Category Archives: MovieZoot Blog Posts

“BARE KNUCKLES”:
When Posting “#metoo” Is Not Enough
by Sheri Warren Sankner

1. #MeTooWe are living in empowering times! Since its battle cry rang out on social media in October 2017, the hashtag #MeToo has empowered millions to take back their personal and professional lives, sharing real stories of sexual harassment and abuse. Following last year’s high profile downfall of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein amid a firestorm of sexual allegations, women in all industries from media to entertainment, education to politics, and technology to the culinary arts are finally supporting each other, speaking up and making a difference in the inequalities and injustices of the workplace.

Everyone is weighing in on this hot topic, including former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. In a recent CNN interview, she stated she thinks the #MeToo movement is a good thing, but is worried. “Let’s not turn women into snowflakes. Let’s not infantilize women.” Rice doesn’t want us “to get to a place that men start to think, ‘Well, maybe it’s just better not to have women around.’ I’ve heard a little bit of that. And it, it worries me,” she said. When asked about her own personal experiences, Rice answered, ”I’ve never had anyone do anything that I would consider assault. But I don’t know a woman alive who hasn’t had somebody say or do something that was inappropriate at best and aggressive at worst.”

2. Harvey Weinberg photoThe entertainment industry is still rocking from recent allegations and accusations against directors, producers, actors, comedians, and newscasters alike. Pay parity also still remains an issue in Hollywood as in the rest of the world. Recently actor Mark Wahlberg decided to show his support by putting his money where his mouth is. After discovering his film co-star Michelle Williams earned a tiny fraction of his salary on reshoots for the “All The Money In The World,” he donated $1.5 million in her name to the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund. Time’s Up, started with $13 million in donations for its legal fund, aims to lobby for legislation that creates financial consequences for companies that regularly tolerate harassment without action.

3. girl with tearsFear and ignorance are no longer an acceptable standard for behavior in the workplace or society in general. Educational institutions are getting onboard as well. The New York Times reports that “an M.B.A. education is no longer just about marketing, accounting, and economics. As topics like sexual harassment dominate the national conversation and chief executives weigh in on the ethical and social issues of the day, business schools around the country are hastily reshaping their curriculums with case studies ripped straight from the headlines.” At Stanford, they are studying sexual harassment in the workplace, while Harvard students are debating sexism and free speech. Studying psychological research, Stanford students found that more people are willing to challenge the powers that be if another person joins them. Hence, the popularity of #MeToo.

Social activist and community organizer Tarana Burke first created the phrase “Me Too” on MySpace in a 2006 campaign to promote “empowerment through empathy” among women of color who experienced sexual abuse. The phrase was then popularized by actress Alyssa Milano when she encouraged women to tweet it to “give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” Millions spoke up! So there really is power in numbers!

4. Me Too SignTime Magazine recognized “the Silence Breakers” as its “person” of the year. Oprah Winfrey summed up the impact of these whistleblowers recently in a moving speech at “The Golden Globes,” which even encouraged rally cries for her possible future presidential candidacy. “For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dare speak the truth to the power of those men. But their time is up. Their time is up … So I want all the girls watching here, now, to know that a new day is on the horizon! And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women … and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say ‘Me too’ again.”

5. Bloody fistsWanting a better life and literally “fighting” hard for it brings us to a kick-ass film pick this week, “Bare Knuckles,” starring stuntwoman/actress Jeannette Roxborough. Based on an inspiring true story, the film follows single mom, Samantha Rogers, a stuntwoman by day and cocktail waitress by night in a rowdy, dank club. Samantha is struggling to make ends meet for her and her disabled young daughter, Milla. Facing sleazy customers and a dead-end future, she is forced to use some deft fighting skills to stop a two-woman drunken bar fight, only to be recognized by a down and out fight promoter. Martin Kove plays Sonny Cool, the fight manager, who offers Samantha a chance at “the show.” He invites her to train for the underground, illegal bare knuckles all female fight circuit where brutality and elegance mix with high stakes and deception.

6. Bare Knuckles movie posterIf you’re looking for an empowering female lead, who thrives on strength and determination and who won’t be saying #MeToo, then check out 2013’s “Bare Knuckles” on MovieZoot.com here.

JACKIE CHAN MAKES AN IMPACT EVEN WITH HIS ABSENCE
Chan’s Trademark Fight Choreography Saves “The 36 Crazy Fists”
by John Francis

1. Jackie Chan PosterMartial arts superstar Jackie Chan made (or produced, directed and choreographed fight scenes) literally hundreds of films in his native Hong Kong and other Asian countries before trying to make his mark in America.

