Archive for November, 2013

Western Watchins #54

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How many nights have I lain awake wondering what it would feel like to have my balls, a handful of thumbtacks and some lemon juice gargled in a goat’s mouth? I’m still not exactly sure but I can tell you it would come off as a better way to spend the evening than watching Heart of the Rockies. Part of Republic Pictures’ “Three Mesquiteers” catalog I stumbled upon this film as one might stumble into a ravine filled with shit. They made fifty-one of these movies from 1936 to 1943 which works out to one every too goddamn much! This is the same studio that was putting out Rocky Lane’s serials but the shoot ’em and show ’em turnaround magic seems to have been altogether lost on this series. There was some innovation here with a moderately intricate plotline and that guy with the ventriloquist’s dummy but the former felt rushed while the latter deftly avoids child engaging entertainment and goes straight for the fuck you ever sleeping again. Seriously, if you want to know the last thing you’ll see before you’re sodomized, strangled and left for dead in a ditch this is it

It was moments of whack ass whimsy like actor Max Terhune there and his buddy Elmer (who rode along with him for most of his movies and all of the murders!) mixed in with a sex abuse sub-plot and several savory helpings of righteous disrespect towards law enforcement that firmly plants Heart of the Rockies in the “whaaaaaaa?” category of films. One minute you’re laughing because of some slapstick and the next you’re laughing even harder as a child is beaten.

But it might have been these outlandish scenarios that drew in such big crowds and draw they did. “Mesquiteer” films were amazingly popular and in my opinion suffered from that unadulterated attention. Mixing traditional with anachronistic images and themes seemed to be a sad sidebar of a we-can-do-no-wrong movie mindset. Like what in the fuck was this? 

A tranvestite Zorro/Shazam mashup is probably the only plausible explanation. This guy wasn’t in Heart of the Rockies but this furry fella almost certainly was. 

Heart of the Rockies featured a bear used against his bear-will for nefarious bear related purposes. At one point said bear gets to turn the tables on his captors but since CGI wasn’t invented yet a man in a bear suit would need to be used for any hot claw-your-face-off bear on human actor scenes. But bear suits are expensive and not a great investment when one of the actors you already have employed moonlights as a gorilla in tons of films and probably keeps his gorilla suit on him at all times. Ray “Crash” Corrigan (Tucson Smith in the first twenty four Mesquiteer films!) was just that monkey man and so when the time came for a large furry animal to attack a dude during a quick cutaway shot it made total sense to forego any semblance of accuracy in lieu of something that looked (and moved) like a late in life Marlon Brando with discount carpet stapled to his body. And that bearilla thing wasn’t the most obviously terrible animal stand-in from the entire film either!

Earlier on, a mountain lion threatens a young boy trapped on a mountainside. Thanks to the Mesquiteers that poor pussy meets an ignominious end with a fabulous cliff dive down into a canyon but not before he dramatically tags the edge of a random ledge. I say “tag” but it’s more like a subtle collision so imagine a wet bag of concrete being tossed down a ravine after it’s wrapped in fake fur and you’ve pretty much got it because I’m sure that’s exactly what they did to get the shot. And while you only see it for a brief moment and no pictures exist of the actual prop I will bet you it looked remarkably like this: 

For some reason I imagine that if abomination could talk it would sound like Fran Drescher. Anyway, that bear and this cat shouldn’t even exist outside of a Clive Barker novel but really they’re just symptoms of a much larger problem that Heart of the Rockies was obviously dealing with. When you’re producing a movie in roughly seven weeks there’s little room for error but even less for caring. These flicks came out of Hollywood faster than Taco Bell comes out of my ass. But people kept paying to see all that spectacular shit so why change it up right? And they still do it today, they just call it the Transformers franchise. You know I’d review those movies but a) they’re not Westerns and b) I’m not sure where on my 1 to 6 round ratings scale “worse than boiled buckets of diarrhea” would fall.

Heart of the Rockies wasn’t as bad as all that but it was, even at under an hour long, a grueling exercise in giving a damn. 2 rounds. It’s not good and only occasionally humorous or exciting. But I did see something in it, something I see in so many of the older films I review. Something that always pulls at me in a real sad way. Yes, this movie was awful but that’s because I’m judging it by today’s standards. And a lot of “today’s standards” chomp turd. See, I know back then was different. We we’re all still gullible enough to believe the American Spirit could never be sapped. We we’re all still willing to stand up for what we believed in and moreover willing to work for it. We weren’t numbed by an over-saturation of “entertainment”, we were determined to live our own entertaining lives. We saw heroes and wanted to grow up to become them. When you enjoy each day or each movie through wide eyes like that it’s easy to look past poor production values to see, and embrace, values of a different sort. It’s important to have those, wherever you might find ’em. When you’re heading out for life’s long ride remember to pack your bags but also your heart.

