Leslie H. Martinson | Subjects | Props | Structure and Story Telling | Visual Style | Rankings

Cheyenne: Quicksand | Fury at Rio Hondo | The Long Winter | The Iron Trail | The Broken Pledge | The Conspirators | The Gamble | Dead to Rights | Road to Three Graves

Maverick: Ghost Rider | Stage West | Relict of Fort Tejon | The Jeweled Gun | Rage for Vengeance | Day of Reckoning | The Burning Sky | Black Fire | Triple Indemnity

Lawman: The Young Toughs | The Ring | Lily | Shackled | The Promoter | Owny O'Reilly, Esquire | The Catalog Woman

Features: Hot Rod Girl | PT 109 | Batman

Classic Film and Television Home Page (with many articles on directors) | Television Western Articles | Mathematics and Visual Style

Leslie H. Martinson

Leslie H. Martinson is an American film and primarily television director.

Leslie H. Martinson is one of the more effective story tellers of his television era, turning out deft, fun tales that succeed as light entertainments. Good characterization and concern for his characters' emotional lives helps. The Rankings section forms a guide to his better titles.

Leslie H. Martinson: Subjects

Characters: Subjects:

Leslie H. Martinson: Props

Props that can be carried by hand:

Leslie H. Martinson: Structure and Story Telling

Story Construction: Mystery: Romance and Melodrama:

Leslie H. Martinson: Visual Style

Staging: Mirrors: Geometry and Visual Style: Camera Movement: Costumes and Appearance:

Rankings

Here are ratings for various films directed by Leslie H. Martinson. Everything at least **1/2 is recommended.

Cheyenne:

Sugarfoot: Maverick: Lawman: 77 Sunset Strip: Bourbon Street Beat: Hawaiian Eye: Wonder Woman: Feature films:

Cheyenne: Quicksand

Quicksand (1956) is Leslie H. Martinson's first episode of Cheyenne, and nicely done.

In structure Quicksand resembles The Iron Trail to come:

Quicksand tries to eat its cake and have it too, in its treatment of Native Americans. A band holds the group captive, under siege in Western ruins, in a time honored plot device. But later, the Native Americans get to show their mettle, and the episode is clearly trying not to stir up racial prejudice. The balancing act doesn't fully work, but overall it seems well meant. Martinson soon will direct Cheyenne episodes that involve full scale advocacy of Native Americans, including The Iron Trail and The Broken Pledge.

The Duel

Leslie H. Martinson mainly uses two-shots during the final duel, showing both Cheyenne and his Native American opponent. This depicts what they are undergoing as a shared experience, one that leads to bonding and mutual respect. Cross-cutting would have suggested antagonism, instead.

The two-shots also underscore that the two men are equally brave. They are always in the exact sam situation, something that viewers can see for themselves.

When Cheyenne at last climbs out of the pit, Martinson follows the climb with a complex camera movement. It underscores both his struggle to ascend, and the great distance he has to move up.

Hand-Held Objects

Leslie H. Martinson films are full of hand-held objects. The white flag is both an object, and one of many flags in Martinson. It is also an object we see the hero making, like the bow and arrow in The Broken Pledge.

Hand gestures are important in Martinson, even when the characters are not actually holding props. Dennis Hopper's raising his hands to his head, after his hat is shot off, is vivid.

Composition

The ruins are one of the "rectilinear facades shot frontally" Martinson sometimes uses to make compositions. Such frontal shooting occurs when the characters first enter the ruins, and later when Cheyenne leaves them with the white flag.

Long Take Camera Movement

The young man's panicky bolt from the ruins is shot in one long take. It involves the camera moving (mainly panning) from right to left, then to the right to show actions through the jagged doorway, then back to the left when the characters are inside. The through-the-doorway staging of the events outside recall the window stagings elsewhere in Martinson.

A subsequent scene with the young man and his fiancee is also in one long take. The cameras moves in to a two-shot of them.


Cheyenne: Fury at Rio Hondo

Fury at Rio Hondo (1956) is a hopelessly stiff remake of To Have and Have Not (Howard Hawks, 1944). This sort of thing tends to drive my fellow auteurists crazy, to judge by their pans of the Psycho remake, and if Fury at Rio Hondo were better known, it could lead to negative comparisons of Martinson and Hawks. Admittedly, this film is stiff and lifeless. Still, one suspects that it is fairer to judge Leslie H. Martinson by his better works.

Fury at Rio Hondo preserves the worst idea of To Have and Have Not: that it is acceptable for the hero threaten the evil soldier with torture. This is really offensive in both works.

Fury at Rio Hondo adds a new bad idea: a sympathetic treatment of supporters of the Southern Confederacy. It even ends with a cringe-inducing playing of Dixie. Both of these subjects will recur, but with criticism and moral reversal in The Conspirators. Fury at Rio Hondo views Confederate supporters who go into exile in Latin American with sympathy; The Conspirators will suggest they are misguided and should come home. And The Conspirators will include a hilarious deconstruction of Dixie.

Among the few creative ideas that seem personal for Martinson:

The talented Peggie Castle plays the saloon singer heroine. This seems like a dress rehearsal for Castle's later three season run as the saloon owner-singer on Lawman. Castle's debut episode on Lawman, Lily, will also be directed by Martinson. Peggie Castle will be terrific on Lawman, and she is already showing her good singing and forceful personality here in Fury at Rio Hondo. Castle's pleasant performance goes a long way towards keeping Fury at Rio Hondo an interesting viewing experience.

