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Eastwood Week Movie 1 – High Plains Drifter (1973)

High_Plains_Drifter_posterWow… Wowwowwow.

Wow.

How have I not seen High Plains Drifter before this? this 1973 Western is a gritty, dark tale. A tale of deceit, of murder and vengeance. Heck, it’s even a ghost story. This is a very unique film, and a very good one at that. A drifter enters a small town, apparently looking for a drink, a shave, a bath and a bed. Once there he is confronted by three guys, Company men, they are called. In defense he kills all three. The local sheriff tells him they were known to be trouble and that he didn’t have to worry about charges. Heck, the sheriff would like to hire him to protect the town from three gun fighters, just released from jail that will most likely be coming back to the town to seek vengeance for their incarceration. The stranger, played by Clint Eastwood, at first declines, but when the sheriff offers him “anything he wants,” he accepts the job, and goes about making big changes to the town. These changes cause some of the town to question the decision to put him in charge of the town’s defense. The stranger is also troubled by dreams, dreams of the town’s Marshal being whipped to death by the men who he is hired to protect the town. While the murder is taking place, the people of the town stand by and do nothing to stop it. Is it a dream? Or are these memories? It seems pretty obvious to me. The stranger gets the town busy making changes. He run drills simulating an attack and has the town folk put up resistance, preparing them for the inevitable attack that is to come. He also orders unusual things to be done, like painting the town red, and having the towns people tear apart a livery barn to build picnic tables an such… The business men of the town are really questioning their initial decision to hire this stranger. So much so that they try to kill him themselves… Yeah, good luck boys. When the attack comes, the towns people’s weak attempts at fighting off the gun men come to little, and eventually (hell, pretty damned quickly), they have the upper hand, and have gathered the remaining towns folk together in the saloon. Well, this isn’t over folks – they still have to deal with the Stranger…

Okay, let’s not give it all away. I will say that this is a creepy, dark Western. It’s also one of the best Westerns I have ever seen. Actually this is just a really good movie, chock full of darkness and hidden meanings. Heck, it’s a Western and a Ghost story, and it does both great. For the first movie of Eastwood Week, I have to say it’s an incredible start. Check out the trailer below, and then immediately go find yourself a copy and watch it today!


Tarantino Week–Movie 2: Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004)

Kill_bill_vol_two_verWhen we finished Quentin Tarantino’s 2003 movie, Kill Bill Volume 1, Bill (played by  David Caradine) was still alive… This pretty much guaranteed us a Volume 2.

Volume 2, released in early 2004, opens with a flash beck to Bill shooting Uma Thurman’s character, The Bride, and leaving her, presumably, for dead on the floor of a small church. Then we see The Bride herself, driving, recounting what happened in Volume 1, and then calmly letting us know that she is going to kill Bill. Soon we see Bill, speaking to his brother,Budd (played by Michael Madsen), himself a former Deadly Viper, warning him that The Bride is most likely on her way to kill him. Budd, who now spends his time working as a bouncer in a titty bar, explains that they all deserve any kind of vengeance that the Bride may bestow upon them, for what they did to her. Later, The Bride, expecting to ambush Budd, end up on the wrong side of a 12 gauge shotgun packed full of rock salt. Incapacitated, Budd buries her alive, in a cemetery, and calls fellow Viper, Elle Driver (played by Daryl Hannah), bragging of his deed, and offering up The Bride’s Hanzo sword to her for a cool million dollars – an offer she snaps at. Meanwhile, we flashback to The Bride…who flashes back to her martial arts training at the hands of a merciless master by the name of Pai Mei (Gordon Liu). We see a young Bride as she develops her techniques through repetition and the seeming heartlessness of her master. Eventually it is obvious that she has won his respect. Now we flashback to the present, with the Bride using one of the many techniques taught to her by Pai Mei to escape. Meanwhile, back at Budd’s trailer, Elle has shown up to get the sword. Providing Budd a suitcase full of cash (a million dollars, I presume), she inspects the weapon while Budd starts grabbing handfuls of cash out of the suitcase… Only to find a surprise – a deadly surprise, waits for him in all that cash. Now with Budd out of the way, The Bride has made her way back to Budd’s place to find Elle – which is good, because she too was on the Bride’s list of those that have to die… A great sword fight breaks out, and along the way we discover that Elle, who also was sent to learn under Pai Mei, had killed the old master by poisoning his meal. We also lean that the Master had plucked one of Ell’s eyes out during her training for being insubordinate to the old man. Enrages, The Bride takes instant justice by relieving Elle of her remaining eye…

Now on to Bill… The Bride, now referred to as Beatrix, has tracked Bill to Mexico. Meeting an elderly, dirt bag of a gentleman by the name of Esteban Vihaio, who tells her Bill’s location, because he believes Bill would want him to. Making it to Bill’s, she receives a shocks when she discovers some interesting personal info…and a dart of truth serum to the neck. More flashbacks and some serious talking, and then battle… awesome battle.

