Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated Westerns - Zachary Kelley ""

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Underrated Westerns - Zachary Kelley

 Mr. Zachary Kelley runs the venerable genre blog, The Lightning Bugs Lair. This is at least the third list he's contributed here and I must say I always look forward to his choices. I am guaranteed to notice something on one of his lists that I've never seen or heard of. A true gentleman of fine tastes. He can be found on Twitter at @TLBugg.
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It seems like there are a billion movies, and at least half of them made before 1980 appear to have been Westerns. While the genre has fallen out of favor in the last thirty years, there was a time where it was so ubiquitous that they tried to fuse anything they could to the format. Those are the ones I love, off beat Westerns with a little flavor of something else thrown in for good measure. 
Blood on the Moon (1948) The tale of a down on his luck rancher (Mitchum) that finds himself involved in a cattle war could have been a standard affair, but director Robert Wise took a different path. While the script already had Noir leanings, Wise completed the circle and used Film Noir techniques to give his cowpoke picture a decidedly different look and feeling. The result, a hard boiled Western, and a great motion picture. Mitchum, solid as always, can do lonesome cowpoke like no other and few actors had a better face for Noir.

El karate, el Colt y el imposter a.k.a. Blood Money (1974) If you only ever see one movie where Lee Van Cleef teams up with martial artists Lieh Lo to track a treasure of gold by reading maps on that have been tattooed on several prostitute's posteriors, then make it this one. Funny and strange in all the right ways, Blood Money may be the pinnacle of the fusion of Martial Arts and Western action. So take that Shanghai Noon!

Hannie Caulder (1971) When Raquel Welch's title character is raped by an unsavory trio of bandits (Earnest Borgnine, Strother Martin, and Jack Elam) after they kill her husband in cold blood , she enlists the aid of Robert Culp's bounty hunter to teach her how to get her revenge. I always love revenge tales, and this off kilter adventure provides enough weird moments (the trio of bandits are played for comic relief almost post-rape) and unsettling ones (did anyone need a flashback from Raquel's perspective of Jack Elam  and the rest raping her?) to please any fan of the weird west.

The Furies (1950) Barbara Stanwyck is often hailed for her performance in Sam Fuller's 40 Guns (1957) as a strong, determined woman of the Wild West, but seven years prior in Anthony Mann's The Furies Barbara had already exhibited her prowess at such roles. As the daughter and heir apparent to a cattle baron (Walter Huston in his last film role), she faces danger and double crosses as she claws her way to the top of the heap where she knows she belongs. Often dismissed as a woman's melodrama, The Furies is far more While it may not have tons of fancy riding or shoot outs, it does bring life to a part of the West rarely seen,and even merely for the exploration of the self printed currencies that spread across the lawless territories, it deserves to be included.

The Wrath of God (1972) I started this list with Robert Mitchum, and it only feels right to end it with him as well. Set in South America of the 1920s, but with all the flavors of a Western,  Mitchum stars a Tommy gun toting priest who, along with his young friend (a baby faced Frank Langella), is captured by a group of rebels who offer them their freedom if they topple another local despot. Mitchum, who so very often played a man of the cloth, is in fine form, and this film marks the last appearance of a screen legend, Rita Hayworth. With a flavor of the Zapata Western, Wrath of God takes many unexpected choices throughout that leave the viewer guessing where Mitchum is taking us from scene to scene.  

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