Cheyenne: The Long Winter

The Long Winter (1956) is an unusual Western. It is episodic, and more a collection of lyrical scenes than a melodrama.

Characters

Its best parts feature pioneer wife Susan (Fay Spain). She gives a vivd performance, and her character is well conceived at the writing level. The continuing motif or subplot about her flowers is good. Best of all: the scene where Cheyenne, eager to hear a human voice, asks her to say anything. Her reply is unexpected and fascinating.

Quite a few Leslie H. Martinson Westerns stress male-female relationships and romance.

The young kid Bushrod (Tom Pittman) is also sympathetic. Such very young men also run through Martinson. Tom Pittman often played tough young villains, as in Verboten! (Samuel Fuller, 1959). Here he's in a completely different role, as a gentle young man trying to reach adulthood. His curly hair is sticking out from under his cowboy hat, in an archetypal youthful look.

Architecture

The Long Winter has marvelously old-looking buildings, that I don't recall from any other film. They are large, wooden and weather beaten. They look like they are from a poverty stricken society, but one that keeps trying to plunge on with commerce. Martinson photographs them very well, in the background.

Cheyenne: The Iron Trail

The Iron Trail (1957) is a dandy mystery-on-a-train episode. Its script is by Montgomery Pittman, a top writer-director of television of the era. I think that the mourner first seen pushing the coffin is played by Montgomery Pittman, the writer of the show. This seems to be the character called "Monte".

There are mystery aspects of The Iron Trail that serves as a subplot. Martinson's mysteries tend to be highly satisfying.

Dennis Hopper

Dennis Hopper had already perfected his villain persona, by the time this film aired in 1957. Hopper was only twenty. Hopper is brilliant, conveying both intelligence and a frightening social alienation.

Hopper's entrance is a brilliant moment. He is heard only as an off-screen voice. He is entering at a pivotal moment, and affecting the plot and the fate of the characters.

Camera Movement

Leslie H. Martinson repeatedly uses right-to-left camera movements, often pans, at the start, following his characters at the train depot from the ticket window to benches to boarding the train itself. The train depot opening is also the film's main chance to get some architecture into its compositions: most of the rest of the story is away from such large buildings.

The scene by the stopped train includes a number of complex camera movements. These tend to move both left-to-right and right-to-left, parallel to the train cars and tracks. Sometimes, the camera follows Hopper. It also moves down the line of passengers in the last shot.

We don't see the inside of the building where the bad guy takes the hostages, until Cheyenne himself is summoned. This builds up suspense, about what goes on at those terrible meetings. When Cheyenne and the bad guy do go inside, their interior scene is shot in one long take. The camera eventually moves in, for a tight two shot of their upper bodies.

The next shot is one long take, with a left-to-right motion interrupted several times for long stationary pauses.

When the heroine returns to the corral, the scene with her, Cheyenne and railway detective Shev is also staged in one nice long take.

Ancestors

SPOILERS

The structure of The Iron Trail as a whole recalls Shanghai Express (Josef von Sternberg, 1932). Both films star a disparate group of passengers on a train, each with their own characterization. In both, the train is stopped by a powerful gang of bad guys, who remove the passengers and rob them. In both, the passengers are taken one by one for interrogation, to the office of the gang's leader. The subplot about the Cavalry officer in The Iron Trail recalls the French Major in Shanghai Express.

This is combined with a political kidnapping plot, recalling the assassination film Suddenly (1954). In both films, the intended victim is on a train. In both, the gang plotting the assassination or kidnapping has a group of hostages, who despite their apparent powerlessness, are determined to stop the crime. Suddenly was written by Richard Sale.

The voting scene was likely inspired by the classic voting scene in Stagecoach (John Ford, 1939).

The aspects about gangsters holding people hostage might reflect Key Largo (John Huston, 1948). A gambit about a "bad woman", the villain and a gun seems to derive from that film.

The group-trapped-out-West recalls Martinson's earlier Quicksand. Dennis Hopper was in Quicksand too.

The Iron Trail has mystery puzzle elements, that reflect none of the above films, all of which are largely mystery-free.


Cheyenne: The Broken Pledge

The best part of The Broken Pledge (1957) is the finale. This is a beautifully filmed outdoor sequence. It shows Cheyenne making a bow and arrow, while riding on horseback. This has a fascination, reflecting the once popular interest in woodland craft. It also shows Leslie H. Martinson's interest in hand-held props.

The previous parts of the show suffer from sexism, in their treatment of a woman reporter. She is an early feminist. These ideals are neither attacked nor endorsed. But she turns out to be a rotten person.

The Broken Pledge is impressive in its look at white - Native American relations. It is a very anti-racist work, and is part of the 1950's trend of "Indian Westerns" sympathetic to Native Americans. Like several of Martinson's works, it is set against a concrete historical background, here the events that led up to the Battle of Little Bighorn.

The Broken Pledge is full of commentary about the dangers of warmongering. It examines the role of the press, and differing attitudes in the military. Its look at the recruited kid (Gary Vinson) adds another dimension to Martinson's continuing looks at very young males. And shows how young people are exploited by war.


