Sunday, May 11, 2014

Tonight's Movie: Lorna Doone (1951)

I first met LORNA DOONE in the late '70s, falling in love in turn with a 1976 BBC production as well as the original novel by R.D. Blackmore. It's a swashbuckling, star-crossed 17th century British romance which brings pleasure no matter how many times one has seen or read the story.

I've long wanted to see the early '50s Columbia release starring Richard Greene and Barbara Hale, and I was finally able to do so thanks to the help of my friend Mel.

John Ridd (Greene) is a farmer who chances to meet Lorna Doone (Hale), the "princess" of the powerful outlawed Doone clan. In a series of secret meetings John and Lorna fall in love, while at the same time John is leading his neighbors in an attempt to rid their valley of the cruelly plundering Doones.

The Doones are led by evil Carver Doone (William Bishop), who is determined to have Lorna for his own...and if he can't have her, he'll make sure that no one can.

If this version of LORNA DOONE is somewhat missing the lush and moody romanticism I associate with the original story, it's nonetheless a colorful and sturdily entertaining take on the classic tale which I enjoyed a great deal.

Likewise, Barbara Hale may be too mature and self-possessed for my conception of the ethereal, sheltered Lorna, but she's quite lovely and beautifully gowned. Richard Greene, seen by me last week in the adventure film THE DESERT HAWK (1950), makes a fine John Ridd. The climactic fight to the death between John and Carver is notably brutal for its day.

Ron Randell plays John's good-natured highwayman cousin, Tom Faggus. The cast also includes Sean McClory, John Dehner, Carl Benton Reid, Onslow Stevens, Queenie Leonard, Lester Matthews, Ray Teal, Anne Howard, Sherry Jackson, Katherine Warren, Tudor Owen, and Myron Healey.

The movie was filmed in lovely Technicolor by Charles Van Enger. The matte paintings of Doone Castle are very well done.

LORNA DOONE was directed by Phil Karlson, a name more commonly associated with film noir titles such as KANSAS CITY CONFIDENTIAL (1952), 99 RIVER STREET (1953), and THE BROTHERS RICO (1957). Other Karlson films reviewed here are THE TEXAS RANGERS (1951) and a Kay Francis crime melodrama, WIFE WANTED (1946), both seen earlier this year.

LORNA DOONE has been filmed many other times, including 1922, 1934, and 2000 versions, all of which I have in my collection. The 1976 version is only out on Region 2 DVD and isn't eligible for Amazon UK to ship to the U.S., but I hope to see it again one day!

The 1951 LORNA DOONE has had a Region 2 DVD release in Spain. I hope that at some point it will be released in Sony/Columbia's MOD line so that more classic film fans will have the chance to see it.


Blogger john k said...

Hi Laura,

Been off-line for a couple of days and have returned to find
so much going on here.
LORNA DOONE is one of my "most wanted" titles as I am a huge
Phil Karlson fan. I also highly recommend his other
swashbuckler THE BRIGAND,the Sony MOD is jaw-dropping!
Poor much maligned Anthony Dexter,I thought was very good
in that film.
I DO have a problem with Richard Greene though;he's one of those
actors that I always wish someone else played his role in any
film which he appears.
Regarding previous posts does the screen cap for GAMBLER FROM
NATCHEZ mean the Fox MOD is in widescreen? I have the Spanish
DVD which is 4x3.
I totally agree with every word you said regarding KING OF
THE WILD STALLIONS. It's a shame the best of Montgomery's four
Allied Artists Westerns LAST OF THE BADMEN is the only one not
owned by Warner Archive.

5:20 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi John,

Welcome back!

I hope you can see LORNA DOONE soon! I really enjoyed it; it reminded me a bit of Disney's early '50s UK period adventure films, THE SWORD AND THE ROSE and ROB ROY: THE HIGHLAND ROGUE. Funny thing, Greene reminded me a little of Richard Todd who is in the Disney films. I think I like Todd better but Greene works fine for me. Interesting he doesn't work so well for you --

I hadn't heard of THE BRIGAND and have made note of the title!

GAMBLER FROM NATCHEZ was in fullscreen from Fox Cinema Archives but I thought it looked fine. IMDb says it was originally 1:66. I wasn't aware of any annoying panning and scanning, and it was a nice sharp and colorful print.

LAST OF THE BADMEN is one I haven't acquired yet! Was very interested you shared my opinion of KING OF THE WILD STALLIONS. It's one of those I really wished had been better as it had a lot going for it, but it just didn't "click." I've found more viewing pleasure in lower-budget Montgomery films such as BADMAN'S COUNTRY.

Best wishes,

9:26 PM  
Blogger john k said...

Thanks for your reply Laura.
I must say that I prefer Richard Todd to Richard Greene
any day!
One of my "most wanted" films starring Todd is THE HELLIONS
a Western set in South Africa and a "take" on HIGH NOON.
Anyway Lionel Jefferies,James Booth and Marty Wilde
are clearly having the time of their lives playing
the (very) bad guys.
The film was shot in super Technirama and is great fun and
is a much sought after film by many people.

3:54 AM  

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