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Home Classic Movies Experimental Wellman Western Among 5 New ‘Wayne-Connected’ DVDs

Experimental Wellman Western Among 5 New ‘Wayne-Connected’ DVDs

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Track of the Cat Robert Mitchum Wellman WesternTrack of the Cat with Robert Mitchum: Featuring a stellar cast – Mitchum, Teresa Wright, Diana Lynn, Tab Hunter, Beulah Bondi – William A. Wellman’s experimental Western/family drama is one of several new DVDs with a little-known connection to Hollywood star and indie “mogul” John Wayne.
  • Alongside its four new DVDs starring John Wayne, Paramount Home Entertainment will be releasing five other Wayne/Fellows and Batjac titles, most notably, William A. Wellman’s experimental Western Track of the Cat, starring Robert Mitchum and Teresa Wright.
  • Here are the other four: John Farrow’s Plunder of the Sun, Budd Boetticher’s 7 Men from Now, Andrew V. McLaglen’s Man in the Vault, and James Edward Grant’s Ring of Fear. Cast members include Glenn Ford, Diana Lynn, Gail Russell, Randolph Scott, William Campbell, Anita Ekberg, and Pat O’Brien.

William A. Wellman’s experimental Western Track of the Cat among 5 new DVDs with a little-known John Wayne connection

Ramon Novarro Beyond Paradise

In addition to its four John Wayne movies (The High and the Mighty, Island in the Sun, McLintock!, and Hondo), Paramount Home Entertainment will be releasing on DVD five other Wayne/Fellows and Batjac titles in which Wayne is nowhere to be seen: Plunder of the Sun, 7 Men from Now, Man in the Vault, Ring of Fear, and, most notably, William A. Wellman’s experimental cult classic Track of the Cat.

Why “experimental”?

Shot in CinemaScope and Warnercolor by William H. Clothier, this 1954 psychological Western/family drama for the most part features only black, white, and pale hues. A handful of vibrant exceptions, like the lead character’s red jacket (nearly four decades before Schindler’s List), are supposed to visually enhance the drama.

In the mostly prestigious Track of the Cat cast: Oscar nominee Robert Mitchum (The Story of G.I. Joe, 1945), Oscar winner Teresa Wright (Mrs. Miniver, 1942), two-time nominee Beulah Bondi (The Gorgeous Hussy, 1936; Of Human Hearts, 1938), former Paramount contract actress Diana Lynn (The Major and the Minor), and fast-rising heartthrob Tab Hunter (Island of Desire).

A.I. Bezzerides was credited for the Track of the Cat screenplay, based on Walter Van Tilburg Clark’s 1949 novel.

Below is a brief overview of the other four John Wayne-less Wayne/Fellows and Batjac movies coming out on DVD.

Four More Wayne/Fellows & Batjac DVD titles

Plunder of the Sun (1953)

Directed by Hondo’s John Farrow, the mostly Mexico-set adventure Plunder of the Sun stars Glenn Ford as an American insurance man who becomes enmeshed with archeological artifact smuggler Francis L. Sullivan.

Also in the cast: Track of the Cat actress Diana Lynn, Patricia Medina as a potential femme fatale (what is her actual relationship with Sullivan’s collector/smuggler?), Eduardo Noriega (no relation to the Open Your Eyes actor), and veteran Douglas Dumbrille (Mr. Deeds Goes to Town).

Jonathan Latimer adapted David F. Dodge’s 1949 novel, which actually takes place in Peru.

As found in Ronald L. Davis’ Duke: The Life and Image of John Wayne, Glenn Ford’s less-than-pleasant experience working with John Farrow (Best Director Oscar nominee for Wake Island, 1942) led him to turn down the lead in Hondo.

7 Men from Now (1956)

Currently appreciated as a “minor” classic, Budd Boetticher’s Western 7 Men from Now stars Randolph Scott as a former sheriff in pursuit of the seven men who killed his wife.

Also in the cast: The lovely Gail Russell (The Uninvited, Night Has a Thousand Eyes) in one of her last film appearances, future Best Actor Oscar winner Lee Marvin (Cat Ballou, 1965), Walter Reed, Don ‘Red’ Barry, and, in a small role, future Best Actor nominee Stuart Whitman (The Mark, 1961).

7 Men from Now turned out to be the first of seven Boetticher-Scott Westerns, five of which released by Columbia.

Man in the Vault William Campbell Karen SharpeMan in the Vault with William Campbell and Karen Sharpe: Andrew V. McLaglen’s directorial debut features two The High and the Mighty performers – Campbell and Sharpe – plus future La Dolce Vita sensation Anita Ekberg.

Man in the Vault (1956)

McLintock! filmmaker Andrew V. McLaglen’s directorial debut, Man in the Vault is a minor thriller featuring The High and the Mighty co-pilot William Campbell as a bowling-alley locksmith coerced into helping a gangster (Berry Kroger) rob the safe deposit box of a shady Los Angeles entrepreneur (James Seay).

Also in the cast: Swedish import and future La Dolce Vita star Anita Ekberg as the businessman’s untrustworthy lover and The High and the Mighty newlywed Karen Sharpe as the socialite girlfriend of a crooked lawyer and the locksmith’s romantic interest.

Ring of Fear (1954)

Ring of Fear was the second and final film directed by Hondo screenwriter James Edward Grant, who, as it happens, worked on the scripts of 12 John Wayne star vehicles, from Angel and the Badman (which Grant also directed in 1947) to Circus World (1964).

Predating the latter title by a decade, the far more modest Ring of Fear – though shot in CinemaScope and Warnercolor – presents former Warner Bros. star Pat O’Brien (Angels with Dirty Faces, Here Comes the Navy) as a circus manager and, as themselves, animal trainer and circus impresario Clyde Beatty and author Mickey Spillane – who is supposed to have drastically rewritten the original screenplay credited to Grant, The High and the Mighty actor Paul Fix, and Philip MacDonald (Rebecca).

James Edward Grant would go on to receive one Oscar nomination (with co-writer William Bowers): For George Marshall’s The Sheepman (1958), a John Wayne-less Western starring Glenn Ford, Shirley MacLaine, and Leslie Nielsen.

“Experimental Wellman Western Among 5 New ‘Wayne-Connected’ DVDs” notes

Paramount website.

Robert Mitchum Track of the Cat movie image: Batjac | Warner Bros.

William Campbell and Karen Sharpe Man in the Vault DVD cover image: Paramount Home Entertainment.

“Experimental Wellman Western Among 5 New ‘Wayne-Connected’ DVDs” last updated in August 2023.

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