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Silver Bullet (1985)
I'll Keep an Eye Out For You!
"Silver Bullet" is an adaptation of a novella by horror meister Stephen King. King also wrote the screenplay for this film. And, it's a werewolf movie to boot.
In the sleepy little town of Tarker's Mills where nothing ever happens, grisly murders begin to take place. First a railway worker is literally loses his head. Next a distraught but pregnant young girl Tammy Sturmfuller (Heather Simmons) is brutally murdered. Thirdly a young boy Brady Kincaid (Joe Wright) becomes the next victim. Brady was the playmate of Marty Coslow (Corey Haim) with whom teased Marty's sister Jane (Megan Follows) only hours before.
The townspeople become alarmed. They believe the murderer to be some sort of madman however. Marty has reason to believe that the murderer is a werewolf. The townspeople form under Andy Fairton (Bill Smitrovich) and the dead boy's father Herb (Kent Broadhurst), a group that goes out into the night in search of the killer. They find him. Three of the searchers are murdered in the fog. Reverend Lowe (Everett McGill) and Sheriff Haller (Terry O'Quinn) try to calm the folks down.
Marty, who is crippled and rides a souped up wheelchair built by his carefree uncle Red (Gary Busey) continues to believe in the werewolf theory. One night while setting off fireworks in an isolated spot, Marty is attacked by the werewolf but manages to put out his eye with a rocket (if you can believe it).
Jane now convinced of the existence of the werewolf, searches for a man with an eye patch while collecting bottles for a bottle drive run by the local church. She finds him and.................................
The identity of the werewolf is not hard to pick out even though his identity is revealed half way through the film. The real terror comes when he stalks young Marty. There is a fitting climax to the proceedings complete with a silver bullet.
Lot's of blood and gore including a decapitation however, the actual murders are not seen, only the aftermaths. Still, its a scary movie.
You have to wonder how the werewolf was initially infected, given that the murders suddenly materialize in the quiet little town without warning.
Pet Sematary (1989)
It's Right Out Back...Just Follow the Path!
"Pet Sematary" is another adaptation of a Stephen King novel. Oddly enough, the cemetery is only incidental to the plot. The real center of the story revolves around an old Mic Mac burial ground located above the pet cemetery in an isolated area.
A young family, the Creeds, moves to rural Maine from Chicago. The father, Louis (Dale Midkiff) is a doctor taking up a post at the local hospital (I think). His faithful wife Rachel (Denise Crosby) and their two young children, Ellie (Balze Berdahl) and Gage (Miko Hughes) settle in. They meet their neighbor, the mysterious Jud Crandall (Fred Gwynne) who tells them of a "pet semetary" located at the end of a path leading from the Creeds property.
The Creed home and that of Crandall are separated by a busy highway over which travel large trucks at high speeds. The "sematary" apparently was established by the local children to bury their pets that were killed on the highway.
At work, Louis tends to the injuries of Victor Pascow (Brad Greenquist). The man dies but in the process vows to help Louis through any crisis, a sort of guardian angel. And yes, only Louis is aware of Victor.
When Rachel and the kids go to Chicago for Thanksgiving, Their pet cat "Church" is killed. Rather than tell Ellie of the tragedy, Crandall takes Louis to a hidden graveyard once used by the Mic Mac Indians. The grave yard possess magical powers by which a body buried there will rise (rather quickly) from the dead. Louis buries the cat there and lo and behold, the next evening...the cat came back. The rejuvenated pet has become aggressive toward Louis however, he manages to keep his gruesome secret from his family.
Now this is where it gets really interesting. One sunny afternoon at a family picnic, little Gage wanders onto the highway and is killed. After a traditional burial, Louis sends his family to Chicago. Louis distraught over his son's death, exhumes his body and despite warnings from Crandall and Pascow, takes the little boy to the Indian graveyard. The little boy comes back to life and................................
