Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated Westerns - J.T. Lindroos ""

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Underrated Westerns - J.T. Lindroos

JT Lindroos is a Finnish-American designer and writer. He currently reviews mostly european comics for Bookgasm, and designs book covers and occasional dvd releases. Formerly the owner of Point Blank Press, he published two volumes of Glenn (DVD Savant) Erickson's writings, as well as three books by film director Josh Becker (or Thou Shalt Not Kill… Except 'fame'). His portfolio on pinterest, hosting sharpie caricatures of Barbara Stanwyck, Warren Oates and Sam Fuller among other work, is as good a place to start as any:

Many of these films I've last seen 20-30 years ago, during the heyday of vhs. My memory of the details, plot can be hazy, but all of these stood out the crowd of thousands. There were many others, of course, but mostly those are rightly revered and you've already seen them anyway.

Fury at Showdown (Gerd Oswald, 1957)
It's been about 20 years since I caught this tiny little marvel on tv back in Finland. At the time I was watching Sam Fuller, Anthony Mann and Budd Boetticher films of the same era, and this gem from (mostly) tv director Gerd Oswald stood shoulder to shoulder alongside those giants. Shot reputedly in 5 days, with a cast of mostly bit players (and John Derek), I remember this being tight, claustrophobic and unsentimental, with some economically understated (but explosive) action. The central gunfight was a knockout. I never see it on any lists, and most of the comments I found online were trivial and unenthusiastic. It was ignored at the time it was made, and it remains ignored today. I'd personally love to see it again. 

Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (John Huston, 1972)
This is a bit more obvious, but it rarely gets love from western fans, John Huston fans or Paul Newman fans. Great John Milius, who wrote the script, hated it. I saw it at a young and impressionable age, and while I love the rest of the film, what really made the movie sing was when Stacy Keach as Bad Bob arrives on the scene. That was one of those brain-frying jolts of pure cine-maniac perfection. It's shambolic and offbeat, but that's all part of the charm. 

Barquero (Gordon Douglas, 1970)
Rarely talked about despite including two of my favorite western actors, Lee Van Cleef and Warren Oates. It's not too complicated, as Van Cleef runs a barge and Oates' bad guy needs to cross the river. It's tough and cynical, with great turns from both leads, and it always befuddles me why it's rarely mentioned. Oates does Gian Maria Volonte, Mariette Hartley makes a welcome appearance and Forrest Tucker as an ant-eating mountain man. It may not be a great movie, but it's a solid 70s western that anyone interested in the leads in particular, or b-westerns in general, should check out. 

Junior Bonner (Sam Peckinpah, 1972)
Someone might question the bonafides of this modern western, but like CABLE HOGUE, it's a wonderfully warm (if rugged) showcase for Peckinpah to do something unexpectedly gentle. Okay, so there are barfights and slow-mo destruction of a building, but all that works beautifully for the tone of the picture. Ida Lupino and Robert Preston are spectacular as Steve McQueen's parents, and Joe Don Baker gets to chew some scenery. Lyrical, elegiac meditation on encroaching consumerism and the waning of traditional family values. With knuckle sandwiches and rodeo action. 

Ride Lonesome (Budd Boetticher, 1959)
This always somehow gets forgotten behind THE TALL T or SEVEN MEN FROM NOW when you talk about the Budd Boetticher/Randolph Scott films. Yet this was the one of the Ranown cycle that got me hooked, and still to this day remains the most potent. At an economic 73 minutes, it's full of uneasy alliances, harsh scenery and even harsher faces, with a sensational cast (Scott, James Best, Lee Van Cleef, James Coburn, Pernell Roberts and Karen Steele) seething with rage and passion under their sweaty skin.

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