Movie ReReview: The Golden Hawk

mv5bzjrhztfhmjetnjfkms00yzq1ltg0zjgtognjywq2mgi0nzqzxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymtk4mdgwna4040._v1_The Golden Hawk (1952) – Ok, this is more like it. Oh yeah, a lot more like it. Now THIS is what a pirate movie should be.

(It occurs to me that the only reason Pirates of the Caribbean was as good as it was, was where and when it copied off of older, better, more colorful movies.)

Yeah, there’s a lot of kissy-facing that would be much more convincing if it starred Errol Flynn instead of Sterling Hayden, but there’s also plenty of swashing buckles, proffering pistols, capeswishing, rapier swishing, rum, yo-ho-ho-ing, and stuff blowing up. Actually, on second thought: Hayden is well-cast. The role calls for someone handsome and charming, just not quiiiiiite as handsome or as charming as thinks he is. Hayden delivers.

So! Hayden is Kit Gerardo, French privateer and captain of the Sea Flower. Yeah, it’s a sissy name for a ship. Just roll with it. There’s Rhonda Fleming as the beautiful and red-headed lady captain, Captain Rouge. Her ship is the Witch, which is slightly more badass but also rather underused. Ah well, budgets must have been tight, that’s understandable. There’s another lovely and also headstrong damsel, Helena Carter as Senorita Bianca–the destined bride of Kit’s hated enemy, Captain Del Toro (John Sutton), who is also Governor of Cartagena.

Why hated? Because Del Toro killed Kit’s mother. Dun DUN DUNNNN!

So things happen, rapiers are flourished, headscarves and frilly shirts are worn, cannons are fired, ships are boarded, escapes are made, ransoms are demanded, nubile native dances are danced, you-saved-my-life-debts are repaid, and with one thing and another, Kit ends up in command of the French fleet attacking Cartagena. The attack is preceded by a series of quick stops off at Jamaica to destroy the English supply lines there and prevent the English from aiding the Spaniards. (Huh?…oh well, never mind, we’s on a roll.)

But in the midst of this pillaging, Kit discovers that the plantation he has just torched belongs to none other than Rouge (Jane) herself! She swears revenge! DUN DUN DUNNNN!

Anyhow, Kit’s master plan for taking Cartagena involves e) getting to the powder magazine and f) blowing it up. What about part a-d)? Well, those are: a) getting to Madame Bianca Del Toro, b) seducing her, c) getting the plans of the fortress via, d) promising marriage. Bianca, not being a complete idiot, immediately turns him over to her outraged and jealous husband. Who…sticks him in the dungeon to await a fair trial, instead of, as she demands, hanging him immediately.

Why? Well, because Kit is actually Del Toro’s son! (DUN DUN DUN DUN DUNNNNNNNN). Oh, this movie is just awesome.

Will Rouge get revenge? Will Del Toro be forced to kill our hero? Will Kit fulfil his mission and be handsomely rewarded by the French government? The answers are to be found within about ten minutes, so there’s really no point in pondering them all too deeply. Just know that it all gets wrapped up and tied with a flourish and a tip of the hat to the ladies, too.

Do I have to discuss how this movie has strong female characters? It has some really interesting strong–and extremely feminine–female characters. They fall in love–they fight back–they defend their honor and maintain their dignity with words if they can and pistols if they must, suss out motivations and psych out the opposition. No, they don’t engage in any sword fighting themselves (if it had been Maureen O’Hara, on the other hand….)–but they hardly need to. These women are dangerous enough without having to raise their hand in anger. And that’s about all that needs to be said. Oh, they also look really, really pretty in Technicolor.

My favorite part: womanizing Kit has a bit where, if a lady is dubious, he offers her a pistol and promises to let her shoot him if he makes a single improper advance. We see him do this to two wenches early on in the film–and then he tries it on Jane. Several minutes later (as Kit’s men are scraping him off the deck): “I knew he’d pull that pistol trick once too often!” Snerk.

Rated: DUN DUN DUN DUNNNNN DUNNNNNNNNN

Movies With [My m] -Others – Ride A Crooked Trail

6de6137619bd961f48ed86409933101f[A/N: there was one Jamaican, one Trinidadian, and one Brooklynite in the audience.  Distribute accents as you see fit.]

“Do people talk in this movie?”
“I’m gonna need my notebook, aren’t I?”
“Why?”
“She takes down what people say during movies.”
“Why?”
“It’s for her blog.”
“…why?”
“It gets her clicks!”
“…”

“What’s the storyline? Can you fastforward it?”
“No.”
“She’s easily bored.”
“You don’t say.”

“I like diversity in my movies! Are there any black persons in this movie?”
“Yes.”
“There are?”
“No.”

“What is this, were they fighting and now they are friends?”
“It’s how it used to work in the west.”

“Is this a scifi western?”
“No.”
“Then why does he keep getting shot and not dying?”

“Doctor takin’ care of him and he making a fuss?”
“Men are the worst…patients. The worst patients.”
“….S, you are married!”
“I’m just sayin’!”

“Why he have on a choir robe now?”
“What.”
“That looks like a ‘joyful, joyful!’ choir robe, man!”
“It’s a Judge’s robe! Don’t you watch Judge Judy?”
“She have clothes on under her robes, man!”
“Oh I see what you mean, he has nothing on under the robe! Where’s his shirt?”
“See? And him in court, man!”
“He just came out of the doctor.”
“He had time to drink and smoke but he have no time to put on a shirt?”
“He was smoking the whole time, he just had time for one drink.”
“This is the wholesome show? With drinking and smoking and shoot outs?”
“But there’s no language!”
“So I could drink and smoke and it be O.K., so long as I don’t swear?”
“…”

“He has too much of a high-pitched voice for a cowboy.”
“He’s not a cowboy, he’s the judge’s assistant.”
“….it’s too highpitched.”

“So the town had no sheriff before him? How can a town function like that?”
“It’s how stuff happened back then.”
“Over here in America it is how stuff happened back then.”
“It’s how everything was back then everywhere!”

“All the towns are tough!…stop writing everything I say.”

“Are they on a houseboat?”
“Yes.”
“How they cooking on a houseboat? Propane?”
“….”
“They had propane back in those days?”

“Look at the egg!”
“That’s not good hangover food!—he’s going to vomit.”
“You watched it before?”
“No! I have been in this situation before and I know how you handle it? You see him? He is a pro! Him, he is a rookie!”

“I don’t know much about movies….you gonna write that?”
“No, it’s not funny enough.”
“[shriek of laughter]”
“….OK….”