Cheyenne: The Conspirators

The Conspirators (1957) is one of my favorite episodes. Cheyenne develops a whole new side to himself. And in a Pirandellian way, so does actor Clint Walker.

The comic last scene suggests that the new side will remain in Cheyenne, perhaps hidden, but present as a new possibility for him.

This show is best appreciated, perhaps, after one has seen several other episodes of Cheyenne, and become familiar with the standard version of the hero's character. Then one can be startled by the new developments in the hero.

I also like the way that the new identity evokes the hambone side of 19th Century theater.

Noteworthy too, is the suggestion that the song "Dixie" is deliberately exploitative and second rate, an attempt to stir up sinister Old South emotions. Since this song has been treated with such reverence in awful movie tributes to the Confederacy, such skepticism is welcome. The pointing out of the bad grammar in the song is also funny.

Songs - and Composition

The song "The Deadwood Stage", with its refrain of "whip crack away!", is from the movie Calamity Jane (1953). Martinson has Cheyenne on either side of a huge oval on the curtain behind him, during earlier parts of the song. At the finale, Cheyenne is stationed right in front of the oval. This maximizes the "geometric" quality of the image.

Near the end of the Stephen Foster song "Beautiful Dreamer" (1864), Cheyenne is close to the upper part of the oval, so it frames him like an arch over his head. When he takes a bow after singing, we see him surround by the oval, as he was when he first stepped out to sing.

A different framing using three-quarters of the oval pops up towards the end of "Some Sunday Morning". This song is from the Western film San Antonio (1945). Like Calamity Jane, this was a Warner Brothers film, and the studio likely had access to the rights, for this Warner Brothers TV show. "Some Sunday Morning" appears again in the Dark Decision (1962) episode of Cheyenne, (not directed by Martinson). Cheyenne does not sing in that episode though, or in any other episode of Cheyenne, as far as I can tell.

The first exterior shot of Washington DC is from the film Springfield Rifle (1953).


Cheyenne: The Gamble

The Gamble (1958) is an interesting cross between the Western and the Woman's Film. The hybrid approach is built right into the heroine's character, and the plot structure. Half of the time the heroine is dealing with a melodrama about her grown daughter; the other half time she is coping with bad guys threatening her saloon. Perhaps significantly, she is highly competent at dealing with the bad guys, a role in which she can pull no punches and be a strong, independent woman. But in the melodrama, is trying to force himself into a traditional "woman's role", and she is limited and often helpless. There is perhaps a feminist subtext. The contrast is built right into the dialogue.

The Gamble also benefits from other subplots, centered around Leslie H. Martinson themes:

All of these are well handled, making for a show with lots of pleasing plot. Despite the melodrama and perhaps social commentary, The Gamble has a light-comedy touch.

Hand-Held Objects

Leslie H. Martinson's TV Westerns typically have a lot of hand-held props. The Gamble is especially rich in them.

Cheyenne: Dead to Rights

Dead to Rights (1958) is a well-done mystery story, a genre that frequently appears in Leslie H. Martinson.

Melvin Levy's story is a model of construction, with information about the mystery constantly being fed to the viewer. It is also full of mystery: not just who did the killing, but also such mysteries as the fate of the missing heir, what Shorty knows, and what everyone is looking for in Shorty's belongings. Such multiple mysteries gladden the hearts of detective story lovers.

Martinson's films are full of hand-held props. Appropriately for a mystery like Dead to Rights, many of these hand-held objects are clues: the wallet, the ad, the letter, the photo, Shorty's possessions in his handkerchief, the newspaper, the watch, the spent bullet that Cheyenne and the Sheriff sniff.

Shorty is another of Martinson's contentious, fight-loving low lifes.

John Russell's intimidating lawyer is always well-dressed, in a series of expensive outfits. This character recalls his film career, in which he often played "good looking leading man types in supporting roles". It is quite different from his soon-to-follow TV series Lawman, in which he dressed down as a working class marshal, and acted extremely tough.

The Scots father and daughter are more of Martinson's "Britishers out West".


Cheyenne: Road to Three Graves

Road to Three Graves (1960) was made much later than Leslie H. Martinson's other Cheyenne episodes, and seems poor. It does recall Fury at Rio Hondo in that it concerns heroes driving wagons full of vital equipment through hostile territory.

Road to Three Graves contains right wing material. One of the soldiers used to fight for the Confederacy, and the military traditions of the Confederacy are lauded. Also, we are treated to an allegory about a dictator-run town, whose inhabitants have given up their freedom in exchange for the security provided by the dictator. The town is even named Security. One suspects that one is seeing an illustration of the favorite right-wing thesis that a "welfare state" is the ominous first step on the road to dictatorship.

Road to Three Graves also contains anti-war material, including a concern over all the orphans wars create. So Road to Three Graves is not entirely dominated by right wing preaching.

The dictator painting his self-portrait at an easel, is an odd touch. It fits in with other "image makers" in Martinson.


Maverick: Ghost Rider

Ghost Rider (1957) combines two of Leslie H. Martinson's favorite subjects: The good-looking but menacing "lawyer" visiting Maverick in jail, anticipates John Russell's imposing lawyer in Dead to Rights.

The Kid (Edd Byrnes) in the frame story, is one of the very young males who show up in Martinson.

