Sunday, December 30, 2012

WW II action flick....PLAY DIRTY

Just watched it in its entirety, for the first time since I saw it in the theatres during its initial release, the oft over-looked and vastly under-appreciated Michael Caine-Nigel Davenport WWII war film PLAY DIRTY.  They just don’t make ‘action flicks like this any more and they certainly don’t end ‘em like this any more.  Was great seeing my beloved spaghetti western location sites in Almeria, Spain continuously popping up while inside I’m screaming, “I’ve been there!.  I’ve walked those grounds.”  Great direction by Andre De Toth.  In addition to liking Michael Caine, I also like Nigel Davenport.  In addition to being superb in SANDS OF THE KALAHARI, he also appeared in two spaghetti westerns…THE RETURN OF EL COYOTE and CHARLEY-ONE-EYE.  This movie had interesting dueling Nigel scenes…..Nigel Davenport and Nigel Green.  Unfortunately Nigel Bruce had long passed before filming began on PLAY DIRTY or he might have been the 3rd Nigel in the cast.    Well worth a look-see.

Sunday, November 11, 2012


I finally got to watch a western which has been eluding me since it’s original release by National General Pictures in 1971 and its NBC tv debut in 1977….SOMETHING BIG starring Dean Martin and Brian Keith. Also in the cast are Ben Johnson, Honor Blackman, and Carol White, along with noted character actors, Albert Salmi, Harry Carey, Jr, Denver Pyle, Joyce Van Patten (sister of Dick the dog food magnate) Robert Donner, David Huddleston, Bob Steele and Edward Faulkner (I’ve met him and he is a very warm and friendly person.) Location scenery and photography are top notch but Andrew V. McLaughlin’s direction distractingly moves from serious to slaptick. He tries to emulate his mentor John Ford and doesn’t succeed several times. Dean Martin is very good as the good-bad guy Joe Baker whose aim in life is to do “something big” so he’ll be remembered and so is his fuzz ball dog sidekick. SPOILER ALERT!!!! Nothing bad happens to the dog. However, Brian Keith overacts with his part and his huffing and puffing makes him comes off as sort of a buffoon. (Why his command is so fond of him is a question unanswered?) Brian should have played the role straight and the humor would have come out at the right times, McLaughlin should have reined him in on numerous occasions. Ben Johnson, Harry Carey Jr and Denver Pyle have never turned in a bad performance and the rest of the cast , including Honor Blackman Carol White and Joyce Van Patten are right on with their characterizations. Albert Salmi and Robert Donner as a pair of hombres who operate just on the wrong side of the law are very good and funny. Their humor is not forced as Keith’s is at times. Keep an eye out for a very funny bit with Salmi and Donner that involves the spitting of tobacco juice. Anyways, the “something big” that Dean and his crew come up with is….trading a woman to Salmi for a gatling gun and then using that gun to rob a mission held by bandits of its gold and treasures. The woman being Honor Blackman who just happens to be Brain Keith’s wife. And during this time Dino is trying to avoid the sister (Carole White) of his Scottish henchman played by Don Knight who has been promised to him as his bride and is on her way west to claim him. Martin lets his hair turn a bit silver for this role and even though he looks a bit puffty in the face, at times, he still commands the screen and dominates every scene he is in. Kind of funny, though to see him wearing a poncho when he leads the gang on their quest to do “something big.” As far as all the character actors……they just don’t make them like this any more. Overall I enjoyed this oater much more than I thought I would.

Friday, October 26, 2012


Just found out that this poor remake of Kirk Douglas' MAN WITHOUT A STAR, and rarely seen oater, aired on Encore Westerns at noon today. Discovered you could watch it on IMDB awhile back and hadn't seen it in years and fortunately realized that I had really missed nothing. Both movies are based on Dee Linford's novel..."Man Without A Star." Franciosa is okay and most of the time better than the script dealt him. AMCG is more like a tv movie than a theatrical release...which it was and features in addtion to Tony...Michael Sarrazin, and tv stalwarts Susan Oliver, John Anderson, James Westerfield, Gavin MacLeod, Terry Wilson, Cliff (Potts) Potter and Jason Evers. While MWAS has in its supporting cast such noted actors as Jeanne Crain, Claire Trevor and Richard Boone and iconic character actors William Campbell, Jay C. Flippin, Sheb Wooley, Roy Barcroft, Jack Elam (uncredited) and Myron Healey (uncredited). Kirk's version is well worth re-watching again and again while Tony's, sadly, isn't. Probably why "Gannon" hasn't been seem on tv in some time and has never been released on video or dvd.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Last week Encore Westerns aired an excellent print of this spaghetti western under the aka of A BARREL FULL OF DOLLARS. Jack Betts looked great and was billed on this print as Jack Betts (normally he used the aka of Hunt Powers)....but was basically in a supporting role. Even though Klaus Kinski was top-billed Jeff Cameron and Dennis Colt got most of the screen time along with Gordon Mitchell who seemed to be channeling Arthur Hunnicutt. Movie moved fast...lottsa riding and lottsa shooting and diving through the air and rolling on the ground by Cameron. Seemed each of the extras were trying to outdo each other when twisting and turning several times while falling through the air and flailing wildly on the ground...and seeing who could roll down the hill the most times before coming to a rest. As Klaus and one of his henchmen try to escape with wads of paper money, the henchman says, "we've got enough dollars here to fill a coffin." He barely gets the words out before Kinski gut shoots him. There is a cuppla embarrassing...and sometimes unintentional funny, pieces of dialogue between Cameron and Sam the former slave. "How did they catch you, Sam." "They surprised me." Simone Blondell, who had very little to do, looked very good in her brief role. ALL IN ALL ENJOYABLE. Leone he ain't Deems he be. Something to look for: Look at the horses' feet in the opening scene when they are coming down the hill. One of the horses seems to have a problem with its right hind leg......kinda does a double step like the leg or foot is injured.

