Monday, April 21, 2014

Tonight's Movie: The Big Gusher (1951)

Tonight I continued to work my way through the long filmography of "B" movie director Lew Landers, watching THE BIG GUSHER (1951) which was recommended to me last year by readers John Knight and Blake Lucas.

THE BIG GUSHER reunited Landers with Preston Foster, who starred in Landers' very appealing DOUBLE DANGER (1938) a dozen or so years before. Foster teams with Wayne Morris playing Hank and Kenny, partners who get a bonus for bringing in an oil well; they plan to use the bonus money to go into business drilling for themselves.

They're not counting on Hank losing his head over some drinks and a pretty girl (Dorothy Patrick) who earns some needed money on the side manipulating Hank to buy a probably worthless oil lease from Jim Tolman (Emmett Vogan). It looks like Hank and Kenny's money is down the drain, until an old oil man (Paul E. Burns) convinces the partners there's oil on the property...

The plot device of having seemingly responsible Hank get drunk and lose money not once but twice is tiresome, especially as I like Foster and was disappointed in his character. I also wasn't expecting Betsy (Patrick) to be quite so calculating!

That said, this is, as Blake said, "fast and breezy," clocking in at just 68 minutes, and I had a good time watching it. As usual, Landers squeezes the most entertainment value possible out of the script he was handed to work with, and it's a nice way to spend an hour or so.

Foster and Morris have a good relationship, managing to stay on solid footing with each other despite financial and romantic problems, and since I'm a Foster fan I enjoyed that Betsy went for him rather than the younger Morris, who might have been the more conventional matchup. There are even a couple cute jokes about the age issue, and all in all I thought Hank and Betsy's sparring romance was well-handled and a nice change from the usual.

In addition to particularly being a Foster fan, I also like Dorothy Patrick, who starred in films such as BOYS' RANCH (1946) and FOLLOW ME QUIETLY (1949), to name just a couple.  I'm always glad to have her turn up in a good-sized role, as she does in this film. And how cool is it that Blake knew her when he was a kid?

Stock footage of oil drilling is smoothly mixed in with shots of the actors, and while the film must have had a shoestring budget it's nicely put together and edited. There's even a couple minutes for Cappy (Burns) to give Betsy, and by extension the audience, a brief lesson on oil drilling.

THE BIG GUSHER was written by Daniel Ullman, who also wrote a couple of Westerns I've really liked in the past year, WICHITA (1955) and CANYON RIVER (1956). He also wrote the Wayne Morris Western THE FIGHTING LAWMAN (1953), which unfortunately was a disappointment.

THE BIG GUSHER is out on a nice-looking DVD in the Sony Choice line. It can be rented from ClassicFlix.

Films directed by Lew Landers which have previously been reviewed at this site: NIGHT WAITRESS (1936), WITHOUT ORDERS (1936), FLIGHT FROM GLORY (1937), THEY WANTED TO MARRY (1937), THE MAN WHO FOUND HIMSELF (1937), DANGER PATROL (1937), BORDER CAFE (1937), DOUBLE DANGER (1938), CRASHING HOLLYWOOD (1938), CONDEMNED WOMEN (1938), SKY GIANT (1938), SMASHING THE RACKETS (1938), TWELVE CROWDED HOURS (1939), PACIFIC LINER (1939), CONSPIRACY (1939), STAND BY ALL NETWORKS (1942), ALIAS BOSTON BLACKIE (1942), AFTER MIDNIGHT WITH BOSTON BLACKIE (1943), THUNDER MOUNTAIN (1947), DAVY CROCKETT, INDIAN SCOUT (1950), and MAN IN THE DARK (1952).

16 Comments:

Blogger barrylane said...

I like the cast, as you do, but this is truly a misguided, underwritten and under budgeted project. I have the dvd which is fine -- but this mediocrity is something to stay away from and re-evaluate the 're-evaluation' of the technically proficient but soulless Lew Landers.

7:54 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I think it would be a real shame if others were to follow your advice to avoid this film or, by implication, Lew Landers. (Soulless?) I get that you personally don't like his work, as you have previously stated, but many of Landers' films have brought me great pleasure over the last year or so -- so we will need to agree to disagree on Landers and leave it at that. :)

I'm happy to say that I know other folks who have checked out some Landers films after reading about them here and liked them a great deal. I'm very happy I've been able to spread the word here on movies like FLIGHT FROM GLORY, DOUBLE DANGER, NIGHT WAITRESS, CRASHING HOLLYWOOD, and all the rest.

THE BIG GUSHER is certainly not an "A" list classic but, as described here, I found much about it to enjoy despite its inherent "B" level limitations.

