Silent Sunday – The Three Musketeers (1921)

Since Sunday tends to be a day of quiet and reflection for many people, it seems an appropriate day to celebrate silent movies. But in keeping with the “day of rest” theme, I’m just going to post this without any commentary and just sit back and let you enjoy.

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Saturday Double Feature: Deadpool 2 (2018) and…

Another Saturday means another Saturday Double Feature!

Okay, let’s start with a quick recap of the “rules”, shall we? The basic idea here is to take a movie that is out in theaters now, and pair it up with another movie from the 1980s or before. Sometimes the connection will be obvious, and sometimes it’ll be a little less so, but that’s part of the fun.

One of the surprise hits of the faux-MCU (meaning those films based on Marvel comics characters, but produced by Fox or Sony as opposed to Marvel themselves) was 2016’s Deadpool, an over-the-top interpretation by Ryan Reynolds of the “merc with a mouth” who has been a popular character in the comics for years, but wasn’t really considered a candidate for movie stardom.

The success of the original Deadpool showed at least two things, however, first, that any character, when written properly, can be a hit with audiences, and that these movies don’t have to fit into the standard PG-13 mold that seems to trap so many standard “superhero” movies.

So, thanks to the success of the first film, this weekend‘s big opener is Deadpool 2, which looks like it may be an even bigger hit than it’s predecessor. If nothing else, it has a lot more name recognition now, plus it has been the subject of a huge (and highly creative) marketing campaign.

Let’s take a look at part of that campaign, shall we? (Fair warning, the trailer is NSFW.)

You may have noticed that I put the word “superhero” in quotes above, because Deadpool, being a mercenary, doesn’t really qualify as a “hero”. At best he’s more of an anti-hero. So it  seemed fitting, when looking for something to pair it with, to look at other oddball anti-hero movies based on comic books.

The Crow was based on a comic series created by James O’Barr. The series ran through various comics put out by various companies during the late 1980s and early 90s. In 1994 it was turned into a movie starring Brandon Lee, the son of movie legend Bruce Lee.

The Crow is the story of Eric Draven who, at the beginning of the film is found murdered and his fiancee has been beaten and raped. One year later his grave is visited by a mysterious giel and then by a crow. That night, Eric rises from the grave and begins to seek revenge on those who killed him and attacked his fiancee. He paints his face to look like a harlequin mask and is aided in his quest by the crow who has seemingly brought him back to life.

The movie is unfortunately infamous for an on-set accident involving a prop gun that misfired and fatally wounded Lee who, though he was rushed to the hospital, died that evening. The film was finished after some script re-writes by using stunt men in place of Lee and through digital effects.

The end result is a moody and atmospheric film which serves as a fitting memorial to its star and an intriguing and stylish movie in its own right.

(And yes, I know I kind of cheated with this one, since the “rules” say the movie should be from the 80s or before, but the fit was so good I couldn’t pass it up. Plus, since I;m the one that makes the rules, I’m the one that gets to break them, too, right?)

So what do you think? What would you choose for a double feature with Deadpool 2? Leave your thoughts in the comments, along with ideas of any other upcoming movies you’d like to see “double featured”. Consider it, if you will, your chance to challenge me to come up with an interesting pair.

Until next time, Happy Viewing!

Sight and Sound Top 250 – #067 Rio Bravo (1959)

As we continue our trip through the Sight and Sound Top 250 Movies of All Time list, we come to #67, Howard Hawk’s Rio Bravo. And as always I’ll note that for those just joining us, you can find a full introduction to what the Sight and Sound Top 250 list is, and a look at the complete list of the movies on it, along with links to the ones I’ve already written about here. And, if you want to be sure not to miss any of these posts, just head on over to the Facebook page and give it a “like”or follow me on Twitter (both of those links are also in the sidebar) where I post anytime one of these – or anything else on the blog, along with just random other links and thoughts that may not make it into full posts – goes up. Trust me, if you’re not following one or the other (or both), you’re not getting the full Durmoose Movies experience..

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Okay,  I’m going to be right upfront here and say that any western that stars Dean Martin has my attention immediately. Then when you add to that John Wayne and director Howard Hawks, you have a sure-fire hit and possibly an instant classic.

Rio Bravo has all of that, plus teen heartthrob Ricky Nelson and western stalwart Walter Brennan and an early appearance from Angie Dickinson. Sweet spot? Let’s just say if you’re a western fan at all (and I am definitely talking classic westerns here, not the more modern “deconstructed”” style) then you’re definitely going to find that spot licked and nibbled.