The undertaker is part of the often comic funeral imagery in Martinson. He has a tongue-in-cheek aspect. The graveyard is related to this subject too.

The comic procession at the end, when Maverick brings the crooks in, is one of the best processions in Martinson. Maverick's white flag is part of Martinson's flag imagery.


Maverick: Stage West

Stage West (1957) is a suspense thriller, mainly set at a stage coach way station. It is fairly routine. It suffers from too much emphasis on the show's distinctly unpleasant villains, and also on a familiar premise and plot details.

The briefly seen passenger, who is a Scotsman who formerly ran a restaurant, in another of Leslie H. Martinson's "Britishers out West". He anticipates the Scots father and daughter who run a Western cafe in Dead to Rights.

Camera Movement

Peter Brown stands outside the way station near the start, becoming another Martinson character standing or sitting outside a building. Brown gets a vertical camera movement, from the station's sign above, down to him.

When the heroine walks over and gets on the stage at the end, the camera accompanies her. It makes her more vivid and important.

Hand-Held Objects

The young psycho killer (Edd Byrnes) throws a knife at one of his victims. The juvenile-delinquents-out-West in Martinson's later The Young Toughs will also throw a knife killing a victim. Knives were associated with juvenile delinquents in the 1950's. The knife also forms another of Martinson's "hand held objects".

The gold nugget gets used to symbolize a number of things, in the show's second half.

Costumes

Peter Brown is in an elaborate shirt. It relates to western styles. But it is also shaped much like the "Perfecto" motorcycle jacket Marlon Brando wore in The Wild One (1953). This glamorous look perhaps suggests the "juvenile delinquent" aspect of Brown's character.

Maverick being forced to take off his clothes to be searched sounds fun, perhaps, but in practice the scene is played for light laughs. Maverick has on one of the world's ugliest undershirts, and the scene is not real revealing. It is quite different from all the good-natured grooming scenes in Martinson, with their bare-chested heroes. Maverick's clothes are more of the "hand held objects".

Both a miner and the stage depot runner have elaborate beards, but they are not linked to any military traditions.


Maverick: Relict of Fort Tejon

Relict of Fort Tejon (1957) is mixture of comedy, about the camel of the title, and a more serious drama about a crooked town boss. Large animals regularly show up in Leslie H. Martinson.

Martinson films often have romance subplots, and sometimes melodrama/women's film aspects. Relict of Fort Tejon unexpectedly studies spousal abuse, with the villainous mayor-to-be mistreating his fiancee. Relict of Fort Tejon does not give an explicit political dimension to such abuse, but it does suggest some of the implications of how so-called "milder" abuse often leads to more extreme harm. This gives the show a dimension consistent with later feminist concerns.

The hired gunfighter looks like another of Martinson's "young males". Actually, actor Tyler Mac Duff was in his thirties, and simply looks younger.

Processions

Two scenes with the camel are processions. An early one shows Maverick leading the camel behind his horse. The finale has Maverick leading the bad guy back to town, draped over the camel's saddle. This is like the procession that ends Ghost Rider: Maverick publicly bringing the bad guy back into town, captive to face justice.

Midway, Maverick leaves the hotel, to confront the villain in his saloon. A large procession of townspeople fall in behind him. This recalls the large procession halfway through The Iron Trail, when everyone enters the old depot yard. This procession is staged in one camera movement. It ends with the appearance of gunfighter Drake.

Hand-Held Objects

There are two parallel scenes with "hidden small gun" gimmicks:

Maverick: The Jeweled Gun

The Jeweled Gun (1957) is mystery, set out West.

Ancestors

SPOILERS

The explanation of the mystery and motive for the strange happenings, recalls that in My Name Is Julia Ross (Joseph H. Lewis, 1945). The surface stories are different: Julia Ross is forced into the new identity of the villain's wife, whereas Maverick takes on the role of a woman's husband voluntarily, for the money she offers. Julia knows she's in huge danger, whereas Maverick is mainly puzzled. This gives the two films a different feel, as well as differing surface events.

But the bad guys' underlying schemes are identical in both films. And their motivation - to cover up an accidental earlier killing, by restaging it with a new person impersonating the old victim - is the same in both tales.


Maverick: Rage for Vengeance

Rage for Vengeance (1958) mixes mystery, romance and political drama.

Mystery

The mystery is not a murder mystery. But the film explores a mysterious situation, gradually revealing the truth. Why is the widow carrying a large sum of money? What are her plans?

The opening premise of Rage for Vengeance recalls the previous Martinson episode The Jeweled Gun, in that both center on a strong-willed woman with mysterious goals hiring Maverick to accompany her on a journey. The woman's reasons and plans turn out to be drastically different, however, and the films wind up differing strongly in plot and tone.

Characters

The newsboy is one of Martinson's young men - although just about any filmmaker would make a character hawking papers be a youth. Oddly, the many men in hotels the characters meet during the stage journey are all conspicuously older men, including the messenger and bell boy. Such characters are sometimes young males in other Martinson films.

Maverick: Day of Reckoning

Politics

Day of Reckoning (1958) is a disturbing look, at a town taken over by a dictatorial trail boss and his men. As the title suggests, the events in the town are apocalyptic. They involve the complete collapse of the rule of law, and nearly the end of the town itself.

