A BULLET IS WAITING [1954] [Limited Edition] [Blu-ray] [1954 / 2021] [UK Release] High Tension in the High Sierras!

A plane carrying bounty hunter Sheriff Frank Munson [Stephen McNally] and a man and his prisoner Ed Stone [Rory Calhoun] indicted for manslaughter is wrecked on a lonely California beach and the prisoner manages to escape, after a struggle, only to be taken in hand by the female manager Cally Canham [Jean Simmons] of a remote sheep ranch and biding their time until the bad weather passes so that Sheriff Frank Munson can bring Ed Stone to justice for a crime he's committed involving Sheriff Frank Munson's brother.

FILM FACT: The film ‘A BULLET IS WAITING’ was to be the first of three movies starring Jean Simmons and produced by Howard Welsch and he took over the contract Jean Simmons who had been with RKO. Filming started on the 3rd December, 1953. Howard Welsch later sold the remaining two-film-commitment with Jean Simmons to 20th Century Fox. In April 1954 Howard Welsch signed a deal with Columbia Pictures to distribute the film ‘A BULLET IS WAITING.’

Cast: Rory Calhoun, Jean Simmons, Stephen McNally and Brian Aherne

Director: John Farrow

Producer: Howard Welsch

Screenplay: Casey Robinson (screenplay) and Thames Williamson (screenplay / story)

Composer: Dimitri Tiomkin

Music Department: Dimitri Tiomkin (Composer/Conductor), George Parrish (Orchestrator) (uncredited), Herbert Taylor  (Orchestrator) (uncredited), Manuel Emanuel (Orchestrator) (uncredited), Paul Marquardt (Orchestrator) (uncredited) and Robert Tracy (Music editor)

Cinematography: Franz F. Planer, A.S.C. (Director of Photography)

Special Effects: Herman E. Townsley     

Make-up and Hair Department: Make-up: Gus Noring and Hair: Gail McGary

Costume and Wardrobe Department: Joe King: Wardrobe: Men and Sabine Manela: Wardrobe: Women

Image Resolution: 1080p (Color by Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1

Audio: English: 1.0 LPCM Mono Audio
Audio Description: 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo Audio

Subtitles: English

Running Time: 81 minutes

Region: Region B/2

Number of discs: 1

Studio: Columbia Pictures / Powerhouse Films / INDICATOR

Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: ‘A BULLET IS WAITING’ [1954] has a lot going for it: it promises suspense, danger and action, it raises questions in one’s mind and attracts the attention. Is it perhaps more than a little misleading though? In a sense it’s not, as it does allude to a very real fear motivating one of the leads. On the other hand, I know that when I first heard of about the film I had mental image that it was a western or a “film noir” shaded thriller. Yet that is not really what ends up being presented on the screen as it’s essentially a rustic melodrama with action/thriller elements backing up a tale of romance and renewal.

Opening of the film flings the viewer unapologetically into the very heart of the story can be hugely effective, and that’s what occurs with the film ‘A BULLET IS WAITING,’ and the first image is of boiling, surging waters, waves driven relentlessly by their own turmoil onto hard and unyielding rocks; this, backed by a characteristically muscular and dominant brilliant Dimitri Tiomkin composed film score, signals an affair of heightened passions. As the camera moves around the detached wheel of a plane is visible at the edge of the swirling tide, and the tracking shot back inland reveals more wreckage and debris littering the shore, seguing gradually into footprints gouged frantically in the sand. And then, at the crest of a hillock, two figures loom into view struggling against and pummelling each other in desperation.

They are Ed Stone [Rory Calhoun] and Sheriff Frank Munson [Stephen McNally], fugitive and pursuer respectively, quite literally locked in combat since they are shackled together at this point. Ed Stone gains the upper hand, releases himself and sets off alone. It’s a temporary separation though and these two antagonists are soon to be reunited when they stumble onto private property. Cally Canham [Jean Simmons] is a young woman who has been living an isolated existence with only her reclusive father David Canham [Brian Aherne],  and her loyal sheepdog Shep, for company. With her father away for a few days, neither Cally Canham nor the two survivors of the plane wreck particularly want to be holed up together in her cabin. However, a prolonged and dramatic storm leads to flooding that cuts off all possible escape routes, and forces these disparate characters to contemplate those timeless adversaries: retribution or redemption. By the time Cally Canham’s father David Canham returns a number of truths will have been laid bare and paths chosen.

