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Thread: Classic Movie Westerns- Track of the Cat (1954)

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    M o d e r a t o r ethanedwards's Avatar
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    Classic Movie Westerns- Track of the Cat (1954)

    TRACK OF THE CAT

    ..

    DIRECTED BY WILLIAM WELLMAN
    PRODUCED BY ROBERT FELLOW/ JOHN WAYNE
    WAYNE/ FELLOWS PRODUCTIONS/ WARNER BROS. PICTURES

    Information from IMDb

    Plot Summary
    A family saga: In a stunning mountain valley ranch setting near Aspen, complex and dangerous family dynamics play out against the backdrop of the first big snowstorm of winter and an enormous panther with seemingly mythical qualities which is killing cattle. An arrogant, pitiless son (Robert Mitchum) and a rigid pharisaic mother side against a moral eldest son and and a defeated alcoholic father while the youngest son tries to lay low, hoping against hope to persuade his family to allow him to marry a girl he has brought to visit. The girl however draws venomous condemnation and the two elder brothers set out in the midst of a violent snowstorm on a dangerous mission to kill the deadly panther.
    Written by Jasha


    Full Cast
    Robert Mitchum ... Curt Bridges
    Teresa Wright ... Grace Bridges
    Diana Lynn ... Gwen Williams
    Tab Hunter ... Harold Bridges
    Beulah Bondi ... Ma Bridges
    Philip Tonge ... Pa Bridges
    William Hopper ... Arthur Bridges
    Carl 'Alfalfa' Switzer ... Joe Sam (as Carl Switzer)

    Writing Credits
    A.I. Bezzerides (screenplay)
    Walter Van Tilburg Clark (novel)

    Original Music
    Roy Webb

    Cinematography
    William H. Clothier

    Second Unit Director/ Assistant Director
    Andrew V. McLaglen .... assistant director

    Trivia
    Average Shot Length = ~10 seconds. Median Shot Length = ~9 seconds.

    The outdoor scenes were filmed on Mount Rainier, Washington and Mitchum
    regarded shooting in the deep snow and cold as the
    worst filming conditions he had ever experienced.

    Director William A. Wellman had always intended to film a black & white movie in color.
    The photography of William Clothier was designed to highlight black and white
    and downplay colors.
    Only key elements like the blue matches, the fire, and Mitchum's red coat stand out.

    Filming Location
    Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, USA
    Best Wishes
    Keith
    Totnes- the Tombstone of England

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    M o d e r a t o r ethanedwards's Avatar
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    Re: Duke's Productions- Track of the Cat (1954)

    Track of the Cat starring Robert Mitchum and Teresa Wrigh
    with an appearance of Tab Hunter, is based on a
    1949 adventure novel of the same name by Walter Van Tilburg Clark.
    This was Wellman's second adaptation of a Clark novel, the first being The Ox-Bow Incident.

    Produced by John Wayne's Batjac Productions.
    Duke's favourite Batjac director William Wellman,
    was back at the helm, aided by another Duke staff on camera.
    William H. Clothier .
    Andrew V. McLaglen still Ass.Director, but soon to be promoted.



    User Review-1

    Track of the Cat
    By dfordoom

    William A. Wellman’s 1954 western Track of the Cat suffered a similar fate to Charles Laughton’s 1955 Night of the Hunter. Both were exercises in style for which the movie-going public of the 1950s was not ready, both failed commercially at the time, and both went on to be highly regarded examples of art cinema at its best.

    Track of the Cat hasn’t undergone the same degree of rehabilitation as Night of the Hunter but in its own way it’s just as impressive.

    The plot is very much a secondary consideration. A painter (puma) has been attacking stock on a remote ranch owned by the Bridges family. The two oldest Bridges brothers, Curt (Robert Mitchum) and Arthur (William Hopper) set off to track down the predator.

    The old Indian who lives at the ranch, Joe Sam, believes the attacks are the work of a mysterious black painter, a kind of supernatural beast. To Joe Sam the painter symbolises the violence in the world, the violence that destroyed his own family. It will come to be seen as having much the same significance for the Bridges family.

    In fact the movie has nothing whatever to do with hunting marauding pumas. It’s a family melodrama, with the painter being a personification of the passions, jealousies, resentments and hatreds that collectively make up the Bridges family.

