Saturday, June 18, 2016

100 Rifles

Year 8, Day 169 - 6/17/16 - Movie #2,369

BEFORE: And so I come to the end of the Burt Reynolds chain - not entirely, because while I was watching the Burt Reynolds chain another film with him in it came into my possession, but I'm going to save that one for later, because I'm already behind if I'm going to hit July 4 with the right movie, and adding another film here would mean I'll have to double-up next week not just once but twice, and I'm not prepared to do that.  Final score on Burt's mustache tally: 8 films with, 4 without. 

The Old West trail now heads down south to Mexico - and do we still call it the Old West if it's really the Old South?  I'm not sure.  

THE PLOT:  In 19th century Mexico a native revolutionary,Yaqui Joe,robs a bank to buy arms for his oppressed people but he finds himself wanted by American lawmen and the Mexican Army.

AFTER: Last night's Western had a bit of a caper feel to it, and maybe that's because it had one actress from "Ocean's 11" and another from "The Dirty Dozen", Clint Walker.  Tonight Burt's hanging out with another actor from "The Dirty Dozen", Jim Brown.  

If only I found the storyline as easy to follow.  I had been to a party earlier in the evening, so maybe it was the remnants of a couple beers in my system, but I just couldn't tell what the plot points were here.  I mean, yeah, I get that Burt's character robbed a bank, and used the money to buy 100 rifles for his people, but what's the beef between the Yaqui Indians and the Mexican army?  Why is there a German military adviser handing out in Mexico?  And like all Westerns, where exactly does the building of the railroad fit in to the situation?  

When we first see Burt's character, Yaqui Joe, he's in bed with a prostitute.  No shocker there, given all the times that's happened in the past 2 weeks.  But then a black lawman from Arizona rolls into town to find him - wow, Arizona was really progressive back then, why are they so backwards now?  They didn't even recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day until just a few years ago.  And then these two guys decide to team up against the Mexican army, but why?  How does a guy go from tracking a wanted man to fighting for his cause? 

It wasn't really spelled out, unless he was doing it for the beauty played by Raquel Welch.  OK, I'll spot  them that one.  But I still could have used a little more insight into what was happening, and why.  I guess this film was notable only for Welch's "shower" scene under the water tower, and one of the first film love scenes that was mixed-race.  Most people today wouldn't have an issue with that, except maybe in Arizona. 

Also starring Jim Brown, Raquel Welch (last seen in "Bedazzled"), Fernando Lamas (last seen in "The Cheap Detective"), Dan O'Herlihy, Eric Braeden, Michael Forest, Aldo Sambrell.  

RATING: 4 out of 10 firing squads

Friday, June 17, 2016

Sam Whiskey

Year 8, Day 168 - 6/16/16 - Movie #2,368

BEFORE: It's a little over one month until San Diego Comic-Con, and I've started to have the usual stress dreams, right on schedule.  The other night, a dream took me to a combination of a Comic-Con and my high-school reunion, which was being held at some fancy, Disney-like theme park, and my dad was one of my teachers, which makes zero sense.  (And in a dream last night, I was taking my SAT test, and that's usually a good dream, except in this case the question booklet was filled with commercials that made it hard to understand the answer choices...but I think this dream comes from a different place.) 

OK, I was wrong about the Burt Reynolds itinerary - from Texas we move up to Colorado, home of the Platte River and the Denver Mint.  Mexico tomorrow for sure as I wrap up the chain.

FOLLOW-UP TO: "The Train Robbers" (Movie #2,354)

THE PLOT:  Sam Whiskey is seduced away from his career as a gambler by the lovely Laura Breckenridge. She wants him to help her recover a quarter of a million dollars worth of gold bars which her late husband stole.

AFTER: I marked this as a follow-up to the Western I watched 2 weeks ago because the plots are so similar - a woman needs a cowboy's help to get back the gold her (now-dead) husband stole, and he has to assemble a team of men to get it, while other sinister forces are trying to get it first.  Just replace Ann-Margret with Angie Dickinson, and John Wayne with Burt, and there's a lot of overlap - but "Sam Whiskey" was released four years before "The Train Robbers".  

