Tale as old as time right here. Somebody gets rape-murdered followed by Lee Van Cleef mounting up, saddle bags filled with piss, vinegar and huge amounts of pipe tobacco, to ride off in search of vengeance. If I ever get rape-murdered I sure hope it’s Lee Van Cleef who settles my score. His squint alone could drop a man dead to the ground without even trying. If he was trying, it’d drop that man and his fucking horse too. Lee Van Cleef was so bad-ass that to this day asses all over the world study his life’s work in a mostly vain attempt to be just as impressive as he was. He stares, he smokes, he gunslings and he comes up with movie titles too.
Da Uomo a Uomo (From Man to Man) was the original header for our film this week on Lee’s suggestion. Death Rides a Horse was used for the U.S. release for no good reason. To audiences in 1969 it probably sounded western-y but it strikes me as lazy or even borderline imbecilic. Everyone rode horses back in the 1800s so the title is tantamount to saying “Death drives a car” in this day and age. “Death drives a car” sounds like a goddamn Woody Allen production and I’d rather have a bobcat eat my balls than see any thing fucking Woody Allen has ever made.
Also, another bobcat is eating my dick. Bobcat jacked junk still better than Woody Allen though. Thankfully he didn’t direct Da Uomo. That was left to some Italian director dude who was friends with composer Ennio Morricone as all Italian director dudes are required to be by law. Fun score but this is a Spaghetti Western churned out like so many others with as much overall production value as a CiCi’s Pizzeria has clean and/or healthy food. But a few superb shots, a couple perfect one-liners and some Morricone music make this one watchable even when the copy you’re watching might qualify as the worst VHS to DVD transfer in any history of the digital age. Nothing like tracking lines to set the stage. And of course a perfect family dinner.
Those always go well in Westerns.
Fine folks and their fine kids enjoying some fine food. I won’t ruin exactly what happens to them but rest assured that lots of dicks and bullets end up where they’re not wanted. Oh man, I’m going to write a Western called Dicks and Bullets! Tagline: Both Are Comin’ For You This Christmas! Why Christmas? Because the Only Present This Year…is Vengeance! That’s another tagline. I have at least five more ready to go but space is limited for this post. Just like life is limited for the bad guys once the Cleef sets his sights!
So Bill Meceita finds that on his lawn one morning. What’s the Cleef doing there? And who’s Bill Meceita? Why he’s the only one to survive that suppertime slaughter all those years and one paragraph ago (Dicks and Bullets kids! Get your tickets today!) Cleef’s got beef with the baddies as well and when Bill’s beef meets the Cleef’s beef, boy, there’s more meat wagging around than during a Pride Parade in San Francisco. Hey, Lee Van Cleef’s an attractive man in that “I’m fairly drunk” kind of way and don’t get me started on Bill Meceita. He’s the youthful and alluring flip-side on the coin to Lee’s grizzled and chiseled veteran. But who is he? He looks so damn familiar. Credits say he’s John Phillip Law but that’s still not ringing any bells so it’s off to IMDB I go and ah-ha!
This guy was Sinbad once! And also whatever the fuck this is:
“Pygar” from Barbarella it says so that explains it. Never have seen that one and never will. Maybe I’d give it a chance if they re-released it with an accurate and honest title like Communist Space Cunt. Besides my subtle socio-political hesitations, Pygar is just waxing a bit too fem and goofy for me. He looks like he smells of craft glue, baby oil, and self-loathing. Just a whole lot of wing-ed and slippery shame right there, but before you go making any assumptions about me or my tolerance levels for homo-erotic hawkmen realize that I have a deep, unadulterated and unapologetic love for this man:
Vultan, thanks for being awesome, for making all that glitter and gold look good and for reminding us all that cheesy sci-fi can still be epic sci-fi. Ha, that’s probably what the makers of Space Mutiny were thinking too and OHMYDEARGODTHAT’SWHOITIS! Bill Meceita is John Phillip Law who also played:
Flight Commander Elijah Kalgan in Space Mutiny!
This Space Mutiny!
This goddamn Space Mutiny!!!