Ride true amigos. 

Haikuesday

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Just one more day now

To shout, tweet and blog your thanks

Then quickly forget

 

Western Watchins #53

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I’m really beginning to enjoy older Westerns. I’ve aged these past twelve months but I haven’t matured all that much so it can’t be that but a year of surveying all sorts of Western cinema has had a noticeable effect on me and one that has helped open my eyes to quite a few things I might have otherwise missed. Winchester ’73 is one of those that always makes it onto everyone’s “top ten” and “must see” lists. So I’m at Big Lots when I come across a copy crammed into an end-cap/island of misfit entertainment kinda thing and it’s three bucks. And I think “why the fuck is this movie at a Big Lots?” And a little voice inside of me, probably God’s or the whiskey’s (or some awesome whiskey god’s!) says it’s fuckin’ here for you, you fuckin’ fuck! Appreciating a weird ass gift horse is one thing I’m all about so I dropped that paltry price on the counter and took my fine new DVD home.

I’ll tell you right off the bat I wasn’t sold on the whole Jimmy Stewart as a tough guy shtick though I read that audiences gasped with profundity when they first saw George Bailey go all ape shit on some dude.

It was comical in a way that lost me the character to the point all I saw was Jimmy trying to force intensity out of his face instead of truly acting. His manhandling was muddled, his grappling led to giggling.

And don’t get me started on all the posturing in between.

He exuded unease for most of the film as did I while he raced all over the goddamn place to retrieve his rightly won and wrongly stolen rifle, the titular Winchester. But you know what, gut checkin’ man in the mirror moment here, I know I for one am not the coolest of cats under pressure. Sure, I get the job done but I’m more scorched earth than soft hands. And as badass as anyone of us can fool ourselves into thinking we are the moment some fan starts whirlybirding shit all over our lives, in that precise moment, most of us would be hard pressed to land a punch with any accuracy or utter an immortally memorable one-liner. So now looking through that lens of self reflection it seems that Mr. Stewart has perhaps given us one of the most genuine performances of a man under duress to ever appear on film. In retrospect I recoiled from him because I’ve acted in the same freaking-the-ridiculous-fuck-out kind of way at many points in my life. It’s good to know yourself for those really strong parts and for the equally weak ones too. Wisdom I never expected to take away from an old and now three dollar movie; wisdom that revealed the error of my initial assertion about Stewart. I however was spot on regarding Rock Hudson being slightly miscast as this guy.

I loved Johnny Depp’s Tonto from Disney’s Lone Ranger because of that crow on his head and the fact he had the sense to camouflage himself somewhat with distinct costuming to hide the fact he wasn’t as Native as a lot of people thought he needed to be for the role. So here, focus your rage on this guy you bitching blatherskites. Rock…an ill fitting wig, Nobel Peace Prize and thirty seconds in the makeup chair do not an Indian make. Neither does the fact you’re more Anglo-Saxon than Buckingham Palace and it shows. For five minutes it was like Winchester ’73 stumbled into an awkward office Halloween party. But before you get too upset about fake First People be sure to take notice of the swastikas adorning their horses and then either stand impressed at the historical accuracy or feel terribly offended because you are an uneducated fuck. Look it up kids!

Knowledge is powerful, not only for enjoying swastikas where ever you might find them but also for when you stumble across a cinematic gold strike of the legendary actor variety.

Here’s three Cavalry soldiers about three quarters of the way through the movie relaxing by a fire and discussing whether or not that Indian chief they met was gay or not. In the foreground is Tony Curtis who went on to star in every movie Tony Curtis was in and to his right lounging lackadaisically on his left arm dreaming of one day catching the Duke boys…

Yep, that’s James Best who retired from showbiz to work Law enforcement in a small Georgia town from 1979 to 1985. Aren’t facts fun? Like can you believe in this day and age of computer generated bullshit like the Star Wars prequels and current healthcare system that back in the day stunts and special effects were all done practically? There’s a famous trick shooting sequence in Winchester ’73 that involves shooting through the center of an airborne washer and while it was Stewart’s character who gets the credit in the film for making the shot it was Herb Parsons who actually did it on camera. Just who is Herb Parsons? Feast your fucking eyes!

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Impressed? Read up on him here. Herb was a champion trick shooter and spokesman for Winchester firearms until his untimely death from a post surgical blood clot. Don’t let his look fool you (he was also a champion duck caller!) this man could toss seven clays by hand into the air and shatter the last one before the first pieces he’d nailed fell to the ground. He could dent dimes tossed overhead with ease and land targets using multiple mirrors pulling the trigger on a rifle slung over his shoulder backwards. It was said he could shoot the dick off of a man at a thousand yards and the dick off a woman at twice that! Wow, that’s precision!

