Guest Contributor – War Pig – The Killer Shrews – A Science Fiction Movie Review

Killer Shrews: Schlock at its finest. Poor special effects, hackneyed plot and ham acting. They used hand puppets of the giant killer shrews for up-close shots. They looked like an oversize stuffed mouse with chopstick fangs glued in and black ping pong balls for eyes. For action sequences, they used coon hounds with carpet and fur attached to them and never shot them close up. The coon hound shrews supposedly ate the token Black man in the movie, which would be protested today.


The premise is that a Swedish scientist was working on the then threatened coming food apocalypse. He had a Hispanic servant (Alfredo de Soto; more racist tokenism), a cowardly assistant (played by Gunsmoke’s Festus, Ken Curtis, who was an investor in the film and also a fine western actor and amazingly good singer), a beautiful Swedish daughter (played by the attractive Swedish actress Ingrid Goude) and an American assistant scientist played by Gordon McLendon. They are on an isolated island somewhere in the Atlantic hurricane zone so they can be left alone, especially by federal inspectors. James Best (most famous for playing Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrain on Dukes of Hazzard) plays the captain of the small motor ship bringing them supplies. With him is the faithful Black actor Judge Henry Dupree who is his first mate and apparently engineer, playing the character Rook.


A hurricane is approaching, so they have to anchor in the protected harbor and wait it out before unloading. The captain goes ashore to meet with the scientists while Rook runs extra anchors and has to tie the boat to a tree ashore. The captain is met by Ken Curtis’ character who is armed and takes him to the residence. There he is told what all is happening, that the experiment went astray and they accidentally created giant killer shrews who must eat their body weight daily to survive, that other animal food is running out, that the shrews are mostly nocturnal and that they will eat humans with gusto.


Poor Rook is chased and run up a tree by the coon hound shrews and the effects are so poor you can see the lines pulling the tree down supposedly under Rook’s impressive weight to his doom of being eaten alive. The shrews then surround the residence like the Little Big Horn and try to get in to eat the humans. They dig through the adobe walls and have to be shot or burned. One grazes the assistant scientist’s leg and they therefore find out that the shrews are also deadly venomous, as he dies shortly thereafter. The Hispanic servant also dies from a shrew bite. The shrews make a very distinctive noise that sounds something like “aaawk-ch-ch-ch!”. The shrews are also enthusiastically cannibalistic and will eat any form of meat, including each other, to quell their ravenous appetites.


The surviving humans decide they must escape and create a human-powered tank made of barrels roped together. Ken Curtis refuses as he is deathly afraid of the shrews and stays behind. Creeping in the tank the Captain, the Scientist and his lovely daughter make it, barely, to the water where the shrews, who cannot swim, leave them and go back to eat Ken Curtis who, instead of camping out on the roof and safe for a couple of days until the shrews turn on each other, stupidly tried to run off through the woods and he suffers Rook’s fate. As the shrews take him down he screams like a 12 year old girl with a spider on her face. The survivors swim to the motor launch and the Scientist declares; “In twenty-four hours there will be only one shrew left on the island, and he will die of starvation.”


This movie and it’s double feature The Giant Gila Monster made a surprising amount of money on the drive-in circuit. Although they were both low budget and schlocky even for 1959, I enjoyed the two movies at the drive-in. An amazing fact is that James Best reprises his role as the captain in the remake “Return of the Killer Shrews” in 2012, which was mostly a mockumentary of the original with even worse special effects and played for laughs. I am probably one of the very few people who have seen both movies. It is also a break of 53 years between the original and the sequel. Has to be some kind of record.

Blade Runner 2049 – A Science Fiction Movie Review

I saw Blade Runner in 1982.  It was a dystopic sci-fi story based on a Philip K Dick story, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”  Harrison Ford is a cop named Rick Deckard whose job is to terminate runaway androids (replicants), he’s called a blade runner.  The movie was constructed as a film noir with Deckard in love with a woman that he knows to be a replicant.  The movie is full of dark violent imagery.  And the story has at its core the concept of the inherent dignity of all human life and the injustice of denying anyone freedom.  And Rutger Hauer was a lot of fun running amok as a brilliant homicidal replicant named Roy Batty.

