Showdown at Williams Creek, 1991, color. Allan Kroeker (dir.), Tom Burlinson, Stephen E. Miller, Michelle Thrush, Raymond Burr, Donnelly Rhodes. 1:37.
This is a flashback film—except for the first few and last few minutes, it’s almost all flashbacks, as a man on trial for murder reluctantly tells his life story. The man, John “Kootenai” Brown (Tom Burlinson), was a British soldier from Ireland who emigrated to British Columbia in 1865, with a friend, to seek his fortune in the gold fields of Williams Creek. After various problems, he went—with a Scot who always seemed a bit less than trustworthy—to the Northern Territories, also for gold, and wound up first being shot with an arrow, then living with a group of Metis, a tribe of half-French/half-Native Americans, where he finds love and a family. Eventually, he winds up shooting the Scot, just as the Scot has robbed him of a season’s worth of wolf hides. (Kootenai Brown is his Metis name, where Kootenai means “the one who comes from the west,” since he’d traveled from BC eastward.)
That’s an absurd oversimplification of the plot, based on a true story. Raymond Burr gets star billing on the disc sleeve (but not in the movie), but he’s a secondary character, the imperious and racist judge at the trial.
It’s a leisurely film in some ways, and I found that it worked reasonably well. Filmed in Canada (a Canadian Film Board production, which may explain a 1991 movie being in the public domain?). Good scenery. The print’s reasonably good. All in all, while it’s not a great film, I thought it was worth $1.50.
Four Rode Out, 1970 (or 1968 or 1971), color. John Peyser (dir.), Pernell Roberts, Sue Lyon, Julian Mateos, Leslie Nielsen. 1:39 [1:35]
This Western is decidedly leisurely. A Mexican bank robber, after stopping by to visit his American girlfriend [Sue Lyon] (who then gets called a whore by her father, after which the father shoots himself), heads out…and a marshall (Pernell Roberts) on his last case is sent out to bring him back. The marshall encounters a self-identified Pinkerton man (Leslie Nielsen) also out to bring back—or at least claim the reward for—the bandit.
All three wind up riding out together (or, rather, the girl follows the other two), much to the marshall’s dismay. They ride and ride and ride. They find the bandit’s dead horse and…well, the second half of the film (or more than half) involves the badly-wounded bandit, his assertion that the Pinkerton man is actually the other bank robber and the one who shot a guard, and the attempt to get everybody back to town (walking through the desert with frequent red-sun shots) before they die of heat and thirst. It is, as I say, leisurely…but made significantly better by Janis Ian, who provides the music (mostly twelve-string guitar, some singing) and begins the movie as a visible singer.
Great cast (Nielsen as a wholly untrustworthy shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later sneering type is wholly believable), good music, good scenery. Some censorship (oddly—a few words, and, apparently, two or three minutes of partial nudity). An unsatisfactory plot and ending, to my taste. Very leisurely, to the point where I double-timed through the last 40 minutes or so and still found it leisurely. Another one where its public domain status seems odd. A Spanish production. On balance, maybe $1.25.
They Call Me Trinity (or My Name is Trinity, orig. Lo chiamavano Trinità…,), 1970, color. Enzo Barboni (as E.B. Clucher) (dir. & writer), Terence Hill, Bud Spencer, Steffen Zacharias, Dan Sturkey, Gisela Hahn, Farley Granger, Remo Capitani. 1:46 [1:50]
Both spaghetti western and takeoff on spaghetti westerns, this one’s delightful—more comedy than anything else. It’s also much more character-driven than violence-driven, and while there are a few typically ungory shootings, the biggest scenes are fights with the guns put away, including a long scene near the end (maybe 8 minutes).
The plot? This guy (Trinity) comes—well, not exactly riding into a waystation, more asleep on a sled of sorts being hauled by his horse. He’s so dirty that when he hits down dust flies up in the air. He’s also the fastest gun anywhere. We get to the point where he comes into town and finds that his crooked brother is acting as sheriff (his brother’s as fast as he is, but is also a mountain of a man who beats men down with one blow). The brother’s escaped from prison and is waiting for his gang to catch up so they can stage some more robberies. In the meantime, the town’s troubled by The Major who, with his gang, wants to run a bunch of Mormon settlers and their cattle out of the valley so The Major’s horses can have it.
It ends up…well, it ends up as it started, with Trinity asleep while his horse is dragging him along. In between, it’s great fun. Possibly best dialogue: After the two brothers (respectively the Right Hand of the Devil and the Left Hand of the Devil) have beaten up seven of The Major’s men after they insulted their mother, Trinity says “I’m sorry, but I couldn’t let them call Ma an old… [I’m guessing whore in the original].” His brother: “But it’s true.” Trinity: “Yeah, but she ain’t that old.”
It’s panned-and-scanned full-screen from a very wide-screen original, but it’s done well. The print’s decent, and I give this one a full $2.00.
The Gun and the Pulpit, 1974, color, TV movie, Daniel Petrie (dir.), Marjoe Gortner, Slim Pickens, Pamela Sue Martin, Estelle Parsons, Jeff Corey, David Huddleston. 1:14.
I reviewed this one in the March 2006 Cites & Insights as part of the 50-Movie All Stars Collection, and while I didn’t rewatch it this time around, it got one of the best reviews in that set: A full $2.00.