Now this is by no means a perfect movie, there are some weaknesses which I’ll address later, but on the other hand it does have quite a lot going for it. Director John Farrow starts out with that wonderfully cinematic opening sequence I’ve spoken about and manages to steer a fairly even course throughout, avoiding the trap of letting it get too talky, even when the plot drifts toward some philosophical musing. That philosophy – espoused on screen by Brian Aherne and represented by his withdrawal from a modern world he sees as increasingly dominated by confusion and conflict – is actually dealt with more subtly within the framework of the plot.

Personally, I see it as a variation on the classic redemption theme by focusing on the restorative powers of nature. From the primal power of the storm to Franz Planer’s beautiful cinematic photography of the pastoral scenes, and on to the soothing effect of the sheepdog Shep and the lamb on the frayed emotions of the characters, the influence of nature and its ability to affect renewal is never far below the surface.

Again I noted though, there are some weaknesses in some parts of the movie, which ought to be mentioned. Firstly, I see the redemptive strand having a dual focus, on the characters of both Rory Calhoun and Stephen McNally, the need for its application to the latter emerging only gradually. By the end the end of the movie this is seen to have been achieved, but in one case it was never in serious doubt anyway whereas in the other something is lost, in my view at least, by the abruptness with which it occurs. Any picture that embraces the concept of redemption and/or renewal is always welcome with me but I have to say I prefer it when the road which leads there feels a little longer, or when the battle is harder fought; in ‘A BULLET IS WAITING,’ and indeed the ending itself, arrives with something approaching alacrity.

I’ve talked a lot about both actors Rory Calhoun and Stephen McNally y with this review and so I’ll simply say that both men turn in a very typically strong work performance, with the former’s innate likeability and the latter’s knack for tapping into ambiguity to the fore. Brian Aherne’s presence is felt from early on in the film through his influence on his daughter’s thinking and character but he only makes an appearance in the final third of the movie. But most of all, Brian Aherne brings a lovely sense of quiet authority and   civility to his character role. I liked him in Alfred Hitchcock’s film ‘I Confess’ and I must try to look into some more of his films in due course.

However, the real star of ‘A BULLET IS WAITING’ is the wonderful British actress Jean Simmons, and had a good deal of range, her deranged beauty remains a remarkable piece of screen acting and contrasts with the delicate innocence she displays here. Jean Simmons slow awakening and realisation of the possibilities existing outside her cloistered existence is well done; the image of her sitting in her modest bedroom, leafing through her book on ballet, the little toy ballerina turning pirouettes within its own protective yet restrictive space, as she tries to find some common ground with Rory Calhoun’s roughneck is just impossibly charming.

Generally the film ‘A BULLET IS WAITING,’ has an image that is very pleasing with Franz F. Planer, A.S.C. brilliant Color by Technicolor cinematography that is looking particularly good. I see that the movie is categorized as a “film noir” by both IMDb and Wikipedia; I don’t feel that it should be applied in this case. All told, despite a somewhat rushed ending, I found this to be an enjoyable and rewarding film to watch. It’s one I’ll be returning to sometime in the near future and I hope with my review you will be keen to please check out this Color by Technicolor 1954 Columbia Pictures film.

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Blu-ray Image Quality – Columbia Pictures, Powerhouse Films + INDICATOR presents us the film ‘A BULLET IS WAITING’ really pleasing 1080p Color by Technicolor image and is shown in the 1.37:1 aspect ratio. The release is sourced from an older but very handsome master that was supplied by Sony Pictures. While this master comes with some minor but unmissable limitations, the entire film looks very healthy and fresh. Clarity was quite pleasing as well. Grain is nicely exposed and resolved, but density levels are already very good. Immediately before or after transitions some minor unevenness can be spotted, so the visuals remain very filmic. The Color by Technicolor balance is very good. There are no distracting age-related imperfections. Please Note: Playback Region B/2: This will not play on most Blu-ray players sold in North America, Central America, South America, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. Learn more about Blu-ray region specifications.