Since this is Orion’s Cold Fire, I feel it is necessary to record here Roy’s final speech before dying:

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears…in…rain. Time to die.”  It’s effective, both dramatically and emotionally.  In point of fact it’s the best thing in the movie.

Blade Runner 2049 is the sequel to this movie.  It’s about thirty years after the first movie and K (played by Ryan Gosling) is a replicant who works for the Los Angeles police department as a blade runner.  While terminating a rogue replicant he detects a body buried under a tree on the replicant’s farm.  Forensic evidence points to the body belonging to the replicant that Deckard ran away with at the end of the first movie.  And the forensics shows that she gave birth to a child.  This is supposed to be impossible and so frightens the law enforcement establishment that they order K to find the child and terminate it and destroy all evidence of its existence.

But based on evidence associated with the child in K’s search he begins to believe that he is that child.  Because of the usefulness and efficiency of having replicants fertile, Niander Wallace, the wealthy, brilliant and evil CEO of the replicant manufacturing corporation wants to find the child in order to learn the secret of its ability.

This scenario sparks all manner of fights and chases and clues are found and people are hunted down.  Eventually K finds the woman who delivers the child and learns he is not the child.  He finds Deckard (reprised by Ford) and reunites him with his daughter.

I thought it was an awful movie.  It was full of off-putting action, boring and confusing dialog and unsympathetic characters.  Even as science fiction it didn’t make any sense.  We can currently read the entire genome of any human being.  How could it be possible for a future world that could produce synthetic humans not be able to make them fertile.  Also, since as we learned in the first movie, these replicants were born adult and only lived a few short years, how could having them gestate other replicants make any sense?  They would be born infants and take twenty years to mature.  Or even if in the meantime replicants now lived longer why were humanoid slaves needed at all?  The advances in artificial intelligence showcased in the movie made the need for android slaves nonsensical.

But honestly, all that is beside the point.  The movie was terrible.

The French Connection – A Movie Review

When the “The French Connection” came out in 1971 I was a high school freshman.  My home room teacher was trying to come up with a class trip that would be less boring than the usual trip to a museum.  So, he took the class to a Manhattan theater to see this film.  I would say that was the only successful school trip during my four years there.

The movie is shot in the gritty and sometimes annoying cinema verité style that was popular at the time and the soundtrack is full of weird and fairly arbitrary sounds and music meant to add a disorienting sensation to the movie.  And the New York City streets and low life environs that make up a good chunk of the geography of the film are an ugly and depressing scene.  But the movie succeeds on its own terms.  It is the story of Popeye Doyle (played by Gene Hackman) a New York City Police detective who works undercover with his partner Buddy Russo (played by Roy Scheider) to try to stem the flow of heroin into the city.  Popeye is a cowboy who will use violence and intimidation to find out where the low-level drug dealers are getting their heroin from.  And his recklessness in capturing the bad guys has led to the death of a fellow cop at some time in the past.

Based on the info of an informant Popeye learns that a huge shipment of heroin is coming into the country from France.  The mastermind behind the deal is a Frenchman named Alain Charnier who is accompanied by his hitman Pierre Nicoli.  They are arranging to sell the drugs to a small time Brooklyn gangster named Sal Boca who along with his young wife Angie run a sandwich shop and drug dealership.  In the movie Popeye and Buddy discover Sal’s part in the drug deal completely at random.  They were in the Copacabana after work for a drink when Popeye notices a number of mob-connected drug dealers socializing with a young couple that neither of the detectives recognize.  On a hunch they follow the couple and see them change cars and appearance before assuming the part of small business owners in Brooklyn.  After checking their police records and observing Sal enter the building of a known drug financier named Joel Weinstock, Popeye becomes convinced that Sal is part of the heroin deal and asks his boss to request wire taps for Sal’s home and business.