Day of Reckoning has elements that can be read as supporting either or both non-violence and violent war. The film places great emphasis on both Maverick's philosophy of avoiding confrontation and trouble, and on genuinely serious negotiations. This can be seen as supporting non-violence. But none of these work: which seems to support war as a good choice. The war at the end is effective in solving problems. And it does look like a full-scale war, with the townspeople as a whole against the 50 men of the trail boss. This seems pro-war. But Maverick immediately calls it off as soon as the leaders are killed, once more emphasizing negotiation and non-violence. This last ploy works, when all previous negotiations failed. As a whole, Day of Reckoning seems more pro-war than in favor of non violence. It certainly doesn't show the disaster that can come from war, minimizing its costs - it seems to harm the townspeople not a whit.

Day of Reckoning can be seen as a partly right-wing film, one that calls for violence and war against dictators. It is less extremely right-wing than Leslie H. Martinson's Road to Three Graves, however. Unlike Road to Three Graves, the dictatorial trail boss is not linked to left-wing ideas, and there is no evidence that liberal or left-wing behavior helped create his dictatorial control. Furthermore, the film goes out of its way to examine negotiation and compromise, although it usually fails.

Day of Reckoning can be read as repudiating Maverick's normal non-violent philosophy of staying out of trouble. It can be seen as showing him "forced" into war. This is a very dubious lesson, one I don't agree with at all.

Masculinity

Day of Reckoning has a similar ambiguity about masculinity and violence. The trail boss is constantly goaded into bad, violent behavior by his gunslinger's taunts about what the trail boss' father would do. This suggests violent male ideals are a disaster, causing war. But Maverick and the printer are also constantly told they need to be more violent, in the name of "being a man". This suggests that masculinity demands standing up violently.

Hand-Held Objects

The twirled shot glass shows how nervous and fearful a man in the bar is, when the town is under siege.

Martinson also gets a dramatic gesture, when a farmer hurriedly lifts a sack into his wagon, before fleeing town.

The handbills are at the center of the story. They show up in many different contexts.

Mirror Shots

There are several mirror shots:

Camera Movement

Martinson tracks down the bar, showing the disturbed townspeople. In a later scene, he moves down the bar in the reverse direction.

There are many shots following characters walking through the town. These include Maverick, and later, a forceful shot of the Marshal's wife hurrying in with her plea.

A shot near the end show the armed townspeople on a roof, then pans down the street, and continues along men there.


Maverick: The Burning Sky

The Burning Sky (1958) is credited to director Gordon Douglas, not Leslie H. Martinson. But its plot has much in common with such Martinson episodes of Cheyenne as Quicksand (1956) and The Iron Trail (1957), so it is discussed here. This might mean that The Burning Sky was influenced by Quicksand and The Iron Trail. It might even mean that The Burning Sky was prepared or planned by Martinson, although I have no factual or historical information whatsoever to indicate this.

SPOILERS. Both The Burning Sky and Quicksand center on a group of travelers, besieged by enemies at remote, isolated Western ruins. All three of The Burning Sky, Quicksand and The Iron Trail feature a disparate group of travelers, with a Grand Hotel style mix of subplots about their personal lives and backgrounds. Both The Burning Sky and The Iron Trail have a traveler with a large container secretly full of money; both have a woman whose secret past is exposed by a cad of a fellow traveler.


Maverick: Black Fire

Black Fire (1958) is a murder mystery. It is both an example and a spoof of the "heirs gathered in a mansion" mystery, that dates back at least to John Willard's play The Cat and the Canary (1922). This mystery-lover thoroughly enjoyed it. Most people will relish its great last line.

Black Fire has a sound detective plot. Maverick does a good job reconstructing how a murder was done - and deducing from that who did it.

The only exteriors in the film occur at the beginning and end, as Maverick rides into the Black Fire ranch, then rides out at the end. The lack of exteriors is a good stylistic choice. If characters are stuck in a murderous mansion, the film should express that confinement in terms of its settings.

Hans Conried is really good, as the painter. He is one of several image makers that run through Martinson. He is also a Leslie H. Martinson character who stretches beyond his ordinary limits.

History - and Woman's Suffrage

Black Fire has little to do with the Western as a genre. The story could easily take place in modern times. The discussion about "cattlemen vs farmers" was perhaps added to give the film a little Western subject matter. It hardly plays any real role in the plot.

One of the women is a suffragette: a campaigner to give women the right to vote. This is only the subject of a single discussion. Other TV Westerns of the era had more extensive looks: see The Woman (Arnold Laven, 1959) on The Rifleman, and the Bat Masterson episode The Inner Circle (Walter Doniger, 1959). This discussion in Black Fire is flip and comic; these later Western shows are more respectful.

Camera Movement

The heirs are introduced in a long take camera movement, that shows each one in turn, pausing for brief bits of dialogue. This is a nice stylistic touch.

Later in the same scene, the heirs all leave in a group, forming one of Martinson's processions.


Maverick: Triple Indemnity

Triple Indemnity (1961) is the last and possibly poorest of Leslie H. Martinson's Maverick episodes. It has one clever idea, the life insurance gimmick, which it tries to stretch out into a whole show. The insurance gimmick is very dark, on the verge of black comedy, and the show is not relaxing to watch.

Perhaps as compensation, individual scenes are loaded with hand-held props, to jazz up the action.