“A little harlot there.”
“What did you call her?”
“She said she was a Harley?”
“She said she was a little harlot!”
“Well, she is!”
“That’s harsh.”
“She is dressed like one, look.”
“It’s a nice dress…”

(“What is a blog?”)

“Did you hear that? They ask him about ‘passage money,’ and he says, ‘do not bother me with trifles!’ I am going to start using that line in real life now.”

[Trini]: “Black person!”
[Jamaica]: “He is really black.”
[Trini]: “And what are you?”
[Jamaica]: “I’m black.”
[Trini]: “Yes! You are black!”
[Jamaica]: “He is really black, though.”
[Trini]: “But what are you?!”

“Pancakes! Pancakes existed then?”

“I like his dress. He is very neat. I hate a sloppy male.”

“Is this a love story? They fall in love?”
“…not really.”

“Look at the man’s suit. Why the males don’t dress like this? They so sloppy now!”

“They’re gonna claim the child!”
“What? Why?”

“Oh, that woman is pushing it! She’s pushing it! She knows he is fake!”
“She also knows he’s good with a gun.”
“That, too.”

[Trini] “Riders, how you gonna translate Trinidadian on your blog? I don’t want to be Americanized here. You got to make me be authentic.”

“Why do they always want to break the bank in these old times?”
“Cause that’s where the money was!”
“They have real money back then?”
“They had gold!”
“Oh! Gold!”

“He’s not very good looking.”
“I don’t like him.”
“He looks plastic.”
“Yeah! He look like a puppet.”

“You know why he walkin’ backwards facing them?”
“He afraid?”
“That’s so he’ll be able to pull his gun!”
[boom]
“See!”

“I do not like that man, he’s got a puppet face!”

“Everybody going back? Why?”
“They want to hit the bank.”
“Without proper preparation?”
“Nope.”
“They all goin’ die.”

“Did they adopt him?”
“The Judge sent him over.”
“Why? To spy on them?”
“No, because he is supposed to be with them because they’ll give him a better home.”
“He come with his gun and suitcase!”

“Ohhh, her little ovaries tingling, you know! Her ovaries tingling, you know…Riders, you are taking my best things, I will not be able to say any of these things in real life now. Copyright everything [Trini Girl]!”

“Aha, in his choir robe he is shooting them!…oh no, this time he is dressed!”

“That horse walked backwards!”
“They are capable of doing that.”

“See, I like this person. She likes my movies.”
“I am enjoying this movie, too. Ish.”

“Wait, what happened at the shootout at the bank?”
“They all died. Ish.”

“[Redacted redacted redacted, redacted. Redacted!] Do not write that! Do not write that!”

“Are you coming to watch the movie, Auntie?”
“Please let the movie continue.”
“Oh, so, do you guys know Lord of the Rings? Do you know how long Lord of the Rings is? Do you know she once stood there and watched the entire movie standing there?”
“I am better now. I am going to sit down. Continue!”

(“Lord of the Rings is like seventeen hundred hours long, no?”
“What is Lord of the Rings? That is the one where they are like, traveling in the mountains or something?”
“It is the thing with the Ring, and the ‘my precious’ and the Dobby person…no, not Dobby…”
“Shhhhhhhhhhhhh.”
“Oh, shh, okay. Yes. Sh.”)

“Oh! A sheriff!”

“Is that him talking about himself?”
“Yes.”

“Can he hear?”
“Yup! That’s an ‘I heard’ face!”
[Auntie who walked in late]: “Who is he! That wicked man?”
“He is the good guy actually? He is a Judge.”

“Is he a good guy?”
“OK, so, the Sheriff guy is actually an outlaw who is pretending to be the Sheriff because the real Sheriff fell off a cliff…accidentally…and he went into town and has been being Sheriff, and doing a real good job protecting the town—“
“—because he’s protecting his bank! See him talking, like it’s “his” bank! When he just want to rob it!”
“Yeah, and there’s this other guy and a girl, but they’re not important right now.”

“Is that a baby horse for him, that is adorable. DO NOT WRITE THAT DOWN.”
[Brooklyn-but-lives-in-the-country-and-knows-the-difference]: “It’s not a foal!”
“It’s a pony.”
“It is a pony?”
“It’s a big pony!”
“Technically, a pony is any horse below a certain height.”
“Oh.”
“So that’s a horse.”
“…”

“They know him?”
“That’s the guy!”
“Who guy, the puppet face?”
“His face doesn’t move when he talks!”
“That’s what I said, he’s a puppet!”

“They could just shoot him in his back, but—“
“Don’t turn your back!—“
“—But there’s other cowboys and men around, so he’s ok.”
“Oh, he is ok.”

“OH NO! He’s dead!”
“No, no, no, they save him, they save him!….this is an emotional turmoil!”
“You see children, they get you in trouble!”
“What happened to him?”
“He got mash-up!”

“Who is she?”
“She’s his fake wife!”
“She’s his…fake wife?”
“She’s there for the bank, too.”
“Oh.”

“Uh oh! What now!?”
“What?”
“That music! That music make me know something going’ happen!”

“She is not into you!”

“He better be in that bed, or they have to buss’ his little head up!”

“What a beautiful dress!”
“That is another outfit!”

“She want the Judge to stay there so the Judge can see him there!”
“Women, they just manipulate the situation.”

“So where the little boy?”
“He sleeping. As a child should.”

“So isn’t that the place where no decent woman should be?”
“Well she’s there with her husband and the Judge…”
“He’s a common man! What kind of Judge is that?”

“She like this new life she living in. Doesn’t she? Doesn’t she?—“
“She is a schemer!”
“She likes this life, but she is torn. Riders, confirm this for me.”
“Mm-hm.”
“No, confirm it for me for real. Is she not doing this to keep him in sight of the Judge so the Judge cannot blame him for this when the bank is blown up?”
“No, the Judge is going to to blame him anyway.”
“Oh.”
“Because they could have had accomplices.”

“This movie is getting worse and worse and worser!”

“NOOOOO!….Riders, make sure you put lots of O’s in my NO.”

“That is a loyal child!”

“Cows again?”

“Is he there? He hiding between the cows!”
“Who?”
“The bad guy?”
“Puppet Face?”

“Why do not just shoot him and kill him!”
“If they shoot, the cows will get nervous.”

“What!”
“Are they going to shoot him? And kill him?”

“AWWWWWwwww!”
“He is a decent guy!”
“They are all decent people! Everyone can change!”
“That is what I am also saying!”
(“Are you putting that she is saying this in a Trinidadian accent?”)

“It was a wholesome movie….minus the whole common law shacking up before they are married thing!”
“They got married in the end!”
“You must shun the appearance of evil! And they were living together!”
“Yes, but he was sleeping in a bathtub.”
“That is true.”

