters sometimes used which take the highs and lows off the music and make it sound like you are listening through a blanket or which bring in annoying digital “screeching.” Timeless usually does a first-rate job reissuing 20’s and 30’s jazz, and this fine collection of rarities is no exception.

mal

The Dime Store Hot Dance album will be of interest to a more specialized audience, but it too is an important collection of hot dance material from the 1920’s, and it is done with the usual amazing attention to quality one expects from the Canadian “Jazz Oracle” label. Unfortunately, the label seems to be on hiatus the last few years….its last release was a exhaustive 3-disc set of Sam Wooding’s complete recordings, including super-obscure European sides in multiple versions. The sides on this album were transferred by the Dean of 78 transfers, the late great John R. T. Davies. If you think about it, with a 78 rpm record travelling so much faster than a 45 or especially a 33, there is so much more sound-information within the grooves of a 78 for each second of music, and Mr. Davies believed that with finding the right stylus for each record, and taking the time to extract EVERY frequency out of those grooves without artificial computer programs, one could get a wide frequency range and a deep rich sound which was 100% natural.

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The tracks on Dime Store Hot Dance were at the time considered throwaway B-sides, quickly recorded to fill a disc which had a marketable A-side. And they had hot jazz solos, which is what makes them precious today. They may have been hidden under a bewildering array of pseudonyms on the record labels, but included great jazz players such as Tommy Gott (on so many fine Harry Reser records, where he also sang), Andy Sannella, Arthur Schutt, Don Murray, Larry Abbott, Tony Parenti, Manny Klein, Tommy Dorsey, and Jimmy Dorsey. Now, I should state that a number of these are corny novelty numbers, and many feature the stilted, nasal vocals found on many 20’s pop records (Irving Kaufman is one some of these songs, as well as people in a similar vein)–two records actually feature a male singing a lyric intended for a female vocalist. Remember, it was the song that sold back then, not the singer, so in a way, it mattered not a bit that a male was singing a song about wearing a wedding gown and waiting for his/her man. I suppose it also indicated the lack of interest the labels had in these B-sides. They were filler, throwaways aimed at a budget Dime Store market….a cut-rate product with a pre-sold audience because of the A-side. Thankfully, because a quick arrangement and improvised solos could be done in not much time and at not much expense, we have these precious swinging 20’s jazz-flavored Hot Dance records.

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Both albums are highly recommended and full of deep cuts from the some of the least-known records of the 1920’s.

betty

If you want to jump into the deep end of the Jazz Age pool, you can even do it with these spontaneous-sounding and fresh performances. You can ever read some lesser-known F. Scott Fitzgerald short story while listening and get the full immersion into the culture….have fun!

scott aft

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March 30, 2017

PERRY BRADFORD AND THE BLUES SINGERS in Chronological Order, 1923-1927 (Document DOCD-5353)

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 5:29 pm

PERRY BRADFORD AND THE BLUES SINGERS

in Chronological Order, 1923-1927 (Document Records, DOCD-5353)

all songs written & produced by Bradford, who plays piano and supervised the sessions

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1          –Perry Bradford’s Jazz Phools*      Fade Away Blues      

2          –Perry Bradford’s Jazz Phools*      Day Break Blues       

3          –Ethel Ridley Liza Johnson’s Got Better Bread   

4          –Ethel Ridley Here’s Your Opportunity Blues      

5          –Ethel Ridley Memphis, Tennessee           

6          –Ethel Ridley If Anybody Here Wants A Real Kind Of Woman  

7          –Julia Jones  Liza Johnson’s Got Better Bread Than Sally Lee 

8          –Julia Jones  That Thing Called Love      

9          –Julia Jones  Deceitful Blues        

10        –Julia Jones  Here’s Your Opportunity    

11        –Perry Bradford’s Jazz Phools*      Charlestown, South Carolina        

12        –Perry Bradford’s Jazz Phools*      Hoola Boola Dance 

13        –Perry Bradford’s Jazz Phools*      Lucy Long     

14        –Perry Bradford’s Jazz Phools*      I Ain’t Gonna Play No Second Fiddle       

15        –Louise Vant I’m Tired Of Everything But You   

16        –Louise Vant I Wouldn’t Be Where I Am If You Hadn’t Gone Away    

17        –Louise Vant Do Right Blues         

18        –Louise Vant Just A Little Bit Bad

19        –Louise Vant I’ve Learned To Do Without You Now      

20        –Louise Vant Want A Little Lovin’

21        –Louise Vant Pensacola Blues       

22        –Louise Vant New Crazy Blues      

23        –Perry Bradford’s Jazz Phools*      Original Black Bottom Dance        

24        –Perry Bradford’s Jazz Phools*      Kansas City Blues    

25        –Perry Bradford’s Jazz Phools*      All That I Had Is Gone        

26        –Perry Bradford’s Jazz Phools*      Lucy Long

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the record that started it all for recorded blues

Most blues fans know the story of how Document Records was stiffed by a major distributor who refused to pay for product already sold and then simply kept all the product that had been fronted by the label, causing Document to have severe cash flow problems and then to have some massive sales of their catalogue items to raise some funds. I took advantage of two of those sales buying 20 or more items each time, and it allowed me to sample some of the lesser-known gems in the Document library (I already have hundreds of Document LP’s and CD’s). One of those was this fascinating and enjoyable collection of sides written and produced by Perry Bradford, who also plays piano on all of them and, presumably, supervised the recording sessions.

