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Thursday, May 20, 2010

CARBINE WILLIAMS (1952)

Low-key bio-pic about a man who managed to design and even construct a newfangled rifle while serving out a manslaughter charge in one of those notorious Deep South prisons. James Stewart is the stubborn convict, a moonshiner held responsible for the death of a Federal Agent; Jean Hagen is the loyal wren-like wife; and Wendell Corey is the prison warden who gives Stewart a chance to redeem himself. It sounds like a fair movie idea, but the execution from megger Richard Thorpe, scripter Art Cohn & lenser William Mellow is drab beyond belief. Thorpe did some of best work the same year in IVANHOE; Cohn was coming off Anthony Mann’s superb Lincoln conspiracy pic, THE TALL TARGET; and Mellor had just turned out his masterpiece, A PLACE IN THE SUN. They all phone it in on this one. Except, perhaps, Wendell Corey. But then, when Corey’s the most dynamic thing you’ve got going, you know you’re in trouble.

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