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Maciej "Darth Maciek" (Darth Maciek is out there...)
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Time Bandits [DVD]
Time Bandits [DVD]
Dvd ~ John Cleese
Offered by HalfpriceDVDS_FBA
Price: £9.98

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Return what you have stolen from me! Return the map! It will bring you great danger. Stop... Now!", 2 Oct. 2014
This review is from: Time Bandits [DVD] (DVD)
I liked most of this 1981 cult fantasy film, although I certainly hated the last minute of it. Below, more of my impressions, with some limited SPOILERS.

In this film about a young boy who joins a bunch of dwarves who are on the run and goes with them on a voyage through time, space and dimensions, Terry Gilliam continues and develops his own personal relationship with reality. He bagan to share the details of this relationship with the great public in 1975, to the greatest delight of his fans and all movie goers, with "Monty Python and the Holy Grail", he continued it with "Jabberwocky" in 1977 and once the world recovered from "Time bandits", he stunned the whole planet with the amazing, unique "Brazil" in 1985. But well, that is another story...

The greatest charm of "Time bandits" is in the dialogs and especially all the puns and one liners, mostly provided by the bickering dwarves, but also by the characters they meet: Napoleon (Ian Holm), Robin Hood (John Cleese), Evil (David Warner) and last but definitely not least the Supreme Being (Ralph Richardson). Oh, by the way, the latter is also the boss of the dwarves and he is definitely not pleased with them, as they stole from him the precious map allowing them to travel in time...

My favourite moment of the film is the Robin Hood chapter and especially the scene of distribution of aid to the poor. I can not be more specific here because I don't want to provide spoilers, but in this scene - maybe unwillingly - Terry Gilliam described with extreme accuracy everything that is wrong with socialism... You know, this thingy which in the 70s almost destroyed Great Britain and is curently laying waste to France...

The one thing I absolutely hated in this film is the last minute - this ending is mean and stupid and was completely unnecessary. I also found the very first scenes of the film, the chapter with the Ogres as well as the whole (mercifully short) Vincent and Pansy moment quite weak. For all those reasons I cannot rate this film more than four stars and I think it is not at the same amazing level as his masterpieces, like "Holy Grail", "Brazil" and especially the "12 Monkeys".

Still, it certainly is a good moment of cinema and a must for all Terry Gilliam fans. If you didn't see it yet, it is time to do it - and if you know it already, it is certainly worthy re-discover it again. ENJOY!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 4, 2014 7:29 PM BST


Command Decision [DVD] [1948] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Command Decision [DVD] [1948] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]

5.0 out of 5 stars M-A-S-T-E-R-P-I-E-C-E! Together with "Twelve o'clock high" this is probably the BEST film about air war against Third Reich!, 1 Oct. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I was greatly impressed and fascinated with this film, from the first to the last minute. Below, more of my impressions, with some limited SPOILERS.

IMPORTANT PRECISION: this is a Region 1 NTSC DVD - it will NOT play on standard European Region 2 PAL equipement.

1943, England. We are at the beginning of the really serious American effort in the air war against Third Reich. At that time the long range fighters were not yet available to the allies and therefore the bombers had to go over the Reich unescorted - and as result the whole year 1943 was a time of terrible, heart-breaking losses amongst USAAF crews. In the very first scene we learn that American Eighth Air Force just lost a record 48 bombers shot, which also means the loss of 480 men, when attacking just one undisclosed industrial target (that actually is a reference to the very real and extremely tragic Schweinfurt Raid on 17 April 1943). Those numbers cause of course a shock amongst the brass and even more, a major political tremor. And then the film begins...

Another person reviewing this film (bkoganbing from Buffalo, NY, on IMDB site) described it as the "analysis of political process of a military decision" - and even if I usually try to avoid borrowing from other reviewers, here I simply have no choice, because that phrase is just THE perfect summary of this most excellent film.

In "Command decision" we can see three generals, three congressmen, two journalists and a lot of subaltern officers involved in a dramatic debate about planning and executing an important bombing campaign. The debate however is also about the consequences this campaign will have for all involved, beginning with aircrews who will risk their lives and ending with politicians who will have to answer for the success or failure and the price attached to either before public opinion...

Quite logically the main characters are the three generals:

- Major General Kane (Walter Pidgeon), is the highest ranking person involved as he is the main military co-ordinator and commander of the whole American air effort against Germany; being the number one he is also the main target for all the trouble and therefore, other than being just a military leader, he is also politically savvy - in fact maybe even a little bit too much... Walter Pidegon played this character PERFECTLY!

- Brigadier General "Casey" Dennis (Clark Gable), is at the beginning of the film the main front line commander (and therefore subaltern to Kane), as it is his 5th Bomb Division which essentially carries the missions against Germany; with American losses getting higher and higher, Dennis, a man initially considered as having a brilliant future, finds himself in fact in deep, deep trouble... Gable is absolutely grandiose in this role - not the least because he knew the topic; indeed, during World War II he joined USAAF and flew five actual bombing missions in a B-17 over Germany...

- Brigadier General Clifton Garnet (Brian Donlevy), a friend and West Point classmate of Dennis but also very much involved in politics, is at the beginning a kind of wild card, as he just arrived from USA and we learned that he was send to England by Pentagon with some mission which initially is a secret... I will not say more here, but he ultimately is maybe the most important and most interesting character in the film and Brian Donlevy played it splendidly...

About the rest of the film I will not say much, but it is important to precise one thing - exactly as the splendid "Twelve o'clock high", this is an adaptation of a theatre play and therefore this is a war movie without any fighting. The writer of the play "Command decision", William Wister Haines, based it on his war time experiences (he was an intelligence officer). The play proved to be a great hit both with critics and with public and was showed on Broadway in 1947 and 1948, before being finally adapted to cinema in 1948. Also exactly as "Twelve o'clock high" this film shows the mysteries, tragedies, miseries and splendour of leadership - and also the loneliness of those whose destiny it is to lead...

I really don't want to give too much about this film, as you really REALLY want to discover it by yourself, so even if I could still go and go and go about it, I will shut up and finish here. It is A MASTERPIECE! To buy, watch, love, keep, re-watch and never forget! ENJOY!


Explorers
Explorers
Dvd ~ James Cromwell
Offered by d-uk
Price: £5.99

2.0 out of 5 stars Sadly, a disappointment - a good beginning and some good ideas wasted by abysmally idiotic second half of the film..., 30 Sept. 2014
This review is from: Explorers (DVD)
Encouraged by good reviews I bought this 1985 SF kid movie for my 13 years old daughter and we watched it together - and we were both TERRIBLY DISAPPOINTED! Below, more of my impressions, with some SPOILERS.

The film begins with a teen age boy named Ben (young Ethan Hawke) having strange dreams about some kind of alien machinery. Using those visions his genius friend Wolfgang (young River Phoenix) builds a revolutionary contraption, which will allow them to travel in space... A third boy, a tough little fellow named Darren (Jason Presson), whom they recently befriended, will also come with them...

Now, this film is not entirely without merit and in fact the first 30 minutes are actually quite good. The friendship of three guys is shown in a very discreet and yet surprisingly touching way. Darren is a particularly well thought and likeable character. Ben's crush on Lori (young Amanda Peterson), is treated with lots of charm. In Wolfgang's basement/secret lab there is a speaking (well, kind of speaking) mouse which provides some good humour, especially when playing a cat and mouse game (sorry, I couldn't resist) with family's fat bandit of cat...))) And finally the "spaceship" in which the three explorers go to space is a real splendor...)))

That being said this first part of the film has already some weaknesses, of which the greatest is Wolfgang's family. They are really TOO weird, especially his father (James Cromwell), who seems in fact to be mentally handicapped and is a rather unpleasant fellow - it is in fact somehow difficult and disturbing to watch scenes with him...

