Tag Archives: Tom Steele

Best Movie Stunts of the Year List 1960-1969

 

Here is the list for the Best Movie Stunts for the Decade 1960-1969 as listed in the book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!

1960 – Spartacusspartacus_fight

I would argue that this is the best Gladiator movie ever made.  The stunt team on this film was the who’s who in the stunt world at that time including, Yakima, Tap and Joe Canutt, Harvey Parry, Tom Steele, Richard Farnsworth, Buddy Van Horn, Dale Van Sickel, Polly Bursen, Carey Loftkin, Loren James, Cliff Lyons and on and on.

1961 – The Guns of Navaroneguns-of-navarone-original

Alistair MacLane seemed to create a genre all his own that started with this picture and had the feel of a heist film but with a mixture of spies and betrayal mixed in.  Some great stunts appear in this film.

1962 – Lawrence of ArabiaLawrence Of Arabia-21

This film is fantastic, but was a very perilous film shoot.  War films, especially with horses are extremely hard.  But boy does it look great.

1963 – The Great Escapegreat bud eikins

Arguably the best motorcycle stunt ever made, but I would venture to say it’s not the best ever made, just the most famous.  It is a pretty nifty stunt for a VERY heavy bike.

1964 – Circus WorldCircus World Lobby Card

This movie has two stunts that blow the mind.  The first is the real sinking of a large carrier ship sinking, live, and then the second is a huge circus tent fire.  Both staged by Richard Talmadge and front and center is a man with only one lung, John Wayne!

1965 – The Sons of Katie Eldersons-of-katie-elder

John Wayne earns the nod for Best Movie Stunts two years running due to his stunts in this movie.  Remember, he’s got only one lung!

1966 – Grand PrixGrandPrix_garnerglare

James Garner found out that he’s a pretty good driver and gets to show his chops here.  He would go on to race professionally after this in several races and drove the pace car several times as well.

1967 – War and Peacewarandpeace

Russia busts out of the gate with this long masterpiece.  It’s epic in every way and beautifully done.  It took them years to make this movie and was finally released in 1967.

1968 – Bullittbullitt (1)

This film is known for an 11 minute long car chase that appears out of the end of the movie and is very tense and breathtaking.  You can never talk about movie stunts without seeing this chase mentioned.

1969 – Battle of BritainBattle_of_Britain

War movies are incredibly difficult and massive undertakings.  Put that in the air and it doubles all the troubles.  This really is the best of these films.

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Best Movie Stunts of the Year List 1950-1959

 

Here is the list for the Best Movie Stunts for the Decade 1950-1959 as listed in the book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!

1950:  The Flame and the Arrow

the flame and the arrow

Burt Lancaster met Nick Cravat when they worked in the circus as acrobats, early in their careers.  This movie highlights some great acrobatics from the two of them, along with some great fighting sequences.

1951:  The Thing From Another Worldthing full body burn

I loved this movie and the remake that followed with Kurt Russell, but this one has a very cool fire burn done Tom Steele that just has to be seen to be believed.

1952:  Ivanhoeivanhoe03

Paddy Ryan was in a group of some of the finest stuntmen to ever come out of England.  In this film he does a real gasping fall from a castle, which was held as the highest fall from a castle for many years.

1953:  Code Twocode two

Motorcycles were really starting to come into their own.  This movie was one of the first one to introduce motorcycle stunts and chase scenes, with many movies following after.

1954:  The Seven SamuraiSeven_Samurai_Fight

This film was probably the most mentioned movie to ever influence a slew of filmmakers, before Star Wars.  It’s an incredible film with a great story, great characters and especially great action.  Most of the actors were hired because they could really fight.  Let’s imagine this as the very first Expendables, where some real action masters were at work here.

1955:  To Hell and Backto hell and back tank

The real life story, played by the real person himself, Audie Murphy, the highest decorated soldier of World War II.  Quite a war film!

1956:  Trapezetrapeze1956

So I mentioned Burt Lancaster was in the circus, right?  Well, here is the movie where he really shows his chops!  You just thought he was a great actor, but he was a really accomplished acrobat, that could have had an amazing career as a stuntman!

1957:  The Curse of Frankensteincurseoffrankenstein1

Hammer Films, out of Great Britain were making some of the most interesting genre films ever made with some of the finest actors like Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing and with fantastic stuntmen like Jock Easton.  Some really great stuff!

1958:  The VikingsVikings oars

So I fell in love with Vikings movies when I saw this one (another great one is the 13th Warrior!).  With that in mind, Kirk Douglas blows my mind when I see him, “running the oars” with such ease as he does in this film!

1959:  Ben HurBen Joe Canutt Jump

A stunt that goes wrong is not an “accident” when no one gets hurt…I just consider it an improvised stunt.  In this one the results were so cool they added it to the film.