Best wishes,
Laura

9:00 AM  
Blogger barrylane said...

Laura,
Yes, to all you have written but the better Landers projects go to stronger scripts and a disproportionate measure of achievement can be attributed to the fine cast of studio actors. My principal objection to the Landers fashion is to give him auteur credit when what he is doing is 'just a job of work."
As for The Big Gusher, can't help feeling someone went saw Boom Town and without understanding, rip it off. Not a bad idea, just not well don enough.

9:10 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I don't get how exploring the work of a filmmaker one enjoys is a "fashion." I like Landers' stuff, I watch it, simple as that. :)

I've never stated he's an auteur, but at the same time you seem to want to give him as little credit as possible? When I see Landers' name on a film I find that more often than not I'm going to enjoy it, which I think says something about his professionalism and talent -- along with that of his colleagues in front of and behind the camera.

Funny thing, I've seen BOOM TOWN (1940) countless times over the years because -- as with THE BIG GUSHER -- I like the cast. Yet in my eyes that film has its flaws too -- overlong and too much domestic melodrama. There's something to be said by comparison for a film like THE BIG GUSHER which breezes through its characters' problems without drowning its audience in tears (grin).

Best wishes,
Laura

9:18 AM  
Blogger barrylane said...

No disagreement from me about Boom Town -- though it is a better film than The Big Gusher. And, of course you are not making the auteur argument but it has been made and continues to b. In any case, we are all watching a lot of films and having fun with them and our own responses.

9:51 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

"And, of course you are not making the auteur argument but it has been made and continues to b."

Then maybe that's a discussion to have at another site? (grin)

"In any case, we are all watching a lot of films and having fun with them and our own responses."

Agreed!

Best wishes,
Laura

10:10 AM  
Blogger Blake Lucas said...

Well, I am a card-carrying auteurist and proud to say so. It doesn't mean everyone needs to be. So for example, I appreciate Laura's writing here even though it isn't her main perspective, though as I read her, it's one I believe she does take into account.

barrylane, I've seen your complaints about auteurism enough to say I'm tired of them. It's not something you really understand, in my opinion. I don't know any auteurist who thinks a director makes a movie all by himself or herself without the creative contributions of others. It is the way the director pulls together those contributions that makes this way of coming to understand movies the most fruitful way for many of us out here.

Like Laura, I am sick of your negative comments about Lew Landers. She's seen lot of his films and mostly liked them--it's not an accident at his level of filmmaking when someone makes so many diverse films play so well and look so good. One doesn't need to look for recurrent themes or obsessive style to find Landers imaginative in the moment to moment realization and projecting a sensibility that is his own and lifts so many of these films.

Frankly, I find THE BIG GUSHER far superior to BOOM TOWN. Many B films are superior to A films and that's a reality. I would say THE BIG GUSHER may seem less somewhat less than Howard Hawks movies, which it resembles more profoundly, just as FLIGHT TO GLORY (the Landers movie which Laura and I probably most agree on) anticipates ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS. In both cases, I don't think Landers needs to be Hawks to make an impressive movie and one I will greatly enjoy.

As Laura noted, I knew Dorothy Patrick so I look for her, and I thought this was her best role ever, and her character's relationships with the two male friends very well done and behaviorally real. And if that's the case, you can't say Landers just stood around and let the film make itself.

I rarely address negative comments. I'm making an exception with this. Do you know, barrylane, that unlike just about anyone else who posts here, that most of what you post is willfully negative and sometimes even quite mean-spirited? This is Laura's blog and she devotes a lot of time and energy to it, and though one can disagree with her about a film--as we all do sometimes--there must be a more courteous and thoughtful way of doing it than you find,

Very frankly, this is the same kind of thing you did on the late, lamented davekehr.com--which was very much an auteurist discussion group. Don't you ever want to make a positive contribution to a discussion and treat others with the respect that you want yourself? And since I mentioned Dave, I'll point out that his last "Further Research" piece in Film Comments was on Landers, who he too admires and feels is worth sustained attention.

Laura can speak for herself, I know, and she has before and today as well. But your comments here have really been so redundant. And as a regular reader of this blog and someone lucky enough to count myself as a friend of Laura, too, it's just gotten so tiresome to read these comments of yours. And personally, as someone who has spent most of my life as an auteurist and one who has worked toward an understanding of mise en scene that underlies all my professional writing, I've felt insulted by some of your pronouncements.

You can think about it or not. I don't mean to write something like this again, And apologies, Laura, because you know this is not the kind of thing I want to write here.

1:15 PM  
Blogger barrylane said...

