KILL THE WICKED! (1967, 90 min.) on Amazon Prime for the first time.For my first review of Junesploitation! (busy working on a freelance project that's kept me away from the world for a while) I couldn't have picked a worst title to start the month with. I've always wanted to sample a generic no-stars, no-budget, no-glory Spaghetti Western... and man, I picked one that is so generic and bland it makes "Godzilla: King of Monsters" seem deep and thoughtful (ouch!). A group of robbers led by sprung-from-hanging-at-the-last-second brute Braddock (Furio Meniconi) take refuge in an abandoned town, where they've hidden their loot and start conspiring with one another to steal it. Saloon/hotel owner Molly (Vivi Gioi), who dresses/acts like she's in her 60's but looks like an actress in her early 30's, also wants the money but can't make a move against the people that invaded her establishment. When the bad guys kidnap and torture a good Samaritan (Larry Ward's Ben Hudson) and the civilian woman he's helping (Daniela Igliozzi's Judy) just because they were passing by, Molly sees a chance to make her move.All this sounds like a generic and passable premise for a halfway decent western, but "Kill the Wicked!" literally put my brain to sleep as I watched it wide awake in the middle of the day. Everything happens for no discernible reason at an odd pace that seems simultaneously frozen in time and lightning-fast. None of the Italian actors embody characters or emotions, they just seem to be playing dress-up in recycled western sets you'll immediately recognize from many other Italian Westerns. There's no gore, even when a horse steps on somebody's hands in "D'Jango" fashion. Music is generic, and the only visually interesting thing about "KTW!" is the made-in-Adobe Premiere Animation cartoon western introduction that someone has slapped on the version currently streaming on Amazon Prime (which is clearly a paygrade above the original production's miniscule budget). Between this and the new "Godzilla" I've literally started Junesploitation 2019 six feet under... and counting. :'(
Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter (1966, dir. William Beaudine)Jesse James' gang's latest attempt at a heist goes wrong, and as Jesse and his friend Hank flee the authorities, they stumble on Baron Frankenstein's granddaughter (not daughter, that title's false advertising!), emigrated from Europe. She cuts Hank's head open and replaces his brain with an artificial one, turning him into... (you'll never guess!) ...a mindless monster!I'm not really sure what they were going for here, the silly premise is in direct opposition to the actors playing it absolutely straight and the dramatic music. 11 months of the year I'd call this total trash, but it's exactly the kind of movie I wanna see during Junesploitation!
Day of Anger (1967)Well this movie is incrediable. I decided on this movie because I stumbled across the vinyl of the sound track at the record store. Smoothly paced, yet gripping as soon and Van Cleef (being the badass that he is) steps into frame. It's epic yet contained, since this is a story centred on the relationships within the movie. Watching Van Cleef mentor a young Giuliano Gemma is emtionally satisfying especially where it ends up. It's Brilliant I loved it.
I watched this one last year and really loved it. It’s awesome!
RIDE LONESOME (1959, dir. Budd Boetticher) – Bounty hunter Ben Brigade, played by western legend Randolph Scott, attempts to bring suspected murderer Billy John back to town to face a noose. As in any good western, the journey will not be without challenges. There is a lot of plot packed into 73 minutes. Ride Lonesome is a very traditional western with a good cast (Lee Van Cleef playing a relatively weak villain) and some beautiful landscapes. Western directors of this era knew how to incorporate landscape so well into their shot compositions. I am always impressed by seeing movement in the foreground and background of the shots. That was not easy to coordinate in an outdoor setting.CEMETERY WITHOUT CROSSES (1969) – One of the characters has this to say about revenge: “It never ends.” That is literally the story. When a man is hanged because of a fight over land, the cycle of violence begins. The tone is grim from the beginning and progressively gets darker. What CEMETERY lacks in joy it makes up for with a style that is different from any spaghetti westerns I have seen. If you are willing to go on a somber journey, this is an excellent film.
Seven Men from now. I can't stand Westerns but this movie is really good.
"In a Valley of Violence" 2016, Dir. Ti WestSlim pickings for streaming Westerns in South Africa, never mind exploitation Westerns. But this flick fills that need. Ti West directs the fuck out of it. The whole cast knows the movie they're in and they respect the genre enough to never wink at the audience. Can someone give Ti West a wagon filled with cash so he can get back to making great genre movies?
A Man Called Django! (1971)Django's wife is murdered in the opening scene, he spends the rest of the film hunting down the gang of killers. He enlists a former member of said gang to learn the names and locations of the killers.Lots of dynamite. Lots of cigar lighting. Lots of shootouts.I've enjoyed the few Django films I've seen and I plan to watch more.
THE PAINTED HILLS (1951, MST3K edition): "You know, his head just doesn't have the structural support for that hair."
