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Darkest Africa (1936)
Curious Mixture of Jungle and Fantasy Movie
'Darkest Africa' is a curious and somewhat very creative effort of Republic Pictures. This serial - one of the first in this nostalgic and tongue-in cheek forgotten genre - mixtures a bit of jungle adventure bringing up to memory movies like 'Tarzan' and and others serials as 'The Phantom' and 'Captain Africa' and fantasy movies, with the themes of lost cities, flying bat men and others stuffs, in a time when fantasy genre was still still in its birth time was prod
For a serial realized in 1936 the special effects are really quite good especially concerning the well done conception of the bat-men. The city of Joba is a great scenario realization. But the story is a bit
repetitive, especially concerning the 'cliffhangers' proposed; more than half of the critical situation dividing chapters have some some relation with attack of lions and tigers. But Mr. Beatty is at home with that! Anyway, for serials fans as I am 'Darkest Africa' is a good example of what was going on in the Saturday matinée in the thirties and forties. It's like to wrap up a very old curtain and see another time pass by your nostalgic eyes.
Los cuatro salvajes (1966)
Very Effective Spaghetti Western
This movie has an original title that resumes almost everything about its story: Los Quatro Salvajes ( or The Four Ruthless Men). You'll see why. Two miserable adventurers (Steffen and Fajardo, in his best performance) help a Mexican guy to escape an attack of fierce 'bandoleros' just to find out that this Mexican outcast has a great secret: he knows - or, better, partially knows - where a great gold treasure is hidden. Why just 'partially'? Well, because he has just a part of the map to the treasure site tattooed in his back! Because of this he must find the other guy who has the rest of the map equally tattooed in the back; this guy is now a sheriff and so the hunt begins. An interesting story that resembles me a bit the Houston's classic 'Treasure of Sierra Madre' is charmingly developed by veteran director Mario Caiano although a bit far fetched and meaningless in some scenes and situations. Fajardo is terrific and Alejandra Nilo is a gorgeous face along the way. A spaghetti western that will delight the addicts of the genre and will be a good surprise to a new public as well.
Reverendo Colt (1970)
Just an Average Spaghetti Western
First of all, it's really necessary to point out that 'Reverendo Colt' is an Italian made western that came to the big screen when the top time of the genre was falling down. We must remember that almost all the classics had been made in 1971. Just as an example, the outstanding 'Django' directed by Sergio Corbucci was released in 1966 and the unforgettable 'Once Upon a Time in West' in 1968. In fact, the 'seventies' is not the best time to find out good spaghetti westerns. But 'Reverendo Colt' is not so bad. It's a simple but otherwise earnest little story of Miller Colt a gunfighter turned preacher that finds himself in the middle of a fight between two gangs for a would-be treasure. In this uncomfortable situation, Miller Cost is forced to return to his guns in order to defend a group of people ambushed by the outlaws in an abandoned military fort. Guy Madison, a veteran American actor, is Miller Colt; Mr. Madison gives a subdued performance but adequate to his character. Richard Harrison is a brawling and a bit dumb sheriff with almost nothing to do in the movie. Cris Huerta is the only one who gives a little touch of comedy to the story and German Cobos as Fred is the real sidekick of Miller Colt. Not a great movie but considering that 'Reverendo Colt' is a spaghetti western made in the declining years of the seventies, not so bad as it could have been.
Prairie Fever (2008)
'Prairie Fever' is one of these movies that no one would have done unless strictly based on a great disrespect for the audiences. In truth, it's really a sad experience to watch the torturing ninety minutes of this movie while thinking that 'western' was, a long time ago, the most important and well esteemed genre in American movie industry. 'Prairie Fever' is almost an insult, a disgusting whack in the western old trail. After the ending - thanks God! - I thought to myself what some great guys as John Ford, Howard Hawks or even the great Italian master Sergio Leone would say about this garbage. Kevin Sorbo - I think he must have felt ashamed as Sheriff Biggs, because he really seems so all the time - gives a wooden, disastrous performance as a ex-sheriff turned a drunkard after his wife's death in a shootout that he took part. He has a strange mission now: transport three deranged women to Carson City just to put them in a train to East. And that's it. That's the plot, the story of Prairie Fever. Don't expect a one good action scene or a funny situation. There's nothing here. Even the romantic scenes between Sorbo and his mate (played by Dominique Swain, a not bad actress) are contrived and unconvincing.
The Bunker (2001)
Extremely boring war movie that tries to establishes a link with terror/horror theme but fails miserably in all the points. So, the movie is a completely failures as a war movie and as a terror/horror flick. The 'Bunker' has a simple plot, in fact. A group of German soldiers enter a bunker to escape an attack of Allied soldiers. In the bunker, they find an old private and a young soldier. There's an atmosphere of mystery all around. The old man is a bit out of mind and very frightened and the young soldier is mesmerized by the tales and weird stories always repeated by the old man about strange facts concerning the bunker. But you'll never know what is the real problem. But you'll have many options: ghosts? zombies? witches? Although all the cards put on the table, the game never ended because here's no satisfactory and reasonable answer at the end. The cast is correct with Jason Flemyng - here the most recognizable actor in the bunch - and Eddie Marsan who did a good job as the old private.
Death of a Gunfighter (1969)
A western based on a dramatic character
Many times western movies are concerned with battles against Indians, duels between gunfighter or just pure adventure centered in heroes like Zorro or Durango Kid.
That's not the case with 'Death of a Gunfighter'. This little and forgotten movie tell a story based on the life - or, to be exact, the last days of a life - of a Marshall called Frank (Widmark) in a little town at the end of Nineteen century, a town where the 'new times' are coming faster and faster and the way of life of a man like Frank is not anymore well accepted.
