Tag Archives: film reviews

MAVERICK (1994) – MOVIE REVIEW

Mascot new lookFRONTIERADO IS COMING UP ON FRIDAY, AUGUST 7th! As always the Frontierado holiday (now celebrated on 6 continents) is about the myth of the Wild West, not the grinding reality. It’s just like the way medieval festivals celebrate the era’s romantic aspects, not “the violence inherent in the system” (for my fellow Monty Python fans). Here’s another Balladeer’s Blog review of a seasonal movie. 

MaverickMAVERICK (1994) – Richard Donner directed and Mel Gibson starred in this excellent tribute to the 1950s and 1980s Maverick television series. The original series starred James Garner as slick-talking gambler/ gunslinger Bret Maverick AND, in old-age makeup, as “Pappy” Beauregard Maverick, the gambler and con-man patriarch of that family of rogues.  (No relation to the real-life Maverick family of Texas, for whom “maverick” cattle were named.)

Maverick was just as often comedic as dramatic and nicely anticipated the many deconstructions of Old West mythology that were to come in the decades ahead. Sometimes the program was daringly farcical as in episodes like Gun-Shy, a spoof of Gunsmoke, and Three Queens Full, a Bonanza parody set on the Sub-Rosa Ranch (as opposed to Bonanza‘s PONDErosa). The storyline featured Maverick encountering a Ben Cartwright-styled rancher and his three less-than-straight sons, hence the episode’s title.

The original series centered on Garner’s Bret Maverick (and later other Maverick family members) vying in cardplaying and con-games with assorted rival gamblers, gunslingers and con-men. Efrem Zimbalist Jr – in his pre-FBI years – played Dandy Jim, one of the recurring members of Maverick’s Rogue’s Gallery of foes. 

Elaborate schemes and multiple double-crosses often kept viewers guessing who would come out on top til the very end, since Bret sometimes ended up on the losing side. 

The constant betrayals and double-crosses were part of the charm of the television series and were perfectly captured by the 1994 big-screen adaptation of Maverick. This thoroughly enjoyable film is often dismissed as just another of the pointless movie adaptations of tv shows that began to flood theaters back then, but that is far from the truth.

Maverick 2Mel Gibson portrays Bret Maverick since by 1994 James Garner was too old for the role. Jodie Foster co-stars as rival gambler Annabelle Bransford and the iconic James Garner provides memorable support as a lawman. 

NECESSARY SPOILER: Many people that I’ve discussed this movie with said they avoided it or stopped watching it once they realized Garner was not portraying a member of the Maverick family. In reality – as we learn near the very end – he IS. He may have been too old to play Bret this time around but he reprised his role of Pappy Beauregard from the original series. Pappy is just POSING as a lawman and his son Bret obligingly plays along without blowing his Pappy’s cover. Continue reading

8 Comments

Filed under FRONTIERADO

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY! LOVE, GEORGE (1973): HORROR FILM

Despite the movie poster's warning this flick won't even untie your shoelaces. HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY! LOVE, GEORGE (1973) – Category: Bad movie elevated by kitsch value in the casting.

Directed by THE Darren McGavin and featuring his wife Kathie Browne in a small role, this hilariously bizarre film is also known as Run, Stranger, Run. “Run, Potential Viewer, Run” would be a more appropriate title. 

Happy Mother’s Day Love, George  (henceforth HMDLG) is often described as a psycho-sexual thriller but actually it is nothing more than a melodramatic soap opera with a few murders and VERY few scenes of blood and gore. Those blood and gore scenes are so over-the-top they are completely at odds with the low-key, almost made-for-tv mildness of the rest of the movie.

This was a theatrical release but is so subdued and slow-paced it seems like a telefilm. You and your friends can keep yourselves entertained making jokes about the recognizable cast members to kill time since the first murder doesn’t happen until we’re more than an hour into this flick.