The snake oil pitchman, seen in the background as an addition to the setting without a role in the plot, is both an intriguing idea, and a sign that people are trying to add color to this material. He stands out in the street, and is perhaps related to the comic characters in other Martinson, who sit in front of buildings. He eventually loses his voice, like the heroes of Hadley's Hunters.


Lawman: The Young Toughs

Juvenile Delinquents

The Young Toughs (1959) crosses the Western with the 1950's juvenile delinquency melodrama.

The three young hoods in The Young Toughs look and act a bit more like 1950's juvenile delinquents. Their leader is even in a fancy black desperado's outfit, whose black leather vest evokes a bit the leather jackets of 1950's street toughs.

Links to The Iron Trail

Dennis Hopper leads a whole gang of youths in Leslie H. Martinson's Cheyenne episode The Iron Trail (1957). Martinson will look at another all-youth Western gang in the Lawman episode The Young Toughs. Its leader will also be emotionally disturbed, although far less brainy than Hopper. Both young men want to become famous Western outlaws, seen in both shows as a very dubious dream.

Unfortunately, as story-telling The Young Toughs is drastically simpler than The Iron Trail, lacking the clever plotting of that show.

Camera Movement

The opening contains an elaborate camera movement, which moves around so action can be framed by various bunk beds.

Lawman: The Ring

Martinson Subjects

The Ring (1959) is another of Leslie H. Martinson's murder mysteries. It creates a "tough" atmosphere, like a 1950's paperback crime novel.

Albert, a very poor, socially ill-adjusted young man, is an interesting character. He combines pathos and strangeness, with his off-trail attitudes. This is another vivid role for character actor Rex Holman. Albert is another of Martinson's very young males / troubled youths.

Camera Movement

The Ring is notable for some fairly long take camera movements:

Lawman: Lily

Introducing Lily Merrill

Lily (1959) introduces the continuing character of Lily Merrill in the series Lawman. She is the glamorous, tough owner of the Birdcage Saloon, and the love interest for series star Marshal Dan Troop (John Russell). The episode was the premiere of the second season of Lawman: new seasons being a frequent time to introduce new characters. Actress Peggy Castle had previously played a somewhat similar role as a saloon singer in Leslie H. Martinson's Cheyenne episode Fury at Rio Hondo (1956).

Lily establishes the character's glamour, toughness and experience. But it otherwise is not a really good introduction of the character. Lily makes poor decisions about the saloon in this episode; in the rest of the series she is highly competent, intelligent, and a font of good suggestions to the Marshal about his work. Lily and the Marshal are mainly antagonistic to each other in Lily; only in the last minutes does the "mature romance" bloom between Lily and Dan that is such a good feature of the Lawman series as a whole.

Lily also suffers from an uninteresting crime story plot, and a wooden performance as the villain by handsome Ray Danton. It benefits by a genial turn by Dan Sheridan as a naive customer: A year later, Sheridan would be hired in a different role, as the continuing character of the bartender Jake in Lily's saloon.

Imagery

When Dan Sheridan's character is drunk, he is made to sit down outside the saloon. Comic characters who sit in front of buildings are a Martinson image.

A drunken cavalry man also has a funny bit as Lily ejects him from the saloon.

We see Peter Brown putting on a tie, to dress up for an evening out. And Ray Danton is seen in the morning, pulling on his suspenders. Men grooming are a Martinson tradition.

An adopted kitten serves as both one of Martin's animals, and as a hand-held object. The painting is also a hand-held object, but an unusually large one, needing more than one person to carry it.

Long Take Camera Movement

There are at least three long-take camera movements, all staged in the main room of the Birdcage Saloon: Two briefer camera movements occur in Lily's office; both involve the mirror on Lily's wall. The second of these shots makes a more elaborate use of the mirror, with Lily glancing at herself in it.

Staging

The opening scene is played in the streets "outdoors", against what seems to be a painted backdrop of street scenery. I don't remember any such backdrops in any other episodes of Lawman. It seems inferior to the series' standard approach of shooting on their town set. One wonders if the studio was experiencing temporary trouble with the set, and was forced to this expedient.

A window in Lily's office allows us to see the street outside.

Some long shots show much of the saloon interior. We often see card dealer Ray Danton, as one character among many others, in these group shots. He is not the main focus of the story in these shots - but he is present anyway. The effect recalls a bit Jacques Tati.


Lawman: Shackled

Shackled (1959) opens with a prisoner being put into a prison wagon, recalling the abduction of a villain by government agents into a laundry truck in The Conspirators.

Lawman: The Promoter

Links to The Gamble

SPOILERS.

The Promoter (1961) reworks one of the subplots of the Cheyenne episode The Gamble (1958), into its main, and only story. It develops the "national syndicate tries to take over a saloon" plot into more detail about the scheme and syndicate. It also adds multiple saloons and threatened saloon owners, moving a bit towards that Martinson theme, the "group effort". However, this group shows less solidarity than some other threatened Martinson groups.

The Promoter also adds a political dimension: the heroine suspects that the syndicate doesn't just want saloons, but also dictatorial control of the town. The name of the syndicate gunman is a hilarious clue to this (not spoiled here).

