So many take and give not
This land of “it’s free”
There are so many fakers in this world. So many fakers looking to pull the wool over your eyes just to blind you to the fact they’re about to slide a dick or a knife into your sensitive pink parts. Franco Nero is a badass and as far from phony as Miley Cyrus is from not being disease free. He’ll always have a special place in my heart because when I first began “Western Watchins” it was with The Mercenary and who could forget Django Unchained when Jamie Foxx mutters “D-J-A-N-G-O, the ‘D’ is silent” as Nero, the original Django, replies “you know Electro’s a white guy right?”
Franco’s characters never seem to mess about and when it’s time for a massacre, it’s time! Unless it’s Massacre Time then it’s really more of a deaths equitably spread throughout with a slight traditional uptick near the end kind of time. Massacre Time is a bit of a misnomer but it’s way better than the alternate title, The Brute and The Beast, used on some old DVD releases. For several reasons Spaghetti Westerns often suffer the confusing indignity of being endlessly and thoughtlessly re-named. Sometimes to cash in on another popular title (see any of the almost three dozen unofficial “Django” knock-offs out there.) Sometimes because distribution rights changed hands as when Storm Rider (this makes no sense) became The Grand Duel (ah, that makes sense!) And then sometimes because a guy pulled random words out of a hat (and came up with The Brute and the Beast.) Who was supposed to be “the brute” and who “the beast”? I don’t think anyone honestly knows. But I can tell you Franco Nero is pissed!
He’s Tom Corbett in this and he was panning for gold all peaceful like when some dude from his hometown shows up out of nowhere to bring news that the old stomping grounds are getting the shit stomped out of them by a land baron, his wack-ass son and several men in ponchos. Nobody flaunts a poncho in the name of evil in Franco’s neighborhood, nobody!
And so he dons one fucking awesome poncho and heads off to find his brother Jeffrey who’s become the town drunk after realizing he’ll never look as fucking awesome in a fucking awesome poncho like Tom does. Poor bastard is in it and in a real hard way. “Massacre Time” might actually be referring to the damage this guy does to his liver and kidneys. He spends ten minutes getting every shit he will ever take kicked out of him in a bar because he’s literally more interested in a shot of tequila than he is in defending himself.
It’s a funny sad scene that Nero takes in with an amused and mournful gleam in his eyes. You can tell he’s thinking “damn, what a beautiful and wretched thing this is” while his poncho is thinking “damn, I’m sooo fucking awesome!” No room for egos here though, Tom (along his poncho) and Jeff (along with what’s left of his ability to metabolize alcohol) will have to get past their differences in order to bring justice back into the world. Though after meeting ruthless yet clueless despot Mr. Scott and his subtlety and vertebrae challenged son “Junior” I would settle for just some sense.
In what has to be one of the greatest introductions of an antagonist (Mr. Scott) and an outright villain (fucking Junior!) you’ll be taken from complete sanity right into Crazy Town before you can blink. Adam Saxon from last week’s Grand Duel wore a white suit too and was fairly outlandish. Junior’s wearing a white suit too but he makes Adam look like school boy. This guy is entire cave’s worth of bat-shit crazy. The coming on to your father in the hopes of cumming on to your father kind of Jesus-fucking-Christ-a-bat-just-shit-in-my-eye-and-some-got-in-my-mouth-I-think crazy! An he loves to use a whip. A whip is great when it’s in Clint Eastwood’s stable hands as he rapes you to teach you a well deserved lesson not so much in the grip of a man banging your butt just so he can lube up for father! Tom brought that difference up at a dinner party dad and Junior were throwing. It did not go well:
Franco Nero took it like a champ which certainly upset and excited Junior both but what pissed me off the most about this scene was that Mary Poppins, Bert and two Colonel Sanders just sat by and watched! That’s what’s wrong with this country! Everyone’s a tight-lipped pussy these days and while tight pussy lips are fucking fine for fucking they mean fuck all when someone needs your fucking help. Plus, wearing all white seems like a swell idea for those sweltering desert days but you still end up looking like a douche. That’s probably what the party invite said. “Come to my douche party. Bonus points for dressing up like a douche. You douche.”
