Monday, June 15, 2020

Junesploitation 2020 Day 15: Westerns!

Keep your eye on the man everyone watches!


  1. THE LONG RIDERS (1980, Blu-ray, Lindsay: 6/16/2017)
    A highlight reel of latter day Jesse James' gang exploits (not an accurate depiction of the people/places/events like the theatrical trailer boasts), Walter Hill is both romanticizing the western (gorgeous slow-motion shootouts that'd give John Woo cinematic boners) and simultaneously undercutting it (we join as Dennis Quaid's Ed Miller is booted off the team) for historical inconvenience. The casting of four sets of acting brothers doesn't make their characters relatable or likable, instead accentuating their awkwardness and lack of chemistry with one another... just like real life. Despite the Confederate Flag and post-Civil War Missouri setting, "Long Riders" just wants viewers to soak in the rural Robin Hood myth, admire the gorgeous cinematography and pine for a romanticized Southern ideal that never existed. All that plus Pamela Reed's Belle and composer Ry Cooter's music constantly stealing the show from under David Carradine's epic facial hair. 4.5 AJAX vs. KWAI CHANG CAINE AX FIGHTS (out of 5)

    STRAIGHT TO HELL: THE DIRECTOR'S CUT (1987-2010, Blu-ray, Mookie: 6/20/16)
    Spaghetti western fan Alex Cox (bunch of Kino discs have his commentaries) turns a failed music tour to support his '87 movie "Walker" into an excuse for musicians and mates to stage an existentialist modern western flick that feels like a Tarantino ripoff five years before there was a QT flick to steal from. Greedy bank robbers (including Joe Strummer and Courtney Love), stop-motion animal skeletons, an obsession with drinking coffee (poured by Elvis Costello), Grace Jones and Dennis Hopper stopping by for a day's work, a conga line around the most abused hot dog vendor, screaming corpses on fire... just weird eccentricities left and right for 90 minutes. Except for Sy Richardson's Norwood (the Sam Jackson of this universe) I didn't care for anybody, but I can't be too harsh of a flick not made with me in mind that I can't recommend or pan. NO RATING

    IN A VALLEY OF VIOLENCE (2016, HBO Go, Mikko Viinikka: 6/16/2017)
    A western written/directed by Ti West, produced by Blumhouse and co-starring Karen Gillan (the new "Jumanji" series) with John Travolta giving a rare good performance? 'SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY' GIF! Unlike the kinetic Italian-like opening credits or expectations of cathartic revenge against despicable villains (James Ransone's Gilly being the worst offender), a more mature West mirrors the great Takashi Miike in letting his latter work go for a more lacerating, psychologically cruel edge that affects every character. Spoken words hurt more and deeper than any bullet wound. Ethan Hawke's a wet noodle of a cipher lead, but that's OK because it's baked into the western tropes Ti's upending at every turn. 4 LARRY FESSENDEN DIRTY BATH WATERS (out of 5)

    CANNON FOR CORDOBA (1970, Blu-ray)
    A 'B' tier American western made for the second spot in a double bill, this might as well be called "The Dirty Half-Dozen, Not-So-Wild Bunch." George Peppard is the only American soldier crazy enough to lead a strike team deep into Mexico to destroy artillery stolen from the American Army by outlaw General Cordoba (Raf Vallone). There are two impressive action set-pieces bookending the picture and a decent Elmer Bernstein score, but the middle is nothing but time-wasting filler. A rental at best. 2.5 FRANCINE YORK SIDE BOOB NUDE SHOTS (out of 5)

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  3. THE FAR COUNTRY (1955, dir. Anthony Mann)

    Anthony Mann and Jimmy Stewart made several westerns in the 1950s.