But it is at the moment when they actually go to space that this film declines sharply and when they (WARNING: SPOILER ALERT) actually meet the aliens, well, I could see in my daughter's eyes that this film died. INSTANTLY! And honestly I FULLY share her feelings! Aliens are ridiculous and somehow disgusting, they act insanely and babble nonsense, and the worse thing is that the whole idea of travel and adventure is revealed to have been a huge misunderstanding. To say long things short - beginning in the middle this film becomes unwatchable.

At the end my daughter, who actually is really good public (it must be the first film in years she disliked) just stood up and said: "OK, Dad, next time please pick up something better" and left the room... which is a very uncommon occurrence indeed... And just to be more precise, she actually is very much into SF films - we watched and both liked "Space Camp" just couple of days earlier...

This film could have been much better with more attention paid to the scenario - and it would not cost one dollar more to improve it! It was never good to begin with and it also aged a lot. I am really sorry that I bought it and I already gave it away for a charity sale. AVOID!


The Undefeated/ The Comancheros/ North To Alaska [DVD]
The Undefeated/ The Comancheros/ North To Alaska [DVD]
Dvd ~ John Wayne
Offered by rsdvd
Price: £5.91

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Three atypical, interesting westerns with John Wayne, including two really good ones. A real treat for a bargain price. ENJOY!, 29 Sept. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This three films box is an occasion to discover three interesting and atypical westerns with John Wayne, at a very reasonable price. Below, more about the films, with some limited SPOILERS.

THE UNDEFEATED

This is a 1969 western, distantly inspired by real events, watchable, but less good than most of John Wayne films. It certainly has its moments, but the weakness of scenario becomes with time embarrassing. SPOILERS ahead!

1. The real story of general "Jo" Shelby and "The Undefeated".

Before the War Between States, Joseph Orville "Jo" Shelby (1830-1897) was one of wealthiest landowners and most successful businessmen in the South. Born in a rich family, he lost his father at the age of 5 and was raised by his stepfather. Once of age, he quickly increased family's wealth by clever and daring investments and at the age of 31 he owned propriety (including a large number of slaves) and businesses all around Kentucky and Missouri.

In 1855, long before the War Between States began, young "Jo" Shelby became involved in the "Bleeding Kansas" armed fight between Northern anti-slavery militants and their Southern slave owners opponents. He raised a Southern militia squadron with his own money and rode at the head of it - it cost him a lot, as in retaliation pro-Northern radicals burned some of his businesses in Missouri. In 1857 he married young Elizabeth Nancy Shelby, a relative.

In 1861 the state of Missouri, even if it ultimately didn't join the Confederacy, was almost evenly divided between pro-South and pro-North partisans. With his own money Shelby raised a company of volunteer cavalry with himself as its commanding officer with the rank of captain. The war in Missouri turned badly for the Confederates who were ultimately forced to retire to Arkansas, but many thousands local volunteers followed them there. In 1862 Shelby, having proved himself on the battlefield, was promoted to full colonel and took over a regiment of Missouri volunteers fighting in Arkansas. Later that year, with more Missouri volunteers arriving, his command expanded to a cavalry brigade - it quickly earned quite a reputation and became known as "Iron Brigade".

Between 22 September and 3 November 1863, Shelby led his Iron Brigade of Missouri volunteers on what was to be the longest cavalry raid of the war and is since known as Shelby's Great Raid. With his 800 men, twelve wagons and two light field guns, he rode 1,500 miles through Missouri, inflicting over 1,000 casualties on Northern forces, and capturing or destroying an estimated $2 million worth of Federal supplies and property. This raid took place after many defeats suffered by the CSA and therefore was a welcome morale for Confederate soldiers - it also dragged a lot of Union troops away from the main front. After the successful conclusion of the raid Shelby was promoted to brigadier-general on December 15, 1863 and was celebrated as a popular war hero in the South, but in the same time he became also an object of much hatred amongst Northern politicians and generals - and they were not going to forget or forgive him...

In 1864 and 1865 his Iron Brigade accomplished more exploits, but their detailed description would take too much place. Anybody interested in reading about Shelby and his men can try one of the many books devoted to this topic - my personal recommendation would be "General Jo Shelby: undefeated rebel" by Daniel O'Flaherty.

In June 1865, once Confederation was destroyed by invading Northern armies, Shelby and 1000 of his men refused to surrender and instead rode to Mexico, intending to become a mercenary foreign legion in service of embattled Emperor Maximilian. Before joining with Maximilian forces, they had to fight their way through Benito Juarez troops and local bandits.

The ruler of Mexico was at that time losing the war against the forces of Juarez and was initially thrilled to welcome reinforcements of such battle hardened veterans - however strong diplomatic pressure from US government forced him to ultimately decline the offer. On another hand he refused to disarm or expel Shelby's men and instead granted them and their families abandoned land near Veracruz, to become civilian settlers and form a Southern exiles colony. However in 1867, once Maximilian was defeated and executed, victorious Benito Juarez, bowing to renewed pressures of US government, expelled Shelby and his men and confiscated their propriety. Arriving on the border Shelby threw the flag of his brigade in the waters of Rio Grande, so no Yankee hand ever touches it...

Although granted amnesty by US government, Shelby and his men returned in 1867 to Missouri penniless and in rags - but still undefeated... Starting from nothing, they went into farming and other kinds of trades and with business skills of their former commander and a lot of hard work they quickly rebuild their lives and took active part in retaking the destinies of their native state from post war carpetbagger/scalawag abusive administration. Shelby became soon once again a wealthy farmer and businessman and he did a lot to help former Confederate soldiers - as well as the last Southern partisans, like Frank James (he witnessed for defense at his trial in 1883, helping him avoid death penalty). Still very popular amongst his fellow countrymen, he secured an appointment as US Marshal for west Missouri in 1893, helping to eliminate last Wild West bandits from this territory. He died in 1897 surrounded by children and grand children, as a rich man, an important local political figure, a widely known folk hero - and still "Undefeated".

2. The film

After the end of War Between States, northern cavalry Colonel John Henry Thomas (John Wayne) leaves the army and with a group of survivors of his command goes to southern Texas. Their plan is to capture mustangs, with intention of selling them to US Army. However, once this deal doesn't pan out, they accept an offer from the representatives of emperor Maximilian of Mexico and go south to bring 3000 wild horses to Durango. On their way there, much to their surprise, they find a convoy of former Confederate soldiers under Colonel James Langdon (Rock Hudson), who, together with their families, travel to join Maximilian army. Those groups will have then some considerable interaction, one with another and also with some Indians, Juaristas, bandidos and French cavalry from imperial army...

This film was made in 1969, soon after Duke finished "True grit". It was directed by Andrew V. McLaglen, an experienced director who in the past made some really good movies ("Shenandoah", "The way west") and was going later to make the very brutal "Last hard men" and especially the legendary "Wild geese", the best film about modern mercenaries made until now. Son of Duke's old pal and partner (and great actor in his own right), Victor McLaglen, he already worked with John Wayne on "McLintock" and "Hellfighters" - they were going later to make two more films, "Chisum" and "Cahill, US Marshall".

Other than John Wayne and Rock Hudson, some veteran actors were cast in this film, like Ben Johnson, who plays Short Grub, an old friend of John Henry Thomas, comic and western actor Dub Taylor, who plays the cantankerous Yankee cook and also Bruce Cabot (who in 1933 played Jack Driscoll in "King Kong") and Harry Carey, Jr., a veteran of John Ford westerns. Some young talent was added, with Jan Michael Vincent, who plays a young Confederate lieutenant, as well as some more unusual performers - two huuuuuge professional football players, Roman Gabriel, who plays Blue Boy, a Cherokee Indian and John Henry Thomas adopted son as well as Merlin Olsen, who plays the Confederate soldier Little George, a gentle giant and blacksmith by trade in more peaceful times.

