Man, Amazon Prime used to have dozens of "free" spaghetti westerns in years past. For 2021 the pickings are slim, but thankfully TUBI and (to a lesser extent) PLUTO are your streaming friends. Even though some westerns repeat across all platforms, there are some hidden gems to be found if you dig deep. And boy, did I strike gold! :-DTom Gries' BREAKHEART PASS (1975, TUBI) for the first time.Seriously, were there any Charles Bronson-starring movies released in the 1970's in which he wasn't teamed-up with his wife Jill Ireland? Me thinks Mr. Harmonica was pulling his star weight around and getting Mrs. Bronson to tag along in his movies to raise her profile and get an extra bit of $$$ in the income bracket (my opinion). Anywho, this is another great example of the western being a genre that can be endlessly molded to fit all types of story ideas. Don't want to spoil anything major because this plot keeps surprising viewers by upping the stakes, building momentum and racking a (surprisingly high) body count. Let's just say 90% of the narrative involves a train that would give the all-mighty "Runaway Train" a run for its money at all the cool stuff you could stage abord it, including a couple of amazing stunts/effects sequences (almost James Bond-ish in scope) that Hollywood just doesn't do anymore.And talk about a stacked cast! Ben Johnson ("The Wild Bunch"), Charles Durning ("The Final Countdown"), Richard Crenna ("First Blood") doing a decent Hal Holbrook impersonation, Ed Lautner (long before he and Bronson re-teamed in "Death Wish 3"), Sally Kirkland (258 credits!), etc. Don't let the 'PG' rating fool you, there's some pretty messed-up violence here but nothing gratuitous. "Breakheart Pass" is the type of western where the cavalry literally arrives at the end to save the day, but you wonder why since Charles Bronson's already taken care of things by then. :-P 4 HIDDEN-IN-TROUSERS DYNAMITE STICKS (out of 5).
It seems like more of the genre films on Prime are behind the rental wall this year. I did not look much at spaghetti westerns, but I did notice that pickings are slim for Italian horror options for the regular service. Tubi seems to offer more choice for Italian horror.
Wow, that sounds good. I love a good train movie. Unfortunately not on Tubi here, but I can rent it for $5.
Ivan Kavanagh's NEVER GROW OLD (2019, Amazon Prime) for the first time.I'm digging the new wave of artsy westerns coming from Europe for the past decade or so ("The Sisters Brothers," "Slow West," etc.). It's totally believable that European immigrants, an often neglected part of the mid-1800's American Western experience, would have unique takes on the hardships that the locals (Native American or born-in-America immigrants) endured in all those movies and TV shows of Hollywood's golden age. "Never Grow Old" follows Irish undertaker Patrick Tate (an excellent Emile Hirsch) that doesn't fit in with either the religious crowd (led by Danny Webb's Preacher Pike) or the recently-arrived strong man (John Cusack's Dutch Albert) wrestling for control of a "dry" frontier town. Déborah François (who looks/acts like Kate Winslet without hiding her French accent) is Patrick's suffering wife who has to put up with her husband's cowardice, especially when Dutch's henchman Dumb-Dumb (Sam Louwyck) gets the hots for her. :-OLike "A Quiet Place" or "Independence Day," you have to sit through an awful lot of the bad guys winning and being trigger-happy dicks through slow-burn tension before the hero(s) grow(s) the pair needed to do the right thing. A sequence involving a young prostitute (Manon Capelle) defending her honor is tough to watch, but it's okay because these Irish filmmakers know where they're going. Not a fun-to-watch western, but a competently made and well-acted dramatic one that checks most of the trope boxes and then some. 3.75 JUSTIFIED HOMICIDE SALOON KILLINGS (out of 5).