If you love the blues, you should thank Mr. Bradford, because without his influence, the first blues record by an African-American artist—-MAMIE SMITH, in 1920—-would not have happened, and Mamie Smith’s success opened the door for the many other Black blues singers who followed in her footsteps. So many people think about males in terms of early blues–they may say, “well, Blind Lemon Jefferson first recorded in 1926, right? Was that the first one?” Others may know of Sylvester Weaver and other pioneers. However, there were literally HUNDREDS of recordings made and released by Black blues-singing WOMEN in the 1920-1923 period, before most of those men recorded. These blues-singing ladies were generally accompanied by pianists, though sometimes by a small band, and this style of music has come to be known as “Classic Blues”—-artists like Clara Smith, Lucille Hegamin, Alberta Hunter, Trixie Smith, Ethel Waters, Lena Wilson, and many others were among the first blues recording artists, and their records sold widely in that pre-1925 period. Unfortunately, few casual “blues fans” today would think of this genre when the word BLUES comes to mind. It’s not totally forgotten—-Jim Cullum would feature it on his long-running public radio jazz program (broadcast from here in San Antonio, I’m proud to say) with fine vocalists such as Topsy Chapman, and some vocalists with a sense of the tradition, such as Catherine Russell (daughter of the great pianist/composer/bandleader Luis Russell), display roots in the Classic Blues genre, though they perform a wide variety of jazz-based material.

Document Records has released comprehensive chronological CD series on all of the major figures in the genre, and for the minor figures, there are fourteen alphabetical compilation CD’s called FEMALE BLUES SINGERS, which cover ALL the bases, with ladies in any number of styles on records that can be great or not-so-great. This material is all out there for those who want it–you can sometimes find those compilations (or the single artist ones devoted to Mamie Smith, Alberta Hunter, etc.) for reasonable prices at used record stores, where they’ve sat on the shelf for a few years, and really, everyone who loves the blues should own at least ONE volume of that series, as well as a Mamie Smith album.

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Perry Bradford’s 1965 autobiography

Perry Bradford was a major player in the early-to-mid 20’s, riding the wave of popularity in the genre he himself helped to create with that 1920 Mamie Smith record. This 26-track compilation collects Bradford’s rollicking small-band instrumental records from 1923, 1925, and 1927, with his JAZZ PHOOLS, with sessions backing female vocalists on songs he wrote and on which he plays piano. The three vocalists featured are all excellent bluesy singers, handling a variety of novelty songs, double-entendre songs, and popular “blues” ditties that would be perfect for some vaudeville review and which I’d guess Perry Bradford’s publishing company has sheet music available for. With the instrumentals spread throughout the album, the CD is a great listen, and truly a hidden gem in the Document catalogue.

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MAMIE SMITH, the mother of recorded blues

Two other excellent 1920’s reissue labels have similar albums devoted to Perry Bradford, Frog Records in the UK and Timeless Records in Holland, both of which feature some of the material on the Document album mixed with other material not on the album. The serious fan would probably want to get all three, and you’d probably wind up with 40-42 different songs among the three.

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Bradford, whose roots go back to the Minstrel Show days (!!!!), was really a jack-of-all trades….he even sings a few songs here in a spirited, jivey style, and with his stage and live performance background, I’d bet he could also do a fine comedy routine and a soft-shoe dance if required. Performers back then had to do a little bit of everything to survive. We are fortunate that Mr. Bradford published an autobiography in 1965 called BORN WITH THE BLUES: PERRY BRADFORD’S OWN TRUE STORY. Like the late Eubie Blake, Bradford (who lived until 1970) undoubtedly had a wealth of memories of the details of a world of African-American entertainment that was long gone even by the 1930’s, and which is not that well-documented. I have not read the book (the cheapest used copies are $35, and it has not been made available on Google Books), but I look forward to doing so. To make a reference that anyone reading this will know, Bradford was the co-writer of “Keep A Knockin,” recorded widely from the late 20’s on, but best remembered today by Little Richard’s sizzling-hot verion from 1957.

Like many pianist/songwriters of the era who worked with female blues singers, Bradford used the singers to pretty much advertise his songs (people still bought songs, not performers, for the most part during this period), and like many of the early jazz musicians (The Original Indiana Five, for instance), he would take the same songs and record them again, sometimes with slight changes in the song title, for other labels before the first label had the chance to release it. He’d also try the same song with different singers, and you can hear both approaches on this album.

Like the pioneers of silent film, who were doing original things and blazing trails before any established rules and conventions existed, but who are rarely recognized today (the many female action stars of the 1910’s and early 1920’s seen in incredibly popular serials, such as Pearl White, Ruth Roland, Helen Holmes, etc., also rarely get their due today, even though someone like Pearl White pretty much create the category of  “action star”–another example of women pioneers not getting their due, alas), so many of the early creative spirits in the recording industry are pretty much forgotten today except to a handful of specialists….check out this excellent and entertaining album of Perry Bradford. The joy and enthusiasm of the performers and of the era come through clearly.

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March 27, 2017

GUNS OF THE BLACK WITCH (Italy-France, 1961), starring Don Megowan and Livio Lorenzon

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 6:33 pm

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GUNS OF THE BLACK WITCH, aka IL TERRORE DEI MARI

Italy-France 1961, released in the USA by American International in Dec. 1961

starring Don Megowan, Emma Danieli, Silvana Pampanini, and Livio Lorenzon

Directed by Domenico Paolella

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This morning on the drive to work, I was listening to a Document Records CD of 78’s recorded by blues pianist/vocalist/songwriter Roosevelt Sykes, recorded in the late 1940’s. As I listened to the 26-track CD, it became very clear that these songs were recorded with the jukebox market in mind. Sykes was a popular recording artist at that time, so he may well have released 4 or 5 singles a year, and those singles went on to jukeboxes for a month or two at a time. Many songs were about drinking, or about the decisions one makes after drinking, or about reasons to drink. Others were based on a catchy novelty phrase, which would have gone over well with an audience who’d already had a few. The original audience would hear these records TWO SONGS AT A TIME at a bar, and those two songs would have been on the bar jukebox for a month or two. That’s how the original audience would have enjoyed them…not on a 26-track CD, one after the other, in a car during a morning commute. Of course, it’s great to have them in this format, and as the music is excellent, it is providing joy to listeners long after Mr. Sykes has passed away. However, it is of value to consider the ORIGINAL CONTEXT of the appreciation and enjoyment of an artistic/entertainment product.