3. Good points

The introduction scenes of the film, from which the title of the review is taken, are REALLY good and the scenes in which the "Undefeated" say goodbye to their land and propriety and leave to Mexico are also VERY good. At that moment, colonel Langdon seems to be really a character as strong and impressive as general "Jo" Shelby.

John Wayne plays here his usual character and he is of course a pleasure to watch as always, as he dispenses smart one-liners and common sense speeches, punches people who need punching and shoots people who need killing.

There are also two attractive, available and not-unwilling ladies, Ann Langdon, played by Marian McCargo (who soon after married and retired from acting) and young Charlotte Langdon, played by Melissa Newman, a young debutante, cute like a button but whose career never really took off.

There is some nice humor, some of it centered around the nasty, incompetent Yankee cook, Mr McCartney and his mangy cat, inappropriately named High Bred. Most of moments with the gentle giant Little George are fun too - the guy is so huge that he "outnumbers any opponent"...))) The monumental 4th of July fistfight between "Yanks" and "Rebs" is also a nice moment of cinema.

4. Weaker points.

The Confederates, although shown initially as strong, proud warriors, are quickly turned into a completely hapless outfit, more and more lost, more and more incompetent and more and more desperate. The fact that, instead of Shelby's powerful "Iron Brigade" the whole Confederate expedition counts a rather pathetic 40 soldiers, 50 civilians and 18 wagons, doesn't help. The character of James Langdon, which begins the film as a powerful warrior, keeps getting pussified with every minute of the film, until his total castration.

Other than the short martial introduction this film contains only two action scenes and if one is acceptable, the other (a fight against French cavalry) must be amongst the most laughable combat sequences I ever saw.

This film tried desperately to show that former bitter enemies can lay aside their differences and reconcile - and this effort was made with all the subtlety a sledgehammer carrying gentle giant is capable of...))) No, seriously, in fact here the kumbaya is violently forced into our throats without any mercy and therefore this film by moments is actually quite embarrassing... Me for one, I absolutely refuse to believe that a proud Southern belle, who lost her beloved husband of many years at war and is still devastated by her loss, falls immediately for the first enemy officer she can set her eyes on and that notwithstanding the fact that this guy actually WAS very much involved in the same battle in which her man was killed... The only guy who actually seems to have some resentment left (and we are supposed to be here in 1865 - very soon after the war ended) is of course a Confederate - and he is of course shown as a totally lame, incompetent, bulling moron...

There is also the fact, that, in his desperate efforts to reconcile those two groups of people, the director decided to give them a common enemy - and as result we can actually understand, that blues and greys CAN forget hatred and war and reconcile in peace and love, AT THE CONDITION that they are (almost) all white and that they get some browns they can kill together...)))

I was also not fully happy with the only Indian character in the film, Blue Boy, who is a full blood Cherokee adopted by John Henry Thomas and therefore also a veteran of Northern cavalry. The reason of my unhappiness is the fact that if Cherokees indeed fought (and very bravely) in the War Between States, most of them actually did it on the side of Confederation, as a great number of them owned slaves and didn't want to lose them... In fact the real "Jo" Shelby fought together with a great number of Cherokee Indians against Yankees at the battle of Pea Ridge in 1862 and in some further occasions too...

WARNING! SPOILER ALERT: so if the director really wanted to show an interracial romance between a hulking full blooded Indian and an underage daughter of a proud Southern aristocrat AND make it plausible, he had ample opportunity to make Blue Boy a young dashing Confederate officer and therefore Langdon's brother in arms - and that would be historically acurate as there were hundreds of Indian officers in Confederacy (including at least one general, Stand Watie). It would also make more plausible all the star crossed romance between Charlotte and Blue Boy - such a union certainly would not be enthusiastically accepted, but at least it would remain in the domain of remotely possible. But there is absolutely no way that an aristocratic proud Confederate colonel could have accepted his daughter marrying a low born full blooded Indian, who actually FOUGHT FOR THE YANKEES during the war!

Finally, I absolutely hated the ending of this film - the scene in which two honorable men (Thomas and Langdon) have a drink and shake hands with a hostage taker (who even threatened to kill women and children) and an enthusiastic mass murderer, simply disgusted me.

For all those reasons, I cannot rate this film more than three stars. It actually is another proof that when you try to make a film with a heavy message and too much good intentions, you just get a not so good film. For John Wayne's greatest fans - otherwise not a necessary viewing.

THE COMMANCHEROS

This is a 1961 western, very watchable, even if it contains some enormous anachronisms and the ending was a little bit weak. Still, it was fun to watch. Some SPOILERS ahead.

Texas, 1843. For some time already people living near Comancheria territory (today's western Texas and eastern New Mexico) are targeted by particularly daring raids by the Comanche, who not only have modern weapons, but are also helped by some mysterious white renegades. Indians seem to get their weapons from a secretive, extremely well organised gang of gunrunners - who also may or may not be the same people who ride with the Comanche during their murderous forays... But nobody knows for sure, because no gunrunners were ever captured or even identified and the mysterious white renegades don't let themselves be taken alive...

In the same time, on a steamer on Mississippi, a gambler named Paul Regret (Stuart Whitman) meets Pilar Graile (Ina Balin), an enigmatic and VERY liberated young woman, travelling on business of her own... What Pilar ignores however, is that Paul Regret is wanted for murder in Louisiana - and therefore their romance is soon interrupted as arrives a certain Jake Cutter (John Wayne), a captain of Texas Rangers. Cutter takes Regret in custody and this is the beginning of a travel, which will take both men to places neither of them ever expected to visit...

The title and part of the plot of this film come from real life Comancheros, mostly Mexican or American-Mexican traders who from 1785 (peace treaty between Spain and Comanches) to 1885 (surrender of last Comanche tribes to US government) made business with Indian tribes (Comanches, Pueblo, Kiowa, Navajo and Apaches) in today New Mexico and Texas. The Comancheros created some settled communities which lived in the middle of nomadic tribes - and also intermarried with Indians. When USA and Comanches started to fight, the Comancheros not only supplied the latter with guns and munitions, but many also joined the Indians on the battlefield.

This film is of course a western and therefore contains a lot of westerny thingies: cowboys, Indians, Texas Rangers, shootouts, fistfights, saloons, saloon girls, John Wayne, whiskey, cigars, poker games, horse riding, six-shooters, hats, campfires (with obligatory coffee, beans and bacon), rattlesnakes, buxom chiquitas, John Wayne again, ruined haciendas (in a western every Mexican building must be ruined), tequila, derringers, gambling, a young attractive widow struggling to keep her ranch, etc.

But as some other reviewers already noticed, "Comancheros" actually looks a lot like a James Bond movie, even if it was made before the first 007 film ("Dr. No" in 1962). It was adapted from a novel written by Paul Wellman in 1952, one year before the first 007 book ("Casino Royale" in 1953). Still, you will find in this film a lot of things which made the success of James Bond movies (I mean the real ones - not those Daniel Craig abominations). WARNING - some SPOILERS ahead:

- an almost superhuman superhero
- a megalomaniac demonic secretive larger than life villain
- extravagant, outlandish and quite large henchmen of the villain (but no, they do not have iron teeth or steel ringed bowler hats - which actually is a pity)
- a hoooooorrrrrrible, evil plan of the villain
- the secret base of the villain
- superhero going undercover to infiltrate the army of the villain
- the cleverness of the villain who knows from the first moment the true identity and intentions of the superhero
- the idiocy of the villain who doesn't act on this knowledge
- the long-winded ranting of the villain who reveals all his plan and all his weaknesses to the hero
- the death of some expendable sidekicks of the superhero
- an absolutely impossible final victory of the hero against the evil hordes of the villain, which, albeit numerous and heavily armed, couldn't shoot an elephant in a corridor...
- the secret base of the villain explodes at the end
- etc, etc.

As you can see, this actually is a James Bond film - with John Wayne! Which makes it an AWESOME thing!