The two Frenchmen reach New York and Popeye and Buddy, assisted by some federal agents, follow Sal and identify his contacts.  But Charnier is aware of the surveillance and plays a game of cat and mouse with Popeye, in one case outwitting him in a game of follow the leader on a subway car.  But the lack of results frustrates the police hierarchy and the assignment is cancelled with Popeye and Buddy sent back to the street work they usually do.  But Charnier’s hitman Pierre Nicoli is unhappy with Popeye knowing so much about the plan and he tells his boss that he will take care of the detective.

In the next scene Popeye is walking home to his apartment in the Marlborough Housing Project off 86th Street in south Brooklyn when a rifle shot strikes a nearby woman wheeling a baby carriage.  After Popeye avoids another half-dozen rounds, he goes up to the roof to find the sniper.  He finds the rifle but Nicoli has fled and looking down Popeye sees the man fleeing the area.  He chases Nicoli to the elevated subway station of the B train and sees the killer escape on a train.  Popeye flags down a motorist and commandeers his car.  What follows is one of the greatest car chase scenes in movie history.  The elevated train line Straddles and constricts 86th Street running beneath it.  And this narrowness and the congestion of the traffic along this busy road makes the high-speed chase that Popeye attempts essentially suicidal.  He’s chasing an overhead train on a crowded road by weaving in and out of the oncoming lane while traveling at what’s supposed to be sixty miles an hour.  Suffice it to say the unlucky motorist wouldn’t be getting much of his car back at the end of Popeye’s race.

Meanwhile Nicoli is commandeering the train and preventing it from stopping at the local stations.  In the commission of this plan he shoots an NYPD officer and the train conductor and gives the subway motorman a heart attack which leads to the train crashing into the back of another train on the same track.  Staggering out of the wreck Nicoli tries to leave the elevated station but Popeye has managed to reach the station ahead of him and when Nicoli tries to run Popeye shoots him in the back and guards his body until the police arrive.

After the killings committed by Nicoli, the investigation is relaunched and Popeye and Buddy are in charge again.  They discover the drugs hidden in a car planted for the exchange and once the deal takes place, they spring their trap.  A small army of police surround the deserted building on Ward Island where the drug dealers are holed up.  Sal is killed in the gun battle but the rest of the New York gang and the drugs are captured by the police.  Now Popeye and Buddy go after Charnier.  Popeye tells Buddy that Charnier is in the far end of the building.  Popeye walks straight toward the room but when a figure appears in the doorway Popeye cuts him down with five shots from his revolver.  But when Buddy goes over to the body it’s the federal agent that Popeye disliked the most.  Popeye ignores the gravity of what he’s just done and says he knows Charnier is in the room and charges in.  We hear a shot ring out and the scene ends.

Text on the screen tells us that only a couple of criminals served time and even that wasn’t for more than a few years.  Doyle and Russo were transferred out of the narcotics division and reassigned.  Charnier was never caught and was believed to be back in France.

As noted above this movie suffers from being a product of early nineteen seventies film-making.  New York City at that time period was a pretty gritty place.  At best, Popeye Doyle is a flawed hero but more accurately he is an anti-hero.  But his cowboy approach to police work is fast-paced and riveting.  Hackman and Scheider have a good chemistry as cop buddies.  And without a doubt, the chase scene is a must-see experience.  On a personal note I grew up in the area where Popeye Doyle lived and where the chase scene took place.  I can attest that only a heavily armed individual with a death wish could live in the Marlboro Projects back in the 1970s with no fear for life or limb.    And if someone tried to drive down 86th Street in the way represented by the movie’s chase scene the body count would have been truly noteworthy.

I recommend the movie to all fans of action movies and crime dramas.

Guest Contributor – War Pig – SF&F Movie Review – EEGAH!

EEGAH!  (also known as; “EEGAH! The Name Written In Blood”)

A 1962 schlock sci-fi movie apparently shot on a budget in the double digits. It is notable for three things; first, being one of the 50 worst movies ever made. Second, introducing us to Richard Kiel who went on to star as the giant alien in the Twilight Zone episode “To Serve Man”, and as the melancholy villain/henchman Jaws in the James Bond franchise. Lastly, it proudly introduced America to the dune buggy, a sort of hot rod with “tires filled with water for traction” meant to climb desert sand dunes. If you ever watched the cartoon Speed Buggy as a child, you’ll get the drift.