    In The Far Country, Jimmy Stewart plays Jeff, a cattleman dreaming of making a fortune by bringing a herd of cattle to Alaska during the 1890s gold rush. Plans do not work out quite as he expected, and Jeff barely gets his cattle away from the corrupt sheriff of Skagway. Going to Dawson City in the Yukon territory of Canada, Jeff and his business partner pan for gold with some success. Jeff does his best to stay out of any entanglements with the community. Jeff’s dealings with that corrupt sheriff, unfortunately, are not over. Will he, with his stubborn independent streak, just let the sheriff have his way?

    Filled with beautiful locations, engaging characters, romance, shootouts, and a worthy finale, The Far Country is the western at its most entertaining. So many of the westerns I have seen from the 1950s utilize location shooting to great effect. Shane, from 1953, is probably the most beautifully photographed western of the period, but The Far Country is not lacking in breathtaking cinematography.

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  5. Django (1966, Sergio Corbucci)

    Moving a full sized coffin by stealth takes immense skill. 

    Yeah, it took me a while to get to it, but I finally did and it's great. Corbucci keeps upping the action until the end where pairs it all back. It's brilliant. Plus I am starting to love how cynical Corbucci's western's are, which is usually displayed in the landscapes. The whole town looks like you could blow it over with a feather. And in Django he makes colours either garish or sinister, which is incrediablly affecting. I loved it. 

    Winchester 73 (1950, Anthony Mann)

    So Rock Hudson plays a Native American. Hmmmmm okay...... 

    Desipte that I did enjoy that movie, Shelly Winters steals the show for me, and this is with James Stewart. Shelly is here and is not going to be taking any crap and will play the piano or pretend to play the panio while she is doing it.

    The whole idea of using the titled gun as a metaphore of an arms race as different characters trying to take power, or as the idea how violence was how the West was won, was surprisingly cynical for the Western I was expecting. So I will have to watch more Mann

  6. 100 RIFLES (1968)

    A spaghetti western that is not actually a spaghetti western. This American production was shot in Spain and was heavily influenced by them. Jim Brown has the lead role as an American lawman traveling through Mexico during the revolution to track down a fugitive. That fugitive, a mix of indigenous Mexican and American, is played by Burt Reynolds. The star power is rounded out by Raquel Welch, who portrays a Mexican woman fighting the forces of the central government.

    The title refers to the rifles purchased by Reynolds’ character to aid the revolt of an Indian tribe being targeted by a brutish Mexican general. Brown’s lawman is after Reynolds because the money for the rifles came from a bank robbery in Arizona. In spite of the lawman having no intentions of getting involved in the revolution, circumstances draw him into it.

    100 Rifles is undoubtedly a fun movie. It is just a little on the ridiculous side, swinging from serious to comic throughout the film. Jim Brown does the best out of the stars, clearly enjoying himself and giving a good performance. When I look at Raquel Welch, Mexican revolutionary does not come to mind. She is too much of a movie star to be completely convincing. The staging of the battles is excellent, on a par with the European productions of the period.

    There are plenty of other westerns that I would recommend before watching 100 Rifles, but it would probably not disappoint.

  7. Duck, You Sucker! aka A Fistful of Dynamite (1971) Amazon Prime

    I'm a huge fan of Leone's Westerns but had never watched this one all the way through. It wasn't something I was exposed to young like the Clint Eastwood movies, and Coburn and Steiger as the leads didn't draw me in. Reading up on it beforehand, there's some sentiment that this is Leone's most underappreciated movie, but also it sounds like studio interference in particular kept this movie from being everything it could have been.

    Throughout the whole thing I was wishing Juan had been played by Eli Wallach so I wasn't at all surprised to see that the part hard largely been written with him in mind. For Coburn's part they wanted Jason Robards which I'm indifferent on, but I guess at least they didn't end up with Lazenby.

    I do appreciate that this movie seems to have more to say than Leone's previous Westerns, looking at Revolutions, what they accomplish, and the human cost of them. As one would expect there are also some visually spectacular scenes (the bridge ambush and explosion for instance) and some emotionally moving ones.

