Sunday, August 24, 2014

Tonight's Movie: Drum Beat (1954) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

DRUM BEAT (1954) is a nicely made Alan Ladd Western recently released on DVD by the Warner Archive.

I've been interested in watching this film since seeing a wonderful comic book cover with Alan Ladd and costar Charles Bronson over at Toby's place. That scene did not disappoint, with Ladd's nervy peace pow-wow with Bronson being a high point of the film.

DRUM BEAT, made by Alan Ladd's Jaguar Productions, was inspired by a true incident, the Modoc War of 1872-73 along the Southern Oregon border. Ladd plays Johnny MacKay, an Indian fighter named a peace commissioner by President Grant. Johnny attempts to make peace with the notorious Indian chief Captain Jack (Bronson) with the help of the son (Anthony Caruso) and daughter (Marisa Pavan) of the former Modoc chief.

Captain Jack's tribe goes on to massacre a number of settlers and later a delegation attempting to hold peace talks. Johnny then has a new mission: Bring in Captain Jack.

This film was written and directed by Delmer Daves (THE LAST WAGON), beautifully filmed in CinemaScope by J. Peverell Marley. The movie makes fantastic use of locations in the area of Sedona and Flagstaff, Arizona. The final confrontation with Captain Jack in a river is marvelous. I'd also note this is about as good-looking a Warnercolor film as I've seen.

I wouldn't call DRUM BEAT a favorite Western, particularly as much of it is downbeat, but it's a solid and well-made film. Alan Ladd is onscreen most of the movie, and since I'm a fan that was enough to keep me interested for the film's 111 minutes. Ladd and the superbly filmed locations are reason enough to check this one out.

As a footnote, Marisa Pavan is now 82. She is the widow of actor Jean-Pierre Aumont. Her twin sister was actress Pier Angeli, who died in 1971. The year after DRUM BEAT was released, Pavan had an Oscar-nominated role in THE ROSE TATTOO (1955).

Irish-born Audrey Dalton, who turned 80 earlier this year, plays Johnny's love interest. I was struck by how many actors in the supporting cast I've seen in movies very recently: Elisha Cook Jr., Richard Gaines, and Frank Ferguson were all in the last film I watched, TRIAL (1955), and I've also very recently seen films with Anthony Caruso, Willis Bouchey, Carol Nugent, Peter Hansen, and Hayden Rorke. The cast also includes Robert Keith, Warner Anderson, Rodolfo Acosta, Strother Martin, and Isabel Jewell. James Griffith has a one-scene role as the film begins.

I previously reviewed another recent Alan Ladd release from the Warner Archive, THE BIG LAND (1957).

The widescreen Warner Archive DVD of DRUM BEAT is beautiful. This is definitely the way to see this movie, short of a big screen opportunity. Kudos to the Archive for such a fine-looking release.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered at the Warner Archive website.


Blogger john k said...

263180A wonderful review Laura and thank you so much for the background info
on the female leads.
I was delighted to see Warner Archive release this film,especially as all
I had previously was a very poor Australian release in the wrong ratio with poor color.
Warner Archive have told us they are going to,at some point release
HELL ON FRISCO BAY a gangster film in CinemaScope and color co-starring
Edward G Robinson and Joanne Dru. I understand there are issues with the
color at the moment.
It's interesting that this film was diredted by Frank Tuttle who gave
Ladd his breakthrough in THIS GUN FOR HIRE.
Frank Tuttle was unemployable throught the fifties because the HUAC crew
were on his case. This did not deter Ladd as he not only employed Tuttle
to direct HELL ON FRISCO BAY but also two non-Ladd Jaguar films:A CRY
IN THE NIGHT and ISLAND OF LOST WOMEN. Both films sound like they have
interesting elements.
I hope that those two films appear from the Archive now that the rights
issues over the Jaguar titles has been sorted out.
My missing link in my Ladd Western collection is the excellent RED MOUNTAIN
which is a Paramount picture and sadly Paramount have zero interest in
vintage films.Now there is some sort of relationship between Warners and
Psramount perhaps the archive will see fit to release this fine Western
at some poiint. The film is certainly not lacking in star power;besides Ladd
we have Arthur Kennedy,Lizabeth Scott,John Ireland and Neville Brand.
It's a big budget affair,crammed with action in glorious Technicolor too!
I have an off air version in very faded color or another in great color
from some Texas TV channel with horrid logos popping up all over the place!
You just cannot win sometimes!

1:23 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi John,

Thanks so much for your kind words and all the interesting info. I'm most interested to see HELL ON FRISCO BAY. I saw A CRY IN THE NIGHT and enjoyed it although for the great cast, though I thought the movie could have been better. Not familiar with ISLAND OF LOST WOMEN or RED MOUNTAIN at all! Fantastic cast.

It's so frustrating how some movies, especially the elusive Paramounts, continue to be so difficult to see. At some point, decades on, we really should have reasonable access to these movies which are not just commercial properties but part of our American cultural heritage. I wish that Universal would embrace a more robust MOD program and start turning loose their library. Classic film fans are willing to pay for them, but they have to be available in the first place. However, I know I'm "preaching to the choir" here!

Best wishes,

2:26 PM  

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