It took Chan several years and many attempts to break into Hollywood with his films. His first Hollywood film was “The Big Brawl” in 1980 and then a minor role in 1981’s “The Cannonball Run.” The former was a flop, the latter a hit that didn’t have anything to do with Chan, but its big American stars such as Burt Reynolds, Deam Martin, Roger Moore, Dom DeLuise, and Farrah Fawcett.

It wasn’t until 1995’s “Rumble in the Bronx,” which starred Chan and featured his trademark dazzling fight choreography mixed with his winsome, almost-slapstick humor. The film attained a cult status, especially when it was released on VHS.

What “Rumble” did was introduce audiences to this extremely charismatic figure, his incredible fight and action sequences, many of which he did himself (he did start out as a stuntman, after all), and a certain formula that Chan was able to ride throughout his successful career. The formula goes like this: star power from Chan, great action sequences, and so-so plots, character development and direction.

2. Jackie Chan's 36 Crazy FistsRoger Ebert summed up Chan’s unique appeal in his review of “Rumble” for the Chicago Sun-Times:

“Any attempt to defend this movie on rational grounds is futile. Don’t tell me about the plot and the dialogue. Don’t dwell on the acting. The whole point is Jackie Chan — and, like Astaire and Rogers, he does what he does better than anybody. There is a physical confidence, a grace, an elegance to the way he moves. There is humor to the choreography of the fights (which are never too gruesome). He’s having fun. If we allow ourselves to get in the right frame of mind, so are we.”

That mixture was fully evident in Chan’s biggest box-office successes, the three (so far, talks are under way for a fourth) “Rush Hour” action comedies with comedian Chris Tucker. The first in 1998 made $130 million at the American box office alone. “Rush Hour 2” in 2001 was an even bigger hit, grossing $347 million worldwide. The third was also a big hit, grossing $255 million in the U.S.

3. jackie_chanHe also teamed with another Hollywood star, Owen Wilson, for the comedy-action Westerns “Shanghai Noon” in 2000, and its sequel “Shanghai Knights” in 2003. Chan was a bonafide Hollywood star who could sell a movie on his own or paired with an American star.

But what Chan’s success also brought was his hundreds of action films he made in Hong Kong, India and Thailand. Many of them were throwaways, barely worth the film they were made on. And these films hit video store shelves in waves, many of them taking advantage of Chan’s star power, even if he was barely in the film, only directed the film or choreographed the fight scenes. The VHS boxes prominently featured his name and image.

One of those films is 1977’s “The 36 Crazy Fists,” which features Chan’s image prominently on the box/poster and his name in large letters at the top, even though Chan has a cameo role at best. He also served as fight choreographer.

IMDB’s synopsis goes like this: “A young man decides to learn Kung Fu to avenge the death of his father, a peaceful shopkeeper who was murdered by Manchurian gangsters for not paying protection money. At first he is rejected by his teachers because he is weak, but through persistence, and some help from other students and a mysterious drunk, he learns the skills he needs to avenge his father.”

Reviewers weren’t so kind to “Fists,” especially given Chan’s blink-it-and-you-miss-it appearance. But not all reviews were unkind. David Lee Andrews of www.comicbookandmoviereviews.com, who gave it a B-, said it was “so-so,” but liked it overall.

“Now underneath the surface of ‘36 Crazy Fists’ is a very cleverly constructed film that’s taken some of the characters from Jackie Chan’s early kung-fu flicks, and then amalgamated them all together into one fairly cohesive storyline. Moreover, it’s funny in places; Jovial in others. And by and large the kung-fu on show isn’t that bad either. However — as you might have guessed — where this film falls flat on its ass, is in every other department thereafter. It isn’t a bad movie. Granted, it isn’t the best one either.”

“The 36 Crazy Fists” doesn’t nearly rise to the level of Chan’s best, such as the “Drunken Master,” “Police Story” or even the “Rush Hour” series, but it can be a pleasant diversion if you don’t mind Chan’s absence.

Watch “The 36 Crazy Fists” on MovieZoot.com here.

“FISTS OF FURY”:
Anger Can Be Power
by Chris Hoey

Anger debuted as a force of human nature as one of the seven deadly sins. In opposition to peace, happiness, and joy, it seemed fated to be one of the villains of our nature. How did anger and fury rebrand itself from a vice to a virtue as civilization matured? The origins of this transformation in film and music in the past decades show anger may be more moral hero than sinister sinner.

