Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Tonight's Movie: Branded (1950)

BRANDED is a somewhat sluggish yet ultimately rewarding Alan Ladd Western filmed in beautiful Technicolor.

Ladd plays Choya, a gunfighter type who's convinced by a no good crook named Leffingwell (Robert Keith) to pose as the long-lost kidnapped son of a wealthy ranching family, the Laverys (Charles Bickford and Selena Royle).

Choya goes along with it, going so far as to have a birthmark tatooed on his shoulder, yet once he meets the Laverys he's overcome by their kindness. And he's very uncomfortable being "brother" to pretty Ruth (Mona Freeman), for whom he feels more than brotherly affection.

Spoiler alert: The entirety of the plot is laid out fairly early in the film, but stop reading here if you don't want to know the rest of the story!

Choya can't go through with the charade and decides he will find the Laverys' true missing son (Peter Hansen), who turns out to have been adopted by a Mexican bandit, Rubriz (Joseph Calleia).  Rubriz thought the little boy had been abandoned and has raised him with love. Getting the son away from Rubriz is a tall order, especially as the young man also loves his "father."

The movie is slow out of the starting gate and later has a very long-drawn-out action sequence, but the actual interactions of Choya with both families are very interesting, when the movie's pared down to those scenes.

It's curious that the movie's pacing is so odd, as IMDb lists the time as 104 minutes; the DVD I watched was 94 minutes, which is an alternate running time listed. The movie needed better editing, which makes me wonder what other print might be out there.

That said, the performances are solid all around, starting with Alan Ladd, who is believable as both the up-to-no-good loner early in the film and as the tormented man who can't stand to take advantage of his new "family's" kindness. By giving up his dreams of wealth and leaving, he ultimately finds his way back to the very same family and will ostensibly become their son-in-law.

The other actors in the film are always good, and this film is no exception. Joseph Calleia is particularly strong as the bandit who loves his adopted son deeply, and Tom Tully, playing the Lavery ranch foreman, is a welcome name in any cast.

Having watched GENERAL HOSPITAL through most of the '80s, it was fun to see Peter Hansen, who played somewhat stuffy attorney Lee Baldwin on that soap, as the wild young son of the bandit, complete with a Mexican accent.  Who knew?!

The movie was directed by Rudolph Mate, a former cinematographer, and filmed by Charles Lang. The movie was shot on location in Arizona as well as Kanab, Utah. The screenplay was based on a Max Brand novel, MONTANA RIDES.

The DVD is a beautiful print although I noticed that a couple things in the opening credits were in bright white, which didn't match the font style and color of the rest of the credits; the white words seemed to have been superimposed over the original sequence. Along with the running time, that made me curious.

The DVD is no longer available for rental from Netflix, which doesn't seem to bother replacing older films when the DVDs wear out, but it can be rented from ClassicFlix.

The film can also be bought via Amazon download, and it had a VHS release.

May 2014 Update: This film was recently reissued on DVD by the Warner Archive.

8 Comments:

Blogger James Corry said...

Hi Laura! This is somewhat off-topic, but would you please let us all know when Barnes & Noble has their bi-annual sale of Criterion titles? It seems as if it's "about that time" and you are generally knowledgeable about when this happens.......

Best,

Brad

5:30 AM  
Blogger barrylane said...

Way too much mother love...otherwise your review on the money. Calleia, and Hansen standout. I thought Mona Freeman attractive but the result is dull because of the soap opera approach.

7:07 AM  
Blogger Kevin Deany said...

I wish more Alan Ladd titles were available. I'd watch him in anything.

8:17 AM  
Blogger john knight said...

Lovely review Laura,and I too really enjoyed your piece
on CANYON PASSAGE.BRANDED is one of my all time favorite
Alan Ladd films and I thought that he and Mona Freeman
make a most impressive team.
It would seem that Warners are trying to resolve the
Jaguar rights,people keep asking about them on their
Facebook page;me included.
Another Alan Ladd Western that I really want to see
released,made about the same time as BRANDED is
RED MOUNTAIN.What a fantastic cast:Lizabeth Scott,
Arthur Kennedy,John Ireland,Neville Brand,Jeff Corey;
great action packed big budget Western.

6:18 AM  
Blogger Blake Lucas said...

I too like Branded, though haven't seen it in a long time--I saw it once on VHS (can't remember what running time that had) and if I had known it was on DVD would have sought it out before this. So now I know and even if Netflix doesn't have the DVD anymore I'm guessing that Eddie Brandt's will.

I probably liked this best of Ladd's Westerns, apart from Shane, which is handily his best. I might like Saskatchwan as well.

I am meaning to post a comment to Laura's excellent Canyon Passage review but it's a little more elaborate and don't have time today, maybe not until the weekend. But I hope those who read the review or care about the film will stay tuned.

But I am mainly writing this to let those in or near Los Angeles know that LACMA will be showing a 35 print of Canyon Passage next Tuesday, 6/4 at 1 PM on their matinee series. I have confirmed it's definitely a real print and not digital projection, though don't know if it's a new or old print and how it will be. But I intend to go. It doesn't show in 35 often--can't remember the last time--and I know its fans will want to see it theatrically if they can.

3:37 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Brad!

I'll definitely try to post about the B&N sale -- the last two years it's been in early July. I have a wish list for the sale myself!

Glad to hear from more Alan Ladd and Mona Freeman fans! I've really come to appreciate Ladd as I've had the chance to see his movies, and Freeman was a gifted young actress. I get a kick out of her in her younger films such as JUNIOR MISS (1945) and DEAR RUTH (1947).

John, I hope more Jaguar films will be available soon! You've got me intrigued about RED MOUNTAIN.

Blake, thanks for your thoughts on this film and SASKATCHEWAN -- I ordered the TCM/Universal '50s set in the TCM Memorial Day sale and I'm especially looking forward to seeing that, DAWN AT SOCORRO, and PILLARS OF THE SKY, all of which are new to me.

*Thank you* for the information on the CANYON PASSAGE screening at LACMA, I wish it were a time of day where I could go and am hoping you see a great print!

Best wishes,
Laura

11:07 PM  
OpenID livius1 said...

Laura, I think I got more out of this one than you. I don't know now much if anything was cut from the picture as it stands now but I don't feel that there's anything important missing.

For me, the pacing and structure worked fine, and I liked the way the opening just pitched us into the middle of the story and let it develop naturally from there.

I completely bought into the development of Ladd's character and felt the film's main themes were explored fully from his perspective.

Generally, I was very happy with the film.

Colin

1:30 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Colin,

Thanks much for taking the time to leave your thoughts! I enjoyed your recent post on this film. Based on how much you and others have enjoyed it I feel I should take another look at some point and see if it clicks with me more strongly on the second go-round. :)

Best wishes,
Laura

9:43 AM  

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