The film GUNS OF THE BLACK WITCH, made in Italy/France and featuring American film and television star DON MEGOWAN, did play the US widely when it was released by American International in late 1962 (and posters and lobby cards for that US release are not hard to find today), and was released in both color and widescreen. Surely, a copy of that color and scope print must exist somewhere, but no copy that I know of has begun circulation “in collectors circles,” as we say.

However, most Americans who eventually saw this film probably saw it on television, on a local station or a low-power UHF station, perhaps in the middle of the night….and if that showing was pre-1975, they probably saw it in BLACK AND WHITE. The circulating copy (at least in North America) of the film is a B&W TV pan-and-scan print, meaning the color widescreen image of the original film is in monochrome AND you are only seeing the middle 50% of the image. However, that’s how we saw many of these films back in the day, AND we saw them on relatively small TV screens. My parents may have had a 21″ screen when I was growing up, but when I finally had my own TV as a teenager, it was a 13″ portable, and I was lucky to have it.

We fans of European historical genre-films of the late 50’s and early 60’s have been spoiled in recent years by the beautiful color and widescreen versions that have dropped into grey-market circulation from European cable-TV broadcasts and European DVD releases….but the way I originally saw films such as this was in small screen pan-and-scan black and white. Thus, the copy of GUNS OF THE BLACK WITCH which I own–a DVD-R burn of the same B&W, P&S print I had a VHS dupe of 20 years ago–can be of value in reminding me of how I, and many other people, developed a taste for dubbed European historical films through TV viewings back in the 60’s and 70’s. Younger readers need to be reminded that in the pre-Cable TV world (even before the pre-Internet world), most people had the choice of 5 or 6 TV stations at most: 3 network stations, perhaps a PBS station, and then maybe a few independent and/or UHF stations. The latter were usually low-power and sometimes came in a bit “snowy.” Indie and UHF stations programmed a LOT of both older American B-moves and dubbed European films, and a lot of people watched them. I would guess that a higher percentage of Americans would have watched a European film (I’m not counting films from the UK) back then, when European genre films regularly played American theaters and especially American TV, in any 3-month period, compared with now, when there are 1000 cable channels to choose from. And it would NOT be the kind of people who would go to art-film theaters–it would be genre film fans, who’d be watching a crime film or a pirate film or a western.

Original Cinema Quad Poster - Movie Film Posters

(the UK double-bill where GUNS was paired with THE PHANTOM PLANET!)

 I reviewed this film originally in 2003 (14 years ago), and here is that review:

good 60’s Italian pirate swashbuckler

10 August 2003 

The beginning sequences, about how the abuse of the Spanish led the buccaneers to organize to defend themselves, give this early 60s Italian swashbuckler an interesting spin and help to get things moving and create motivation and sympathy for buccaneer leader Don Megowan (first seen played by a child, depicting the childhood incidents that led him to become what he did). Director Domenico Paolella helmed fine peplum, spy, western, and giallo films and this little-known film is another feather in his cap. Star Don Megowan, an American best known for roles in Westerns and science fiction films in the late 50s and early 60s (he seems to have made only two films in Europe–this one and another called valley of the doomed, with Hildegard Knef, which is quite distinctive and highly recommended), cuts a strong, tough figure and was an excellent choice for the role (it’s a shame he made no Italian westerns). Other faces such as Phillipe Hersent and Livio Lorenzon will be familiar to any fan of Italian early-60s genre films. This actually received an American theatrical release, and according to the AFI it was released in color and in widescreen. Unfortunately, the copy circulating among collectors is a panned and scanned b&w print no doubt made for TV. Also, the European release is listed as 13 minutes longer than the American release. I would imagine the film would be much better in color and in widescreen and I only hope that with the growing market for 1960s European genre films on DVD in their original format will cause someone to restore and release GUNS OF THE BLACK WITCH in its full glory. Until then, and I don’t expect that time will be soon, the film is worth watching for fans of the genre. The director’s next film was WOMEN OF DEVIL’S ISLAND, starring Guy Madison (and prior to GUNS, Paolella worked with Lex Barker–after Devil’s Island, he worked with Richard Harrison on Avenger of the Seven Seas). Color, scope 35mm prints of this must be out there somewhere from the film’s US release. Let’s hope someone finds one and transfers it.

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Watching the film again now in 2017, I’m just as impressed as I was in 2003 (and as I undoubtedly was when I saw it on TV on a low-power UHF station in the late 60’s or early 70’s)….and as I’m watching it in B&W in a butchered version, I can see how despite its alteration for American TV, it still manages to impress. Remember, many of the classics of 50s and 60’s rock and roll were first heard on tiny, tinny transistor radios by most people–yet their power came through IN SPITE of that. Leading man Don Megowan, who reminds me of Rod Cameron with a twist of Rock Hudson, makes a strong impression here as does villain Livio Lorenzon—-with or without color or widescreen. Much of the film takes place on ships or on the coast right near the ocean, something many low-budget pirate films cheat on (but not this one), and the castles and historical buildings look quite different from anything Americans are used to seeing here. The costumes look quite different from those seen in American swashbuckling films, and the balls at the Spanish Governor’s Palace also look quite different from what they’d look like had the film been American-made. Thus, it had quite an exotic appeal to that person watching it at 2 a.m. on TV in Kansas or Alabama or Idaho after eight hours of security-guarding or factory work, and it went perfectly with a tallboy of Miller or Pabst. The film also delivers the goods in terms of fights, sea battles, swordplay, and action of all kinds. There is that archetypal plot device of one brother selling out and betraying the other, And lest I forget, this is a film where the pirates (oh, they call themselves Buccaneers, you should know) are the heroes, and the Spaniards are the heavies (no wonder this was an Italian-French co-production, with no Spanish involvement)—-the background for this is spelled out in the film’s first ten minutes, where Spanish aggression and tyranny basically FORCE the locals in the Caribbean to take up arms against the Spaniards to make any kind of living. That is certainly an untypical approach.

