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Archive for June, 2011

“Rio Conchos” Review

Posted by Josh Samford On June - 25 - 2011
Today at Varied Celluloid we’re taking it back to the Old West, and along the way we’re picking up Jim Brown as we take a look at his feature film debut! It’s not much of a JIM BROWN movie, but it sure is a solid western! Rio Conchos is the name, continue reading to learn more!

The Plot: Maj. Jim Lassiter (Richard Boone) is a former confederate officer who has been left in disarray after the noted Apache “Redshirt” murdered his family. After being picked up by Capt. Haven (Stuart Whitman) and Sgt. Franklyn (Jim Brown), he is put behind bars on a trumped up charge in order to keep him from continuing his string of murders against the native Apache tribes. The weapon that the Major has on him ends up pointing towards some stolen military cargo that the army has been in search of for quite some time. With the Major knowing just where to look, Capt. Haven and his men are put in place to lead him on an expedition to find the culprit known as Pardee, who appears to have been the one responsible for the stolen weaponry. Before taking off however, the Major refuses to go on this mission without his friend Juan (Anthony Franciosa), who is also currently being held by the US military. Now with a regular platoon behind him, Maj. Jim Lassiter must travel the south West in order to track down these missing guns.


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Rio Conchos

Posted by Josh Samford On June - 25 - 2011
Rio Conchos (1964)
Director: Gordon Douglas
Writers: Joseph Landon and Clair Huffaker
Starring: Richard Boone, Stuart Whitman, Jim Brown and Anthony Franciosa




The Plot: Maj. Jim Lassiter (Richard Boone) is a former confederate officer who has been left in disarray after the noted Apache “Redshirt” murdered his family. After being picked up by Capt. Haven (Stuart Whitman) and Sgt. Franklyn (Jim Brown), he is put behind bars on a trumped up charge in order to keep him from continuing his string of murders against the native Apache tribes. The weapon that the Major has on him ends up pointing towards some stolen military cargo that the army has been in search of for quite some time. With the Major knowing just where to look, Capt. Haven and his men are put in place to lead him on an expedition to find the culprit known as Pardee, who appears to have been the one responsible for the stolen weaponry. Before taking off however, the Major refuses to go on this mission without his friend Juan (Anthony Franciosa), who is also currently being held by the US military. Now with a regular platoon behind him, Maj. Jim Lassiter must travel the south West in order to track down these missing guns.

 

The Review

The western is a genre with a wide degree of acceptance around the Varied Celluloid universe. From the classic days of clean and respectable cowboys, right down to the dirty and sweaty wave of Spaghetti westerns, I know that I am a great admirer of these such films. Rio Conchos is a fine piece that fits snugly right in the center of those two very different staples of the genre, creating a rather unique western in many ways. In many other ways, it’s roughly everything you could probably come to expect from this type of production. This doesn’t have to be an all out terrible thing of course, since genre-nostalgia can sometimes make a decent movie seem great, but it seems to be a different case with Rio Conchos. While the familiarity of the plot is certainly a hurdle that caring audience members must seek to overcome, the genre-faithful out there will no doubt find it easy to look past. If you stick with it, Rio Conchos proves to be a deceptive western with political undertones, a dark underbelly and several really solid performances.

Before sitting down to watch the movie, the most I had ever heard about this film was that it featured the cinematic debut of Jim Brown. This was of course quite the instance in Hollywood history, as it wasn’t often that an African American sports star made the leap into the Hollywood mainstream during the sixties. His time in the spotlight wouldn’t last, as roles weren’t prominent for African Americans within the Hollywood world even in the midst of the civil rights movement. In fact, although he plays a sizable role in the film as a mere presence, Jim Brown has only a hand full of spoken dialogue. Although he is certainly there as a formidable screen icon, he is unfortunately left to sit in the background through many of the pivotal moments during the film. This could have been a stylistic choice however, as the racial tensions are certainly wrought within the film.

From the moment Jim Brown first pops up alongside Stuart Whitman, we get the feeling that something is uneasy here. We see Richard Boone pop up and when asked to saddle up, so that he can be brought back to camp for interrogation, he packs up his saddle and throws it into the hands of Jim Brown’s character. The intensity of the moment is built upon Boone’s character having been a rebel during the civil war and now here sits Jim Brown’s character, still a second class citizen, but placed in charge of him. There is most certainly an amount of running subtext within the film about questioning prejudice in all forms, even if the end result isn’t the most racially sensitive film ever made. As the film progresses, Brown and Boone’s characters actually become close partners within their group (with Boone’s character even beating up a bartender who refuses to serve Brown because of his skin color) and the film sets up even larger questions about American/Indian relations. The film unfortunately isn’t so progressive in its thinking that it presents Native Americans in a less-antagonistic role, but it does at least present one Apache character who isn’t bloodthirsty and ultimately the point is made that revenge is the driving force behind these two groups, and ultimately the cyclical nature of revenge will drive them further from their own humanity. With all of that said though, there are very questionable presentations of both Native Americans and Mexicans along the way, but for what it is, I was impressed with what the film had to say.