The same can’t be said for our main protagonist however. I’m talking about Stewart by the by and not the actual Winchester though Fritz Lang was originally going to direct this one and had wanted Stewart’s life or “power” or some weird German existential shit linked inextricably to the firearm making our hero’s quest to retrieve it a bit more imperative than in the final product. I mean he gets it back but it’s not like his life depended on it and if he was freaking out before, man, I would have liked to see Lang’s version all blood and tears and (hear it in Stewart’s voice) “Jeeeesus Christ give me back my, my, my Winchester you goddamn baaastards!” I wish that movie existed, someone make it and give it to me for Christmas. It’s alright, I know that won’t happen. But it’s important to dream. And have goals too. Dreams don’t mean shit without goals most of the time so work at it ya’ lazy mumps! Wait, am I yelling at you or me? Hell I don’t know! But I do know one of my goals is to live in Arizona sooner rather than later and that’s another reason I was fond of Winchester ’73. 

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And I was talking about precision, see Stewart (Parsons!) shoots through a stamp covering the hole of a washer early on in the film cementing the fact he’s a crack shot yet when it comes to settling an old score from like fifteen feet away it takes him the better part of ten minutes and almost more ammunition than he carried with him up that mountain. But that’s the awesome part! I’ve been on that mountain! I visit it every year for my anniversary and have literally looked down into that very same desert you see in the picture above. The White Stallion Ranch sits nestled west of Tucson between parts of Saguaro National Park and the Tucson Mountains which served as a backdrop for some of Winchester ’73 including the final shootout. I was like “oh” and “wow look at that” and “hey we rode through there” for a half hour which is about as long as it took for Jimmy to find his mark and then abruptly, even sourly, finish the film four seconds later.

It’s an odd roller coaster of intensity and pace but with more good than blah you can see yourself wanting to ride it again at some point in the future. 4 rounds for Winchester ’73. An interesting choice of how to focus a story filled with amusing cameos and unexpected thespian turns plus it’s simply a fitting review of choice to start off my second year of Western Watchins. If GUN last week was where I’d come from then Winchester ’73 is where I’m headed. Wide eyed even through the crows feet and finding new courage in myself everyday despite the fact the fears seem to grow with the years. But the West isn’t about being ready or able even, it’s about being willing more than anything else. Trailblazers knew that then and we know it now too, filled with fear and fire that’s why we ride. And my amigos, as always and for ever, ride true.

Western Watchins Week 52

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I just Googled “how many weeks are in a year?” Did it to be sure. You can think you’re better than me but go ahead, drink as much whiskey as I just have and tell me you can remember basic facts or where to properly urinate in your house! That’s why I sit on a towel when I blog bitch. And game too. Sometimes Gears or Red Dead gets too intense for you to just run off at every beck and call of your bladder! Grow a pair lad, piss yourself and win that goddamn match! A urine smell can be steam cleaned out but a solid K/D lasts forever!

So yeah, 52 weeks in a year it seems and fuck me twice and call me Sally (or whatever you want if you pay off my house so I can move to Arizona!) that seems like the exact number of reviews I’ve written. Have I been doing this for an entire year now? If this is indeed the first anniversary of Western Watchins then, besides my marriage and fitness level, this will be the only other thing that requires a dedicated deal of effort I’ve ever stayed interested in and committed to for any great length of time. I get bored and distracted real easy like and no that’s not ADD or any other bullshit psycho-babbling excuse that’s just me and most of us if we were brave enough to admit it past the therapists and prescription drugs. I need near constant new and exciting stimulation so thank God for my wife and thank God for the West for both of those things understand, accept and encourage me in ways I truly hope you comprehend or will one day.

I played GUN for the first time years ago after picking it up off an end-cap at Target for around twenty bucks. I didn’t know much about it if I recall correctly so I popped it into the old PS2 unaware of the revelation it would be for me. Keep in mind that yes, by today’s GTA saturated standards the “expansive” sandbox world of GUN is admittedly anemic but, big but, I’d never played an open world game before so this fucked my mind like a drunk frat house fucks anything with tits that’s passed out and can’t say “no”. So when I found it for Xbox on the cheap of course I had to pick it up and then let it sit and collect dust for two or three years so the timing would become just unfucking believably perfect for me to once again jump into the vengeful saddle with a vengeful Colton White as he rides in the name of, say it with me, vengeance!

Oh this game is good, I’m gonna tell you that right from the start because really I’m just abnormally proud of myself for putting cyber pen to paper for three hundred and sixty five days. It’s not much of an accomplishment but by comparison most folks have spent the same time period getting fat, getting divorced or getting healthcare.gov ready for launch so I win the showdown amigos. Here comes a priest now with my prize!

