Saturday, November 6, 2010


Original Title: Ölüm Savasçisi
Year: 1984
Director: Cüneyt Arkin, Çetin Inanç
Writer: Cüneyt Arkin, Çetin Inanç
Genre: Action

A group of invincible ninjas in the U.S, start killing everybody, and the NYPD chief can’t solve the problem. The mayor thinks 'ONLY a Turkish detective can handle the situation', so they call for Inspector Murat (Kemal?) for help... and he comes to U.S. That’s when the action starts!

Three posts in the past two months. I rule.

Sorry to all zero of you who are let down that I didn't finish my number film countdown thingamajig. For anyone interested, the other films were Three The Hard Way (which I'd score an 8.5), The Two Of Us (which I'd score an 8.0), and.................. ONE ARMED BOXER (which also gets an 8.0).

Taaaa daaaaaaaa!

And what brings me out of my hibernation? Turkish ninjas of course. See, these ninjas are a samurai family that become darkness ninjas after dying. Yeah... zombies?

They can use playing cards and matchsticks as deadly weapons

They can live underwater for days without breathing

They know ALCHEMY! (what the fuck?)

They can see in the dark

Sometimes they even come back after dying (for the second time?)

And the only one that can stop them? This guy.

He's a pacifist (I guess?)... he's a lover... he will kick your goddamn face off. Unload a revolver into a Turkish ninja and he will keep coming. One kick from the Inspector and those bitches go down hard.

I'm not really exaggerating when I say that in the 1:17:00 runtime of this film, about 1:12:33 of it is ninjas training, ninjas kicking the shit out of people, and Murat kicking the shit out of ninjas. If you've ever seen a Turkish B-movie before, you pretty much know what to expect here, although I have to say this is possibly the most action packed one I have seen yet.

The story is pretty straight forward, and possiblymaybe could have been interesting in the hands of someone who knew how to write and direct a film properly. The narrative here is nothing new - bringing in a badass to take care of some bad guys that local authorities cannot handle - but it is slapped together in true Turkish cinema style making it more a collection of scenes loosely pasted together and padded with people running and screaming to fill out the time. These are the sorts of films you can honestly have on while not fully paying attention because they are certainly not heavy on plot details.

The fansubs are not perfect either, but who am I to complain about that? I feel very fortunate to be able to watch something like this and not be 100% lost. But really, if you find this without subtitles, you will have almost no trouble following what is going on. It personally drives me nuts to not know, but that's just me.

This film jumps freely from romance to mystery to cop to action and even some very bizarre horror and supernatural elements that make no sense whatsoever. But it's something about this strange mixture that make films like Death Warrior very endearing to me.

 You'd probably be very pissed if you went to a cinema today and plopped down 10 bucks and got a film like this on the screen. But enjoying it on your screen at home is a completely different matter.

The acting is hard to get a read on. Cüneyt Arkin as the inspector is really the only character you will get to know all that well. The man must have been doing something right as he has 270 acting credits, and I've read that he was actually in over 500 films. He certainly has a unique and cool Amitabh style about him. I'm almost certain he must have been as successful as he was due to his looks and suave demeanor... but that's OK. I was eating up a little myself. Despite some obvious undercranking for some ridiculously paced fights, he's pretty agile for a guy who would have been near 50 when this was filmed. Seeing him bounce on trampolines with silly looking spray painted swords is worth the price of admission.

True lovers of trashy, low budgeted cinema will enjoy this one quite a bit I think. I've been let down by silly Turkish films in the past  which ended up being all about the highlights from youtube and were boring otherwise (I'm looking at you here, Korkusuz aka Turkish Rambo), but Death Warrior stays actiony (I just made that word up) throughout with some ludicrous special effects and fights that really had me laughing and entertained.

For a film that for all intents and purposes would be considered a trainwreck anywhere else, I have to give a High recommendation to Death Warrior. Bravo, Mr. Arkin. You'll make a believer out of me yet.

Score: 7.5 / 10

Friday, September 3, 2010

Friday, August 13, 2010

Film Geek's Most Wanted List

I'm putting the call out there. I'm curious to see what people (including film geeks themselves)
thinks are the must-see films for self-proclaimed celluloid nerd.