Within this cast, which is actually very impressive, Richard Boone is the real star of the show. He puts in a rather grungy performance as the Major, a role that would have been fitting in a spaghetti western but causes him to stand out even more in this classical setting. A Rooster Cogburn-esque character who is completely destroyed by the memories of his wife, Boone presents the character as a being that thrives solely on anger. Richard Boone was probably best known for the long running series Have Gun – Will Travel, and he shows up here in a very different kind of western setting. He is a character who is simply riddled with pathos. Moments such as the one where our main group stumbles upon another raided home, similar to the Major’s own where his wife and child died, really sends home the inner turmoil of the character. This scene also features one of the more disturbing moments found in a conventional western: where we see bloody bedsheets in front of what we are lead to believe is a tortured and brutalized woman who has been left for dead, while her child weeps away in the corner. A very dark turn in a movie that will surprise you in the very mature twists that pop up now and then.

Veteran director Gordon Douglas (who has nearly 100 credits to his name, among them: Them!, Stagecoach and he would later re-team with Jim Brown on Slaughter’s Big Rip-Off) keeps the movie flowing at a very brisk pace even if he doesn’t defer from what you would expect from a sixties-era Hollywood western. He keeps the surroundings big and the way he uses the awesome canyon scenery gives the movie an even larger feel than what it might seem in a less impressive landscape. Even if you had nothing nice to say about the movie at all, I think you would have to concede that it is spectacularly shot. The sights and the visual flourishes are what keeps you glued to the screen, but the characterization is what will stay in your mind afterward.


The Conclusion

It’s very much a film that deals with regular Western pastiche. Honor, keeping your word, respect, friendship and comradery all play heavily into the story as it moves along. These are all things to expect, but the addition of the racial undertones definitely puts it into a minority audience, which in a lot of ways makes it somewhat special. The performances as well keep it floating above the “bland-line”. With these things in mind, I am going to give it a very high three. Had there been more to go on in terms of plot, in a capacity that might have given it a “new” feel, I would have give it a four without hesitation. Regardless, this is an incredibly strong western.




RaroVideo: more quality releases!

Posted by Josh Samford On June - 23 - 2011
The good folks over at RaroVideo have been on a roll with their releases as of late. Covering a wide array of titles that cover varying aspects of Eurocult cinema, they do not appear afraid to go after the most revered of arthouse films nor the most notorious of cult oddities. This announcement shows precisely what I mean, as Raro has announced their plans to release both Ruggero Deodato’s Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man (1976) as well as Pier Paolo Passolini’s The Anger (1963).

Deodato’s film should be familiar to anyone who has read nearly any list of top-ranked Eurocrime films. A well beloved title that will finally see a release here in the R1 marketplace and I can just imagine the mass celebrations going on within the Eurocult community. Passolini’s The Anger is another seemingly lost title that should be snatched up by any great lover of film. This man did more than just direct Salo: The 120 Days of Sodom. The fact that these films are coming down to our region is great news in and of itself, but to make things better: The DVDs are loaded with extras! I have to say, I fully trust RaroVideo to to handle these titles with the utmost care. Continue reading to get the full press release with special features!

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Trailers from Hell signings in California Area 6/26 – 6/30

Posted by Josh Samford On June - 23 - 2011
Recently we covered Trailers From Hell Vol. 2 here on Varied Celluloid and it was given plenty of praise. Well, if you’re a fan of the web series, you’re looking forward to the release of Volume 2 and you live in the Burbank/Hollywood area, then this is your lucky day! Scratch that, 6/26/11 and 6/30/11 will in fact be your lucky days! Many of the big names who also pop up in Volume 2 will be available for signings. If you’re interested in showing up, here are the locations, dates and attendees! Be forewarned that scheduled participants are of course subject to change.

. . . .




6/26 DVD Signing – Dark Delicacies in Burbank @ 2PM
Attendees include Director Jack Hill (Coffy, The Big Doll House), Writer Larry Karaszewski (Ed Wood, Problem Child), Director Joe Dante (Piranha, The Howling, Gremlins), actor Dick Miller (A Bucket of Blood, The Little Shop of Horrors), Writer Josh Olson (A History of Violence) and actor Jonathan Haze (The Little Shop of Horrors)


6/30 – DVD Signing – Rocket Video in Hollywood @ 7PM
Attendees include Director Jack Hill (Coffy, The Big Doll House), Writer Larry Karaszewski (Ed Wood, Problem Child), Director Joe Dante (Piranha, The Howling, Gremlins), Writer Josh Olson (A History of Violence), Jonathan Haze (The Little Shop of Horrors), actress Jackie Joseph (The Little Shop of Horrors, Gremlins) and Director Brian Tranchard-Smith (Stunt Rock, BMX Bandits)

With names that big involved, if you’re in the area then it would just be a downright shame to pass up on an opportunity like this! So grab your DVD copy of volume 1 and go and make your dreams come true, and don’t forget to check out Trailers from Hell Vol. 2 when it is released on July 5th!