That guy was a piece of work and you got the feeling that his dad was caught headfirst in a creepy downward spiral with no idea how to stop the spin. It’s no excuse, none at all, but he loved his son so you could at least understand the outrageous oversights on behalf of his psycho spawn. You also understand that they both need to be stopped. No matter how many dudes they hire in ponchos.
Now while that poncho is surely awesome it’s nowhere near fucking awesome and that was this dude’s first and last goddamn mistake! Tom and Jeff have come a knockin’ and Jeff’s even gotten in on the cool fashion accessory game now.
Yeah it’s just a rough hewn, shoddily sewn forearm sock thing but that worked for Mick Foley and it allowed Jeff to back his brother up in the final adobe storming finale firefight while still having time tween shots to locate and drink tequila throughout the house. Thanks glove thing Sorry liver and kidneys Jeff doesn’t need to stay conscious that much longer anyway, just gotta kill that meshuga matador looking mother then we can wrap this all up with an 80s style freeze frame finito.
Funny that the white suit almost acted like adobe-flage. Also funny that there just happened to be whip hanging on the wall right there. Even funnier that the whip wasn’t used at all. Nope, no weapons. This one went done mano a mano. Franco didn’t even have his poncho. His poncho was back in town fucking two chicks at the same time. I told you it was fucking awesome!
Massacre Time was also pretty fucking awesome. Not very polished but still not a turd. Four rounds on your hip this week. It had countless crackerjack characters, one nice plot twist, tons of revengening, an amazing Asian stereotype and the single best backflip you’ve ever seen in a Western. And let’s not forget that poncho shall we. From now till the day I die, whenever I sling on a serape not only will Clint come to mind but also one other. And I’ll be looking fucking awesome too.
All right Franco, but I’ll be pretty goddamn close.
I have seen eight Westerns in the past week. My head’s bubbling over and in a state dangerously near to complete confusion due to the amount of information I’ve crammed into my cortex. I feel like Johnny Mnemonic except I don’t suck or have a cool dolphin friend to talk to. I have so much of the Southwest shoved in me I could qualify as a daily special at Amigos. I am bloated with things to share so now I write! With every wonderful intention inside of me squeezing vast amounts of humor and knowledge onto you all efficiently and organically like a chocolaty Shai Hulud! Shit jokes aren’t crass if they’re also DUNE references. That is the very definition of classy shit right there.
The Grand Duel stars Lee Van “Only the Classiest of Shits” Cleef and was directed by Giancarlo Santi. That’s a name you’re probably not familiar with until it’s followed by “the guy who was Sergio Leone’s assistant director on The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and Once Upon a Time in the West!” No wonder I was really getting into this movie. Leone’s influence is apparent and appreciated. The sets and the framing of shots were reminiscent of his greatness.
And the music too. Grand Duel‘s main theme (loved and later re-purposed by Quentin Tarantino for Kill Bill Vol. 1) was one badass ballad. It only had to be heard once before you know, deep down in your balls, that this is one of those song’s you’ll always want deep down in your balls. It’s hopeless and heartening at the same time and you’ll be moved on a molecular/testicular level. Plus anytime you get a harmonica involved I’m sold. I wanted to make a fat dude or hippie bastard ”Blues Traveler” joke here but I do my research. Seems harmonica pounding lead singer John Popper is a) no longer fat and b) a vigilante. He’s also a Libertarian like me and probably Van Cleef’s Sheriff Clayton.