Saturday, July 14, 2012


Forty-seven years after seeing it in it's initial theatrical release I finally got to revisit this futuristic action flick directed by Elio Petri on Blu-ray dvd. Bit disappointing but not that much as it still holds up today.....Petgri keeps the action moving. Stars Marcello Mastroianni and Ursala Andress, with Elsa Martinelli in a supporting role, were at the top of their careers when they made this movie. Funny how time erases things....I seemed to remember it being more violent. Maybe the lack of blood and bullet holes lessened the impact at this 2nd viewing. Spaghetti vet George Wang appears in the beginning of the movie and two spaghetti scribes Ennio Flaiano & Giorgio Salvioni (ALIVE OR PREFERABLY DEAD aka SUNDANCE CASSIDY AND BUTCH THE KID) co-wrote the script.Co-star Martinelli also appeared in a spaghetti (THE BELLE STAR STORY.) This movie is ripe for a remake.

Saturday, June 9, 2012


I just watched JOHN CARTER on Blu-ray and enjoyed it very much. The now ex-Disney people who handled I say who mishandled the release and advertisements for this film deserved to be fired. Mistake #1 was to take Mars out of the title and mistake #2 was not placing Edgar Rice Burroughs' in front of the title. The movie was epic in scope and the tale was not preposterous like a lot of the other so-called epics that have been floating around lately. Special effects were very good and believable. Taylor Kitsch was very good as were the other leads, especially Lynn Collins. I just hate it so much when a good movie tanks and some of those other pieces of drek make millions.

Monday, April 16, 2012


Just watched TSW. Not a bad film and considering the turned out, and looks much better, than I had expected. Acting was good overall...Dan van Husen and Brett (here using his spaghetti western monicker Montgomery Ford) Halsey were very good and and "Introducing Raymond Isenberg as Raymond Isenberg" was exceptional in his film debut. (The film needed more of this mild mannered man.) The lead played by Aaron Stielstra was credible. I thought the direction, the cinematography, the sound, the editing and the effects were very good and much better than recent other oaters, such as THE GUNDOWN, which had bigger budgets.....but less creativity(?). Everyone connected to this movie needs to be congratulated. However, one thing really bugs me to no end. This movie has the worst title of any "western" I can think of...THE SCARLET WORM! Don't tell me that this creative bunch couldn't come up with a more meaningful and better title? All in all, one of the best of the recent crop of very low budget westerns and definitely worth a look-see. I'd like to see these guys get together again with a bit larger budget and see what they would come up with.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Great new book out on Spaghetti Western participants

From James Prickette's web site:

Copyright © 2012 James Prickette

Spaghetti Westerns is a term tagged to the Italian film genre by fans across the world. This phenomenon era came into existence between mid 1960s to the 1970s. This new film era seemed to welcome all comers of actors. Many from in and around Europe, but also Americans came from across the big pond to join the action. Their participation would lend a more authentic feel to the films, relating to the American Old West. This revitalized genre, now coupled with colorful wide-screen action was sometimes sprinkled with maniacal violence that brought realism into a fantasy setting never seen by aficionados before.

Author James Prickette brings back the cynical morality tales of the said genre in Actors of the Spaghetti Westerns.

As a dedicated film researcher and collector, Prickette craftily compiles twenty-two of the popular actors of the Spaghetti Westerns era and charts the careers of the likes of Clint Eastwood, Klaus Kinski and Lee Van Cleef . It also scrutinizes the most popular offerings of the genre, like the Dollars trilogy to the obscure ones such as Sabata. Actors of the Spaghetti Westerns is certainly a unique and indispensable reference book delving deeper into the rowdy bunch of cult classics that invaded cinema and the world.