Carlo Lizzani's REQUIESCANT (1967, CON-TV) for the first time. YouTube English version with Czech Subtitles.It's a good thing the video transfer of this largely forgotten spaghetti western is so crisp and colorful (even in the YouTube version) because, man, talk about a lot of promising build-up to a very underwhelming payoff. Rich American assholes led by George Bellow Ferguson (Mark Damon, who'd twirl a mustache if his metrosexual-to-the-tilt villain had one) bribe the post-Civil War military troops to massacre the local Mexicans so they can steal their land and claim it for their own. "Requiescant" peaks early with a brutal 'campesino' massacre from which a young boy escapes, then returns years later as a gifted gunman (Colombian actor Lou Castel) whose meek appearance and good manners allows him to get close to Ferguson. All that plus Ferguson's main henchman Dean Light (Carlo Palmucci) has the hots for Requiescant's foster sister Princy (Barbara Frey) and plans to keep her as a prostitute, despite the patron's strict orders against it.There are some standout sequences here (an excellent duel twist using the 'Hangman's Noose' game, our hero using a sarten to whip his horse, etc.), but I expected more from the director of "The Hills Run Red" (which Patrick just reviewed yesterday!). All the set-pieces are there for a cool revolutionary/uprising western, but the best "Requiescant" can come-up are symbolic ways to use a giant church bell as a shield/weapon. Arthouse cinema lovers will dig seeing controversial Italian director Pier Paolo Passolini (and his frequent collaborator/lover Ninetto Davoli) moonlighting in the supporting cast, but talk about a cinephile deep cut. 2 TRAVELING MEXICAN MUSICAL BANDS CONCEALING SNIPERS (out of 5).
Working YouTube link to REQUIESCANT in English with Czech subtitles.
TOM MIX in THE HEART OF TEXAS RYAN (1917, TUBI) for the first time.As much as I want to respect my elders and appreciate the groundwork they laid over 100 years ago so we can enjoy motion pictures today, this 56 min. silent western just isn't that entertaining or fun to watch. Not the filmmakers fault that (a) the TUBI video transfer is lousy (you'll appreciate remastered home media of B&W silent movies after seeing this), (b) the same two 2 min. piano tunes repeat/loop/alternate for its duration and (c) Eisenstein's montage theory hadn't been invented yet to liven-up those busy distant master shots of guys doing things. Like Nintendo's "Zelda" games, the female lead (Bessie Eyton) gets the movie named after her character while hero "Single Shot" Parker (Tom Mix) gets the crap beaten out of him. At one point Mix and his horse go down a cliff after being shot by the bad guy (William Ryno's Jose Mandero), so you can guess what happened to that badly-injured horse afterwards. :'( There's some fun stuff here and there (a saloon going up in flames during a 4th of July fireworks display gone awry, a brawl inside a 'Powder Room,' The Texas town of Cactus Bend looking like Southern California, etc.), but the too-rushed ending kind-of ruins the whole thing. You know "Texas Ryan" ain't that interesting a flick when you actually look forward to the TUBI commercials to break the tedium. 2 DIRECT-LIFT "TERMINATOR" REFERENCES (out of 5).
Light the Fuse... Sartana Is Coming (Una nuvola di polvere... un grido di morte... arriva Sartana) (1970, dir. Giuliano Carnimeo)Sartana is one bad ass dude. So much so, in fact, that there's never even a lingering doubt he's gonna get out of any perilous situation he gets into with one hand tied behind his back. Dude doesn't even break a sweat in a steam bath. Still, his ever-escalating badassery is very entertaining to watch, regardless of how unnecessarily convoluted the actual plot gets. And he's one hell of a machine gun organ player.The Finnish title translates as Run, Run, Sartana Is Coming.