Mascot FOUR original pics

Balladeer’s Blog

Ron Howard IS Johnny, a teenager who has come to town to discover who his birth parents are but who mostly just stands around staring at people and ESPECIALLY at houses. He seems completely taken aback that the townspeople find this somewhat creepy. Johnny is intrigued by the rash of missing persons plaguing the small town and feels they are connected to the secret of his past. Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under Bad and weird movies

THE HUMANOID (1979): THE WORST STAR WARS RIPOFF

Humanoid 2We all know today’s date, so let’s examine the notoriously bad Italian ripoff of Star Wars. I know many people consider Star Crash to be the worst of the Italo-Ripoffs but I’ve always gotten more laughs out of The Humanoid.  

The many, many ways this movie steals from Star Wars will become clear as we go along. Let’s deal with first things first:

Richard KielRichard Kiel plays the title figure. His real name is Golob but the Darth Vaderish bad guy arranges for Golob to be the guinea pig for a treatment that transforms ordinary people into powerful “Humanoids”. As a Humanoid Golob loses his beard for some reason but – even more comically – the beard suddenly reappears when he is returned to normal late in the movie.

Humanoid 5Golob in his amped-up Humanoid form has super-strength, is invulnerable to harm and can deflect energy blasts that the Rebel Alliance-style good guys shoot at him. The bad guys plan to use a warhead to expose every man, woman and child on Earth to the bio-treatment, thus creating an instant army of billions of super-powered Humanoids like Richard Kiel. (Good luck controlling them since the treatment will reduce them to mindless animals like Golob.)  

Corinne CleryCorinne Clery portrays Barbara Gibson, the spunky Princess Leia pastiche. Barbara is a prominent scientist of Metropolis, which is what the entire Earth has been renamed now that it is just one big planet-wide city in the far future setting of The Humanoid. Barbara studies a gifted Asian lad who controls the Force uh, I mean some kind of psychic or magical energy field. 

Lord GraalIvan Rassimov plays the main villain Lord Graal, whose entire army dresses exactly like Darth Vader. He does, too, but to stand out from his underlings HIS black helmet and mask have cutouts that let his eyes, mouth and cheeks show. Lord Graal wants to create the aforementioned Humanoid army so he can conquer the entire Milky Way galaxy. He has magical powers like the Asian boy.  Continue reading

6 Comments

Filed under Bad and weird movies

THE WIZARD OF MARS (1965) MOVIE REVIEW

 THE WIZARD OF MARS – (1965) – Category: A neglected bad movie classic that deserves a Plan 9-sized cult following  

This 1965 film from David L Hewitt is my all-time favorite kitschy movie about space travel. 

This one has all the little extras that separate a true bad movie classic from the mere pretenders. One of those extras would be incredibly cheap special effects, some of them cadged right from the old Soviet sci-fi flick Planet of Storms, which is a lot of fun for people like me who’ve seen those same bits of footage show up in countless other bad movies. (Especially the spaceship’s “viewscreen” complete with markings for North, South, East and West, which would, of course, be meaningless in space)

masc graveyard newAnother extra that this film has is the man I consider to be the Patron Saint of Bad Movies, John Carradine himself, as the titular wizard. I don’t recommend trying to see all the movies John Carradine has appeared in unless you plan on making a career out of it and I don’t recommend that either. (Somewhere around his Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under Bad and weird movies

RIVALS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (1971-1973) FORGOTTEN TELEVISION

Rivals of Sherlock Holmes bestTHE RIVALS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (1971-1973) – The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes was not just a collection of stories by mystery writers who were contemporaries of Arthur Conan Doyle but also a television series which adapted such mysteries. Just as Holmes’ tales were set during the Victorian and Edwardian Eras so, too, were the stories of these detectives. The series lasted two seasons of 13 episodes each and presented the best non-Holmes London-by-Gaslight Detectives. 

Doctor ThorndykeEpisode One: A MESSAGE FROM THE DEEP SEA

Detective: Doctor John Evelyn Thorndyke, created by R Austin Freeman. The first Thorndyke story was published in 1907.

Review: In my opinion this is the best episode of Season One. Thorndyke, like Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, was miles ahead of the contemporary police in terms of Crime Scene Investigation. In both the Holmes AND Thorndyke mysteries there is a quasi-science fiction feel as those great fictional detectives use scientific methods disdained at the time but which are now commonplace in the solving of crimes.     

