Showing posts from 2017

Invitation to a Gunfighter

A flawed but interesting western set in the aftermath of the Civil War. It has been labeled as 'a strong contender for the dullest Hollywood western ever' (*1), but others think it's a minor classic (*2). It's far from perfect, but tells a story about racism and  hypocrisy that is probably even more relevant today than it was back in the Sixties.

Yul Brynner is a professional gunfighter who's commisioned to a small border town in New Mexico. Matt Weaver, a war veteran, has returned to his hometown to reclaim his homestead and his fiancée, but Weaver was one of the few inhabitants of the border town sympathizing with the Confederacy and therefore wasn't welcomed by the others. Moreover the town boss, a banker named Sam Brewster has sold his farm in his absence and his fiancée (Janice Rule) has married another man, a Unionist who lost an arm in the war ...
Both men of course want Weaver out of town and pay the professional to to the job, but this is definitely a w…

The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw (1958)

The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw
In this British-American comedy western Kenneth More stars as Jonathan Tibbs, the last surviving member of a family of British gunsmiths. He has no desire to step into his father’s boots - he’d rather spend his time on his inventions (that often don’t work at all) - but when he discovers that the family business is not doing well, he decides to travel West. To the American West that is, because in the 1880s the Far West has become the best outlet for guns. Jonathan has never rode a horse or fired a gun, but thanks to a side-effect of one of his gadgets he is taken for a gunslinger and named sheriff in the western town of Fractured Jaw.
The idea for the movie is usually traced back to Leo McCarey’s classic comedy Ruggles of Red Gap (1935) in which an English manservant (played by Charles Laughton) ends up in the American West, but also seems to have taken inspiration from Nicolai Gogol’s famous 19th Century play The Inspector General (in Russian Revizor), in…

The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing

Burt Reynolds is Jay Grobart, a former army captain who has spent some time in jail for shooting the man who raped and murdered his wife, an Indian woman named Cat Dancing (hence the odd title). After his release, he takes to robbing trains with three of his friends, Dawes, Billy and Charlie. Sarah Miles is Catherine Crocker, a highborn Lady who accidently witnesses their latest robbery. Jay wants to take her horse, but Dawes and Billy are also interested in the lady. When they flee into the mountains, they're persecuted by Lapchance, a railway detective, and lady Catherine's husband William ...
I had always avoided this movie, because of the negative reviews, so I was surprised to see a genuinely enjoyable western. Okay, it runs for nearly two hours, at least half an hour too long, and there are a few issues with the script, but Reynolds and Miles are a nice, unlikely couple and Jack Warden and Bo Hopkins are an interesting pair of sex-crazed baddies, both trying to get their …

Cattle Annie & Little Britches

Cattle Annie and Little Britches (1981)
A little western, loosely based on the real-life adventures of two girls - AnnieMcDoulet and Jennie Stevens - who traveled West to learn more about outlaw life. They had read Ned Buntline's dime novels about frontier brigandage and desired to meet their idols in the flesh. The film is set in the late 19th Century, in a West that is no longer as Wild as it used to be, and when the girls finally meet the infamous Doolin-Dalton gang, they're confronted with a demoralized bunch of has-beens ... a wild bunch grown tired ... Their leader, Bill Doolin, feels inspired by the presence of the young girls, but his efforts to live up to their expectations put himself and his gang in danger of being dismantled by their arch enemy, the patient but determined sheriff Tighman ...
If you think - like Sergio Leone did - that women basically hold-up the action of a western movie, this is not a movie for you. It's a western and there's some western ac…

Showdown (1963)

Showdown (1963) Aka: The Iron Collar
The  border town of Adone is one of a kind: it has no jail, therefore perpetrators are chained to a post in the middle of the town street. This is what happens to two friends, Chris (Audie Murphy) and Bert (Charles Drake), after spending a night in town. Chris was already a bit skeptic about their visit, because his friend has a habit of drinking and making trouble at the card table. Of course his worries come true: a drunken Chris provokes a brawl in the saloon and the two end up in the middle of the street, with an iron collar around their necks.
It's an unpleasant situation, but under normal circumstances they will be released the next day, so Chris tries to get some sleep while Bert is sobering up. Unfortunately, they're not alone: also tied to the pole, is a dangerous outlaw called Lavalle, who forces the others to dig out the pole.  After a brief shootout, the 'prisoners' manage to escape and fly into the hills. Chris and Bert …

Cahill U.S. Marshal

CAHILL: U.S. MARSHALL (1973, Andrew V. McLaglen)
An odd western with Duke as an aging Marshal whose sons go astray because daddy isn't home enough. They absolutely want his attention and therefore make some 'bad friends' and get involved in a bank robbery. As you might have expected, things go terribly wrong: nobody was supposed to get hurt, but one of daddy's friends even gets killed, and instead of bad friends, the bank robbers turn out to be real mean bastards. 

It has been suggested that Cahill, U.S. Marshal was intended as a movie about a cop and a widower, more busy with his job than with his two growing up kids (*1). Cop thrillers were in the air - thanks to Clint Eastwood's portrayal of Dirty Harry - but apparently it was decided in the last minute to put Big John back in the saddle, where he belonged. Cahill is definitely a 'post-True Grit' movie: like the more successful Big Jake (1971), it plays with the new persona Wayne had adopted in his Oscar…

The Guns of Fort Petticoat

The Guns of Fort Petticoat (1957)
The first movie production by Murphy-Brown Pictures, a partnership Audie Murphy had formed with Harry Joe Brown. It remained their only movie because of personal differences between the two partners. The Guns of Fort Petticoat was panned by contemporary critics who thought this outlandish story about a petticoat army fighting off an Indian attack didn't combine well with the historic background of the plight of the red man, but the movie seems to have withstood the test of time pretty well and today many think it's one of Murphy's more enjoyable efforts
The story is set in full Civil War time. Audie Murphy is Lt. Frank Hewitt, a guy from Dixie in Yankee service. When some Cheyenne braves leave their territory, Hewitt's commander, the racist Colonel John Chivington decides to punish them by attacking their virtually unprotected village. The result is an infamy known to history as the Sand Creek Massacre. Hewitt knows the Indians will see…

Jane Got a Gun

Jane Got A Gun 
Ever since I saw her in Luc Besson’sLeon: The professional(1994) I have a soft spot for Natalie Portman. In 1994 she was thirteen, but looking like a child, today she’s 35, but still looking ever so young. In Jane got a Gun she is a young woman who has lost her innocence, but not her vulnerability. She’s the mother of a six or seven year old girl and the wife of a man with a questionable reputation, Bill Hammond (played by Noah Emmerich).

One day Bill comes home with eight bullets in his back. The men who shot him, the Bishop brothers, are on their way to the farm and their arrival will mean even more trouble. The only one who can help Jane and her wounded husband, is their neighbor Dan Evans (Joel Edgerton). Main problem: Dan is not only their neighbor, but also Jane's former fiancé, the man she left to become Mrs. Hammond ...
Jane Got a Gun was a troubled production. At some point, the names of Michael Fassbender, Sam Worthington, Bradley Cooper and Jude Law were …