Fist of Fury Image 1In ancient Greece, the furies tortured mortals with frustration and anger, often dooming hopeless humans to their own demise. Later anger and fury became something to rouse when you’ve been wronged. Grief is often summoned to rouse anger in order to fuel revenge so that justice can be served to the evil-doer — only then will the wronged find peace. Anger became the path of reasonable response by the innocent victims of the violence and misfortune to which humans are subject.

Fist of Fury Image 2In 1990’s “Ghost,” starring Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, and Whoopi Goldberg, each of the villains responsible for Sam Wheat’s (Patrick Swayze) demise are carried off to the terrors of the afterlife by shadowy creatures that seem to embody the anger of those they wronged. The furies here are friends to the fair and just, not the enemy. The audience finds satisfaction in this rough justice served to those who have done wrong. The villains know that terrors await them, but they also are helpless to fight back. They get what they had coming to them. The tables are turned.

Fist of Fury Image 3Anger as a vehicle for justice features prominently in Bruce Lee’s “Fists of Fury.” When his master dies unexpectedly, and a neighboring dojo disrespects his friends, Chen, played by Lee, sets off a series of anger-filled retribution that is the hallmark of this film. Simple insults and outright racism are among the wrongs that Lee’s furious fists right. Lee dismisses his rivals with a superhuman quality that seems to feed on the anger he feels for being mistreated.

Fist of Fury image 4Today’s cinema is also filled with superheros who conquer evil by harnessing and controlling anger. The best example of anger’s ability to bring about justice may be revealed by The Hulk. Like the characters brought to life by Bruce Lee, anger itself transforms Bruce Banner into the indestructible force for justice. Heroes who harness anger to serve justice are not sinners, but they are clever tacticians who tap into the supercharged emotion to achieve their ends.

Fist of Fury image 5Much-aligned punk rockers of the late 70s seemed to be angry for little reason. One of the most iconic bands of this breed was The Clash, who’s lyricist, Joe Strummer, wrote “let fury have the hour / anger can be power / d’you know that you can use it.”

In “Fists of Fury,” Chen knows how to use fury to restore the honor of his dead master. Bruce Lee has played an important role in anger’s evolution from a deadly sin to a force for good and justice.

Watch “Fists of Fury” on MovieZoot.com here.

LIFE LESSONS FROM THE ICONIC CELLULOID BITCH
The One and Only Bette Davis
by Sheri Warren Sankner

1. Iconic Bette DavisWhat can you say about Bette Davis and her devilishly entertaining career that spanned some 50 years of Hollywood’s golden age? She was called the “First Lady of American Film” and while only 5’3”, her personality was larger than life. Bold, brash and ballsy both on and off-screen, Davis became known as much for her scandalous affairs and bitter feuds with Hollywood rivals like Joan Crawford as for her Academy Award-winning acting. It was rumored she had affairs with George Brent, William Wyler, and billionaire Howard Hughes, among others. She was married four times, three of which ended in divorce, and always said that her career always came first. Her large, piercing trademark eyes inspired a #1 song in 1981, Kim Carnes’ “Bette Davis Eyes.” She had numerous biographies written about and even penned her own story, but it was her daughter Barbara “B.D.” Hyman 1985 tell-all book, “My Mother’s Keeper,” that painted her as a ruthless bully who faked attempted suicides for sympathy.

2. Davis and HowardDavis once said “old age is no place for sissies,” though no one would’ve ever dared call her such a timid or fragile creature no matter her age. On-screen she played up her deliciously evil, sarcastic, and sardonic personality. Her powerful, outspoken, unapologetic, go-for-it-all female roles were just as devious, scheming and selfish as any male. Davis earned star status with “The Man Who Played God” (1932), known as the actress that could play a variety of very strong and complex roles. But it was the role of Mildred Rogers in “Of Human Bondage” in 1934 that would finally give her major acclaim from the film critics, but resulted in a Best Actress nomination snub.

Davis sought the part of Mildred aggressively, feeling that it could be her breakout role after years of starring in Warner Brothers films that weren’t furthering her career. She begged studio chief Jack L. Warner to let her out of her contract so she could make the film. He relented, misguidedly thinking she would fail. When her standout performance sparked Oscar buzz, Warner went on the offensive with a spite campaign encouraging academy members not to vote for her.

3. Davis and MerrillDavis fans and supporters protested though and she garnered significant write-in votes for the Best Actress nod though she lost to Claudette Colbert for “It Happened One Night.” After that incident, write-in votes were never allowed again and the academy handed over the counting of the results to PriceWaterhouse, who still does the official counting.

Davis finally received her first Oscar for her role of Joyce Heath in 1935’s “Dangerous.” The one role that got away from her was Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone with the Wind.” Warner Brothers wouldn’t allow David O. Selznick to use her unless Errol Flynn played Rhett Butler.