The villain in The Gamble was a suave, All-American-acting businessman, a smooth representative of the upper middle classes. He recalls the mobsters-masquerading-as-businessmen in several contemporary gangster films, such as The Racket (John Cromwell, 1951). The Promoter raises the ante, by making him one of Leslie H. Martinson's "Englishmen out West". This character's line of ultra-smooth patter is richly developed. While the story's themes are taken seriously, much of the dialogue and events have comic aspects.

Camera Movement

Towards the end of the show, the Marshal and deputy burst into the hotel and run upstairs. In a later shot, they run downstairs. The camera moves with them in simple but effective panning shots. The second shot follows the "reverse path" of the first shot's path.

Some action scenes in the Birdcage saloon, have brief but rapid camera movements across the saloon, following characters.

Depth Staging

When the Marshal and deputy wait to capture the bad guy in the livery stable, we see the stable in the background, from a framework across the street.

The shots of the Marshal and deputy towards the end have them patrolling the dark sidewalks, hunting for the villain. These are often shots deep down the covered sidewalks. We see deep down the sidewalks - but little use of depth is made actually to stage action.

These shots include some effective use of the pillared region to the left of the Birdcage. This is one of the more complex regions in the whole Laramie set. It also shows up in some Cheyenne episodes that use the same city set.

There are shots from the villain's upper story hotel room, showing events down in the street below.


Lawman: Owny O'Reilly, Esquire

Owny O'Reilly, Esquire (1961) is the third of a series of Lawman comedies about an awkward, but sincere, decent and talented youth, who gets into complicated situations. All three were written by Ric Hardman, but this is the only one directed by Leslie H. Martinson. Owny is the quintessential Awkward Young Male, a good-hearted young man trying to grow up, but who doesn't quite have everything worked out yet. Owny lacks money or social position, and is definitely on his own. Owny is played by Joel Grey.

While Martinson did not create the likable Owny, Owny fits in with all the other "very young man" characters in Martinson.

The comedy in the episode also reflects Martinson's light-comedy touch.

The Finale

The good characters face the villain as a group. Shared group challenges are a Martinson tradition.

The Governor is quick to give his word to the bad guy - then wants to take it back. The hero protests: to him your word is your word, even to a bad guy. This is a comic version of the "lying authority figure" often found in Martinson.

Hand-Held Objects

This is one of several Martinson films, in which the "objects" include a newspaper someone is reading.

Other objects keep returning in new ways: the comb, the $50 bill. This return is comic.

Depth Staging

Owny O'Reilly, Esquire has some mild, non-extreme examples of depth staging:

Camera Movement

Owny is seen early on, scooting rapidly down the streets of Laramie. The camera accompanies him.

An elaborate long take has the heroine on the stairs of the hotel, followed eventually by the Marshal entering the hotel.

Towards the end, the villain and the hero and heroine he is holding hostage, form one of Martinson's processions. They are accompanied by slow camera movements. These moving shots focus on different members of the procession.

Composition

As the heroine starts singing her song, we see the outside of the saloon. This street view is parallel to the front of the saloon. It perhaps relates to direct, parallel view of architecture in other Martinson films.

Lawman: The Catalog Woman

The Catalog Woman (1961) is a suspense drama, with a good deal of comedy and romance mixed in.

Lily's romantic feelings for the Marshal are nicely worked in. The letter dictation scene is especially good. It contains an unusual close-up of the Marshal's ear, taken from behind his head. This is emotionally effective.

Staging Through Windows

The Catalog Woman has numerous scenes staged through windows. Leslie H. Martinson likes such stagings, and The Catalog Woman is one of his films that are richest in them:

Long Take Camera Movement

The Catalog Woman has a fair number of camera movements, often cycling around the characters: Camera movements follow the characters up the hotel stairs, twice. These shots benefit from the visual richness of the hotel lobby.

During its fourth season, episodes of Lawman directed by Richard C. Sarafian often featured elaborate camera movements, and sometime depth staging. One wonders if the complex long take camera movements in The Catalog Woman reflect this trend.

Hand-Held Objects

The hand-held objects in The Catalog Woman tend to fall into two groups:

Hot Rod Girl

Hot Rod Girl (1956) is a low-budget film about teenage hot rodders.

Hot Rod Girl seems visibly influenced by the car scenes in Rebel Without a Cause (Nicholas Ray, 1955). As in Rebel Without a Cause, we have bad kids taunting good kids into fights, dangerous races and other bad behavior, that the good kids would not otherwise do.

Young Men

Hot Rod Girl exemplifies Martin's long-standing interest in very young men. Many of the characters are either teenagers or men in their twenties, people who are trying to grow up, not altogether successfully.

Villain Bronc is an example of the emotionally disturbed young villains that run through Leslie H. Martinson's films. The same year, Dennis Hopper makes the first of his three appearances as such a villain in Quicksand.

Cast

Hot Rod Girl has an appealing cast. It is full of charming people who would later be better known: Chuck Connors, John Smith, who both would go on to star in Western TV series. And Frank Gorshin, who does his Cagney impression and other comedy relief. Hot Rod Girl is best in its more lighthearted scenes, which give a chance for these people to show some personality and sparkle.

Dabbs Greer would regularly play decayed drunks in Joseph H. Lewis episodes of The Rifleman, illustrating the horrors of alcoholism. It was startling to see him play a good guy who was sober and responsible in Hot Rod Girl.