Thorndyke and JervisThe episode introduces us to Dr John Evelyn Thorndyke (John Neville), a forensic physician/ Police Surgeon of the era, as he is teaching a classroom of students. (Kind of a Quincy opening feel.) He is assisted by Dr Jervis (James Cossins), Thorndyke’s version of Dr Watson.

A former student of Thorndyke’s shows up requesting his former teacher’s help in his first big murder case as an Assistant Police Surgeon. Our star and his man Jervis accompany their former student to a brothel on Harrow Street, where a prostitute has been murdered in her bed by having her throat slashed. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Forgotten Television

INCIDENT AT PHANTOM HILL (1966): MOVIE REVIEW

Incident at Phantom HillINCIDENT AT PHANTOM HILL (1966) – With the massive Frontierado Holiday just a few months away let’s start getting in the mood with a review of this 1966 western directed by Earl Bellamy.

In the closing days of the U.S. Civil War the Union Army was transporting a million dollars in gold through northern Texas only to have it stolen from them by Confederate forces at Phantom Hill. The gold was not recovered.

Barely two months after the end of the war a former Confederate named Joe Barlow claims to have been part of the southern unit which hijacked the gold shipment AND claims to know where it is buried. In exchange for a pardon for his many pre-war crimes Barlow agrees to lead a U.S. Army detachment to the fortune in gold.

Incident at Phantom Hill 2A major complication: The desert region where the bullion is buried is located in the Staked Plains, which were recently ceded to the Comanche Indians in the latest treaty. If uniformed troops are spotted poking around in the area a fresh Comanche war could break out. 

An undercover Army detachment is sent in plain-clothes to recover the gold with the shifty Barlow as their guide. And so the stage is set for this underrated second-tier western that I like to call Beau West due to its entertaining blend of French Foreign Legion desert epic appeal with traditional western grittiness.  Continue reading

4 Comments

Filed under FRONTIERADO

MARS MEN (1976): MOVIE REVIEW

Mars MenMARS MEN aka HUO XING REN (1976) – What do you get when Taiwanese filmmakers take a co-produced Thai/ Japanese kaiju movie, alter the monsters and the character names then edit in their own actors Mighty Morphin Power Rangers-style?

You get this deliriously weird sci-fi/ monster flick which combines the appeal of Godzilla, Gamera, Jet Jaguar and Ultraman with The Golden Bat and Infra-Man plus a wig or two from Fugitive Alien! Not to mention pirated Pink Floyd music! Who could resist?

Taiwan’s elusive monsterpiece Mars Men has long been the Holy Grail for all fans of kaiju and of overdubbed & re-edited movie mashups from around the world. Huo Xing Ren, as it was called during its Taiwanese run, started out in 1974 as Giant and Jumbo A, a co-production of studios from Thailand and Japan.

Mars Men side by sideThe “heroic” monster and giant were Yak Wat Jaeng (right) & Jumborg Ace, respectively. Yak Wat Jaeng was a fanged, green-colored stone statue from the Thai movie Tah Tien (1971).

Jumborg Ace was a Jet Jaguar/ Ultraman-ish kaiju superhero from a Japanese tv show (all 50 episodes are available for purchase). Continue reading

4 Comments

Filed under Bad and weird movies

TOP MOVIES OF SHINYA TSUKAMOTO

tetsuo-bDirector Shinya Tsukamoto hails from Japan and is noted for his surreal, nightmarish excursions into the darker side of transformative  industrial technology … especially any technology that impacts the human anatomy.

