Tag Archives: Alvin J. Neitz

Stunt Man and Stunt Pilot for The Phantom


The acting in this film is pretty bad, but I still think it’s a fun flick for a “Stuck In A House With A Killer” flick.  What it doesn’t have in the way of  good actors it easily makes up for in the thrills it provides. Right from the start, it sets itself apart by one of the slickest craziest stunts I’ve ever seen, especially when you know that this was done in 1931!  phantom storyboard

It starts off in a penitentiary, where a warden is getting ready to execute a killer known as The Phantom. As they prepare the electric chair, the Phantom scales a 20-foot wall, and jumps on a nearby moving train.  If that’s not enough, wow, the Phantom then jumps on a rope ladder hanging underneath a plane and then flies away. The only problem is, (ironically, befitting the title of the film itself) I have no idea who performed the stunt and who the stunt pilot was.  I’ve looked under all the rocks I know of and it appears the knowledge of who these stunt performers are, are lost in time.

Look for the stunt to occur starting around 1:55 on the counter.The Phantom Stunt

The Phantom was directed by Alan James (Alvin J. Neitz) for Supreme Pictures. Alan James, as you’ll notice, was the director of Canyon Hawks, the nod of the Best Movie Stunt for 1930, so you know he believes in good stunts!

Things to look up (click on item to go to IMDB page):

History of film companies as defined by Wikipedia:

Supreme Pictures:  A.W. Hackel (December 18, 1882 – October 22, 1959) was an American film producer who founded Supreme Pictures in 1934.  Hackel contracted Bob Steele for 32 of his Westerns, for example Alias John Law in 1935.  In 1936, Republic Pictures needed more Westerns and made a deal with Hackel who released his films through Republic.  After the demise of Supreme Pictures in 1942, Hackel released through Monogram Pictures. All of his pictures were Westerns with the exception of Am I Guilty? (1940), a race film, and The Flaming Urge (1953), a crime film.

Check out our new Book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 8.23.28 PM

Yakima Canutt and Canyon Hawks


There’s a scene in this one where Yak drives an open wagon driven by two horses straight down a precipitous hill that just blows the mind! The scene is shot with a group of men on horses watching from the top, obviously afraid of riding their own single horses down the hill – let alone a wagon with two horses attached – and Yak sitting in the seat in the middle at the front! Also, just watching Yak handle his six-shooters is like watching a Wild West Show.canyon hawkes storyboard

When rodeo riders invaded Hollywood, they brought a battery of rodeo techniques that Canutt would expand and improve, including horse falls and wagon wrecks, along with the harnesses and cable rigs to make the stunts foolproof and safe. Among the new safety devices was the ‘L’ stirrup, which allowed a man to fall off a horse without getting hung in the stirrup. Canutt also developed cabling and equipment to cause spectacular wagon crashes, while releasing the team, all on the same spot every time. Safety methods such as these saved film-makers time and money and prevented accidents and injury to performers.Canyon Hawks stunt

It was these early movies where Yakima met John Wayne. Canutt taught Wayne how to fall off a horse. Canutt and Wayne pioneered stunt and screen fighting techniques still in use. The two worked together to create a technique that made on-screen fight scenes more realistic. Wayne and Canutt found if they stood at a certain angle in front of the camera, they could throw a punch at an actor’s face and make it look as if actual contact had been made. Much of Wayne’s on-screen persona was from Canutt. The characterizations associated with Wayne – the drawling, hesitant speech and the hip-rolling walk – were pure Canutt. Said Wayne, “I spent weeks studying the way Yakima Canutt walked and talked. He was a real cowhand.”

Canyon Hawks (1930) was directed by Alan James (as Alvin J. Neitz) and J.P. McGowan for National Players.canyon Yakima Rodeo

Things to look up (click on item to go to IMDB):

Glossary of film terms as defined by Wikipedia:

  1. Gunspinning – This refers to the old west tradition and Hollywood legend of a cowboy gunslinger twirling his pistol around his trigger finger. Gunspinning is a western art such as trick roping, and is sometimes referred as gunplay, gun artistry, and gun twirling. Gunspinning is seen in many classic TV and film Westerns, such as Shane and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. The majority of gunspinning is seen as a precursor to putting the gun back in its holster. It may be used as a fancy ending to a trick shot, or just to impress or intimidate an opponent.  Watch Kirk Douglas in Man Without a Star if you want to see someone really good at it.  Douglas said later in one of his autobiography’s, “In my favorite scene, I twirled a gun; flipped it into the air, from side to side, behind my back, and fired it. This was basically juggling, with some additions. We filmed it in one take, no cuts, so you could see that there was no magic, no special effects, to it.”

Check out our new Book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 8.23.28 PM