Martin, as per his persona, plays a sheriff’s deputy named “Dude” who cannot stay out of the bottle – so much so that he has been given the Spanish nickname “Borrachon” which translates to “Big Drunk”. Wayne is Sheriff John T. Chance who has a history with Dude and remembers what a great gunfighter he used to be. After a confrontation in a saloon leads to Joe Burdette (played by Claude Akin) killing an unarmed bystander, Chance is forced to arrest Burdette who is the brother of Nathan Burdette, the powerful rancher who holds sway over the town,.

Ricky Nelson plays Colorado Ryan, a reluctant gunslinger who is eventually drawn into the upcoming battle with Burdette’s forces. Dickinson is a mysterious drifter named Feathers (yeah, I said “Feathers”) who is introduced winning a card game in which Chance thinks she is cheating, though she soon proves otherwise and fingers the real cheater.

All of this of course leads in the best western tradition to a showdown and shootout between Burdette’s men and Chance’s uneasy allies. It’s not really a spoiler to say that Wayne’s team wins. That’s pretty much a given from the start. Instead this is definitely one of those cases where it’s all about the journey rather than the destination, and with a master like Hawks at the wheel, the journey is definitely a delight.

It’s interesting to see Nelson, who was a hotshot young singer at the time singing along with veteran crooner Martin. Wayne, of course, is completely at home in his role as the embodiment of American western bravado and swagger. And Dickinson shows why she would soon be one of America’s leading actresses

So is Rio Bravo one of the 250 best movies ever made? Possibly. But without doubt it is one of the best classic westerns ever, and definitely worthwhile viewing for anyone who is a fan of the genre, and the type of film who may make fans of those who aren’t.

Here’s your trailer:

Throwback Thursday – All These Dang Avengers

Between this blog and my previous one, Professor Damian’s Public Domain Treasure Chest, I’ve been writing about movies for quite a while now. Because of that, there are a lot of posts that have simply gotten lost to the mists of time. So, I figured I’d use the idea of “Throwback Thursday” to spotlight some of those older posts, re-presenting them pretty much exactly as they first appeared except for updating links where necessary or possible, and doing just a bit of re-formatting to help them fit better into the style of this blog. Hope you enjoy these looks back. 

So with the new Avengers movie taking the world by storm, I thought it might be a good time to look back at an article inspired by the last one…

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The Old Order Changeth – Avengers: Age Of Ultron And Avengers Vol 1 #16

***Spoiler Warning!!! This article deals with the very end of Avengers: Age of Ultron, So if you haven’t seen it yet and plan to, I advise you to turn back now. Seriously, I’m literally dealing with the last shot in the movie (no, not the mid-credit Easter egg, but the last shot of the movie proper). Okay, you have been warned. Spoiler Warning!!!***

a165Not long after its release to theaters, I was listening to a podcast in which the two hosts were discussing Avengers: Age of Ultron, and one of the hosts, almost as an afterthought asked the question (I’m paraphrasing here): “So what now? How do you handle this new crop of Avengers and what do you do with the old ones?”

The reason for the comment, of course, is because the “official” Avengers line-up at the end of the movie is very different than the one we have at the beginning of it. In the last few scenes we see the departure of Iron Man, Thor, Hawkeye, and the Hulk, and as their replacements we have a new team led by Captain America and the Black Widow, along with new recruits War Machine, The Falcon, The Vision, and The Scarlet Witch.

This immediately made me think of the original run of the Avengers comic, way back in antediluvian times when Stan Lee was still writing the book (along with almost every other book that Marvel was putting out at the time), and especially Avengers Vol 1 #16.

That particular issue, entitled “The Old Order Changeth”, is the first time in the comics that we actually see a full scale change in the make-up of the Avengers team, and at the end there is even a press conference where the new line up is announced.

a161Not that a fluidity of the line-up hadn’t been a primary feature of the comic from the start. Heck, at the end of the second issue, the Hulk, realizing how little his teammates trusted him (as a result of his being manipulated and imitated by the Space Phantom) took off in a huff, leading to an issues long subplot called “The Search for the Hulk”. Then, in issue 4, we had the “resurrection” of Captain America who had been presumed dead since the end of World War II but who had actually been frozen in a block of ice leaving him in pretty much a cryogenicly-preserved state. (Hey, it’s 60’s Marvel science where the bite of a radioactive spider can give a high-schooler spider powers and exposure to gamma radiation turns a scientist into The Hulk. Just go with it. Plus, this is the inspiration for the opening scene in the first Avengers movie where Steve Rogers’s body was found in a very similar state.)

