Monday, May 18, 2020

Tonight's Movie: Blood on the Moon (1948) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

The Warner Archive has a couple of Blu-ray releases this spring which I'm especially happy about, and one of them is BLOOD ON THE MOON (1948).

This "noirish" Western starring Robert Mitchum is a longtime favorite of mine; I first saw it back in 2006, then saw it in 35mm at UCLA in 2011.

Although I was very fortunate to see it on a big screen, I've long wanted to own this film, but it's never been released in the U.S. Curiously, it's been available in Europe for some time on a Region 2 DVD.

The new Warner Archive Blu-ray release was certainly worth the long wait, as it's a truly gorgeous print. As someone who loves the movie, it was quite exciting to be finally be able to watch it at home with such a beautiful picture, all the more so as past TV airings tended to be extremely dark. There's no difficulty making out who is who in the many night scenes on this Blu-ray.

The film was made by a team of pros headed by the versatile director Robert Wise and filmed by the great Nicholas Musuraca, who also shot Mitchum's noir classic OUT OF THE PAST (1947); the score was by another OUT OF THE PAST veteran, Roy Webb.

The screenplay of this 88-minute film was by Lillie Hayward, adapted by Hayward and Harold Shumate from a story by Luke Short, whose work was the basis for another Western favorite released the same year, STATION WEST (1948).

Mitchum heads a top-flight cast in BLOOD ON THE MOON, including Barbara Bel Geddes, Robert Preston, Walter Brennan, Tom Tully, Charles McGraw, Tom Keene (billed as Richard Powers), Phyllis Thaxter, Frank Faylen, and Tom Tyler.

Mitchum's character, Jim Garry, is a "loose rider" -- a sort of Western free agent -- who wanders into the middle of a range war. Initially hired to work by an old acquaintance (Preston) for big bucks, Garry gets wise to his friend's slimy, crooked plans and switches sides, coming to the aid of Amy Lufton (Bel Geddes) and her father (Tully), along with a farmer (Brennan) who's lost a son to the fighting.

It's a fairly simple story, but the film amply illustrates what a quality production team is able to do with such a tale, bringing high energy and creativity to the project. I especially appreciate the outstanding cinematography; Musuraca's beautiful exteriors near Sedona are balanced with terrific shadowy interiors, including a superbly staged fight scene.

It's of note that while some like to call this a "noir Western," thanks to the hero who's initially morally ambiguous and the darkly lit, moody atmosphere, I think the film is an even better illustration of another popular Western theme of 1947-'48, the troubled man helped along the road to redemption by a good woman.

Other top examples of this redemption theme are ANGEL AND THE BADMAN (1947), YELLOW SKY (1948), FOUR FACES WEST (1948), and I might even include Mitchum's own rather complex PURSUED (1947) as having that theme, though it's less straightforward.

I really appreciate Bel Geddes' character in this; she's both feminine and feisty, a determined lady who's handy with a rifle and not shy about speaking her mind. The evolution of her relationship with Mitchum develops quite naturally, with Walter Brennan helping them admit their feelings verbally in the midst of a prolonged shootout; it's such a great little moment that I actually rewound it and watched it a second time before moving on.

The Warner Archive Blu-ray has outstanding video and sound quality. The lone extra on the disc is the trailer.

For me this film is pure pleasure, and it's a highly recommended purchase for fans of Westerns and Robert Mitchum.

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

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop.


Blogger Caftan Woman said...

Blood on the Moon has me heart and soul. And it does that heart and soul good to read your thoughts on the movie and this release.

5:11 AM  
Blogger john k said...

Super review really nailed this one but then don't you always.
Totally agree regarding the super quality of the Warner Archive Blu Ray-their recent restorations of classic RKO films has been outstanding-I understand they have recently announced THEY WON'T BELIEVE ME really looking forward to that one. Watching the film I suddenly thought that it's a shame that Robert Preston never made more Westerns for me he was a natural for the genre.

6:27 AM  
Blogger Jerry Entract said...

Totally share your enthusiasm for this very fine western, Laura. It occurs to me that some of my favourite western films are adaptations of Luke Short stories.
I have that Region 2 DVD you mention and it is very good. The Blu will have to go some to better it IMO.

2:47 PM  
Blogger Vienna said...

Great review, Laura. Love this western and look forward to the blu-ray. Robert Wise could do any genre.

9:58 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Caftan Woman, I agree, I really love this film and I'm so glad you enjoyed reading my coments.

Thank you, JohnK! You're very kind. Glad you have also been able to watch the Warner Archive Blu-ray. Seems like I heard a rumor about THEY WON'T BELIEVE ME but I haven't seen it confirmed -- I know they've been hoping to restore the missing footage just as they did with the new RACHEL AND THE STRANGER (which I'll be reviewing here in the very near future). I would be thrilled if they put out THEY WON'T BELIEVE ME in a complete print.

I remember Preston from UNION PACIFIC (1939) and THE SUNDOWNERS (1950) -- I agree, I would have enjoyed him in more films of that type.

Jerry, like you've I've noticed that Luke Short is a name which comes up fairly often regarding movies I enjoy. Good to know that the Region 2 DVD is a good-looking release!

Thank you, Vienna!! I so agree about Robert Wise. He never quite gets the recognition he deserves, perhaps ironically because he did a little bit of everything. I'm delighted this film has so many fans! I hope the endorsements of everyone here in the comments will encourage more people to check out the movie.

Best wishes,

5:19 PM  
Blogger john k said...

Hi Laura,
Yes,THEY WON'T BELIEVE ME was announced on Blu but they have now withdrawn the announcement,lets hope the complete version is released at some point.
Robert Preston was wonderful in JUNIOR BONNER the scene where he and Steve McQueen are sitting together at the old station is magical. JUNIOR BONNER also had fine roles for Ida Lupino and Mary Murphy the Kino Lorber Blu Ray is lovely.

5:45 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi again John!

Thank you so much for that update on THEY WON'T BELIEVE ME. We'll hope for good news on that front soon!

I have a copy of JUNIOR BONNER but haven't watched it yet. I sure like the cast.

Best wishes,

6:17 PM  

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