You know the name of the movies, so you figure out what the outcome is (watch the movies if you haven’t already).  These two movies were meant to be released as a single movie, but the run time would be over 4 hours so they were broken into two. Watch both back to back for the original intended experience, The Kill Bill movies are fantastic and you should watch them.

Check out the trailer below:


Tarantino Week–Movie 1: Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003)

barneymiller-29-2cQuentin Tarantino’s 2003 movie, Kill Bill Volume 1 tells the story of “The Bride” (played by Uma Thurman), a former member of an assassination team known as the Deadly Vipers, and her journey of revenge against her former fellow assassins, and Bill, her former master and leader of the Deadly Vipers, for attacking and massacring her wedding party and leaving her for dead during a wedding rehearsal.

Thurman’s character, in this iteration of the Kill Bill Saga is known simply as the Bride. Waking from a coma, four years after Bill left her for dead on the floor of a church, he Bride takes little time to start her path of vengeance… starting right there in the hospital,taking out the redneck that paid a greaseball orderly to have sex with her… Oh, and she takes out that orderly, quickly. also… and takes off with his ridiculous, bright yellow truck, labeled “The Pussy Wagon”. First stop. after the killing in the hospital is to the home of Vernita Green (played by Vivica A. Fox). The two do epic battle with a short break in the middle when Vernita’s young daughter comes home. Soon the action restarts, and ends with The Bride heading to her next destination/victim, O-Ren Ishii (played by Lucy Liu), a former Viper and now leader of a consortium of Yakuza families. A flashback shows us just how she won the respect and fear of the male dominated Yakuza families. When The Bride shows up in Japan, she defeats what seems to be an almost endless number of minions, known as the Crazy 88s. The scene ends with a very stylistically shot scene with The Bride and Oren in a samurai sword battle. Pretty evenly matched… but you know who is going to win, and she does so in a spectacular fashion. Upon leaving, she leaves one former member of the Deadly Vipers alive: Sophie Fatale, (played by Julie Dreyfus), is left alive, albeit minus one arm, to send the message that The Bride is coming for him. Mixed up in the story ids a sub story, where the Bride travels to the island of Okinawa, and convinces the esteemed, but now retired sword smith, Hattori Hanzō (played by the awesome Sonny Chiba), to craft her a samurai sword. At first he declines… that is until she tells him the sword is to be used to Kill Bill. Now he’s in…
Kill Bill Vol. 1 is a little disjointed. Like Tarantino’s other masterpiece, Pulp Fiction, it has a disjointed timeline – the scenes are just not in linear order. I believe this may be in homage to the cheezy B-Movies of the past where projectionists would sometimes play the reels out of order, either due to mis-labeling or just carelessness. Either way, I like it.

Watch Kill Bill Volume 1… and if you’ve seen it, watch it again.

Check out the trailer below:


Tarantino Week–7 Days of Awesome

After a suggestion from my friend that normally watches these movies with suggested we do a Tarantino week…

Well, we are doing just that.


Sergio Leone’s Dollars Trilogy (A Fist Full of Dollars(1964),For a Few Dollars More (1965), The Good the Bad and the Ugly (1966))

sergioSergio Leone is/was the King of Spaghetti Westerns, and with The Man With No Name Trilogy (A Fist Full of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly), he might just deserve the title of King of All Westerns, in general.

This is the series of films that took a small time, little known TV actor by the name of Clint Eastwood and made him a house hold name. In each movie he seems to go by a different name (Monco, Blondie and Joe), but is best known as the Man With No Name, a bounty hunter that proves that the good guy in a movie doesn’t always really have to be that good of a guy – an anti-hero, I guess. Two of the movies (For a Few Dollars More and The Good, The Bad and the Ugly), costar Lee Van Cleef, the flint eyed leathery veteran of countless Spaghetti Westerns before and after this series. All three movies are scored with the incredible music of Ennio Morricone.

Visually stunning in their bleakness, Sergio paints a picture of a ruthless West filled with bandits and regular people, Rich man and poor men. And one thing in common for everyone is that they are trying to make a living in the west. Eastwood, in each of the films plays a cigar smoking, tall, quiet, solitary character who is quick and accurate on the draw, and if you have a bounty on your head, you’d be best to steer away from him.

