Friday, August 25, 2006

Tonight's Movie: Blood on the Moon (1948)

BLOOD ON THE MOON is a briskly paced Western directed by the versatile Robert Wise. Robert Mitchum plays a "loose rider" who seemingly wanders into the middle of a range war pitting Robert Preston against Barbara Bel Geddes and family. Which side will Mitchum and his fast gun support?

Some writers refer to this movie as a "Western film noir." It has great moody black and white atmosphere, beginning with the opening scene of Mitchum preparing to bunk down for the night after riding through a rainstorm. A shadowy barroom brawl between Mitchum and Preston is classic. The movie was partially shot in Sedona, Arizona, and includes striking shots of mountains against cloud-filled skies.

Robert Mitchum is, well, Robert Mitchum, terrific as the laconic, initially morally ambiguous gunman. Barbara Bel Geddes is an atypical Western heroine who is very handy with a rifle herself. This was one of Bel Geddes's first films; she also appeared that year as Katrin in the wonderful I REMEMBER MAMA.

Walter Brennan is superb in a supporting role and has the best line in the movie: "I always wanted to shoot one of you, and he was the handiest."

The film echoes some of the themes of one of my favorite Westerns, ANGEL AND THE BADMAN (1947): the gunslinger helped along the road to redemption by the love of a good woman; the older man with a rifle who could prove to be either friend or enemy to the hero. They're quite different movies, but it's interesting to mull over some of the story elements the two films have in common.

This 88-minute film is a small gem which deserves wider viewing and recognition.

BLOOD ON THE MOON is available on VHS.

This movie is also part of the Turner Classic Movies library. TCM has a nice writeup on the movie here, and the trailer is available here.

Update: This film is available in Europe on a Region 2 DVD. Still awaiting a U.S. release!

Update: I had a wonderful opportunity to see this film on a big screen at UCLA in July 2011.

March 2020 Update: Great news, a U.S. release at last! BLOOD ON THE MOON will be released on Blu-ray by the Warner Archive in April 2020.

May 2020 Update: My review of the gorgeous Warner Archive Blu-ray may be found here.

June 2020 Update: The Warner Archive has now also released this film on DVD-R.


Blogger jau said...

I love your movie reviews! They are always about interesting, entertaining movies. (And in this case you may be amused to know that Barbara Bel Geddes is my mother's sister. She died last year, unfortunately.)

10:36 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

That's an amazing coincidence, Anne!

Many years ago I bought some used books online from Barbara's daughter. I just happened to find out about the relationship when she mentioned it in passing on a lit mailing list to which we both subscribed. I never would have thought I'd "meet" another member of the family, that is *too* amazing a coincidence. Sometimes the blogosophere is a very small world. :) :) Thanks for sharing that!

My sincere condolences on the loss of your aunt. She was a lovely and talented woman who brought so many of us hours of entertainment. (I had a poster of the cast of DALLAS up in my college dorm room, LOL, so she used to smile at me while I studied.) Have you seen this particular film? It was a real treat. Such fun to discover movies for the first time -- even having been a film fan since childhood, there are always new things "out there" to discover.

I'm so glad you enjoy my movie reviews! I thoroughly enjoy writing them (and the watching involved, too!). Wish I had time to watch (and write about) even more.

Best wishes, Laura

10:49 PM  
Blogger Mrs. Happy Housewife said...

Since you mentioned "I Remember Mama," I just have to say that we love that movie. Have it on DVD because we love it so much and watch it frequently. Having been weaned on "Dallas," I find this talk of Barbara Bel Geddes fascinating. I did not know she had passed, though. My sympathies to her family. She seemed to be a very nice woman.

4:52 AM  
Blogger jau said...

How nice to have such nice thoughts wafting through the internet. Thanks!

Laura, was it Hannah that you bought the books from? Because I was part of that sale, too, amazingly enough, so we really are overlapping all over the place. There were some of Barbara's father's designs too - he was quite a character and a terrific designer, if you don't know him yet. He designed the Futurama exhibit at the 1939 World's Fair, among other things.

Yes, I like Blood on the Moon but, even though it's a bit cliched, I think my favorite of Aunt Barbara's movies has to be Vertigo. She looks so cute and it's such an over-done film. The scenery is to die for, too!

Well, must get back to work. More on all this later on! Take care. -Anne

2:17 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Fun to find your note(s)! I purchased the books from Betsy of Book Rescue. (I think they were a couple of Childhood of Famous Americans books but I'm not sure; it was probably in the late '90s.) In fact I believe my father purchased a couple books from her as well. My memories are a bit vague, but I think the family connection came up on the lit discussion list because of a mention of MAMA'S BANK ACCOUNT, the book which inspired I REMEMBER MAMA.

I've got to confess, I've not seen VERTIGO! But I have a lovely DVD copy here which was a duplicate my father had after he bought a Hitchcock set. My 17-year-old watched the film once some time back and was very scared (grin). With your encouragement, I'll have to make it a point to catch this one myself sooner rather than later!

I've got a video here of I REMEMBER MAMA -- my younger children haven't seen it yet and I've been suggesting that they give it a try soon. What a great movie -- besides Bel Gedde's charming performance as Katrin, Irene Dunne could really do it all, couldn't she?

Would love to hear more about the World's Fair connection, too. The designer would be your grandfather? Sounds fascinating. I was just recently thinking I should "read up" more on World's Fairs -- Alton Brown talked on his new show about the foods created for the 1904 St. L. fair, and some of Disneyland's rides originated at the NY Fair in the '60s.

Isn't it wonderful that there are so many neat things out there to "explore," and that we can enjoy them with others who share the same interests? The Internet is a wonderful place. :)

Best wishes, Laura

2:46 PM  
Blogger Vienna said...

A favorite western of mine. And a nice role for Phyllis Thaxter as Barbara Bel Geddes's sister.
And I always like seeing Charles McGraw.

1:09 AM  

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