Blu-ray Audio Quality – Columbia Pictures, Powerhouse Films + INDICATOR brings us the film ‘A BULLET IS WAITING’ with 1.0 LPCM Mono Audio. I did not encounter any issues to report in our review. The audio is very clear, stable, and nicely balanced. Dynamic intensity is very good for a film from the early 1950’s. In fact, whenever Dimitri Tiomkin's soundtrack has an important role to play it happens with true dynamic intensity especially when we encounter some very dramatic moments in the film. Overall, it was a very enjoyable audio experience.

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Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:

Special Feature: ‘A BULLET IS WAITING’ Audio Commentary with Barry Forshaw and Kim Newman [Audio only] [2021] [1080p] [1.37:1] [81:51] With this featurette, we get to hear this audio commentary with Writer, Broadcaster and Journalist Barry Forshaw and Film Critic and Fiction Writer Kim Newman and are here to talk about the 1954 Columbia Pictures film ‘A BULLET IS WAITING.’ First to introduce himself is Barry Forshaw who informs us that he is the author of British Crime Writing: An Encyclopedia, The Rough Guide to Crime Fiction that is an extensive guide to “film noir” genre and many other things related to cinema and now Barry Forshaw introduces us the Kim Newman who is sitting next to him and Kim Newman informs us that he is a leading film critic and novelist and says “Hello Barry,” and inform us that that they are here to talk about the film ‘A BULLET IS WAITING’ where a young women lives alone with her protective father where they live in isolation and are visited by two men and sexual incidents happen, and they feel it is on the theme of a William Shakespeare play “The Tempest” and also feels that it is in the genre of the films ‘Yellow Sky’ [1948] and ‘Forbidden Planet’ [1956] and they also feel the 1954 film is in the middle of those two films and Kim Newman is questioning whether ‘A BULLET IS WAITING’ really qualifies as “film noir,” but suggesting that it does have a single “film noir” character in the shape of Sheriff Munson played by the American actor Stephen McNally. They mention about a critic who had not seen the film for a very long time and classed the film as a “Western,” but both comments that the film is actually a contemporary melodrama, but they also feel the film is a genre of a “erotic thriller” of the 1980’s and 1990’s, that features and intruder from outside and who comes into their world and they also feel it is in the same genre as the film ‘Smooth Talk’ [1985] which was directed by Joyce Chopra, and starred Treat Williams and Laura Dern. Barry Forshaw and Kim Newman now talk about the opening of the film and the skill of the visual aspect of the film by director John Farrow and they feel he is a very interesting director and mentions some of his other films he has directed that included ‘California’ [1947], ‘Night Has a Thousand Eyes’ [1948], ‘Red, Hot and Blue’ [1948], ‘Botany Bay’ [1952], ‘Hondo’ [1953], ‘The Unholy Wife’ [1957] and ‘John Paul Jones’ [1959]. It comes as no surprise that Barry Forshaw and Kim Newman really know their movies and have clearly spent some time analysing ‘A BULLET IS WAITING,’ and have plenty to say about seemingly every aspect of the 1954 film. There is a lot of discussion from Barry Forshaw and Kim Newman about the three leading actors and also do a really in-depth discussion about the career of director John Farrow, but Barry Forshaw and Kim Newman also talk about the development of Ed Stone played by Rory Calhoun and Cally Canham played by Jean Simmons relationship, and the homoerotic overtones of the fractious bond between prisoner Ed Stone played by Rory Calhoun] and bounty hunter Sheriff Munson played by Stephen McNally, and the symbolism of a scene involving a snake, and Barry Forshaw and Kim Newman have a great deal of difficulty of pinning down the genre of the film, the structure of the screenplay, and a whole lot more in-depth fascinating information. One surprising thing they mention and that is the dog named Shep that is a collie dog that kept watch over a herd of sheep and they both feel it was a very good sheep dog in the movie and also does a very good work in the film and they are not sure whether Shep went onto a good film career. They both also talk about the most ambiguous character in the film that is not Rory Calhoun or Jean Simmons but Stephen McNally who feel we can change our mind about his character throughout the film. They feel the film ‘A BULLET IS WAITING,’ is not a disaster, but more like a minor film and did not have much influence, and they wonder whether the criminal character Ed Stone is an actual murderer, but of course they say later on in the film we get to hear his side of the story and they are not sure we have to accept his side of the story on why he was arrested, because we don’t get the usual flashback we get in other films of this genre, but they also say it is an enclosed movie with nobody else in the film. When we get to chapter 5, they both comment and want to praise Cinematography Franz F. Planer and mentions that he was involved with the Disney film ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’ [1954] and they feel that is a film that would have been a nightmare to shoot and probably took a whole year to shoot and also dealing with the actors Kirk Douglas, James Mason, Peter Lorre, animals and the special effects, they also mention that Franz F. Planer was involved with the bulk of Audrey Hepburn films and especially making female actors look really beautiful and glamorous in a film, but they also mention that Franz F. Planer made his photography of the landscape in the 1954 film look very natural and impressive. At chapter 8, both mention the actor Brian Ahern as David Canham who is the father of Cally Canham arrives back in his jeep and is startled to find two men there and they feel he not seem that concerned that the two strange men are on his property alone with his daughter and feels they might try and take sexual advances on his daughter, and he hears their stories and, aware that his daughter is falling in love with Ed Stone and wants to know from Cally Canham if she is serious about Ed Stone and David Canham offers him a chance to turn himself in to other authorities. They also both again comment about the father who seems to prioritise his needs over his daughter and feels a bit guilty removing his daughter from the real world, but he would felt even more guilty if he had abandoned her, but they also comment by saying it is not explained what happened to the mother who is completely invisible or did she die at childbirth. As we get to the final conclusion to the film, they both comment by saying that they both feel Jean Simmons looks really great with the animals, and genuinely delighted in having the baby sheep and Shep the collie dog with Jean Simmons, her father and the other two men in the jeep driving off into the horizon and leaving the property behind them that has just been bought, and they also comment again on whether or not this film is a “film noir” and personally it doesn’t really matter, it is still an enjoyable movie, and at that point, this audio commentary comes to an end. All in all, this audio commentary with Barry Forshaw and Kim Newman is a most enjoyable listen and that they may well change your perception towards the film ‘A BULLET IS WAITING,’ or at least some parts of the 1954 film.