However it is the complex relation between Cutter and Regret that is the greatest treasure of this film. It involves quite a lot of twists and also a shovel and therefore I believe that Sergio Leone found in it the inspiration for the relation between Blondie and Tuco in "The good, the bad and the ugly".

Lee Marvin appears briefly in this film as Tully Crow, a guy who was born angry and got meaner and meaner every year he lived - and having been scalped alive at one moment didn't help his condition... He also has a very special relation with alcohol as the more he drinks, the more sober he is - and he REALLY doesn't like being sober and therefore needs somebody to pay for this, if possible with his life... Tully Crow is a really, REALLY scary dude and I believe playing him was for Lee Marvin a useful rehearsal for the role of Liberty Valance - although, when compared to Tully Crow, well, Liberty Valance was a rather nice gentleman...

Another character who makes a short appearance is chief Iron Shirt. There actually really was such a Comanche chief, who in real life was killed in a fight with Texas Rangers at the battle of Antelope Hills in 1858. The man was greatly feared because he seemed to be bullet-proof. His ability to survive being shot even in the middle of the chest was attributed to a magic shirt he wore - but once he was killed (by a lucky shot which went through his armpit) it was revealed that under his "magic" shirt he wore an old but thick armour plate, which his ancestors took from a dead Spanish commander somewhere around 1700...

The one thing which I didn't like a lot was the ending, which seemed rushed and poorly executed. Maybe the reason was that director Michael Curtiz (of "Casablanca" fame) became very sick before he could end the film - sadly, he ultimately died the same year. In order to finish the film on schedule (and therefore on the attributed budget) John Wayne stepped in and directed the last part, but refused to be credited, by respect to the old dying master... Now, the Duke knew how to direct (anybody says the contrary, I answer "Remember 'Alamo') but here he was clearly in a terrible hurry - and things didn't work well. Because of this weak ending I cannot rate this film more than four stars.

There is one HUGE anachronism in this film. Even if the story happens in 1843, almost everybody uses... Winchester 1866 lever action rifles and Colt 1873 "Peacemaker" pistols! This is almost as disturbing as making a film about WWII and giving to actors AK-47s, RPGs and Stinger missiles...

But all this notwithstanding, this is a good, funny, interesting western and I enjoyed watching it. ENJOY!

NORTH TO ALASKA

If Jack London has written the scenario of "Pretty Woman" and made it into a western, well, it would be this film...))) I liked this 1960 western comedy and I spend a really good moment watching it. SPOILERS ahead

Somewhere around 1900, during Nome gold rush (1899-1909), three men hit the jackpot - they find a really huge gold deposit and open a gold mine. Those three partners are Sam McCord (John Wayne), George Pratt (Stewart Granger) and George's much younger brother Billy Pratt (Fabian). Now that they are rich, George can finally ask his fiancée Jenny (Lilyan Chauvin) to come from Seattle and marry him.

But as somebody has to watch the mine, Sam McCord, who must go to Seattle anyway to buy some heavy equipment, is charged with the task of bringing Jenny to Nome. Things will not go as planned however and at one moment another woman will enter the picture and make the life of all three partners quite interesting - stunningly beautiful Michelle Bonnet (Capucine), a.k.a. "Angel", one of most popular hookers in the night club/brothel "Hen's House" in Seattle...

Other than those already described two more characters are important - a con man named Frankie Canon (Ernie Kovacs) and Clancy, a wise, old, huge, terminally fluffy dog with a bathtub fetish...)))

Directed by Henry Hathaway this is a merry, old style western comedy, which doesn't try even for a moment to take itself seriously - for our greatest pleasure! This very entertaining film reminded me pleasantly of some of the merriest Jack London's short stories about Alaska gold fever adventurers (even if they described the earlier Klondike gold rush from 1896-99). All actors clearly had great fun playing in this film and we can see that the director too enjoyed making it.

This film contains all necessary elements of a western, including some shootouts and A LOT of fistfights, the quite obligatory saloon and saloon girls, nice wilderness, log cabins, etc. The one thing which is not entirely canon is that whiskey is largely replaced here by champagne. Also, as this is a light hearted comedy, nobody dies in this film - not even the most insignificant rascal...

The scenes in which Pratt brothers successively court Michelle are wonderful. John Wayne's character drinks a lot, frequent brothels a lot and hits a lot of people in this film - and as he is a former woodcutter he has a quite unique war cry when he begins the next brawl...)))

But the greatest treasure in this film is Capucine, the stunningly beautiful French model/actress, who plays a role somehow similar to that of Julia Roberts in "Pretty woman" - just with a sexier accent (sooo French!) and without the hyena-like laughter...))) And she certainly could act too - every scene with her is a pleasure to see.

The one thing which I found a little bit weaker, is the slapstick humour of the two epic brawls (both of which remodel large parts of the Nome) which play an important role in the story - it certainly aged a little and also I never was a great fan of this kind of burlesque chaos. On another hand, introducing Salvation Army and a savant sea lion into a fistfight is certainly something you don't see every day...))) Still, as this is really not my kind of humour, this is the reason that I rate this film only four stars.

But this point notwithstanding I liked this film and I spend a quite pleasant moment watching it. A recommended viewing. ENJOY!

CONCLUSION: three interesting film to discover and enjoy at a limited price. It is a great bargain! ENJOY!


The Comancheros/The Undefeated [DVD]
The Comancheros/The Undefeated [DVD]
Dvd ~ John Wayne
Offered by Discs4all
Price: £4.77

4.0 out of 5 stars Two atypical, interesting westerns, one quite good ("The Commancheros") one somehow weaker ("The undefeated")., 29 Sept. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This two films box is an occasion to discover two interesting and atypical westerns with John Wayne, at a very reasonable price. Below, more about the two film, with some limited SPOILERS.

THE COMMANCHEROS

This is a 1961 western, very watchable, even if it contains some enormous anachronisms and the ending was a little bit weak. Still, it was fun to watch. Some SPOILERS ahead.

Texas, 1843. For some time already people living near Comancheria territory (today's western Texas and eastern New Mexico) are targeted by particularly daring raids by the Comanche, who not only have modern weapons, but are also helped by some mysterious white renegades. Indians seem to get their weapons from a secretive, extremely well organised gang of gunrunners - who also may or may not be the same people who ride with the Comanche during their murderous forays... But nobody knows for sure, because no gunrunners were ever captured or even identified and the mysterious white renegades don't let themselves be taken alive...

In the same time, on a steamer on Mississippi, a gambler named Paul Regret (Stuart Whitman) meets Pilar Graile (Ina Balin), an enigmatic and VERY liberated young woman, travelling on business of her own... What Pilar ignores however, is that Paul Regret is wanted for murder in Louisiana - and therefore their romance is soon interrupted as arrives a certain Jake Cutter (John Wayne), a captain of Texas Rangers. Cutter takes Regret in custody and this is the beginning of a travel, which will take both men to places neither of them ever expected to visit...

The title and part of the plot of this film come from real life Comancheros, mostly Mexican or American-Mexican traders who from 1785 (peace treaty between Spain and Comanches) to 1885 (surrender of last Comanche tribes to US government) made business with Indian tribes (Comanches, Pueblo, Kiowa, Navajo and Apaches) in today New Mexico and Texas. The Comancheros created some settled communities which lived in the middle of nomadic tribes - and also intermarried with Indians. When USA and Comanches started to fight, the Comancheros not only supplied the latter with guns and munitions, but many also joined the Indians on the battlefield.

This film is of course a western and therefore contains a lot of westerny thingies: cowboys, Indians, Texas Rangers, shootouts, fistfights, saloons, saloon girls, John Wayne, whiskey, cigars, poker games, horse riding, six-shooters, hats, campfires (with obligatory coffee, beans and bacon), rattlesnakes, buxom chiquitas, John Wayne again, ruined haciendas (in a western every Mexican building must be ruined), tequila, derringers, gambling, a young attractive widow struggling to keep her ranch, etc.

