Movie Fan Man: Cinema Connoisseur

Traditional, Artsy, Genre-Within-Genre: A Little Something for Everyone

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT #2

Hello to my followers, those who I follow, and curious onlookers,

I’m still on my Birthday Break (I celebrated already), but I’m making an exception here as this item I find very interesting and urge support for the company financing it.

The UK company 88 Films is holding another public support campaign via Indiegogo for another set of Italian Collection Blu Rays. This go around they’re doing the forgotten Lucio Fulci period film Beatrice Cenci (alias The Conspiracy of Torture) starring the late, great Tomas Milian, and Joe D’Amato’s precursor to 50 Shades of Grey, Eleven Days and Eleven Nights (aka 11 Giorni, 11 Notte). Out of the two I prefer the Fulci/Milian collaboration, but I’ve also been curious about D’Amato’s eccentric reputation as a filmmaker, so I might give the latter a try just for the heck of it.

I had planned to make a contribution, but Indiegogo unfortunately doesn’t accept the type of Card I use, so I’m giving 88 Films a little shout out here to help them make the project a reality. I’ll leave a link to their Indiegogo page to see what the perks and goals are of the project. Please, if you can, give this dedicated company a hand in putting out the more obscure and forgotten cult and grindhouse classics back from the dead.

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/88-films-italian-restoration-project-part-2#/

Tony Nash, Movie Fan Man

UPDATE: 88 Films has reached 74% of their goal and have added two more goal achievements

UPDATE #2: 88 Films is nearing 80% of their goal, but the contributions are slowing down, so anyone interested, please don’t hesitate to give them a hand.

UPDATE #3: 88 Films announced earlier that Beatrice Cenci (alias Conspiracy of Torture) by Lucio Fulci will get top priority in remastering, followed by D’Amato’s film, so keep up with the donations.

UPDATE #4: 88 Films is nearly at 90% of it’s prime goal for Beatrice Cenci, please keep up donating and giving shout outs.

UPDATE #5: 88 Films has hit 91% of their goal!! They’ve updated their page again and have decided to have Goal One be the restoration of both films simultaneously and Goal 2 the creation of exclusive extras for the releases. Let’s keep the prize alive and please keep spreading the word of what 88 Films is looking to accomplish.

UPDATE #6: Hooray!! 88 Films has reached their initial goal of getting both Beatrice Cenci and Eleven Days and Eleven Nights restored for future release. Now let’s get 88 Films to goal 2 of getting these films slip-covers and special features.

UPDATE #7: 88 Films Campaign has stalled again, so let’s try to keep this thing alive, even with the first, primary goal being reached. Killer Crocodile was their Mystery film had goal 3 been reached, but according to Campaign starter Richard Elliot, it’ll still happen regardless, albeit at a much later date.

UPDATE #8: Only four days left on 88 Films Indiegogo campaign!! Another 5,000 GBP and 88 will be able to do slipcovers for the releases, let’s make this happen.

Filed under: Annoucements

Undercover Work: Italian West Style

by Tony Nash

(A Part of Western Wednesdays)

(Mild Spoilers)

(All opinions are of the author alone)

(This review is of the Italian language version of the film)

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La Morte non Conta i Dollari (Death Does Not Count the Dollars/Death at Owell Rocks) (1967) PG-13 ****

Mark Damon: Harry Boyd/Lawrence White

Stephen Forsyth: Lawrence White/Harry Boyd

Nello Pazzafini: Doc Lester (as Giovanni Pazzafini)

Luciano Pigozzi: Judge Warren (as Allan Collins)

Spartaco Conversi: Old Man Lester

Pamela Tudor: Elisabeth Pearson

Luciana Gilli: Jane White

Dino Strano: Mike Lester

Hardy Reichelt: The Sheriff of Owell Rocks

Ignazio Spalla: Gen. Pablo Rodriguez (as Pedro Sanchez)

Aldo Cecconi: Bernie Nolan

Written by: Luigi (Giuseppe) Masini (story) & Riccardo Freda (as George Lincoln)

Directed by: Riccardo Freda (as George Lincoln)

Synopsis: Siblings Lawrence and Jane White learn that Doc Lester and his brothers organized a bank robbery, a takeover of the town of Owell Rocks and the death of their military father to get the White family’s land. Lawrence realizes the Lester Brothers will be looking for him and arranges a scheme with friend Harry Boyd, a skilled gunman and occasional bounty hunter, to fool the brothers into a trap.

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Riccardo Freda (credited here as George Lincoln), one of Italy’s veteran genre filmmakers, tackles his first and only Western with La Morte non Conta. Freda takes the popular American Western story motif of bad guys taking over a little town while trying to steal the land of the area’s popular citizens and transfers it to Italy and Spain. Freda adds Italian West flavor by having a dust laden drifter take interest in the situation, but keeps who his allegiance truly lies with close to the vest. While known more for his Horrors and Thrillers, Freda utilizes this background well in giving his Western a very mysterious feel, keeping the individual helping the White siblings successfully in the shadows as he makes certain those trying to cheat them don’t succeed. Adding that no one has seen the murdered town patron’s son in several years since he went East gives Freda’s Mystery tie in more depth and interest as something shrewd could be taking place behind the outlaw gang’s back. Taking more influence from the American Westerns than from the already influential films of compatriots Sergio Leone and Sergio Corbucci, Freda still manages to evoke a film that puts elements of both worlds together in working harmony. The pacing is similar to Duccio Tessari’s first Ringo film in easygoing lightheartedness, but at the same time keeps the traditional elements of violence having consequences and that no one is spared in the calamity.