Tsukamoto’s noteworthy films include:

 

tetsuoTetsuo: The Iron Man (1989) – From the early shots of a man removing one of his own bones and replacing it with a piece of metal viewers knew this was a work of true genius. Tetsuo becomes more and more relevant by the year, especially with the advent of nanotechnology and its potentially invasive effect on the human mind and body. Continue reading

4 Comments

Filed under Halloween Season, opinion

TWENTY DJANGO MOVIES

The best Django, Franco Nero, played the gunslinger in Django, Django Strikes Again and (wink) Django’s Grand Return

Like Tarzan, James Bond and Sherlock Holmes the melancholy bounty hunter Django has been presented in various incarnations and with wildly differing continuity. And like soccer the Django movies have been an enormous success almost everywhere except the U.S. 

The great Franco Nero created the role in 1966 in a film so popular in Europe (but banned in the UK for its still- controversial violence) that it spawned a legion of sequels. Some sequels starred Franco Nero or others in the role of Django, while others were just unrelated westerns whose distributors simply  attached a phony Django title to them, sometimes redoing the dubbing to have the lead character referred to as Django, other times not bothering.

Original Django poster Balladeer’s Blog presents a look at twenty of the films featuring (legitimately or not) the most durable Eurowestern hero of them all. And, yes, if you’re wondering, the western bounty hunter Django was indeed the reason George Lucas named that outer space bounty hunter Jango Fett.

DJANGO (1966) – In 1867 Mexico Django, a veteran of the Union army in the Civil War, seeks revenge on Major Jackson, the Confederate officer behind his wife’s death. Jackson and his still-loyal troops, now turned  outright Klansmen, are, like so many other fleeing Confederates,  fighting for the Mexican Emperor Maximilian in the war to keep his throne.  

Django battles Jackson’s hooded thugs, even ambushing dozens with the Gatling Gun he keeps concealed in a coffin. When he’s out of men Major Jackson calls on Maximilian’s Imperial troopers for reinforcements and prepares to face Django and the Mexican rebel troops he’s fallen in with. For a detailed review of this unforgettable film click here: https://glitternight.com/2012/08/08/the-original-django-and-two-blaxploitation-westerns-a-primer-for-django-unchained/

DJANGO SHOOTS FIRST (1966) – AKA He Who Shoots First. Django comes into an enormous inheritance from his murdered father, an inheritance he learns he must share with his late father’s unscrupulous business partner, Mr Cluster. Django starts blowing away a host of bad guys as he tries to piece together who is responsible for his father’s death.

DJANGO, A BULLET FOR YOU (1966) – Django uses his guns to protect a group of downtrodden farmers from the villainous, land-grabbing town boss of Wagon Valley. He gets more than he bargained for when it turns out the town boss is conspiring with a railroad tycoon who has lots of money and lots of  gunmen to throw at him.

 $10,000 for a massacre$10,000.00 BLOOD MONEY (1966) – AKA $10,000.00 for a Massacre. A wealthy land baron hires Django to recover his kidnapped daughter and kill the gang of Mexican bandits who snatched her.

Django tries to manipulate the situation so he can get the land baron’s fee AND the bounties offered on the bandits. Continue reading

4 Comments

Filed under FRONTIERADO, Spaghetti Westerns

PART TWO OF TWENTY JAMES GARNER MOVIES (11-20)

FOR THE FIRST TEN MOVIES CLICK HERE

One Little IndianONE LITTLE INDIAN (1973) – Light-hearted family western. James Garner portrays Corporal Clint Keyes, who, after clashing with his Indian-hating superior, escapes a potential hanging for it and rides off into the desert with a pair of camels left over from the ill-advised American Camel Corps attempt in the 1800s.

Clay O’Brien was the title character, Mark, a white boy who had been raised by Native Americans and who winds up tagging along with Keyes, Lone Wolf and Cub-style. Vera Miles plays the widowed Doris McIver and a very young Jodie Foster has the role of her daughter Martha. (“Why did you say that NAME!?”)

Morgan Woodward portrays the bad guy Sgt Raines, who relentlessly pursues Keyes to bring him back to be executed for mutiny and desertion. Robert Pine, Andrew Prine and Dallas‘ Jim Davis are in the cast as well. Naturally there’s a happy ending with Mark, the widow McIver and her daughter serving as a pre-packaged family for Garner’s character in the finale. Continue reading

10 Comments

Filed under FRONTIERADO, opinion