Obvious choices

What do you, loyal readers, think that a film enthusiast must see to represent the title properly?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Things That Give Film Geeks Wet Panties I

Just picked up this sweet looking little book here for mere POCKET CHANGE on

Kubrick, New and Expanded Edition: Inside a Film Artist's Maze

A comprehensive study of the films of Stanley Kubrick.
Stanley Kubrick ranks among the most important American film makers of his generation, but his work is often misunderstood because it is widely diverse in subject matter and seems to lack thematic and tonal consistency. Thomas Nelson's perceptive and comprehensive study of Kubrick rescues him from the hostility of auteurist critics and discovers the roots of a Kubrickian aesthetic, which Nelson defines as the "aesthetics of contingency."

After analyzing how this aesthetic develops and manifests itself in the early works, Nelson devotes individual chapters to Lolita, Dr. Stangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, Barry Lyndon, and The Shining.

For this expanded edition, Nelson has added chapters on Full Metal Jacket and Eyes Wide Shut, and, in the wake of the director's death, reconsidered his body of work as a whole. By placing Kubrick in a historical and theoretical context, this study is a reliable guide into—and out of—Stanley Kubrick's cinematic maze.

I hardly fucking read anymore, but recently was going through a bit of Kubrick reeducation of sorts. I came across this while looking up stuff, and thought it looked very interesting. For three bucks, how could I go wrong?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Original Title: Three the Hard Way
Year: 1974
Director: Gordon Parks Jr.
Writer: Eric Bercovici, Jerrold L. Ludwig
Genre: Blaxploitation, Crime, Action

The story involves a white supremist plot to taint the United States water supply with a toxin that is harmless to whites but lethal to blacks. The only obstacles that stand in the way of this dastardly plan are Jim Brown, Fred Williamson and Jim Kelly, who shoot, kick and karate chop their way to final victory.

Whoa... is this the first blaxploitation film I've reviewed here? Odd

Countdownsploitation continues for better or worse. We're takin it all the way to ONE, baby!

Not only am I reviewing my first blaxploitation, we're also taking quite a sharp turn from my little theme here. My original choice for the "two title" was going to be a bloody/horror type film as well, so having 3 heavies with machine guns in a ridiculous action film is a welcome change. I've since changed up my two to keep things mixed a bit. And confession time again, this is another one I watched a month ago, and I have seen 80 (holy fuck) films since then.

Jesus I need a life.

So pardon a very abbreviated review here to just get the ball rolling. This is professionalism, ladies and gentlemen.

Three The Hard Way stars three huge names in the genre. Jim Brown as record producer Jimmy Lait, Fred Williamson as explosive badass Jagger Daniels, and Jim Kelly as martial arts expert Mister Keyes all team up to thwart a neo-nazi plan to poison black people through the public water system.

Yeah, it's that kind of movie.

The story is pretty absurd obviously. It's not the best written, and honestly the pacing and editing of the story is not that great either. I guess technically speaking Three the Hard Way is kind of a mess. But trust me when I say that there is enough sweet shit going on here to keep even moderate fans of the genre entertained. Jimmy Lait's wife is kidnapped after Jimmy stumbles into the supremacist group's plan, and he realizes he needs help from his two old buddies Jagger and Mister to help get her back. Oh, and stop the plan too or something.

 His name is Mister because his mama wanted people to show him respect. Yes.

The first 30 minutes of the film crawls just a touch as everything is being set up, with some gunplay and carsplosions thrown in there, but once the three guys are together it's pretty much nonstop for the last hour.

There is a very bizarre interrogation scene that must have inspired Quentin Tarantino as much as anything else he ever saw, that I would be remiss in leaving out of this discussion. Jimmy, Mister, and Jagger want information from a prisoner, and the best way Jagger knows how is through the help of some business acquaintainces of his who specialize in information extraction.

And they ride Kawasaki bikes in a nice colorful formation.

And they are three sweaty, hot, topless chicks.


Seeing this for the first time, I thought the crew coming in was some white-power special task force with the red/white/blue color scheme and the KKK spelled across the front of the three bikes. Bill from Outside The Cinema has since informed me that they are just Kawasaki bikes, and the K is just the logo. Heh...

The visual of the three of them standing all frustrated and out of breath, an Asian, white, and black together, along with the fact that they are chicks kicking this dude's ass and the mystery behind it all is really a great moment in the film, and probably the highlight for me. One can certainly see this type of playfulness and the over-the-top tough chick theme in Tarantino's work.