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Mark Damon, one of the many American actors who decided to make their fame in Europe, is an intriguing delight in the role of Harry Boyd. Taking pages from Giuliano Gemma’s original Ringo character, Damon has his character cracking jokes, out-conning Lester gang members, and getting into various brawls. Also taking notes from the roles played by Clint Eastwood, Franco Nero, and Lee Van Cleef, Damon adds a hint of mystery to the character as he never really speaks about himself and is always watching and listening. Like Giuliano Gemma, Damon had a handsome face that allowed him to take on a leading man like quality, a rarity for most Italian Western stars. While his character’s reputation is apparently well known, the villains who’ve taken over the town don’t seem too worried about his presence, and even get him to replace the murdered sheriff who had been on their payroll. Damon’s Hollywood background served him well in not only his approach to playing the character of Harry, but also in how he handled action scenes. While the fight scenes go through the traditional rough cuts as punches are thrown and baddies go through walls and windows, Damon’s training in fight choreography helped to enliven the scenes above the usual fray, though are still second to the Gemma fight scenes director Freda was trying to capitalize on.

Stephen Forsyth as Lawrence White (Harry Boyd) in Death at Orwell Rock (1967)

Stephen Forsyth, a Canadian actor who later became a music producer, does a fine job as the sophisticated, but still mysterious Lawrence White. Away for a time living in the East and being educated, White returns to help his sister figure out how their father died and make certain the Lester Brothers don’t take over the town or grab up their father’s lands. Forsyth plays White as calm and professional, and while very concerned about his sister and what the Lester clan has planned for the town, he doesn’t really act like a traditional Easterner of the time. That he really starts digging into what happened regarding the recent events of his father’s death and the sudden bottled up, tight lipped nature of the citizens contradicts how an Easterner would react to such conditions and would normally be minding their own business. When he decks a member of the Lester gang for tripping him in the street, the mystery deepens as an Easterner would never strike another man flat-out and simply apologize for being clumsy. This leaves the audience wondering just what sort of education did Lawrence get while out East and why how he acts totally differs from how he responds to acts of aggression.

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Nello Pazzafini, here credited under his birth name of Giovanni Pazzafini, gets a rare opportunity at playing the central bad guy in Doc Lester. Wanting all the territory owned by the White family for himself and his brothers, Doc Lester organizes a coup that involves not only taking over the town, but getting the sheriff on their side, robbing a bank, and killing the town patriarch. Pazzafini does really well with the role, showing he was more than just a secondary character player or henchman to the main villain, exuding a menace and hulking nature. Both ruthless and cunning, Pazzafini has Doc as someone who the heroes need to catch with his pants down in order to get him. It wasn’t often Pazzafini got to play the main bad guy, but here he does it exceptionally well. Spartaco Conversi, another mostly secondary character player and 2nd Unit production crew worker, gets an equally rare opportunity at a good role with the character of the Old Man Lester, the patriarch. More behind the scenes with making the plans to takeover Owell Rocks while son Doc is out making it happen, the older Lester still abides by his son’s decisions. Conversi doesn’t get as much dialogue or scenes, but he still makes a good second baddie to Pazzafini.

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When it comes out that the two male leads have exchanged identities briefly to ensure the rightful heir to Owell Rocks is able to bring his father’s murderers to justice and free the town from the terror of the killers makes for an interesting plot twist.

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Freda’s attempts at recreating the magic Duccio Tessari achieved with the inaugural Ringo film with Giuliano Gemma fell a little short, but the Mystery aspect of the film more than makes up for what might have at the time been seen as a poor man’s Una Pistola per Ringo. The characters still very much ft the pattern of the typical Italian Western characters: mysterious and keeping their intentions to themselves. The heroes are more humane in their behavior and the baddies fit the typical mode of “B” grade Western villains, but the atmosphere around them helps make them work. The plot is very much generic and typical of the Western genre, but Freda’s years of experience in directing and writing allow the plot to expand and become a little more intricate and interesting. While a bit more American in style, and somewhat void of the more pessimistic Anti-Heroes associated with the genre, Owell Rocks is a fine entertaining genre entry that is certainly a pleaser to people who enjoy both Westerns and Mystery Thrillers.

(I highly recommend this film as even though it’s nothing overtly spectacular, it’s still a lot of fun and extremely entertaining. It might evoke more of an American influence, but that doesn’t stop it from being a good, middle of the road fare for a veteran director’s only crack at the genre. The cast and story are finely done, and there’s not a dull moment in the film. The Mystery aspect is a nice touch from director Freda and makes the film the only Italian Western with that type of twist. The DVD from Germany’s Koch Media is excellent, offering a good transfer, only one or two scenes clearly suffering the effects of irreparable age. The Italian language track is the best one to watch with as it’s the clearest. There’s an English audio, but it’s very subpar and almost unwatchable, so the best bet is either the German or the Italian audio.)