    Ultimately I thought the movie ended up being good, but nowhere near as great as Leone's other work. I think Steiger just didn't have the emotional range required to play Juan, and it sounds like he and Leone didn't work together all that well, probably not helped by the fact that Leone hadn't even intended on directing the movie.

    1. i've seen this a few years ago when i discovered there was a hidden Leone western. to this day, me and my friend shout Chon Chon to each other at random time.

      the movie is good, really good, but they try to much to make it like his other classics, including the theme song (chon chon) that doesn't work at all

    2. Yeah, by the 4th time that theme kicks in I was very much over it.

  8. The Kid (2019)

    “By the end, everybody was wrong.” That line comes pretty early on in the movie, courtesy of Ethan Hawke’s Pat Garrett, and it’s a line that sticks with you as events unfold. The story of Garrett and Billy the Kid has been told onscreen plenty of times before, but here director/co-writer Vincent D’Onofrio has it play out from the perspective of a young boy (Jake Schur) fleeing his abusive uncle (an effectively cast-against-type Chris Pratt) and riding along with Garrett as he takes Billy in custody to Santa Fe.

    I normally have a fairly severe Dane DeHaan allergy but here he’s well-cast as Billy, full of bravado and more life experience than anyone his age should rightfully have. The cast is uniformly very good, especially Hawke, who gives Garrett some genuine complexity. The only real stumbling point here is the movie’s treatment of women, who only seem to exist to provide agency to the male characters. Of course it’s a story about a more sexist time, but that doesn’t mean the female characters need to be so thinly drawn.

  9. Oblivion (1994, dir. Sam Irvin)

    In 3031 on a distant Earth colony planet, the small town of Oblivion for some reason models its society and aesthetic on Old West, with a little anachronistic technology thrown in. When a lizard-faced alien arrives in town and kills the sheriff, his empath son has to team up with the sheriff's deputy and a stoic Native to catch the villain.

    Andrew Divoff is the green-faced alien villain, Musetta Vander his whip-wielding dominatrix partner, Meg Foster is the cyborg deputy, Carel Struycken the town's undertaker who either does or doesn't have mystical powers, Julie Newmar is saloon owner Miss Kitty (get it!?) who keeps meowing and hissing (GET IT!?), and George Takei spouts Star Trek references as the drunk town doctor. All of them are hamming it up big time, most of them making it work, but the last two mentioned are embarrassing more than anything. Richard Joseph Paul, who plays the lead, is also there.

    A silly script, a (mostly) fun cast, a couple of great stop motion creatures, and a bucketful of bad jokes. I had fun!

    Gallowwalkers (2012, dir. Andrew Goth)

    In a role not at all inspired by any other character he's ever played, Wesley Snipes is a cursed gunman hunting a gang of undead villains. I have no idea who any of the other actors in this are.

    I was shocked to learn this wasn't based on a comic book. It definitely has that Jonah Hex/Faust/Constantine vibe.

    The movie spends way too much time explaining the convoluted backstory through monologues and flashbacks and very little on action. The zombies' skin falling off after a while and them taking their victims' skins as a replacement is kind of a novel concept. That's the best thing I can say about this movie.

  10. High Plains Drifter (1973). Wow. Just-Wow. Vengeful spirit Clint gives a nice little western town full of very fine people exactly what they fucking deserve. This doesn’t top Unforgiven as Clint’s masterpiece, but it gets close. Beautifully paced, gorgeous and surreal visuals (that red town is a brilliant touch). Clint always has both the epic look of Leone done on a tight Siegel schedule, but the younger Clint also questioned the mythology of “America” and the authority and power structures that create and propagate those myths. It feels like after A Perfect World, the only things Clint questioned were liberals and chairs, I wish he’d kept poking at the myth instead of becoming angry grandpa. This is an amazing movie, worthy of all the praise it’s received and more, and one I’m already eager to revisit.