Each of these movies stands alone – that is, you don’t have to watch one to follow the other, and I guess they’re not really sequels, but bound together in spirit. They are not just good Spaghetti Westerns, not just good Westerns, but actually great movies in their own right. While (re) watching The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, I was stunned by just how complex a movie it really is. Not only is it a kick ass western, but it even tries to come to grips with the horror that was the American Civil War. There is a strangely poignant scene where Blondie is walking through the area where a battle between the Union and the Confederates had just happened – coming upon a dying soldier, shivering, Blondie wraps his coat around him and gives the man a draw from his cigar, just before the soldier dies – This didn’t have to be in the movie, but it’s little things like this that elevates these movies above the rest.

So, don’t watch these movies if you’re looking for a light, fluffy watching experience – Watch these movies if you want to see great movies with great actors in great roles. I’m of the opinion that even if you don’t like Westerns, if you watch these film with an open mind, you would still like them.

Watch these movies and watch them often.

A Fistful of Dollars Trailer

For a Few Dollars More Trailer

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly Trailer


A Fist Full of Dollars (1964)–A Man With No Name Brings the Spaghetti Western to The Masses

A_Fistful_of_Dollars_posterSergio Leone’s 1964 movie, A Fist Full of Dollars, took a little known American TV actor, put him in the roll of a Man With No Name, and propelled him to stardom as well as taking a waning genre, the Western, and with a twist, giving it a new lease on life. That actor? Clint Eastwood.

Joe, or “The Man With No Name, played by the then up and coming Clint Eastwood, arrives the the tiny Mexican town of San Miguel. Quickly proving himself quiet and a loner, and more importantly a really quick draw. Soon he realizes that there are two factions, the Rojo Brothers and the family of the town’s sheriff, John Baxter, both fighting for control of the town. Seeing an opportunity for profit, he works at getting the two sides to fight each other.

Witnessing a massacre of Mexican Soldiers by Rojo’s men, dressed as American Soldiers, Joe takes two of the bodies, planting them at at the local cemetery and sells information to both sides – both groups rush to the cemetery – one side to get information, the other side to silence the information before it gets out. Soon we can add kidnapping and murder to the pile of crimes both sides commit. Joe, or The Man With No Name eventually let’s his own motives shine through…

This movie is actually a retelling of the Japanese classic, Yojimbo by Akira Kurosawa and it is a wonderful, dark film that should be watched and watched often. This is the first of three “Dollars” or “Man With No Name” films to be released. The other two being For a Few Dollars More and the pinnacle of the Spaghetti Western, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. All three are amazing testaments to the genre and deserve their places in the annals of movie history. Watch them soon and watch them often.

Check out the trailer below:


Beyond The Law (1968) – A Coolness Only Lee Van Cleef Could Deliver (Entire Movie at Bottom of Post)

BYTL1968’s Beyond the Law is far from a perfect movie, but that doesn’t mean it’s not an entertaining movie, because it is in deed that.

One of countless Spaghetti Westerns that surfaced in the 60’s and early 70’s, you might not even know this one existed – I didn’t, until recently, that is. You see, about a year ago I purchased a DVD set, titled. “Spaghetti Westerns” that is chock full of Western goodness (and badness to be honest). It’s a five disc set that includes 20 movies – Beyond the Law was one of them.

Beyond the Law tells the story of a group of bandits that dupe a mining company of the cash it is having delivered to pay the wages of the miners. Through deception, the actual crooks look like heroes, and are actually asked to help out. The brains of the unit, Billy Joe Cudlip (played by Lee Van Cleef), befriends Ben Novack (played by Antonio Sabato), at first pitying him and then gaining respect for his abilities as the movie goes on. Soon Culdip and his gang is helping protect the mining operation from a gang, controlled by the villain, Burton (played by one time muscle man turned actor, Gordon Mitchell).

Gaining respect, Culdip is asked to become the new Sheriff, kind of ironic…really. He takes the position, much to the chagrin of the members of his small band of thieves, especially when they realize that he might just be taking the job seriously.

As noted at the beginning of this post, this is far from being a perfect film, but Lee Van Cleef raises it up and makes it entertaining. Also, the theme song is simply amazing. If you already like Spaghetti Westerns, then this one will be okay – If you are on the fence about the genre, then maybe leave this one be and try something like a Fist Full of Dollars or God’s Gun.

Here is the trailer:

 

And, for as long as it lasts, here is a link to the whole movie (let me know if it stops working):


Django (1966)–Violently Awesome (Spoiler Alert)

django

The other night I watched the classic Lee Van Cleef Spaghetti Western, Death Rides a Horse, which left me a taste for more Spaghetti Westerns, so last night I watched the 1966 classic, Django.

It was a good choice.

Staring the ice blue eyed Franco Nero as Django, a coffin dragging drifter who seeks revenge for the death of his wife at the hands of KKK leader and ex military man, Major Jackson.