But as some other reviewers already noticed, "Comancheros" actually looks a lot like a James Bond movie, even if it was made before the first 007 film ("Dr. No" in 1962). It was adapted from a novel written by Paul Wellman in 1952, one year before the first 007 book ("Casino Royale" in 1953). Still, you will find in this film a lot of things which made the success of James Bond movies (I mean the real ones - not those Daniel Craig abominations). WARNING - some SPOILERS ahead:

- an almost superhuman superhero
- a megalomaniac demonic secretive larger than life villain
- extravagant, outlandish and quite large henchmen of the villain (but no, they do not have iron teeth or steel ringed bowler hats - which actually is a pity)
- a hoooooorrrrrrible, evil plan of the villain
- the secret base of the villain
- superhero going undercover to infiltrate the army of the villain
- the cleverness of the villain who knows from the first moment the true identity and intentions of the superhero
- the idiocy of the villain who doesn't act on this knowledge
- the long-winded ranting of the villain who reveals all his plan and all his weaknesses to the hero
- the death of some expendable sidekicks of the superhero
- an absolutely impossible final victory of the hero against the evil hordes of the villain, which, albeit numerous and heavily armed, couldn't shoot an elephant in a corridor...
- the secret base of the villain explodes at the end
- etc, etc.

As you can see, this actually is a James Bond film - with John Wayne! Which makes it an AWESOME thing!

However it is the complex relation between Cutter and Regret that is the greatest treasure of this film. It involves quite a lot of twists and also a shovel and therefore I believe that Sergio Leone found in it the inspiration for the relation between Blondie and Tuco in "The good, the bad and the ugly".

Lee Marvin appears briefly in this film as Tully Crow, a guy who was born angry and got meaner and meaner every year he lived - and having been scalped alive at one moment didn't help his condition... He also has a very special relation with alcohol as the more he drinks, the more sober he is - and he REALLY doesn't like being sober and therefore needs somebody to pay for this, if possible with his life... Tully Crow is a really, REALLY scary dude and I believe playing him was for Lee Marvin a useful rehearsal for the role of Liberty Valance - although, when compared to Tully Crow, well, Liberty Valance was a rather nice gentleman...

Another character who makes a short appearance is chief Iron Shirt. There actually really was such a Comanche chief, who in real life was killed in a fight with Texas Rangers at the battle of Antelope Hills in 1858. The man was greatly feared because he seemed to be bullet-proof. His ability to survive being shot even in the middle of the chest was attributed to a magic shirt he wore - but once he was killed (by a lucky shot which went through his armpit) it was revealed that under his "magic" shirt he wore an old but thick armour plate, which his ancestors took from a dead Spanish commander somewhere around 1700...

The one thing which I didn't like a lot was the ending, which seemed rushed and poorly executed. Maybe the reason was that director Michael Curtiz (of "Casablanca" fame) became very sick before he could end the film - sadly, he ultimately died the same year. In order to finish the film on schedule (and therefore on the attributed budget) John Wayne stepped in and directed the last part, but refused to be credited, by respect to the old dying master... Now, the Duke knew how to direct (anybody says the contrary, I answer "Remember 'Alamo') but here he was clearly in a terrible hurry - and things didn't work well. Because of this weak ending I cannot rate this film more than four stars.

There is one HUGE anachronism in this film. Even if the story happens in 1843, almost everybody uses... Winchester 1866 lever action rifles and Colt 1873 "Peacemaker" pistols! This is almost as disturbing as making a film about WWII and giving to actors AK-47s, RPGs and Stinger missiles...

But all this notwithstanding, this is a good, funny, interesting western and I enjoyed watching it. ENJOY!

THE UNDEFEATED

This is a 1969 western, distantly inspired by real events, watchable, but less good than most of John Wayne films. It certainly has its moments, but the weakness of scenario becomes with time embarrassing. SPOILERS ahead!

1. The real story of general "Jo" Shelby and "The Undefeated".

Before the War Between States, Joseph Orville "Jo" Shelby (1830-1897) was one of wealthiest landowners and most successful businessmen in the South. Born in a rich family, he lost his father at the age of 5 and was raised by his stepfather. Once of age, he quickly increased family's wealth by clever and daring investments and at the age of 31 he owned propriety (including a large number of slaves) and businesses all around Kentucky and Missouri.

In 1855, long before the War Between States began, young "Jo" Shelby became involved in the "Bleeding Kansas" armed fight between Northern anti-slavery militants and their Southern slave owners opponents. He raised a Southern militia squadron with his own money and rode at the head of it - it cost him a lot, as in retaliation pro-Northern radicals burned some of his businesses in Missouri. In 1857 he married young Elizabeth Nancy Shelby, a relative.

In 1861 the state of Missouri, even if it ultimately didn't join the Confederacy, was almost evenly divided between pro-South and pro-North partisans. With his own money Shelby raised a company of volunteer cavalry with himself as its commanding officer with the rank of captain. The war in Missouri turned badly for the Confederates who were ultimately forced to retire to Arkansas, but many thousands local volunteers followed them there. In 1862 Shelby, having proved himself on the battlefield, was promoted to full colonel and took over a regiment of Missouri volunteers fighting in Arkansas. Later that year, with more Missouri volunteers arriving, his command expanded to a cavalry brigade - it quickly earned quite a reputation and became known as "Iron Brigade".

Between 22 September and 3 November 1863, Shelby led his Iron Brigade of Missouri volunteers on what was to be the longest cavalry raid of the war and is since known as Shelby's Great Raid. With his 800 men, twelve wagons and two light field guns, he rode 1,500 miles through Missouri, inflicting over 1,000 casualties on Northern forces, and capturing or destroying an estimated $2 million worth of Federal supplies and property. This raid took place after many defeats suffered by the CSA and therefore was a welcome morale for Confederate soldiers - it also dragged a lot of Union troops away from the main front. After the successful conclusion of the raid Shelby was promoted to brigadier-general on December 15, 1863 and was celebrated as a popular war hero in the South, but in the same time he became also an object of much hatred amongst Northern politicians and generals - and they were not going to forget or forgive him...

In 1864 and 1865 his Iron Brigade accomplished more exploits, but their detailed description would take too much place. Anybody interested in reading about Shelby and his men can try one of the many books devoted to this topic - my personal recommendation would be "General Jo Shelby: undefeated rebel" by Daniel O'Flaherty.

In June 1865, once Confederation was destroyed by invading Northern armies, Shelby and 1000 of his men refused to surrender and instead rode to Mexico, intending to become a mercenary foreign legion in service of embattled Emperor Maximilian. Before joining with Maximilian forces, they had to fight their way through Benito Juarez troops and local bandits.

The ruler of Mexico was at that time losing the war against the forces of Juarez and was initially thrilled to welcome reinforcements of such battle hardened veterans - however strong diplomatic pressure from US government forced him to ultimately decline the offer. On another hand he refused to disarm or expel Shelby's men and instead granted them and their families abandoned land near Veracruz, to become civilian settlers and form a Southern exiles colony. However in 1867, once Maximilian was defeated and executed, victorious Benito Juarez, bowing to renewed pressures of US government, expelled Shelby and his men and confiscated their propriety. Arriving on the border Shelby threw the flag of his brigade in the waters of Rio Grande, so no Yankee hand ever touches it...

Although granted amnesty by US government, Shelby and his men returned in 1867 to Missouri penniless and in rags - but still undefeated... Starting from nothing, they went into farming and other kinds of trades and with business skills of their former commander and a lot of hard work they quickly rebuild their lives and took active part in retaking the destinies of their native state from post war carpetbagger/scalawag abusive administration. Shelby became soon once again a wealthy farmer and businessman and he did a lot to help former Confederate soldiers - as well as the last Southern partisans, like Frank James (he witnessed for defense at his trial in 1883, helping him avoid death penalty). Still very popular amongst his fellow countrymen, he secured an appointment as US Marshal for west Missouri in 1893, helping to eliminate last Wild West bandits from this territory. He died in 1897 surrounded by children and grand children, as a rich man, an important local political figure, a widely known folk hero - and still "Undefeated".

