MOD of the Week: "The Tall T" and "Ten Little Indians"
At first blush, director Budd Boetticher's The Tall T (1957; Sony Choice Collection) plays like a conventional Western - rancher Randolph Scott (in his second and best of seven celebrated collaborations with Boetticher) is held hostage along with newlyweds Maureen O'Sullivan and John Hubbard by outlaw Richard Boone and his gang (Henry Silva and Skip Homeier). But when O'Sullivan is revealed as the heir to a family fortune, the conflict enters noirish psychological waters, with Scott and Boone revealed as less antagonists than flip sides to the same coin and Hubbard as a craven opportunist more than happy to trade his bride to save his own skin. Adapted by Burt Kennedy from Elmore Leonard's short story "The Captive," The Tall T is a tense, exceptionally gritty Western-thriller hybrid that presages the moral complexity of latter-day revisionist efforts like The Wild Bunch and Unforgiven.
Meanwhile, Warner Archives has reissued Ten Little Indians (1965), which was previously released as a pressed Warner Bros. disc in 2006. Though it doesn't hold a candle to Rene Clair's And Then There Were
None (1945), this version of the Agatha Christie mystery about guests to a remote retreat preyed upon by an unseen killer, produced by the notorious Harry Alan Towers and directed by George Pollack (who helmed the Miss Marple films with Margaret Rutherford) is fizzy fun, thanks to an eclectic cast of suspects that includes two Bond Girls - Shirley Eaton and Daliah Lavi - Brit film vets Dennis Price, Leo Genn and Stanley Holloway and Americans Hugh O'Brien and Fabian (as well as the unmistakable voice of an uncredited Christopher Lee), many of whom would go on to work for Towers on his more exploitative efforts with prolific cult director Jess Franco. The disc includes the William Castle-esque "Whodunnit Break," which interrupted the film during its theatrical run to give audiences a chance to guess the identity of the killer. Towers would remake the film in 1989 with an even more offbeat cast, including Donald Pleasance, Frank Stallone and Herbert Lom. -- Paul Gaita