That’s right, gang. Despite what you may have been led to believe subsequently, Cap wasn’t even one of the original founding member of the comic book version of the Avengers. Instead, we had Iron Man, Thor, Ant-Man (who quickly became Giant-Man – don’t ask), The Hulk, and The Wasp.

The problem with this line-up, quickly became apparent to Stan. Because each of these characters also had their own solo titles, and he felt that any real changes made to those characters should be made there rather than in a team book that not all of the character’s readers might be following, he felt ham-strung by the very nature of the team.

a164So what was the solution? Promote some lesser characters who didn’t have their own books to the majors by making them Avengers and at the same time, give him some heroes that he could do more with.

Of course, Stan being Stan, who at the time was in a mode where he really was trying to challenge himself and his fellow creators, (and also because even if he took some of the lesser heroes and included them in the roster, most of them also had their individual titles, so he would still be stuck in the same boat) he didn’t exactly take the easy way out.

Instead he decided the way to go was to take a few villains, give them a chance to reform, and reshape them into Avengers. To this end, he selected two characters who had previously appeared in the X-Men as members of the Magneto-led Brotherhood of Evil Mutants (by the way, just an aside here – it’s always struck me as odd that Magneto decided to kind of give away the game there by naming his group that. I mean, once you’ve outed yourselves as “Evil Mutants”, it seems like you’ve pretty much got to live up – or is it rather down? – to that moniker.), Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. Also, he chose one of Iron Man’s villains, the archer known as Hawkeye, who claimed that he really didn’t want to be a baddie, but he had been seduced and turned to the dark side by evil Russian spy Natasha Romanoff, otherwise known as The Black Widow. (Yep, at this point the Widow was a bad gal too.)

a162Of course, this left not only Cap but the public wondering just how this motley crew, subsequently nicknamed “Cap’s Kooky Quartet” could possibly live up to the legacy of the teams founders. Fortunately, Captain America, having trained and led troops into battle in the 40s didn’t have too work too long to teach these disparate characters how to be a well-oiled machine. Eventually, of course, the original Avengers began to return – the first one back full time being Giant-Man, at that point going by the name Goliath, and new cast members were continually added, and eventually even the title “The Old Order Changeth” or some variation thereon became something of a tradition whenever a new formal grouping of Avengers was being announced.

a163So the change in line-up at the end of Age of Ultron is really just a part of the Avengers tradition going back to the very first. And by the time we get to the next Avengers movie, having made it through Captain America:Civil War, Thor:Ragnarock, and whatever solo movies might impact the makeup of the team (for instance, the upcoming Black Panther movie, though the character is supposed to be introduced in Civil War) who knows who may or may not be Avengers.

I suppose in a way it just goes back to that old saying: “The more things changeth…”

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Hope you enjoyed this blast from the past.

Say “Cheese” 013 – Wacky Taxi (1972)

This past Christmas my son got me a Mill Creek box set called Awesomely Cheesy Movies. 100 movies on 24 disks, it’s actually a combination of two of their earlier released sets, “The Swinging Seventies”, and “The Excellent Eighties”.

For those of you who may not be familiar with these Mill Creek sets, they are generally comprised of  public domain or made-for-television movies that are reproduced without embellishment, enhancement, or extras and are sold in large collections for very low prices. This means that the quality on them can be quite variable, and they often show signs of age and wear. Nonetheless, there are often hidden gems amongst what can be large swaths of dross.

Anyway, I’ve decided to wend my way through this collection, starting with the first movie on the first disk of the 70s collection, then the first movie in the 80s set, then back to the 70s, and so on, and see just what turns up. If nothing else, it should be interesting. Come along, won’t you?

It seems like I keep starting these reviews with “Wooo…” or something like that. And that’s not an excited Ric Flair type “WHOOO!!”, but more of an “Oh, boy, that was really not something” kind of “woo…”. Or maybe it’s “Whew, at least that’s over with.”

I mean, okay, I put in a movie calledWacky Taxi, starring John Astin, most famously known as Gomez from the original Addams family, and all I know going in is that it’s about a guy who quits his dreary factory job in order to pursue his dream of starting his own taxi company.