  11. Unforgiven (Yurusarezaru mono)

    2013, dir. Lee Sang-il

    Been trying to track this one down since I found out about it a year or two ago. Interesting to see the circle finally close on the samurai > western cycle. There’s no catch to this - it’s beat for beat Clint Eastwood’s ‘Unforgiven’, set during the same time period, with the same characters and plot points, just set in Meiji-era Japan when the old samurai ways were dying and the influence of the industrialized west was loudly stomping through traditional culture. Ken Watanabe, stoic as ever, is our retired killer pulled away from his self-exile by his old war buddy played by Akira Emoto, while Kôichi Satô is the corrupt magistrate holding a town in his sadistic grip. Solid performances across the board, absolutely draw dropping cinematography and atmosphere, luscious costumes and production design, and of course, an amazing story. Unfortunately, it’s not the easiest to track down currently - no physical release stateside, no streaming presence, only available to buy digitally via Apple or Amazon with no rental option. Which is a shame because it’s definitely worthy of exposure and I’m sure it would find a sizable audience if it were more readily available.

  12. A Fistful of Dynamite [also titled 'Duck, You Sucker' on Prime] (1972) dir. Sergio Leone

    Quite possibly one of the greatest co-lead introductions of all time. And then what happens? Another one of the greatest introductions of all time. James Coburn rides into the film from another movie and they literally hang a banner over his head. Don't let the name make you think this is a rip-off of the "Man with No Name" trilogy. When you get to the shot of them drinking wine in high-backed patent leather chairs on a mesa where you can see for miles and miles and try to tell me Leone isn't a visionary.

    Coburn has been my MVP of June so far. Unlike Skerritt, Jimmy is powerful both with and without the stache. But this time he's sporting the Irish brogue, too, and gosh it's an activator. You can feel the glory coming through the screen whenever the sound drops for Coburn's Irish revolutionary flashbacks, or Rod Steiger's fantasy sequence evoking Argento's children's choirs. And when the camera pans across the men during the planned assault on Mesa Verde, you feel like you're watching the faces of actual revolutionary heroes in history.

    Unfortunately, the movie continues to go on and on, showing the violent and pointless aftermath of a working class revolution, making the fun you had in the first half feel for naught. Everytime they'd make a call back that feels like it'd be the final line of a triumphant conclusion, I'd check the runtime and there'd be 45 minutes left. Love how epic it feels, but when you see one firing squad execution, it feels like you've seen them all. But then it feels like you really do see them all, every single one of them in Mexico, that is. In the end, you do get to see a body sliding across the ground from the sheer force of the bullets hitting it, so that's pretty damn good.

    It got me thinking, too. How does "fire cracker" evoke such a powerful moniker yet "water cracker" evokes the epitome of bland-ness? Someone should get on that. Work up what an "earth" and "wind cracker" is, too, while you're at it.

  13. Chino (1973)

    In my first Charles Bronson of the month (how could that be?!), he feeds/nurses a baby horse.

    1. A Bronson western that I watched recent is Chato's Land, made a couple of years before Chino. If you have not seen that, definitely check it out. I find it amazing that Charles Bronson reached the peak of his career in his fifties, such a rare case in Hollywood.

  14. Death Hunt (1981, dir. Peter Hunt)

    Lee Marvin and a posse including Carl Weathers hunt for Charles Bronson in the Yukon wilderness in 1931. If that description doesn't make you want to see this movie I don't know what else will. What if I told you at one point Bronson is duel-wielding shotguns in slow motion during an extended siege scene? It's great.

  15. The Naked Spur (1953, dir. Anthony Mann)

    This is a Western that ends with the hero in tears because of how fucked up and disturbed he is.

    What a powerful movie that will shatter any negative preconceived notions one might have about 1950s Westerns.

    1. It seems like Anthony Mann is popular today, Daniel.

      Jimmy Stewart had a large capacity for darker roles than his public image generally allows. His westerns with Mann are great examples that. It has been a while since I last watched The Naked Spur, but I remember being surprised by it. His characters can be complete jerks (a more polite word than what I was initially thinking about) in these films.

