New on Disc: 'Ramrod'3 Dec, 2012 By: Mike Clark
Olive, Western, $24.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Joel McCrea, Veronica Lake, Don DeFore, Preston Foster.
1947. It has been noted that mild-mannered Joel McCrea didn’t cater to co-star Veronica Lake’s sometimes holier-than-thou persona when she was off-camera, though the two were eventually reteamed here in a movie not called Sullivan’s Travels when her career was on the wane. Ramrod was directed by the still underrated cult filmmaker Andre de Toth when he and Lake were married in real life. Lake manages one or two fiery scenes here, even if her role peters out somewhat near the end.
De Toth doesn’t punch up the melodrama in obvious ways — though there are definitely some twisted goings-on in this adaptation of a novel by famed Western writer Luke Short, who was then in a lucrative screen era for his literary output, thanks also to Blood on the Moon and Station West, both from 1948.
McCrea, a widower, is something of an unusual protagonist here: a reforming alcoholic who also has to recover from a serious bullet wound when he all but passively gets involved in the machinations of almost everyone surrounding him.
The first film produced by Enterprise Productions (also of the dually superb Caught and Force of Evil), Ramrod is a typical Olive release in that it looks as no-frills good as its source material will permit. There are occasional specs in the image, but the presentation is generally solid. The cinematography is by Russell Harlan — about a year before he shot Red River and 15 years before he earned Oscar nominations for To Kill a Mockingbird and Hatari!
Actor buffs will enjoy seeing Lloyd Bridges getting beaten up in an early saloon scene. And Don DeFore, usually a comical figure in TV’s “Ozzie and Harriet” and “Hazel,” puts a tad more edge than expected on a subsidiary role as a ne’er-do-well McCrea friend, who precipitates some of the movie’s rampant brutality.
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