Category Archives: Western

Westworld

Directed by Michael Crichton
Produced by Paul Lazarus III
Written by Michael Crichton
Starring Yul Brynner
Richard Benjamin
James Brolin
Music by Fred Karlin
Cinematography Gene Polito
Editing by David Bretherton
Distributed by MGM
Release date November 21, 1973
Running time 88 min. (theatrical)
Country US
Language English

Westworld was a film that scared the hell out of me when I was a kid. I had nightmares of an out of control robot Yul Brynner chasing me and he couldn’t be killed, which is basically the plot of this movie.The Simpsons parodied the film in the Itchy & Scratchy Land episode.

It’s an enjoyable film to watch but not as scary as I thought it was when I was a kid. It’s an interesting concept of having a theme park full of robots that run amok due to a computer virus. Of course the film (and book it was based on) was made before everyone had a home computer so the idea of computer viruses was virtually unknown. I like some of the little things that Yul does that remind us that he is not human but a robot, such as the way in which he walks while stalking the hero Richard Benjamin.

I notice that Westworld is set to be remade with Russell Crowe in the lead role. I don’t see the point of a remake of what is a great film but if that is the case hopefully it is better than the remake of Robin Hood. It seems that Hollywood has run out of original ideas as now there are so many mediocre remakes or sequals to earlier films. This may be a topic for another time but how many crappy remakes have their been in the last decade?

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The Valley Of Gwangi

Directed by Jim O’Connolly
Produced by Charles H. Schneer & Ray Harryhausen
Starring James Franciscus
Gila Golan
Richard Carlson
Laurence Naismith
Freda Jackson
Gustavo Rojo
Music by Jerome Moross
Cinematography Erwin Hillier
Editing by Henry Richardson & Selwyn Petterson
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date September 3, 1969
Running time 96 minutes
Country United States
Language English

You would think that any movie that combines cowboys with dinosaurs would be the best film ever made, but that is not the case with Valley Of Gwangi. This is not to say that it is a bad movie, it just doesn’t live up to the potential of the premise of the film. It takes 45 minutes until Gwangi, an Allosaurus (not a T-rex), appears.

Despite all this the film is still pretty good. It is impossible to dislike anything that features the stop-motion magic of Ray Harryhausen, although he is not at the top of his game here. Some of the animation is a bit jerky and not as smooth as it should be, for example with the flight of the Pteradactyl or in the scenes where Gwangi battles the elephant. Despite this the film is still enjoyable.


Texas Across the River

Directed by Michael Gordon
Produced by Harry Keller
Written by Wells Root, Harold Greene, and Ben Starr
Starring Dean Martin
Joey Bishop
Alain Delon
Rosemary Forsyth
Music by Sammy Cahn and James Van Heusen
Cinematography Russell Metty
Editing by Gene Milford
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s) 1966
Running time 101 min.
Country U.S.A.
Language English

Texas Across The River is an awful comedy western featuring two Rat-Packers in Dean Martin and Joey Bishop. It also features French superstar Alain Delon playing Spanish swashbuckler Don Andrea Baldazar, or Baldy as Dino dubs him. The film is just terrible, with Delon providing the only interest in it at all. I think the reason why I disliked this movie so much could be because of Joey Bishop’s performance as Kronk, an annoying Indian (native American) who is meant to be funny but like much of Bishop’s comedy is not. Dean as usual puts in as minimal effort as possible in his performance. Usually Dino is a really funny guy yet it seems obvious that this was nothing more than an easy pay check to him.


Bad Day At Black Rock

Directed by John Sturges
Produced by Dore Schary
Written by Story: Howard Breslin
Screenplay: Don McGuire & Millard Kaufman
Starring Spencer Tracy
Robert Ryan
Anne Francis
Dean Jagger
Walter Brennan
Ernest Borgnine
Lee Marvin
Music by André Previn
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date(s) January 7, 1955 (United States)
Running time 81 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Bad Day At Black Rock is one of those movies that always seems to be shown on Foxtel, usually at about 1am on Fox Classics. It’s a movie that I have always been curious about but could never actually be bothered watching until today, after the book A Rough Guide To Westerns recommended it. I am glad that I watched it.

The film has an all-star cast headed by Spencer Tracy as Macreedy, a one-armed stranger who one day gets off the train at the sleepy town of Black Rock looking for Komoko. This get the members of the small town into an uproar for reasons that become apparent as the movie progresses. It doesn’t take long for Macreedy to realise that he is not welcome in Black Rock.

We find out that there is a dark secret in Black Rock that Macreedy’s snooping around will eventually bring to light. This secret involves Komoko, who was a Japanese farmer living near Black Rock on land sold to him by the film’s villain Reno Smith. The land that Smith sold Komoko was useless but that Smith became enraged that Komoko was able to grow food on the land. The day after Pearl Harbour Smith and his cronies attacked and murdered Komoko. Now they are afraid that four years later Macreedy will uncover this.

Tracy gives a great performance filled with quiet dignity as Macreedy. Despite the fact that the whole town is against him and have planned to murder him Macreedy does not stop in his quest to find out about what happened to Komoko. The villains featuring Ryan, Borgnine and Marvin are menacing as they harass Tracy and await darkness to fall so that they can kill him. It is only after one of the posse hears why Macreedy is searching for Komoko that the tables start to turn. Komoko’s son was a GI who gave his life in Italy to save Macreedy. Macreedy wanted to take the medal that Komoko’s son received to Komoko Sr.The film comes to a head when Macreedy is double-crossed by Liz Wirth, which culminates in Macreedy being ambushed by Smith.

There is a lot of tension in the film as we all know what Macreedy’s fate will ultimately be, but as he is the film’s hero we hope that he will find a way out. It is a really good film to watch.


The Return of Frank James

This is one ugly poster in which Henry Fonda looks to be suffering from Bells Palsy. Directed by Fritz Lang
Produced by Darryl F. Zanuck & Kenneth Macgowan
Written by Sam Hellman
Starring
Henry Fonda
Gene Tierney
Music by David Buttolph
Cinematography George Barnes
Editing by Walter A. Thompson
Distributed by Twentieth Century Fox
Release date(s) August 16, 1940
Running time 92 min.
Country United States
Language English

I watched this film on Fox Classics the other night and whilst for some reason I don’t have too many westerns in my DVD collection (something I need to rectify), I did enjoy this particular film. This movie starred Henry Fonda as the anti-hero Frank James, the brother of the infamous Jesse James and member of the outlaw James gang. This film is apparently a sequel to 1939s Jesse James in which Jesse was double crossed by gang member Bob Ford played by John Carradine. The Return Of Jesse James involves Frank’s search for revenge against former friend Ford.

The film is a highly fictionalised account of Frank’s life after Jesse’s death but is very entertaining. It is a very good old-fashioned western film, with some hints to Gone With The Wind thrown in for good measure. There is even a bit of a moral dilemma thrown in for good measure when Frank has to decide whether to pursue Ford or to fight for the freedom of his farm hand Pinky, who is set to be hanged after wrongfully being arrested as an accomplice of Frank’s.

One surprising element to the film is who directed it. Fritz Lang was a German director known for films such as Metropolis and M, German Expressionism and film noir and not films from the western genre, although he did follow this up with some more westerns. This was just his fourth American made film. I still recommend this film and will probably buy it if I see it on DVD. (It used to be available at Big W before Christmas for $9.99)