Laura,

I have been waiting for this and will, of course, continue reading, with appreciation, but will not post any longer. Thanks for all the consideration.

2:13 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Blake, many thanks for sharing your thoughts on Lew Landers and your spirited defense of auteurism -- I was very interested in and liked your description ending "It is the way the director pulls together those contributions." Your comments on Dorothy Patrick's performance ("behaviorally real") were also of great interest to me, and if you'd like to elaborate more on this film I'd love it. I have a feeling this is a movie I'll enjoy even more the second time, because I'll be expecting a couple of the initial plot turns and just settle back to enjoy the characters' relationships.

I also greatly appreciate your kind words for my blog, as I'm sure you must know.

Barrylane, you have been a longtime reader/commenter, which I also appreciate. I would simply echo Blake that positivity, or at least respectfully and kindly phrased disagreement, is always appreciated. Kind of like you don't want to drop into a party in someone's living room just to spread doom and gloom (grin).

I really appreciate the enthusiastic recommendations and information shared by my readers, and my goal is always for this to be an upbeat place where we can all share our mutual love for movies.

Best wishes,
Laura

3:53 PM  
Blogger KC said...

That title cracked me up.

6:56 PM  
Blogger john knight said...

I don't want to pour oil on troubled waters but I must say that
I have enjoyed reading some of Barry Lane's posts and will
certainly miss him if,indeed, this is his last hurrah!
Regarding Mr Landers; as a B Movie lover this guy HAS to be on my radar,lets leave it at that.
The Landers that I REALLY want to see is the submarine drama
TORPEDO ALLEY (1953) just for the cast alone: Mark Stevens,
Dorothy Malone,Bill Williams,Douglas Kennedy,James Millican,
William Henry,Charles Bronson. Darn good writer;Warren Douglas,
who also appears in the film as well.
Sadly this is one of those Allied-Artists films NOT owned by
Warner Archive.
I would love to see the other Wayne Morris-Preston Foster teaming made around about the same time THE TOUGHER THEY COME
(1950) Interesting supporting cast too-Mary Castle,Gloria Henry
and William Bishop. I Do hope this does not incur the wrath of
Blake but this film was directed by Ray Nazarro who as a B Film
maker infused his films with a bit more zip than Landers.
THE BIG GUSHER is a lot of fun and dear Laura you might also
want to check out the similar URANIUM BOOM (1956) with Dennis
Morgan and William Talman slugging it out this time.
At any rate the Sony MOD is a lovely widescreen transfer.
I find something very appealing about these wildcatting/logging
action films-whatever you wish to call them.
Last night,funnily enough I watched THE BLAZING FOREST (1952) directed
by the very underrated Edward Ludwig. Fine supporting cast too-William
Demarest,Susan Morrow,Agnes Moorhead,Richard Arlen.
This big budget Pine-Thomas production was lots of fun with excellent
production values and special effects.John Payne was aces as the hard
as nails logging boss pushing his crew to the limit. I must say,
watching the film William Demarest.who in his sixties seemed to be
involved in some very dangerous stunt work without an obvious double.
Blake,if you are out there,and I hope that you are,I would love to get your
opinion of another B stalwart Sidney Salkow. (and Mr Lane's too should
he feel so inclined) Some of Salkow's films are pretty slack I must admit
but there are other films of his that I find really appealing. One of
his films that I really like is CHICAGO CONFIDENTIAL (1957) a top drawer
crime B film with great direction and very appealing performances from
Brian Keith,Beverly Garland and Dick Foran.For anyone interested the MGM
MOD is a lovely widescreen transfer and well recommended!

4:48 AM  
Blogger Jerry E said...

I should like to lighten things a little and also return to Laura's liking for Preston Foster generally.
I like him too quite well but it would be Wayne Morris who would get me watching.
I first noticed Mr.Morris when he was featured for an article in Maurice Speed's Western Film Annual 1954 with a great publicity still. After completing a run of B-westerns (the last of their kind) in 1954, Morris crossed the Atlantic and between 1954 and 57 made no less than 5 films here plus a short-lived TV series "Adventures Of The Big Man" in 1956 in which he played the exciting role of a dept. store tec! None of the films were masterpieces but the type of double-bill fare that I actually I thoroughly enjoy.

Morris had started out pre-WW2 with great promise at WB but when he returned from the war (a war hero) his career was in programmers. I always rather liked his distinctive voice and likeable personality and that would be another reason for me to watch "THE BIG GUSHER".
Thanks, Laura!

9:14 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

KC, it is kind of a funny title!