“That was a nice movie Riders, who would have thought!”

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The Sword of Doom (1966) – Repost Review

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[A quick state of the author: I have not watched any new movies, read any new books, lifted any weights, or hiked any trails this weekend. I have, however, slept for about eighteen hours. Hence this repost. It’s slightly incoherent even after I rewrote it some but hope you enjoy anyway.]

So, once upon a time a serial novel titled Dai-bosatsu Toge–“Great Bodhisavatta Pass,” describing the evocative setting of the tone-setting opening scene–was written by an author named Kaizan Nakazato. English-language information is limited, but Nakazato continued to write the damn thing for twenty years, making one of if not the longest novels ever written, blah blah blah. This isn’t a review of the book, which (on aquisition via an interlibrary loan wasn’t all that great); it’s a brief overview of the 1966 movie starring Tatsuya Nakadai and Toshiro Mifune.

There are actually several movie adaptations: a turgid 1957 trilogy, a slightly more lively adaption in 1960 with the lurid English title of “Satan’s Sword.” Amazingly, some kind soul has put the latter on Youtube. Even more amazingly, subtitles exist. It undeniably has its moments.

However, both are surpassed by the 1966 remake in just about every way, from the crisp chiaroscuro cinematography, to the casting, to the choreography. And probably to other things that don’t start with Cs.

The plot is character-driven: a man without the desire to abide by the rules of polite society loses his position in it (and doesn’t care). Another man who wants revenge is aided in his quest, because he is a decent person and his aims are just (and because the audience needs someone to root for). A young woman bounces from misfortune to misfortune, but keeps her dignity and self-reliance intact. Another woman brings misfortune upon herself and, well, doesn’t survive it.

Or, as I describe it when in a hurry, “There’s this crazy samurai guy who kills people and then feels guilty, but doesn’t really understand what he’s feeling and loses his home and position goes crazier, and then he kills more people and loses more and goes even crazier, and then he just keeps on going.” But the movie isn’t devoid of worthwhile, heroic characters–which is what, apart from Tatsuya Nakadai’s performance, actually makes this movie worth watching.

This film hinges on Tatsuya Nakadai’s performance as a psychopath who almost understands how screwed up he is, someone whose occasional flashes of human emotion–desire for approval, wistful reminiscing over the past, surprise at meeting an old retainer–only make his ultimate rejection of (or inability to sustain) them hurt the more and only accelerate his spiral into the ultimate violent break.

Nakadai is mesmerizing…

…but it’s the fact that we have actual sympathetic, innocent, and righteous characters to root for that makes this a balanced story. Omatsu, a girl whose only living relative was killed by Ryunosuke as a test of his swordsmanship, sees her situation fall from bad to worse, ultimately ending up in a brothel despite the efforts of her adoptive uncle to rescue her–but yet retaining a kind and hopeful nature. Hyoma, brother of a man killed by Ryunosuke (actually, I’m a little iffy on the morality of seeking vengeance on a man who killed your brother in self-defense, but anyhow) studies the sword…but without losing himself in his quest. There’s Shichibei, who despite being a thief is the most moral person in the story, protecting Omatsu and helping Hyoma at no benefit to himself. And there’s the magnificent Toshiro Mifune as swordsmaster Shimada, who delivers the only rebuke to Ryunosuke that his twisted mind is capable of comprehending: by refusing to fight a man whose evil soul–not his skill in battle–makes him an unworthy opponent.

My takeaway theory goes: Ryunosuke is the main character and the moral of this story is, “Don’t be like Ryunosuke.” Mostly it’s because my favorite part of this movie when the weight of all that he has done and lost and the realization of how far removed from humanity he has become all comes crashing down on him–and he reacts the only way he knows how.

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We’ve known Ryunosuke as the man he is from the opening scene, when an elderly pilgrim prays at the shrine on the Great Bodhisavatta Pass for Merciful Buddha to take him swiftly, that he may no longer be a burden to his young granddaughter….only for Ryunosuke to materialize behind him, kill him with a single blow and walk calmly away, satisfied. Years later, however, a Ryunosuke who has landed in a volatile situation, among political enemies, has made a promise to betray and murder his friends, and aside from that promise has virtually nothing left  in his life or possession except for that same sword, meets a girl who tells him that she was once at the Great Bodhisavatta Pass, with her grandfather–that he was cruelly and senselessly murdered–

He flips the fuck out.

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Nearly ten minutes of excellently-choreographed, shot, and composed combat ensue, with Ryunosuke taking on endless hordes of enemies, incurring multiple and increasingly horrifying and debilitating injuries–

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–transformed into something inhuman, something that can’t lose, can’t escape, can’t win–and can’t die.

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The film ends, unsatisfyingly without resolving any of it’s other subplots, on that note. Filmmakers expected to continue the trilogy but the money didn’t come through and sadly this didn’t happen. But, it’s an appropriate ending. There is no escape from self-made hells; there is no entry for anyone who doesn’t belong there, either. Carrying the story forward would weaken it.

Incidentally, if you do buy the DVD, don’t bother with the commentary track; the guy has an idee fixe about Ryunosuke’s subsumed homosexuality and it isn’t particularly interesting apart from that.

Rated: “Is that the only thing he does, talk slowly and kill people?” –A Lady of Skaith

Zack Snyder’s Justice League (part 2) – just the good stuff

So…I’m not exactly sure where the switch flipped, but somewhere along the line, I stopped watching this movie to critique and review it and just started watching to enjoy it. Here’s my review: It’s…it’s quite good, actually.

Now, I don’t know how well it will hold up to repeat viewings. I agree that it has its flaws and excesses. It had moments that fell flat or didn’t really hold up.

But overall and I think the thing that redeems it, is that: Zack Snyder aimed for greatness with this movie. He wanted this to be an epic, yet meaningful story. He wanted this to be a story about larger-than-life heroes fighting a larger-than-life foe for the highest of stakes against a backdrop of the world in chaos. And if anyone had suggested 1,000 elephants to him, he’d have put them in, too.

The thing about aiming for greatness, is that sometimes you’ll hit it.

Plus, there are lots of little bitty moments that just work, like Diana shooting Barry Allen a tiny, reassuring smile (whilst obviously worried about the Bruce/Cyborg situation currently going down); or Cyborg’s mental image of the stock market manipulations being a bull and bear fighting. Or AquaMomoa angrily pointing at Flash after the latter has knocked them both to the ground. At super speed.