You get pretty standard performances from the three leads. None of them are award-winning actors as we all know, but fit very well into the genre. Williamson is probably my favorite with his ever-present cigar and natural charisma. Jim Brown is a good serious-minded type character. I think he may have done some of his own stunts, or at the very least the doubles were very well edited. And Jim Kelly... well... he has a six pack and kicks the shit out of people!

Three the Hard way is a whole stinkin messload of fun. It's a silly film but certainly a crowd pleaser. The soundtrack by The Impressions is solid (if not spectacular for the genre), there's plenty of shotgun/machinegun/grenade/carchase/carsplosion action, and Jim Kelly's grunts as he whips ass are pretty hilarious. That dude must have hated wearing a shirt.

Definitely recommended.

Score: 8 / 10

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Original Title: 4 mosche di velluto grigio
Year: 1971
Director: Dario Argento
Writer: Dario Argento, Luigi Cozzi (story), Mario Foglietti (story)
Genre: Giallo

A musician is stalked by an unknown killer who's blackmailing him for an accidential killing of another stalker. But is everything what it appears to be?

A bit of a hiatus there from my number themed flicks. Would you expect any less (more) from me?

Four Flies comes from a Dario Argento that hadn't yet reached his prime. (And if you are still counting today, he is well past it.) It is part of an unofficial "Animals Trilogy," consisting of three completely unrelated films that all have an animal in the title. The Bird With The Crystal Plumage, Cat O' Nine Tails, and this film. These were his first three directed films, although he had been a screenwriter for awhile before this. Most likely because it was still early on in his direction career, we don't have the stylish shots that Argento would grow into, but that isn't to say that the film isn't stylish. Also, possibly because it was still early and less focus was being made on his technical craft, the story itself is still strong as well. Later into his career, it seems that his work's focus shifted more to the directional style over the plotlines.

Four Flies follows a somewhat standard giallo structure, with a central character witnessing or experiencing something that finds him either obsessed or helplessly tied up in a dangerous plot. Roberto, played by Michael Brandon, is pretty solid in the role if not remarkable. There's not much in the way of standout acting I found, but there are certainly memorable characters. To me it seems important to have the central "obsessed" character in a giallo be someone who is not way far out there, as the outrageous things need to happen to them for the best effect. Bud Spencer on the other hand plays the bizarre character God (short for Godfrey), a large and larger than life hermit type that lives in a shack beside a river who Roberto visits for advice. In a way this God character reminds me of a similar strange hermit visited by the main character of The Bird With The Crystal Plumage as well. Guess Dario liked the idea and stuck with it.

The main female lead, Mimsy Farmer as Roberto's wife Nina, is OK in bursts but not ultimately compelling as she overacts a bit. Granted, she is dealing with some pretty frightening things, but i'm a bastard, what can I say?

I really like Argento's early work, as I've said, because I feel like it is a good balance between the style and the substance. Four Flies isn't the greatest story ever told, but it's solid enough and has some interesting twists. The ultimate resolution of the film had be guessing until the end and left me satisfied.

The Euro-flavor of much of the shots and structure were strong as well. Nice moody lighting, some great point of view deaths, attacks, etc., interesting camera angles... all kept things feeling fresh even at times when the story threatened to slow down just a bit. There is a neat recurring dream sequence that Roberto experiences showing a criminal being beheaded in a square in the middle east. It is stark and washed out (possibly due partly to the age of the film), but regardless is a stark contrast to the cooler, darker, wetter tones of the rest of the film.

I could go on, but 1- this is a film better seen than described, and 2- I haven't seen this for a month, and my lazy ass is just finishing the review now. Sorry if the review is shitty. I just need to move on already!

Suffice it to say a fan of gialli or Argento or both will have a good time with Four Flies on Grey Velvet. It doesn't reinvent the wheel, but makes the wheel nice and shiny and fun to roll around on.

Score: 7.5 / 10


Friday, July 30, 2010

Grant Morrison on His Psychedelic Western Indie Movie, Sinatoro

Holy shitballs!
Yes, I've been lazy again. What can you do?
This one was too good to pass up

Put the words "Grant Morrison," "his," and "psychadelic indie western" together and you create a little tingly feeling in my privates. I've been a long time fan of Morrison's comic work and to see that his unique storytelling is coming to the big screen is extra exciting.