2. The film

After the end of War Between States, northern cavalry Colonel John Henry Thomas (John Wayne) leaves the army and with a group of survivors of his command goes to southern Texas. Their plan is to capture mustangs, with intention of selling them to US Army. However, once this deal doesn't pan out, they accept an offer from the representatives of emperor Maximilian of Mexico and go south to bring 3000 wild horses to Durango. On their way there, much to their surprise, they find a convoy of former Confederate soldiers under Colonel James Langdon (Rock Hudson), who, together with their families, travel to join Maximilian army. Those groups will have then some considerable interaction, one with another and also with some Indians, Juaristas, bandidos and French cavalry from imperial army...

This film was made in 1969, soon after Duke finished "True grit". It was directed by Andrew V. McLaglen, an experienced director who in the past made some really good movies ("Shenandoah", "The way west") and was going later to make the very brutal "Last hard men" and especially the legendary "Wild geese", the best film about modern mercenaries made until now. Son of Duke's old pal and partner (and great actor in his own right), Victor McLaglen, he already worked with John Wayne on "McLintock" and "Hellfighters" - they were going later to make two more films, "Chisum" and "Cahill, US Marshall".

Other than John Wayne and Rock Hudson, some veteran actors were cast in this film, like Ben Johnson, who plays Short Grub, an old friend of John Henry Thomas, comic and western actor Dub Taylor, who plays the cantankerous Yankee cook and also Bruce Cabot (who in 1933 played Jack Driscoll in "King Kong") and Harry Carey, Jr., a veteran of John Ford westerns. Some young talent was added, with Jan Michael Vincent, who plays a young Confederate lieutenant, as well as some more unusual performers - two huuuuuge professional football players, Roman Gabriel, who plays Blue Boy, a Cherokee Indian and John Henry Thomas adopted son as well as Merlin Olsen, who plays the Confederate soldier Little George, a gentle giant and blacksmith by trade in more peaceful times.

3. Good points

The introduction scenes of the film, from which the title of the review is taken, are REALLY good and the scenes in which the "Undefeated" say goodbye to their land and propriety and leave to Mexico are also VERY good. At that moment, colonel Langdon seems to be really a character as strong and impressive as general "Jo" Shelby.

John Wayne plays here his usual character and he is of course a pleasure to watch as always, as he dispenses smart one-liners and common sense speeches, punches people who need punching and shoots people who need killing.

There are also two attractive, available and not-unwilling ladies, Ann Langdon, played by Marian McCargo (who soon after married and retired from acting) and young Charlotte Langdon, played by Melissa Newman, a young debutante, cute like a button but whose career never really took off.

There is some nice humor, some of it centered around the nasty, incompetent Yankee cook, Mr McCartney and his mangy cat, inappropriately named High Bred. Most of moments with the gentle giant Little George are fun too - the guy is so huge that he "outnumbers any opponent"...))) The monumental 4th of July fistfight between "Yanks" and "Rebs" is also a nice moment of cinema.

4. Weaker points.

The Confederates, although shown initially as strong, proud warriors, are quickly turned into a completely hapless outfit, more and more lost, more and more incompetent and more and more desperate. The fact that, instead of Shelby's powerful "Iron Brigade" the whole Confederate expedition counts a rather pathetic 40 soldiers, 50 civilians and 18 wagons, doesn't help. The character of James Langdon, which begins the film as a powerful warrior, keeps getting pussified with every minute of the film, until his total castration.

Other than the short martial introduction this film contains only two action scenes and if one is acceptable, the other (a fight against French cavalry) must be amongst the most laughable combat sequences I ever saw.

This film tried desperately to show that former bitter enemies can lay aside their differences and reconcile - and this effort was made with all the subtlety a sledgehammer carrying gentle giant is capable of...))) No, seriously, in fact here the kumbaya is violently forced into our throats without any mercy and therefore this film by moments is actually quite embarrassing... Me for one, I absolutely refuse to believe that a proud Southern belle, who lost her beloved husband of many years at war and is still devastated by her loss, falls immediately for the first enemy officer she can set her eyes on and that notwithstanding the fact that this guy actually WAS very much involved in the same battle in which her man was killed... The only guy who actually seems to have some resentment left (and we are supposed to be here in 1865 - very soon after the war ended) is of course a Confederate - and he is of course shown as a totally lame, incompetent, bulling moron...

There is also the fact, that, in his desperate efforts to reconcile those two groups of people, the director decided to give them a common enemy - and as result we can actually understand, that blues and greys CAN forget hatred and war and reconcile in peace and love, AT THE CONDITION that they are (almost) all white and that they get some browns they can kill together...)))

I was also not fully happy with the only Indian character in the film, Blue Boy, who is a full blood Cherokee adopted by John Henry Thomas and therefore also a veteran of Northern cavalry. The reason of my unhappiness is the fact that if Cherokees indeed fought (and very bravely) in the War Between States, most of them actually did it on the side of Confederation, as a great number of them owned slaves and didn't want to lose them... In fact the real "Jo" Shelby fought together with a great number of Cherokee Indians against Yankees at the battle of Pea Ridge in 1862 and in some further occasions too...

WARNING! SPOILER ALERT: so if the director really wanted to show an interracial romance between a hulking full blooded Indian and an underage daughter of a proud Southern aristocrat AND make it plausible, he had ample opportunity to make Blue Boy a young dashing Confederate officer and therefore Langdon's brother in arms - and that would be historically acurate as there were hundreds of Indian officers in Confederacy (including at least one general, Stand Watie). It would also make more plausible all the star crossed romance between Charlotte and Blue Boy - such a union certainly would not be enthusiastically accepted, but at least it would remain in the domain of remotely possible. But there is absolutely no way that an aristocratic proud Confederate colonel could have accepted his daughter marrying a low born full blooded Indian, who actually FOUGHT FOR THE YANKEES during the war!

Finally, I absolutely hated the ending of this film - the scene in which two honorable men (Thomas and Langdon) have a drink and shake hands with a hostage taker (who even threatened to kill women and children) and an enthusiastic mass murderer, simply disgusted me.

For all those reasons, I cannot rate this film more than three stars. It actually is another proof that when you try to make a film with a heavy message and too much good intentions, you just get a not so good film. For John Wayne's greatest fans - otherwise not a necessary viewing.

CONCLUSION: two interesting film to discover and enjoy at a limited price. It is a great bargain! ENJOY!


The Undefeated [DVD]
The Undefeated [DVD]
Dvd ~ John Wayne
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £4.28

3.0 out of 5 stars "The war is over" "Yes, we know" "Then, why are you still fighting?" "Because this is our land and you are on it", 29 Sept. 2014
This review is from: The Undefeated [DVD] (DVD)
I found this 1969 western, distantly inspired by real events, watchable, but less good than most of John Wayne films. It certainly has its moments, but the weakness of scenario becomes with time embarrassing. Below, more of my impressions, with some limited SPOILERS.

1. The real story of general "Jo" Shelby and "The Undefeated".

Before the War Between States, Joseph Orville "Jo" Shelby (1830-1897) was one of wealthiest landowners and most successful businessmen in the South. Born in a rich family, he lost his father at the age of 5 and was raised by his stepfather. Once of age, he quickly increased family's wealth by clever and daring investments and at the age of 31 he owned propriety (including a large number of slaves) and businesses all around Kentucky and Missouri.

In 1855, long before the War Between States began, young "Jo" Shelby became involved in the "Bleeding Kansas" armed fight between Northern anti-slavery militants and their Southern slave owners opponents. He raised a Southern militia squadron with his own money and rode at the head of it - it cost him a lot, as in retaliation pro-Northern radicals burned some of his businesses in Missouri. In 1857 he married young Elizabeth Nancy Shelby, a relative.