So many westerns to choose from for only a day. My usual pattern for Junesploitation is one traditional American western and one spaghetti western, which I am sticking to this year. Watching westerns always reminds me of my father, who was a big fan of the genre. He was part of a generation that grew up playing cowboys and Indians and consuming westerns at the movies and on television. BLINDMAN (1971, dir. Fernando Baldi) The word that comes to mind watching this spaghetti western is quirky. First of all, the hero is a blind gunman who never misses. (Zatoichi in another guise.) The plot revolves around fifty mail-order brides who are sold off to a Mexican bandit. Blindman has a contract to send them to a mining camp in Texas, and he firmly believes contracts must be upheld. How everything unfolds is well outside of common western tropes. Interestingly, Ringo Starr has a significant role and is quite good. The music is like nothing I have heard in a spaghetti western before. Overall, Blindman is a refreshing and amusing watch for anyone trying to find an something more than a little different. HONDO (1953, dir. Henry Hathaway)One cannot get more classic than the Duke, John Wayne. Like many cultural products of the period, there are aspects of Hondo that are uncomfortable in these modern times. Wayne plays the title character, who is an Army scout of mixed European and Native parentage. Much of the film centers around conflict between white settlers and the Apache in the Southwest. While Hondo expresses a sympathy for the plight of the Apache as white settlers yet again break a treaty, his loyalty is to the United States government. Although the Apache are presented as an honorable people, they end up as cannon fodder for heroic calvarymen. The love interest is the great Geraldine Page in her first major film role. Hondo entertains in a compact 83 minutes.
I have never seen Hondo. But for some reason I will never forget its Al Bundy's favorite western and they never show it on tv(according to AL).
Al Bundy had good taste.
Decision at Sundown, dir Budd Boetticher. 1957So, I guess I'm offical Boettichet Lady now. He's great. So is Randolph Scott. Decision at Sundown is really solid. I love how Boetticher's movies feel like he is keep saking the tiny intimate stories that wise would fall through the cracks between all the epics. It's really great.
There is a western cable channel in the United States, Grit, that shows a lot Randolph Scott films. I am sure that Decision At Sundown has been on it. Speaking of Budd Boetticher, Ride Lonesome was a Junesploitation watch for me a couple of years ago. An excellent film.
Dead Birds, dir Alex Turner, 2004Dead Birds has all the things I love. It's Gothic, it's really creepy with a collection of great character actors like Michael Shannon, Henry Thomas and Isaiah Washington. And I did enjoy a lot of it. Just something about the ending didn't completely sing. But still absoutley worth a watch.
Bad Girls (1994)Dir. Jonathan KaplanA female centric western coming off the back of the Young Guns movies was a great idea, especially with Madeleine Stowe as the lead. It is such a shame that a movie originally written and initially directed by a woman, Tamara Davis, was completely taken off her and reworked by male counter parts. As a result what we are left with is too glossy and shallow. The performances especially, especially from Madeleine Stowe, are strong with what they have to work with it is just a shame they weren't given more substance beyond a good idea.
This was my choice as well, haven't seen it in maybe 15 years. Never picked up the Wild Bunch references back then.
Django (1966) which is thankfully on Tubi!
The Gunfighter (1950)This excellent little Western might as well be a film noir--a notorious gunfighter tries to get out of the game, but the game won't let him. On top of that (or perhaps because of it), it's also a nice commentary on the Western genre itself. There's nothing epic about this movie, but sometimes that's just what Doc Holliday ordered.
COMIN’ AT YA (1981) This was the forerunner of the short-lived ‘80s 3-D revival. I guess producers thought a B-Western would be the best way to show off the tech. A cowboy hunts down the villains who abducted his wife and a bunch of other women (human trafficking, basically). There are indeed lots of stuff-flying-towards-the-camera shots, which is a little obnoxious but maybe all part of the fun. What’s not fun is the dreary, mean-spirited, and just plain ugly story. I prefer my Westerns to have a sense of adventure to them, and not spend the whole runtime on how hard life was back then.30 days of Chinese fantasy movies, day 4 THE GOLDEN MONK (2017) An action-comedy about a magic-using young monk and his misadventures in a monster-ridden village. The comedy is really goofy and slapstick, with an Avengers parody that comes out of nowhere. More interesting is the B-plot about a badass female archer, and how she goes into the spirit world and communes with the gods and whatnot to help slay the monsters. She was the coolest character, but no, the wisecracking dude has to be the hero.