Check out the info on

Grant Morrison on His Psychedelic Western Indie Movie, Sinatoro

The poster is pretty sweet as well

Sunday, July 18, 2010


No Time To Die
(a.k.a. Hijacked to Hell)

I picked up this little beauty on Amazon recently on the ultra-cheap. I can kinda see why as it's pretty beat up, but for me there is something to be said as well for formal rental VHS tapes. I know that the video quality is most likely better on tapes from personal collections, but am I really in this for quality? It's kind of frustrating to see a slipcase cut up, but having a clamshell that was probably carried from home to home for years is pretty cool as well. This little nomad has found a nice resting place now where it will be loved despite its flaws.

As for the film itself, the low budget artwork on the front is certainly enticing to me. It really screams Indonesia, although this film is German oddly enough. The fact that Chris Mitchum and Barry Prima both are in it says Indonesia also, which is what caught my eye most of all.

And I love that alternate title. HIJACKED TO HELL!

Say it in a loud, raspy wrestler voice.

No idea about the quality of the film itself. It probably blows (it has a whopping 2.8/10 on IMdB), but as I've grown to really love these 2nd and 3rd rate 80s action flicks as of late, I'm sure I'll find something to warrant the $1.50!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

What makes a good double feature?

I guess what I am looking for here more than anything is a little feedback. I have been brewing in my head lately what makes a good double bill... specifically with genre cinema.

Should the two films be related thematically?
Two films about cars?

Coffy and Black Mama/White Mama?

Should they always be of the same genre?
Like a sci-fi event?

Should they be a complete contrast?

Or should they be some mix of these?

I'm open to any and all ideas and suggestions here. Let me know what you feel works. Give me some examples of genre films that work together if you want.

Being the OCD collector-type that I am, I lean more toward creating some sort of theme between the two films. The easy answer is to match the genres. If I were to put on a show, I'd go toward a Blaxploitation night... or a Zombie night for example. While this would entertain me (and calm that always screaming OCD voice in my head), I'm not sure it would be the best solution to entertain the most number of viewers.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Lynch Three Project

I saw this today and thought it was pretty cool. Helping to fund a documentary on David Lynch by buying (for $50) a poster-sized print of a self-portrait created by Lynch himself.

We are currently in pre-production on the third and final full-length documentary film about David Lynch entitled "LYNCHthree” and would like to give all of his fans around the world an opportunity to share in the filmmaking process.
As truly independent filmmakers, we know first-hand that raising money is always a challenge, so we’ve decided to fund this documentary through an innovative crowdfunding campaign. This is one of the best ways we feel we can engage you in the process and utilize the tools of social media to connect with Lynch fans like yourself across the globe.
Here's how it all works:
David has created a cool limited edition self-portrait exclusively for this project. If you donate $50 towards the production of the film through this website, you will become a member of the LYNCHthree project, gain access to exclusive footage and receive your choice of either a limited edition collectible print, t-shirt or tote bag.
They are available through this website for a limited time only. Once we have raised the financing for the film, these items will no longer be available. This is an excellent way to support independent filmmaking. We hope you are as excited about this project as we are. Thank you very much for supporting LYNCHthree!

If I had the funds, I would certainly pick one of these up. Check out for all the information.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


Original Title: 5 bambole per la luna d'agosto
Year: 1970
Director: Mario Bava
Writer: Mario di Nardo
Genre: Mystery, Thriller

A small group of people come to an island to relax but soon find themselves trapped on the island with a murderer in their midst.

Countdownsploitation Number FIVE

One thing you hear from many many genre fans is how fantastic Mario Bava is. I will say what little I have seen of his when taking his entire catalogue into account has looked phenomenal, but as overall films they are very hit or miss.

This was unfortunately a miss for me.

5 Dolls was a bit of an unconventional giallo. We don't get the standard first person slasher style killings found in gialli, instead getting a slightly claustrophobic tale with a limited group of suspects as well as victims. The film was decently acted and fabulously shot, but some story elements seemed a bit forced in a way, and it all felt a little slow to me overall... dragging in spots when it really did not need to.

The cast features a whole host of somewhat recognizable faces for me, but no names ring a bell outside of William Berger who was in such films as Keoma, Nick the Sting, and a fantastic looking piece of Lamberto Bava garbage called Devil Fish, and the lovely and always magnetic Edwige Fennech from all sorts of shit where she probably shows her immaculate tits. Teodoro Corrà looked very very familiar as George, but even after looking at his IMdB, I still cannot figure out where I might know him from.