  16. LITTLE BIG MAN (1970)
    Dustin Hoffman plays a kid adopted by Native Americans. He goes on to have various misadventures, ultimately leading to Custer’s last stand. Yeah, it’s problematic, but the movie is intentionally provocative and pushing the audience’s buttons. This is heavy on the satire, using the Old West as a metaphor for Vietnam and the sexual revolution. The tone jumps around from slapstick comedy to tragic deaths and then back to silliness. I’m not sure what to think of it, to be honest, but it was certainly interesting.

    30 days of HELLO MARY LOU: PROM NIGHT II, day 15
    This viewing concentrated on Craig, Vicki’s boyfriend. He’s a motorcycle-riding bad boy, but his colorful ‘80s sweaters reveal him to be not so bad. Mary Lou beats him up to get him out of her way. Then his dad, the principal, beats him up to keep him from going to the prom, in a bizarre way to keep him safe. Craig kinda/sorta becomes the hero when he confronts Mary Lou to save Vicki. There’s dialogue about him unsure about life after high school, so I guess by fighting to save Vicki, he’s fighting for his own future?

  17. Taza, Son of Cochise (1954)
    Only Western ever directed by Douglas Sirk stars Rock Hudson as the title character... and it’s in terrific 3-D too! Beautiful landscapes and plenty of foreground depth, courtesy of DP Russell Metty. Yowsa! This is an astounding film to look at, plus it’s a nice allegory about racism and family ties.

    An incomplete list of shit thrown at the camera: a boulder, a knife, an arrow, a lance, a plummeting Native American, a flaming arrow, a spear, a quarter staff, another knife, a whip (ouch!), and more boulders.

    A definite highlight of Junesploitation so far. Bravo, 3-D Film Archive and Kino-Lorber!

    1. My 3D BD of "Taza" (plus a couple more) is on its way. 😎

  18. High Noon (1952, dir. Fred Zinnemann)

    I always love when a theme is repurposed throughout a movie

  19. Sukiyaki Western Django (2007)

    A hyperstylized, hyperviolent Japanese spaghetti western about (what else?) love, death and revenge. I always promise myself to watch more Takashi Miike movies and then can never seem to find the time, so today I jumped at the opportunity to catch up on this fascinating mash-up of cowboy and samurai movies. Much like Tarantino (who appears here in a small role, gleefully dialling up the crazy) Miike has a masterly command of genre and vibe, and is not afraid to mix stuff together just to see what comes out. Curiously, although the cast is almost exclusively Japanese, everyone's speaking heavily accented English, and I can imagine that the awkward delivery of the dialogue might be off-putting to some, but I found it strangely mesmerizing. I'm always in the market for weird, idiosyncratic movies that go all out, and this is definitely one of those.

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  21. The Wild Bunch (1969) and City Slickers (1991):

    Took the opportunity to knock out two movie shames. Neither disappointed.

    1. I've been slowly working through Peckinpah's films this year, and although The Wild Bunch was the first one I bought, I still haven't watched it yet. Although it wasn't planned that way, it's kind of ended up being a "worst to best" trip through the filmography. Looking forward to it. I've heard Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia (1974) is excellent too, but I'm much too tired to watch either this evening. Perhaps on a free space day.

  22. FOUR OF THE APOCALYPSE (1975, Lucio Fulci)

    And again, Fulci does not disappoint. Four petty thieves head out into empty west and into a sort depending hell. Though no impaled eye balls there are there Fulci touches throughout the movie and he really makes of use of some landscape, the gauzy nature contrast with a darkness nicely. Really solid. But Fulci is becoming a favourite Director (thanks to Patrick) so I just like the vibe if the piece as a whole.

  23. The Silver Saddle (1978, dir. Lucio Fulci)

    A Fulci western that's not as good as Four of the Apocalypse but still very entertaining. The theme song plays many times and will in your head the rest of the day. Doesn't often feel like Fulci except in the moments of violence, so it's interesting he made this just before he pivoted to horror.