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As someone who has seen MANY European swashbuckling adventures of the late 1950s and early 1960s, I would have to rate GUNS OF THE BLACK WITCH rather highly among them. Maybe someday in this lifetime I will have the opportunity to see the film in color and widescreen, but even without that, it satisfies, and seeing it in B&W and pan-and-scan reminds me of what about this genre appealed to me originally, when this mediocre format was how I saw ALL the films of this type…..as did millions of other genre-film loving Americans. most of whom may not even remember their enjoyment of such films as they now watch NETFLIX or the offerings on Amazon Prime. Me, I’m standing by Captain Jean, as played by DON MEGOWAN, and the crew of the Black Witch, rooting for him as he takes on Spanish villain Livio Lorenzon in the film’s climactic sword-fight…..and feeling vindicated as he triumphs and the credits roll. I wonder what’s up tomorrow night on Channel 27 at 2 a.m.? Could it possibly be as satisfying as GUNS OF THE BLACK WITCH? We’ll have to see….

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OTHER RECOMMENDED FILMS STARRING DON MEGOWAN:

DON 1

DON M 2

March 16, 2017

now available: FOSSILS and BILL SHUTE re-team for “FLORIDA NOCTURNE REVISITED” (KSE #362)

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 10:23 am

new interpretations of Bill Shute’s 2012 “Florida Nocturne Poems” with Canada’s free-improv/noise masters FOSSILS

BILL FOSSILS FLORIDA 2

FOSSILS & BILL SHUTE

FLORIDA NOCTURNE REVISITED (KSE #362, CDR album)

contains the pieces

SHADES OF NIGHT DESCENDING

MONDO DAYTONA

 PEACH COBBLER IN THE POKER ROOM

JUPITER IN THE REARVIEW MIRROR

—————————

FOSSILS ARE

Daniel Farr and David Payne

Texts and vocal, Bill Shute

Music recorded in Hamilton, ON

Poetry tracks recorded in Austin, TX by Marcus M. Rubio

issued March 2017

—————

Longtime readers will remember the four poetry chapbooks in the FLORIDA NOCTURNE POEMS sequence, composed during my Summer 2012 “writing vacation” in Central Florida. For a number of reasons, I will never forget that sojourn. First, it was very satisfying and covered a lot of territory–and much of my writing happened at dog-tracks. Second, I passed through Sanford, Florida, and it was soon after the tragic Trayvon Martin shooting there. Third, on the last day of that trip, in a Jacksonville (a city with more police presence than I’ve ever seen) motel across the street from a Bob Evans restaurant, I received a call telling me that my mother had passed away.

In 2014, FOSSILS and I created an album mixing their sound sculpture with my 2012 Florida poems, alternating music and poetry. That album was well-received and we were very happy with it. Now, we present a NEW interpretation of the Florida Nocturne Poems with FOSSILS sound sculpture woven into the poems themselves (or is it that the poem texts are woven into the FOSSILS sound fabric–probably both), not presented separately.

As I listen to these tracks, I feel that these poems perfectly capture what I was trying to do….and what I am still doing in my present works. The collage of image and incident is peppered with just the right amount of each element, and the shards are placed into suspension to create the perfect assemblage. If you are not familiar with my work, this would be a good place to start. The themes I dealt with in 2012, alas, are even more relevant today. And when you weave these readings into the rich and deeply-textured FOSSILS sound sculptures—-which are heavily percussive and also include found sounds and conversation—-you have a sensory experience rooted in the heat and humidity of Central Florida in the summer.

Whatever people may think of this product, I can assure you no one else is doing anything remotely like it. Fossils and I have tossed this message in a bottle on to the polluted ocean of 2016 society. Let it wash up on your shore, open the bottle, and give it a try….

CDR albums $8 postpaid in the USA

CDR albums $18 outside the USA (note: any 2 albums for $20 outside USA–after the first two, extra KSE albums are only $8 each postpaid overseas)

send payment via paypal to django5722 (at) yahoo (dot) com

(and leave a note with paypal telling us which albums you are ordering and also your mailing address….thanks!)

other CDR albums available (same price as above):

KSE 11th ANNIVERSARY ALBUM (KSE #370), CDR album featuring new and exclusive material recorded especially for this project from JEN HILL     –     MATTHEW REVERT & VANESSA ROSSETTO     –     BRIAN RURYK    –    JOHN BELL     –     MASSIMO MAGEE     –     MORE EAZE     –     FOSSILS     –  LISA CAMERON & ERNESTO DIAZ-INFANTE     –     STEVE FLATO

KSE #363 (CDR) ALFRED 23 HARTH’s BERLIN ENSEMBLES

KSE #355 (CDR), MORE EAZE, “wOrk”

KSE #357 (CDR), SMOKEY EMERY / VENISON WHIRLED, “turning into”

KSE #359 (CDR), TOM CREAN & MATT ROBIDOUX, “blank space”

KSE #353 (CDR), FOSSILS, “Camelot Towers”

KSE #336 (CDR), ALFRED 23 HARTH, “Kepler 452b Edition”

KSE #351 (CDR), MASSIMO MAGEE, “Music In 3 Spaces”

KSE #350 (CDR) ANTHONY GUERRA / BILL SHUTE, “Subtraction” KSE reissue of album originally released in 2011 on Black Petal Records, Australia 