In 1861 the state of Missouri, even if it ultimately didn't join the Confederacy, was almost evenly divided between pro-South and pro-North partisans. With his own money Shelby raised a company of volunteer cavalry with himself as its commanding officer with the rank of captain. The war in Missouri turned badly for the Confederates who were ultimately forced to retire to Arkansas, but many thousands local volunteers followed them there. In 1862 Shelby, having proved himself on the battlefield, was promoted to full colonel and took over a regiment of Missouri volunteers fighting in Arkansas. Later that year, with more Missouri volunteers arriving, his command expanded to a cavalry brigade - it quickly earned quite a reputation and became known as "Iron Brigade".

Between 22 September and 3 November 1863, Shelby led his Iron Brigade of Missouri volunteers on what was to be the longest cavalry raid of the war and is since known as Shelby's Great Raid. With his 800 men, twelve wagons and two light field guns, he rode 1,500 miles through Missouri, inflicting over 1,000 casualties on Northern forces, and capturing or destroying an estimated $2 million worth of Federal supplies and property. This raid took place after many defeats suffered by the CSA and therefore was a welcome morale for Confederate soldiers - it also dragged a lot of Union troops away from the main front. After the successful conclusion of the raid Shelby was promoted to brigadier-general on December 15, 1863 and was celebrated as a popular war hero in the South, but in the same time he became also an object of much hatred amongst Northern politicians and generals - and they were not going to forget or forgive him...

In 1864 and 1865 his Iron Brigade accomplished more exploits, but their detailed description would take too much place. Anybody interested in reading about Shelby and his men can try one of the many books devoted to this topic - my personal recommendation would be "General Jo Shelby: undefeated rebel" by Daniel O'Flaherty.

In June 1865, once Confederation was destroyed by invading Northern armies, Shelby and 1000 of his men refused to surrender and instead rode to Mexico, intending to become a mercenary foreign legion in service of embattled Emperor Maximilian. Before joining with Maximilian forces, they had to fight their way through Benito Juarez troops and local bandits.

The ruler of Mexico was at that time losing the war against the forces of Juarez and was initially thrilled to welcome reinforcements of such battle hardened veterans - however strong diplomatic pressure from US government forced him to decline the offer. On another hand he refused to disarm or expel Shelby's men and instead granted them and their families abandoned land near Veracruz, to become civilian settlers and form a Southern exiles colony. However in 1867, once Maximilian was defeated and executed, victorious Benito Juarez, bowing to renewed pressures of US government, expelled Shelby and his men and confiscated their propriety. Arriving on the border Shelby threw the flag of his brigade in the waters of Rio Grande, so no Yankee hand ever touches it...

Although granted amnesty by US government, Shelby and his men returned in 1867 to Missouri penniless and in rags - but still undefeated... Starting from nothing, they went into farming and other kinds of trades and with business skills of their former commander and a lot of hard work they quickly rebuild their lives and took active part in retaking the destinies of their native state from post war carpetbagger/scalawag abusive administration. Shelby became soon once again a wealthy farmer and businessman and he did a lot to help former Confederate soldiers - as well as the last Southern partisans, like Frank James (he witnessed for defense at his trial in 1883, helping him avoid death penalty). Still very popular amongst his fellow countrymen, he secured an appointment as US Marshal for west Missouri in 1893, helping to eliminate last Wild West bandits from this territory. He died in 1897 surrounded by children and grand children, as a rich man, an important local political figure, a widely known folk hero - and still "Undefeated".

2. The film

After the end of War Between States, northern cavalry Colonel John Henry Thomas (John Wayne) leaves the army and with a group of survivors of his command goes to southern Texas. Their plan is to capture mustangs, with intention of selling them to US Army. However, once this deal doesn't pan out, they accept an offer from the representatives of emperor Maximilian of Mexico and go south to bring 3000 wild horses to Durango. On their way there, much to their surprise, they find a convoy of former Confederate soldiers under Colonel James Langdon (Rock Hudson), who, together with their families, travel to join Maximilian army. Those groups will have then some considerable interaction, one with another and also with some Indians, Juaristas, bandidos and French cavalry from imperial army...

This film was made in 1969, soon after Duke finished "True grit". It was directed by Andrew V. McLaglen, an experienced director who in the past made some really good movies ("Shenandoah", "The way west") and was going later to make the very brutal "Last hard men" and especially the legendary "Wild geese", the best film about modern mercenaries made until now. Son of Duke's old pal and partner (and great actor in his own right), Victor McLaglen, he already worked with John Wayne on "McLintock" and "Hellfighters" - they were going later to make two more films, "Chisum" and "Cahill, US Marshall".

Other than John Wayne and Rock Hudson, some veteran actors were cast in this film, like Ben Johnson, who plays Short Grub, an old friend of John Henry Thomas, comic and western actor Dub Taylor, who plays the cantankerous Yankee cook and also Bruce Cabot (who in 1933 played Jack Driscoll in "King Kong") and Harry Carey, Jr., a veteran of John Ford westerns. Some young talent was added, with Jan Michael Vincent, who plays a young Confederate lieutenant, as well as some more unusual performers - two huuuuuge professional football players, Roman Gabriel, who plays Blue Boy, a Cherokee Indian and John Henry Thomas adopted son as well as Merlin Olsen, who plays the Confederate soldier Little George, a gentle giant and blacksmith by trade in more peaceful times.

3. Good points

The introduction scenes of the film, from which the title of the review is taken, are REALLY good and the scenes in which the "Undefeated" say goodbye to their land and propriety and leave to Mexico are also VERY good. At that moment, colonel Langdon seems to be really a character as strong and impressive as general "Jo" Shelby.

John Wayne plays here his usual character and he is of course a pleasure to watch as always, as he dispenses smart one-liners and common sense speeches, punches people who need punching and shoots people who need killing.

There are also two attractive, available and not-unwilling ladies, Ann Langdon, played by Marian McCargo (who soon after married and retired from acting) and young Charlotte Langdon, played by Melissa Newman, a young debutante, cute like a button but whose career never really took off.

There is some nice humor, some of it centered around the nasty, incompetent Yankee cook, Mr McCartney and his mangy cat, inappropriately named High Bred. Most of moments with the gentle giant Little George are fun too - the guy is so huge that he "outnumbers any opponent"...))) The monumental 4th of July fistfight between "Yanks" and "Rebs" is also a nice moment of cinema.

4. Weaker points.

The Confederates, although shown initially as strong, proud warriors, are quickly turned into a completely hapless outfit, more and more lost, more and more incompetent and more and more desperate. The fact that, instead of Shelby's powerful "Iron Brigade" the whole Confederate expedition counts a rather pathetic 40 soldiers, 50 civilians and 18 wagons, doesn't help. The character of James Langdon, which begins the film as a powerful warrior, keeps getting pussified with every minute of the film, until his total castration.

Other than the short martial introduction this film contains only two action scenes and if one is acceptable, the other (a fight against French cavalry) must be amongst the most laughable combat sequences I ever saw.

This film tried desperately to show that former bitter enemies can lay aside their differences and reconcile - and this effort was made with all the subtlety a sledgehammer carrying gentle giant is capable of...))) No, seriously, in fact here the kumbaya is violently forced into our throats without any mercy and therefore this film by moments is actually quite embarrassing... Me for one, I absolutely refuse to believe that a proud Southern belle, who lost her beloved husband of many years at war and is still devastated by her loss, falls immediately for the first enemy officer she can set her eyes on and that notwithstanding the fact that this guy actually WAS very much involved in the same battle in which her man was killed... The only guy who actually seems to have some resentment left (and we are supposed to be here in 1865 - very soon after the war ended) is of course a Confederate - and he is of course shown as a totally lame, incompetent, bulling moron...