No it’s not the cross. That’s central to the story so I guess I can’t have it but I am now the proud owner of six Don Quixote cosplayers. Funny side note, my grandfather was obsessed with Conquistadors and convinced himself that they built everything in Florida including Disney. Anyway the story of GUN begins a long time ago and the the screen goes blank before Kris Kristofferson wakes you up to go hunting. And when you wake up you realize you’re Thomas Jane. Jesus, did the devs tap into my homoerotic dreams to make this game or what? And then you go find a whore named Jenny and watch her take a bath!

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Shits to shivers this game is amazing! And no it’s not that Jenny you get all sexy with requiring her to take said bath but this pic is hot and I couldn’t pass up the subtle Kristoffersonian Convoy reference so it stays. Besides the in-game Jenny is a bit blocky in reality as the game is creeping up on being a decade old but that shouldn’t stop you from giving it a playthrough if you’re a fan of the genre. The animations of both characters and critters are limited, even bordering on rough at times, but I believe that had more to do with the then current technology than with any slight on the programmers part. See, it’s not too bad.

But at times it really is.

Sure there’s a solid amount of shit to do besides the main story like Pony Express missions, ranch hand tasks or tracking down bounties off of wanted posters but you do all of it across noticeably confined and bare bones terrain. GUN is old and looks its age especially in terms of texturing, the level static time of day and some rather abrupt limits to the geography. Even so, while many elements are polygoned to the point they’d make the original Lara Croft blush, the fact this game is visually a little long in the tooth won’t limit the fun you’ll have shooting your way through this sandbox humbly sized or not. Plus there’s all the controversy! Don’t you want to be edgy and play something frightfully offensive? Well then go play GTA 5 and rape a dead hooker while wearing a nun as a condom screaming “fuck yo couch nigga!” You can do that in GTA right? That game is all hookers and helicopters and racial slurs isnt’ it? I don’t know. The only GTA I ever played had John Marston in it and he wouldn’t have sex with anything. I was disappointed to say the least.

And so too were many Native Americans when GUN first arrived and featured missions wherein you had to (gasp) fend off injuns. I know we invaded this country and started pushing all kinds of people here and there and anywhere but the lands they’d lived on for years and it sucks and is a really shitty part of our history but let’s not forget it is just that. Histo-fucking-ry. It happened. Iran can deny the holocaust all it wants but it still went down. And setting a game in 1880 out New Mexico and Arizona way would damn well by definition need to address the well documented distress that was occurring between the white and red man.

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It’s apparent to anyone who isn’t a raging duckfuck of a liberal that the folks who made GUN gave a shit about putting out an exciting product that would of course take fictional liberties but that would also be respectful and unapologetic in it’s presentation of a very turbulent time in America’s past. And of course everyone just bitched instead of bothering to play the rest of the game it seems to find out that you save boxcars full of plains people, end up discovering you have a lot more in common than you at first thought and actually ally with them to take down the real bad guy. Who is Lance Henriksen!

Besides brutally representing historical facts PC or not GUN goes that extra step that always takes a ‘meh’ game up to “motherfuck my mindballs” just like that! Great goddamn voice acting. I’ll take a game with rustic visuals any day as long as The Punisher, Whistler and Bishop are there to narrate the story for me like I’m sitting at my local library listening to them read Goodnight Moon just jerking off over the tears and screams of children everywhere. And just in case I was in any danger of not reaching completion (fat chance of that ’cause even though I’m almost forty I could still fuck your old lady better than you ever have or will hope to do! How do I know? I JUST DID IT BITCH!) But, just in case, along comes Brad Dourif, Tom Skerritt and Ron Perlman to seal the salty deal.

That cast alone would leave a lingering and lovely taste near your tonsils after playing any game but take those guys along with a moving (if simplistic) score, outstanding (main) character designs and a substantial story line with more than a few “oh shit” moments and you’ll see why GUN will still run roughshod all over you gaming console and probably face.

5 rounds in the cylinder this week and sentimental ones at that. When I first played this game I would have not even a glimpse of where just a few short years later my heart would have me headed. I found Southwestern decor atrocious and felt like kicking ever Kokopelli I saw square in the balls. That sumbitch is a trickster though and how funny it must be to him or anyone else that sees me now and recognizes just how much I’ve fallen for the sands and saguaro. When I first played GUN I would have been relatively content to live out my days in the Sunshine State. But now that’s just simply not the case. This time playing through made me long for something, something I’m working my way towards right at this moment and a little more each day. Headed west…towards my home, towards where I need to be. And every mile tween now and then amigos I will ride true. Here’s to another year of sunsets and shootouts. Thanks for readin’ my ramblins and know that as long as I’m still breathing there’ll always be more to come.

Haikuesday

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Thud, thump, slosh and grind

Find courage and fight all the 

Monsters in the mist

 

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