Monday 28 July 2014

The Good, The Bad and the downright confusing.

I watched a double bill of spaghetti westerns last night, and the viewing was a shock for me. The first film was Red Sun directed by Terence (James Bond) Young and starring Charles Brosnon which I didn't expect to enjoy, but thought was excellent. And the second was Django Kill which is a well regarded movie, the DVD even had the deluxe treatment with a fawning introduction from Alex Cox, and yet I thought it was sheer horseshit. Danjo Kill ( Se Sie Vivo Spara If You Live, Shoot!) may have a cult following and be considered a classic but it's a terrible movie that makes no sense at all, and is violent to the extent of being pornographic. Most of the acting is  OTT and on times amateurish. WTF, are the critics talking about?  Django Kill - psychedelic, political western my ares! More like a pretentious steaming turd.

Red Sun (1971) first - as I say I wasn't expecting much from this but I was surprised and found it an excellent western with a tense climax in a cane field which can stand alongside the endings of any classic western. Directed by Terence Young, the man who kicked off the James Bond franchise, and starring Charles Bronsnon, Toshiro Mifune, Alan Delon and an often naked Ursella Andress this is a fine and stylish traditional style western served up in the European style. Strictly speaking it's  a spaghetti western, but it owes more to John Ford than Sergio Leone.

Brosnon really looks the part here and teaming him up with a Samurai warrior is an excellent twist on the western buddy sub-genre. The dashing Alan Delon plays a stereotypical black hatted bad guy but he does it with such relish that he seemed very real. And Ursella Andress provides the glamour as well as some partial nudity (Gee, she was one hot lady). Basically she's playing a more extreme version of her Honey Rider character from the first James Bond movie, but she delivers several challenging scenes with real class. And as for Toshito Mifune as the fish out of water Samurai, he is absolutely brilliant.

There is some comedy, but not at the expense of story or action, and as I mentioned the climax is exhilarating and directed with real flair. Western fans will enjoy this movie and I'll certainly be watching it again.

Django Bores
Now Django Kill (1967) - the plot seems to be that the stranger (Django I presume) seems to have come back from the dead and is in town killing, slaughtering and raping for no apparent reason. And he's one of the good guys - the baddies are something else indeed and even the townsfolk are a bunch of sadistic bastards.

The movie features male rape, cricifixtion, a dying man being torn apart for the gold bullets in his torso - now I'm no prude and I can handle extreme violence in my westerns, but this was just stupid. And the blood on screen is the most fake looking I've ever seen.

Noted film critic and director Alex Cox thinks this film is a flawed masterpiece as do many of the online reviews, but I found this film boring and stupid and hit it off less than half way in. What a load of stewed bollocks!

Tainted Stats

Dear gary dobbs,

Weekly Stats Report: 21 Jul - 27 Jul 2014


  Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun Total Avg
Unique Visits147113132109105110141857122
First Time Visits136108123103100106135811116
Returning Visits11596546467

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Writer's Forum - Western feature

'I used to be one of four UK women writing westerns. There are many more now. Cowboys are cool.' Jill McDonald - Constable.

Nice to see an article in the new issue of Writer's Form, on sale now, that looked at the western genre. And doubly nice to see that the magazine spoke to three of my fellow Black Horse scribes - Nik Morton, Gil McDonald and D M. Harrison. The article took the approach of advising newcomers of the best way to break into the western genre, and each of the author's interviewed had some good sense advice to offer. There were also shout outs for Piccadilly Publishing, Robert Hale, Western Trail Blazer, Prairie Rose Publications and Solstice all of whom publish western fiction.

I've said it before and I'll say it again - the western is alive and well and continues to develop.

Nik, Gil and Diana - well done, guys!

Writer's Forum, issue 154 is on sale now £3.60

Monday 21 July 2014

Tainted Stats

Weekly Stats Report: 14 Jul - 20 Jul 2014


  Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun Total Avg
Unique Visits1151159610312193151794113
First Time Visits1111089510010988142753108
Returning Visits47131259416

Sunday 20 July 2014

James Garner RIP

I'm saddened by the news that James Garner has passed away at the age of 86 - Garner will be best remembered for his two classic TV series Maverick and The Rockford Files but he also appeared in a string of classic movies. The Great Escape for one, Boy's Night Out for another.