The characters here were more or less believable outside of a few dips into melodrama, but no one outside the temptress Marie played by Fennech really stood out for me. What helped far more in my enjoyment of the film was the ideas and style over any performances.

The name 5 Dolls refers to bagged corpses hanging in a walk-in freezer. I don't believe that is a huge spoiler as the deaths are simply a side effect of the story's progression. I will not say who ends up in the freezer, but the image of the corpses swinging slightly along with almost playful music as if a marionette was dancing was very good. It's one that will stick with you long after the film is over. There is another amazing set up by Bava with glass balls rolling down stairs and across a floor that is a grand sight indeed.

This is what the film had going most for it - Bava's style, angles, etc. coming through and putting a very nice polish on an otherwise average film experience for me. Regardless of what I feel about the plot and acting in Bava's films, his lighting, angles, closeups, etc. are almost always very, very impressive. The film opens great with Bava slowly zooming into every character's eyes as they all sit around watching Fennech write about half nekkid on a table.

By the time the film wraps up, I was kind of confused about certain character's intentions, or where/who one of them even was. While this could certainly be blamed on my being a dumbass, I think it is safe to blame the writing just a bit as well. Characters will go from angry and distrusting to fine again in the same breath, and for a killer to be loose on a small island, so many characters seem amazingly calm. In a way it feels like a stylized stage play when all is said and done.

It's not a terrible film by any means. Bava's style alone makes this worth seeing... not to mention a little nudity here and there (but could have been more!). There are better thrillers/gialli out there from this era (as we will see in my next review).

Recommended but not highly.

Score: 6.5 / 10

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Hands of Steel
(a.k.a. Vendetta dal futuro)
This one may be very familiar to fans of The Gentlemen's Guide to Midnite Cinema. Sergio Martino's "classic" Terminator/Over the Top ripoff! This is available on a Mill Creek Set I believe, but all that is is a rip of a VHS, so I score cool points with this guy!

Paco Queruak is comin for you, bitch!

This is a sweet cover that is really only one upped by the poster that has the same image. The text underneath is a bit weak looking, but what can you do?

Sunday, July 4, 2010


Got a couple films in my personal queue coming up that are in a sense a countdown in the way they are titled. So  my anal side (my ass?) thought it would be fun to make a little series of it and review a few films that are numbered sequentially. I've never seen any of them, so we'll go on the journey together.

First review will be Five Dolls for an August Moon with the lovely Edwige Fenech, directed by Mario Bava.

Any guesses what will follow?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

VHS Finds [or... Judging a Movie By Its Cover]

As I have pointed out (and had pointed out for me) lately on The Gentlemen's Guide To Midnite Cinema, I have obviously been neglecting my blog as of late. I even stopped playing Red Dead Redemption and drunk touching myself like a lazy cat.

Well, in an attempt to jumpstart my half assed creative process, I thought I'd share time to time the random VHS tapes I cheaply come across.

VHS is a format I haven't really messed with in quite awhile. To be honest, the lazy toucher cat in me hasn't even allowed me to dig my VCR out of the attic and set it up. But lately I have been in a lo-fi nostalgia kind of mood. For example, I've been playing a lot of the original Nintendo Famicom (the older brother of the Nintendo Entertainment System here) lately... games like Popeye and Excitebike.

Anyway, while I still love my small yet growing collection of blu rays, and certainly love the new trend of DVDs getting cheap cheap, I have found a new appreciation for digging here and there for inexpensive VHS tapes... really the underappreciated, never-digitized (mostly action) films that more often than not have cases and illustrations almost as entertaining as the film itself.

There is a bit of a collector's market for VHS tapes, and I am not quite there myself. I'm skipping over the stuff on DVD really, and I am just not mentally ready to pay more than 5 bucks or so for a VHS from some greedy store or seller when there are much easier ways to find the movie if I really want to see it. But these cheap tapes I am finding are a lot of fun to track down, and hopefully I'll actually sit to watch them soon.

I wanted to start a kinda-somewhat-maybe regular series here where I just kinda show off the cool cheap tapes I come across. And I am always open to suggestions from any of you loyal readers who may still be around.

