This is a great episode.
Maybe you're getting soft, Whitey. Maybe you're turning into a human being.
Ride Clear of Diablo is directed by Jesse Hibbs and adapted to screenplay by George Zuckerman from a story by Ellis Marcus. It stars Audie Murphy, Dan Duryea, Susan Cabot, Abbe Lane and Russell Johnson. Irving Glassberg is the cinematographer with location filming in Technicolor at Lone Pine and Victorville in California. Plot sees Murphy as Clay O'Mara, a railroad surveyor forced to return to his home town after rustlers kill his father and brother. Getting the sheriff to make him a tin star wearing deputy, Murphy sets about finding out who was responsible for the murders. His first port of call is a meeting with notorious gunslinger Whitey Kincaid (Duryea)...
Lively and utterly enjoyable B Western in the cannon of Audie Murphy. Standard revenge formula of plotting is elevated to better heights by the central relationship between Murphy's honest do gooder and Duryea's rough and tumble bad dude. Director Hibbs smoothly directs and the story has one or two surprises to off set the expected lack of credibility in the story. Glassberg's photography is beautiful and there's good support to the leads from Jack Elam and Denver Pyle. The girls look sexy and are costumed in style, while the action sequences, notably a horse pursuit featuring a gorgeous white stallion, are good value for money. Everything, tho, is in Duryea's shadow, stealing the movie, Duryea is having a great time as the cackling villain forming an uneasy friendship with Murphy. It's this coupling, and the turn of events in the finale, that most will fondly remember the film for.
Real solid stuff. 6.5/10
Showing on here as just a backlot production, which is a shame if that's the case?
Rogers And His Jolly Green Rangers.
Northwest Passage is directed by King Vidor and adapted to screenplay by Laurence Stallings and Talbot Jennings from the Kenneth Roberts novel of the same name. It stars Spencer Tracy, Robert Young and Walter Brennan. Music is by Herbert Stothart and cinematography by William V. Skall and Sidney Wagner.
"This is a story of our early Americaâ¦.of the century of conflict with French and Indiansâ¦.when necessity made simple men, unknown to history, into giants in daring and endurance. It begins in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in 1759â¦."
Hurrah! What with the film having a reputation as one of the greatest adventure films of all time, that opening salvo for Vidor's movie doubly whets the appetite.What follows is more a case of a visually great picture, dotted with action, that is more about actual heroes than heroic deeds. Certainly the first hour of the picture leans more towards the slow burn than anything raising the pulse. However, characters are well drawn by Vidor and his team, with quality performances to match from the leads, and when the action dose come, such as the excellent battle at the Abenaki village, they more than pay back the patience of the viewer. We need to be forgiving for the overtly racist fervour that permeates the plot, so instead just rejoice in men triumphing over many obstacles, both of the mind and the body. 7/10
Marmite at Minnie's Haberdashery.
Quentin Tarantino writes and directs and it stars Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Lee, Walton Goggins, Tim Roth, Micahel Madsen, Demian Bichir and Bruce Dern. Music is scored by Ennio Morricone and cinematography by Robert Richardson.
Wyoming, wintertime, and an assortment of suspect characters are holed up at Minnie's Haberdashery while a blizzard rages outside. Soon enough suspicions and ugly human traits come to the fore...
Tarrantino is on a Western/Southern/Oater/Civil War kick these days, here following on from Django Unchained, this is set just post the Civil War. Proudly homaging genres he loves, he throws all his trademarks at The Hateful Eight for glorious results - that is on proviso you happen to be a fan of his in the first place.
Picture is split into two halves. First half sets up the characters who come to be at Minnie's, the conversations are pungent with Tarrantino's caustic and comedic writing, the characterisations equally so, whilst we have been treated to some absolutely gorgeous Colorado vistas. There's a constant sense of mistrust in the air, while racism, misogyny and political fall outs pulse away in set up scenarios.
Then it's the second half, where after a wee bit of narration that had me thinking my Blu-ray player had somehow started playing The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, hell then comes to Minnie's! It quickly becomes evident we have been part of a Tarrantino parlour game, a game of Clue - cum - Ten Little Indians, only in a Wild West setting, and with blood, bones and bile in full effect.