4. Of Human BondageAdapted from W. Somerset Maugham’s 1915 novel, “Of Human Bondage” was a meaty role for Davis who reveled in the trashy, selfish waitress, playing opposite Leslie Howard’s Philip Carey, a club-footed young man who leaves art to study medicine. He is obsessed by the vulgar, low-class Cockney-accented blonde. He is smitten, even though she shows him nothing but disdain, repugnance and cruelty. Mildred is a manipulative, exploitative, two-timing, shrewish woman who distracts him from his studies and later more sympathetic love interests. When he proposes, she refuses and tells him that she will instead marry a salesman named Emil Miller (played by Alan Hale). The self-centered Mildred vindictively berates love-struck Philip with nasty insults proclaiming, “You dirty swine! I never cared for you, not once. I was always makin’ a fool of ya. Ya bored me stiff. I hated ya. It made me sick when I had to let ya kiss me. I only did it because ya begged me. Ya hounded me and drove me crazy! And after you kissed me, I always used to wipe my mouth! Wipe my mouth!”

5. Another Man's Poison PosterThe bumpy ride continues in “Another Man’s Poison,” based on a play by Leslie Sands. On the heels of their success and newfound love in “All About Eve,” Davis and husband Gary Merrill made this independent film noir feature set in an isolated house on the English Moors. Adulterous mystery writer Janet Frobisher is involved in murderous relationships. “Another Man’s Poison” is a sordid tale of murder, deception, and desire masterfully played by Davis and Merrill, one of three feature films the husband and wife made together.

Ironically, Davis’ Janet Frobisher kills her estranged husband with poison. When his bank robber partner, George Bates (played by Merrill) comes calling, Janet confesses the murder to George. As they are trying to dispose of the body, George conveniently passes himself off as the Himalayan-traveling husband to Janet’s nosey neighbor, her illicit lover and his fiancé (who just happens to be her secretary). Plot twists and turns and plenty of deception keep both Davis and Merrill on their toes. Finally, when George kills Janet’s beloved horse Fury, the only thing she truly loves, Janet plans to get rid of him once and for all. The dialogue is fast-paced and edgy, reinforcing the cat-and-mouse game the leads are playing. It’s Bette Davis at her bitchy and brutal best!

Check out both Davis films now on MovieZoot.com here.

CAN STORIES OF DEATH BE HEALTHY?
“Death in Small Doses”
by Chris Hoey

1. Lead Image Death in Small Doses image 1Shakespeare’s Macbeth and his Lady longed for power at any cost. They set the bar very high for notorious couples seeking shortcuts to the top. “Death in Small Doses” provides another twist on tales of taking the easy way. What is it that captures our attention about the idea of a trusted partner, providing the deadly poison that defeats the soul and spirit before delivering a deadly blow? Is it he betrayal? What do we love about stories of those who risk it all to get more than their fair share? What happens when a person finally finds their soulmate, but knows nothing of the darkest shadows of that mate’s soul?

History is filled with true stories of betrayal and murder. A man in Boston was convicted in 2004 of murdering his wife with antifreeze-laced Gatorade. The 2000 death sentence of a California woman was upheld by the California Supreme Court when they found that her sentence was fair for the murder of her husband. She carried it out with a concoction of oleander tea and antifreeze. He was her fourth husband. There must be more to these stories than the satisfaction of justice being served. There is always an element that somewhere, someone has “gotten away with it.”

2. Norman Mailer - Death in Small Doses image 2Norman Mailer, reportedly quipped “Let’s get out of here. I think this guy is innocent. I thought we were going to be having dinner with a man who actually tried to kill his wife. This is boring,” when Alan Dershowitz described how Claus Von Bulow had not actually attempted to murder his wife with a lethal dose of insulin. Sunny Von Bulow’s story was depicted in 1990’s “Reversal of Fortune,” with Jeremy Irons playing the husband who seems so likely to have done it. By the end of the film, you are not relieved to find that he was innocent. Instead, you wonder how justice could be blind to Von Bulow’s obviously oozing guilt. Irons won both the Oscar and the Golden Globe for his portrayal of the innocent man who seemed so rightly accused.

3. Richard Thomas - Death in Small Doses image 3“Death in Small Doses” adds another twisted tale of deception and disloyalty to these stories we love. Richard Thomas, of “The Waltons” plays the husband accused of killing his wife. The film plays with his fame as “John Boy,” perhaps one of the most trusted and upstanding characters in American television.  He is perfectly cast as the husband who presents evidence that his wife, who conveniently suffered from clinical depression, committed suicide. Tess Harper, plays the Assistant D.A, who is determined to uncover the truth. Harper went on to play roles in “No Country For Old Men”, 1986’s “Crimes of the Heart,” and 1997’s “The Jackal,” with Bruce Willis and Richard Gere.

