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gwryter-2

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Man to man. There's only one man in this movie., 10 August 2001
7/10

Sergio Leone defines the genre, but there are other Italian directors who know their way around the spaghetti western. If they have Lee Van Cleef to work with, well, the audience is in for a really good time.

Death Rides a Horse is the relatively unknown masterpiece in an era that produced westerns of varying quality. It has all the plot prerequisites: blood and mayhem galore, a wrong the needs righting, and an interesting relationship between the avenging good guy and the man who crosses his path with an agenda of his own that needs taking care of.

The music is quirky as only Ennio Morricone knows how make it; and the photography, if you are lucky enough to watch a good copy, is gritty.

The acting is another matter. At one end of the spectrum is John Phillip Law who has the personality and delivery of a piece of cardboard, on the other, Lee Van Cleef who is grand mastered of the sinister glance and soft-spoken line. It's Van Cleef's movie all the way, right down to his last gesture of self-sacrifice in the end. It's a shame that this movie has been allowed to deteriorate, but Turner Broadcasting a good copy. Maybe if we leave enough requests on the TCM web site, they will run it for us sometime.

3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
A movie that remains watchable because it focuses on people not politics., 6 August 2000

Even in his early days, DeMille was a technological wizard who applied the credo "more is better" to his movies. In his silent epic, The Volga Boatman, he certainly employed all the cinematic devices available to him to paint a picture of the Bolshevik revolution, not so much on a sweeping political scale, as on a personal level, that of a peasant and a princess.

The imagery in this movie is DeMille at his most visually expressive: the Volga boatmen, the human mules of Russia, in their rags contrasting with the richly dressed aristocrats, particularly Princess Vera whose gowns were designed by Adrian; the clock in the background inexorably ticking away the minutes of Vera's life as she plays the brave aristocrat, defying Feodor, the steely-eyed boatman/Bolshevik leader, not to love her; and the grand ballroom scene where the cream of Russian society dances while Mother Russia convulses in political upheaval.

Imagery conveys meaning in silent movies more so than the dialog, however, the dialog in The Volga Boatman is studded with acerbic lines emphasizing the disparity between classes and adding to the overall atmosphere of cultural inequality. Unfortunately, we only read one of the best lines of dialog ever written. Despite the fact that Bill Boyd's (Feodor's) rich baritone voice was a generous mixture of northern Oklahoma and north Hollywood accents, I enjoy imagining what he could have done with the line: "We've waited 500 years for freedom, you can wait five minutes to die."

As a devoted fan of the movies, particularly movies having some historical content, The Volga Boatman remains a highly appealing and "watchable" film for me because it focuses on timeless human relationships and not the stale political tracts which can be supplanted. In addition, DeMille's technical craftsmanship is most ably demonstrated in the beautiful composition of each scene. Mr. DeMille went on to direct Technicolor extravaganza's but this hand-tinted, silent classic is one that stands out as an example of DeMille at his cinematic best.

6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Mulford gets his lumps in this classic parody of Hopalong Cassidy., 14 May 2000

Francis Nevins in his book, The Films of Hopalong Cassidy, suggests that Sunset Trail has its roots in the rantings of Clarence E. Mulford, creator of the Cassidy saga. The Eastern author frequently voiced his disgust over the realization of his cowboy hero in the movies. Things were a might more personal in 1930's Hollywood than they are today, and someone took a notion to teach Mulford a thing or two about the movies. The result is the wonderful Hopalong parody, Sunset Trail.

Mulford is merrily satirized in the character of E. Prescott Furbush, an author of western novels. Furbush, who never having been west of Flatbush, nevertheless has gained fame recording the deeds of the western desperado, Deadeye Dan. After years of fashioning fairy tales, the little fussbudget books a stay at a dude ranch to savor the `real' West. But his antics pale beside those of another dude, William H. Cassidy, or Harold, as he's known among the other guests at the ranch.

Hoppy has been sent to deal with land grabbers and assumes the identity of the inept Easterner, Harold, as cover. Forget the plot; it's predictable. What is not routine is Bill Boyd's performance. There is a swagger in his walk and a gleam in his eye reminiscent of the sharp-dressed, high-living Boyd of the 1920's. He deftly handles the comedy and energetically pokes fun at the Cassidy image. One of the most outstanding moments comes when Harold offers to compare surgical scars with a female guest who has been regaling Furbush with tales of her poor health.

This episode may not appeal to everyone's sense of humor, but for me it is a final glimpse of Bill Boyd, being as wickedly funny as he is handsome before he permanently transformed himself into the stalwart cowboy hero.

10 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
The most visually satisfying film in the series was recycled., 1 May 2000

Apple-eating killers, great costumes for the female villain (a different, dazzling costume for almost every scene) and the impressive California Sierras make this Hopalong Cassidy adventure one of the best of the 60. It was so good in fact that Harry Sherman and his crew recycled the plot elements in another fairly good Hopalong titled, Wide Open Town. Although Hopalong Cassidy Returns is by far the better of the two, not only by virtue of being first, but also because more money was spent on the production and each had a different director: Nate Watt for HCR and Lesley Selander for WOT.

The dark-haired Miss Brent in satin and sequins plays well against the shimmering, silvery haired William Boyd. Their final scene is worth waiting for, if not for the emotional content then for the technical aspects of lighting and photography.

You won't see another like it in the series.

8 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
The Frontiersman is a light-hearted Hopalong Cassidy adventure that puts a slight spin on the predictable cattle rustling scenario., 1 May 2000

William Boyd had no use for singing cowboys and tried to minimize the music in the Hopalong Cassidy movies every chance he got. He lost the battle in this flick. The Brendan Boys choir sing their little hearts out.

I am in perfect agreement with Mr. Boyd. But after you get passed the singing, this movie is a rollicking adventure even if the rustler plot has been done to death. There is a even slight twist to the proceedings that is somewhat of a surprise.

However, it isn't the fate of the Bar 20 cattle that holds your attention here. It's the fun that the three heroes (Hoppy, Windy, and Lucky) have competing for the affections of the new schoolmarm that steal the show. Don't pass up the chance to see Hoppy in an apron and Windy slicked up to go a courtin'.