Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated Westerns - Justin Bozung ""

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Underrated Westerns - Justin Bozung

Justin Bozung is a film researcher and featured contributor with Shock Cinema and Videoscope magazines.  His book The Shining: A Study In Horror comes out in the US and UK in  October 2014. Currently, he is writing his second book,  Character Is Story: The Films Of Frank and Eleanor Perry. Check out his film podcast series The Mondo Film Podcast here:

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THE QUICK AND THE DEAD (1995)
It really fell through the cracks when it came out in theaters...  But how could you turn down a western directed by Sam Raimi?   You can't!   Sam puts together a great cast that includes Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman, Pat Hingle, Russell Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio.  The thing that I love most about QUICK is its surreal visual aesthetics.  QUICK has a great mood about it too.  You get the sense that this world isn't based whatsoever in reality.   Sam has always been great at knowing how to move the camera too.  He reminded his generation of how great the dutch angle can be in THE EVIL DEAD (1981), and here in QUICK he pulls out every visual trick in the book, including some that you might not have ever seen before.  Note Sam's insane pull back in the scene between "Ace" played by Lance Hendriksen and Gene Hackman. 


SON OF A GUNFIGHTER (1965)
Russ Tamblyn takes care of business as "Johnny Ketchum"  in this ultra underrated mid '60s tale of western era revenge.  One can see fairly clearly that SON OF A GUNFIGHTER was a huge influence on Tarrantino in DJANGO UNCHAINED (2012), after all, Tamblyn and his daughter have cameos in DJANGO and their characters are named " Son Of A Gunfighter" and "Daughter Of Son Of A Gunfighter". 

THE DEVIL'S REJECTS (2005)
I'm a huge admirer of Rob Zombie the filmmaker.   If you're not, that's OK.  Someday you'll wise up.   If Walter Hill says that he's been making westerns from Day One, then Rob Zombie can certainly exclaim that THE DEVIL'S REJECTS is a western too.   It really is.   REJECTS is perfectly crafted.  It's violent and funny and plays with all of the motifs and themes in the western genre.   What people don't comprehend about Zombie the filmmaker is that he's just as fascinated with cinema as the rest of us, and he's doing nothing different than someone like Tarantino in that he borrows from the films he loves, but what filmmaker doesn't do that?   There's this idea that Tarantino reinvigorated the exploitation film, but I've got to stand firm and assert that it wasn't Tarantino that did that, but Zombie with his HOUSE OF A 1000 CORPSES (2003), in which THE DEVIL REJECTS is a sequel to.   People either don't care or are just too unfamiliar with the history of CORPSES.   CORPSES was made almost three years before it was released.  It sat on the shelf collecting dust as American film-goers went to the theater on a Friday night to see HOLLOW MAN (2000) and SCREAM 3 (2000) before it could find a home and be released.   CORPSES is way "Grindhouse", and when it was released it created a shift in the horror genre.     You can't deny Zombie his props for doing that.  

LONESOME COWBOYS (1968)
Give credit to the great Paul Morrissey for concocting a wickedly weird and funny western comedy. Produced by Andy Warhol, its the genius of Paul Morrissey, and Paul Morrissey alone, that could come up with such a unique little satire on late '60s morays.    Morrissey is one of my favorite filmmakers because his films are like bombs.  They get thrown in against other cinema of the late '60s and they stick out like sore thumbs, people scratch their heads after seeing them.  Not for everyone perhaps.    Functioning all as paradoxes, Morrissey's films challenge the notion of what cinema is supposed to be, and that is what makes them all such total masterpieces. 

ONE EYED JACKS (1961)
Brando. Malden.  Enough said.  Visceral.   A misunderstood masterwork.   Someday everyone will realize.

THE PROPOSITION (2005)
Nick Cave's sweaty, nasty and ultra violent Aussie western will haunt you forever after you've seen it.   Saying anything else about THE PROPOSITION would ruin it. 

A GIRL IS A GUN  (1971)
Goofy French existentialism anyone?  Jean-Pierre Leaud and horse kidnap a girl and head off into some seriously fascinating terrains, mentally and physically.   

LAWMAN (1971)
Ultra-underrated post '60s Michael Winner western with Burt Lancaster and Robert Ryan.  I've been on a Burt Lancaster kick in 2014 and LAWMAN is just another notch in the bedpost for Lancaster and what was a amazing string of masterpieces: THE SWIMMER (1968), THE GYPSY MOTHS (1969), CASTLE KEEP (1969), THE PROFESSIONALS (1966), THE TRAIN (1964), VALDEZ IS COMING (1971), ULZANA'S RAID (1972)...I mean, Lancaster could do no wrong.   He might be my favorite actor in the history of cinema.

GREASER'S PALACE (1972)
It seems with the recent release of the Robert Downey Sr. Criterion box set that folks are finally getting equated with his work.   Yet, you don't hear GREASER'S PALACE talks about much.   I wonder why that is?  It is Downey's best film after all.    When Downey sets out to make a western parable based on the life of Christ, you watch.  

THE BALLAD OF GREGORIO CORTEZ (1982)
Made by one of the most underrated and under appreciated filmmakers of his generation, Robert M. Young does some really inventive things in GREGORIO CORTEZ like not giving us the audience English transition out of Spanish dialogue,  Young pokes at the media too.   This might be James Edward Olmos's greatest performance.    All I can tell you is that this is a perfect film and you need to see it.   Criterion put out Young's ALAMBRISTA! (1977) a year or two ago, see that too if you haven't.  The real question is....Why isn't CORTEZ available on DVD?

'DOC' (1971)
I guess 'DOC' would obviously have to be on any list I would make of underrated westerns as I'm currently writing a book on filmmakers Frank and Eleanor Perry, and Frank Perry directed this amazing western re-imagining of the "Doc" Holliday mythos.     Keach stars as Holliday, and it's an incredible performance.   Harris Yulin plays Wyatt Earp and Faye Dunaway turns in some brilliant work as a very dirty Katie Elder.    The Perrys' films are always about human triangles and 'DOC' is no exception, even though it comes when The Perrys were on the brink of divorce.    Frank Perry considered the film to be an allegory on the Vietnam War. Eleanor Perry considered it to be all testosterone.

2 comments:

john knight said...

These esoteric choices are fascinating;to say the least.
Great to see a Paul Landres film in the mix;I have requested
SON OF A GUNFIGHTER on the Warner Archive Facebook page which
they say they do intend to release.
I would also love to see Landres' two Regalscope Westerns FRONTIER GUN
and THE LONE TEXAN.Also looking forward to seeing his Allied Artists
scope and color OREGON PASSAGE when Warner archive finally get to
releasing it.
DOC;a very interesting choice,upset a lot of people at the time especially
the way Wyatt Earp was portrayed.Keach at the top of his game at that time.Am hoping some brave person will release two other great "lost"
Keach films from that era Burt Kennedy's THE KILLER INSIDE ME and
THE GRAVY TRAIN from the very underrated Jack Starrett.
Starrett's wonderful TV epic MR.HORN should have appeared on somebody's
list.

fiftieswesterns said...

Justin --

Thanks for holding up One-Eyed Jacks! I was hoping somebody'd get around to it.