4. Cain & Abel - Death in Small Doses image 4From the first fatal betrayal by Cain to the political betrayals that emerge daily from Washington DC, nothing captures the public’s attention like the intrigue of the treacherous former friend and lover. Our stories explore the depths to which greed can drive us. Maybe we love these stories because they reinforce, ultimately, our sense of what’s right and wrong. We love our stories of death in small doses to keep our sense of morality healthy.

Watch Death in Small Does on MovieZoot.com here.

MARLENE DIETRICH IN “THE BLUE ANGEL”
When She’s Just Not That Into You
by John Francis

1. Marlene in The Blue AngelCalling the great German actress Marlene Dietrich merely a temptress in “The Blue Angel” is like calling Donald Trump a divisive man.

The 1929 film, the first major German “talkie,” was directed by acclaimed German director Josef von Sternberg, who took a chance on the young actress and essentially made her (or perhaps more correctly, gave her the opportunity to become) a major international star. Sternberg later claimed that he had “discovered” Dietrich. They also became romantically involved and eventually made six films together.

“The Blue Angel” was actually supposed to be a star vehicle for German actor Emil Jannings, who was a silent film star and won the first Academy Award for Best Actor for two films, the Sternberg-directed “The Last Command” and “The Way of All Flesh.”

But it was Dietrich’s magnetic personality and overt sensuousness and sexuality that took over the film and made her a star. Jannings’ career actually took a nosedive after that, particularly since his heavy German accent didn’t translate well to sound motion pictures and his later embrace of the Nazis made him a pariah in Hollywood.

2. Marlene and Emil JanningsIt didn’t help that in “The Blue Angel,” his character, Professor Immanuel Rath, at first a steadfast and self-righteous teacher and keeper of morals, especially those of his students, becomes a downtrodden, obsessed, jealous and humiliated shell of a man due to his love and obsession for Dietrich’s seductive and wanton cabaret performer Lola Lola.

His Prof. Rath goes from being a respected and admired academician to basically a roundly scorned and humiliated clown working in a cabaret, The Blue Angel of the title. Sternberg described the story as “the downfall of an enamored man,” calling the professor “a figure of self-satisfied dignity brought low.”

Lola, despite or perhaps because of, her almost callous indifference to him, takes a shine to the chivalrous educator, who doesn’t seem to care that she’s a lowly cabaret performer with loose morals and a seeming disdain for men who lust for her nightly. He’s besotted, which, of course, will lead to his eventual sad demise.

Dietrich is said to have been the prototype for the sleek and deadly “femme fatale” (fatal women) that became popular in the film noir genre of the 30s and 40s. While later femme fatales used their wiles and sexuality for nefarious ends, such as gaining money or favors, Dietrich’s Lola is not out for money or property, in fact, she doesn’t seem to have an endgame other than to string the hapless professor along and use and abuse him. Against all rationality, they actually get married, which doesn’t exactly go the way the good professor had imagined.

The late renowned film critic Roger Ebert, perhaps like many viewers of the film, found this puzzling.

“There are times when she seems fond of him, times when she is indifferent, times when she is unfaithful, and yet she has a certain stubborn affection for this pathetic figure,” he writes in his 2001 review of the English language version. “Perhaps he acts as a front for her shadow life of discreet prostitution; perhaps, in a world that regards her as a tramp, she values the one man who idealizes her.”

3. The Blue Angel PosterMatthew, a blogger with classicartfilms.com, came to the same conclusion, that “she probably was fond of him and had some form of sweet affection towards him. I also believe it was because he was one of the few men in her life who regarded her less as a tramp or a prostitute and more as a human being. There are times in which she seems to care for the professor’s feelings and then the next minute she can coldly be indifferent to them by being openly unfaithful.”

He also says that the song that Lola sings at the end of the film, “sums up her character perfectly and how she embodies the perfect all-dominant female sexual creature; a dangerous woman who can naturally move from one male victim to another, always feeling completely indifferent about it.”

The song is “Falling in Love Again,” which is used in the finale of the American version of the film because it wasn’t as dark as the German language version, which has the professor, destitute and filled with remorse, dying at the desk he used to teach from at his former school.

In it, Dietrich sings, “I can’t help it … Men swarm around me like moths round a flame … And if their wings are singed, surely I can’t be blamed …Falling in love again …Never wanted to … What’s a girl to do?”

What’s a girl like Lola to do, indeed?