 I always liked Garner's westerns and he played in a great many classic western movies - He gave us a brutal Wyatt Earp in Hour of the Gun, as well as a grizzled Cap Woodrow Call in the excellent Streets of Larado.

Garner did a fair few dramatic roles but he was always more successful in light comedy roles -Maverick and Rockford Files are great examples of this, as was the successful comedy western, Support Your Local Sheriff (1969) and it's sequel, Support Your Local Gunfighter. He also gave a great turn in the Clint Eastwood helmed comedy, Space Cowboys. James Garner was a versatile actor who deserved his superstar status.

Goodbye Sir.

Friday 18 July 2014

Blood Mountain by Peter Brandvold (Kindle edition)

One great development of the eReader revolution is that books that I would never find in British bookstores are now easily available. One such example is Blood Mountain by Peter excellent read that kept me turning the pages. The climax is stretched out to breaking point and almost gave me a nervous breakdown, so involved with the story did I become.

 The author is pretty well known in western fiction circles but the average UK book buyer would likely not have heard of him, and it is the job of blogs like The Tainted Archive to spread the word far and wide. Indeed the western as a literary genre is not as vibrant as it once was, though with eBooks things are improving and these days it's easy to get hold of a new western book or a much sought after reprint, with just one click of a mouse. New digital publishing houses like Piccadilly Publishing are bringing both classic and new westerns into digital print, the Edge series by George Gilman is once again easily available and new imprints, many run by authors, seem to be springing up every day. There's never been a better time to be a western fan, - or a fan of any kind of what was once called mid-list fiction, for that matter.

Back let go back and climb Blood Mountain -  The story starts off in brutal fashion with a young girl wandering away from the band of settlers she travels with, and meeting up with a group of vicious outlaws. She is savagely beaten and raped by the men. She survives though and finds her way back to the settlers but a young man who has a crush on the girl sneaks out of camp and slits the throat of one of the outlaws. This puts the settlers in great danger as the outlaws dog their every move and seem to be toying with them.However the settlers visit the ranch of Nordstrom, a grizzled westerner who knows how to handle a gun, and soon the rancher is drawn into the battle with the outlaws.

The author manages to create real suspense and the reader finds themselves rooting for the settlers, who it often seems are going to be picked off one by one, but rancher Nordstrom is not a man who will allow the outlaws to have their own way. The book builds to a climax that occupies almost the last quarter of the book and it really does become nail biting. I bloody enjoyed this book and will be reading much more of Brandvold. He creates a West that seems totally authentic but owes much to the classic Hollywood westerns. The happy ending for instance is very much 1950's Hollywood western, but that's not a criticism, far from it.  Excellent.

Tuesday 15 July 2014

Tainted Stats

Weekly Stats Report: 7 Jul - 13 Jul 2014


  Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun Total Avg
Unique Visits100118102113111105105754108
First Time Visits961129310610510198711102
Returning Visits4697647436

Wednesday 9 July 2014

My Name is Nobody (1973)

Although Tony Valerie is credited as the director of this movie, it was Sergio Leone who directed many of the key scenes, and it is Leone's likeness that is stamped all over the movie. Leone was also the man behind much of the script. And considering that Leone wasn't keen on the Trinity movies he certainly borrows from them here, and not only in the lead actor, Terence Hill but several of the successful elements of the Trinity movies are borrowed (stolen for this movie). The hilarious quick draw/face slap routing first seen in They Call Me Trinity is perfected here. In fact I feel that it is helpful to think of this as a third (unofficial) Trinity movie.

Of course Leone originally intended it to be a serious film that looked at the way legends are created, and the script carries much of the same feel as Leon's earlier classic, Once Upon a Time in the West. However this film was made in 1973 and it was almost impossible to get a serious Western into production and so Leone went the comedic route that had made Terence Hill a superstar of Italian cinema.