OK, there are some differences, for starters in that John Wayne film we find out that the whole backstory of the wife in question might be just that, a story.  But here it seems genuine.  And the gold in that other film came from a train, while here it comes from a sunken steamboat.  But in both cases the wife claims she wants to give it back to the government, in "The Train Robbers" there was supposedly a reward for returning it, while here the widow Breckenridge is going to be in financial trouble if the gold's not returned to the Denver Mint, and that's just about the same thing.

Well, not exactly.  In this Burt Reynolds caper film, getting the gold is just half the battle, then they've somehow got to get it back inside the Mint in just two days, without anyone knowing.  I mean, you can't just walk up to the Denver Mint and give them gold, that's going to lead to a whole bunch of questions.  So this film becomes, in essence, a "reverse heist" film.   Whoever heard of breaking in to leave money behind?  But that's the original tack taken here.  

The last half-hour thus takes on a sort of "Mission: Impossible" feel, or maybe I should reference another TV series, "The Wild, Wild West", which was essentially a secret agent show set in the Old West, before there were secret agents.  And to pull off this caper, the team has to rely on some technology that (probably) wasn't around in the Old West, like primitive machine guns and underwater diving gear (I'll spot them the helmet, but I'm not sure about the rubber hoses...).  The standard cheat in these cases is to make one character the "inventor" type, so if anyone in the audience spots an anachronism or two, they can just say this guy invented the thing before the guy who really did, it's a form of a dodge.  The other member of the team is the blacksmith, so he's also an expert on metallurgy and (apparently) locksmithing.  

There are a LOT of Burt Reynolds films where his character has relationships with prostitutes, it's not just "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas", and I don't mean anything by this, I'm just sayin'.  Like in "Heat", "Hustle", and (even though I haven't seen them) also "Sharky's Machine", "Rent-a-Cop".  Did I miss any?  Probably.  Although Mrs. Breckinridge here isn't a hooker, she persuades Sam to work for her by making love to him, again and again until he relents, and doesn't that basically amount to the same thing?  

Also starring Angie Dickinson (last seen in "The Chase"), Clint Walker (last seen in "The Dirty Dozen"), Ossie Davis (last seen in "Grumpy Old Men"), William Schallert, Woodrow Parfrey, Rick Davis, Anthony James (last seen in "Blue Thunder"), Del Reeves. 

RATING: 6 out of 10 games of checkers

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas

Year 8, Day 167 - 6/15/16 - Movie #2,367

BEFORE: Nearing the end of the Burt Reynolds travelogue, let's see, I started in Atlanta with "Deliverance", then went to New York & Boston ("Starting Over"), then we went down to Florida for four films, then to Las Vegas for "Heat", then to L.A. for "Hustle", "Hooper" and "Best Friends", which included side-trips to Buffalo, NY and Virginia, but ended back in L.A.  Now Burt's off to Texas, and from here we head down to Mexico, I think, for the trip's conclusion.   

THE PLOT:  A town's sheriff and regular patron of a historic whorehouse fights to keep it running when a TV preacher targets it as the Devil's playhouse. 

AFTER:  Once again, an IMDB plot-line is not completely accurate - it's not a preacher trying to shut down the titular (heh...) whorehouse, he's more of a consumer reporter.  The character of Melvin P. Thorpe is based on the real-life newsman, Marvin Zindler, who filed news reports about the Chicken Ranch, and lobbied to get it shut down, not for moral reasons, but for its possible ties to organized crime.  He was also a pioneer of the sort of "Shock TV" that's all the rage now on the evening news all across the country, like "exactly how clean IS this restaurant?" and "what substances in your home could kill you?" (Details coming up after a look at tomorrow's weather....)  

And hey, the real Chicken Ranch was located in La Grange, Texas - that's probably the place that ZZ Top was singing about in their famous song "La Grange".  You know what I'm talkin' about...uhh how how how how....

But all that aside, I avoided this film for a very long time (though I admit I probably snuck a peek or two at it when I was a horny teen...) just because it seems like a very silly film.  And sure enough, it is.  How "Burt Reynolds Sings" managed to get a picture greenlit is beyond men.  But Dolly Parton does sing "I Will Always Love You" near the end in it, and that went on to become a huge hit for Whitney Houston years later in "The Bodyguard".  