A lot of blood and gore in this one folks. The make up on the Pascow character is unbelievable. The violence at the film's climax results in much bloodshed. How they got little Miko Hughes (and his dummy double) to do what they do is really amazing. The hanging suicide of washer woman Missy (Susan Blommaert) although gruesome (and well done), adds little to the story line except to provide a venue for Stephen King's cameo.
The Dead Zone (1983)
I Can See Clearly Now!
"The Dead Zone" is an adaptation of yet another eerie Stephan King novel. The story, ably directed by David Cronenberg, is told in episodic form with five separate but linked stories involving the trials and tribulations of Johnny Smith (Christopher Walken).
Johnny is an English teacher happy in his job and engaged to a fellow teacher, Sarah Brocknell (Brooke Adams). One day while driving home, Johnny is involved in a traffic accident that leaves him comatose for five years.
When he awakes, Johnny discovers his lost five years, and under the care of Dr. Sam Weizak (Herbert Lom), begins the long road back. He is heart broken to learn that Sarah has gotten married and has a young son. One day he makes hand contact with his nurse (Chappelle Jaffe) and is overwhelmed by the feeling that her young daughter is in danger in a house fire. He manages to convince the nurse to call for help.
Later, now aware of his psychic abilities and following his recovery. Johnny is approached by Sheriff Bannerman (Tom Skerritt) who asks for his assistance in finding the Castle Rock serial killer. He examines the body of the latest victim and has a vision of the crime and the identity of the killer.
Now earning his living as a tutor, Johnny is approached by hard line millionaire Roger Stuart (Anthony Zerbe) to tutor his son who shuns contact with others. After winning the boy over, Johnny discovers that the boy is in danger by drowning during a hockey game. Johnny warns Stuart who reluctantly allows the boy to miss the game thereby saving his life.
As luck would have it, Johnny's house is directly across the street from a political dais for senatorial and presidential hopeful Greg Stillson (Martin Sheen). Stillson has his own agenda and will go to any ends to achieve his goals. While shaking hands with the candidate, Johnny through his psychic powers learns what might happen if Stillson becomes president. He then decides to take necessary action and....
An intriguing movie with a surprise twist at the film's climax. The performances are uniformly great. Walken has never been better than in the lead role as he tries to deal with his "gift". Brooke Adams is suitably sweet as the heroine who still loves the hero. Herbert Lom makes a convincing therapist who learns a long lost secret from one of Johnny's visions. Tom Skerritt, Anthony Zerbe and Martin Sheen play their roles with conviction. Collenn Dewhurst has nice little bit as the deranged mother of the serial killer. Others of note in the cast include Nicholas Campbell as Deputy Sheriff Dodd and Sean Sullivan and Jackie Burroughs as Johnny's parents.
One has to wonder, in view of the Stillson character, how Johnny would have reacted to a certain presidential candidate in 2016.
The Gallant Legion (1948)
On the Cabot Trail!
The Gallant Legion of the title refers to the Texas Rangers who oppose a renegade organization trying to split Texas into different parts prior to it becoming a state.
Heading up the renegade faction is Beau Leroux (Bruce Cabot) who has aspirations of leading a police force in what he calls "West Texas" and thereby controlling the new state. Senator Claude Faulkner (Joseph Schildkraut) supports him but when he fails to get the necessary votes to quash the Texas Rangers, abandons him. Faulkner's niece Connie (Adrian "don't call me Lorna Gray" Booth) is engaged to Leroux.
Soldier of fortune Gary Conway (William "don't call me Wild Bill" Elliott) returns to El Paso to the ranch he shares with his brother Chuck (Hal Landon). He learns that Chuck has joined the renegades in order to acquire enough wealth to give his girl friend Catalina (Adele Mara)what she wants.
Conway runs into an old friend Tom Bannen (James Brown) who pleads with him to join the Texas Rangers. Conway refuses. However in a failed bank robbery attempt with the renegades, Chuck is shot and later dies. Gary then decides to join the Rangers headed up by Capt. Bannen (Jack Holt), Tom's father. There he meets up with Windy Hornblower (Andy Devine) an old friend.