I found all these tapes today at a local used book store. It's a great haul if you ask me! They came out to about 2 bucks a piece, and in my quick and dirty cell phone research, were not released on DVD unless that DVD was just a copy of a VHS anyway. And keep in mind I haven't seen any of these movies before.

And these are all my quick cell phone photographed, online edited photos of the actual cases! Exciting!

Armed Response

Explosive action thriller, indeed. I've never seen a Fred Olen Ray film as far as I know. I do know he is known to have put out some trash of the highest (lowest?) order. But trash starring David Carradine and a very elderly looking Lee Van Cleef has to be entertaining on some level, right? Add in Michael Berryman, the bald creep from The Hills Have Eyes (or from Weird Science as I like to remember him) faded in the sky, and I can't help but drop a couple bucks on this beauty.

Not the most exciting VHS cover ever, although I do like the cheesy ARMED RESPONSE crackly type.

P.O.W.: The Escape
(a.k.a. Behind Enemy Lines)

I guess after Chuck Norris kicked his ass in Lone Wolf McQuade, Carradine wanted to get back at him by ripping off his Missing In Action movie.

This cover rocks! I love the over the top, painted stuff that was so popular (especially for action films) in the 1980s. Again, I know nothing about the film. The gun blazing, shit blowing up... what more do you need? Oh, and for a couple bucks and no DVD. I win!

Black Cobra
(a.k.a. Eva Nera, a.k.a. Emanuelle Goes Japanese)

I gotta admit I wasn't super stoked about this one upon seeing Jack Palance's head, especially along with "Erotic desires"..... ehhhh, but then I saw Ms. Laura Gemser.

Ms. Gemser got me through many a lonely pubescent night as Emmanuelle back in the day. I have no clue what this film is even about, but I am even happier I spent the 2 bucks since it is what appears to be at least an unofficial Emanuelle movie! Oh joy! Softcore porn doesn't hold the same place in my heart (pants) that it once did, but the pants need a trip down nostalgia lane too, right?

The director's name Joe D'Amato sounded very familiar as well. Not sure I have seen any of his work either, but he was certainly a busy man and had a film called Porno Holocaust, so yeah...

Florida Straits
OK, I bought this one on cover alone. I mean, it has Raul Julia and Fred Ward, but those two alone wouldn't be enough for a blind purchase. The typeface at the bottom is pretty hideous, but the painted cover is certainly a selling point. I didn't even read this one, but I am disappointed to see that it was apparently made for TV.

Oh well, they can't all be winners.

Pretty sure this one only cost $1

The Annihilators
Ohhhh baby

I've never heard of any of the actors, but look at these credits:
Christopher Stone from The Howling and Cujo..... ok
Andy Wood from Rambo First Blood Part II....... no clue but ok
Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs from Welcome Back, Kotter......... HAHAHA
then Jim Antonio from The River and Gerrit Graham from Pretty Baby..... I don't know those films at all.

Quite an ensemble cast of no names... at least to me. But it's totally the overblown image that makes this pick up a win. These badasses are BURNING THROUGH THE PAPER to come and rock your face off!

Look at the fucker in the mask! Holy shitballs!

They fought for their country,
Now they're fighting for their friends.

This tape cost the most out of the lot ($3), and has the worst rating on IMdB. Guess only time will tell on this. I am hesitant to watch it now as not to ruin the awesomeness that is the cover.

Quite an exciting trip to the store when I wasn't even expecting to find anything. I hope to write more of these as I find cool little video treasures around town or on amazon, etc. I love just coming across these new things, and I am sure when I finally hook up my VCR, I will love that nostalgic feeling of actually using the damn things.

Stay tuned!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Mr. Yuk commercial

children of the 70s and perhaps the 80s will remember this commercial

the jingle has been stuck in my head all day

the Loaf is very assorted today

Empire Strikes Back Premake 1950

more YouTube digging!

Empire Strikes Back 1950s style trailer

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

1973: The Year of the Joe Don

The Chinese Zodiac chart says that 1973 was the Year of the Buffalo.

But the Americana Genre Fan Zodiac chart has 1973 possibly as the year of Joe Don Baker.

Per my usual, I was informed of quite a few films this week that I of course had not seen. I had asked Will of The Gentlemen's Guide podcast what Joe Don Baker films I should check out. Samurai and Will as well as a few callers over the months have mentioned him, and I just wasn't sure who he was.