One of the greatest MST3K episodes ever produced and so right there under my nose in Death Rides a Horse was hidden a gem. And that gem’s name was John Phillip Law. It’s now obvious that when Kalgan was butchering scenes in a galaxy far, far (yet, not far enough!) away that his skill had been honed from a lifetime of taking even the most innocuous bits of dialogue and twisting them with deliveries that would have even Samuel Jackson begging for mercy. John Phillip Law loses himself in one single line harder than Daniel Day Lewis can in an entire role. He commits and I can admire that. I’ve taken some fucked up steps in my life but truth or consequences be damned I took the fuckers and any man, as ridiculous as he may sound, that does the same is a man that gets my respect. Lot of people pussy-footin’ these days but not me and not John Phillip fucking Law! It might get ya’ into trouble now and then but boring is worse than troubled any day. Knew a guy once that never wanted to drink alcohol for fear he might “get out of control”. You know what’s out of control?
Have a drink and put your ass, dick or words somewhere they don’t belong. Scars make for good stories, and stories are all we’ll leave behind one day. Drink up and write a good one amigos. Plus, how bad could it get?
Oh damn, what did you do John? Seems on that journey towards revenge you took some interesting turns getting all beat to hell and buried up to your chin in some who-knows-where Italian desert but take heart! You’re young and I’m sure your career will take off in no time! Right?
Fuuuuuuuuuck. I can’t really say too much because how many movies have I been in? Exactly. Needless to say John/Bill gets out of that hole and then hatches a plan a la Magnificent Seven (a la Seven Samurai) in which frightened, untrained locals will soon rise up and defend themselves as both Law and Van Cleef use said civilian assistance to conclude their transaction of long sought after justice. Now, the fact that the movie seems to show every single one of the townsfolk becoming bullet sponges for the evil hombre onslaught while our two heroes hide out in a totally smart but surprisingly selfish penultimate move should not be ignored.
But you should ignore it.
And then the ultimate showdown of ultimate destiny happens as it always does in these types of movies. By “these types” I mean “mostly fucking phenomenal” movies. And so it comes to this:
Just who is the Cleef facing down with bare-chested braggadocio? I won’t spoil anything but Death Rides a Horse/Da Uomo a Uomo was a certainly solid 1 rounder until the last ten minutes. Then that final gun battle, that final showdown and that final half naked Van Cleef sold me. Thus, this one gets 3 rounds in the cylinder. It’s not a good movie but you should still watch it and the more horrible the transfer you can find the better. The picture and sound quality of my disc made me feel like I was watching a live feed from 1875. That’s some thoughtful and quality immersion right there. It wasn’t wretched but with so many pacing and editorial mis-steps this one might spook the film fan faint of heart. If you can stomach it though, along with some whiskey perhaps, you’ll be in for a treat. Goes to show that even with a rough start (and middle and almost end) if you can finish strong, then that’s all that matters. Ride strong then amigos, and ride true.
See you next week.
A moment will change your world
Be brave in the dark
If you know me at all you know I love Westerns. But it may come as a surprise, despite having the love in me, that I’m not a huge fan of John Wayne. I know, it seems like sacrilege. The Duke and Clint Eastwood are pretty much Father and Son filling out the trinity next to the Holy Spirit of the West but I’m a revisionist Western guy so, irregardless of the fact that the movies I have seen Mr. Wayne in weren’t as goody-two-shoes as I’d expected, I still prefer my High Plains Drifter rape ‘em to set things right over anything even moderately wholesome. But The Searchers was supposed to come across as a challenging piece of cinema rife with racism and a morally grayed-out main character in Wayne’s Ethan Edwards. I started out the viewing with hope but by the end I was glad to just have consciousness. Okay, it wasn’t that uninteresting. I did somewhat enjoy it. But seeing as I hadn’t recoiled at anything Ethan did made me think I might be watching too many Clint Eastwood movies. Then I thought, you stupid fucking fuck of a fuck…you can never watch too many Clint Eastwood movies! Unless it’s Ambush at Cimarron Pass or The Beguiled. Those were fucking horrible, yet it’s not like those movies ever suggested shipping all black people back to Africa en masse nor did they use the dreaded “N” word with alacrity. That was all Abraham Lincoln. A supremely racist mother and ghastly liberal fucker despite what Spielberg says (read a book kids!) So next to him Ethan seems altogether temperate and his obvious hatred of the Comanches is not unwarranted. A fact you learn through clues subtle (a certain headstone at the homestead) and not so subtle (he defiles a fallen Native stopping short of rape because, you know, that’s Eastwood territory). And c’mon are you really going to tell me, no matter how you feel about this portrayal, that Ethan Edwards is Wayne’s most racist role?
