Sam Whiskey (1969)

This another one of those movies that only hit your radar if you find yourself couch bound, ill and you are at the mercy of the day time TV programming.  This is exactly how this little comedy western hit my radar when I was much younger.   Burt Reynolds plays a very ‘Maverick’ like character who is hired by a beautiful widow to retrieve sunken gold bars from the bottom of a lake.

The beautiful widow is played by

Angie Dickinson who is in a very suggestive sexual role.  There is a couple of scenes she is trying to persuade Reynolds to take on the job, by seducing him with continuing amounts of sex.  Considering this was made in 1969 they pushed the boundaries of decency of what was allowed for the time, and you still have to do a double take to see if indeed you seen a Dickinson nipple or not!   for the record, you don’t!

The comedy in this movie is very genteel and gives us a hint of what Reynolds was going to be like nearly 10 years later when he started off his Smokey genre of movies.   You sometimes forgot how old an actor he is.

The movie has a great upbeat score that weaves throughout each scene.  No setup drags too long and is very pacy and enjoyable.

Solid outing for everyone. 

#91 in the series


Viewing Date
Tuesday, 17th November 2015 (Richmond)


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Shanghai Noon (2000)

Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson team up together in this comedy western to rescue the kidnapped Chinese princess played by the beautiful 

Lucy Liu.  With Chan not knowing any English, or anything about the West is your classic fish out of water setup.  Not dissimilar to the usual Crocodile Dundee story.

Chan plays pretty much the exact same role in all these types of movies, the humble, karate/kung fu fighting side kick who enlists a local handler to aid him finish his quest.  Lots of wonderful elaborate fight scenes that involves much bending and twisting, and considering that Chan was 46 years of age at the time of this movie the man can move.

Wilson’s role is the smart wise cracking wannabe outlaw who is upset that Chan has been given a cool handle, The Shanghai Kid, and his ransom is higher than his.

There is absolutely nothing spectacular about this outing, the odd funny scene (see Chan/Wilson breaking out of prison by peeing on a shirt), and funny lines, but the formula is well known and you will definitely second guess where everything is going and not be disappointed when it arrives.

It is a perfect background movie that you can dip in and out of without losing much.  


Viewing Date
Tuesday, 20th October 2015


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The Train Robbers (1973)

There are times when you have to separate the real man from the man on the silver screen.  A number of actors who have such a persona and strong pedigree that you simply have to forgive them (or forget) that there is even a real person behind it.  Tom Cruise and John Wayne are two legends that fall into this category.   Both of these guys get right under my skin when I see TV interviews or read their views on various issues.   But I can divorce myself from this and not let this bleed into what they do best, which is to entertain and draw us into a world of make believe.

I grew up on The Duke.  It was a movie genre I bonded with my father over and every time Wayne came riding on to the screen, I knew we were in for a good father-son couple of hours where I could look up to men that inspired a better world.   From the 1960s onwards, Wayne did a number of excellent movies that I am sure will feature in this movie-a-day series I am embarking on at this precise moment.   So please forgive a sentimental reviewer.

For the time being, let us focus on one of the later ones in his life, The Train Robbers.


Here we have the Duke undertaking the head of the gang of guns that are out to recover the gold of a robbery so the widow may start her life, with her morality balance back in sync.

The widow in this particularly instance is no stranger to regular readers, the delightful and forever beautiful and sensual, Ann-Margret.  In fact here her sexuality is built in, with the Duke asking her to try on clothes, then offering to boil her top so it may shrink so it can have all her curves stick out in the right places.   He wants to make sure that any one riding from afar is under no mistake that the widow is still with them and not told them where the gold is.

Regular Duke fans will no doubt recognize Ben Johnson who is once again seen riding side-by-side as his trusted right hand man.

You don’t go into a John Wayne movie expecting a huge complicated story line.  What you are buying into, is basically the same story, the patriarch (the Duke) who is all knowing and all wise who knows precisely what needs to be done when and just like Steven Segal and Jason Statham, is rarely rarely seen getting an on-screen kicking.   The Train Robbers does not disappoint on this score.

Speaking of scores, the movie has the classic big western orchestral soundtrack.  However in this instance, keep an ear out for how it changes when the bad guys are on screen versus when the good guys are on screen.  It is a wonderful audible cue as to what you should be feeling.

There is a great twist at the end of the movie that has you smiling.

If you are a fan of the simple 1960s/1970s westerns then this movie will not disappoint you.   It is the perfect Saturday/Sunday afternoon movie that you would have normally stumbled upon on the BBC, that draws you in for the full run.

Treat yourself, escape into a world of when men where men, and horses were scared!