All images courtesy of Google.com/Google Images and their respective owners (including Once Upon a Time in the Italian West)

For more information

IMDB/Death at Owell Rock

Wikipedia/death at Owell Rock

The Spaghetti Western Database/La Morte non Conti i Dollari

Buying option

https://www.amazon.de/gp/product/B009YQTDI6?ie=UTF8&tag=italowestern-21

 

Filed under: Film: Analysis/Overview, Film: Special Topics

Blog News #3

Hello to all my followers, those I follow, and to all curious visitors,

I’ll be taking a 2 week break from the blog starting next week to celebrate my birthday, (for those curious, I’ll be 32 years young) but I’ll cap off the week with a Western Wednesdays post. Oh, and Happy Birthday wishes to anyone on WordPress who’ve already celebrated theirs or are about to.

When I return from my little break, I’ll be starting a new series, called “Yakuza and Crime” where I’ll be talking about some of my favorite Japanese Crime and Gangster films. Like with the Westerns, Giallos, and Polizioteschi’s, I’ll be doing these in a series of five a piece. I hope this new series will be as enjoyable as the others I’ve done. Like always, if anyone wants to see me write about a film, just leave your request in the comments.

Also, I’d like to give a shout out to Ian Gordon and his website HorrorBabble. Ian’s a fine writer and narrator whose YouTube channel is going through a rough patch with the craziness of YouTube “policy”. I’ll leave links to his website, YouTube channel, and Band-Camp page, so stop by when you get the chance. Even if you’re not fans of Horror, many of the stories make fine relaxing listening and are very well done. I’ve corresponded with Ian on occasion and I submitted a story to his open submissions period, and can say he’s a good guy who doesn’t deserve what’s happening to him. Show support if you can.

See you all April 1st and Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!!

Tony Nash (Movie Fan Man)

https://www.horrorbabble.com/

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCIvp_SM7UrKuFgR3W77fWcg

https://horrorbabble.bandcamp.com/

 

Filed under: Annoucements

The Plot Hole(s) in Clue Everyone Forgets

by Tony Nash

(Major Spoilers ahead, so if you haven’t seen the film, please watch it, then come back and read this)

(All opinions are of the author alone)

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Tim Curry: Wadsworth the Butler

Madeline Kahn: Mrs. White

Eileen Brennan: Mrs. Peacock

Christopher Lloyd: Professor Plum

Leslie Ann Warren: Miss Scarlet

Martin Mull: Colonel Mustard

Michael McKean: Mr. Green

Colleen Camp: Yvette the Maid

Lee Ving: Mr. Boddy

Written by: John Landis (story) and Jonathan Lynn (also story), based on the board game Cluedo by Anthony E. Pratt

Directed by: Jonathan Lynn

Synopsis: Six people are invited to a meal, and blackmail. All six are connected to Washington D.C., and the secrets they have could mean trouble should they come out. When the man believed behind the blackmail is murdered, the six guests, and the butler who arranged to have the blackmailer arrested must figure out which of them is a murderer.

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Clue needs no introduction or review as its one of the most popular Dark Comedies of the 1980’s. What very few either don’t know, or usually forget, is that there’s a major goof up within the film that leaves the surprise at the end a little anti-climatic and head head scratching.

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As we all know, the big revelation at the end is that Wadsworth (Tim Curry) is revealed to be Mr. Boddy and that he orchestrated the whole affair in order to eliminate the six accomplices who could identify him as a blackmailer. The second revelation is that the man believed to be Mr. Green (Michael McKeen) is in fact an undercover FBI agent sent to bring down the blackmail ring. Now while all of this is very cleaver and offers a nice twist to the famous multiple endings, there’s one obvious and plot hole ridden aspect to the Mr. Green character that leaves the “true” ending up for speculation and if it really should have been the “true” ending.

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For starters, even though Mr. Green has a good cover as a State Department employ who’s being blackmailed for his homosexuality, which harkens back to the real life FBI investigation of homosexuals within the government in the 1950’s, it’s never stated who informed on him. While it’s easy to assume the real Mr. Green told his superiors he was being blackmailed and the man who gave Mr. Boddy the information was dealt with, how none of the others at the mansion didn’t notice no one associated with Mr. Green’s secret ever showed up to be killed seems odd and weird. Also, the lack of a present informer would’ve immediately tipped off Mr. Boddy that Mr. Green wasn’t who he said he was and have had not only him, but the other five victims, suspicious of the man from the very beginning. Granted directer and screenwriter Jonathan Lynn most likely wanted to hint that Mr. Green was someone to keep an eye on, but to not keep the illusion in tact, even to have another Federal agent posing as the informant against Green seemed a little third rate. Since it’s not realized until the end that Mr. Boddy’s plan had been for his victims to take murderous revenge against his accomplices so they couldn’t turn into FBI witnesses and put him in jail, Mr. Green wouldn’t have any reason to believe a partner would be in danger.