It’s okay if you laughed just now. I asked the nice man upstairs if he was offended and he gave me a most emphatic “no!”
See. We can all get along even if you did bomb the fuck outta Pearl Harbor. I think we did you one (or two) better anyway. But what’s past is past even if the Duke can’t let it rest. And if he had The Searchers wouldn’t have really been much of a movie now would it? And so we begin as John Ford often does: in Monument Valley.
Breathtaking. Nobody saw Monument Valley quite the same way as John Ford did and that’s even before he tore his eye out of his head due to that notorious control-freak burdened impatience of his. I understand his obsession though, the desert is one hell of a backdrop for a gritty Western. Especially gritty Westerns with fresh home-made spaghetti:
The Duke spent most of the first act carb-loading so he’d have more than enough energy to propel his baneful boots past as many sphincters as possible later in the film. Because he’s pissed. Everything he loves has been raped, murdered, set on fire and/or kidnapped. No amount of pasta can assuage this man’s hunger for revenge!
It’s a really cool moment when you realize, with so much big shit up in the air, that what goes up must soon reverse course. And big shit is indeed about to go down. With one flick of the wrist Ethan casts away his rifle’s case along with any semblance of self-control (and all that spaghetti too!) It’s a scene that makes your balls swell with excitement for the retribution soon to come. If I could sum it up for you in say two frames that you could stare back and forth at quickly as to either get my point or have a seizure, this is what it would look like!
Fucking grand if not a wee bit ridiculously presented. Grand and ridiculous. Story of my life. The Searchers is fairly grand and ridiculous too as Ethan searches and searches and searches. And then searches. I’m not sure exactly how long his search lasted but what started a few years after the Civil War ending with a chase down a paved highway. His ape-shit intensity is understandable though as I’ve said. He is a man at war and is willing to kill any Comanche who crosses his path and even his long captive niece once he finds her if she’s acting to Indian-y. He makes several Indians dead and even enjoys desecrating any already dead ones he finds. He’s so ruthless in his actions and relentless in his quest to wipe out the Natives that tribesmen begin calling him ”Worse than Blankets.” Ethan Edwards was a hard man made even harder by a group of other hard men. Maybe you think that last joke was absurd, but that’s nothing compared to how absurd it’s about to get up in here.
And we’ll start (and pretty much end) with you Chief Scar, totally indigenous looking leader of the proud Comanches!
Wait, who’s this Anglo dude? Where’s Scar? What? That is Scar? But that’s Henry Brandon, a Berlin born not-at-all-Indian actor. Maybe some dramatic lighting and war paint will help.
Shit, somehow he looks even more white now. How many dicks did this FSU logo looking mother fucker have to suck to land the role? Next you’ll tell me that all the Comanches are Navajos or something!
“The actors playing Comanche Indians are all Navajo.”
-courtesy IMDB Trivia
What the feathered fuck!? Is this entire fictional movie some sort of fictional movie? Calm yourself, you can’t go and get bent out of shape every time a casting decision is made that throws race and/or national origin out the window but when it’s this farcically arresting the narrative will suffer and the viewer along with it. We keep heading down this road and before you know it Johnny Storm will be a black guy! Start bitching if you want, but when Blade is re-made with a white guy let’s see how much you bitch then, bitch! No matter where you’re from nor the color of your skin, when the source material is ignored we should all feel slighted. And The Searchers was drawing from a very rich source commonly referred to as “history” in which every Indian was usually an Indian.
And boy does Ethan hate Indians. Have I mentioned that yet? He rides far and wide through rain and sleet and snow tracking his niece and when he locates her at long last she’s all grown up and turned into Natalie Wood. In case you’re not familiar with who she is let me see if I can find a picture of her for you. Ah, here we go…one from an old family vacation:
Weird. She was just there a minute ago. Oh well, if she’s gone missing (again) I’m sure John Wayne will start looking (again) and she’ll be fine. Call me crazy but yes she was murdered. Not by this guy though.
Even though he’s four wheels, two axles, some baseboards, steel framing, canvas coverings and every other part of the wagon short of a wagon. He’s Mad Mose Harper and he’s weird as fuck supposedly based on some real dude who was also weird as fuck. It’s a shrewd case of weird as fuck imitating weird as fuck. He was trustworthy and capable but gave off an unmistakable vibe that although he wouldn’t kill you in your sleep he might jerk off on you. Or jerk you off. Or both. I told you he was fucking weird.