  24. High Noon (1952, dir. Fred Zinnemann)

    The reputation is right. This is a masterpiece. One of the most beautifully shot B&W films I've ever seen. It's almost weird that I like Gary Cooper so much, but I really like Gary Cooper.

  25. Lone Star (1996, dir. John Sayles)

    An extremely well made ensemble piece about family set in fully realized south Texas town. It touches on so much: racism, small town politics, police abuse, immigration -- kind of blown away by this even if I don't ultimately love the final coda

  26. Day 15

    Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973)

    Fantastic, slow, episodic, drawn out, off beat western from Peckinpah. Coburn is great in slow-burn mode as Garrett, a man who who picked a side, knows what he has to do, but is going to take his time to get to the finishline. Kristofferson has the devil in his eye, but is aware that his time is coming to an end. The film is aided by a fantastic supporting cast and a amazing soundtrack from Bob Dylan. I watched the 115 minute version off of TCM, I would be very interested in seeing the 106 minute theatrical version, and the 122 minute preview version.

  27. A Lawless Street (1955, dir. Joseph H. Lewis)

    This was the only flick I hadn't seen on my Randolph Scott DVD collection. It's also the only one not directed by Budd Boetticher and, I must say, it definitely shows. It has a few moments but it's mostly low energy and so anticlimactic I couldn't believe it was over. I still love Randolph Scott though!

  28. 3:10 to Yuma (2007, dir. James Mangold)

    Watched as a family, and I was worried the younger ones would find it "slow" or "boring", but this movie was more action packed than I remember and much of the rest is quite tense. I would have gone for something a bit older and slower (so many to choose from!), but was glad that everyone loved it.

    Back when I first saw this, I soon afterwards watched the original from 1957, and remember liking it a lot too. I'll watch any movie with a steam train in it!

  29. Keoma (1976) or Duck You Sucker (1971) were the choices for today but I again deviated from the list. Couldn't find one streaming and didn't feel like paying to watch the other. So instead I hopped on prime and watched Doc(1971) Stacy Keatch playing Doc Holliday in a version of the ok Coral shoot out that makes the Earps and Holliday look less than heroic. Faye Dunnaway is really good as Katie Elder. She and Doc save each other in the flick as it is truly about their relationship and Doc acceptance of his upcoming fate from consumption(TB), I really enjoyed this film. Especially the way the dynamic betweenb Keach and Harris Yulaws Wyatt Earp. Their friendship changes as the movie goes on and its almost bittersweet to watch both mens not just fondness for each other but each mans admiration of each other dissolve. Definitely recommend to anyone seeking a good western and or just a good drama. Would make a really good double feature with Tombstone.

  30. The Great Silence (1968, dir. Sergio Corbucci)

    So good. Klaus Kinski is total dynamite in this: his arch, borderline-camp performance in the first two acts of the film absolutely sets the groundwork for the ending, and I can’t see the film working without him anchoring it. Midway through the film Kinski’s character Loco has his hat shot off his head by another character, and without missing a beat, Kinski takes that opportunity to shake his luxurious platinum-blonde mop top of hair back and forth like it’s a L'oreal commercial. Standing ovation. Also, big shout-out to whoever dubbed Kinski in the Italian language version (IMDB lists the actor as Giancarlo Maestri, no idea if this is accurate): he absolutely nails the vocal performance. Every line he delivers sounds like a silky purr delivered through a big ear-to-ear grin, and it harmonizes wonderfully with what Kinski does physically. One of my favorites of the month so far.

  31. Goin' South (1978)

    Jack Nicholson is about to be hanged but is saved by an old lady that will take him in. Of course, she dies immediately. He is then taken by Mary Steenburgen. He helps her in finding gold. Back to the Future III preview but Steenburgen despises Christopher Lloyd. Good way to start the day.

  32. 5 Card Stud (1968)

    Dean Martin as professional card player that is trying not to be picked off for being near a card game where a man was killed for cheating. It's almost a slasher/western. Great actors doing their thing all the way around.