Terence Hill plays the titular Nobody, a Trinityish drifter who hero worships Henry Fonda's character, Jack Beauregard. Jack a legendary gunslinger wants to retire and hang up his guns, but Nobody won't have that and he is determined to get Jack into the history books. The pair become reluctant partners as Nobody steers Jack towards facing off against 150 bloodthirsty gunmen, known as the Wild Bunch. Jack does so and become a living legend but then realizes that the only way to escape the life of a gunslinger is to die, and so Jack faces off against Nobody. They both know that Jack's death will ensure his place in the history books and that by killing him Nobody will become a somebody - the man who killed the fastest gun around.

This is a wonderful film - a minor masterpiece and manages to combine comedy with a serious westerns that laments the end of an era. There are some typical poetic Leone flourishes and I've always thought that the movie is underrated in Leone's canon. It certainly belongs up there alongside the Dollar movies, and Once Upon a Time in the West. Maybe the comedy elements have resulted in critics not taking the film as seriously a Leone's standard oaters. While shooting the movie Leone received word that John Ford (his idol) had died and many parts of this movie work as homage to Ford's style. A potshot was also taken at Sam Peckinpah  who had refused to direct a Leone written movie - Peckinpah's name turns up on a gravestone.

Leone virtually started the spaghetti western craze by aping classic American westerns and then when the spaghetti western's became part of mainstream cinema they were parodied by the Trinity movies and here Leone claims the western back by making a parody of the parody. Makes your head hurt just thinking about it - still this movie is a minor masterpiece and needs to be seen.

Monday 7 July 2014

They Call Me Trinity (1970)

I would argue that They Call Me Trinity is the definitive comedic western - it came out four years before Mel Brooks's  far better known, Blazing Saddles and indeed the influence of the Trinity movies can be seen all over the Mel Brooks movie. From the fast draw of Saddles' Waco Kid to the up/down punching style of the Mongo character - much was taken from the Trinity movie, but unlike Blazing Saddles which plays as a full out satire, Trinity is presented more as a standard western with some inspired comedy scenes. The two main characters, Trinity (Terence Hill) and Bambino (Bud Spencer) are brothers who can only just about tolerate each other. Spencer's hulking, Bambino is the more straight-laced of the two, while Hill's Trinity is a bone idle drifter with a penchant for trouble and an incredibly fast draw. When he's not fighting, eating or causing trouble he seems to be sleeping

The movie is an antidote to the spaghetti western cycle largely started by the Sergio Leone/Clint Eastwood movies and in the year before Trinity was made there were 300 westerns produced in Italy, all following a similar template - understandably, audiences were getting tired of the dark anti-heroes and the extreme violence, and Trinity was an answer to that. Sergio Leone publicly hated the Trinity movies but that didn't stop him casting Terence Hill as a Trinityalike in his 1973 comedy western, Nobody is my Name. The film was a huge success and spawned an even more successful sequel, Trinity is Still My Name. There was also a 1995 TV movie called Trinity and Bambino which featured the sons of the characters from the movies. I must confess I've never seen the TV movie but I've heard it wasn't that good.
TV movie continued the story

The film opens with a rousing theme tune and then we see Trinity being dragged in a travois by his horse. He is absolutely filthy but is content to sleep away the hours as his horse takes him across the desert. Eventually Trinity rides into a small town to find his hulking brother, Bambino is posing as a sheriff. What follows is an entertaining spoof on western conventions with the two leads displaying an incredible chemistry.

I'd highly recommend this movie and its sequel - they may be spoofs of the genre but they fully deserve to be called westerns, and alongside films like Destry and Blazing Saddles they are true classics of a very versatile genre.

Sunday 6 July 2014

Tainted Stats

Weekly Stats Report: 30 Jun - 6 Jul 2014


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Unique Visits115981059894106113729104
First Time Visits10495101969399112700100
Returning Visits11342171294

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