And, the fights in this one are a lot more epic. Like, a lot more. And it’s really awesome. Like, by the time all the heroes + Superman are done whaling on Spikywolf you feel kind of sorry for the guy. And something I never thought possible became possible: Soyboy Flash manages to have a scene where he is serious and commits to it, is heroic and goes beyond his limits–and it is touching and meaningful and it’s properly set up and builds on what came before and as the action climax of the movie, it’s marvelous.

Are the four epilogues completely unnecessary and even counterproductive? Yeah. Turn the movie off after Flash visits his dad in jail. Are there jarringly unnecessary and aggravating salutes to the holy flag of political correctness? Yes, but only a couple. You can hard-reset your brain back to enjoy mode by smacking it against a wall or something. I only needed to do that twice and I enjoyed the whole rest of the movie!

Or maybe I was watching the microwave. Anyhow.

Rated: I watched it. I quite liked it.

The Thief of Baghdad (1942) – With My Mother (repost)

“Wait, this is the little movie with Sahib or Saboo or what’s-his-name, isn’t it?”
“You never watched it! You can’t say it’s bad! You’ll like it!”
“You’re still hung up on that silly movie from when you were a kid?”
“It’s a good movie!”
“…”
“You promised you were going to watch it.”
“And I don’t know why.”

The movie begins in medias res, with a blind man and his dog begging for alms on the street. Conrad Veidt drops by:

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“Who’s he?”
“Jaffar.”
“Is he the Sultan?”
“No, he’s the evil usurping vizier.”
“Usurping what?”
“The kingdom.”

Like the blind man, the dog is special and more than he appears to be–as demonstrated when he picks out false coins from an offering.

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“What?”
“He said, the dog must have been a tax collector in a previous life.”

The blind man is collected by the enigmatic Halima:

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“I didn’t get all that.”
“The blind guy is the real king. The dog is the thief, Sabu. Jaffar did that to them when he did the usurping. But now he needs the king back to do something for him.”
“Who is she?”
“She works for Jaffar.”

“Oh! So that’s why the dog can tell! He’s really a person!”

“Is Tony Curtis in this?”

The blind man begins to tell his story, and we flash back to the beginning:
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He is the king whom Jaffar usurped, was tricked into leaving the palace, thrown in jail, rescued by the little Thief of Baghdad, and fled the city for safer climates.

“What’s his name? The king.”
“John Justin. He never hit it big.”
“I can see why.”
“…”
“That is one scrawny looking man.”

They end up in the nearby city of Basra, where armed guards ensure that no man sees the face of the Princess before she is married.

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“He said, is she that ugly?”
“Heh.”

 

“June Duprez….”
“Apparently she never hit it big, either. I think she said it was because Joan Fontaine or one of those people had it out for her.”
“I can see that happening.”

Ahmad, however, sees the Princess, is smitten, and with Abu’s reluctant help manages to sneak into the palace to see her up-close.

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“He said, Sinbad the Sailor offered them berths on his ship.”
“Mm-hm.”
“Isn’t that nice?”
“….mmm.”

Fortunately, the Princess is receptive…
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“Oh please. NO.”

Unfortunately, Jaffar arrives, intent on founding a dynasty (no, seriously, those are his exact words), and he has planned ahead.

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“What is it? What is it!”
“It’s a clockwork horse.”
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“What!”
“It’s a flying clockwork horse.”
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“How could that work!?”
“It’s a magic flying clockwork horse.”
“Is it real?”
“What?”
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“I know what he wants for that!”

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The Princess makes a run for it. Meanwhile, a captured Ahmad confronts Jaffar–unsuccessfully–resulting in the state of affairs that we began with and catching us up to the story in the present.

“Why is he so happy?”

“What’d he say?”

“He turned into a dog!”

“What’d he say?”
“He said, the king would be blind and the thief would be a dog until he gets to hold the Princess.”
“Hold the Princess?”
“…hug…the Princess…?”
“Oh.”

It is then revealed to Ahmad that he is in the same place as the Princess, she having been captured and bought by slavers, but is in a strange magical coma (you know, the kind Princesses are prone to…it must be genetic), which only he can break.

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“They lying?”
“No.”

Jaffar watches the proceedings:

“He put a spell on her he can’t break?”
“He didn’t enspell the Princess, she just fell into it herself. He enspelled THEM.”

Ahmad wakes the Princess successfully, but is then hustled out by Halima. He leaves Abu:

“Guard her? One dog against a sorcerer?”

–While Halima then lures the Princess onboard a ship, promising that Ahmad’s sight can be restored there.

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She’s not lying….

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“But he had her before, I don’t understand.”
“Yeah, but she wasn’t awake.”

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Conrad Veidt was actually the big star of the movie (I think this was John Justin’s first role, while Veidt had a long list of international credits to his name), and was ordered to play the tortured, suffering lover to the hilt. Veidt obliged. In fact, watching this movie with a couple of girl friends a year or so ago, the general consensus was that, aww, he can’t be all that bad, why can’t he end up with the girl?

Because he’s a creepy, usurping Grand Vizier, that’s why.

“What’s he doing?”
“Hypnotizing her.”
“Why? So she will like him?”

“He hypnotized her?”
“No, because he can’t get her to like him, only to obey him.”
“…what’s the difference?”
“…”
“Well from his point of view! She’s not going to like him anyway, so why is he even bothering?”

It’s all for nothing, though, as Ahmad and Abu are once again on their trail:

“What’s he doing now?”
“He’s calling up a storm to stop the other boat.”
“Oh that’s really gonna get her to like him now. Fool!”

–and all that gets him is a mopey Princess.

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“Go where?”
“She doesn’t want to go with him. She wants to go home.”

“Oh, he took her home?”
“He’s trying to be nice.”

The Princess does get a promise from her father that he will never send her away, as long as he lives.

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“This is a funny premise. For toys he’d give up anything. You heard about men and their toys.”
“Well, they’re right.”
“…she’s going back to Baghdad….”

“Aaah! She gon’ kill him!…oh…”

“Hm! Wouldn’t like to live in them times. Always be watching your back because people gon’ stab you in it!”

Meanwhile, Abu finds a genie in a bottle. There’s only one problem: Genie has been in the bottle for two thousand years, and is unhappy about it.

“Solomon put him in there? Must be a bad genie.”

“Uh…”
“Why else would Solomon put him in there, then?”

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Abu keeps his wits about him, and fortunately, has read the correct stories.

“What’s he doing?”
“He tricked him back into the bottle.”
“He CAN’T BE THAT FOOLISH. NO.”
“…it’s one of the traditional stories about the three wishes and the genie. They didn’t just make this up!”
“…”

“Why should we trust him?”
“He swore.”
“So?”
“He swore by King Solomon!”