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That Mr. Green never discusses the event or circumstances that led to Mr. Boddy finding out he was a homosexual working for the government adds to this notion. That the other characters, especially Mr. Boddy, aren’t confused and perplexed that Mr. Green hasn’t really said anything about himself (other than what he does for a living, and that his exposure as a gay man would cause a scandal) or who turned Mr. Boddy onto him and why that individual did what they did, is especially baffling as they’re all in the same boat and danger. What makes all this even more strange is that towards the end of the film when all the accomplices are dead and how it all happened are explained, non of the characters question Mr. Green as to why whoever told Mr. Boddy about him never showed up or what the evidence that person had on him. Even with director Lynn wanting to lean the audience into looking at Green more, that he makes Green’s innocence so obvious, and that he took no steps in the script to keep him as a suspect leans a little toward sloppy writing.   

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Another major point is the phone call from J. Edgar Hoover not long after the arrival of the Cop. Even with the assumption that the FBI knew in advance of Mr. Boddy’s blackmail scheme, why would Hoover, a noted overly paranoid individual, phone the house knowing full well the man they want to bring in could very well answer, thus putting an agent at risk for exposure and death. While the film is of course rooted in fantasy and not meant to be taken seriously, this is a clearly dumb move, even with Lynn’s concept of keeping everyone fairly in the dark, even in government agent shows like The Wild Wild West, The Avengers, and Mission: Impossible such a dangerous action would never happen. 

(Now this write up is in no way an attempt to put down the film or director Jonathan Lynn, but since this lack of in many elements of the Green character is so obvious, I felt obligated to put down my thoughts in regard to it. Clue is one of my all time favorite films of my teen years [I still enjoy it now] and I would never talk bad about it, but I was always surprised this obvious plot hole[s] were never brought up previously. I know the film is meant to be silly and not be totally realistic, but even this plot error is a bit too much to be missed.)

(I’m accepting comments for this one, and please be fair with them. You can call me crazy in my thought process with this if you like, but please be constructive and fair minded with it. What I wrote down is theory only, but it’s not bad I think.)

All images courtesy of Google.com/Google Images and their respective owners

For more information

IMDB/Clue

Wikipedia/Clue

https://www.amazon.com/Clue-Blu-ray-Eileen-Brennan/dp/B072QLMDRR/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2SWLT6II0T1W4&keywords=clue+blu+ray&qid=1551994166&s=movies-tv&sprefix=Clue+b%2Cmovies-tv%2C144&sr=1-1-catcorr

 

 

Filed under: Film: Special Topics

Tragic Revenge, Italian West Style

by Tony Nash

(A Par of Western Wednesdays)

(Mild Spoilers)

(All opinions are of the author alone)

(this review is of the Italian language version of the film)

Black Jack (1968) poster

Black Jack (Un Uomo per Cinque Vendette / Un i Dannati della Violenza) (1968) R ****1/2

Robert Woods: “Black” Jack Murphy

Rik Battaglia: Skinner, Outlaw

Mimmo Palmara: Indian Joe, Guide

Larry Dolgin: Reb, Outlaw

Nino Fuscagni: Peter, Estelle’s Fiancé

Lucienne Bridou: Susan, Jack’s Girlfriend

Federico Chentrens: Gordon, Outlaw

Goffredo Unger: Billy, Outlaw (as Fredy Unger)

Dali Breciani: Julie Skinner (as Dalia Lahav)

Sascia Krusciarska: Estelle Murphy, Jack’s Sister

Ivan Scratuglia: Rodrigo

Written by: Giuseppe Andreoli (also story), Gianfranco Baldanello, Augusto Finocchi, & Mario Mattei

Directed by: Gianfranco Baldanello

Synopsis: After a successful heist of the Tucson Arizona bank, outlaw Black Jack’s henchmen decide to double-cross him. When Jack gets the drop on them and takes off with the loot, the gang’s Apache guide Indian Joe leads them to Jack’s hideout. Jack’s world turns tragically black when the gang beats and tortures him, and later rape his sister, with the lustful Indian Joe scalping her for rejecting him. Telling his fiancé to forget him, Jack embarks on a fatal and bleak revenge against his former allies.

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1968 proved to be the banner year for edgier material in the Italian Western, especially with entries like Il Grande Silenzio (The Great Silence), Sonora, Un Minuto per Pregare, un Istante per Morire (A Minute to Pray, A Second to Die), and I Quattro dell’Ave Maria (The Gunmen of Ave Maria/The Forgotten Pistolero). One of the films that took this bleaker outlook to the level Silenzio began was Black Jack. What makes this film exceptional to the existential feel to the Westerns of this period was that there’s no one character that the audience can honestly root for. While characters will at periods show humane sides, the majority of the time they show little to no emotions that move audiences one way or the other. Ironically, what would normally be a hinderance to a film being interesting and enjoyable is not the case here and in fact allows the audience to judge the characters accordingly without worrying if they’re moralizing actions or holding unnecessary sympathies. The characters are actually more interesting because of this and will leave viewers curious as to what their eventual fates will be. The film’s going from the typical heist and betrayal yarn to dark revenge thriller works well and moves seamlessly from one to the other.

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What also sets this film apart from the other Italian Westerns of the day was that all the location scenes were shot over in Israel. While normally most of the Italian Westerns location scenes were filmed in the Almeria area of Spain, the budget was apparently large enough to be able to take the film over to the Holy Land for shooting. Israel makes a nice substitute for the hot deserts of Arizona and really makes viewers feel like they’re seeing an Old Western town in the flesh. Both Israel and Almeria have distinctive looks that make them unique to one another, but because both remind one of the classic Old West landscapes fans have come to love and appreciate, to say that one is better is a little unfair as both are great locales.