The comely Marilyn Manning plays the beautiful damsel and a forgettable Arch Hall, Jr as the hero with a DA haircut and a poorly recorded singing voice.

Kiel was the only decent actor in the lot and he played well considering what he was given to work with. I love the movie as I love all scholcky sci-fi movies, the worse, the better. Arch Hall, Sr drafted his son as the hero and himself played a part in the movie. Senior wrote it and headed the film company.

Poor EEGAH. He somehow survived in a cave from the caveman days to present, along with his mummified family. How he managed to live years in the area around Palm Springs without discovery is a mystery, but the movie glosses over all that. Fumes or something. He is in the road looking for roadkill and is almost hit by the comely heroine, who passes out at the sight of him and accidentally scares him off by honking the horn. An Easter egg is that there are sheep bleating in the background when EEGAH picks up a deer carcass and carries it off. She tells her father, a sort of amateur archaeologist or something, who goes out in a helicopter to be dropped off to look around. The chopper drops him off but that is the last we hear of the chopper. It breaks or something so the hero and heroine ride off in the new Dune Buggy to go look for dear old dad.

Dad is found, the hero sent off, and the heroine captured by the amorous caveman. She’s the best looking things he’s seen in 10,000 years and she smells good, too. The heroine tries to keep EEGAH interested enough in her so that he doesn’t kill them both, while at the same time keeping things from going too far. Pretty much like a date with a fratboy, I guess. She shaves her father for some unknown and inappropriate reason, then EEGAH wants a shave, too. So she shaves him while he tries to make zug-zug with her and eat the shaving cream at the same time. A hilarious scene for me.

At any rate, the hero returns from wherever, gets dad and daughter out of the cave, and there is the predictable chase scene with the three of them running away from EEGAH in the dune buggy back to Palm Springs in time for a pool party which allows the heroine to show off her bikini bod (and a rather good, one, too), then to change into a form fitting sheath dress for a later party. Poor EEGAH comes to town looking for his love and instead gets into a comical series of adventures with civilization which were apparently stolen straight from the caveman scenes in Dinosaurus, another sci-fi movie from two years earlier. Then he crashes the pool party, whips all the fratboys, tries to run off with his lady love like a good caveman will do although he carries her instead of dragging her off by the hair. But the cops arrive and that is the end of poor EEGAH as he finds out a good club and a 7’2” frame are no match for little metal pellets going 1100 feet per second.

This movie is so loaded with cheese that it’s really a comedy. Marilyn Manning has two other IMDB credits, one of which was the actually good Sadist. Pity, as Ms Manning was very easy on the eyes, especially in a bikini. She could have given me a shave any day, if I had shaved back in 1962. Cuter than Annette Funicello of the Beach Party movie franchise. Mr Kiel went on to do bit parts calling for a tall guy and also got some better roles. As mentioned, he was an alien in Twilight Zone and Jaws in the James Bond franchise. He also played the tall man in the Adam Sandler movie Happy Gilmore. Overall, he has 82 credits on IMDB and had a successful career. Arch Hall Jr has a total of 9 IMDB credits, 6 of them his father’s films. He left acting to become a pilot. What happened to Marilyn Manning after her three movies is not known and I can find nothing really about her. She was a chiropractor’s receptionist in the same building as the film company for EEGAH! and was brought in because of her very good looks.

Overall, EEGAH! Is a hilarious send-up of sci-fi/horror movies. Like Plan 9 From Outer Space, it’s so bad, it’s good.

The Natural – A Movie Review

The Natural is about Roy Hobbs, a midwestern farm boy, played by Robert Redford, who can play baseball better than anyone else who ever played the game.  The story is how this phenomenon of a ball player meets his fate and learns that life is more than just success or failure in the arena.

The story is a fairy tale set in the golden age of baseball, the 1920s and 1930s.  Roy lives on the family farm with his father who encourages him to become a baseball player telling Roy that he has a great gift.  In a quick sequence of scenes, his father dies of a heart attack, then lightning strikes the old tree in his front yard and Roy uses the lightning hardened core of the wood to carve out a baseball bat that he inscribes with the name, “Wonder Boy” complete with jagged lightning bolt symbol and finally he has a farewell tryst with his childhood sweetheart Iris (played by Glenn Close) whom he promises to call for and marry once he is established in Chicago.