The whole of The Searchers felt odd to me though. It never picked up as much steam as I was expecting but maybe that’s what Ford wanted. Maybe it’s an allusion for life and the search we’re all on through it with those requisite ups and downs and slow parts and shit-this-is-out-of-control parts and German-Indian guys. I can’t argue that there weren’t explosive moments nor expected and satisfying resolutions yet instead of sitting on the edge of my seat I mostly sat not on the edge of my seat. I did however find another pic of Natalie Wood!
She’s right there behind Christopher Pike I swear! She’s pulling a Jareth from Labyrinth juggling trick sticking her arms past his. Remember that? David Bowie didn’t do all that crystal ball work, it was another performer behind him with his arm’s reaching out past Bowie’s to make it look like the Goblin King was all that but you and I both know that you and I were really just staring at the Goblin King’s mighty codpiece the entire time thinking “you remind me of the babe?” “what babe?” “the babe with the power to make sure you can’t walk without wincing tomorrow mother fucker!” Ah, good childhood memories. For years, because of that movie and confused adolescence, I thought the word “muppet” was code for “pronounced gentalia!” And even though balls aren’t my cup of tea I can still appreciate ol’ Ziggy Stardust’s impressive talent. And speaking of tea…
Or coffee I reckon, the Duke handed these out on the set of The Searchers emblazoned with his trademark phrase from the film. I did enjoy every time he said “that’ll be the day” as a soberly sarcastic response to any number of cunt-versations he was having with folks he didn’t particularly agree with. Buddy Holly even wrote a song about it impressed by Wayne’s I’m-a-dick-and-yet-so-cool aesthetic. Ethan was obsessed and fairly unwavering. I can respect that. He was also not completely rigid. I can respect that too. The movie wasn’t one of my most memorable but Ethan Edwards? Pretty goddamn cool.
3 redman hating rounds in the cylinder this week. The Searchers didn’t resonate with my soul or touch some deep, uncharted depths in my heart. It wasn’t horrible but it wasn’t intoxicating either and I love to get drunk on my Westerns. You realize though that Ethan rode true to himself his entire life. No matter any other gripes I might have with this film, that’s definitely something I can always find comfort in amigos.
See you on down the road.
What is the Price of Power? It’s a question we’ve probably all asked ourselves at some point in our lives. If you actually watched The Price of Power like I did you might also ask yourself “why God, why?” or “do I have enough rope in the house to end this right now?” A few friends and I played Western-Movie-Pack-From-K-Mart Roulette with a 20 piece collection recently. We randomely chose a title, threw it in the player then sat back for what seemed like un-ending hours of torturous boredom laced with feverish confusion and a painful lack of resolution. If you think I’m exaggerating know that a study from 2008 found that prisoners kept at Guantanamo Bay who were shown this film begged to be waterboarded and fed bacon at every meal in order to escape its soul-numbing monotony. If Leone’s many masterpieces were bright shining stars in the Cinema Italiano sky then The Price of Power is a black hole sucking down everything within reach into its suck-filled hole of ceaseless suck. It sure tries hard to fool you otherwise though!
Let’s go for that standard shot past the gun-hand because those are always awesome and ominous as we look out towards some dude or dudes about to get fucked up while tightly trained on the fingers that will soon do the fucking. Use of this technique, or any special techinique in your film, should be sparing. Too much and the technique itself becomes distracting or worse, laughable. Il Prezzo‘s director Tonino Valerii beats down deep focus like it’s a British orphan who just timidly asked for more porridge. He beats it so hard a group of dead horses filed a class-action suit against the guy. He beats it so hard deep focus doesn’t even know how to fully focus anymore:
This shot works past the hip at high noon but flagrant overuse and your film turns into a blur barraged music video for an 80s power ballad. And unless you’re Lita Ford or one of those hot chicks from Poison I don’t need you that far up in my personal space. For more than an hour I was convinced that the stars of the movie were the pores on that guy’s face and the hairs in that one’s nose. It might have helped if anyone was saying anything important but the multi-tiered plot was too overly complex for the way the script was presenting all the information necessary for you to properly give an invested shit. The Price of Power was dense in both senses of the word. I was drinking when I watched this but a whole room of people in addition to myself (some also drinking, some who wish they had been) couldn’t tame this wildly rambling film into any corral of comprehension. If you ever watch this, drinking won’t really help but it’ll feel like you’re giving at least some effort. And the bigger the drink the better:
Look at that poor bastard. He’s thinking “goddamit, you’re doing it again aren’t you? That goddamn deep focus shit! And now I’m playing a scene with a mug, a giant fucking mug, of beer. Great. Annnnnnnd my agent is fired.” To be fair, The Price of Power might be 97% split diopter insanity but that still leaves a little room for some redeeming qualities. Or one, one redeeming quality. And that was this blue dude’s most preeminent facial hair:
This poster doesn’t do it justice but imagine just what Wolverine’s, Lemmy Kilmister’s and Joe Manganiello’s bastard beard baby would look like and you’re getting close. It’s probably fair to say that this guy was voted “most likely to be King Under the Mountain” by his high school class. And maybe he was ripping off Thorin’s style but I can assure you even that wouldn’t have been the most flagrant theft on set. Exhibit “A” your Honor.