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Robert Woods, an American actor who has the rare distinction of having started his career in foreign language films in Europe, offers up a very fine and bleak performance as the title character Jack Murphy. While at heart an outlaw, Jack actually starts out as a devoted brother, friend, and lover to his sister, best friend, and girlfriend. Even with his career profession making it difficult to side with as he has no qualms about killing people to succeed in his ventures, that he does in fact care about the people closest in his life could make the audience pity him for what he decided to do with his life and talents. When the gang who tried to double cross him get their revenge by maiming and crippling him, and raping and scalping his sister, Jack loses not only his reason to live, but his sanity, and decides his revenge will also be a suicide mission. Woods’ talent serves him well in the transition from average outlaw to deranged Angel of Death is done flawlessly. The character’s madness has a Shakespearian quality to it, Hamlet in particular, and shows off Woods’ knack for melodrama which, by some fans’ standards is over the top, help to illustrate Jack’s slow descent into a vileness for which there is no going back once he crosses into it. The one consensus to this change is that Jack is able to convince his girlfriend that he’s no longer worthy of her, thus sparing her from watching his life go to ruin which would’ve caused her to do the same.

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The use of costume as a metaphor comes into play for Woods and his character’s going from one personality to the other. When the film begins, Jack is shown as wearing a combination of black, white, and grey clothes, hinting at his morally ambiguous, but not without some compassion and good points. Upon his sister’s death and his own maiming, Jack spends the remainder of the film dressed entirely in black, showing his full descent into bitterness and madness.

Rik Battaglia as Sanchez in Black Jack (1968)

Rik Battaglia, a veteran Italian character whose career ranged from important “A” pictures to “B” well made entertainment pictures, shows his knack for villainy in the role of Skinner. As Jack’s second in command, Skinner holds some sway over what the gang does in the performance of a job, though he clearly prefers the role of leader to what he really does. Deciding Jack takes too much of the loot as he only handles the getaway part while the others take all the risks, Skinner decides to stage the outlaw version of a coupe. When that fails, he convinces their Apache accomplice to betray Jack, and shows the depths of his savagery in the process. Battaglia does well at playing up a rotten outlaw with little to no scruples, especially with the scene where he and the others take turns beating Jack to a pulp. Showing his range as an actor, Battaglia also gives Skinner a softer side, showing he’s a loving father, risking his life to save her when Jack kidnaps her to have Skinner feel Jack’s own pain when Skinner and the others took turns raping his sister. While showing he’s capable of compassion, Skinner is at heart a dirty outlaw who took things too far in his revenge, leading to his innocent daughter having to possibly pay the price for his sins. Even though the character falls into the general baddie category of the genre, Battaglia gives Skinner a type of empathy in that he tries to keep his daughter out of that world.

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Mimmo Palmara, an Italian character actor most noted for his work with Steve Reeves in the Peplum franchise, exudes slimly villainy in the role of Indian Joe. A rare example of Native Americans being portrayed in the Italian Westerns (the Germans had that market in the Winnetou series) Palmara does a fine job in the portrayal of an Apache tribesman, and that the make-up makes him look like a genuine Apache is a plus as it debunks the traditional stereotypes of the time. Palmara, who was able to speak English phonetically, actually plays the role of Indian Joe silent, playing up the common style of Native American characters not saying much in films and TV of the 60’s. Palmara’s slimy and vicious gaze serves him well as even though he doesn’t speak, it’s usually clear what he’s thinking, and often it’s never good. Joe’s lust over Jack’s sister is the catalyst for the events that unfold, and the character’s anger at being rejected by the sister leads to his vicious and merciless scalping of her, shamelessly sporting her scalp as a trophy as he chants a war cry as he and the gang take off lead to all kinds of doom and consequences.

(Palmera, who was normally credited in the Westerns as Dick Palmer, gets his first credit under his real name since the Peplum period here.)

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Black Jack is one of those films that’s good, but is also a film that one must go into knowing there will be no good characters, and a mood viewers must prepare themselves for. Viewers won’t be left depressed by the film as there’s no major character that would leave the viewer feeling completely hopeless and betrayed by how the story played out, but it’s not the usual twist that normally comes out within the genre. The cast does well in their respective roles, especially Robert Woods, Rik Battaglia, and Mimmo Palmara, and fits the type of feel the Westerns of the day were looking for. Director Gianfranco Baldanello, while skilled at his profession, didn’t seem seasoned enough to tackle a story with the type of depth, character, and mood Black Jack has in it. This isn’t to say Baldanello didn’t do his best with what he had, but there are moments that look out of his league in how they did look and should’ve looked. Other than how the product was handled filming wise, the film is still quite good and does deserve to be recognized as one of the better smaller Italian Westerns of the times. While it misses the mark of being a Leone, Corbucci, or Castellari Western, the film does fit the category of sleeper hit and minor classic, unique enough that it can stand on its own.