Two minutes into the movie and that goof in the grey hat is getting curt with the Cleef who commences to use the guy for a luggage rack. See we Libertarians (totally Sheriff Clayton included) don’t give a shit what you think. I’ll live my life free, the way I see fit and as long as I’m not hurting you in the process might I implore you to head right over to where that “off” is and get to fucking! The Grand Duel revels in taking those little moments to reveal the interesting quirks of its characters. This movie has no shortage of quirk. Case in point, our spry yet secondary hero Philipp Wermeer:
This guy looks like Barry Bostwick from Megaforce cosplaying one of the dudes from ABBA with a dash of Jesus thrown in just for fun. And for supernatural help with the backflips I suppose. I’m serious. This guy backflips, pole-vaults, spring-boards and has so many other almost unrealistic and certainly anachronistic tricks up his sleeve he might as well be billed as Jean-Claude Van Goddamnthatwasawesome! To keep up with, or even keep an eye on, this guy the old Sheriff’s going to have to get creative.
In this scene he’s just bluffed his way past a whole brigade of bounty hunters and then seemingly shot the man they were all after. They’re not real happy about this and the dude second from the right is all “you just fucked us all out of the reward so now I’m gonna fuck you and my dick is thiiis big!” But cool as a cucumber Cleef retorts “Heh, well my dick is thiiiiiiiiiiiis bi-BAM!” And then he beats them all to death with his cock! That’s right, Clayton was pushed too far and proceeded to bludgeon every last one of them to death with his turgid club of justice in the most unexpected scene I have ever just made up! It was unbelievable, in my head. You should have been there. Don’t be too disappointed though, some of the shit that actually did go down for all to see in this film was surprisingly surreal. Surprising like Adam Saxon here:
Eccentric, effeminate and garbed in all white he moved with an alien grace that belied his ferocity. And Adam was just one of three big-bad Saxon brothers out to see both Wermeer hang for killing their father and Van Cleef keep his mouth shut because Wermeer actually didn’t kill their father. But then who did? Only one of them knows the truth! Or does he? Do they all? I’m not sure I did. Ah who the hell knows, let’s just hang this Jesus lookin’ dude and be done with it!
This picture is even more meaningful when you realize that the poor Jesus dude (Jesus was Jewish) is about to get hung by Adam (played by a German actor) while Eli on the left (played by a French actor) just stands by and does nothing. It’s World War II’s European Theater summed up in one scene, how crazy is that? Oh history you cruel and hilarious bitch! Needless to say it’s going to take an American to get Jesus out of this one. Again just like in history.
Here come’s Sheriff Van Cleef forcefully entering paddock after paddock in one of the most awkward set ups to a finale shootout I’ve ever seen and while I realize he wasn’t the one to roll away that rock from the garden tomb all those years ago I will re-read some of the gospels just in case I’m remembering it wrong. Even though the ending of The Grand Duel failed to satisfy completely due to a logic bumbling beginning and painfully abrupt denouement one can’t help but sit back and think “is there anything, including maybe possibly resurrecting someone, that Lee Van Cleef couldn’t do?” He had his fair share of stinkers sure, but his roles were always worth a whiff regardless. Still need convincing? Well then, did the man look good in a bowler hat?
No. He looked fucking awesome in a bowler hat! Would he make a damn sweet cartoon?
Jaundiced and justified right there amigos! But could he sling a shuriken as brazenly as a bullet?
Hell yes he could, I mean at least for one season he could! But you see my point. The man was a legend and even if every role wasn’t a hit out of the park it was still always a delight to watch him play ball. The Grand Duel gets 4 rounds though I wish I could have given it at least one more. That last five minutes brought me to a disappointment rarely felt. It was an awful let down since so much of the show up to that point had been first-rate. The lines, the looks, some laughs and a time displaced MG42 all built what could have made a classic out of this classic tale of retribution only to see it sullied by a few silly seconds. If ever there was an example of why you should begin strong and finish even more so, this is it.
Better to ride true though, loving and wanting and desiring as hard as you can even if that ride leaves you crestfallen at times. Can’t appreciate light without the black, a peak without a valley or being in control if you’ve never been out of it. That’s the song I heard old Lee singing to me this week. And I’m thankful I heard it.
Different is great
What good the rut that kills you
Live outside the norm
Brown smiling muzzle
Fuzzy muscled lovely brute
Thunder on the plains