Oblivion

Posted by Josh Samford On June - 23 - 2011

 

Oblivion (1994)
Director: Sam Irvin
Writers: Charles Band, John Rheaume, Greg Suddeth, Mark Goldstein and Peter David
Starring: Richard Joseph Paul, Meg Foster, Andrew Divoff, Julie Newmar, Carel Struycken and George Takei




The Plot: The year is 3031 and on a planet light years from Earth life has become quite a lot like the American old west. Dusters and cowboy hats are big sellers and if you smart off to the wrong person you may just end up with a hole in your head. When the evil reptilian creature Redeye (Andrew Divoff, of Wishmaster fame) comes waltzing back into the small town of Oblivion, this whole planet is about to be flipped upside down. Redeye quickly uses some new tricks in order to bypass the local sheriff’s force-field, which allows him to kill the lawman and take over the entire town himself. What Redeye doesn’t know is that this lawman has a son named Zack Stone (Richard Joseph Paul) who happens to be quick on the draw, but Stone isn’t the type to take advantage of his prowess. In fact, he holds a secret about himself that prevents him from doing just about any harm to any person. Will Zack manage to fight back and save the town of Oblivion, or will it simply live up to its own namesake?

 

The Review

In the year 3031… it’s cowboys and aliens, or so says the new tagline attributed to the 1994 Full Moon Picture production: Oblivion. The only thing for certain is that in the year 2011… it’s all about capitalizing on bigger Hollywood productions. Although nowhere near as dishonest as The Asylum and their ‘similarly titled’ genre films, Oblivion is certainly hoping to cash in on the success of the soon to be released Harrison Ford title Cowboys & Aliens. If one were to actually buy into the advertising, and god help anyone that did, they would no doubt discover one incredibly odd little tidbit of cinema. The would also be left quite angry, I’m sure, due to the budgetary differences between the Harrison Ford film and the Andrew Divoff title that we are discussing today. What Oblivion actually is, instead of being a CGI-filled piece of action and excitement, is a throwback science fiction tale that is quite the ingenious piece of b-movie mania.

Featuring an all-star cast of B-movie luminaries, Oblivion is the culmination of all things that made the early nineties great within the straight to video b-movie market. Directly from the mind of Charles Band and his team at Full Moon Pictures, Oblivion is a strange brew of every western cliche turned over on its head and then re-invented with a sci-fi twist. Although you might think that this concept would give the movie an incredible aura of cheese and corniness, that fact actually marks the very reason to see the movie in the first place. After five minutes of screen time, it should be quite apparent that this movie isn’t going to be entirely serious.

The best moments in Oblivion come from its general spoofing on the idea and gimmickry of the science fiction genre, but its weaker moments tend to come across when the film falls into pure slapstick. The comedy ranges from snarky and subtle, to “smash you over the head with a sledge hammer” levels of broad humor. The small twists and inventions within the genre are where it excels, such as the opening moments where we discover new twists on the old “gunslinger walking into town” when we find that the new gunslinger is an alien being. This alien, who we discover later to be Redeye, stumbles into a very cliche western saloon/brothel where we watch a group play a friendly game of poker. However, this game of poker isn’t played with cards but with strange digital square boxes that resemble overgrown calculators. Later on we see the western cliche of an arm-wrestling match played out but instead of using a rattle snake on the table, usually used in order to raise the stakes, they use a peculiar alien-like frog creature. This is a title that definitely knows the genre that it is spoofing.

When talking about the major selling points that should be capitalized upon for promoting this title, aside from the utter ridiculousness of it all, you really have to mention the insane cast. We’ve got Andrew Divoff as Redeye, who appears to be doing his best impersonation of Buford “Mad Dog” Tannen from Back to the Future 3… but with alien makeup. Meg Foster, best known for They Live, stars as our cyborg-deputy sheriff. Due to her bizarre eyes (the color of her eyes are so bright, its like they aren’t there) she has always looked a bit cybernetic to me in the first place. This movie just re-enforced my belief that she is a cyborg from the future sent back in time to star in really crazy science fiction movies. George Takei shows up in what has to be the most outrageous performance of his career. His southern accent leaves a LOT to be desired and his riff on the Star Trek line “I’m a doctor, not a [insert line here]” makes for one of the most cringe-worthy scenes in the movie. It is all in good, goofy, fun though and the movie generally tends to work for what it attempts.


The Conclusion

While I won’t try and fool anyone into thinking that this is an epic piece of science fiction or even a passable attempt at comedy (for the most part, its groan inducing when it tries too hard), but for all that it lacks it makes up for with its general ridiculousness. This is a movie I would put on if I were trying to show someone just how insane low budget movie-making had become during the early part of the nineties. It’s a brilliant example and a fun piece of “B” movie magic. I give it a high three. It’s not quite a four, but I’d still recommend checking it out.




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Varied Celluloid is a film website intent on delivering views on movies from all genres. Started in 2003, the website has been steadfast in its goal and features a database of over 500 lengthy reviews. If you would like to contact us about writing for the website or sending screeners, please visit the about page located here.

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