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Hellfire (1949)
Topic Started: Jul 6 2017, 08:24 PM (243 Views)
Laughing Gravy
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Hellfire (1949) Dir. R.G. Springsteen
A Republic Production
90 min. / Trucolor / 1.37:1
Not on DVD yet

Bill Elliott's a crooked gambler, and when his life is saved by a dying preacher, he promises the old man he'll build the guy's dream: a church. Well, along the way, Wild Bill studies his bible and lays down his fists and his gun, except when he really, truly needs them, and tries to live the right way. Crossing paths with notorious gunslingertrix Doll Brown (Marie Windsor), Bill decides if he can save her soul, he can get her to turn herself in and he'll use the reward money to build that preachin' establishment. Only trouble is both the law and a group of revenge-minded bounty hunters are after her, too, and SHE won't even think o' givin' up until she finds her wayward kid sister.

Yeah, I know, a lot of plot.

ďMan by his misdeeds kindles his own hellfire," the opening credits tell us, superimposed over scenes of men 'n' gals feudin', smoochin', and generally raisin' hell whilst flames consume them. How can you not be grabbed by a movie like THAT, eh?

I know, it sounds a mite preachy, and indeed it is, but I was engrossed by it. The Trucolor looks good, Elliott plays a kind of leading man you don't much find in mainstream films, and Miss Windsor has never been better (and don't you fret, eventually she gets to get outta her man-togs and masquerades as a scantily-dressed saloon singer, so be patient). Elliott produced this, and what a cast he assembled, including Forrest Tucker, Jim Davis, H.B. "Mr. Gower" Warner, Grant Withers, Denver Pyle, Trevor Bardette, Kenneth MacDonald, Richard Alexander, Good Ol' Stanley Price, and probably some other names I'm forgettin'. The script's fine, too, with some punchy dialog.

Million-dollar Punchy Dialog:
Miscreant: "For a bible toter, you're pretty handy with a six-shooter."
Mild Bill: "It kind of bothers me, too. Seems to be the only kind of sermon I can make folks listen to."

Another Miscreant, rating the glib Doll Brown: "You're fast on the draw AND fast on the jaw!"

Usually I begin to lose interest with a 90 min. minor western, but this is far better than a lot of Republic films that have gotten official DVD or Blu-ray releases; I sure hope some company or other discovers it and gets it out there. The print I saw was terrific, and the film's an overlooked gem of a sort. I don't think you'll be disappointed if you seek it out.
"I'm glad that this question came up, because there are so many ways to answer it that one of them is bound to be right." - Robert Benchley
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Frank Hale
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I donít think I'm breaking any new ground by saying that an engaging lead has saved many a picture, and it sounds like that's the case here.

Wild Bill has grown on me over the years. His acting range is pretty much "A to C" (a slight improvement over Katherine Hepburn), but he found his niche in all those B and sub-A westerns. (The couple of Allied Artists 50 's detective films that I saw in that Warner Archive release weren't half bad, either).

You're being a bit coy on where you saw this print, so I wonít pry.
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Barcroft
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Gravy,
There was a pretty nice print floating around for years appearing frequently on the Western Channel.
Barcroft
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Laughing Gravy
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I didn't mean to be coy. Truth is, I have no idea of the source.

I've mentioned before that my go-to place is the indie record/movie shop Dimple Records, and from time to time I spot DVDs from a company I can't identify. Rare films on disc, in well done, professional packaging, but no notation of a company. DVD-Rs, they sell new for $6.99 each. I've reviewed one or two before and I've got a few more I spotted and picked up, including the 1940 No, No Nanette. Maybe next time I'm in there I'll ask a clerk if he can tell me who the source is, but it's going to be tough because the discs don't even name a company on them. Whoever they are, they do a great job.
"I'm glad that this question came up, because there are so many ways to answer it that one of them is bound to be right." - Robert Benchley
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