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Tom Steele for The Thing From Another World

 

Tom Steele body doubled James Arness (The Thing) during the end scene in which The Thing is doused with kerosene and set ablaze and is believed to be the first full body burn ever filmed. Steele wore an asbestos suit with a special fiberglass helmet with an oxygen supply underneath. At the time, he used a 100% oxygen supply, which was highly combustible. It was pure luck he didn’t burn his lungs whilst breathing in the mixture.thing full body burn

In the 1960s and 70s he remained active as a stuntman but took on more acting bits, including a role as a truck driver in 1966’s Harper and a bit as a security guard in the 1971 Bond epic Diamonds Are Forever. He did driving stunts for Disney’s late-1960s Love Bug films. His last film before retiring was 1986’s Tough Guys, in which he played an elderly man caught up in a bank robbery. In his last years, Steele was a frequent participant at Western and Serial film festivals around the country.

James Arness is famous, of course, as Marshall Matt Dillon on the long-running TV Western Gunsmoke.  He was hired as the Thing for his height, at 6’7″.  He was reportedly so embarrassed by his work on this film, that he failed to appear at the Premiere.  He often remarked that he felt his make up as “The Thing” made him look like a giant carrot.  Interesting note, his brother is Peter Graves, best known for his role as James Phelps on the Mission Impossible TV series.thing

The Thing From Another World directed by Christian Nyby for Winchester Pictures Corporation.

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

thing cardGlossary of stunt terms as defined by www.RichmondStunts.com – Fire Stunt: any action sequence performed where the stunt guy / girl is on fire, in fire or escaping fire. Fire stunts are of high risk and considered to be one of the most dangerous stunts due to the unforgiving nature of fire. Stunt Performers do not have some super human ability to withstand extreme temperatures. They don a special fire suit typically soaked in a water based gel and have protective thermal barrier gels covering any exposed skin which may not be covered with the protective suit.

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

Best of the Year List 1940-1949

 

Here is the list for the Best Movie Stunts for the Decade 1940-1949 as listed in the book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!

1940:  The Mark of Zorro

Not only the second time for Zorro, but the second time for this exact title.  Different year, different actors…great stunts.  The fencing duel between Tyrone Powers and Basil Rathbone, choreographed by Fred Caverns is just about one of the finest ever put to celluloid. Mark of Zorro, The (1940)

1941: The Adventures of Captain Marvel

Dave Hardin Sharpe provided the fighting and the flying in this nifty action serial.  It’s also one of my all time favorite superheros…the original Captain Marvel!

Captain MArvel Lobby Card

1942:  Spy Smasher

It’s the era of the Movie Serial, and no-one did it better than this one!  It’s all out action and adventure with cliff-hangers galore! Carey Loftkin, Kane Richmond and Dave Hardin Sharpe combined to make Spy Smasher a fantastic hit!spyserial

1943:  The Masked Marvel

Another great action serial.  Tom Steele did so many stunts in this, he can even be found to be a bad guy chasing himself, as The Masked Marvel.marvel in danger

1944:  Ghost Guns

At this time there were some impressive cowgirls in the movies. Evelyn Finley was one of the toughest.  This was a B movie, but she’s worth the watch.Poster for the movie ghost guns with Evelyn Finley

1945:  Back To Bataan

We all know what a tough guy John Wayne was, especially in his later years.  It’s fun to see him hit the list for the first time with this entry, a great little war film.Back To Bataan

1946:  Detour To Danger

This one is just like a film I would have made in college; get a whole bunch of buddies together with a 16mm camera and go film some crazy fight scenes.  Harvey Parry and Richard Talmadge get all their stuntman cronies for this one and it’s a lot of fun.  Not great acting, but great fun.detour richard talmadge

1947:  The Perils of Pauline

Second time on the list, but the funny thing is, this one is a fictionalized account of the making of the first film. Polly Burson provides the stunts in this one and she would go on to some nifty westerns as she was a home-spun cowgirl in her own right.perils pauline

1948:  The Three Musketeers

Dave Hardin Sharpe makes the list for the 3rd time in one decade (is that a record?) along with Gene Kelly for their work in this film.  And WOW, what a supporting cast!Three Musketeers, The (1948)

1949:  Twelve O’Clock High

This has got to be the largest plane ever crashed by a real person on film and walked away from it.  Paul Mantz seemed to do it completely without flinching and as if it was as easy as parking a car.Twelve_O'Clock_High_crash_landing

For more info, find the book 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 8.23.28 PM

Stunt Team For Spartacus

 