Abu needs to know where Ahmad is, and to know where Ahmad is, needs the All-Seeing Eye of the Goddess of Night. But first things first.
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“He gon’ use one wish for a meal! Please!”

The heroic part of this adventure then begins, as Abu enters the goddess’s temple to steal the All-Seeing Eye:

“What is it, a spider’s web?”
“Yeah.”
“Oh. Oh Lor’, he goin’ up a spider’s web and the spider coming for him?”
“Yep.”
“Does he know?”

“Wait, where is the Prince?”
“He’s trying to find the thing that will allow him to find the Prince.”
“…What thing?”
“The All-Seeing Eye.”
“…”
“…And then he’ll see where the Prince is and the genie can take him there.”

Ahmad and Abu are reunited, but the genie is cackling ominously:

“The genie is a fool?”
“The joke is, he’s about to get away and he knows it.”

…Which promptly happens.

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“He looks like a scrawny person! Look. One scrawny man.”
“Mom!”

“What? Who’s going to be chained!”
“They’re both gonna die.”
“What? He gon’ kill the girl? Why? He just said he had her!”
“She broke free. And he got mad.”

Abu smashes the All-Seeing Eye, and then things go wonky:

“What, the genie came back?”
“No, something else happened.”
“What?”
“I dunno! Something else happened.”

“He died?”
“No.”
“Then who’s this old man? And how come he’s a prince?”

…I’m not sure what the logic is behind this scene, taken out of context. Let me just say, that like all great stories, it makes perfect sense when you’re going with the flow of it. Anyhow, the Sages give Abu the title of Prince and a bow that will not easily miss evil, but explicitly forbid him to take their flying carpet. That carpet. Over there. It flies if you tell it, “Fly carpet.” Now, excuse me, I’m leaving the room now. Remember, now! That carpet.

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“The boy, he gon’ stay there?”
” ‘No thanks.’ “

So Abu arrives in the nick of time and the people, emboldened, rise against their oppressive overlord:

“What’s going on?”
“They’re revolting against Jaffar.”
“Because they saw the cloud?”
“Because of the prophecy!”

Jaffar attempts to escape on the flying horse, but:

“Oh my.”

And they all live happily ever after, including Abu, who takes to the hills on hearing that Ahmad intends for him to–gulp–attend school.

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“Ahahahaha.”

I love this movie so much. I always have. I think I always will.

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“See! I told you it was good!”
“This should be the last time you look at this, ever.”

Sigh.

Son of the Black Sword – Larry Correia – Book Review

sons-of-the-dark-sword-send-to-larry-c.-2Son of the Black Sword is Book 1 of the Saga of the Forgotten Warrior trilo…oh wait no people actually like this so let’s make it a five…wait are they still buying it? What, after book 3 didn’t wrap everything up? Multi-part series instead.

I complain, but it’s in good humor. This series showcases Correia’s strongest writing, because it plays to his strengths: exciting combat scenes; honorable men; fight scenes; violent men; battle scenes; emotionless but charismatic men; chase scenes; beautiful women, and you may have gotten the gist at this point: he writes fight scenes really, really well. There’s a one-vs-many fight at the end of this book that is just a work of art. What’s more, this book avoids his weaknesses: self-insert characters, silly humor, and bashing of political opponents in juvenilely amusing ways.

It’s a damn good book. Fight scenes with a purpose are exciting, charismatic protagonists with inner depths and meaningful journeys are memorable and enjoyable, and beautiful women who have personalities, motivations, and effect on the plot, are good characters regardless of what they’re wearing. Son of the Black Sword has all of those. (Note: with the exception of a ditzy librarian who tries using a romance novel as a how-to spy manual, all female characters are dressed quite appropriately for their circumstances.)

As mentioned, SoTBS was originally #1 of 3 books, before Trilogy Creep Syndrome set in. I hope the story doesn’t get stretched out too far, because I want to find out how it ends, damn it! There is the distinct impression that the story Correia is telling is going to be epic enough to withstand the expansion, but…I really like this story. What is the story?

So.

20-year veteran, Senior Protector Ashok Vadal is one of if not the most dangerous men on Lok. Not only is he a scion of the powerful and respected Vadal House, a Protector gifted with superhuman abilities, not only trained to the peak of physical ability and combat skill, not only above the law and tasked with enforcing it as the most famous member of an order of right hard bastards–Ashok is also the wielder of the mighty ancestor blade Angruvadal. Ancestor blades, made of the mysterious black steel, can cut through steel and demon hide, cleave all four legs off a galloping horse, and, moreover contain the memories and instincts of every warrior who has borne them previously and can guide the muscles and mind of its present wielder to victory….or can savagely punish the unworthy who dare set hand on it.

Ashok was judged worthy as a small child and has lived his life in the Protector Order ever since. How could a man who never lies, who never feels fear, who is wholly devoted to the Law, be unworthy? And why could his mentor, the man whom he trusted and loved as more than his own father, tell him that his life is a shameful falsehood, a disgraceful lie.

Ashok is given a choice: become Lord Protector, head of the Order and continue to live a life of fame, valor, and value…or open a letter that will reveal his past to him and reveal the truth.

Ashok chooses honesty. (Ashok, it transpires, didn’t have a choice).

The disgraceful secret the Protectors have kept for twenty years? Ashok isn’t a man. Ashok isn’t even a human being. Far from being son of the First Caste, the rulers, movers, and shakers…he is actually a casteless. Legally, less than the tools used to till the fields; practically, of less value than the animals used to pull the plow. Although Angruvadal chose him, the utter shame of the choice meant that House Vadal had his mind magically wiped to remove all memory of his casteless origins, deep compulsions implanted in him–rendering him literally fearless and utterly devoted to the law–and he was sent to the Protectors as a mere child in hopes that he would soon die. Oh, and his mother was murdered as part of the cover-up.

Ashok, after delivering a fairly gory reckoning to the people who have committed this injustice and this sin, checks himself into the nearest prison to await trial and sentencing. (Remember what we said about devoted to the Law? Ashok walks the walk…not only because he’s been brainwashed for his entire life.)

Unfortunately, what Ashok gets instead of justice is Omand, the Chief Inquisitor. Omand is seriously bad news. For one, he’s planning a genocide against the casteless…as a stepping stone to whatever his evil plan actually is. Step 1 involves creating a reason for his genocide to continue. Step 2 is ordering Ashok to join with the casteless rebellion and make it into enough of a threat to justify continent-wide genocide.

The implication is that Omand is going to get a horrible surprise about just how clever he isn’t a book or two down the road.