Watch The Blue Angel on MovieZoot.com here.

“GOD’S GUN”:
Corralling Three Tough Cowboys to Make One Helluva Film
by Sheri Warren Sankner

1. cross1976 saw the release of “God’s Gun” (also known as “Diamante Lobo”), an Italian–Israeli Spaghetti Western filmed in Israel and directed by Gianfranco Parolini (credited as Frank Kramer). The film starred several veteran stars famous in the Western film genre, most notably Lee Van Cleef, Jack Palance and Richard Boone. Any Western that corrals the talents and charisma of these three popular actors just has to be a memorable one.

2. Lee Van Cleef 1Van Cleef plays a dual role of twin brothers, a priest-turned-vigilante named Father John and his reformed gunslinger brother Lewis. Palance plays Sam Clayton, the leader of a sadistic group of Wild West bandits and rapists, who terrorize the town of Juno City. Boone portrays an aging, drunk, ineffective Sheriff in the small town, who is unable to protect his townspeople from the Clayton gang.

The story follows Father John, who is killed trying to uphold some semblance of justice in his sleepy little town, following the invasion of Clayton’s band of criminals. One of his young parishioners vows to avenge his death, by traveling to Mexico to seek the help of Father John’s brother. Together, they return to clear the town of all the violence once and for all. Great plot executed by a great cast!

3. God's GunA Cast of Characters Like No Other
During his career, the steely-eyed, hawk-nosed Van Cleef was revered as one of the all-time great movie villains, first in Westerns and then later in action films and martial arts. He began his career as an accountant after serving in the U.S. Navy aboard minesweepers and sub chasers during World War II. He became involved in amateur theatre. His performance in the touring company of “Mr. Roberts” was seen by Stanley Kramer, who cast him as henchman Jack Colby in “High Noon” (1952), a role that brought him considerable recognition despite the fact that he didn’t speak a word of dialogue. Rumor has it that Kramer wanted him to originally play deputy Harvey Pell, but first Van Cleef would to have his trademark nose fixed. Van Cleef declined to alter his looks and played the silent gunslinger instead. In the mid 1960s, Sergio Leone cast him as Col. Mortimer opposite Clint Eastwood in “For a Few Dollars More” (1965). A new career as a western hero (or anti-hero) was launched, and Van Cleef became known as an international movie star. His career culminated in 1966 with Leone’s “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.” In his roles in “God’s Gun,” Van Cleef demonstrated his acting chops and ability to juggle two demanding parts with skill and finesse.

4. Jack PalanceAnother memorable character actor on television and on the silver screen, Palance was a two-time Oscar nominee and Oscar winner for “City Slickers.” Proving his vitality and humor at the ripe old age of 73, Palance took to the floor, performing a series of one-armed push-ups on stage as he accepted the Best Supporting Actor Award in 1992. The son of a Ukrainian immigrant coal miner, he was born Volodymyr Palahnyuk. His career included stints as a miner, professional boxer, short-order cook, fashion model, lifeguard, and radio repairman. During WWII, he piloted bombers in U.S. Army Air Corps. His bomber crashed, knocking him unconscious and giving him severe burns. These injuries led to extensive surgery on his face, resulting in his characteristic gaunt, pinched look. Despite the haggard and hollow-cheeked appearance of a villain, Palance always had a bit of a comical, hammy edge to his acting prowess which was even visible in his role in “God’s Gun.”

5. Richard Boone 1After being expelled from Stanford University, Boone worked as an oil-field laborer, boxer, painter and freelance writer before becoming an actor. After WWII, Boone used the GI Bill to train at the Actors’ Studio, making his Broadway debut at 31 in “Medea.” Signed to a 20th Century-Fox contract in 1951, Boone’s first feature was “Halls of Montezuma.” From 1957 through 1963, Boone portrayed Paladin, an educated western soldier of fortune, on the popular western TV series “Have Gun, Will Travel.” A master of over 50 films and numerous TV series, Boone was cast in a pretty minor role as the drunken sheriff in “God’s Gun.” While he adds a brief bit of snarling menace to the film, his performance was affected by his late-career health issues. He later died in 1981 from throat cancer. Film insiders claim that after a drunken argument he walked off the film set and left the location before he had recorded all his dialog. Hence, his voice was dubbed.

Watch God’s Gun now on Moviezoot.com here!

AMERICA’S HEROES ON HORSEBACK
Randolph Scott in “Rage at Dawn”
by Chris Hoey

1. Rage at Dawn poster copyFollowing the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Americans felt a loss – a loss of loved ones and the brave first responders, but also a loss of the sense of our vulnerability, a loss of our identity.