Special Feature: From Cricklewood to Hollywood: Josephine Botting on Jean Simmons [2021] [1080p] [1.37:1 / 1.78:1] [20:35] With this featurette, we get to meet Josephine Botting who is a Curator at the BFI National Archive, Film Archivist and Historian and is here to discusses in-depth of the early career of actress Jean Simmons and her transition from British to American cinema. Josephine Botting also concentrates and talks about the early career of Jean Simmons and her transition from British to America cinema, and mentions that certain British actors like Phyllis Calvert, Margarete Lockwood and Diana Dors were not served well with the Hollywood stardom and they returned back to Britain, but some British actors like Charles Laughton, Gladys Cooper and C. Aubrey Smith established themselves as character actors and formed a good circle of close friends in Hollywood, but there were also an even closer smaller number of British actors that really achieved Hollywood stardom like David Niven, James Mason and Deborah Kerr all made it, but with Jean Simmons [1929 – 2010] it was a shaky start in Hollywood in being a successful starlet export from the other side of the pond and Josephine Botting goes in the background history of Jean Simons and especially her family background history and also explains how a teacher spotter her talent at a very young age and recommended her in a role in the 1944 comedy film ‘Give Us The Moon’ that was directed by Val Guest and then Jean Simmons went on to star in the film ‘Mr. Emmanuel’ [1944], ‘The Way To The Stars’ [1944] ‘Kiss the Bride Goodbye’ [1945] and then later on Jean Simmons appeared in the British Technicolor film ‘Caesar and Cleopatra’ [1945] and got a Seven year contract from that moment, and directors were clamouring for Jean Simmons to be in their films and went onto to appear in the following films ‘Kiss the Bride Goodbye’ [1945], ‘Meet Sexton Blake’ [1945], ‘The Way to the Stars’ [1945], ‘Great Expectations’ [1946], ‘Black Narcissus’ [1947], ‘Uncle Silas’ [1947], ‘The Robe’ [1953], ‘The Big Country’ [1958], ‘Elmer Gantry’ [1960] and ‘Spartacus’ [1960] to name but a few. Josephine Botting    also talks about her marriage to fellow actor Stewart Granger, whom Jean Simmons was rumoured to be dating when Stewart Granger was still married and she was just 16. Josephine Botting now gives high praise about Jean Simmons in the American Musical/Crime film ‘Guys and Dolls’ [1955] where Jean Simmons was able to display her dancing skills, also the musical number performed by Jean Simmons and was sung by the actress herself, without dubbing by professional singers and on top of all that, Jean Simmons won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy for the song “If I Were a Bell,” but most of all, Jean Simmons loved making that film and did not like it when the director shouted “PRINT IT” because that meant she would never perform that scene ever again and Jean Simmons said it was the most joyous film she has ever been in and also felt that the film was just a great lot of fun to make, because Jean Simmons just wanted to throw herself into the role she played in the film and especially the dance routines and again, especially that song “If I Were a Bell,” and Josephine Botting also felt Jean Simmons really deserved that Golden Globe Award. Also Josephine Botting talks about Jean Simmons performance in the film ‘A BULLET IS WAITING’ and does get a positive mention overall. As we get near the end of this very interesting featurette, Josephine Botting makes a special comment about the British actress by saying, “Jean Simmons is one a of the few British stars who managed to navigate the Hollywood studio system, and carried out a varied and interesting career without becoming typecast, but for her first five years had proved to be very rocky, and here personal ups and downs continued and she had made the transition from British stardom to Hollywood legend.” Overall, this Josephine Botting featurette was a very interesting on the truly wonderful actress Jean Simmons.  