KSE #335 (CDR album), REVEREND RAYMOND BRANCH, “Rainbow Gospel Hour…On The Air!”—a wonderful hour-long AM-radio broadcast, mastered from cassette, capturing the warmth and joy of Rev. Branch in both music (lots of it) and spoken message

KSE #334 (CDR album), BRIAN RURYK, “Actual Size…degress again” (sic)

KSE #333 (CDR album), ERNESTO DIAZ-INFANTE, “Tunnels” solo 12-string acoustic mantra guitar

KSE #331, “KSE 10th ANNIVERSARY ALBUM” featuring newly recorded, exclusive tracks from members of the KSE family: ALFRED 23 HARTH,  SARAH HENNIES, RAMBUTAN, VANESSA ROSSETTO, ERNESTO DIAZ-INFANTE, DEREK ROGERS, BRENT FARISS, MATT KREFTING, GRAHAM LAMBKIN, and MASSIMO MAGEE

KSE #328, LISA CAMERON & NATHAN BOWLES, “Liquid Sunshine” percussion duo

KSE #326, MORE EAZE (aka Marcus M. Rubio), “Abandoning Finitude”….cover art by Bob Bruno

KSE #318, ALFRED 23 HARTH & JOHN BELL, “Camellia”

KSE #310,  MORE EAZE (Marcus M. Rubio), “Accidental Prizes”

KSE #293, MORE EAZE (Marcus M. Rubio), “Stylistic Deautomatization” (reissued)

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POETRY CHAPBOOKS AVAILABLE PRESENTLY FROM KSE, all in hand-made editions under 50 copies:

KSE #368 (poetry chapbook), BILL SHUTE, “Find A Place To Die”

KSE #367 (poetry chapbook), BILL SHUTE, “Left-Handed Cherubs”

KSE #354 (poetry chapbook), BILL SHUTE, “Revelation In Slow Motion”

KSE #364 (poetry chapbook), LUIS CUAUHTEMOC BERRIOZABAL, “Make The Light Mine”

KSE #352 (poetry chapbook), BILL SHUTE, “Bridge on the Bayou”

chapbooks are $6 postpaid in the US, $7 postpaid elsewhere

As always, thank you for support of independent, non-aligned artists and arts organizations such as Kendra Steiner Editions….now in our 12th year of operation, from here in San Antonio, Texas

In a few weeks we’ll be starting up the new music releases for 2017, and there are A LOT of surprises coming and a strong release schedule of about a dozen albums for the year….the first being a stunning new creation from San Diego-based composer A.F. JONES….stay tuned for that….

March 15, 2017

La Gerusalemme liberata (a.k.a. The Mighty Crusaders), directed by Carlo Ludovico Bragaglia (Italy 1958)

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 8:45 am

La Gerusalemme liberata (a.k.a. The Mighty Crusaders)

directed by Carlo Ludovico Bragaglia

released in Italy/France/Germany in 1958, in the USA in 1961

starring Francisco Rabal, Sylva Koscina, Gianna Maria Canale, Rik Battaglia, and Philippe Hersent

inspired by Torquato Tasso’s epic poem La Gerusalemme Liberata/Jerusalem Delivered (1581)

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The print reviewed is a letterboxed English-dubbed version of the French release LA MURAILLE DE FEU (The Wall Of Fire–a title that makes sense when you see the entire film)

MIGHTY 1

Here’s a film I recently acquired  that I’ve never before seen offered in grey-market/collectors circles. With a superb cast and based on an Italian epic poem from the 1500’s (which I read a Canto or two of decades ago when studying Edmund Spenser), it’s set in the year 1099 as Christian forces attempt to take Jerusalem from Islamic forces. It’s very much in the old-school style of the Italian historical epic films of the late 1940’s and the 1950’s, prior to the release of the Steve Reeves “Hercules” film which changed the genre significantly. This was released as THE MIGHTY CRUSADERS (that title was revived in the 1960’s by Archie Comics during its short-lived venture into super-heroes, and the title was picked up by DC Comics briefly in the early 1990’s) in the US by a small company, Falcon, in 1961, and from the poster above, you can see that it was sold as a spectacle, riding on the coat-tails of the various 50’s Biblical epics and of the two Reeves Hercules films. Anyone who came to see the film based on that poster would probably be satisfied, as the hyperbole in the poster’s claims is based on a kernel of fact in each example.

When the film opens, the Christian forces (under leader Godfrey, played by Philippe Hersent) are working on a series of gigantic movable towers, which will be rolled on logs to the Moslem fortresses where they are to be used in battle, and then we are introduced to the usual court/military intrigue on both sides. While the back-and-forth machinations of the military strategy provide a good amount of drama, much of the film’s (and the poem’s) plot is given over to affairs of the heart–not one relationship, but two (or even three, depending on how one counts). Tancred (Francisco “Paco” Rabal) from the Christian side has fallen in love with  Clorinda (Sylva Koscina, this film was made earlier in the same year she co-starred with Steve Reeves in HERCULES, incidentally) from the Moslem side, who is being held as a prisoner to be used in a prisoner swap. At the same time, we have another romance crossing sides with Rinaldo (Rik Battaglia) being enticed by and falling for Armida, a higher-up in the Moslem leadership (note: both of these women are fighters and strategists of a sort, actually engaging in physical battles–not the usual “damsels in distress” one sees too often in this kind of product), who wants to defeat Rinaldo and the Christians but who also fights against her falling for him. We are never really sure how that will wind up. Add to that another young woman prisoner who is smitten with Tancred and is willing, at times, to sabotage her own side for it, and you’ve got enough romance and intrigue to keep this film interesting for its relatively short 90 minute running time (my print is 86, it’s listed on the IMDB as 91, and there are a few too-quick transitions here and there which suggest minor cuts to trim the running time).