Django and Sartana Are Coming... This Is the End (1970)Django and Sartana are both on a mission to rescue a kidnapped girl. Unfortunately, that's pretty much it. This movie is pretty boring and by the numbers. The meeting of those two heroes is anticlimactic and mostly uneventful. It's fine, but I doubt I will rewatch this one.
Red Sun (1971)As closely tied as Samurai and Western films are, I'm surprised that there haven't been more crossovers. Here we have the legendary Toshiro Mifune, Charles Bronson, and Alain Delon duking it out, teaming up, and kicking ass, and my jaw is on the floor. If that alone isn't enough to convince you to watch it, it's said that John Huston once called this, Stagecoach, and Red River the three best Westerns ever made. I'm not going to argue with him.
Welcome to Blood City (1977, dir. Peter Sasdy)Keir Dullea wakes up in a Wild West town without any memory of why he's there or even who he is. Jack Palance, the town's sheriff, explains the rules: it's kill or be killed. The bigger your kill count, the higher you'll be in the town's hierarchy. What he doesn't tell him is that he's inside a simulation run by technicians in the far distant future of 1989...So a sort of cross between Westworld and The Matrix. It's entertaining whenever Palance is on screen and the mystery unfolds at a nice, steady pace. So all in all, not the worst.
Oh yeah, and only two female characters in the whole movie and one of them is treated horribly from start to finish with very little justification, either within the story or outside of it.
A Reason to Live, A Reason to Die! (1972)I’m a little bit torn on this one. It’s not bad at all (in fact, it’s quite good) but it’s also one hundred percent not the kind of movie I was looking for today. I was in the mood for a silly shoot-‘em-up and got a (mostly) somber variation on The Dirty Dozen. It’s like being given a plate of pasta from an upscale restaurant when what you’re really craving is a can of Spaghetti-O’s™️.James Coburn is looking to take back a fort that’s currently being ruled by evil Reb Telly Savalas (because when you’re casting for a Southern Civil War General, the aggressively Greek Savalas is bound to be the first person on the call sheet), and he enlists a band of condemned men (he literally recruits them from the gallows) to help. The people are grimy (Bud Spencer is third lead, after all) and the scenery is absolutely gorgeous (there’s nothing quite like the beautiful vistas of the western United Sta....uh, Spain. I mean Spain) and there’s some terrific stunt work in the final reel. It’s good stuff, but it’s all pretty grim. Worth a look if you don’t mind grim, though.
THE LONE RANGER (1938) Last year I watched a bunch of Lone Ranger movies not knowing about this earlier one. Like a lot of matinee serials, the plot is somehow both repetitive and unfollowable, but the ridin’, shootin’, and punchin’ are genuinely thrilling. What I don’t get is that the Lone Ranger wears a big scarf covering his whole face instead of his usual domino mask. He looks more like Grifter from Jim Lee’s WildC.A.T.S. than the Lone Ranger. Bonus #Godzillasploitation: MOTHRA VS. GODZILLA (1964) A giant Mothra egg washes up on the shore of Japan, and there’s a lot of conflict over what do with it. Then Godzilla shows up. Because this is Mothra movie guest-starring Godzilla, the Big G is all clumsy and bumbling, not able to put up much of a fight. My secret confession: I’ve never liked Mothra all that much, so this is a lesser entry for me.
They did the same thing with Zorro’s mask in the serials. Maybe it’s just an easier way to conceal stunt doubles.
The Hateful Eight (2015)I enjoy being wrong. I love going into a movie and coming out completely won over. If I'm not sure about a movie or if I see enough love for it, I have to watch it a second time. Most of my favorite movies I didn't quite get until the 2nd time around. I wasn't bored for any of the 3 hours. It's a lot funnier than I gave it credit for, it's gorgeous and everybody is great. I could watch it, again, right now.
I'm always caught off guard when someone tells me they don't like Hateful Eight. It's bones feel like an Agatha Cristie story (that's the reference I use anyway). It's brilliant. What's not to love.
I wish I could go back to 2015 me and tell him get it together.
I enjoyed it in 2015, but I admit I didn't know what to think overall. Now, there are very few movies I like more.
Zachariah (1971)A surreal electric western musical starring Don Johnson. It's about two friends that just can't quit each other. There is a song in the movie called Gravediggers that I really love. Most of the time I was confused but I still enjoyed it. I picked a bad week to quit mushrooms.
The Shooting (1966)I was really excited to check this one out since it was a Monte Hellman movie with Jack Nicholson and Warren Oates, and an intriguing premise, but I couldn’t get into at all. It’s so mysterious and it feels so aloof, that I couldn’t connect with anything that was happening. I saw someone on IMDb describe it as “maddeningly evasive” and I couldn’t think of a better description.
