Archive for April 16th, 2014

50 Movie Gunslinger Classics, Disc 8

Posted in Movies and TV on April 16th, 2014

Kid Vengeance (aka Vengeance or Vendetta or Take Another Hard Ride), 1977, color. Joseph Manduke (dir.), Lee Van Cleef, Jim Brown, Leif Garrett. Glynnis O’Connor, John Marley.

This flick mixes two plots I’m familiar with from other Westerns: One in which a kid, somehow not killed when outlaws kill his parents, grows up to take vengeance on them—and another in which a man, with evidence that outlaws have killed his wife and compatriots, manages to kill the outlaws off one by one using a range of techniques. But this isn’t quite either of those, partly because the kid (in this case, Leif Garrett) doesn’t grow up: he starts taking out the killers shortly after he becomes aware that they’ve raped and killed his mother, killed his father and kidnapped his sister. (Oddly enough, that last part was accidental…)

But there’s more! A black miner (Brown), after having an assayer confirm that he’s got good-quality gold ore, encounters a quartet of idiots/thieves, bests them (and one dies, shot by another one), rides out of town and sets up another plot, as well as some comedy relief in what’s otherwise a pretty gritty picture. This time, Lee Van Cleef is full-on villain, the head of an outlaw band and the rapist in question.

No point going through more of the plot. Once you grant that a kid who has to be starving can sneak up on sleeping experienced bandits, stand there for a while, stuff a scorpion into one of their shoes, and walk away…well, sure, it all works. Garrett is very good, Brown’s fine, Van Cleef is Van Cleef. An Israeli production. I guess it’s worth $1.25.

Rage at Dawn, 1955, color. Timn Whelan (dir.), Randolph Scott, Forrest Tucker, Mala Powers, J. Carrol Naish, Edgar Buchanan, Denver Pyle. 1:27 [1:25]

This one’s unusual in that it’s a full-length, color, mid-’50s Western, and a fairly traditional Western at that. It’s the story of the Reno Brothers, a group of brothers who rob banks (with a couple of colleagues) and have a bad tendency to shoot anybody who causes trouble. They own the local officials (three of them share in the proceeds) so their Indiana county is a refuge. They actually live in their sister’s house (she hates the robbing but can’t turn them out) and have an honest brother who’s a farmer. With one possible exception, they’re not the brightest bunch; in some ways it’s amazing that they aren’t all already dead.

The Peterson Detective Agency brings in a tall, handsome undercover agent (Scott), who stages a train robbery to show the Renos that he’s hotter stuff than they are (they never tried train robbery), and eventually gets them involved in a train robbery as a way to get them arrested. Or killed (and it certainly gets some others killed!). Meanwhile, he’s taken a liking to the sister, and it’s clearly mutual.

Strong cast. It’s OK—although I found the last few minutes a little tough to swallow (but won’t pass on the situation). Not great, not bad: $1.50.

Billy the Kid Returns, 1938, b&w. Joseph Kane (dir.), Roy Rogers, Smiley Burnette, Lynne Roberts/Mary Hart, Morgan Wallace, Fred Kohler, Wade Boteler. 0:53.

I find that it makes sense to review and rate films in some sort of context; the context for the one-hour “oaters” is different than that for full-length features, and the context for singing cowboys is different still. And of the latter, Roy Rogers stands out for his voice, his looks—and the fun he seems to bring to every role, where he’s pretty much always playing a character named Roy Rogers.

That said, to buy into this movie you have to believe that Billy the Kid was a dead ringer for Roy Rogers—and that Billy the Kid, while admittedly a cold-blooded killer, was a hero to homesteaders, as he was the only one defending them from the cattlemen who wanted to prevent any farming. Roy Rogers first plays Billy the Kid, hero, thief and killer…up to and including the night where Pat Garrett shoots him dead. Then Roy Rogers rides onto the scene (Lincoln County, New Mexico—about all this flick has in common with Billy the Kid’s actual life), having left Texas after he lost his deputy sheriff’s job because he was too young (or something like that), and finds himself dealing with a band of outlaws who are stealing horses and burning down a farmhouse. The outlaws are, of course, part of the cattlemen’s group and in cahoots with the businessman who has a monopoly on trade in the town.

That’s just the start of a movie that moves right along…and mostly involves Roy Rogers impersonating Billy the Kid first in an attempt to help the homesteaders, then in an attempt to bring the cattlemen’s gang to justice by tricking them into committing a Federal crime, so they won’t just be set free by their peers. Oh, and Pat Garrett’s continuing suspicion that Roy Rogers is no better than Billy the Kid…

A lot of fun, a lot of music (I figure there’s about an hour’s TV episode worth of actual plot here: the other 11-12 minutes is singing), Smiley Burnette with his special “froggy” vocals. Roy gets the girl (Roy always gets the girl). What can I say? It’s what a singing cowboy movie should be, and probably no less plausible than most. $1.25.

Curse of Demon Mountain (orig. The Shadow of Chikara), 1977, color. Earl E. Smith (dir., also producer, writer), Joe Don Baker, Sondra Locke, Ted Neeley, Joy N. Houck Jr., Slim Pickens. 1:54 [1:32]

First we get some Civil War sequences (it’s clear the filmmaker is a Grey at heart even before they use “TheNight They Drove Old Dixie Down” in the soundtrack, the only song in the movie). Then one Confederate officer (Joe Don Baker), his half-Irish/half-Cherokee sidekick and scout (Houck) and a dying older soldier (named “Virgil Cane,” to be sure, and played by Slim Pickens who only has a few minutes to masticate some scenery) are off on their way—and as he’s dying, Virgil tells theofficer about the treasure he’s hidden in a cave in a mountain—some “transparent stones” he got out of Arkansas rivers.

After the former officer finds out that his house has been taken over for a Federal office and that his wife—who ahd been told he was dead a year before, but never mind that—has taken up with a Federal officer. Following a big fight scene, the officer (Joe Don Baker), his sidekick and a geologist they pick up from a local university are off to find the stones and see what they are.

After that, it’s lots of trouble—a dead group of settlers shot with odd black arrows, a black arrow arriving out of nowhere, a woman (Locke) apparently raped who they take with them, the scout concluding that those shooting the arrows must be demons, since they leave no tracks, a trio of bushwhackers (who the four adventurers happily kill by seting off a landslide) and, eventually, the mountain. Which the scout says he’s heard about, the Mountain of Demons.

Don’t expect happy endings. I figured out the twist about ten minutes before it was revealed. It’s not a bad twist. Unfortunately, it’s also not a very good movie—sloppily filmed, poorly played, just not really very good. Maybe the missing 22 minutes (apparently including a bar sequence, since a bartender and barmaid are both in the credits but there’s no bar that I can remember in the movie) would have helped. Maybe not. Generously, $0.75.


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