(I do recommend the film to Western fans due to the film’s relative obscurity up until the last 20 years or so, making it a rarity within the genre. It’s still a very good film, but is also one of those films you have to be in the mood for before popping it in to the player. The Colosseo Films Blu Ray of the film is fantastic and the transfer/scan of the original film negative is immaculate, save for two scenes, with hardly any signs of real damage. The Italian audio, the preferable audio choice I think, is also quite good, only minimal amounts of popping, and even then only when no one’s talking. Fans on the SWDb have stated that the English dub appears to be out of sync, but others have stated this isn’t the case, but as I never watch the English audios anymore, I can’t give an opinion.)

All images courtesy of Google.com/Google Images and their respective owners

For more information

IMDb/Black Jack

Wikipedia/Black Jack

Spaghetti Western Database/Black Jack

Buying options

https://www.amazon.de/Django-inkl-Bonus-DVD-Schuber-Blu-ray/dp/B07HSLSQ8W/ref=tmm_blu_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1551892089&sr=1-3

https://www.amazon.de/Auf-Knie-Django-inkl-Bonus-DVD/dp/B07HSM5VJB/ref=tmm_dvd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1551892089&sr=1-3

For those who don’t have a region free player

https://www.amazon.com/Belle-Starr-Story-Black-Jack/dp/B074BQ85Q5/ref=as_li_ss_tl?creativeASIN=B074BQ85Q5&imprToken=SaDEiah.IssHuFx5pUFkaw&slotNum=0&ie=UTF8&linkCode=w61&tag=spaghetti-western-20&linkId=308ae300a3a0424c1458560a3beb009b

Filed under: Film: Analysis/Overview, Film: Special Topics

Cowboys vs. Aliens 2: Far Alamo

by Tony Nash

(Spoilers)

(All opinions are of the author alone)

Image result for far alamo short film

Far Alamo (2018) R ****

Edited & Directed by: Fabrice Mathieu

Featuring archive cameos of:

Lee Van Cleef

Charles Bronson

Clint Eastwood

James Coburn

Eli Wallach

Henry Fonda

Steve McQueen

Gian Maria Volonte

Yul Brynner

John Wayne

Laurence Harvey

Richard Widmark

Terence Hill

Aldo Giuffre

With music samples of Ennio Morricone, Dimitri Tiomkin, and James Horner

Synopsis: The Alamo is under siege by carnivorous and murderous bugs from Outer Space. With the aid of freelance gunman, the defenders of the Alamo are able to repel the alien menace.

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A homage to the Western, both the Traditional and the Italian, and cheesy to gross Sci-Fi films, film fan Fabrice Mathieu splices together a nice fan film that is both entertaining and well made. Here the heroes of the Alamo have a new threat to deal with in the form of Alien Bugs rampaging across the deserts of Texas, and they need all the help they can get in defeating the invading menace. Several freelance gunman, both bounty hunter and mercenary, decide to help out the Alamo defenders, giving the group a fighting chance. Mixing such iconic Westerns as The Alamo (1960), Per un Pugno di Dollari (A Fistful of Dollars), (1964), Per Qualche Dollaro in Piu (For a Few Dollars More) (1965), Il Buono, Il Brutto, Il Cattivo (The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly) (1966),  C’era una Volta il West (Once Upon a Time in the West) (1968), and Il Mio Nome Nessuno (My Name is Nobody) (1975) and the Starship Trooper Trilogy is all at once creative, ingenious,and insane as the audience is taken through a delirious action packed ride that, while seems very unbelievable and ridiculous, successfully allows the suspension of belief that allows the spectator to sit back and enjoy without caring about whether it’s implausible or not.

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The usage of close-ups of such iconic Western actors as Lee Van Cleef, Charles Bronson, Clint Eastwood, James Coburn,  and Eli Wallach is used to great effect by Mr. Mathieu and helps to build up the suspense he’s looking for as the heroes watch as the hoards of Alien Bugs are seen roaring up the landscape. Even with the footage being spliced together from other films and music, Mathieu edits and mixes all the elements together in such a way that it doesn’t feel like something put together at random by fan, but by a real pro wanting to show his appreciation and love of two totally different, but very much entertaining genres of films.

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The only element that really works against the film is the use of decapitation with some of the characters. Not only is it really obvious that these images are in fact spliced and mixed together, totally killing, even if only briefly, the effect that Mathieu was looking to achieve, but adds an unnecessary amount of violence to the piece. Now this isn’t anything against Mr. Mathieu as he’s only trying work the actions of the bugs in a way that appears believable, but shows that there are just certain mash-ups that don’t work right.

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Despite a significant single flaw. Mathieu’s Far Alamo is still a highly entertaining little short film that fans of Westerns, Sci-Fi, Action, and Fantasy films should get a kick out of. While Mathieu has often been declared by online critics as putting together too unusual and too implausible mash-up edits of various films, this one works rather well. Is it implausible: yes, does it defy logic: yes, is it at all boring: no, is it entertaining: yes. Since the film is about gunfighters tackling hostile invading aliens, the elements of shoot-outs and the Bugs being hit with various forms of fire power works in the piece’s favor and gives some plausibility to the action might actually taking place in a real movie. Mathieu hits the mark fairly well here and offers something really interesting to look at and enjoy.