Comin At Ya!!! It was this movie that lit the fuse of a lifelong fandom of 3d movies for me. i do recall that the movie itself was pretty terrible but it certainly showcased 3d. Speaking of which..for all of you F This Movie folk that ALSO work in the TV industry...time to bring back 3D TVs punks...get on it!
American Empire (1942; dir. William C. McGann)While only running 82 minutes, this "epic" spans across several years in post-civil war Texas, telling mainly the story of ambitious and later greedy Dan Taylor (Richard Dix) and his enemy Dominique Beauchard (Leo Carrillo). Mainly, because there is a lot more going on. His partner is much more in favor of small farmers, while he simply wants more money, more land, more power. His wife is more and more estranged by his behavior and there is also some tragic family story. On top of that, some interesting history bits of history (I haven't checked the facts) are dropped here and there. It would have been easy to make this a next to 3 hour long story - yet again, it's only 82 minutes long and in this rare case, it's not the best decision. Still, I enjoyed it most of the time. The protagonist is somewhat the antagonist at the same time (and therefor interesting) and the final battle against his enemy is pretty well staged.Two out of four french cattle thieves.
Django Kill...if you Live, Shoot! 1967Most of my experience with the Western genre has been the elite entries like The Searchers, High Noon and Unforgiven. So it felt fitting for my first Junesploitation to take in my first Acid Western and wow did it live up to its reputation!The first 2/3 of the film is a bit slow but then the third act swoops in to turn everything on its head. Gay bandit revenge, prison cell crucifixion complete with vampire bats and closing the story with a truly ironic death. This film is nutty but has more narrative cohesion than El Topo. So if you wanted an Acid Western that feels more like an Italian Horror, this is the movie for you!
The Good, the Bad, the Weird (2008) - 8/10 deep-sea diving helmets
I watched this one a couple years ago and loved it. Despite it's length, I remember it having a break neck pace for much of it.
Goin' South (1978)Dir: Jack NicholsonNicholson plays an inept outlaw that is saved from the gallows by a bachelorette (Mary Steenburgen) who marries him primarily to use as manual labor to prospect for gold in her mine. Nicholson plans on double-crossing her and fleeing with the gold with his gang. However, the quarrelsome couple might accidently fall in love along the way. A charming comedy that has an incredible cast, including Christopher Lloyd, John Belushi, Danny DeVito, Veronica Cartwright, and Tracey Walter among others. Nicholson uses his charm to make us like this pretty despicable loaf and he and Steenburgen are funny pair. However, the film uses sexual assault as humor and an excuse to explain how Steenburgen falls in love with Nicholson. The movie is also one of many westerns that glorifies Quantrill's Raiders, a Confederate guerrila group who did things that shouldn't be glorified at all.Despite this, I still recommend it but just wanted to warn you that it gets pretty cringey in spots.
Pale Rider (1985, dir. Clint Eastwood)There is nothing really groundbreaking about this movie where a lone good guy with a dark past saves a small town from a wealthy bad guy but the Idaho vistas and Clint's patience before executing a pretty awesome climax makes it a worthy watch.
The Cherokee Kid (1996, dir. Paris Barclay)Pretty solid western starring Sinbad as an inept gunfighter out for revenge against an evil James Coburn who learns his trade through a series of adventures meeting colorful characters. Burt Reynolds, Gregory Hines, and Ernie Hudson co-star. Ernie Hudson steals the show playing real-life cowboy Nat Love. He is so good, it makes me wish there was a series of Nat Love movies starring Hudson. Recommended, especially if you are a Sinbad fan. At the end of the movie he plays the final scene absolutely straight, which I don't think I've seen him do before, and he pulls it off!
