Westerns Feed

Stark Reviews: Ride in the Whirlwind (1965)

Ride in the Whirlwind

Stark says: “Obliged.”

Monte Hellman’s Westerns are a strange breed. For one thing, it’s hard to talk about one without talking about the other. The Shooting and Ride in the Whirlwind were shot back to back, after the film’s financier reckoned that, if you’re making one film, why the hell not make two? And while both are considered to be prime examples of revisionist, acid Westerns, they’re also very different films. As a Western, The Shooting, written by Carole Eastman, is female-led, abstract, uncompromising and hallucinogenic. Ride in the Whirlwind, on the other hand, is defiantly realistic; more conventional and plot-driven. It was also written, produced and acted in by Jack Nicholson.

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Stark Reviews: Day of the Outlaw (1959)

Day of the Outlaw

Stark says: “You won't find much mercy anywhere in Wyoming.

Seen The Revenant, yet? No? Well, if you’re pushed for time but harbouring a hankering for a hardscrabble, snow-choked Western, then go for Day of the Outlaw instead. If nothing else, it’ll save you an hour and a half, which you can spend doing… other things. Like smoking meat or practising macramé.

I will admit, there’s less grunting than there is in The Revenant, and less bear. Directed by Hungarian-born Andre de Toth – of House of Wax fame – what’s on offer here is a psychological, powder-keg of a Western that feels less like a yee-haw-thankee-ma’am-cowboy-movie and more like a taut, 1930s noir thriller.

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Quentin Tarantino's 10 Favourite Spaghetti Westerns

Another random famous person listicle, sorry! But this is an interesting list - Quentin Tarantino's twenty favourite Spaghetti Westerns. And the sort of thing that will keep Stark busy:

  1. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Sergio Leone, 1966)
  2. For a Few Dollars More (Sergio Leone, 1965)
  3. Django (Sergio Corbucci, 1966)
  4. The Mercenary (Sergio Corbucci, 1966)
  5. Once Upon a Time in the West (Sergio Leone, 1968)
  6. A Fistful of Dollars (Sergio Leone, 1964)
  7. Day of Anger (Tonino Valerii, 1967)
  8. Death Rides a Horse (Giulio Petroni, 1967)
  9. Navajo Joe (Sergio Corbucci, 1966)
  10. The Return of Ringo (Duccio Tessar, 1965)
  11. The Big Gundown (Sergio Sollima, 1966)
  12. A Pistol for Ringo (Duccio Tessari, 1965)
  13. The Dirty Outlaws (Franco Rossetti, 1967)
  14. The Great Silence (Sergio Corbucci, 1968)
  15. The Grand Duel (Giancarlo Santi, 1972)
  16. Shoot the Living, Pray for the Dead (Giuseppe Vari, 1971)
  17. Tepepa (Giulio Petroni, 1968)
  18. The Ugly Ones (Eugenio Martin, 1966)
  19. Viva Django! (Ferdinando Baldi, 1967)
  20. Machine Gun Killers (Paolo Bianchini, 1968)

The playlist above contains the trailers for all 20. This comes via Open Culture, who picked it up via The Spaghetti Western Database (which doesn't seem to exist any more?). Open Culture have been stalking Tarantino's faves for some time, and have a recent post that does compares Tarantino's 2002 and 2012 'top 12' lists...


Stark Reviews: Duck, You Sucker A.K.A. A Fistful of Dynamite (1971)

A-Fistful-of-Dynamite

Stark says: “If you shoot me, I’ll fall. And if I fall, they’ll have to alter all the maps.”

A Fistful of Dynamite… sounds almost like a Leone film doesn’t it? Yeah, well that’s because it is a Leone film: his least known and most overlooked Western, but a Leone film all the same. It also marks his exit from the Western genre with a deafening, nitroglycerine-fuelled bang.

We’ve covered a few Western subgenres – weird westerns, acid westerns, dinosaur westerns, surrealist animated Westerns – but get ready because here’s another one coming at you: a revisionist-epic-spaghetti-Zapata Western.

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Stark Reviews: West & Soda (1965)

West and Soda

Stark says: “If he’s dead, why is he still smoking?”

I first came across West & Soda a few months back, after taking a tumble into a dusty corner of the Internet. As soon as I saw the words “1960s Italian animated parody Western” I just knew I had to get me a copy of the DVD.

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Stark Reviews: Grim Prairie Tales (1990)

  Grim_Prairie_Tal_538428f21548fStark says: I got a story that’ll stick to you like an eyeball to a cactus needle

So what if someone told you there was a film where Wormtongue and Thulsa Doom sat around a campfire, trying to scare the bejesus out of each other? Well, that’s basically what Grim Prairie Tales is, and I couldn’t pass it by either. Plus, I’m never one to resist a title that contains a pun, now, am I…

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Review Round-up: Scruples, Sidekick, Outlaw Marshal

Sidekick latestAdeline Radloff's Sidekick (2010) is about, well, a sidekick. Katie Holmes (no, not that one - a joke that's just barely on acceptable side of annoying) is a teen adoptee, living with her foster mom and and Finn. Finn is Bruce Wayne. Mom is Alfred. Katie is Robin.

There's a little more complexity to it (there's a more Alfred-y Alfred, but he died somewhere in the past, for example), but that's the book in a nutshell. Finn, unlike Batman, has actual superpowers as well - he can fuss around with time, although there are various limitations and side effects that are introduced as the book goes on. Katie is remarkable because, besides Finn, she's the only person that isn't frozen solid when Finn does his time-travel mojo. Which means she can help Finn move stuff around, save lives, fight evil, remember to eat a sandwich, and, you know, be a sidekick.

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Stark Reviews: Westworld (1973)

Brynner-headline

Stark says: Boy have we got a vacation for you! Where nothing can possibly go worng!

Let’s see now, we’ve done cowboys and dinosaurs, cowboys and Joan Crawford, cowboys and foxes…. What’s missing? Oh yeah, COWBOYS vs ROBOTS, otherwise known as Westworld.

Now, because Hollywood can’t leave any damn thing alone ever,* Westworld is being currently being re-booted into a TV series, starring Anthony Hopkins and Evan Rachel Wood. I’ll keep my pistol in my holster until I’ve actually seen it, but in the meantime, let’s cast a beady eye over the original.

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Review Round-up: Knitters, Pirates, Cops, Princesses and Priests

TheBig SinA quick-fire round-up of eight recent holiday reads - including some vintage mysteries, a brand new fantasy, a YA that'll have you in stitches (fnar) and a saucy pirate romance. Most of these were recommendations via Twitter, so thank you all for sending them my way!

Prologue Books are one of my go-to publishers - whomever is putting together this list of out-of-print fiction is doing a cracking job. (Also, they use Amazon well, so I can find their books by searching Prologue Crime or Prologue Western, which is really helpful.) Anyway, that baseline of praise established... Jack Webb's The Big Sin (1952) might be one of my favourites so far. Webb's story ticks all the right narrative boxes: a cop versus a Big City machine, a man framed for murder, criminals being forced to choose between doing 'bad' and doing 'evil', the works. And, beneath it all, he underpins everything with a discussion of faith.

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