Americans have always identified themselves as the strongest, the best, the owners the high moral ground. When we face a loss of identity, to whom do we look to find our national persona? We seem to have rediscovered ourselves in the Western. If there is an American identity, it can be found sitting astride a leather saddle in films like “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly,” “Tombstone, Last of the Mohicans” and 2018’s “Hostiles,” as well as “Rage at Dawn,” featuring Randolph Scott.

Heroes on horseback are not new to national identities. The Bedouin warriors of the famous 1001 Nights, or Odysseus’ famous horse used to win the battle of Troy seem embedded in the human DNA. King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table provided a code for western civilization to follow. Where do we find our Knights in Shining Armor? American celluloid heroes on horseback hold a special place in our national identity.

2. Randolph Scott 2We look to the model set by the Lone Ranger when we find a righteous member of an enemy tribe – accept and form a strong partnership toward share goals. We admire the cowboy who takes on the impossible task and succeeds – giving up is not an option. We borrowed “pistols at dawn” from our British ancestors and we made it a showdown in the dusty town square outside the saloon. Our cowboys hold a mystical quality, like Curly from the film “City Slickers,” who reminds us all to focus on the “one thing.” Mel Brooks irreverently celebrated our national identity as well as our love of baked beans in “Blazing Saddles.” Our Marlboro Man helped prop up the tobacco industry in the U.S. for decades as the ideal American Man.

3. Randolph Scott 3“Rage at Dawn,” featuring Randolph Scott, highlights all the ideals of our national identity. There’s a tight family bond, but a belief in justice that trumps all. It’s a classic tale of the lone lawman versus the corrupt gang of outlaws. One lone cowboy, resolute in his righteousness, is able to infiltrate the gang that terrorizes this southern Indiana town soon after the Civil War.

4. Randolph ScottWhen the chips are down we can be sure that our hero will appear, take care of the black-hatted villain and ride off into the sunset, leaving behind a strong sense of who we are. Who was that masked man? It was all of us, more interested in seeking justice than we are of seeking celebrity and fame.

While the hero on horseback may be in the DNA of people the world over, Americans find their heroes in jeans.

Watch Rage at Dawn now on Moviezoot.com here!

INSIDE THE MAKING OF “RED RIVER”:
How the Feud Between Duke and Monty Almost Derailed One of the Best Westerns Ever Made
by John Francis

1. Red River Lead ImageWesterns used to be a staple of American movie theaters, as much as charismatic gangsters, conflicted private eyes and gorgeous femme fatales.

The biggest names in filmdom starred in these “oaters,” including James Stewart, Gary Cooper, Henry Fonda, Alan Ladd, Errol Flynn, Spencer Tracy, Audie Murphy, Lee Marvin, Dana Andrews, Jeffrey Hunter, Victor Mature, Kirk Douglas, Gregory Peck, Dean Martin, Dan Duryea, Charlton Heston, Robert Mitchum, Joel McCrea, Randolph Scott and the biggest name in Westerns, John “Duke” Wayne.

Even female actresses got a lot of screen time, and not just as wives or girlfriends, but as strong individual characters with spine, grit and grace: Maureen O’Hara, Jean Arthur, Barbara Stanwick, Rhonda Fleming, Marie Windsor, Olivia de Haviland, Jane Russell, Maureen O’Sullivan, Vera Miles, Joanne Dru, Joan Crawford, Grace Kelly, Linda Darnell, and Vera Miles.

Renowned directors made their names with their iconic Westerns, including John Ford, Howard Hawks, John Sturges, Fred Zinneman, Nicholas Ray, Raoul Walsh, William Wellman, Anthony Mann, Robert Aldrich, Samuel Fuller, and even such out-of-left-field names such as Fritz Lang (“Metropolis”), Michael Curtiz (“Casablanca”) and Cecil B. DeMille (“Sunset Boulevard”).

And later, directors Sam Peckinpah, Robert Altman, Walter Hill, Sergio Leone, Kevin Costner, Don Siegel, and, of course, Clint Eastwood, who made a half a dozen great Westerns, including one of the best ever, “Unforgiven,” which garnered him two Oscars, made a name with their Westerns.

Two of the biggest names in Hollywood and one of the greatest Hollywood directors joined forces for a film in 1948, one that looked like it could be trouble from the start, but which actually benefitted from the combustible chemistry of its stars and director.

The resulting film, “Red River,” is considered one of the best westerns ever made, even though it could have been derailed before it even started.

For one, there was an issue between Hawks and actor John Ireland and his drinking and his lecherous behavior, as well as a love triangle involving Ireland, Hawks and actress Joanne Dru, that caused tension on set.