On his train ride to try out for the Chicago Cubs, Roy meets a famous baseball reporter named Max Mercy (played by Robert Duvall) and Babe Ruth (or a look-alike stand-in for him called the “Whammer”) whom he strikes out on three pitches in a field near where the train is stopped for refueling. He also attracts the attention of a femme fatale named Harriet Bird who was following the Whammer as part of her insane mission to shoot great athletes with silver bullets.  When the train reaches Chicago, Harriet invites Roy to her hotel room where wearing a black veil she asks him if he will be the greatest baseball player of all time.   When he answers yes, she shoots him, then jumps out the window to her death.

Sixteen years later Roy shows up at the home of the Buffalo Knights a last place National League team.  He has been signed to a minimal pay contract to play right field.  We meet the manager Pop Fisher (played by Wilford Brimley) and learn that Pop will lose his share of the team ownership to his dishonest partner, “The Judge” (played by Robert Prosky) unless the Knights win the pennant that year.  At first the old rookie is dismissed by Pop and rides the bench, but finally Roy gets his chance and shows the Knights that he is their ticket to compete for the pennant.  On his first at bat Fisher prophetically tells Hobbs to knock the cover off the ball, and he does just that.  By the time the remnant of the ball is thrown back into the infield it’s just a bunch of thread and Roy is the hero the Knights need to spark them.  He goes on a streak hitting home runs almost at will.  The Knights are inspired by him and they all start wearing a lightning bolt on their sleeves in sympathy with his Wonder Boy logo.  They climb out of the cellar and into contention for the pennant.  Now Fisher’s niece, Memo Paris (played by Kim Basinger) comes on to Roy and introduces him to her “friend,” Gus Sands (played by Darren McGavin wearing some kind of glass eye on his left eye), a professional gambler who uses Memo’s attentions to distract ball players from their play on the field and thereby wins him bets.  Between the two of them they distract Hobbs with a frantic nightlife to the point where his game falls apart and the Knights start sinking in the standings again.

But then fate and the strange magic that surrounds Roy steps in again.  On a road trip to Chicago Iris Gaines shows up at the game.  She’s heard about Roy’s emergence in the Major Leagues and wants to see him.  Unbeknownst to Roy she is sitting in the stands watching the game.  After another disappointing game is almost lost, Roy comes up to bat for the last time and on impulse Iris stands up in front of her seat in the bleachers and somehow, mystically, Roy at the plate senses something and it energizes him.  He hits a colossal home run that smashes the enormous glass face of the centerfield clock.  Looking up into the stands he tries to see her but the glare of the reporters’ flash bulbs blinds him.  But later she gets a note to him and they meet after the game at a coffee shop.  They talk about their lives and how fate separated them.  They are obviously still in love but they seem almost resigned to their separation.  As she’s getting into a cab, he asks her to come to the game.  She says she can’t because she has to work but he tells her again to come.

In this next game he hits four home runs and it’s the beginning of a resurgence for the Knights.  After the game he goes to Iris’s apartment and they talk some more and we find out she has a fifteen-year-old son (whose father lives in New York).  Things remain unresolved and Roy leaves to continue the road trip in Boston.

With Roy back in the swing, the Knights tie for first place but this doesn’t suit the plans of Memo, Gus, the reporter Max Mercy and the Judge.  They are all committed financially to the Knights losing the pennant.  So, Memo invites Roy over to a swank party where various inducements are pitched to convince Roy to throw the pennant race.  He refuses and shortly after Memo feeds Roy some kind of hors d’oeuvre he has a gastric attack and is rushed to the hospital.  He misses the remaining games of the regular season and now the pennant depends on a final playoff game.  While in the hospital the attending doctor tells Roy that the bullet that he was shot with sixteen years ago (a silver bullet) had worked itself loose and was recovered while they pumped the poison out of his stomach.  And the doctor tells him that the lining of his stomach has been seriously degraded and he shouldn’t play ball anymore for fear of a fatal rupture of his stomach.