The film opens with Django rescuing the attractive, Maria (played by Loredana Nusciak), a prostitute, from Major Jackson’s men who had just killed a group of Mexicans that were in the process of whipping her for trying to escape from them.  Jackson’s men were going to burn her alive for going with the Mexicans in the first place.

Soon Django finds himself the target of Major Jackson, though Major Jackson does not know who he is dealing with. A series of confrontations between Django and Jackson’s men leaves Jackson’s forces seriously depleted, as Django turns out to be one bad ass. The depletion of Jackson’s men leaves an opening for a former Mexican General to move in on Jackson’s turf. It is soon revealed that Django and the General are old friends, Django apparently having saved the General’s life while they were both in prison together. Together they hatch a plot to raid a Mexican fort that holds a large amount of gold. The plan being that after the heist Django and the General are to split the gold. When the General delays giving Django his share, Django decides to take it all. Leaving with Maria and the gold, something soon goes wrong and the gold is lost. Soon the General and his band of men catch up to them. Taking into account that Django had saved him in the past, the General spares Django his life, but has one of his men smash his hands into bloody pulp. That should stop him… right? No freakin’ way, as this is Django and he has a mission. Taking Maria back to town, he tells the bar/hotel/brothel keeper to hide her from Major Jackson, and to tell Jackson that he is waiting for him at the cemetery. Since Django’s hands are a mess, he bites off the trigger guard from his pistol and waits for the Major. Once the Major arrives, he starts hurling threats at Django, and shooting at him – teasing him with shots that just graze him. Thinking Django is defenseless, the Major is careless… and that is a deadly mistake. I’m not 100% of what the symbolism means, but with the help of an iron cross (no, not the German military medal) on a tombstone, Django finally extracts his vengeance on the man responsible for the death of his wife.

Wow… This move is a violent festival of death. When it was released in 1966, it was considered possible the most violent film released. Heck, the U.K. didn’t allow it to be released until 1994!

If you like Spaghetti Westerns, then this one is a must watch, right up there with For a Few Dollars more.

Here is the trailer:

And here is a great interview with Franco Nero on the Making of Django:


Death Rides a Horse (1967)–Spaghetti Western Wonderfulness

DRHIn the 1960s there was an explosion of Westerns made in Italy by Italian film makers. These were dubbed “Spaghetti Westerns” and are/were the Western equivalent of Grindhouse films, and while most of these movies were pretty damned bad, occasionally one would actually turn out to be a good movie – 1967’s Death Rides a Horse is one of those good ones.

Starring John Phillip Law as Bill Meceita, a man seeking revenge on the bandits that he witnessed killing his family when  he was a young. The only evidence he was able to gather, as a boy. was a single, unique spur that one of the murdering bastards left behind. Years later a recently released convict, Ryan, played the always great, flinty eyed Lee Van Cleef, kills two men in self defense that were sent to kill him. The Sherriff noticed that one of the dead men was wearing spurs that exactly match the one that had been left at the scene on the Meceita family massacre so many years before. The sheriff informs Bill, and tells him the name of the stranger, Ryan thinking that perhaps Ryan can help lead him to the men who killed his family.

When Bill catches up to Ryan, he finds him sympathetic but not willing to help, as he has a large amount of money owed to him by the same bastards that killed Ryan’s family, and if Bill kills them, Ryan can’t collect. Leaving Bill temporarily stranded (in order to gain a head start), but not defenseless. Of course this only works for a bit as Bill is extremely motivated to get these guys. Ryan is looking at collecting $15,000 from each member of this gang, as he spent 15 years in prison for something they ALL took part in. Bill, killing these guys, makes it harder and harder to collect. Add to this a sub plot where one of these banditos is now a town official, promising to improve the lives of the town folks, but actually planning on taking off with all the town’s money, in a faked heist, and making it look like Ryan is part of it. Bill comes to Ryan’s aid, and for the rest of the movie they work together as a team. An interesting twist near the end makes the relationship between Bill and Ryan even more twisted. Add in some great shootouts and you have this film.

This is a long movie, and the conversion from film to digital (at least the version I have), is very crapilly done. There are bit where you can tell a few seconds of film are just missing. It’s dirty and very low resolution. Some of the actors voices are very obviously dubbed (hey, most of them were bit part Italian actors working for very little money) and not particularly great thespians. Even so, this movie oozes cool, especially with an awesome soundtrack from the amazing Ennio Morricone I absolutely enjoyed every second of this film and most likely will go on a minor Spaghetti Western binge.

And… we’re in luck folks: Not only is this movie available for really cheap on almost countless cheap bin DVD compilations, it’s also available for streaming for free (for now at least).

Check out the trailer below and the entire move below that (please let me know if the link is broken):

 

Death Rides a Horse (1967) – Trailer

 

Death Rides a Horse (1967) – The Entire Movie