More Dead Than Alive (1969)Man, I dug this movie. Clint Walker stars as Killer Cain, a murderous gunslinger who gets a second chance after almost 20 years in prison and tries his damnedest to start over in a changing west, but a life of violence haunts his every step. It’s a more bleak and somber movie than I was expecting, but the performances make it sing.Walker brings a stoic nobility to the lead that’s very engaging, and he’s supported by no less than Vincent Price and Anne Francis (both terrific, surprising no one) and Paul Hampton as a hotheaded sharpshooter who butts heads with Cain. Hampton’s character seems like he’s meant to be quite a bit younger than Hampton looks, but maybe that just means this will eventually make a solid double feature with Dear Evan Hansen.
Huge fan of this movie!
Django (1966)And another blind spot the size of Django's machine gun gets shot down like so many red hood-wearing racist confederates who had the misfortune of crossing paths with Franco Nero! What can I say except that it was terrific. I particularly loved the decision to cover the entire movie set in the grimiest, slimiest mud imaginable - and then to top it off by centering a pivotal scene around a grungy pit of Chekhov's quicksand. Mud and blood, indeed. Can't wait to watch the other titles in the trilogy.
With the success of Django, many spaghetti westerns were made with Django in the title that had nothing to do with the original. The Italians never failed to exploit the hits of the era.
Django (1966)Dir. Sergio CorbucciGreat spaghetti western with Franco Nero doing a great Clint Eastwood turn as the vengeful Django embroiled in a war between Mexicans and Southerns while dragging a coffin of tricks. Obvious influencer for Tarantino and Rodriguez decades later.
The Magnificent Seven (1960)One of my few Junesploitation picks I've seen a number of times before. Mostly watching it here because I've got all three sequels lined up for sequel day having not seen any of them previously.
My all time favourite movie. Enjoyed the sequels enough, Guns of the Magnificent Seven being my favourite sequel.
The Shooting(1966) Monte HelmanWatyched this blind after finding it on HBOmax. Warren Oates returns to his mining camp to find one dead friend, one friend shooting at him and his brother missing. After the friend(Will Hutchins) stops shooting he explains that the brother and the other friend had went to town and when they got back the two were arguing and the brother took his bundle and left. The other friend was shot later that same morning by an unseen assailant. Before he even has a chance to process what is going on Millie Perkins shows up as a woman on a mission. Intent on hiring Oates to track down a man She gives no details or even her name. But money talks and they head across the desert. Hunting for the man Perkins intends to kill. Along the way they are joined by another gunman hired by Perkins. A very unlikable Jack Nicholson. Unlikable is a common theme among the characters with Oates himself being the only likeable person in the movie. You will probably want to shake Hutchinson and will for sure wonder why Oates didn't just turn around and leave everyone.I enjoyed this movie overall but will admit it does feel a lot longer than its 1 hr 20 minute runtime.
Open Range (dir. Kevin Costner)Bob Duvall is so good in this. I wish The Cos would direct movies again.
7 Men from Now (1956)Randolph Scott is impressively stoic, if a bit wooden, as the hero, and Gail Russell works fine as the loyal wife nonetheless drawn to the manly charms of this quiet stranger. Walter Reed is a bit cartoonish as the wimpy husband, but he rounds out a triangle which feels like a little like the JV version of Shane, but gives the movie its emotional setup. The real treat is Lee Marvin, who antagonizes both the good guys (by verbally tracing all three sides of the aforementioned love triangle) and the bad guys (by essentially telling them they're outmatched by the hero, and trying to swoop in on their score).Given the title, I was sort of expecting a checklist revenge movie with seven satisfying instances of violent retribution (I mean, come on, it's Junesploitation). This movie wasn't that, but it was still a fairly entertaining (and quick) watch, particularly for the Lee Marvin performance.
It's a scientific fact Lee Marvin improves any movie he's in. Can't argue with science. 😉😛
Bad Day at Black Rock (1955) - I've been wanting to see this for a few years and decided to use Western day as an excuse. Absolutely phenomenal. Spencer Tracy, Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, and Walter Brennan (who is becoming one of my favorite character actors).