I’ve never cared for American-made epics from the 1950’s and 1960’s (I’m leaving out the superb KING OF KINGS, which was essentially made in Spain and seems like a European film), which always seem phony and hokey to me. I’ll take the worst European historical epic of the period over most anything American. Yes, these European films are cliche-ridden, but the stilted and stylized proceedings usually include (as you get here) interesting production design and evocative real locations and surviving historical buildings (or if not, the clever fakes are closer to the real thing)….and the actors/actresses have roots in stylized European classical theatre in the way that Brits have a background in Shakespeare, so they seem to know how to play this material in a way that’s serious (and yes, a bit stilted) but not laughable. Also, this film is dubbed in English, and in that 1950’s style of dubbing with its rigid delivery which seems suited to a radio drama—-the disconnect between the formal and somewhat disembodied voices and the elegant classical acting style shown in the faces and bodies of the players seems to elevate the whole thing to the level of some kind of archetypal stage, which is beyond and above present-day film-making and sensibilities (it almost reminds me of the curiously old-fashioned feel of the 1920’s films of D.W. Griffith, which had an “elevated” and self-consciously literary feel, in the then-obsolescent Victorian meaning of “literary”). Anyone who grew up watching these dubbed European films in the 1950s-1970’s, when they were a part of American popular culture, understands the curious and unique feel of the hybrid form which is created by the marriage of dubbed-sound and stylized historical image. I’m probably not expressing this idea as clearly as I need to for readers who are unfamiliar with this category of film, but it’s an interesting phenomenon which was culturally significant for many years and has never really been adequately discussed by people who lived through it, and with this subject NOT being something considered even worthy of discussion nowadays (and PLEASE don’t bring a condescending, ironic, campy eye and ear to this), I’m not expecting much else to be written about it, which is why I’m taking a stab here.

MIGHTY 2

LA MURAILLE DE FEU/THE MIGHTY CRUSADERS/La Gerusalemme liberata is an interesting and entertaining cultural artifact, a product of a strand of late 50’s/early 60’s culture which is largely forgotten. It plays out on an exciting level and ends in a genuinely surprising (well, to those unfamiliar with the epic poem, it’s surprising) and tragic manner….but, of course, victoriously and reverently (hey, it’s got the word CRUSADE in the English language title, so how could you expect otherwise), with a vision of the Cross radiating in the background of the final scene. Of course, judge this film with 2017 blinders on, and it raises all kinds of questions (the one which came up in my mind was how audiences would have viewed an Islamic man falling for a Christian woman and wanting to bring her over to HIS side—-would THAT be allowed in the name of romance?), but that kind of analysis is like shooting fish in a barrel. By the standards of the day (the day being the early 50’s atmosphere this 1958 film is rooted in, AND the fact that even then it was looking back at a middle-ages epic poem and going for an elevated ‘classical’ feel), this was a solid piece of work. Had I been old enough to go to movies in 1962 and had I seen this at the Golden Theater in Golden, Colorado, on some weeknight (they’d probably have had a more commercial film playing on the weekends!–this would have been Tuesday night fodder) after a long workday at the Coors bottling plant or wherever, I would have been transported to some Classics Illustrated (European division)-style world of capital-R Romance and old-school defenders of the faith with massive and colorful sets and costumes and location shooting at places I’d never visit.

As I would walk out onto the main street of Golden at 10:45 pm at the show’s end, the same people as usual would be next door at the bar, drinking themselves into a stupor, the same teenagers would be making out in parked cars in poorly lit areas, trying to find a thrill and step outside and beyond the monotony…and temporarily succeeding, and the same unpaid bills and the same work schedule and the same broken-down car and the same grody apartment would be waiting for me….but for an hour and a half, I’d been living on a higher plane, taken out of my element, and touching the garments and smelling the battle-sweat of stylized antiquity….if only for a moment. That’s why these films existed, and that’s why they should be remembered.

MIGHTY 4

…..You can listen to or download a reading of the entire epic poem by Tasso (an influence on both Spenser and Milton), translated into English, here:                 https://librivox.org/jerusalem-delivered-by-torquato-tasso/

MIGHTY 3

Here’s a link to a review that is a bit sarcastic but actually is fairly accurate about the film– in the way that a detailed negative review of Bob Dylan is often more “accurate” than a fawning but vague positive one–it’s just that the negative one sees the glass as half empty instead of half full….although it’s quite accurate about how much liquid is in the glass!    https://gonzohistory.wordpress.com/2016/08/01/movie-monday-the-mighty-crusaders-1958/

March 13, 2017

KSE 11th Anniversary Album–available now!

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 4:38 pm

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KSE 11th ANNIVERSARY ALBUM (KSE #370), CDR album

featuring new and exclusive material recorded especially for this project from

JEN HILL     –     MATTHEW REVERT & VANESSA ROSSETTO     –     BRIAN RURYK

JOHN BELL     –     MASSIMO MAGEE     –     MORE EAZE     –     FOSSILS

LISA CAMERON & ERNESTO DIAZ-INFANTE     –     STEVE FLATO

$8 postpaid in the USA

$18 outside the USA (note: any 2 albums for $20 outside USA–after the first two, extra KSE albums are only $8 each postpaid overseas)

send payment via paypal to django5722 (at) yahoo (dot) com

(and leave a note with paypal telling us which albums you are ordering and also your mailing address….thanks!)

On 1 March 2017 Kendra Steiner Editions finished its 11th year in operation, having released 370 (!!!!) contemporary poetry chapbooks and experimental music CDR albums in that time, and we’ve got an exciting release schedule planned for 2017 as we enter our 12th year, including albums by a number of artists NEW to the KSE family as well as new creations by members of our ongoing crew.