Connie Faulkner meanwhile has become a newspaper correspondent. She has her eye on Conway while still engaged to Leroux. She moves in with the Rangers in order to report on their activities. Her uncle, unbeknownst to her, is altering her reports to discredit the Rangers.
Leroux is planning to involve the Cheyenne in his battle with the Rangers by arming them for a planned attack. The devious Leroux however, has an ulterior motive. He plans to attack the Cheyenne village and have the blame placed upon the Rangers.
While investigating the renegades, Tom Bannen is dry gulched by Leroux and the blame placed upon Conway. Leroux orders the attack and Capt. Bannen mobilizes the Rangers and.............................
Bruce Cabot is particularly nasty as the chief villain. He even gets to fire a Gatling gun on the Rangers. Elliott now departed from his "B" movie days, plays the same low key hero he always played....but he gets to have a whiskey and kiss the girl in this one. Jack Holt makes a tough square jawed Captain of the Rangers. Andy Devine, along for comedy relief, plays...well Andy Devine.
There are plenty of familiar faces in the supporting roles. On the renegade side we have veterans Grant Withers, Hal Taliaferro, Harry Woods, John "Lefty" Cason, George Chesebro, and Glenn Strange. On the Ranger side watch for Marshall Reed, Hank (Mustache) Bell, Chuck Roberson, Cactus Mack, Kermit Maynard and Ben Johnson (whom I didn't spot).
Director Joe Kane gives us plenty of action complete with large groups of riders galloping over the terrain, a saloon fight and plenty of gun play.
One of Republic's best "A" features.
Oh! Susanna (1951)
There's Gold in Them Thar Hills!
"Oh! Susanna" is another of Republic's Trucolor "A" list westerns, this one dealing with the "there's gold in them thar hills" theme.
Set in the Black Hills of Dakota, it has West Pointer Captain Webb Calhoun (Rod Cameron) policing the treaty with the Sioux that prevents settlers and miners from encroaching on Sioux land in search of gold. Calhoun's commanding officer, Lt. Col. Unger (Forrest Tucker complete with greying hair) has risen through the ranks and resents his subordinate's West Point training.
Saloon owner Ira Jordan (Jim Davis) has intentions of starting a war between the army and the Sioux so that the miners can sneak onto Sioux land. He has Unger convinced that the miners should be allowed that access. Working for Jordan is "saloon girl" Lia Wilson (Adrian Booth aka Lorna Gray) with whom Calhoun has a past. Unger also takes an interest in Lia. She in turn, is "carrying on" with shave tail Lt. Cutter (John Compton).
Calhoun continues to warn the trespassers against a possible Sioux attack. The Sioux begin to muster their forces. Unger is lured into a trap through the efforts of Jordan. Calhoun is left to defend the fort with his small troop. The Sioux attack and...........................
The story kind of lags through the first two thirds of the film. It focuses on the conflict between the Cameron and Tucker characters and their completion for the affections of Booth. There is however, a rollicking saloon brawl to break the monotony. The final third of the film deals with the well mounted Indian attack which is the highlight of the story.
Also in the cast are Chill Wills as the tough sergeant, William Ching, Wally Cassell, Marshall Reed, Jimmy Lydon as troopers with Douglas Kennedy and William Haade as the problem troopers. Also along are Charlie Stevens as a scout, and William Bakewell, Ray Teal, Gene Roth, John Merton, Francis McDonald, George Chesbro and Barbara Billingsly in a variety of small roles.
The Last Bandit (1949)
Brother, Can You Spare a Crime?
"The Last Bandit" is a Trucolor "A" list western from the western factory, Republic Pictures. It's a good brother versus bad brother story.