Sure, I could have just looked him up, but I'm a lazy bastard, remember?

If you don't recognize his name by now, you will probably recognize his face.

See what I mean?

Anyway, to beef up on Mr. Baker before he started cashing some turd-soaked paychecks by the mid-1980s (Leonard Part 6... Dukes of Hazzard remake... Joe Dirt...), I was recommended a handful of films he was in, all of which happened to fall in 1973. So it was triple feature time!

I call it the year of Joe Don because this was certainly his time to shine. The starring role he is probably most remembered for is Walking Tall. He played alongside a guy you might recognize... Mr. Robert Duvall... in what seems to be a somewhat forgotten film The Outfit. And then there is an Anton Chigurh type character opposite another guy that looked rather familiar... I think his name was Walter Matthau or something like that... in Charley Varrick.

Baker was quite the busy fellow around this time, and it really seems like he was hitting on all cylinders in this great year of '73

Walking Tall, directed by Phil Karlson, was a film I knew about for years, but obviously never got around to watching or even looking into all that much. I knew the general story from having a lukewarm interest in the 2004 remake with the same name. I never saw that film either, but it did catch my eye because I was (and still am I suppose) quite the Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson fan.

This film happened at the end of Karlson's career as a director and second-unit director. He would direct Baker once more in a movie called Framed (which I haven't seen of course) before hanging up the directing boots for good.

Walking Tall is presented pretty straightforwardly. Karlson doesn't seem to show any flourishes or anything like that as we get a point A to pont B to point C Hollywoodified account of Sheriff Buford Pusser's life upon returning to his small hometown after an extended stay away. While nothing really stood out in regards to the visual style and direction of the film, I did think that Karlson's deliberate pacing along with the runtime of the film coming in just a little over 2 hours had some parts feeling superfluous. There's a handful of times that I just felt that a scene could have been cut down or cut out and it would have had everything feeling crispier and pacier. Is pacier a word?

The strength of the film lies in the subject matter and the performance of Baker. The story is the easy part because not many men lead the life of Buford Pusser. Single-handedly taking on The State-Line Mob and the Dixie Mafia along the border of Tennessee and Mississippi, Pusser was harassed, threatened, and even shot multiple times in his tenure as sheriff of McNairy County, TN. This man's personal quest was ripe for the picking in regards to books, movies, etc. I encourage anyone to read more about Pusser's short life. Doc Zom (check out his pro wrasslin blog at has recommended a book called The State Line Mob for a gritty account of the illegal activities of the group and Pusser's dealings with them.

And the other strength, Baker's performance, is a biggie. This is a star-making type role and Joe Don was most definitely up to the challenge. His performance has great range as we see him shine in quiet/down moments such as outwitting a belligerent judge in a public restroom to painful scenes like getting his ass whipped, shot, etc., to dishing out some hurt of his own with a very convincing yet controlled rage.

This was a fantastic way to really see Joe Don Baker in a strong role for the first time.

Buford Pusser, aptly nicknamed The Bull when he was a professional wrestler, was portrayed here as stubborn and very determined. Nothing was going to stop him from continuing his "quest for justice" so to speak. Pusser had his ideals and no matter what shit and grime and terror was thrown his way just kept on his path. It makes for a great story, a solid movie, and served as a wonderful gateway for an underrated actor to really shine.

Score: 7.75 / 10

Next in my triple feature I checked out a much harder to find film directed by John Flynn,  The Outfit, which found Joe Don teaming up with Robert Duvall as a couple guys performing a series of heists  to in essence get revenge on The Outfit, that has killed Earl's (Duvall) brother and has their sights set on him. Earl recruits Cody (Baker) after learning of everything as we swing into motion.

As with Walking Tall, I felt like this was a solid, fun movie. I can now say I am a fan of Joe Don Baker after seeing these three films rapid fire, and I have been a Robert Duvall fan for a long time. I really like the team up of these two because in ways I feel like they are similar actors. I'm not sure their style is super similar, but both of them give me a similar feeling... they can both be serious badasses when the time is right (with Joe Don being a little louder in these times) but damn if I don't wanna just hug both of these guys.