Special Feature: Image Gallery: With this featurette, we get to view 35 wonderful 1080p black-and-white images of promotional stills and also colour international posters related to the 1954 film ‘A BULLET IS WAITING.’ Please Note: To advance the images you have to press the right hand NEXT button on your remote control. To EXIT this featurette, you have to press MENU or TOP MENU buttons on your remote control.  

Special Feature: Theatrical Trailer [1954] [1080p] [1.37:1] [1:58] With this featurette, we get to view the Original Theatrical Trailer for the film ‘A BULLET IS WAITING.’  

Special Feature: The Yoke’s on Me [1944] [1080p] [1.37:1] [16:14] With this featurette, we get to view a short starring The Three Stooges, who are rejected by the armed services, the Three Stooges decide to “do their bit” by becoming  farmers in which the trio protect their isolated farmhouse from unwanted guests. For $1000 plus the car, the boys buy a run-down farm with no livestock. They acquire an escaped ostrich that eats gunpowder and lays explosive eggs. A wire attached to the goose which is clearly visible when it bites Curly's nose and flies around.

Finally, ‘A BULLET IS WAITING’ [1954] was directed by John Farrow and is an unusual type western that is about a bounty hunter Sheriff Frank Munson and his prisoner Ed Stone seeking shelter in a remote cabin owned by Cally Canham and David Canham, and Sheriff Frank Munson and Ed Stone are biding their time until the bad weather passes over so that Sheriff Frank Munson can bring Ed Stone to justice for a crime he has committed involving Sheriff Frank Munson's brother. The film was very interesting casting and is the most worthwhile feature of this film. Ed Stone seems quite at home in the West, but David Canham and Cally Canham would seem to be there by intellect and temperament and much more suited for a drawing room film setting. This is probably as close as you get to seeing Jean Simmons appearing in a Western and her short haircut makes her look less feminine as opposed to being a tomboy, and her English accent seems slightly out of place in this gritty world of runaway fugitives. The only notable thing about this film is the composed film score by Dimitri Tiomkin and is fresh from ‘Dial M For Murder’ and from the opening scene you feel as though you are back with the film ‘Dial M For Murder.’ The composed film score does not quite fit right with the Western genre film, but you definitely recognise the composer behind the music, and the 1950’s was his very best period for Dimitri Tiomkin. With the film ‘A BULLET IS  WAITING’ you get to view beautiful scenic locations, which is not a Hollywood “set” and especially with excellent cinematography. The all the actors are very watchable, and Jean Simmons and Rory Calhoun make a suitable good couple. This is a passable western, and the dialogue is okay and did not have many moments to make you wince. The story line is terrific, but there is a lack of real tension that makes the film drag slightly at times. However, the real problem is the ending, as I felt it ended a little too safe for a Hollywood film. Overall it is better than many such “B” films, and does manage to maintain interest throughout the movie. Highly Recommended!

Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Aficionado
Le Cinema Paradiso
United Kingdom

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