Like some other western like 'The Shootist' (the last movie of John Wayne) and the more recent TV movie 'Monte Walsh', this one is a movie about loneliness, full of sadness and at the same time with violence, a harsh cruelty that falls upon the men and the women that are not prepared to live in another time and another way of life.
Richard Widmark gives a strong performance, all the time blending sadness, disappointment and angriness with a compassionate composition of the Marshall Frank Persh. Lena Horne is a bit dislocated but the support cast is very good, especially Carrol O'Connor and John Saxon.
'Death of a Gunfighter' is a movie that made all of us think about our lives and how we deal with the challenges put in front of us every day, especially in a world always changing. It's not a movie about heroes and courage - like almost other western movies are - but a movie about fragility.
7 out of 10
Mackenna's Gold (1969)
American western with a little taste of Spaghetti
"Mackenna's Gold' is an American western movie produced after some big success of movies made in Europe, especially great spaghetti westerns as 'Cera una volta il west', 'The Good, The Bad and the Ugly' and others like that.
That point is important to say that 'Mackeena' Gold' is intensely influenced by the style of the spaghetti western made in the sixties. But its success is not at all close to the movies enlisted here as a reference.
Directed by J. Lee Thompson, a veteran director, 'MacKeena's Gold' is strange, sometimes interesting and most of the time really boring. The movie has a great number of problems: first of all, the obnoxious Vicor Jory making a completely ridiculous narration, that compromise all the elements of surprise and involvement; second, the bad use of the geography as a background for the story (Sergio Leone was a master with this kind of resource, but Mr. Thompson is not) and some bad performances, especially by the lead man, Gregory Peck, a good actor (but not very good) that develops here a tiresome, restrained acting that compromise the final result.
The story has nothing new. In fact, it's just a gold hunting in which a great number of people get involved, under the ruthless command of a bandit named Colorado (Omar Shariff), in a performance fitted to the style of the westerns made in Italy. Sometimes, he remembered me of Fernando Sancho, a always present villain in Italian movies. There is a respectable list of great names in the cast, like Edward G. Robinson, Raymond Massey and even Eli Wallach, who worked some years before with Sergio Leone in 'The Good, the Bad and The Ugly' all of them in little roles.
It's very difficult to make a great movie about gold hunting, treasure hunting or whatever after the classic 'Treasure of Sierra Madre' by John Houston. But this is not a excuse for the failings of 'Mackeena's Gold'.
I give this a 5 out of 10
Ballata per un pistolero (1967)
So So Spaghetti Western
'Ballata per un Pistolero' is a so-so spaghetti western, with a trifle story, good scenes of shootings and a good photography background and competent music score.
This movie was released in DVD here in Brazil and it takes my special attention for two reasons: first of all, I'm a great addict of spaghetti western (in fact, I'm writing a book about movies, actors and directors of this genre) and second because 'Ballata per un Pistolero' has not in the cast none of the actors who were always around, like Giulianno Gemma, Franco Nero, George Hilton or Anthony Steffen.
The movie is a standard example of these kind of movies. In the main role we find an actor of old Yugoslavia (here under the name 'Anthony Guidra') who made a good work as an aging gunman in a hunt against two criminals. By his side goes a young bounty hunter (played by Angelo Infanti, in an infamous wooden performance) and the ending will bring the revelation of a secret between these two different men.
Not a great movie, to be sure. I give this a 5 (five) out of 10 (ten). But the movie is somewhat amusing and well done, especially if you are a spaghetti western enthusiastic.
Land of the Dead (2005)
An old idea that is losing impact!
'Land of the Dead' is a return to the many times repeated theme of the zombies who harassed the poor living, eating arms, legs, brains and so on. The director is George Romero, a cult filmmaker who is recognized as the man who created zombie movies. This is really true and Romero did his first zombie picture in the sixties, so you cam easily figure out that this kind of terror is a bit old and tired.
Romero know this fact too. Because of that, he tries to put in 'Land of the Dead' some new elements to the zombies scary stuff, like the gradual intelligence that the living dead is seem to be acquiring. The movie has some touches of science fiction, especially the city under the siege of the zombies (it's not hard to remember some 'Mad max' influence here) and even some political criticism, incorporated in a tag line of Mr De Mora (played by Dennis Hooper) when he said with pompous authority 'We don't negotiate with terrorists'. Poor Bin Laden!
All these new elements fail to make 'Land of the Dead' a good movie. Zombie movies was a good idea, twenty years ago or more. Now, it seems a bit boring and dull. In fact, one knows all the time where the movie is going; the bad guys is eaten by the zombies, some good guys are turned in zombies and the terrible plague is never defeated, maybe because another movie must be done. A horrible perspective, to be sure.
The cast made a reasonable work. Simon Baker, as the hero, is convincing and correct. Asia Argento, daughter of Italian master of suspense, Dario Argento, is discreet and John Leguizamo is electric as always.
Romero is a good director. Maybe it's time to see him doing another thing, another kind of movie. I think this is a good council, before Mr. Romero turns out in a zombie too.
Poor handled material about a real story concerning a young woman (Williams) who has all her data and her identity too stole by an ambitious and ill minded secretary (Sciorra). The movie goes on and on, never offering any climax moments or interesting facts, until the constrained ending when informations about the facts and the persons involved are given like a policial report.
The story of this movie has potential, indeed. Nowdays, one of the big problems in commerce activity is the real possibility of one has all his or hers personal information (name, number of social security, ID or credit card)used by stealers and modern pirates in a series of crimes.
Unfortunately, 'Identity Theft' never hits the bull eye. In my opinion, I think this movie was made almost with an amateur touch, like a second grade production. I give this one a 3 (three).