(I do recommend checking this little short out, even if only once, as it’s something totally different and creative. Now I know this contains Western elements and should’ve probably been shown on Western Wednesdays,  but the mash-up and Fantasy elements allotted it its own separate place I’d have given the film five stars, but the decapitating scenes really took the value down a little, but not so much, of the film’s overall feel. It’s available on both YouTube and Vimeo, so fans of films have some outlets to check it out. Even if people only watch it for something quick on a rainy day, it’s worth the 5 minutes the piece runs.)

all images courtesy of Google.com/Google Images and their respective owners

for more information

https://forum.spaghetti-western.net/t/clint-eastwood-lee-van-cleef-vs-giant-bugs-movie-mashup/4628

 

 

 

 

Filed under: Film: Analysis/Overview

Before the Parkers Had Clue…. Neil Simon Had Murder by Death

by Tony Nash

(all opinions are of the author alone)

(Mild Spoilers)

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Murder by Death (1976) PG-13 ****1/2

Peter Falk: Sam Diamond

David Niven: Dick Charleston

Peter Sellers: Sidney Wang

Elsa Lanchester: Jessica Marbles

James Coco: Milo Perrier

Alec Guinness: Jamesir Bensonmum

Maggie Smith: Dora Charleston

Eileen Brennan: Tess Skeffington

Estelle Winwood: Miss Withers the Nurse

Nancy Walker: Yetta the Maid

James Cromwell: Marcel the Valet

Truman Capote: Lionel Twain

Richard Narita: Willie Wang

Written by: Neil Simon

Directed by: Robert Moore

Synopsis: Reclusive millionaire Lionel Twain invites popular and respected private investigators Dick Charleston, Sidney Wang, Sam Diamond, Jessica Marbles, and Milo Perrier to his home for dinner, and to solve a murder. Twain claims he’s better than all five detectives combined, daring them to solve a murder he deduces will occur at midnight. When it looks like Twain predicted his own murder, the five detectives and their associates must contend with baffling clues, red herrings, and Twain’s bizarre electronic inventions.

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Playwright and screenwriter Neil Simon, most famous for his play The Odd Couple, later done as a film and TV series, both parodies and pays homage to the Murder Mystery novels and films of the 1920’s to 1940’s. Taking popular detective characters Hercule Poirot, Jane Marple, Nick Charles, Charlie Chan, and Sam Spade and turning them on their heads into comic foils to one another, Simon creates a Mel Brooks style parody that still retains the Mystery goodness and suspense he grew up reading as a child. All the elements of those classic pre-WWII stories are at play: the reclusive rich person, a lot of money at stake for many of the people involved, motives ranging from revenge, blackmail, betrayal, money, and so forth, a house that proves as dizzying as the case a t hands, and clues aplenty. That the characters are shown playing it all straight like a traditional Mystery Thriller makes the comedic results even funnier and shows the film as a predecessor to the Zucker Bros. Comedy classic Airplane! and Carl Reiner’s Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid. That the detectives themselves are suspects when it’s revealed each of them had known Twain prior to him inviting them for the weekend makes the story even more interesting.

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On the original Artisan DVD release booklet, Neil Simon commented that he had different actors in mind for some of the parts. Orson Welles was originally slated for the Poirot parody character, and while he was interested in the part, he couldn’t accept because he was on contract for a play in Italy. James Coco originally signed on to play the Charlie Chan parody character, but stepped up for the Poirot part when Orson Welles had to bow out. Myrna Loy was slated to parody her own Nora Charles character from The Thin Man franchise, but later bowed out because she felt uneasy working with playboy David Niven. Simon had written a part specifically for Katherine Hepburn that was to be a spoof of Agatha Christie called Abigail Christian, but when Hepburn declined the offer, the character was redubbed Abigail Christmas and was offered to Estelle Winwood who ended up playing the aged nurse Miss Withers and the Christie spoof became Elsa Lanchester’s Miss Marbles. It would’ve certainly been interesting to see how the film played out with different actors in the roles and how Katherine Hepburn might have played an Agatha Christie spoof.

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Neil Simon’s taped interview regarding the making the film (which is on both the Artisan DVD and Shout! Factory’s recent Blu Ray) contains a section where he speaks of how the film could have easily been just as good a play as it is a film and with how the film is structured, is a good possibility. With the majority of the film, save the first 10 minutes and last five minutes, taking place inside Lionel Twain’s mansion, a big enough stage could’ve housed three to four sets that would act as the dining room, the parlor area, the bedrooms and the main hallway, perfecto for a play.

The cast of the film is fantastic.

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Peter Falk is fantastic in his Bogart like impression of the Sam Spade character with the Sam Diamond role. All business and no time for romance, and heightened by 10, Diamond rattles street lingo and metaphors as he and his colleagues go through the case at hand. Questions of his sexuality come into play after it’s revealed Twain previously encountered Diamond at a gay bar, and Diamond’s motive being to hide an affair with the older man. Falk adds in a little Colombo into his performance, asking questions repeatedly, though this time getting nowhere. David Niven, in one of his last prominent roles before his health declined, is charming as Dick Charleston. Niven plays his parody as the complete opposite of Nick Charles, Dick being classy and suave, Nick unkempt and direct, Dick-supportive, albeit very machismo of his wife’s interest in his career, Nick-weary of his career and consistently trying to dissuade his wife’s fascination, and Dick-right to the point and detailed. Nick-vague, making everyone sweat as he reveals the truth. Charleston unfortunately is a failed stock market player and his near bankruptcy led to him having borrow money at interest from Twain, so the money prize is far too much temptation to wipe off the debt.