The same day Memo visits him and pleads for him to skip the playoff game promising that Gus will pay him off for it.  Roy refuses.  Max Mercy threatens Roy with exposing the scandalous details of the murder suicide attempt that Harriet Bird perpetrated on him.  Roy refuses to quit.  That night the Judge shows up and attempts to bribe him with twenty thousand dollars to throw the game.

The next day, before the game, Roy goes to the Judge’s office and in front of Gus and Memo, he throws the money back at the Judge.  Gus calls him a loser and says it won’t matter, that the Knights will lose anyway.  And the Judge reveals that he already has another key player who will ensure that the Knights lose.  Memo grabs a pistol out of the Judge’s desk and fires a round into the floor but before anything else can happen Roy takes the gun from her and throws it away as he leaves.

The game goes poorly because Roy is badly hurt and as it turns out the Knight’s pitcher is secretly throwing the game.  Roy calls time out and confronts the pitcher on the mound and he relents.  But by the end of the eighth inning the Knights are down several runs.  Up in the stands Iris is desperate to help Roy so she sends a message to him letting him know that her son is at the game with her and that Roy is his father.

In the climactic at bat, with men on base and Roy as the potential winning run, the opposing pitcher is replaced with a young phenom from Nebraska and even Wonder Boy is broken in half hitting a foul ball off his incredible speed.  And at last with a full count and everything on the line Roy hits the fast ball down the middle of the plate so hard that it’s seen driving straight through the enormous out field lighting display used for night games.  In fact, once the first light is struck all the rest of the lights explode in an extended chain reaction that continues until well after Roy has rounded the bases to win the game and the pennant.  The last scene of the game shows the home run ball continuing through and past the lights, still rising.  The scene shifts to daylight and a baseball is caught by Iris’s son in a farm field and then he throws it back to Roy.  And Iris is in the dress of a farmer’s wife and they all live happily ever after.


The Natural was released in 1984.  That was an amazing year.  Reagan’s re-election was a high-water mark for this country in a lot of ways.  After the hopelessness of the Jimmy Carter presidency there was incredible optimism and enthusiasm by the end of the first Reagan term.  The Natural fit that era.  It could not be made today.  It’s too optimistic and has no moral ambiguity.  The characters are clearly either good or evil.  That would never work today.  Granted, it is also ridiculously sentimental and improbable.  But fairy tales usually are.  The soundtrack by Randy Neuman has some themes that are used during some of the more stirring baseball scenes that are reminiscent of Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for The Common Man and are remarkably dramatic.

Tastes, of course, differ.  I could see some people finding the Natural not nuanced enough, almost cartoonish.  It’s true.  It’s a fairy tale.  How can a man slay a tremendous monster?  Impossible.

I like the Natural.  It cheers me up.  Give it a try if fairy tales interest you.

13APR2019 – American Greatness Post of the Day – Civilization Wins in”The Highwaymen” by Joshua Sharf

Well, just for the sake of pride I will say that I did my review first, but Joshua Sharf wrote a very fine review of the film and delved into the contrast with the liberal homage that the Warren Beatty film was.  I enjoyed reading this article.  I think I’ll watch the film again.  It’s worth it.

Civilization Wins in ‘The Highwaymen’

The Highwaymen – A Movie Review

Camera Girl rarely requests a movie so when she does, I try to meet her halfway.  She told me she saw an interview with Kevin Costner on one of her girlie morning shows and he was talking about a Netflix movie he was in called “The Highwaymen.”  We both liked Costner in “Open Range,” so I was willing to give this a shot.  I’m glad I did.

Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson play two retired Texas Rangers (actually the Rangers had been disbanded by a woman Texas governor named Ma Ferguson (played by Kathy Bates) who are called out of retirement out of desperation because Bonnie and Clyde were on a murder and robbery spree that even the FBI couldn’t stop.  Costner and Harrelson are (respectively) Frank Hamer and Maney Gault.  Although most of the time Maney calls Frank, Pancho.  The two old lawmen discover that they’ve lost more than a step and after testing out their current accuracy with pistols they decide to invest heavily in machine guns to try and even up the fight with the Barrow gang.