Someone’s picking on that poor woman! And it sure as hell seems a lot like the same guy who did this!
You might say it’s just an odd coincidence (Once Upon a Time is from 1968, this one…1969!) or argue that bitches fell down all the time in the Old West but I have it on good authority that Old West bitches were as sure of foot as a tacky-toed mountain goat so there! Whose good authority you ask? My good goddamn authority! And seeing as not five minutes prior to the fall I saw one of those chicks dancing her way through a performance of America Fuck Yeah! The Musical! I’m certain my logic is anything but flawed.
Those colors don’t run you commie bastards, nor do they fall down in the dirt without help. And neither did this horse amazingly enough:
Exposition, plagiarized domestic violence, show-stopping dance numbers and pursuit on horseback, it’s all necessary to move this not-at-all a story along to its not-at-all fitting conclusion. I mean after the assassination of President James A. Garfield in an almost shot for shot remake of the Zapruder film of course. Yes, the Kennedy assassination Zapruder film. As much as every Spaghetti Western was a pastiche celebrating our lawless frontier days The Price of Power takes it to another level. A level where everyone drops acid before throwing a few American history books into a blender on script writing day. It’s got so many stereotypes (none of them interesting) and so many nods to our past (none of them accurate) it’s as if Yakov Smirnoff directed this movie right after yodeling ”I luuuvvv Amerika!”
Please God…please make this stop.
Oh, you heard me Lord!? Thank you man, thank fucking you! So there’s our hero, I think, shooting or maybe dodging a shot or being Italian or something. Of course he doesn’t have to be all that heroic (he wasn’t), nimble (he wasn’t) or Italian (he fuckin’ was!) to take down guys like this:
I’m no expert by any means but I’m pretty sure rifles need barrels. Maybe it’s a table leg. At this point in the movie I wouldn’t have cared if they had to beat each other with inhuman clubs made from infant children while they simultaneously burned the cures for AIDS, cancer and attention deficit disorder as long as it meant the movie would be over soon.
But there’s always time for some more deep focus fuckery right?
Jesus Cadbury-hoarding Christ. Easter just recently passed and it reminded us all that the Son of God died for humanity’s sins, one of them being this film. The Price of Power aka Il Prezzo del Potere aka Fuck I Just Stabbed my Eyes Out, I’m Free, I’m Free gets 1 round in the cylinder probably only because it’s from Italy as were some of my favorite Westerns and my most favorite wife. Yes, it’s a Spaghetti Western, sure it is, but this pasta is stale, it’s cheese past expiration and its spicy meatballs are a mysterious and palate confounding mixture of feces and discontent. I always want to love every poorly but lovingly produced title from the Italian Peninsula’s dusty boot but some are beyond any kind of affection like a girl who wears a smoking hot cosplay with lots of leg showing only to ruin the ensemble with control top hosiery. They make sheer-to-waist for a goddamn reason! That girl and this movie, they both had the right idea but somewhere along the way they took a wrong turn, away from “bad-assery” and squarely into “bumble-fuckitude.”
I’ve had a lot of whiskey tonight, sometimes it’s the only way to ride true. So I’ve had a lot as I’ve finished this review off and you know what? It wasn’t enough. I’m gonna go pour another shot to toss back and wash this taste away while I promise myself to never again ask “what is the price of power?”
Because now I fucking know.
“Business is business”
Sad repetitious excuse
For fucking a friend