Saturday, September 07, 2013

Tonight's Movie: Battle of Rogue River (1954)

Today I caught another George Montgomery Western, BATTLE OF ROGUE RIVER (1954).

BATTLE OF ROGUE RIVER was a Columbia film made by the same team behind last weekend's MASTERSON OF KANSAS (1954), including director William Castle, producer Sam Katzman, screenwriter Douglas Heyes, and cinematographer Harry Freulich.

Montgomery plays Major Frank Archer, sent to an Oregon outpost to restore order at the fort and conduct peace negotiations with the Indians. Archer must pull his ragtag troops into shape, contend with an unexpected betrayal by a civilian scout (Richard Denning), and romance a sergeant's feisty daughter (Martha Hyer), all while dealing with ongoing conflict with the local Indians.

I felt Montgomery's performance in BATTLE OF ROGUE RIVER was more relaxed and authoritative than in MASTERSON OF KANSAS, but the film still has many of MASTERSON'S negatives, including an overuse of stock footage, hokey narration, and "Indian speak" which is at times pretty awkward. The sequence where Denning turns bad guy seems out of left field, resulting in a fair amount of viewer confusion.

The main reason to watch this one is to enjoy Montgomery and Hyer sparring, and it must be said Montgomery looks great in his uniform.

I'm glad I saw it for Montgomery and Hyer, but this is a pretty lightweight effort. Up to this point, I've found Montgomery's Westerns with other producer-director teams to have stronger plots, more character development, and better production values; those films include GUN BELT (1953), THE LONE GUN (1954), and ROBBERS' ROOST (1955).

BATTLE OF ROGUE RIVER runs 71 minutes. It was shot on Southern California locations including the Iverson Ranch. The supporting cast includes Emory Parnell, John Crawford, Michael Granger, William Bryant, Frank Sully, and Kathleen Freeman.

As with the print I saw of MASTERSON OF KANSAS, the Columbia Classics DVD I saw via ClassicFlix, copyrighted in 2010, was disappointing. The disc was fullscreen, which matches IMDb's stated aspect ratio of 1:37, but the picture seemed somewhat "scrunched" or oddly compressed in some scenes -- though not as much as MASTERSON OF KANSAS. (Those who read my post on MASTERSON OF KANSAS will know I discovered Sony/Columbia has released MASTERSON OF KANSAS in two different versions; several readers saw the film on a nice letterboxed DVD.) Moreover, the print simply isn't that good, splotchy and lacking sharpness. This DVD is a definite "rent" rather than "purchase."

BATTLE OF ROGUE RIVER has been shown in the past on the Encore Westerns Channel, so it may turn up there again in the future.


Blogger barrylane said...

These Sam Katzman projects have always been marked by under-production and creative disinterest. When I was a kid and we were aware of him, curiosity trumped, based on title and cast, but the result always, always, negative.

9:17 AM  

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