Ashok obediently escapes from prison to find and join the rebellion. He finds–or is found–by Keta, Keeper of Names, and his hostile bodyguard Thera. They have been sent to judge his worthiness before he can be allowed into their ranks, or to meet the mysterious Prophet whom the rebels have rallied about–the Prophet who speaks with the voice of a Forgotten god and testifies that blood, seas and messes of it, are incoming…

But that’s not really a prophecy so much as an accurate observation, really.

And anyhow, yeah. I’m out of time and I need to put some content up that isn’t cat pictures.

Rated: It’s really good. Get it and read it and then tell all your friends.

Hour of the Dragon – Robert E. Howard

Rush in and die, dogs–I was a man before I was king!

Hour of the Dragon / Conan the Conqueror is the only novel-length Conan story, and it’s none too long at that, clocking in at 150 ebook pages and 79,000 words. So I’ll start my review with a disclaimer: this is a short, pulp fiction novel, written nearly a hundred years ago. Presumably I should lower my standards and expectations, because it was never intended to be high art or great literature. The thing is, Howard was genuinely a good enough writer to create both, if he’d wanted to or been able. The things I’m going to criticize are things I’d ding any author for, no matter what the genre or intended audience; they’re things I think would have made the story, exciting, well-crafted, superbly-worded as it is, exponentially better. Basically: Howard should have slowed down the pace a hair, expanded the characters a just bit, and stopped using the main character falling unconscious as a scene-changing device, because that always ticks me off.

So anyhow. The plot is….Conan has a series of adventures and then saves the day. You see, a cabal of highly-born and ambitious wastrels has enacted a plan to take control of Nemedia and neighborning Aquilonia: resurrect the three-milennia-dead sorcerer, priest, king, and monster Xaltotun of long-gone Acheron. By his magic, supplemented by the Heart of Ahriman, they intend to create a plague that will the King of Nemedia and replace him with one of their own. Then they will attack Aquilonia and replace Conan with a relative of the previous King.

For anyone not supported by a forgotten sorcerer from long-fallen Acheron, step 3 is where this is most likely to fail. And it almost does. Only because of Xaltotun’s sorcery is Conan struck by an uncanny wight in his tent, unable to lead his troops into battle–or hold them back from leading a charge that his less experienced body double falls for; and only because of sorcery does that end in disaster, as a landlide collapses a mountain on his army. Conan is taken alive by Xaltotun himself and cast into the Nemedian dungeons.

The cabal, you see, is not a stable alliance; Xaltotun knows it, and knows that he’ll need some threat to check Tarascus in Nemedia and hang over Valerius in Aquilonia. At this point, the narrative switches over from the fast-moving but slightly more measured pace of a novel, to the almost-frenetic short story velocity which is more familiar to Howard’s stories but….he should have slowed it down just a hair. If for no other reason than that he’s actually got plenty of plot and characters to describe. In short order: Conan is rescued by the fair maiden Zenobia, despite the efforts of Tarascus to remove Xaltotun’s leverage via a cannibal gray ape. Conan proceeds back to Aquilonia, pausing only to attempt to witness Tarascus consign the Heart of Ahriman to a Zamoran thief with orders to cast it into the sea, attempt an assassination, kiss the girl, and then, rather randomly, bump into a Nemedian warrior who had the good sense but bad luck to wonder why there was a random horse tied in a thicket outside the palace. Now, this is good writing in the sense that no exit should go easily when you’re in your enemy’s capital city, but it’s bad in that it pauses for a paragraph to introduce the Nemedian Adventurers, a class of fighting-men unique to that country who, etc etc etc. Well, the Nemedian Adventurers are unique to that paragraph, too, because the only one we meet gets run through by Conan, making this a Chekovian blunder. A simple soldier on patrol would have done just as well for the amount of effort Conan puts into escaping him.

The bulk of the plot is expanded on promptly, as Conan encounters Zelata, an Aquilonian witch, who tells him he must find the heart of his country before he can lead them in the fight again; and Servius Galannus, one of his barons, who clarifies the political situation to him. Conan’s general, Prospero, lacks the manpower to carry war to the enemy without more support; Conan’s appointed heir, Count Trocero, has been rejected by the trucculent barons, who would submit to a king but distrust one of their own gaining supremacy over them. Valerius has been proclaimed king almost unimpeded–which the Aquilonian citizens are only just begining to realize was a really stupid mistake. Loyalty to Conan or simple self-respect is being brutally punished–a burned villa and a countess about to be executed form the chief examples–and the common people, as we have seen in Zelata–are already being persecuted by foreign soldiers.

This part of the novel, where Conan demonstrates his grasp of statesmanship and strategy, discusses options with a counselor, listens to the advice given him–and then decides what to do–is masterful. We get a clear picture of what is going on, the conventional view of what should be done, and then we see both how our hero thinks (differently) and how he differs from ordinary people (he intends to get things done.) It does this briskly, without frills, digressions, or narrative excesses. And, since almost all the rest of the actual, non-serialized adventures plot of the book rests on this one chapter, it accomplishes some serious heavy lifting in its few pages, too.

But Conan decides to rescue the Countess Albiona before he heads off to join his remaining loyal generals, which, besides allowing a little bit of scantily-clad fair-maidenly-rescuing, gives the last impetus for the main action of the novel. Rescue complete, Conan and Albiona meet the priests of Asura, a religion which is usually persecuted but which Conan has allowed freedom to practice in Aquilonia. The priests of Asura have a widespread network and some uncanny abilities. They assure Conan that the Heart of Ahriman is the secret to defeating Xaltotun–and, better yet, that it has not been cast into the sea and is traceable.

Conan goes after it, utilizing his old contacts in the underworld, from his time as a petty thief, a masterless fighting-man, and a corsair captain. His pursuit of the jewel and its sequential passage from hand to hand by theft, murder, flight, and more murder, covers about one-third of the book, and….it’s the least satisfying part of the story, simply because we’ve seen Conan do these serial-adventure things so many times before, with the same exact narrative beats and same exact pacing. I guess that’s what my main problem is: this is a big chunk of the novel, and it’s the same old same old. Incidentally, Conan is being followed by a team of creepy guys in hoods, but they’re almost more of a stage dressing than a threat so never mind. Nevertheless, he finally does secure the Heart, after following it across a continent and an ocean and returns in hasty triumph to his corsair ship and to Aquilonia.

From there, things proceed, very satisfactorily, from the utterly characteristic message with which Conan opens hostilities:

To Xaltotun, grand fakir of Nemedia: Dog of Acheron, I am returning to my kingdom, and I mean to hang your hide on a bramble.
Conan

–to the final stroke, wherein Conan sets the ransom for Tarascus of Nemedia: one girl from his palace–Zenobia, who will become Queen of Aquilonia.