The Bad Boy

Bronc (Mark Andrews) plays the film's swaggering Bad Boy hot rodder. He shows up as if by magic, immediately after the Good Guy young hero (John Smith) shuts down emotionally and stops romancing the frustrated heroine. It is hard not to see the two men as contrasting Doubles, maybe symbolic alternatives to each other. Or perhaps as dual aspects of one personality. Bronc gets to express all the swagger and sexuality that is repressed in the hero.

Many Martinson films feature characters who "stretch out of their limited personalities". They take on new roles, and move onto new experiences and approaches. Martinson films also often have characters literally in new identities or undercover roles. However, in Hot Rod Girl, the two personality types of Good Guy and Bad Guy are kept strictly separate, in two different characters. This is different from, for example, The Conspirators, in which Good Guy hero Cheyenne gets to take on an undercover role, and explore a new personality.

Bronc is an early character in film to talk in "hip" lingo.

Costumes: Black Leather Jacket

Bronc's black leather jacket is one of the spiffiest in any 1950's film. It is really shiny, and makes him look like a million dollars. I kept hoping he'd reform and become a hero, but it doesn't happen.

Costume designer Tommy Thompson mainly worked in television. He did Bat Masterson, with its fancy Western outfits. Tommy Thompson also did the young hoodlum in Step Child (Budd Boetticher, 1954), an episode of Public Defender. This hoodlum's leather jacket is also unusually shiny, like Bronc's in Hot Rod Girl.


PT 109

PT 109 (1963) is a war movie, detailing the young John F. Kennedy's service in World War II.

Martinson Subjects: The Opening

The 40-minute opening of the long film, shows Kennedy's arrival in the South Pacific, and the attempts of Kennedy and his crew to restore the nearly derelict PT boat of the title. This section contains one of the group efforts that run through Leslie H. Martinson. This sequence is quite charming.

The sequence recalls a bit Firehouse Lil. In Firehouse Lil, we see rival firefighter teams maintaining their fire engines and drilling to prepare for a fire. In PT 109, the heroes are one of several teams that prepare and drill with PT boats.

The hero, a rich Bostonian who had written a book, is in a drastically different role as a new Naval Lieutenant. He is one of the Martinson characters who stretch out of their limited backgrounds.

The hero is very mild-mannered. He is also quietly, politely determined. This recalls the characterization of the heroes of some of the Western series Martinson directed, such as Cheyenne and Maverick.

Martinson Subjects: The Finale

The final long sequence in the film, showing the attempts of the shipwrecked men to survive and escape, recalls Quicksand a bit, it its look at a trapped group.

The "lost in the jungle and trying to survive" plot also recalls the "lost in the desert" Western The Belcastle Brand.

There is perhaps a Civil Rights message in the sections showing the American sailors being aided by black South Sea Islanders. There are pro-Civil Rights themes in a number of Martinson TV Westerns.

Cliff Robertson

Cliff Robertson was personally chosen by President Kennedy, to play his younger self in PT 109.

Cliff Robertson appeared in other war movies, before and after this one. He starred in The Naked and the Dead (Raoul Walsh, 1958), also set in the South Pacific in World War II. So this casting was not a drastic stretch.

Cliff Robertson often seemed to play men who were good with machinery. Often at a supervisory or white collar level. He was good with the grain elevator owned by his wealthy family in Picnic (1955). He starred in a science fiction TV series Rod Brown of the Rocket Rangers (1953-1954). He was an air pilot in the comedy Sunday in New York. His skill with restoring the technological PT boat in PT 109 is thus part of his screen mystique. There is something distinctly modern about Robertson, even when he appears in World War II dramas. He seems like a man who is good at the demands of modern society, even the technological ones.

Robertson rarely played in Westerns, unlike many other leading men of his generation.

Grooming: The Opening

Leslie H. Martinson films are full of men grooming. In PT 109, there is an early look at an improvised shower, with water coming out of barrels labelled with kinds of booze. It's elaborate and funny. It reminds one a bit of the Western hotel's large scale bathing facilities in Quicksand.

Also like Quicksand: during the air raid, the men duck into a mud puddle, and wind up with their clothes filthy. In imagery, it is a bit like the way the two men get submerged in quicksand in Quicksand, although the plot context is completely different.

Grant Williams' handsome Lieutenant has a full scale sequence getting dressed.

All of these grooming sequences are during the opening. They are part of the comedy and festive atmosphere of the long opening section.


Batman

Batman (1966) is a feature spin-off from the television series.

Batman's big date is perhaps a take-off on the romantic interlude in The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Vincente Minnelli, 1962). Both films have the couple going to numerous restaurants and night clubs, highly decorated venues; both have the couple in a romantic carriage drive at night. This is my favorite sequence in the film. Although it is a burlesque of tragic romance, Bruce Wayne's feelings seem real. Wayne comes across as the most interesting character in the film - more so than his alter ego Batman.

The film's funniest sequence is when Batman has trouble getting rid of the bomb. This echoes Leslie H. Martinson's interest in props carried by hand: Batman holds the bomb in his hand, and can't figure out a good place to let go.

The finale, with identities scrambled among the UN members, also perhaps reflects a bit a Martinson tradition: deceptive identities. Batman and Catwoman have "deceptive identities" in a pure, traditional way. What happens at the UN is perhaps a variation on this theme.