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James Coco, much like Peter Falk, plays his parody with a heightening of their personality and does it very well with Milo Perrier. A comic interpretation of Hercule Poirot, Perrier seems to be more interested in eating and the bourgeoise lifestyle over to being a detective. Coco, noted for playing many of his comedy parts effeminately, uses this to great effect with the Perrier character, heightening Poirot’s classy personality by leaps and bounds. Perrier’s love of poodles and Twain’s bizarre and disturbing interest in hunting them is what leads to Perrier’s motive for revenge. Peter Sellers, the eccentric British comedian, most famous for playing Inspector Jacques Clouseou, is a riot as Sidney Wang. A take off on Charlie Chan, Sellers plays Wang as a philosophy spouting traditional Cantonese gentlemen who also enjoys being very observant, pointing out inaccuracies in everyone’s dress and personality, and Twain’s flaws in his plan of the murder. In an ironic twist, it’s revealed Wang was orphaned at a young age and Twain adopted him, but later disowned him when he suddenly noticed Wang was Asian, revealing a phusdo racist attitude. While his role today would be seen as politically incorrect (as to an extent back in the 70’s it was), this was a parody of Asian roles being played by white actors, though actors like Warner Oland and Peter Lorre were highly praised for their portrayals of Asians in the 30’s and 40’s.

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Elsa Lanchester, a British actress most recognized as The Bride in Bride of Frankenstein and as Katie Nana in Mary Poppins, does a well-played and honorable parody of Agatha Christie with Jessica Marbles. An almost too obvious parody of Jane Marple, Lanchester still exudes a kind of class and dignity in the role, having the character’s comedic elements come out in being very modern, up-to-date, and not afraid to give her male colleagues a taste of their own medicine. Lanchester had known Twain when they were younger, and were meant to be married, but Twain’s libido forced Marbles to break off the wedding, realizing he was too much of a cad, whether Twain at one point wanted to ruin her reputation is never clarified. Lanchester often provided comic relief when it came to her casting in dramas, and here in a straight comedy does a fine job, though she proved equally adept at serious, straight roles. Alec Guinness, one of England’s finest actors, proves his equal fare at madcap comedy in the role of Bensonmum. A direct play up of servant’s answering their employer’s as sir and ma’am, Guinness plays Bensonmum as a devoted servant, but because he is completely blind, his efforts result in hefty, hilarious mistakes. This is amplified even more by the character’s inability to sense the danger the other characters have had happen to them and the bizarre errors he makes when setting up their rooms. Simon makes brief mention in his interview that Guinness had more fun making his script come alive then his other films.

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In a one-time acting role, Truman Capote, the best-selling writer of such books as Breakfast at Tiffany and In Cold Blood, gives a surprisingly fine performance as Lionel Twain. A reclusive millionaire with a flare for the dramatic, illusions, and showmanship, Twain likes to think of himself as one of the forgotten great minds of the 20th century. Wanting to put his money where his mouth is, Twain challenges his detective guests to solve a murder he has declared will happen exactly at midnight that evening. When it appears that Twain arranged his own murder just to prove his bravado, his delirious contraptions make things difficult for his guests to both solve what happened and to even get breaths of fresh air. Capote, himself a lover of the flamboyant, takes his interest to the highest level he can think of and makes Lionel Twain the arrogant and self-opinionated antagonist Simon wrote him to be. While Capote never had any acting training, he proved he had a natural ability that made the character totally believable.

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An all star cast of the times, a play like setting, a fine and hilarious script from an excellent writer, and just plain well executed funny business make Murder by Death a must see for fans of comedies and fans of mystery films. While the story might lose its grip at times in favor of funny business, this doesn’t deter the cast’s ability to be funny and satirical in its take on one of the classic genres of all time. Preluding such crazy antic films like the Scary Movie franchise, The Naked Gun series, and of course Airplane!, the film certainly doesn’t break the fourth wall like many of them do, but it does play around with the reality to the point it nearly becomes surreal. A must for any film fan.

(I have very little to add to this wonderful comedy, other than that I highly recommend it to any and all film lovers. I did receive the Shout! Factory Blu Ray for Christmas and while I haven’t checked out yet, I’m sure the transfer is on par as always with the company and does like I said earlier port over Neil Simon’s interview from the original Artisan DVD.)

All images courtesy of Google.com/Google Images and their respective owners

For more information

IMDB/Murder by Death

Wikipedia/Murder by Death

Buying options

https://www.amazon.com/Murder-Death-Blu-ray-Alec-Guinness/dp/B07GW2P81C/ref=sr_1_2?crid=2YLQ9QVFW22VF&keywords=murder+by+death&qid=1551461985&s=movies-tv&sprefix=Murder+%2Caps%2C135&sr=1-2

https://www.amazon.com/Murder-Death-Peter-Falk/dp/B00005RDRO/ref=sr_1_3?crid=2YLQ9QVFW22VF&keywords=murder+by+death&qid=1551462011&s=movies-tv&sprefix=Murder+%2Caps%2C135&sr=1-3

Filed under: Film: Analysis/Overview