This book has bits that are absolutely brilliant:

Beside the altar-stone lay no fresh-slain corpse, but a shriveled mummy, a brown, dry, unrecognizable carcass sprawling among moldering swathings.
Somberly old Zelata looked down.
‘He was not a living man,’ she said. ‘The Heart lent him a false aspect of life, that deceived even himself. I never saw him as other than a mummy.’

After Conan has had an encounter with a beautiful woman in the cellars of a forgotten temple (who tries to drink his blood and whom he flees into the monster-haunted catacombs rather than face down):

…through his fear ran the sickening revulson of his discovery. The legend of Akivasha was so old, and among the evil tales told of her ran a thread of beauty and idealism, of everlasting youth. To so many dreamers and poets and lovers she was not alone the evil princess of Stygian legend, but the symbol of eternal youth and beauty, shining for ever in some far realm of the gods. And this was the hideous reality. This foul perversion was the truth of that everlasting life. Through his physical revulsion ran the sense of a shattered dream of man’s idolatry, its glittering gold proved slime and cosmic filth. A wave of futility swept over him, a dim fear of the falseness of all men’s dreams and idolatries.

There’s even Servius Galannus’ reaction to Conan’s appearance at his plantation:

At the low call the master of the plantation wheeled with a startled exclamation. His hand flew to the short hunting-sword at his hip, and he recoiled from the tall gray steel figure standing in the dusk before him.
‘Who are you?’ he demanded. ‘What is your – Mitra!’
His breath hissed inward and his ruddy face paled. ‘Avaunt!’ he ejaculated. ‘Why have you come back from the gray lands of death to terrify me? I was always your true liegeman in your lifetime-‘

When was the last time you read or heard someone say “Avaunt”? And as an intro, this is a good way of showing that, while Servius Galannus is a small-time farmer, he does not fear man; and he does not hesitate to protest to Conan’s supposed-shade that he was loyal.

But these are moments only: it doesn’t sustain them…and I wish it had.

So my main criticism is that the book needed to slow down just a tad and expand on its characters a hair. One of Howard’s main strengths is a weakness in this book. His ability to portray quick, vital snapshots of bold and passionate characters engaged to their utmost in at the most dramatic moments of their lives is great for creating memorable short stories. But in a longer work, more than a single snapshot is needed. Is it a problem? Only if you pause for breath between battles, assassinations, rescues, hidden temples, wars, dungeon escapes, battles, lost temples, catacombs, slave revolts, shadow-cloaked priests, vampire queens, forgotten temples, giant serpents, more battles, and plain old street fights. But I submit that it could have made the difference between a crackin’ good Conan yarn and a genuinely great novel.

The breakneck pace keeps your attention! And it is headlong as hell. But it’s without time for reflection, or, well, characterization. Everyone is portrayed in the quick strokes and primary colors; further developments are informed of by the omniscient narrator. This…could have been better. While quick and vivid sketches are the name of the game in short stories, this is a novel and it has to be a) longer, b) more interesting. There’s time and there’s a need to slow down, if just a hair, and expand on things, like people’s feelings.

Especially Conan’s. Conan is different as a king than he was as an adventurer–but not by much. He’s always had an eye for strategy, and he’s always had a soft spot for helpless civilians; he’s always been frank and fair. He was a man before he was king; and that he remains. We get to see what he says and does, and with Conan what he does is what he thinks….mostly. But, given that we’re dealing with an older and wiser Conan, it would be nice to see him realizing this and, even if it makes him uncomfortable, to think about it some.

There are also a menagerie of secondary characters who don’t get to be nearly as cool as they could be. Although Trocero is Conan’s appointed successor and heir, he gets only a single scene and no real characterization: his scene and comments are really only a repeat of Servius Galannus’ from ealier. And then there are the cool people who pop up in one scene and are never, uh, seen again. Who is Countess Albiona, other than a pretty girl whom Conan must rescue because he hasn’t met his quota for the novel? Does Servius Galannus rally to his king at the end, bringing only his loyalty and a handful of men-at-arms? What is the deal with the Nemedian Adventurers–could they form an elite squadron which dies to the man, struck down trying to defend the undeserving Tarascus? Zelata and the Asuran whisper network are cool enough to genuinely deserve more than the single line they get describing how much a problem they have become to Valerius.

You see, Howard comitted a tactical error: he made his characters too cool and then didn’t use them enough to showcase how or why.

Writing this review, I’ve also realized that most of my problem with the “chasing the McGuffin” section of the novel is primarily because it hews too closely to the short-story formula–probably because Howard was just tweaking his existing stories to fit the new frame narrative. Would it have been better written in a different fashion, after all? Honestly, maybe not. I don’t know. I only can plead a vague dissatisfaction with this part of the book and not really any cogent solutions.

Yeah, so basically, if you were to ask me how I rated this book:

I have not heard lutes beckon me, nor the brazen bugles call,
But once in the dim of a haunted lea I heard the silence fall.
I have not heard the regal drum, nor seen the flags unfurled,
But I have watched the dragons come, fire-eyed, across the world.

The Law and Jake Wade – Repost Review

sanstitre825B15DThe Law and Jake Wade (1958) – Some movies are just low-key brilliant, and this is one of them.

So: Robert Taylor and Richard Widmark are ex-outlaw buddies. Taylor (Jake) has gone straight, gotten engaged, and has a job. Widmark (Clint) is an outlaw who was tried, found guilty, and condemned to hang. For old times’ sake, Jake busts him out, but Clint isn’t quite content to let things lie just like that. Clint wants his share of an alleged twenty thousand dollars. And Clint wants to know what Jake’s been doing since they parted company…and, oh, by the way? Jake’s new job is: US Marshal.

You see, Jake and Clint, they was friends back in the day. Rode together in the war. Kept riding together, in the same gang, afterwards. Clint liked Jake, you see, and Clint, well, he don’t like very many people. And then one day, just as they finished knocking over a bank, Jake all of a sudden sprung a conscience and rode out on them. With the $20,000. And friends, Clint figures, don’t do that sort of thing to friends.