Frank and Jim Plummer (William "don't call me Wild Bill" Elliot, Forrest Tucker) are wanted criminals from Missouri in the James Brothers vein. Frank has reformed and changed his name to Norris working for railroad owner Mort Pemberton (Jack Holt). Jim is about to be married to Kate Foley (Adrian Booth - aka Lorna Gray) when slimy Ed Bagley (Grant Withers) talks her into going to Nevada to participate in the robbing of a gold train on which Frank is the guard.
Saloon Madam Winnie McPhail (Mima Gombell) is the mastermind behind the plot. Kate is assigned the task of winning over Frank to their cause. But, darn it, she falls in love with him. Then Jim and his gang show up. Frank refuses to go along and is despondent over what Kate has done. Jim proceeds with the robbery with Frank being shot during the process.
The gang hides the train in an abandoned mine cave by using a long forgotten railway spur. Frank recovers and pursues the train (on foot, mind you) to the cave. He learns of Kate's true feelings. After blasting the safe, the whole front of the mountain under which the train sits, collapses. A posse headed by Pemberton, Casey Brown (Andy Devine) and the sheriff ( Hank Bell with his trade mark mustache) close in and...............................................
Republic employed some of the best stunt men in the business. There's a bang up fight between Elliott and Tucker's characters that is as good as you'll ever see. The Lydecker brothers were equally adept at providing special effects. Witness their miniatures of the train backing into the mountain cave and the collapse of the mountain.
Elliott plays his role straight and shows little emotion although he does get to kiss the leading lady, a feat he would never have accomplished is his "B" movie days. It's interesting to note that Andy Devine refers to him as "son" even though he was actually a year younger than Elliott. Tucker turns in his usual excellent performance as the bad brother. Grant Withers had once been a leading man and makes a swarthy villain here.
Other recognizable players in the cast include the likes of Stanley Andrews, Martin Garralaga, George Chesebro, Steve Clark, Rex Lease, Gene Roth, Emmett Lynn and Charles Middleton in various parts.
A good western.
The Four Feathers (1929)
He Stuck a Feather in His Cap.........!
"The Four Feathers" is the oft filmed story of bravery and cowardice set in the 1860s in England and the Sudan in Africa. This version is significant as Paramount's last silent movie although it does have a synchronized music score together with sound effects.
Four aspiring young officers, Harry Faversham (Richard Arlen), William Trench (William Powell), Jack Durrance (Clive Brook) and Castleton (Theodore Van Eltz) dream of glory on the battlefield for Queen and country. Faversham has doubts about whether or not he can live up to the family history of great soldiers. He is also about to marry Ethne Eustace (Fay Wray), the daughter of a Colonel.
One evening, a message is delivered to Harry warning of an upcoming war. He tries to hide the message from the others but Trench accidentally finds it. Meanwhile fearing the upcoming war, Harry resigns his commission. The three friends brand Harry as a coward and each present him with a white feather signifying cowardice. Ethne, coming from a military background, also brands him a coward and presents him with a feather of her own.....hence the four feathers of the title.
The last straw for Harry is when he visits his dying father General Faversham (George Fawcett) who has learned of Harry's actions. The old man dies believing his son to be a coward. Harry angered, vows to return each of the four feathers to their presenter.
In disgrace, Harry flees to the Sudan where the aforementioned war is being waged. He wanders aimlessly about until he hears of a battle where Trench has been captured. Harry with the help of a young boy, Ali (Harold Hightower) and his monkey, sneaks into the prison where Trench is being held but is captured in the attempt.
Later, the prisoners are brought to a slave market where the slave trader (Noah Beery) negotiates for the two white men (Harry and Trench). Harry with the help of Ali manages to free himself. The slave trader catches them and slays the young boy before being over powered by Harry. Harry and Trench escape and Harry returns Trench's feather to him.
Harry learns of Durrance's valiant attempt to defend his isolated fort against hordes of attackers while wounded. He then slips through enemy lines in an effort to reach the fort and.............................