    Pa Bridges is a hopeless drunk with only the haziest idea of what’s happening. The family has been dominated by two overwhelming personalities, Ma Bridges (Beulah Bondi) and Curt. Ma Bridges is a pious fraud, a controlling monster of a matriarch. Curt easily dominates brother Arthur, and younger brother Harold (Tab Hunter) is practically a nonentity, existing merely to serve as the butt of Curt’s jokes. Harold has fallen in love with Gwen Williams (Diana Lynn) but nobody believes he’ll ever have the courage to ask her to marry him. Harold has never had the courage to do anything. Sister Grace (Teresa Wright) retreats to her room and to her music.

    But now the painter has come and Curt is off in the mountains hunting him and the family tensions are coming to the boil.

    Director Wellman conceived this movie as a experiment in colour. He’d long had the idea of making a black-and-white movie in colour. His idea was that if a movie were to be shot in mostly monochromatic shades, with stark blacks and whites and otherwise mostly very subdued colours that were almost shades of grey, he could use bright colours very very sparingly for intense dramatic effect. In fact the only bright colours are Curt’s red jacket and Gwen’s yellow blouse. Curt has always been the central figure in the family, the de facto boss and patriarch, while Gwen is the disturbing new element . They’re the two characters with the power to make things happen. Everyone else reacts to what they do.

    In practice this visual idea results in a movie with a distinctive and rather disturbing look. And Wellman doesn’t stop with the colour. He uses spectacular location shooting for the scenes in which Curt hunts the cat, but as soon as we move back to the ranch we’re obviously on a sound stage. The exteriors of the ranch are filmed in such a way as to emphasise their artificiality, to make sure we’re in no doubt this is a sound stage. Wellman wants us to see the ranch as something artificial and unnatural, something that doesn’t belong, something that should be alive but isn’t. It’s a kind of surreal doll’s house, and again the resemblances to Laughton’s vision in Night of the Hunter are striking.

    Wellman (with the able assistance of his cinematographer William A. Clothier) took huge risks with this film and while they didn’t pay off commercially at the time they certainly paid off artistically. And the movie’s reputation has slowly grown.

    Wellman had the advantage of having a fine cast to work with and the performances are uniformly good. The role of Curt required the kind of vaguely sinister charisma that Mitchum could always produce when needed and his presence dominates the film even when he’s not onscreen, just as the personality of Curt dominates this bizarre family even when he’s not there.

    It’s a movie that is something of an oddity but it’s well worth seeking out as an example of just how edgy 1950s Hollywood film-making could be. It was produced by John Wayne’s production company which was responsibly for so many interesting and offbeat 1950s movies.
    User Review-2

    Dysfunctional family saga could have been a stronger film...
    15 September 2007 | by Neil Doyle (U.S.A.)

    A disturbingly dysfunctional family is at the heart of TRACK OF THE CAT, which tries to impose symbolic significance on the threat of the creature that is being stalked by the two oldest brothers. But the tale, filmed in monotonous B&W style with only highlights of real color allowed, is somber, tedious and talky.

    The performances are standard except for Mitchum who does a believable job as the loutish oldest brother. TERESA WRIGHT, DIANA LYNN and TAB HUNTER do fairly standard work, under William A. Wellman's slow-paced direction.

    It's a stark and brooding story of an isolated farm family living in a remote area and haunted by the symbolic "cat" of the title. Photographed in muted WarnerColor with effective background music by Roy Webb, its somber wintry atmosphere is well captured in the opening scene but becomes tedious before the story reaches a midway point because a real connection with the troubled characters is never really made.

    All the cast members have done better work elsewhere. It's hard to believe how matronly and severe TERESA WRIGHT became for this role, only a few years beyond her delicate work as a leading lady in many films of the '40s. WILLIAM HOPPER is effective as Mitchum's outspoken brother.

    All the interiors are filmed in a style that seems more like a filmed play than a film. BEULAH BONDI as the embittered mother manages to give some gravitas to the story. ROBERT MITCHUM gives his usual sturdy and colorful performance as the oldest son hellbent on tracking a killer cat. TAB HUNTER as the weakest younger brother has less to work with.

    A fairly interesting, harsh, character-driven tale that should have been much more effective with better dialog and family dynamics.
    Last edited by ethanedwards; July 16th, 2012 at 08:00 PM.
    Best Wishes
    Keith
    Totnes- the Tombstone of England

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    Re: Classic Movie Westerns- Track of the Cat (1954)

    One of Duke's Batjac Productions
    which was originally posted in his comprehensive work.
    I have moved it here as these were critically acclaimed movies,
    and deserve better exposure
    Best Wishes
    Keith
    Totnes- the Tombstone of England

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