There’s also been some bad trouble with the Indians, up in the hills. It doesn’t last very long, but it does get rid of the rest of the gang. So now it’s just Clint and Jake. (Also Kidnapped Fiancee and That Other Guy [played by DeForest Kelly], but they’re not particularly important.) What is important is these two men and their battle, and how fair or not the fight is going to be, and who is going to win. Because it’s not nearly as clear-cut as it might be,

3d07dc02ff4cc1905d8b6f2c23d19d97Highlights: Clint smoking menacingly (it’s a lost art); Jake spotting Clint as he snipes out an Indian lookout–but neglecting to mention the rest of the war party; and Widmark’s line when it’s revealed that Jake has been bluffing him with an empty gun: “….but then, it might’a gone off like a canon. And then think how silly I would’a looked.” It’s a rare villain who can crack a joke at his own expense. Or, in the setup to the final faceoff, Jake (now having the upper hand), throws Clint’s gun down the length of the street. Clint’s expression of astonished betrayal and wondering, “I was gonna hand you yours!” is just perfect.

Robert Taylor is The Man. Is there a movie he hasn’t been cool, commanding, and tall in the saddle in? I didn’t think so. Widmark is just as excellent, cool as a cat and twice as malicious, commanding respect from the other thugs because he’s three times as badass as anyone else there and they know it–but not quite able to get it, anymore, from Jake. DeForest Kelly and Henry Silva, as girl-menacing thuggish henchmen, are good enough at their roles to make it very satisfying when they bite it. Patricia Owens gives an adequate performance in a nondescript part. Mostly, it’s the guys’ show. And boy, do they go for it.

Rated: Five cigars out of five.

Night of the Grizzly – Repost Review

1349310744_1Night of the Grizzly (1966) – It’s fun for the whole family. No, really. Just as long as there’s a nice safe couch and/or bookcase for the littler ones to hide behind occasionally.

So this movie is about:
Ex-lawman Big Jim Cole (Clint Walker) is retired and moving to a new town to take up ranching with his family. Unfortunately, he picks the mountain that Old Satan, a giant and bullet-resistant grizzly bear, lives on; and, a further problem, that the rich banker guy in town wants to buy for his sons and is willing to be slightly unethical about getting. Old Satan promptly proceeds to eat Big Jim’s livestock. Big Jim is in trouble, because he’s put just about all his money into the farm and if he can’t come up with the cash to pay the banker guy (I forget just what the details are, but, y’know, not all that important), he’s Gonna Lose The Ranch and have to go back to lawmanning. Worse yet, a bounty hunter drifts into town and he has a grudge to settle with Big Jim Cole…

This is a really wholesome family movie. Honest. And I still had to watch this during the day. I have no idea why, but it was genuinely freaking me out. Possibly because there is so much left to the imagination–we see horribly wounded and dead animals…from a distance; we see canvas-covered shapes roll past on a flatbed wagon and know what happened to the hunting party–so much buildup of dread and angst is produced that even the fake bear is scary.

That, or I had a high fever at the time. I dunno.

Other than that, the movie has an extremely Disney-esque feel and look. The family is heartwarmingly sweet (they even sing songs in the wagon): Big Jim Cole (Clint Walker), Big Jim’s Wife (some lady with extremely 60s’ hair), Charlie (boy), Gypsy (a very cute little tot of a girl), and Blonde Cousin Girl (who also has 60s hair.) Blonde Cousin is soon making sheep’s eyes back at Younger Annoying Son of Antagonist, but that is a small plot thread that goes nowhere. Gypsy makes friends with Jack Elam’s character, in a relationship that can only be described as heartwarming. (The little girl is seriously adorable.) Young Charlie, however, is left with Leo Gordon’s Cass Dowdy, arriving in the last reel, to hero-worship. And Cass Dowdy, a hunter–for man or beast–happens to have a grudge to settle with Big Jim Cole. Also, there is a bear.

And oh my gosh if the bear has THAT MUCH of a grudge against you and you haven’t got any more collateral, and he keeps eating the hunters, selling out and moving, at least into town, makes a lot of sense. That, or making sure you are using the right caliber gun while hunting. A .44-40? Seriously? No wonder Old Satan just gets pissed off when people shoot him.

Highlights: Cass, very much at large from some other, non-Disney movie, strolling into

LGordon
Yeah, he gets his whiskey.

the general store (it’s a dry county and there’s no saloon), and his reaction on being offered a choice of Sarsaparilla, coffee, or lemonade. In fact, Leo Gordon’s seemingly firm conviction that he’s in a Mann or Ford-type western ends up stealing the show in just about every scene he’s in. (And his righteous anger at Big Jim for stealing his boots is a sight to behold.)

Irrelevant trivia! Ron Ely, who has a small part as “Elder Annoying Son of Family-Friendly Antagonist,” later played Tarzan in the 1967 TV adaptation. In fact, that might be him in the background of the above picture but I’m not sure.

Rated: four basset hounds out of five. A little more dirt and a little less Disney would have worked wonders.

The Prince Commands – Andre Norton (Repost)

“Did you know Andre Norton wrote historical and alternate history, too?”
“Oh?”
“Yeah, she wrote a couple of Civil War novels, and this one I got at the giant booksale last year. It’s really nice. It’s like a boy’s adventure story. It’s awesome!”
“What’s it about?”
“It’s about a secret heir to the throne, and bandits, and cavalry charges, and secret passwords–and horses–y’know, more books ought to have horses. That’s the reason fantasy literature has declined, it’s ’cause they don’t have enough cool horses in them. Or dogs. There should be more dog books. And, oh, there’s winning your spurs, and, oh, oh, oh, fighting Communists! And it’s really nice. It’s a good book.”
“It has Communists?”
“Yeah, they came in from Russia and set up shop and tried to overthrow the old King, but everybody is actually really lotal to the monarchy and just laughed at them until they assassinated him, but that actually backfired on them and they had to go underground then.”
“They came from Russia? This isn’t science fiction?”
“No, it’s set in Prisoner of Zenda-land. You know, somewhere in eastern Europe, still got a King and an Archbishop and a cathedral, people still ride horses, there’s only one airplane in the whole country–”
“Andre Norton wrote this?”
“Yep! And it’s a really good book! The hero is like, just a boy and then he shows his worth and wins his spurs and becomes Prince–”
“That’s a ripoff. He should become King. That’s the Zelazny way. Cheating your hero out of their comeuppance so you can use them in more books. Andre Norton was trying to set up a sequel.”
“No! He wasn’t the first heir! They had him concealed in America and he was kept ignorant of his heritage, but then the Council tried to assassinate the real heir, and then they needed a puppet in a hurry so they called him in and bandits attack the train and he escapes. And then he has adventures. And they’re fun and exciting and…see, the foreward to the book is her talking about how she wrote it for a kid she knew. And it shows, because she wrote this book to be a good book for that kid to read. So it’s completely exciting and completely interesting and completely wholesome and worthwhile. It’s a really good book! I like it a lot.
“A sequel would have been nice, though.”