Viewing Date
Saturday, 19th September 2015


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Django Unchained (2012)

From the moment the trailer first arrived in the summer of 2012, I knew there was something special about to hit the screens.  

Quentin Tarantino was back on form with his recent German World War 2 inspired Inglourious Basterds so it was fascinating to see what he was going to do with the western era as it bumped up against slavery.

The opening shot, of a line of slaves chained together drudging through the harsh open winter, with a distinctly spaghetti-western feel you literally have no idea what you are about to witness.  The music fades, and the first scene starts to unfold, as Christoph Waltz (Dr Schultz) comes riding on a wagon pertaining to have him as a dentist, you are about to get a feel for what the next near 3 hrs of your life is about to be.  Trust me, this is time that is not going to be wasted.


Jamie Foxx plays Django (the d is silent) a slave that teams up with Schultz (a bounty hunter) to help him track down some fugitives he can’t personally identify.  Once that goes very well, they agree to team up, make some money and then go after the love of Django’s life who has not yet won her freedom.

To give away the story or some of the set pieces would be doing a disservice to those who have not seen this modern day masterpiece.   

Leonardo DiCaprio does a perfect turn as the major slave owner of the region playing a ruthless character with 

Samuel L. Jackson as his indentured man servant.

Keep an eye out for

Don Johnson and the pre-raid hood scene.  You may actually cry with laughter.   You know deep down you shouldn’t be laughing, but this is the genius of the screenplay.  Don’t fight it, go with it.  It works out in the end.

Tarantino takes a very serious and shameful period of history and manages to present a different point of view without demeaning any of the struggle or heartache endured.

This is Tarantino at his very best and deserves to be put in anyone’s playlist to be consumed at your earliest.   

btw the thumbing soundtrack is not to be sniffed at.


Viewing Date
Wednesday, 16th September 2015


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Maverick (1994)

The original Maverick was a TV series that ran from 1957 to 1962 and featured James Garner in the lead role as a drifter gambler in the old west going from poker game to poker game.  This remake see’s Mel Gibson reprising the lead role, Bret Maverick, who is raising the final part of his $25k (or $600k roughly in today’s funds) entry fee for a very exclusive poker game.

A long the way, he bumps into southern belle socialite con-artist Ms Bransford, played by the delightful

Jodie Foster.  She gives Bret a run for his (literal) money as they are two peas from the same pod.   To complete the trio, Marshall Zane Cooper (played by

James Garner) joins in the journey.

Of course when you have James Garner in the remake in a leading role, you have to wonder if there is more to his character.  Of course there is, and not to throw away a huge plot spoiler, turns out to be Bret’s father.  This is fairly obvious, especially if you keep an eye out for some in-your-face cues (for example every time Bret says my pappy would always say the camera cuts to Cooper).

Maverick captures the vastness of the old west with wonderful sweeping panoramic views of the dusty west with intricate old style town and steam boat details.   Scenes not seen since the old John Wayne era of westerns.

There are some wonderful set-pieces that rival the stunts from the likes of John Ford in Stagecoach.   For example, the scene with the three of them in a galloping runaway coach, with a driver that has died, is not only impressive, but extremely funny in both physical comedy and dialogue.

Speaking of speaking, the dialogue in this movie is spot-on, with a flow and a natural delivery of lines that doesn’t feel like you are being fed a list of smart one-liners.   This movie has far more to give than the trailer undersells.

Annabelle: What is it with you and Indians anyway?
Maverick: Oh, nothing. I try and shoot one a day, if possible, before noon. How ‘bout you, Coop? I figure it’s their fault for being on our land before we got here.

This movie comes post-Lethal Weapon for Gibson, and with that, keep your eyes open for some nods to that series with some very well placed cameos.  There are a number, so if you think you have seen the one, there are more.

This is a big cast, with

Graham Greene reprising a very street smart post-DancesWithWolves Indian, Alfred Molina as Bret’s main nemesis and finally

James Coburn as the host of the final poker game.

A special note to the soundtrack of this movie.   It can be hard to track down the actual score of the movie, as oppose to the mainstream version of all the vocal tracks.  The score is infinitely better and breaths life into each scene.

This outing is not without its flaws but those shouldn’t be held against it for it is trying to do.  We forget that before we had Robert Downey Jr. playing the smart-arse good-looking cocky lead, we had Mel Gibson pioneering this role.   Lethal Weapon, Air America, Bird on a wire and Maverick all proved he had this genre mastered.   Though it was a crown he was to give up later in his career.

Being a huge John Wayne fan that grew up on western re-runs, this movie marked a nice nod to that era without over doing it.  Thoroughly enjoyable romp.


Viewing Date
Saturday, 12th September 2015


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