Tag Archives: westerns

MAVERICK (1994): MOVIE REVIEW

MASCOT COWBOY 2FRONTIERADO IS COMING UP ON FRIDAY, AUGUST 3rd! 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).

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. 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

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DANITES – GUNSLINGING “KNIGHTS” OF THE OLD WEST

FRONTIERADO IS COMING UP ON FRIDAY, AUGUST 3rd!

Berenger Avenging AngelThe Frontierado Holiday is about the myth of the Old West, not the grinding reality. The Danites – the gunslinging Knights of the Mormon faith – are an underutilized and underappreciated element of Old West fiction.

The opportunities for action presented to a Danite could start as early as the 1838 Mormon War in Missouri. After that there’s the Illinois Mormon War in the 1840s which ended in the Siege of Nauvoo.

Following that conflict the Mormon Exodus to the West began, with “Deseret” (later called Utah) as the ultimate destination. Danites – like Christian Knights of long ago protecting Pilgrims headed for their “Holy Land” – safeguarded Mormon travelers from attacks by hooded anti-Mormon gangs, from armed outlaws and from various Native American tribes along the way.  

Berenger Avenging Angel 2In Deseret itself there were conflicts with Mexican raiders after the end of America’s war with Mexico (1846-1848). Danites would also be called upon to battle various Native American tribes in Deseret, in the role of oppressors rather than oppressed much of the time.

They would also fight Navajo armies to stop them from seizing Paiute Indians as slaves. (The anti-slavery aspect of Mormonism is often overlooked.) Plus the Danites faced the task of driving off armed bands of prospectors wanting the gold and other precious metals of the area.

There was also the Utah War with the Mormons fighting the United States Army from 1857-1858. On top of that add rumored armed conflicts among competing factions of Mormon leaders with the Danites caught in the middle like Mafia gunmen serving their respective “Dons” as it were.

NOTE: This blog post is interested only in the neglected potential of Danites as mythic heroes and/or villains in western sagas. I know that in real life the Mormon Church downplays or distances themselves from the Danites because of the violence often associated with them. Continue reading

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THE TOP FOUR WESTERNS BASED ON REAL-LIFE FIGURES

butch cassidy and the sundance kid 2We all know that in real life the celebrated “heroes” of the old west were a pack of corrupt and/or outrightly criminal thugs who would have had a pretty redneckish worldview. And let’s face it, by our standards their personal hygiene habits would have been pretty disgusting.

But since the Frontierado holiday is all about celebrating the myth of the West and not the grinding reality of it here’s my list of the Top Four Westerns Based On Real-Life Figures. Coming up with lists like this is one of the perks of being the international commissioner of Frontierado (along with the seven-figure income and a staff of three hundred people).

butch cassidy and the sundance kid1. BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID (1969) – Redford and Newman set the standard for the “buddy western” with this magnificent movie. Newman once described this flick by saying “It’s a Continue reading

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POSSE (1993): MOVIE REVIEW

 Frontierado is coming up on Friday, August 4th!

POSSE is a terrific western about a gang of African American  gunfighters (plus the goofiest  Baldwin brother) involved in an action-packed epic journey across the American west.

The Frontierado holiday is the perfect time of year to hunker down with this film while drinking a Cactus Jack or a Deuces Wild or two. I’ll review the recipes for those mixed drinks in a few days, for now we’ll focus on this movie on our countdown.

Posse stars Mario Van Peebles, who also directed, as Jesse Lee, the brooding, revenge-driven hero of the saga. He and all but one member of his gang, our titular posse, are soldiers fighting in Cuba during the Spanish-American War in 1898. A dangerous assault they carry out turns out to be Continue reading

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THE HANGED MAN (1974): WESTERN HORROR

Hanged ManFOR BALLADEER’S BLOG’S LOOK AT OVER TWENTY MORE WESTERN-THEMED HORROR FILMS CLICK HERE

THE HANGED MAN (1974) – Steve Forrest starred in this excellent made for tv movie that was a failed pilot for a series. Forrest portrayed a gunslinger who seemingly meets his end on the gallows early in the film but who supernaturally rises from the dead to atone for his misspent life by combating evil in the 1800s west. Continue reading

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ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST (1968)

Frontierado is Friday, August 4th!

ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST is, to me, the definitive Spaghetti Western. This movie incorporates all of the best elements of Italo-westerns and has the additional advantages of actual artistic merit and some location filming in the real American West. One of the most distracting elements of many Spaghetti oaters is the fact that the films were mostly shot in Spain’s Jarama Valley, which is great for a Spanish Civil War buff like myself, but that valley doesn’t really resemble the American west that the stories are set in.

Sergio Leone got to shoot some scenes for this flick in Monument Valley and such authentic scenery definitely helps in a film that exploits visuals to a degree unseen since the age of silent movies. This is undeniably an action film, but Leone and his co-writers on the script ( Bernardo Bertollucci and Dario Argento. I’m serious!) intentionally used the framework of an old-fashioned western plot about the railroad, land-grabbing and westward expansion, yet made it all seem fresh.    

I often jokingly call this movie Evil Is A Man Named Frank, because, in a masterpiece of reverse-casting Leone put Henry Fonda himself in the role of the conscienceless, sadistic and predatory Frank, the lead villain. Watching the black-clad Frank calmly blow away a defenseless child early in the film lets the Continue reading

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JEWISH GAUCHOS (1975)

j-gauchosJEWISH GAUCHOS (1975) – It’s no secret that I love cinematic oddities. For this go-round I’ll examine the movie Jewish Gauchos based on the 1910 novel by Alberto Gerchunoff. The film deals with the musical adventures of a group of Jewish immigrants from Russia working as gauchos (Argentine cowboys) in Argentina in the very early 1900s.

This film plus a few westerns filmed in Israel but set in the American frontier make up the very, very unusual subgenre called Matzoh Westerns (as I’m sure you’ve guessed, those are the Jewish version of the Italian Spaghetti Westerns).

Outside of the bizarre subgenre of amputee kung fu movies from Hong Kong, Matzoh Westerns are my favorite cul de sac in the weirdass movie neighborhood. Continue reading

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