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The Films of John Sturges

The Man Who Dared


Alias Mr. Twilight

For the Love of Rusty

Keeper of the Bees

The Sign of the Ram

Best Man Wins

The Walking Hills

The Capture

Mystery Street

Right Cross

The Magnificent Yankee

Kind Lady

The People Against O'Hara

The Girl in White


Fast Company

Escape from Fort Bravo

Bad Day at Black Rock (November 1/16)

Bad Day at Black Rock follows Spencer Tracy's John J. Macreedy as he arrives at the title locale looking to track down the father of an old war buddy, with problems ensuing as it becomes increasingly clear that the entire town is hiding a terrible secret involving that missing character. It's a simple premise that's employed to watchable yet fairly forgettable effect by John Sturges, and it's clear that the movie's most potent weapon is its undeniably impressive roster of performers - with Tracy's stirring turn as the dogged protagonist matched by a stacked supporting cast that includes Robert Ryan, Walter Brennan, Lee Marvin, and Ernest Borgnine. (The latter, cast as a seriously menacing bully, is certainly a strong candidate for the film's most valuable player.) The lackadaisical bent of Millard Kaufman's screenplay tends to prevent the viewer from wholeheartedly embracing the material, however, and it's apparent, too, that the narrative doesn't really get going until Macreedy discovers just what happened to his friend's father (ie too much of the movie's first half revolves around the character's less-than-engrossing investigation). Sturges' emphasis on a handful of stirring stand-alone sequences goes a long way towards keeping things interesting throughout, while the fairly tense final stretch ensures that Bad Day at Black Rock ends on a palpably positive note - which confirms its place as a decent thriller that feels like it could (and should) have been a lot better.

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The Scarlet Coat


Gunfight at the O.K. Corral

The Law and Jake Wade

The Old Man and the Sea

Last Train from Gun Hill

Never So Few

The Magnificent Seven

By Love Possessed

Sergeants 3

A Girl Named Tamiko

The Great Escape (February 12/03)

Set in the final years of World War II, The Great Escape takes place at a Nazi prisoner of war camp - where several high-risk inmates eventually attempt to break out. As was generally the standard for movies of this ilk, The Great Escape's been saddled with an incredibly long running time (close to three hours) - and though the majority of the film is quite entertaining and exciting, the whole thing would've been far more successful had it topped out at around two hours. Having said that, there are a number of sequences that are just go-for-broke exhilarating - with the climactic escape an obvious highlight. Director John Sturges, without the constriction of a truncated running time, is afforded the opportunity to set up the characters and gives the viewer the chance to get to know each and every one of them (ie all the actors receive at least one scene of character development, such as Charles Bronson's Valinski's speech about his hatred of enclosed spaces). In doing that, the viewer comes to care about these people and desperately wants them to succeed - and when several of them inevitably die, their loss is certainly felt. But those action sequences would mean nothing without some stellar acting, and the film certainly has that going for it. Though his face is prominent on the film's promotional material, Steve McQueen's role is just about equal to the majority of his co-stars. As Hilts, the self-centered soldier that eventually becomes a team player, McQueen seems completely at home playing this cool and rebellious guy. The Great Escape is one of those rare movies that warrants a recommendation despite being tremendously overlong. It's a solid little adventure, and there's just not enough of those around.

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The Satan Bug

The Hallelujah Trail

Hour of the Gun (August 10/06)

Essentially a sequel to director John Sturges' Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Hour of the Gun opens with that legendary battle between Wyatt Earp (played here by James Garner) and the villainous Clantons. The remainder of the film follows the subsequent battle of wills between Earp and Ike Clanton (Robert Ryan), as Earp - along with the help of trusty sidekick Doc Holliday (Jason Robards) - attempts to bring Ike to justice once and for all. Before Hour of the Gun essentially falls apart in its third act - ie there's a reason that this aspect of the Earp/Clanton feud isn't that well known - the movie generally comes off as a tight, efficient little Western (something that's due in no small part to Sturges' taut directorial choices). Both Robards and Garner deliver marvelously entertaining performances, with Robards a standout as the oft-portrayed Holliday (it's a notoriously juicy role that's been tackled by some of Hollywood's best and brightest, but Robards deftly manages to turn the character into a believable figure). But it eventually becomes clear that there's simply not enough plot to sustain a 101-minute movie, and Hour of the Gun slowly but surely runs out of steam as it approaches its inevitable conclusion. Despite such deficiencies, however, the film remains worth a look if only for the performances and for Sturges' expectedly masterful direction.

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Ice Station Zebra


Joe Kidd


The Eagle Has Landed

© David Nusair