In celebration of the 11th Anniversary, we sounded the call last year for new material from a number of like-minded friends from four continents (!!!!) in the international experimental music community (with four of them being present or former Texans). They delivered a stunning and diverse collection of tracks, and we put a lot of thought into programming the album for maximum effect—-nearly an hour of top-shelf material available nowhere else. Each of the artists has (or will have soon) a stack of copies to sell locally and at shows, and if one of the artists is local in your area, please buy the album from him/her at a show and put some cash in their pockets. If not, then please order direct from KSE here in South Texas…. Here’s the line-up of artists and tracks:

 Jen Hill – Piece for Cello

Matthew Revert and Vanessa Rossetto –Emergency Contact

 Brian Ruryk – Stolen Bike

John Bell – Orange Agency

Massimo Magee – Wrangle (Solo Tenor Saxophone)

Lisa Cameron & Ernesto Diaz-Infante – Signs and Signals

More Eaze – Harmony: pitch study no. 4

Fossils – Barbarous Librarians

Steve Flato – Resembling Density

We also still have some copies of some of our 2016 releases available–feel free to add some on to your order for the compilation (foreign pricing is discussed at the top of this post–in the USA, each is $8 postpaid):

KSE #362 (CDR), FOSSILS & BILL SHUTE, “Florida Nocturne Revisited”

KSE #363 (CDR) ALFRED 23 HARTH’s BERLIN ENSEMBLES

KSE #355 (CDR), MORE EAZE, “wOrk”

KSE #357 (CDR), SMOKEY EMERY / VENISON WHIRLED, “turning into”

KSE #359 (CDR), TOM CREAN & MATT ROBIDOUX, “blank space”

KSE #353 (CDR), FOSSILS, “Camelot Towers”

KSE #336 (CDR), ALFRED 23 HARTH, “Kepler 452b Edition”

KSE #351 (CDR), MASSIMO MAGEE, “Music In 3 Spaces”

KSE #350 (CDR) ANTHONY GUERRA / BILL SHUTE, “Subtraction” KSE reissue of album originally released in 2011 on Black Petal Records, Australia 

KSE #335 (CDR album), REVEREND RAYMOND BRANCH, “Rainbow Gospel Hour…On The Air!”—a wonderful hour-long AM-radio broadcast, mastered from cassette, capturing the warmth and joy of Rev. Branch in both music (lots of it) and spoken message

KSE #334 (CDR album), BRIAN RURYK, “Actual Size…degress again” (sic)

KSE #333 (CDR album), ERNESTO DIAZ-INFANTE, “Tunnels” solo 12-string acoustic mantra guitar

KSE #331, “KSE 10th ANNIVERSARY ALBUM” featuring newly recorded, exclusive tracks from members of the KSE family: ALFRED 23 HARTH,  SARAH HENNIES, RAMBUTAN, VANESSA ROSSETTO, ERNESTO DIAZ-INFANTE, DEREK ROGERS, BRENT FARISS, MATT KREFTING, GRAHAM LAMBKIN, and MASSIMO MAGEE

KSE #328, LISA CAMERON & NATHAN BOWLES, “Liquid Sunshine” percussion duo

KSE #326, MORE EAZE (aka Marcus M. Rubio), “Abandoning Finitude”….cover art by Bob Bruno

 

KSE #318, ALFRED 23 HARTH & JOHN BELL, “Camellia”

KSE #310,  MORE EAZE (Marcus M. Rubio), “Accidental Prizes”

KSE #293, MORE EAZE (Marcus M. Rubio), “Stylistic Deautomatization” (reissued)

Thank you all for your support of our music and poetry releases over the last 11 years. We’ll be starting the new solo releases for 2017 in April, kicking off things with a stunning work from San Diego’s A.F. JONES….stay tuned!

kse-11-new

 

March 12, 2017

Art Acord in “Fighters Of The Saddle” (1929)

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 9:46 pm

FIGHTERS OF THE SADDLE (1929–silent), starring Art Acord

scenario by Horace B. Carpenter (who starred in Dwain Esper’s 1934 MANIAC )

directed by Robert J. Horner (infamous for his z-grade sound films, but not bad here)

art

Art Acord (though not from the film under review)

Art Acord is someone who was a well-known star in his heyday (in the world of westerns), but few of his films survive, and those that do are not really typical of what made him famous. Hailing from my former hometown of Stillwater, Oklahoma, Acord died at the age of 40 in Mexico in 1931—-however, his name still surfaces here and there as a man of historical significance, and I just saw it today in an article about Oklahoma history, so I thought I’d re-post my review of his final surviving film, FIGHTERS OF THE SADDLE, which I originally published online in 2003.

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One of the few available Art Acord films, a late-silent that’s probably not typical of Acord’s work