Long time Paramount star Richard Arlen makes a dashing hero although it is a mystery to me as to how he manages to sneak into the prison and the fort respectively. A lot of people don't realize that William Powell had a productive career in silent before his Thin Man days. He turns in an excellent performance here as the second lead. Fay Wray has little to do as the love interest. Noah Beery, nasty as ever, gets the hisses for his slaying of the young boy.
Is it me or does this film invoke memories of "Beau Geste" (1926)? Both have a prologue featuring the main characters as children, both feature the hero fleeing in disgrace, both have an isolated fort and both have large numbers of enemies attacking said forts from a desert. Just asking.
Beau Geste (1926)
Classic Silent Screen Gem!
"Beau Geste" is a story of the three Geste brothers Michael, Digby and John who end up in the French Foreign Legion and their adventures therein.
The film has a creepy opening sequence where a relief battalion led by Major de Beaujolais (Norman Trevor) arrive at an isolated desert fort and find it apparently deserted. On further inspection, Major Beaujolais finds dead soldiers propped up at each of the openings of the rampart and no apparent survivors within. His trumpeter scales the wall and disappears as do two of the bodies.
To solve the mystery, we go to the flashback of the three brothers and Isabel Rivers playing war games as children. Michael, who is called "Beau" and Digby make a death pact that if one of them dies before the other, the survivor will give the deceased a Viking funeral.
The brothers grow up to be Ronald Coleman (Beau), Neil Hamilton (Digby) and Ralph Forbes (John). John and Isabel (Mary Brian) are a couple. Lady Paricia Brandon (Alice Joyce) has raised the boys following her sister's death. She is experiencing financial difficulties and is forced to bring out the family treasure, the "Blue Water" sapphire with a view to selling it.
The jewel is stolen at a family gathering. Beau takes the blame and flees in disgrace to join the foreign legion. Digby soon follows. He also takes the blame for the theft. John soon follows and catches up with his brothers at the Legion's recruiting station. United once again the brothers meet fellow recruits Hank (Victor McLaglan), Buddy (Donald Stuart) and snake in the grass Boldini (William Powell).
At the fort the men are introduced to sadistic Sgt. Lejeune (Noah Beery). Boldini overhears the boys discuss the Blue Water and believes that Beau has the jewel. He tries to rob Beau one night and is caught. Through him Lejeune learns of the priceless jewel and vows to get it for himself. He then separates the brothers with Beau and John going with him. Digby, Hank and Buddy are sent to another fort.
Some of the soldiers plan a mutiny against Lejeune but he learns of it. As he plots his revenge a large scale attack by Arab forces begins and..........................................
At the film's climax, all of the missing points in the film's opening scenes are explained and the mystery of the Blue Water's disappearance is solved.
The performances in the film are outstanding. Although Ronald Coleman is the star, he doesn't get all that much to do. To me, the film is stolen by Noah Beery as Lejeune. He dominates the action and is feared by all who know him. The battle scenes are amazing. The Arabs on the desert look like a colony of ants scurrying about.
A great film. Remade in 1939 and 1966.
Wild Horse Mesa (1925)
A Real Honest to Goodness Hoss Opera!
"Wild Horse Mesa" is a Zane Grey story with a cast of thousands, (horses that is). Set as it is in present day (i.e. 1925), it's hard to imagine large herds of wild horses running free such as those shown in this film in today's world.
Lige Melberne (George Irving) is a store keeper who is losing his shirt. His store is a shambles, as Eugene Palette discovers, with goods scattered all about, including a large supply of barb wire. Young Chess Weymer (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) is the clerk supposed to be watching the store but has gone fishing. Chess has a teen age crush on Melberne's daughter Sue (Billie Dove).
Bert Menerobe (George Magrill) whom Sue seems to like, arrives one day with a proposition. If Lige will provide the financial backing Bert claims that they can capture an unlimited number of wild horses that are running free all over wild horse mesa. He proposes building a pen in which to keep the captured animals with barb wire strung around the enclosure to keep them in. The naïve Lige doesn't realize that many of the horses will be cut up trying to escape.