So you start with a premise like that, and pretty much expect the rest of the review to be “hijinks ensue”. Except – well, apparently somebody forgot to include the hijinks.

Actually the first warning sign came before the movie even started when the blue “This movie is rated ‘G'” banner came up. Now I’ve been around long enough to know that a “G” rated movie from the 10s was allowed a lot more leeway than one today, when the score is basically reserved for animated kiddie-fare pablum. Even now, most family family films that are worth their weight in celluloid (hmmm… considering the rarity of actual celluloid in movie-making nowadays it may be worth more than it used to, but hey, go with me here) are at least PG rated. And for a movie like this – or at least the one I was expecting and hoping to get, at least a few boundaries need to be pushed or something at least needs to happen, and this “comedy” is pretty much the definition of “inert”.

The biggest problem is that the film spends way too much time bogged down in showingg us just how put-upon Astin’s character (who, for some reason we are never made aware of goes by the moniker “Pepper” – it certainly can’t be because he’s hot or fiery) is and how hard his struggles are to get his business going. Now, John Astin is certainly charming, to the point where when I was young I thought Gomez Adams was the definition of suave. After all, just look at his relationship with Morticia. Unfortunately, in this role as a put-upon Latino (seriously), Astin is disheveled and downtrodden to the point where even he can’t redeem the film.

And, of course, in keeping with the “family fun” nature of the movie, there is a pretty much out-of-nowhere happy ending that attempts to redeem all the hardship Pepper has endured, but actually just keeps him from learning any kind of lesson or facing up to what he has put his family through.

I’d love to give you a trailer just to give you a taste of just how not-wacky this movie is, but though the entire movie is available on YouTube, a simple trailer is not.

 

Up Next: The Swinging 70s  Disk 2 Movie 3: Wacky Taxi– Gomez Addams

OTR Tuesday – The Hermit’s Cave (1930s-1947)

The short intro: For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, Old Time Radio is the phrase generally used to refer to the time when radio was (mostly) live, and was full of a variety of different shows, as opposed to simply being a means for record labels to use robots to promote the top records of the day. OTR  Tuesday is my chance to explore some of those old radio shows, their connections (both old and new) to movies, and hopefully to encourage some of the rest of you to take a look at a probably unfamiliar source of entertainment that I truly love. If you want more info on OTR, and some examples of the variety of shows that were made, be sure to check out this introductory post.

“Hee, hee, hee, hee, hee, hee, hee, hee, hee . . . Gho-o-o-o-st stories,we-i-i-i-i-rd stories . . . murders, too! Hee, hee, hee, hee, hee, hee, hee. The Hermit knows of them all! Turn our y’er lights. Tu-r-r-r-n them out . . . ahhhh . . . ‘ave you heard the story, [insert story name]? ‘Eh? Then listen while The Hermit tells you the story . . . Hee, hee, hee, hee, hee, hee, hee!”…

Today we take kind off a deep dive into the radio archives for a show that unfortunately has very few surviving episodes.

The Hermit’s Cave originally began at station WJR in Detroit with a group of local actors who called themselves “The Mummers”. The group began appearing on WJR in 1930 in a series of 15 minute dramatic sketches. Around 1935 the players began calling their sketches “The Mummers’ Little Theater of the Air” and that.is a phrase you will hear often at the beginning of these shows.

Among the recurring sketches The Mummers would.present was “The Hermit’s Cave” which would feature eerie stories of the supernatural presented in an over-the-top manner by an old hermit who lived in a cave on a lonely hill, complete with wind blowing and wolves howling in the background. These sketches drew the attention of the Carter Coal Company which agreed to sponsor a weekly series featuring the character of the Hermit and his tales.

The show was an immediate hit and was soon being transmitted via electrical transmission throughout the midwest. Eventually the program was brought to the west coast by WJR owner Dick Richards and Don Lee who was part of the Mutual Broadcast Network.

In this iteration, the show was at first known as The Devil’s Scrapbook with the host being transformed to the devil, who read stories from his scrapbook. The rest of the show was mostly the same, and when radio station KMPC – which was part of Lee’s network -expanded its operations to  twenty-four hours., they finally managed to secure the rights to produce their own version of The Hermit’s Cave.

One of the interesting things Lee did was to hire William Conrad as producer, director, and even, at times, writer of this version of Cave.

Between the Midwest and West Coast versions of the show, it appears there were over 800 episodes of the show produced, but unfortunately only somewhere around 40 episodes are known to survive.

Let’s listen to a few, shall we?