Guns of the Magnificent Seven (1969, dir. Paul Wendkos)Third in the "Magnificent" series and the first movie that doesn't star Yul Brenner as Chris, the bleeding heart mercenary. Instead, he's replaced by George Kennedy who is fine here, but doesn't really excel. Having seen 3 out of the 4 films, it seems like the character of Chris Adams is defined singularly as the guy who cares about the little people and can contact people who will kill for money. He doesn't have a character arc or do much else other than make the plot happen. Stand-outs from this movie's band of misfits: Bernie Casey as a black man who is fired from his job at the mine for daring to help during a cave in, and Joe Don Baker a sad sack one-armed Confederate sideshow sharpshooter. Joe Don has to be cured of his intolerance, and both actors get a few good scenes together. And that's about as much of an arc as any single character gets here.When the plan finally comes together (a prison break to free a revolutionary leader, played by the ever-reliable Fernando Rey) it's a standard late '60s western shootout sequence and pretty much everyone dies. Honestly, it it weren't for the classic Elmer Bernstein theme, this could be just any old western. Except for the sadistic Col. Diego ordering his mounted troops to trample on the heads of the buried-to-the-neck prisoners... shades of Caligula there.
The Big Country (1958)When you want some classiness with your sleaze. Stellar cast, stunning cinematography, and a driving plot that keeps me invested whilst humming the overtly catchy score. Gregory Peck is so humble that it’s almost smugness to the point where he SHOULD be fit to be tied.
Oh man, I LOVE this movie. It’s so long but I felt like it could’ve gone another hour.
THE OX-BOW INCIDENT (1943, dir. William Wellman)A brutally honest movie about the harsh reality of frontier justice. This is a really early western to be this cynical and deconstructionist. I really loved it, Henry Fonda is in top form here.
12 Angry Men on the frontier. One of my favourite movies.
A Fistful of Dollars (1964)This was a first time watch for me and I went into it knowing almost nothing except the score, which was super fun!
THE MERCENARY (1969, dir. Sergio Corbucci)Seen it before, but wanted to re-watch it after seeing the poster hanging in the theater Sharon Tate visits in ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD. Iconic score, great Franco Nero performance. Too bad he kind of sucks now.
The Mercenary (1968)Directed by Sergio CorbucciLots of politics and capitalism in this light western about a Mexican Revolution. Franco Nero is the titular military-advisor-for-hire who always gets his money, and his “pick of the women.” Not exactly highbrow. Nero’s character is a self-interested rogue who always happens to come out on the side of the little guy who has big dreams. Very ‘68. Palance is about as uninspired as his hairdo, sorta phones it in. Maybe worked 4-5 days total. His bleeding through his lapel flower was a nice touch though. It’s nice the transfer on Criterion is 16:9. This is not deep, or especially interesting, but it held my attention. It needed more of everything, a spaghetti-western does NOT an exploitation picture make. Watched on the Criterion Channel for: Junesploitation 2021, the whole schedule on Letterboxd:https://boxd.it/caPy8
IN A VALLEY OF VIOLENCE (2016, dir. Ti West)Ethan Hawke, John Travolta, Ti West. What more could you ask for? A modern western exploitation classic.
I remember really liking the first half of this movie, but being a little disappointed that the ending didn't measure up to the setup (at least for me). However, I bet it plays perfectly for Junesploitation. I remember there being some pretty gnarly bad guy deaths.
Sukiyaki Western Django- Extended CutMix Miike, Tarantino, a movie shot in English by actors who don't speak English, and classic western themes and you get this bonkers piece of cinema. It rules is what I'm saying. I will say surprisingly the shorter cut is actually better. This extended cut mostly just features longer cuts, nothing of real substance
I have this disc but have never watched it. Thank you for pushing me over the edge!
Happy to help! Hope you dig it
I watched it this time last year and absolutely loved it.