Wyatt Earp (1994) (dir. Lawrence Kasdan, on DVD)Not an exploitation movie, but maybe one of the last classic Hollywood westerns. This movie has grown on me over the years, especially in relation to my recent viewings of other Earp movies: Tombstone and My Darling Clementine. While those movies are all about Earp as the Legendary figure, Wyatt Earp is more interested in showing Earp as a real human being. Patrick has mentioned it several times on the podcast but Costner's interest in playing un-likable is in full effect here. His Earp is a jerk, a bully, and sometimes aloof, but it's all the more fascinating. Also this might be Dennis Quaid's masterpiece as Doc Holliday. Definitely a chore at 3 hours but Wyatt Earp is worth a watch. The cast is also incredible: Kevin Costner, Dennis Quaid, Gene Hackman, Jeff Fahey, Mark Harmon, Michael Madson, Tom Sizemore, Catherine O'Hara, Bill Pullman, Isabella Rossellini, JoBeth Williams, Mare Winningham, Tea Leoni, Martin Kove... need I go on?
Love this movie! And along with Silverado (more Costner!), shows how great Kasdan is with the genre.
Sabata (1969, dir. Gianfranco Parolini)The movie looks great, has some cool gunfights, and Lee Van Cleef is a badass. Other than that, I was pretty disappointed. It's by far my least favorite Lee Van Cleef western I've seen. For how simple the plot is, it's weirdly hard to follow, and I was not interested in the characters. It has it's moments, but I couldn't get into it. I'd still be down to watch the sequels though!
Take a Hard Ride (1975)Jim Brown is Pike, a man tasked with delivering money to a social experiment in Mexico. (The town could be a libertarian or socialist paradise.) Along the way, he teams up with a duplicitous gambler played by Fred Williamson and a tongueless young man played by Jim Kelly (who is unbelievably attractive in his western Aladdin cosplay). Lee Van Cleef plays a bounty hunter who follows them while amassing a following of greedy goons. Unfortunately, the film doesn't often lean into its zany set pieces. The pacing drags. Weirdo characters disappear for long stretches. However, when it goes for the bombast, it's delightful and surprisingly poignant in places.
The Lone Ranger in Hi-Yo Silver (1940)I love The Lone Ranger and was excited when I saw this pre-Clayton Moore version. Is it great? No, but I still kinda loved it. On a side note, the Lone Ranger's full-face mask is a trip.
Hec Ramsey - The Century Turns (October 8, 1972) It is a TV movie. And I loved it. (I co-host a TV movie podcast so I am fairly biased.) It's an NBC SUNDAY MYSTERY MOVIE set in 1901. Hec joins the police force in a Western town. He uses "modern" technology to solve a crime. It's a joy.
Silver Saddle (1978)"Child of life,now you use a gun very well.You learned so young.You shot a man, they said,after he killed your father.Now you ride,silver saddle's shining so brightout in the sun.What is your destiny … now?"The first time I heard the theme of this Fulci Western, I thought it was so on the nose it would even make a Bond theme blush. Then it played another 4 or 5 times over the course of the movie.
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A Fistful of Dollars (1964)I don't care how much money that is. I don't know where that fist has been.
Get Mean (Ferdinando Baldi, 1975)At it's best when Tony Anthony is getting to be a smart-ass. Solid action finale.
Dead Birds (2004)Starts out very promising but then kinda fizzles - I don't know, it was feeling like a movie I was really going to love, but the Western setting really doesn't end up serving much purpose other than being the set dressing for a fairly standard ghost/otherworldly horrors story with a whole lot of walking around a dark mansion with lanterns. Don't mean to make it sound bad - the cast is great and everyone does a good job - it's definitely worth watching - it just fell a little flat for me.
Mannaja - A Man Called Blade (Sergio Martino, 1977) Got this one in late last night anddddd, it was a tough one to get through. Only uses titular blade a couple of times. Very ugly looking movie. Probably dirtiest western, literally, I've seen. So much mud. Seriously. Underwhelmed.
Rio Conchos (1964)The cast works really well together (Jim Brown is definitely the standout, in his first screen performance), there's some great action bits (one with a horse trailing a burning tree branch and the explosive finale among them), and it features a great Jerry Goldsmith score. Starts off a little slow, but definitely picks up the pace as it goes along. Plus, you can't go wrong with the stunning landscapes here; the movie takes full advantage of the Cinemascope format.
A Knife for the Ladies (1974, dir. Larry G. Spangler)A slasher movie set in the old west, starring Jack Elam as a crotchety sheriff. Not great and not very well constructed, but different enough to be interesting and worth a watch.Cemetery Without Crosses (1969, dir. Robert Hossein) Not much I can say that A Casual Listener didn't already say above. I really loved the score.
"Cemetery Without Crosses" is also called "The Rope and the Colt". I just watched it on Amazon Prime and only after it was over realized that what actually plays when you click on "The Rope and the Colt" is in reality "In a Colt's Shadow" from 1964. I still enjoyed it quite a bit but that's the kind of thing Amazon will do from time to time that's really obnoxious.