Every few days the Barrows murder a few more police and always in a brutal and sadistic way.  When one particular shooting is recorded to have involved a thousand rounds of ammunition Maney questions if he and Pancho are even sane for contemplating a confrontation with these trigger-happy killers.  And in fact, the FBI is also dead set against the old pair getting involved in the manhunt once the two rangers leave Texas soil.  They taunt them for their old-fashioned methods and flaunt their access to wire-tapping information and coordinated roadblocks across the Mid-West.

But what the old men do possess is an understanding of how these desperados think and operate.  Hamer anticipates the ways that the gang avoids the police and why they will end up down in Louisiana where they will face their reckoning.

And of course, since this is the story of Bonnie and Clyde, we see a torrent of lead, riddle the gangsters’ car and bodies with bullets.  It is a sobering sight.

During the manhunt we learn a little about Maney and Frank and how they developed the reputation as mankillers.  We see that Gault is a man filled with remorse for some of the excesses that were forced on him in his days shooting it out with bandits.  And we find out that Hamer is the ruthless opponent he is because of his personal knowledge of how dangerous and unhesitating their opponents really are.

Although the movie shows just how popular Bonnie and Clyde were for the young and poor people in the Mid-West it in no way portrays them as victims.  Bonnie is especially shown to take a sadistic delight in terrifying her victims at the moment of death.  The one really touching scene is when Hamer comes face to face with Clyde Barrow’s father.  You see the opposite points of view on what caused Clyde’s fate but he learns that the man has come to terms with the action that he knows Hamer must perform, kill his son.  He needs it done to put an end to his family’s agony.

Costner and Harrelson are an odd couple and Costner is the straight man to Harrelson’s slightly eccentric character.  They do a good and generally understated job of showing us the story of how Bonnie and Clyde were finally stopped.

It’s a good crime drama and well worth the time spent.  Well done, Camera Girl, well done.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs – A Movie Review

The Coen Brothers are filmmakers who have a long established track record but are so idiosyncratic that it is unwise to assume anything about their new works without confirmation.  They are extremely inventive and original and also have an extremely dark sense of humor.  I was a big fan of their work until I saw “No Country for Old Men.”  Although I consider that movie a very good film the nihilistic story line coinciding with the state of affairs in the world in 2007 created a visceral reaction in me such that I avoided all of their subsequent films.  This continued until they produced True Grit.  At that point, because of the subject matter, curiosity got the better of me and I watched it. Well it was a very enjoyable film and for that reason I decided to give this other western film from the Coen Brothers a chance.

Last night I watched the Ballad of Buster Scruggs and true to form it was completely unpredictable.  Or rather, in a predictably Coen Brothers manner it was extremely inventive and original and also had an extremely dark sense of humor.  The movie is made of a series of six vignettes that share an Old West theme.

  • “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”
  • “Near Algodones”
  • “Meal Ticket”
  • “All Gold Canyon”
  • “The Gal Who Got Rattled”
  • “The Mortal Remains”

Because they’re all short stories I won’t spoil any of them by narrating them.  None of the stories are related and the only recurring theme is the cruel irony that fate weaves into every story.  Mixed in with this bleak picture are varying portions of humor, absurdity, cruelty, sadness, warmth and even affection.  But the overarching impression is bitter humor.  Several of the character sketches are intricate and appealing.  Others are caricatures. But each of them is appropriate to the story in which it occurs.  In one story having to do with a gold prospector, “All Gold Canyon,” the cinematography is extremely fine and the landscapes striking.  In one story, “Meal Ticket,” there are grotesque aspects that are a bit off-putting so those who don’t care for such things should be forewarned.

Maybe because 2019 isn’t as depressing as 2007 I don’t find myself repelled by this movie as I was with their earlier one. Maybe it’s the historical separation that allows me emotional immunity from the dark content.  I will recommend this movie for those who have a strong bent for darker content.  Don’t look for any affirmation of life in this film. A sardonic leer is what it seems to offer in my estimation.