John, many thanks, as always, for your thoughts on related films. I've got URANIUM BOOM in my ClassicFlix queue! I'd love to track down THE TOUGHER THEY COME. (BTW should be in touch soon regarding our recent discussion on films like CAPTAIN CHINA. Have just needed a little time to catch up on things after the festival, LOL.)

Jerry, thanks for sharing your thoughts as well! Morris has been someone I can kind of take or leave, but I couldn't help liking him more after learning of his distinguished service in WWII. It's very interesting to me that he shot some movies in Britain in the '50s. It sounds like I'd probably enjoy them as well.

Best wishes,
Laura

12:05 AM  
Blogger john knight said...

Gosh! this thread is so old now as there has been a whole
bunch of stuff that has now become more current but I
really find this discussion most interesting so I hope
someone is still reading!
Certainly Wayne Morris seems to have lots of fans still,
over here in England!
His career certainly sank in the Fifties,the British Bs
were pretty cheap affairs and he even ended up playing
second fiddle to Bomba The Jungle Boy! (LORD OF THE JUNGLE
1955)Morris started off the decade pretty well with the
very entertaining STAGE TO TUCSON a handsome looking
Harry Joe Brown production teaming him up with Rod Cameron.
The other high point was PORT OF HELL (1955) where Morris
was excellent as a tough Polish/American tugboat skipper
at odds with Dane Clark's hard as nails port warden.
PORT OF HELL suggested Morris could have developed into an
excellent character actor.I have never seen PATHS OF GLORY
and I understand Morris is outstanding in this picture.
I think Morris's old stablemate Dick Foran fared slightly
better and apart from extensive Fifties TV work settled
for second leads or character parts.At any rate Foran
developed into a fine character actor in interesting films
like PLEASE MURDER ME,CHICAGO CONFIDENTIAL,THE FEARMAKERS,
STUDS LONIGAN and VIOLENT ROAD.
I enjoyed your review of VIOLENT ROAD a while back Laura,and
I am really looking forward to the forthcoming Warner
Archive release.
I sure wish that Warners owned the rights to PORT OF HELL,
but sadly they don't.
Anyone who might read my ramblings will know that I have three
main "issues" regarding what gets released. Firstly the total
lack of Republic A Westerns available starring Rod Cameron,
William Elliott and Forrest Tucker.
Secondly the total lack of the hugely entertaining Fifties
Pine-Thomas Paramount films available. (Only the very fine
RUN FOR COVER and THE FAR HORIZONS and THE LAWLESS are
available.) What about things like THE BLAZING FOREST,CAPTAIN
CHINA,CARIBBEAN,HELL'S ISLAND,THE VANQUISHED and CROSSWINDS;
all starring John Payne BTW.
Lastly there are all those Allied Artists films not owned by
Warners,the list is endless but there is some great stuff there
like JACK SLADE,FINGER MAN,DRAGOON WELLS MASSACRE,AT GUNPOINT,
THE HIGHWAYMAN,LAST OF THE BADMEN,TORPEDO ALLEY and countless
others. Sadly the case rests with Paramount/Republic and
Olive Films.While it is great to see so many minor films
being released on Blu-Ray by Olive surely it's time they considered an MOD alternative to get some of this great obscure
stuff "out there"
Paramount/Republic also own the rights,I believe to two of
the best of Wayne Morris's British Bs THE GREEN BUDDAH (the best
of the bunch) and CROSS CHANNEL.Oddly enough Olive do say that
they will release the diverting TRACK THE MAN DOWN an above
average Brit B Film starring Kent Taylor.
Despite my rant(s) I do find it amazing that a film like
that will make it to Blu-Ray!
Finally Laura,I'm so glad you have got URANIUM BOOM on your
"to be viewed" pile and I am sure that you will enjoy it.


7:27 AM  
Blogger john knight said...

Just as an add-on to the above;I should have mentioned that
Dick Foran was Wayne Morris's old WARNERS stablemate;if that
makes sense.
Oddly enough Republic had a short lived venture into
British B Crime Thrillers in the Fifties that produced
4 films all directed by Republic veteran R.G.Springsteen.
The aforementioned GREEN BUDDAH and CROSS CHANNEL starred
Wayne Morris and TRACK THE MAN DOWN and SECRET VENTURE
starred Kent Taylor. Never seen the last mentioned film and
don't know of anyone who has seen it,but I would sure like
to. I find something very appealing about these British B
pictures with American leads.

8:26 AM  
Blogger john knight said...

Just before Jerry Entract corrects me I should have stated
the THE GREEN BUDDAH was in fact directed by John Lemont
not R.G.Springsteen.

9:12 AM  

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