I used this theme as the opportunity to finally check out News of the World (2020), dir. Paul Greengrass. Thankfully with little shaky cam! As a former newsman, myself, I loved this. Helena Zengel is a revelation. Anyone can who can go toe to toe with Tom Hanks has my respect, especially when it's a child actor!
A Town Called Bastard I always say that Italian westerns bring the world together. Take this one, which is an Italian western by form, but really a co-production of the United Kingdom and Spain.Directed by Robert Parrish -- one of the many hidden hands that made Casino Royale -- this is an example of one of my favorite subgenres of the cowboy movie and that would be the horror western.Ten years ago, a group of Mexican revolutionaries led by the revolutionary leader Aguila murdered a priest and his followers. Now, a widow — Stella Sevens — has come back looking for revenge.Talk about a cast! The town is now ruled a priest (Robert Shaw!) who may be Aguila. Stevens hires a sadistic Mexican outlaw (Telly Savalas!!) named Don Carlos who promises to help her in exchange for gold. And soon, an army colonel (Martin Landau!!!) arrives in an attempt to find Aguila himself.The same team made Pancho Villa, another British and Spanish western that Telly Savalas was involved with. They also made Horror Express and hired Savalas, who no doubt used the paycheck to cover his partying and gambling lifestyle. I say that not as an insult. If I could have been one person other than myself, Savalas seems like a great choice.I’d like someone to explain to me why Stevens sleeps in a coffin — is she a ghost? — and exactly how the filmmakers arrived at setting the dance hall scene to Johnny Horton’s “Battle of New Orleans.” It’s not the best western, Italian influenced or not, I’ve seen, but it’s certainly one of the more interesting, in theory if not in actual filmed practice.This is also a tremendous spolier, but Savalas’ death scene took me by major surprise and I love how he’s as shocked as I was. He keeps trying to figure out what to do when he’s emasculated by losing his trigger finger and never gets it together. As always, a wonderful performer.Read more at https://bandsaboutmovies.com/2021/06/04/junesploitation-a-town-called-hell-1971/
Django (1966)You just gotta love a film that opens on its hero dragging a coffin through the desert. Amazing spaghetti western with great set pieces and a great theme song. The new Arrow 4K blu-ray looks astounding.
THE FAR COUNTRY (1954, dir. Anthony Mann)Anthony Mann/Jimmy Stewart westerns are so beautifully made and feel like such comfort blankets that the senseless, brutal violence is really shocking when it inevitably occurs. This movie is terrific, and is not afraid to be pretty upsetting. Mann westerns are the absolute best, even when I wish the darkness would let up a little.
I ended up watching Cutter's Way (1981), so I'm already deviating from the calendar... Cutter's Way is my favourite movie of all time though and every time I watch it I get something new out of it. This may be my 15th rewatch? I've lost count. This time I watched it through the lens of a western - and it sorta, kinda works as one. Alex Cutter works as a stand-in for the Confederate anti-hero you get in your typical spag-western. The murderous poilitician who has his fingers in every aspect of the town is also a bit of a Western trope. And we see both the hero and villain on horseback - Alex Cutter riding on horseback with guns blazing is one of the most spectacular and bonkers moments in film history and wouldn't be out of place in a western. So, no, I didn't watch a western... But I did fit a square peg into a round hole and watch my favourite movie as if it were a Western.
Not all western narratives are set in the American Wild West. Hell, many John Carpenter movies ("Assault on Precint 13," "The Thing," etc.) could be classified as contemporary (circa the year they were made) western deconstructions.
The Quick And The Dead (1995)Watched with the kids and a good time was had by all. It has the advantage of having a scattering of shootouts throughout, rather than a buildup to a big shootout at the end, so pretty good for keeping the kids, unfamiliar to westerns, interested. With a stacked cast, and Raimi's stylistic flourishes, what's not to love. It's just plain fun.Thanks Mashke for the recommendation!