Duvall's Earl certainly has a serious and even violent streak, but like many of his characters, he has a very cool approach to it all. He doesn't lose his temper but will shoot a bastard through the hand in front of a group of people that would surely see him killed if possible. Maybe it's my bias speaking, but Duvall is just great as usual here. What he does, he does right by me.

Baker here doesn't really have the outward acting as I mentioned, but plays it pretty cool similar to Duvall's character. He seems to be a simple guy with plain-as-day assessments of the shit that is going down, and he does what he does because that is what he knows how to do best. You get the hints (and some not so thinly veiled) throughout the film that he is ready to finally give the heist life up and settle down somewhere quiet, similar to his character from Walking Tall. Where Earl is driven and has a personal stake in everything going to plan, Cody does it out of loyalty to his friend and probably still the enjoyment he has inside when a heist/hold up goes according to plan.

In fact, some of my favorite scenes in the film were the down moments when Earl and Cody would just talk about future plans or whatever. The two interacted very well with one another... sometimes having simple yet interesting conversations without even making eye contact.

One scene in particular near the middle point of the film had Earl and Cody driving along while lady friend Bett (played by the lovely Karen Black) slept in the back seat. Cody talks about his diner in northern Oregon and how well he can fry an egg while Earl smokes and chuckles and listens. It's just a really cool moment for me for whatever reason.

It's a shame that this film is not on DVD... it deserves better treatment than it has received. There are VHS and "other versions" floating around which unfortunately is the only way to see this as far as I can tell. It's definitely worth watching. It's not a flashy film, but one to see for two very solid performances in Duvall and Baker.

Score: 7.5 / 10

The last film I watched in my mini-marathon was actually not technically a Joe Don Baker film. That honor would go to Walter Mathau. But  Baker's supporting character is quite the memorable one and could possibly be my favorite of the three here. The film itself I enjoyed the most.

Charley Varrick, directed by Don Siegel of Dirty Harry fame, follows a group of bank robbers dealing with the realization that the money they have stolen may be a little too hot for them to handle.

Walter Mathau is fucking great here. He plays Charley Varrick and is cool and smart and witty as he can be. I love seeing Mathau's kinda smart ass characterizations just slightly creeping their way into Varrick along with the character himself being written to be one cool motherfucker. I really liked the details written in for him to show how on top of everything he was such as retrieving his dental records when there is risk of being caught or even using his crop dusting business as a cover (and means of transportation) for his bank robbing profession.

His speech/way with words may be the most impressive. There is a terrific scene when Varrick is talking about a round shaped bed with a woman.

"You may find this hard to believe, but I've never slept on a round bed."

"Is that so?"

"What's the best way... north, south, east or west?"

"That depends on what you had in mind..."

"What i had in mind was boxing the compass."

GET EM! It's all just delivered in that Mathau style, only with a cool cucumber skin over it.


But let's not forget why we are here. We are celebrating the Year of the Joe Don, remember? I mentioned earlier that Joe Don Baker plays an Anton Chigurh type character. He's not quite as frightening as Javier Bardem's portrayal in No Country for Old Men, but plays the same wild card hit man on a mission. His name is Molly. He has his peculiarities. But once he has someone in his sights, he doesn't stop. Baker is great here with a quiet intensity with Mr. Molly. Like I said, he's not as creepy and certainly has more personality as Chigurh, but his focus and his apparent enjoyment of what he does makes him almost as intimidating.

Molly just walks into places and pushes his way into obtaining information. He has a job and no one is going to stop that job from being finished. Baker is really well cast here being that he does happy and intense so well at the same time.

The contrast between Varrick and Molly is one of the more interesting aspects of the film. Both men in a way follow the same path (as Molly has been tasked with tracking Varrick down), and to see the way they interact with the same or at least similar people is awesome. Varrick uses his charm and wit to get his way. With Molly it's intensity and bullying.

"You just keep throwin' your feathers, Mister... before I put you in the hospital."

I loved the pacing of the film and thought the tension was spot on. It's not super action packed, although there are some nice action sequences, but through the tense tone, Siegel was able to make an exciting cat and mouse style story, only here the mouse was brilliant.

This film is a high recommendation from me.

Score: 8.5 / 10

So there you have it. 1973 was certainly Bakers time to shine and in my opinion he was sparkling. Watching these films certainly opened my eyes to him as a great and underrated actor of the 1970s, and I'll certainly be tracking down more of his films.

Now, back to Trenchard-Smith or something... heh