This is a must for all fans of the sw genre. Once you start reading it you won't put it down.

Friday, February 17, 2012

American Cinematheque goes gunning for Sergio Leone

The director's famed 'spaghetti westerns' will be on display in the retrospective 'Once Upon a Time.'

By Sari Heifetz-Stricke, Special to the Los Angeles Times
February 17, 2012

The best way to find a good guy in the westerns of directorSergio Leone is to look for a worse guy. The Italian director's penchant for blurring of the lines between heroes and villains stood in stark contrast with the clear distinctions found in traditional Hollywood westerns and helped modernize and revitalize the genre, two facts readily apparent "Once Upon a Time: The Films of Sergio Leone" at the American Cinematheque beginning Friday.

Born in Rome in 1929, Leone was the son of a film director and a silent film actress. After a brief stint in law school, the young Sergio promptly joined the family business in 1948, working as an assistant to the legendary Italian directorVittorio de Sica on his neorealist classic "Bicycle Thieves" (1948). Leone went on to work on several "sword-and-sandal" epics including "Ben-Hur," but his big break came in 1959 on the set of "The Last Days of Pompeii" when the film's director became ill on the first day of shooting and Leone took over and began developing a style that became so recognizable in his western films.

Leone adapted Akira Kurosawa's 1961 samurai film "Yojimbo" into "A Fistful of Dollars" (1964), moving the story from medieval Japan to the American Southwest and replacing Kurosawa's wandering samurai with a nameless, gun-slinging drifter. The film helped launch the career of one of Hollywood's most enduring western icons, Clint Eastwood.

As a mysterious outlaw who came to be known as "The Man With No Name," Eastwood embodied the director's combination of extreme violence and ambiguous morality while allowing for brief moments of compassion for innocents amid a quick-handed bloodbath. Eastwood returned as a bounty hunter in Leone's sequel "For a Few Dollars More"(1965) and "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" (1966), and attendees to the upcoming retrospective will have another chance to see the classic trilogy in its full widescreen glory.

"The American Cinematheque presented its first Sergio Leone retrospective in 2003," said the Cinematheque's series programmer, Gwen Deglise. "Every few years we bring back the films of one of the great, larger-than-life personalities of cinema."

Leone's films and other low-budget westerns shot in Europe by the Italian film industry were quickly coined "spaghetti westerns," a term initially meant to deride the low-budget sub-genre, but the name was quickly embraced by fans. These films were noted for their harsh and unsentimental depiction of the American West, demythologizing the genre's old-fashioned depictions of morality and its characterization of brutal gun violence in the name of justice as redemptive.

The retrospective also features Leone's revenge tale "Once Upon a Time in the West" (1968), which cast perennial good-guy Henry Fonda against type as a sadistic killer attempting to evade retribution at the hand of a young Charles Bronson. Also being shown is the director's lesser-known "Duck, You Sucker" (1971), which was also known by the title "Fistful of Dynamite" and stars Rod Steiger andJames Coburn as a pair of outlaws who are pulled into the Mexican Revolution.

In addition to their ironic and even nihilistic posture, Leone's films were known for their innovative cinematic techniques, including dramatic wide-angle shots and extreme close-ups, the use of slow motion paired with violence and the important role of music in the hands of Leone's longtime collaborator, composer Ennio Morricone. Morricone's unmistakable scores departed from the elaborate orchestral compositions of conventional Hollywood westerns, adding sound effects, human voices and electric guitar to punctuate the films' dark humor and operatic violence.

In terms of rising to prominence in the wake of working with Leone, Deglise placed the composer on equal footing with Eastwood. "[Morricone is] one of the most original, eclectically fluid soundtrack composers of the second half of the 20th century," she said.

Leone's flamboyant style and charismatic criminals leave a long legacy in their wake, and dozens of filmmakers have cited his films as an influence, including Eastwood, Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese, John Carpenter, Robert Rodriguez and George Lucas.

"Each time [the Cinematheque presents a retrospective], a new, young audience discovers the iconic cinema of Sergio Leone," Deglise said. "This experience is made for the big screen."

'Once Upon a Time: The Films of Sergio Leone' at American Cinematheque

Where: Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, and Aero Theatre, 1328 Montana Ave., Santa Monica

When: Fri. and Sat., Thu. and Feb. 24

Fri., 7:30 p.m., Aero: "A Fistful of Dollars" (1964) and "For a Few Dollars More" (1965)

Sat., 7:30 p.m., Aero: "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" (1966)

Feb. 23, 7:30 p.m., Egyptian: "Duck, You Sucker" (1971)

Feb. 24, 7:30 p.m., Egyptian: "Once Upon a Time in the West" (1968)

Price: $7 to $11

Info: (323) 466-FILM;