The whole thing is wonderfully stylish in the way that Tarrantino is known for. The cartoonish horror mingles with more biting observations on humanity, the violence shocks to get a reaction from the viewer, for better or worse, and always there is humour, where Hateful Eight proves itself to be one damn funny film.
Morricone scores it as cartoon horror with Western strains, and it's magnificent, it sounds like the evil twin to his score for The Untouchables. The cast are super (though a couple of them are not given much to do), with Leigh standing out, and Messrs Jackson and Russell hold glorious excessive court. Costuming is most appealing, as is the set-design for Minnie's. And director QT? Well he does his thing, chapters and verse and playful filmic cunning. 9/10
I would like to see Frank pay it.
Valdez is Coming is directed by Edward Sherin and adapted for the screen by Roland Kibbee and David Rayfiel from the novel of the same name written by Elmore Leonard. It stars Burt Lancaster, Susan Clark, Jon Cypher and Frank Silvera. Music is by Charles Gross and photography by GÃ¡bor PogÃ¡ny. It's out of United Artists and shot in DeLuxe colour. Plot finds Lancaster as ageing town constable Bob Valdez, who after being forced into killing an innocent man, attempts to get compensation for the dead man's widow out of the townsfolk responsible for the events leading up to the shooting. This is met with a less than favourable response, particularly from crooked rancher Frank Tanner (Cypher), who although he is the most guilty party, takes umbrage to the suggestion and has Bob tied to a wooden cross and hounded out of town. But Bob will be back, he may be old and gentile in nature, but he's an experienced Indian fighter and a crack shot marksman. Watch out, Valdez is Coming.
Solid if a little too ponderous at times, Valdez is Coming is sort of like an amalgamation of an American Oater and a Spaghetti Western. Filmed in southern Spain, at locations where master Italian director Sergio Leone shot many of his European Westerns, the film is the silver screen directing debut of Edward Sherin, who made his name as a director in American theatre and television. Whilst the direction is competent and the acting from Lancaster adds a complexity to the story, the picture almost seems to be trying too hard to make Leonard's source material work. The bigotry of men card is played very early on and from then on in everything is just too predictable, in fact were it not for Lancaster's screen presence the piece would fall well under average. The Christ-come-avenging angel motif is subtlety played by Lancaster, but tension is in short supply and action sequences few and far between. Somewhere in the cramped mix is a good film, one with something to say, a film desperately trying to make a dramatic thrust courtesy of a decent man on a mission narrative. Sadly it doesn't all come together, but thanks to Lancaster and a neat ending, it's not one to dismiss completely. 6/10
Footnote: British cuts of the film offer a version missing some violent moments, suffice to say that if seeking the film out one should choose carefully.
Gunpowder & Gold!
The Wild Westerners is directed by Oscar Rudolph and written by Gerald Drayson Adams. It stars James Philbrook, Nancy Kovack, Duane Eddy and Guy Mitchell. Music is by Ross DiMaggio and Eastman Color cinematography is by Gordon Avil.
It is what it is, a traditional Western made with a modest budget that tries to do the best it can. It's 1864 in the Montana Territory and some outlaw types are easily robbing gold shipments. How come it's so easy? This is something Marshal McDowell (Philbrook) and his trusty team must try to answer before it's too late - especially since the Marshal's newly "acquired" bride (Kovack) is becoming a key figure.
Oddly enough there is quite a bit going on here for a "C" grade production, though the core thematic drive involves outlaws who are made known to us from the off, rendering the shifty - cum - mysterious shenanigans around town as kind of redundant! There's also a thread that involves trying to keep the Cheyenne off of the war path, a burgeoning romance that has the most auspicious of beginnings, and some jealousies and macho posturings. The acting is a mixed bag of the average and the poor, the production value a blend of the nice (outdoor photography at Lone Pine) and the cheap (wonky and poorly designed sets), while there are no surprises in store off of the page. Yet there are far worse Westerns out there that had bigger budgets, it's brisk and has good action, a couple of good guy/bad guy characters to cheer and boo respectively, and Duane Eddy's title guitar music is quality.
Not one to rush out to see, but some charm and minor qualities stop it from being in stinker hell. 5/10
The name's Spikes, Harry Spikes. I'm a bank robber boys.