Chess' brother Chane (Jack Holt) meanwhile, has been trying to capture the statuesque white stallion that heads up the herd of wild horses, without success. He has been aided by his Indian friend Toddy Nokin (Bernard Seigel) whose young daughter Sosie (Margaret Moses) has her eye on Chane. One day Bud McPherson (Noah Beery, who has never been meaner) and his two cronies come into Chane's camp. Horse thieves if ever there were some, they plan to steal Chane's horses.
Chane manages to escape and flees the rustlers. After an arduous trek he stumbles into the Melberne camp exhausted and hungry. Chess identifies him as his brother while Chane takes an interest in Sue. Manerube becomes jealous.
McPherson and his pals come upon Sosie wandering alone after she left her family in search of Chane. They assault her. Later she crawls back to her father, tells him what happened and dies. Toddy Nokin vows revenge.
Manerube teams up with McPherson to drive the wild horses into their trap, barb wire and all. Melberne tries to back out and Sue pleads with them to not go ahead with their plan. Manerube has a change of heart but is shot down by McPherson's man. Chane still recovering from his ordeal realizes what is about to happen. Then the horses are stampeded and....................................................
There are three father/son stories involving the cast. Douglas Fairbanks Jr., who if one is to believe his birth date, was only sixteen at the time and was the son of Douglas Fairbanks who was at the peak of his own career. Jack Holt's son Tim became a star of his own series in the 40s and 50s as well as, appearing in a few "A" features. Noah Beery Jr. had a long career of playing the likable sidekick of the hero.
Also in the cast are Edith Yorke as Grandma Melberne who provides what comedy relief there is. And from the blink and you'll miss them department, Gary Cooper and Tom Tyler appear as background cowboys.
The horse stampede is itself worth the price of admission.
Straight Shooting (1917)
The Good Bad Guy!
"Straight Shooting" is notable as John (aka Jack) Ford's first feature length film. He had directed a few two-reelers earlier. In fact this film started out as a short but was expanded to feature length during production. It stars Harry Carey as a recurring Ford character, Cheyenne Harry.
The plot is what would be a staple among westerns, the cattlemen against the nesters. Leading the cattle ranchers is Thunder Flint (Duke Lee) who wants to drive the farmers off of their land. Sweet Water Sims (George Berrell) and his comely young daughter Joan (Molly Malone) and son Ted (Ted Brooks) represent (for budgetary reasons) the struggling farmers.
Flint hires wanted criminal ($1,000 reward no less) Cheyenne Harry (Carey) to drive the nesters out. Harry is a hard drinkin', hard smokin' fast on the draw hombre. He even gets into an all night drinking bout with Flint co-hort Placer Freemont (Vestor Pegg). Before Harry can take action on the farmers, Flint dry gulches young Ted Sims, killing him. Harry comes upon the burial service and takes pity on them, the lovely Joan in particular. Joan has been the apple of cowhand Sam Turner's (Hoot Gibson) eye during all of the trouble.
Harry sees the error of his ways and sides with the farmers. Flint orders Freemont to kill Harry. In a showdown, Harry prevails. Flint then gathers a large gang of cattlemen and plans an attack on the farmers. Seeing that the farmers are badly outnumbered, Harry seeks help from a former outlaw pal Black-Eye Pete (Milton Brown) and his gang. A large battle ensues and...............................
Harry is then faced with a dilemma. Does he get Joan to mend that tear in his shirt or does he ride on?
Many of Ford's future trademarks are in this film. He always liked plenty of hard ridin' horsemen complete with horse falls with plenty of action. Long panoramic shots such as the shot of a cattle drive from the top of a hill impress. Lots of gun play, a sympathetic good/bad hero and a little romance thrown in. The trademark "Fordian" humor would come later. By the way, what happened to the price on Harry's head?
A good start to a long and rewarding career.