Tuesday, March 16, 2010

1955 - WICHITA, trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear part 1

The director Jacques Tourneur was a master filmmaker for a while in the 1940's.  He made a series of classic film noir and horror films where he demonstrated his ability to create mood and very interesting visual effects with editing and lighting.  By the 1950's Tourneur was no longer getting the good scripts.

Wichita was the definition of a 1950's B movie western.  The star Joel McCrea was pretty much past his prime, the script was a bunch of western cliches and the producer was the legendary cheapskate Walter Mirisch.  Mirsch was good at making something out of next to nothing budget films and he gradually worked his way up to A class productions working with directors like Billy Wilder and John Sturges. Walter Mirsch even won an Academy Award for In The Heat Of The Night.

As cheap as the budget was for Wichita, Walter Mirsch gave Jacques Tourneur the money to shoot the film in Cinemascope.  Tourneur was able to get some pretty interesting visual effects in some scenes.  He particularly seemed to understand the way to compose for the horizontal nature of the frame.

The problem with Wichita is it's basic mediocrity as a western and a film.  Joel McCrea is barely going through the motions playing Wyatt Earp and there is a certain seen it all before quality to this film that even Tourneur couldn't bring to life with all of his visual skill. 

Jacques Tourneur eventually ended up working in TV, where he directed episodes of Bonanza and The Twilight Zone.

The producer Walter Mirsch ended his career with Midway.  Mirsch took footage from old World War II newsreels, Tora Tora Tora, The Battle of Britain and some old Toho war films to produce a very poor film about the Battle of Midway.

 81 minutes

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