The Spikes Gang is directed by Richard Fleischer and adapted to screenplay by Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank Jr. from the novel The Bank Robber written by Giles Tippette. It stars Lee Marvin, Gary Grimes, Ron Howard and Charles Martin Smith. Music is by Fred Karlin and cinematography by Brian West.
Happening upon an injured man, three boys nurse him back to health and learn that he is bank robber Harry Spikes (Marvin). Enchanted by his tales and way of life, the boys decide to form their own gang and eventually linking up with Spikes who then teaches them the tricks of his trade. However, the outlaw life is not as romantic as the boys first envisaged...
It's filmed in DeLuxe Color and the location photography is out of Tabernas, AlmerÃa, AndalucÃa in Spain. Yet the colours and landscape contours are not vivid, they are deliberately pared back so as to not give the impression this is a vibrant yeehaw tale of young spunkers on the lam. The Spikes Gang is ripe with a foreboding atmosphere about the innocence of youth corrupted by stretching too far for romanticism. The boys home life out there on the frontier is painted as sad, even grim, with bad or absent parents featuring strongly, it's not hard to buy into the fact these impressionable young men in waiting yearn for adventure.
Once out there striding for fortune and notorious glory, the lads find the harsh realities of outlaw life. No money means no food, and to rob people you have to be prepared to use violence, and to then take the consequences of those actions, be it emotionally or by having a price then put on your own young heads. Hooking up with Spikes seems the cool thing to do, he becomes a surrogate father and he at least gives them skills to survive a basic outlaw way of life. There's hope dangled, even much humour inserted into the narrative, but there's always an air of disillusionment lurking around the corner as this character study unscrews the myths of the West.
Which leads to what? A moral lesson? Perhaps? Well what we do know is that it builds gently, with Fleischer adroitly forming his characters and garnering superb performances from his cast (one of Marvin's best turns actually) in the process. Once the finale plays its hand, it's of such sadness to leave an indelible impression that anyone of sound heart will find hard to shake from the memory bank. Western legends Arthur Hunnicutt and Noah Beery pop in to the picture to add some weight, the former quite excellent with a pitiful characterisation that really kick- starts the emotional wattage, while the contributions of Karlin and West are faultless in terms of screenplay alliance.
Judged harshly by the jaded critics of the time and mostly ignored at the box office, The Spikes Gang may just be one of the most under valued Westerns of the 70s. Whether it was bad timing due to the direction the Western genre was taking at the time of release I'm not sure, but this is an elegiac treat waiting to be rediscovered by the Western lover. 8/10
You better put that blindfold back on.
Actually, wearing a blindfold during a sitting for this movie seems like a pretty good idea given how lifeless it is. When you see it's produced by A.C. Lyles then realistic expectations are needed, his low budget Westerns grabbed the aged coat tails of a genre that had moved onto a different plain than the one Lyles now traversed. Lyles was astute enough to fill out these Oaters with names familiar to genre fans, regardless of the advent of time or box office appeal, so some interest in the said picture was there from the off.
Some of these Westerns rose above their budget limitations to be better than average, the likes of Johnny Reno, Waco and Stage to Thunder Rock, while not essential Western viewings, are good time wasters for the undemanding fan. The trouble with Arizona Bushwhackers is that it promises so much more than it can ever deliver. Proudly it tells us that it's in Technicolor and Techniscope, and it stars Howard Keel, Yvonne De Carlo, John Ireland, Marilyn Maxwell, Scott Brady, Brian Donlevy, Barton MacLane and James Craig. Hell! The opening narration is even by one James Cagney. And with a plot involving spies and gun runners in the town of Colton, where Union and Confederate operatives dwell, it's all in place for some solid "B" entertainment. Unfortunately it's a lame duck once Caggers has finished his narration.
Story limps on as the various citizens of Colton potter around wondering about who is trustworthy? Who will get caught out? Who will survive? And isn't it about time the Indians showed up? The actors, bless em', give it a good go, shuffling about in some sort of one-take wonderland, while director Lesley Selander tries hard to beef up the plot with the odd action scene; including a fight between two one armed men that I'm pretty sure isn't meant to be funny. It all builds to a hopelessly weak finale where the Indians do indeed turn up and they file in for cannon fodder duties. The colour photography is washed out, the scenic locations barely realised, and the musical score is 101 rank and file. Lifeless all told and only fans of the fading stars should seek this out so as to tick off of their completist lists. 3/10