To say that Spartacus has a very loyal and dedicated following is an understatement.  Looking back, Spartacus has it’s own sub-genre, the Swords and Sandals Spectacle.  It’s spawned multiple look-a-likes and many made-for-television sequels and TV shows.  I’ve always been a fan of a good gladiator story and this is the best.  It gets the nod for Best Movie Stunt over the Alamo for 1960 because of influence and it’s simply harder to perform stunts in what constitutes as a skimpy Speedo.spartacus-original-lobby-card-4-kirk-douglas-tony-curtis-68-3775-p

The stuntmen who worked on this film is a venerable who’s-who of the elite, top stuntmen of the time, including Yakima Canutt and his two sons, Tap and Joe, Richard Farnsworth, Harvey Parry, Tom Steele, Buddy Van Horn, Dale Van Sickel, Polly Burson, Carey Loftkin, Loren Janes, Cliff Lyons, and so, so many more.  The film is really a tribute to all the men and women who worked on it and should be required viewing for anyone wanting a career in the stunt industry.spartacus_fight

The interesting story behind the making of the film is that it wouldn’t have been made if it wasn’t for Ben Hur the year before.  Kirk Douglas was so upset that he lost the role of Ben Hur to Charlton Heston that he set out to prove to William Wyler that he made the wrong decision.  It’s by the sheer will of Douglas alone that this film got made.  He searched for it, bought the rights to it, financed it and hired everyone to work on it.  The first director he hired, he even fired a week into production.  He replaced that director with Stanley Kubrick, but even Kubrick admitted years later that the film is really Douglas’s and not his.  Kubrick did not have say in script and many of the elements that Douglas put in place.spartacus_550w

Kubrick denounced the film later as his worst, but in the end it won four Academy Awards and was nominated for two others.  It’s kind of hard to argue with that kind of a record.  By most people I know, it is regarded as the best gladiator movie of all time and the father of the genre.  Spartacus was directed by Stanley Kubrick for Bryna Productions.Spartacus -douglas

Things to look up (go to IMDB ):

  • Kirk Douglas
  • Spartacus
  • STanley Kubrick
  • Bryna Productions

History of film companies as defined by Wikipedia: Bryna Productions was a film production company established by Kirk Douglas, inspired by the success of Burt Lancaster in moving into production.

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

Tom Steele and The Masked Marvel

 

In the Masked Marvel (1943), Tom Steele played the lead, did all his own stunts, played a bit part as a heavy and doubled three other actors to do all their stunts, and he never got any billing on the series. It was common during these days to not give credit to the stuntmen on these pictures. It’s interesting to note, that he did so much stunt work on this film, that at one point, there’s a scene in which Tom Steele is being chased up a fire escape by the Masked Marvel. Now, knowing that Tom played the Masked Marvel in all the action scenes, he is literally chasing HIMSELF up that fire escape!masked marvel 1943

As a side note, Stuntmen are often selected because of their resemblance to the star they are doubling for. In contrast to this, many of Republic Pictures’ western stars in the 1940s and early 1950s, such as Allan Lane, Bill Elliot, Rex Allen and Monte Hale, were selected in part due to their resemblance to Steele, who would do their stunts.  His trick for keeping his hat on in fight scenes in these pictures (so the audience couldn’t tell it wasn’t the star) was to put rubber surgical tubing in the sweatband to make it fit tight.

The Masked Marvel is one of the kings of action serials.  By my count there were 19 fights (four or more men fighting in two or more rooms were counted as one fight), an even 20 killings by gunshot, 15 deaths by miscellaneous means (explosions, knifes, auto accidents, to include the same shot of a car going over a cliff in Episodes 2 and 8, etc.) and 15 explosions (including cars going over a cliff and the three explosions at the beginning).marvel in danger

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

Glossary of film terms as defined by the Wikipedia – Masked Mystery Villain is a stock character in genre fiction. The Masked Mystery Villain was frequently used in the adventure stories of Pulp magazines and Movie Serials in the early twentieth century. They can also appear in Crime fiction to add to the atmosphere of suspense and suspicion. The “Mask” need not be literal (although it often is), referring more to the subterfuge involved.

He or she is the often main antagonist of the story, often acting behind the scenes with henchmen confronting the protagonists directly. Usually, the protagonists must discover the villain’s true identity before they can be defeated. Often the Masked Mystery Villain will turn out to be either one of the protagonists themselves or a significant member of the supporting cast. The author may give the viewer or reader clues, with many red herrings, as to the villain’s identity – sometime as the characters find them and sometimes for the audience alone. However, the identity is not usually revealed to the audience before it is revealed to the characters of the story. Even the villain’s henchmen rarely know the truth about their master.

The concept was reversed in the serials “The Lone Ranger” and “The Masked Marvel”, where the true identity of the hero is unknown and a number of characters remain possible candidates until the end.

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