NITPICK POINT: The song reveals that "Texas Has a Whorehouse In It" -  A? Meaning "one"?  Uhh, yeah, the state of Texas is, like, really big, and I'm guessing that if there's one, there's probably a dozen, and if there's a dozen, there's probably like a hundred.  Why would the opposition single out just one, instead of dealing with the larger, overall problems created by the sex industry?  The (non-) preacher is from Houston, and surely there are sex workers there, and strip joints and massage parlors, why not clean up your own backyard before going out to the country and finding a brothel to report on?

NITPICK POINT #2: For that matter, why is everyone so shocked that a whorehouse exists, when everyone in town already seems to be aware of it?  And it's not like they were turning a blind eye to it, some of the wives were even happy their husbands were going there, because it gave them something of a break.  I know, this doesn't justify bad behavior, but I just don't know how everyone can know something, and then suddenly be so up in arms against it.  If people were against prostitution, why didn't anyone try to shut the place down in the 1940's or 1950's or 1960's?  It just seems like the protests come out of nowhere, all of a sudden, just to create a conflict for this story.  I mean, if the police started cracking down on drug dealers in, say, Harlem, it would be newsworthy, but people wouldn't exactly be shocked to learn that there were drug dealers in Harlem. 

I know this is mainly a film about men sleeping with women, but still there's something sort of queer about it, in a weird way.  Maybe it's the presence of Jim Nabors, since we now know more about his sexual orientation and he was closeted at the time, but maybe it also comes from watching a bunch of college football players high-fiving each other as they stroll into the showers.  Sure, they may be congratulating themselves because of the women they'll be sleeping with later, but they're still naked while high-fiving, and most straight guys just don't do that.  And then the college players do a dance number, and from what I understand, most male theater performers who can dance like that aren't exactly interested in women...

Then we've got the presence of Dom DeLuise, whose character wears a corset, and he's one of those actors who always came across as more than a little fey, perhaps for comic reasons only, but you never know, do you?  Not that there's anything wrong with being queer, it just strikes me as funny that there was this generation of actors who (clearly?) were, but couldn't talk about it because society didn't allow for such things at the time, and maybe their lives would have been different or happier if they could have been out and proud.  But maybe they weren't gay, but just acted that way?  I'm thinking of actors like Vincent Price, Paul Lynde, Charles Nelson Reilly... I mean, on one level it just doesn't matter, but yet somehow it does, like these men might have even been married and had kids, but weren't allowed to be who they could have been, and that didn't help their families in the short term, or the cause of gay rights in the long run.  Like, whatever, man, as long as you're happy and healthy and your actions don't hurt anyone else.

Which brings me back to the actions depicted in this film - it's one thing to support prostitution, and in this case fall just short of calling for its legalization, but that's not really the whole story, is it?  I mean, if prostitution is just what they say it is, just paying for sex without the romantic entanglement, isn't that message sort of muddled when the sheriff is sleeping with the madam AND he's in love with her?  And then the case is made for prostitution being "easier" on men's wives, which is a bit of a dodge over what's really going on, isn't it?  And then since the hookers are portrayed as keeping an eye out for STDs, it's suggested that visiting them is somehow cleaner and healthier than having random sex with strangers, or keeping men from becoming rapists, but that's another dodge.  I mean, you can't SEE some STDs, and a quick rinse with soap and water hardly constitutes protection from them - and if a hooker spots a man with "the clap", what's she going to do, send him home and not make her money?  That seems a little short-sighted and far-fetched. 

Yeah, in the end it's still a very silly film, and shouldn't be looked to for a valid argument on the pros of, err, pros, or the legality or morality of the issue, and instead it just fills the time with Burt Reynolds and Charles Durning singing.  Pass.

Also starring Dolly Parton (last heard in "Gnomeo & Juliet"), Dom DeLuise (last seen in "The Cheap Detective"), Charles Durning (last seen in "Hard Time: Hostage Hotel"), Jim Nabors, Theresa Merritt (last seen in "The Goodbye Girl"), Barry Corbin (last heard in "Planes: Fire & Rescue"), Noah Beery Jr. (last seen in "Little Fauss and Big Halsy"), Mary Jo Catlett (last seen in "The Champ"), Raleigh Bond, Robert Mandan (last seen in "Macarthur"), Lois Nettleton, with cameos from Mickey Jones (last seen in "Starman"), Gregory Itzin (last seen in "Original Sin"), Timothy Stack, Alice Drummond (last seen in "Nobody's Fool")

RATING: 4 out of 10 local charities