This is my weakest day, every year. Westerns are a major blind spot for me. They've never been part of my cultural environment growing up (my folks were much more into action and thrillers) and I've always been reluctant to dive into them as an adult. I just... don't know where to start. It all feels so huge and overwhelming! Anyway.Tombstone (George Cosmatos?, 1993)The episode is spot on! I had a really good time, this movie is as unbelievably watchable as it is over the top and campy. I learned something about myself, too: turns out I have a really (really) hard time recognizing people when they have big, lush mustaches glued on their face.
Winchester '73 (1950)Two men show up into town, one of them is Jimmy Stewart. There is a shooting competition for Winchester rifle, which apparently an Indian would give his soul for(yikes emoji). Both men seem to be very similar with their shooting accuracy. Stewart wins but Dutch Henry Brown blindsides him and steals it. Stewart and his buddy seek out Brown and his gang for the gun and other reasons. The gun keeps exchanging hands until the inevitable shoot out. It's the type of western I wouldn't have cared about before but now that I'm getting older fills my holster.
Forty Guns (1957)Barbara Stanwyck is running things but her younger brother is an asshole. Griff and his men show up into town and reluctantly takes over Marshall duties. His brother helps him by killing one of Stanwyck's brothers men but then her brother wants revenge. Griff and Stanwyck's Jessica fall for each other but life gets in the way. It's one of the better films I've seen this month and the ending is pretty fantastic.
Decision at Sundown (1957)I realized about 15 minutes in that I had already seen this. I'm not sure why I didn't recall my original viewing, because this time around I thought this movie was fantastic.The tone of the movie starts off pretty light, and it's one of the funniest westerns I've seen, with characters spitting zingers pretty consistently. The cast of supporting characters feels very rich, featuring a drunken priest, a lovably world-weary bartender, and a pair of henchmen named generically, yet somehow perfectly, Swede and Spanish. Two of the most level-headed and moral characters in the story are the villain's bride-to-be AND his girlfriend--go figure. I particularly enjoyed the hero's friend and sidekick, who--in what would later be employed effectively as Tyrese Gibson's schtick in 2 Fast 2 Furious--spends most of the movie talking about how hungry he is, even as bullets whiz past him.By the end, though, the story gets pretty nuanced and builds up some surprising weight. The hero's revenge motivation gets turned completely upside down. The villain turns out to be flawed, but not irredeemable. And the townspeople, who spend much of the movie as a sort of wisecracking peanut gallery to the main action, end up being exposed as complicit in some of the villainy by way of their inaction.I really loved this movie. True Grit is still the heavyweight champ of hilarious-but-serious westerns, but Decision at Sundown is an extremely worthy challenger for the belt.
Payment in Blood (1967; dir. Enzo Castellari) Short and sweet little western with a TERRIFIC, rousing score and some nicely staged shoot outs with lots of repeating rifle action, as the poster suggests. Watched on YouTube, desperately needs a Blu Ray transfer.
Dead Man (1995)Johnny Depp is from Cleveland. It takes him 2 months to get to his accounting job so Robert Mitchum gave it to someone else. Depp meets a woman, her husband comes home, he shoots her and Depp kills him. He is Mitchum's son and Depp is blamed for both. He then goes on a series of vignettes, with a wise Indians help, to lead him where he is fated to be.
Dead Birds (2004)It's a rare horror western that I hadn't seen. It has a brutal beginning and has a few good scares. Everyone's pretty believable. It's a hard trick to pull off mixing genres but they do a decent job of it.
The Wind (2018)If I lived in the middle of nowhere in the old west, I'd probably go crazy, too. How anyone survived those times is a miracle. This has some decent dread and the acting conveys the hopelessness.
For a Few Dollars More (1965)The Good, the Bad and the Ugly was a first time watch for Junesploitation a few years ago. I was blown away by it and this one almost lived up to it. Teaming Van Cleef and Eastwood was a brilliant move. I didn't realize this was before G,B & U until watching it. Sergio Leone combined with Ennio Morricone was simply magic. This was probably my favorite watch this month so far.