Imagine if the only available film by Boris Karloff was THE TERROR? Or if the only available Bob Steele western was AMBUSH TRAIL? We probably wouldn’t consider these men to be the greats in their respective genres that they are. While it’s rumored that more than a dozen Art Acord films are owned by collectors, the same three from his waning days on the screen are the only ones in active circulation today, easily available to someone who would want to buy them. FIGHTERS OF THE SADDLE, from 1929, is one of those. Directed by Robert J. Horner (never a good sign, but this is actually a competently made cheap-jack silent western, so perhaps the photographer made the important decisions or maybe Horner, like Oscar Micheaux, is not as bad a silent director as he is a sound director?) as silent films were on their deathbed, FIGHTERS OF THE SADDLE stars Art Acord as the son of a ruthless land developer who is running small tenants off their land so he can sell the land to corporations building roads. Art is sent by his dad to force the Wayne family off their land, and when he sees how unjust this is, he sides with the family and takes a stand against his dad. The 1929 Art Acord actually reminded me of Lon Chaney Jr. somewhat (in the late 30s, for example), and he looked a bit puffy. He plays the “sensitive but tough” part well, but if his name was John Doe and this was the only film I ever saw with him, I don’t know if I’d actively seek out others. Yet when I asked my father, a boy who loved westerns in the 1920’s and saw them every weekend, about his favorite western stars from the 20’s, he went into long descriptions of Ken Maynard, Tom Mix, and Art Acord. I assume he was talking about the Acord films made at Universal in the early 20’s. Let’s hope some of those have survived and find their way into circulation. As for the rest of this film, Tom Bay is quite impressive as the evil cousin of Art, who is trying to drive a wedge between Art and his dad so Tom can fill the position that Art does in the family. John Lowell is appropriately sleazy as “Bulldog” Weatherby, Art’s dad, but the Bulldog’s behavior in the film’s finale is completely unrealistic (that kind of thing never happens in real life!), and what’s going on when this old man tries to kiss the Wayne lady on the lips before Art embraces her in the final scene? Is that supposed to be funny? I found it sickening!! And the attempt at “cuteness” with the young Wayne children singing songs that are transcribed for us in title cards proves that silent films should not attempt to convey music elements. Overall, this is an interesting curio–OK as a z-grade late-silent western, and a rare view of Art Acord, but probably not typical of what made Art Acord a star. I have a few questions about elements in the film that seem elliptically presented, making me wonder if this is due to sloppy writing, budgetary unwillingness to film scenes that are more easily talked about, or poor continuity, but I don’t think this film necessarily lends itself to such scrutiny. By the way, the FIGHTERS OF THE SADDLE that the title refers to are actually the hired thugs of Bulldog, not some heroic group led by Art Acord!

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FIGHTERS OF THE SADDLE is easy to find on budget DVD for those so inclined. Let’s hope more of Acord’s features are found, so I can see for myself what my father enjoyed so much about the man’s 1920’s Universal films, the films that truly capture what made him famous.

art 2

March 11, 2017

When Gangland Strikes (Republic Pictures, 1956)

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 10:03 pm

WHEN GANGLAND STRIKES

released by Republic Pictures in March 1956

directed by R.G. Springsteen (usually fine, but even he can’t turn a bad script into gold)

released on VHS by Republic Pictures Home Video in the 1990’s

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In one of my recent comic book reviews over at BTC, I compared the waning days of Republic Pictures with the waning days of Charlton Comics, so perhaps I should discuss a film from those waning days. I’ve seen some excellent crime dramas released by Republic in the 1955-56 period, and the studio made many fine crime dramas from the 30’s through the 50’s, but very few have ever been legitimately issued….usually only the serials and the westerns and the films starring John Wayne get put out on any video format….so it’s baffling why one of the few that DID get a VHS release from Republic is this disappointing film, and what’s maddening about its release is that the box suggests it’s some kind of late film noir. The video box and the movie posters (seen here) look exciting, but don’t believe it. Here is an online review of the film which I published originally in 2004. The film has not improved any with age:

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poorly-written, unsatisfying late-Republic programmer

Republic Pictures was in its waning days in 1956 when this strange, unsatisfying crime drama was made by a crew who had made many excellent later serials for Republic. A poor script with clashing moods, unrealistic dialogue, lines written solely to match later plot points that sound odd when spoken in dramatic situations, a “hero” who is not very sympathetic for most of the movie, continuity errors that are surprising for the slick professionals at Republic pictures (characters called by different names, rough edits that don’t match what just happened, etc.), characters whose reactions to important events are not like anything you’ve ever seen in real life–there are many, many flaws in this film. It could almost be used in a screenwriting class for a “how NOT to write a screenplay” unit. The class could stop the tape every minute or two and point out the flaws. The film LOOKS good as Republic product usually does. The acting is convincing, although even the best actors can’t do much with a poor script. On a positive note,the first five and last five minutes of the film are genuinely exciting. The film starts off like a hard-boiled crime film and ends like an over-the-top courtroom drama, but the middle 75% is a slow-moving, “Andy Hardy”-style smalltown drama. Except for Slim Pickens’ comic relief and Anthony Caruso as the gangster referred to in the title, the pace is slow.Raymond Greenleaf as a smalltown prosecutor begins as an affable, gentle character out of a Capra film, but his chronic inactivity will make him an unsympathetic character to most viewers. He throws an important case with seemingly no remorse, blackmailed about something that for many viewers would not be a major issue. I felt that the character was too lazy to do anything to resolve the situation about which he was blackmailed. I could go on and on about the flaws and inconsistencies in this film. My wife and I spent about an hour discussing a laundry list of problems after the film–more time than we spent discussing  David Mamet’s OLEANNA, which we’d seen the week before. Finally, the copy on the back cover of this video is completely deceptive. I can’t believe the person who wrote the notes even watched the enclosed film. It is NOT a noir film in any way. It is NOT an exciting film, except for brief scenes at the beginning and end. As a devoted fan of Republic Pictures product, I found the film an interesting failure, but I can’t recommend it to anyone who is not a serious Republic Pictures collector. There are some fine products from the 1955 and 1956 years at Republic, but this is not one of them, and I wonder why Republic chose to issue this on VHS when 9/10 of their crime dramas from the 50s would be far more worthy of release. Watch a favorite film a second time rather than spend any time watching WHEN GANGLAND STRIKES, a title more interesting than the film.

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After forgetting this film for 10+ years, I recently saw the old VHS of this for a dollar at Half-Price Books–spend that dollar on a pack of gum instead. As I stated above, Republic made a lot of excellent crime programmers over a long period. Let’s hope that Olive Films, in their exciting reissue program of Republic’s deep catalog items, will start releasing some of the lesser-known ones and give the films a second life. Republic Pictures was an important studio that provided solid low-budget genre films for 20+ years–they did not just make serials and westerns and John Wayne films, as wonderful as all those are. Let’s forget that they made this.

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