But the real conflict was between the big, brawny Wayne and the sensitive, moody Clift, an actor who was a student of the Method system of acting and whose political views were diametrically opposed to Wayne’s. Also, although not publically known at the time, Clift was bisexual, while Wayne was a right-wing Republican, although it’s not known if he knew about the rumors of Clift’s sexuality.

Wayne didn’t believe the slight Clift was “manly” enough to stand up to his rugged physique and character, especially in the final fight scene. His mind changed after his first few scenes with Clift, who was an excellent actor, but they still kept their distance and never interacted after their scenes were over.

In fact, Clift rarely took part in the nightly poker games, where he said “they laughed and drank and told dirty jokes and slapped each other on the back. They tried to draw me into their circle but I couldn’t go along with them. The machismo thing repelled me because it seemed so forced and unnecessary.”

Clift didn’t warm to Hawks either and later turned down Dean Martin’s role in “Rio Bravo” (1959) because he did not want to be reunited with Wayne, Hawk and actor Walter Brennan, who also didn’t like Clift.

Later, Wayne said in an interview with Life Magazine, that Clift was “an arrogant little bastard.”

Clift not only survived all the tension and hostility on the set, but also turned in a great star-making performance, especially in scenes with the larger-than-life Wayne. In fact, Clift’s character Matt Garth could be seen as the heart and soul of the movie. Wayne’s character, Thomas Dunson, was cruel, dictatorial and not well liked, one of Wayne’s rare non-hero good-guy roles (his role in “The Searchers” being the epitome).

Red River EndingAmerican Film Institute ranked “Red River” as the #5 best western in 2008 and Roger Ebert considered it one of the greatest Western films of all time. And, if not for a ludicrous ending that wrapped the film up in a laughably happy bow, its stock might be higher.

In screenwriter Borden Chase’s original Saturday Evening Post story, Wayne’s character is shot dead at the end, while his screenplay has a dying Dunson escorted home so he could die on Texas soil. Chase vigorously objected to Howard Hawks’ change to the ending, but to no avail. Hawks claimed the problem with the ending, which has drawn the most criticism, was not the scene itself but the way Joanne Dru played it. Wayne’s lofty position in Hollywood probably had a lot to do with the happy ending.

Watch Red River now on Moviezoot.com here!

 

EPIC STORY OF BEATING THE ODDS:
Band of British Soldiers Conquer an Entire Nation in “Zulu”
by Chris Hoey

1. Zulu Movie PosterIn 2006, Hollywood brought us a tale of bravely beating the odds with the film “The 300,” which told the tale of the a small, but skilled Spartan fighting force as they clashed with three hundred thousand invading Persians.

The 1964 Cy Endfield War/Drama film “Zulu” tells the tale based more in reality than legend, of a British colonial force of half the size of the mythic 300, as they fight off a fierce tribe of attacking Zulus in southern Africa. Grounded on the true story of the Battle of Rorke’s Drift, in January of 1879, this film chronicles the story of the conflict that led to eleven prestigious Victoria Crosses being awarded to British soldiers.

2. Zulu NationWhy do we love stories about the underdog who fights on despite having little chance of victory? We love stories that confirm the idea that skill, training, hard work, and discipline can contribute to a clear purpose on the side of justice and morality to bolster a side that cannot lose.

Michael Caine’s character undergoes a transformation in this film even as Caine’s career transformed into that of a major film star. Concerned that his nerves got the better of him during the audition, Caine became convinced that he had lost the role when he felt snubbed by the director at a coincidental meeting at a dinner party. n the end, though, his skill and dedication helped Caine parlay the role into his entrance into big films.

3. Michael Caine in ZuluCaine’s transformation from a nervous novice is not the only change in this film. The savage Zulu fighting force, who uses weapons stolen from dead British soldiers, takes a cowardly offensive on the British field hospital. The Zulus not only use the British weapons against the British, they also attack the men who are already at a disadvantage – hardly a fair fight. The British cling to the values they brought to the ‘dark continent.’ The story of “Zulu” takes a surprising turn, validating the victors’ cause. The Zulus, in the end, will abandon their villainous ways in favor of the valor shown them by the smaller British force who fought for God and Country.

4. Battle of Rorke's DriftWe root for the underdog because we believe they should win. It’s not just the story of how they overcame the odds that drives us, but the firm belief that the underdog deserves to win. In stories from the Trojan wars to the stories of the British Empire rooted in the ideals of spreading fairness and valor for God and country, it is not merely the side of the underdog we love, it is the side of the moral and just that we love.

Watch Zulu now on Moviezoot.com here!