There is also the fact, that, in his desperate efforts to reconcile those two groups of people, the director decided to give them a common enemy - and as result we can actually understand, that blues and greys CAN forget hatred and war and reconcile in peace and love, AT THE CONDITION that they are (almost) all white and that they get some browns they can kill together...)))

I was also not fully happy with the only Indian character in the film, Blue Boy, who is a full blood Cherokee adopted by John Henry Thomas and therefore also a veteran of Northern cavalry. The reason of my unhappiness is the fact that if Cherokees indeed fought (and very bravely) in the War Between States, most of them actually did it on the side of Confederation, as a great number of them owned slaves and didn't want to lose them... In fact the real "Jo" Shelby fought together with a great number of Cherokee Indians against Yankees at the battle of Pea Ridge in 1862 and in some further occasions too...

WARNING! SPOILER ALERT: so if the director really wanted to show an interracial romance between a hulking full blooded Indian and an underage daughter of a proud Southern aristocrat AND make it plausible, he had ample opportunity to make Blue Boy a young dashing Confederate officer and therefore Langdon's brother in arms - and that would be historically acurate as there were hundreds of Indian officers in Confederacy (including at least one general, Stand Watie). It would also make more plausible all the star crossed romance between Charlotte and Blue Boy - such a union certainly would not be enthusiastically accepted, but at least it would remain in the domain of remotely possible. But there is absolutely no way that an aristocratic proud Confederate colonel could have accepted his daughter marrying a low born full blooded Indian, who actually FOUGHT FOR THE YANKEES during the war!

Finally, I absolutely hated the ending of this film - the scene in which two honorable men (Thomas and Langdon) have a drink and shake hands with a hostage taker (who even threatened to kill women and children) and an enthusiastic mass murderer, simply disgusted me.

CONCLUSION: for all those reasons, I cannot rate this film more than three stars. It actually is another proof that when you try to make a film with a heavy message and too much good intentions, you just get a not so good film. For John Wayne's greatest fans - otherwise not a necessary viewing.


The Black Hole [DVD] (1979)
The Black Hole [DVD] (1979)
Dvd ~ Maximilian Schell
Price: £3.97

2.0 out of 5 stars Two years after the battle of Yavin some people working for Disney decided to concurrence STAR WARS - and made this... thing..., 25 Sept. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Black Hole [DVD] (1979) (DVD)
Watching this 1979 SF film was an ordeal and it took me two evenings and some fast forwarding to do it. Below, more of my impressions, with some limited SPOILERS.

On its way back to Earth spacecraft USS "Palomino" discovers a black hole in space with a spaceship nearby, somehow defying the hole's massive gravitational pull. The ship is identified as the long-lost USS "Cygnus". The crew of "Palomino" decides to investigate, but when approaching, their own ship is damaged and barely manages to dock to "Cygnus". Once on board, they discover the only survivor of the crew. He is USS "Cygnus" commander, Dr. Hans Reinhardt, a genius - and a mad scientist if ever there was one... And then the film really begins.

I usually like SF movies, even those which objectively speaking are not so good. I have a quite large tolerance to silly scenarios, wooden acting, poor special effects, unwillingly amusing dialogs and clichés by bushels - so, even if this film offers all those attractions in abundance, this is not the reason why I disliked it so much. THE reason is that this thing was impossibly BORING to begin with and then with time aged like you wouldn't believe it! There is hardly even one interesting scene.

The film was supposed to be well budgeted, but no major stars appear in it. Maximilian Schell was well cast as Dr. Reinhardt, because of course the main villain MUST have a German accent to match his scientific title...))) On another hand both Anthony Perkins and Yvette Mimieux were at that time mostly burned out actors (she retired soon after and he already for some time played only in second rate turkeys) and as for Robert Forster and Joseph Bottoms, well, their careers never really took off. On another hand it is always a pleasure to watch the veteran Ernest Borgnine, one of Hollywood's "workoholics extraordinaires" - but his role is secondary.

The final scenes, which were supposed to be something dramatic and profound, were for me just a completely ridiculous and impossible to understand mess - a really sorry cherry on an impossible to swallow cake...

After seeing it by myself I tried to watch this film with my then 11 years old daughter and the conclusion was clear - even if "Black hole" is too silly and childish for adults and teenagers, it is also too dark, grim and scary (there is a rather unpleasant killing robot in it) for children.

For the life of me I cannot understand how anybody could produce such a film after "Alien", "Close encounters of the third kind" and especially "Star Wars" - it was hopelessly outdated from the moment it was made! Now some outdated films can still be enjoyed even today - me for one I actually like this pre-historic "When the worlds collide" 1951 thing - but not when they are THAT BAD.

I understand that some childhood nostalgia can cause indulgence to this film (I myself rated "Neptune adventure" three stars for the same reason) but not having seen it when I was a kid, I am immune to this temptation.

Two stars only for some nice lines said by a funny robot named V.I.N.CENT. Otherwise this film is a waste of time. Avoid it as if it was a deadly space singularity!


Rio Grande (John Wayne) [DVD]
Rio Grande (John Wayne) [DVD]
Dvd ~ John Wayne
Price: £7.82

4.0 out of 5 stars "One must learn that a man's word to anything, even his own destruction, is his honor.", 25 Sept. 2014
I liked this 1950 western, the third installment of "Cavalry Trilogy", but I found it less perfect than the previous two films. Below, more of my impressions, with some limited SPOILERS.

Texas, 1879, "fifteen years after the Shenandoah campaign". Lt. Col. Kirby Yorke (John Wayne) is posted on the Texas frontier to defend settlers against depredations of marauding Apaches, who remain difficult to catch, as they use Mexico territory as a sanctuary from pursuit. Yorke is an experienced veteran and even if he doesn't have enough troops, he tries to face the situation the best he can. He is also a harsh man and that, together with a tragedy which happened during Civil War, destroyed his marriage.

Then one day, out of blue, Yorke's son (whom he hasn't seen in fifteen years), Trooper Jeff Yorke (Claude Jarman Jr.), arrives as one of replacements sent to the regiment. He has flunked out of West Point and immediately enlisted as a private in the Army. Not wanting to give any impression that he is showing favoritism towards his son, Col. Yorke ends up being harsher dealing with Jeff than the others. Then things get even more complicated when Yorke's estranged wife Kathleen (Maureen O'Hara) arrives to rise hell and try to have her son released from service...

This being a John Ford film with John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara, it is of course a very tasty treat and a good watch. Exactly as for the previous two films of "Cavalry Trilogy" the scenario was based on a story by James Warner Bellah. Still, I liked it less than the previus two installments. The story is clearly weaker, dialogs are less inspiring and the half-secret and less than half-legal expedition beyond the border, which could have been such a dramatic moment, is actually a disappointment.

This must be the first film in which I found the character played by Maureen O'Hara disappointing - of course her Kathleen is as hot-tempered and shrewish as usual (and that is a mighty good thing) but she is also hysterical, illogical and ultimately unpleasant. Actions of young Jeff Yorke do not make much sense. The whole important subplot of Trooper Tyree (sorry, not giving any details here) was really not so well treated. The usual old Sergeant played by Victor McLaglen (here his name is Quincannon), is much less impressive and definitely less entertaining than in the previous installments. Finally, the character of Colonel Kirby is amongst the less likeable of all those played by John Wayne - he is a honourable and tough man, but he lacks Duke's usual humour and charisma.

All that being said, I still liked this film and I am glad that I bought and watched it, as it completes and closes a deservedly famous trilogy. For all John Ford's and John Wayne's fans it is of course a must. ENJOY!


The Comancheros [DVD]
The Comancheros [DVD]
Dvd ~ John Wayne
Offered by Helgy
Price: £3.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "It would break my heart if I had to put a bullet in your back." "It would make me sad also...", 23 Sept. 2014
This review is from: The Comancheros [DVD] (DVD)
I liked this atypical 1961 western, even if it contains some enormous anachronisms and the ending was a little bit weak. Still, it was fun to watch. Below, more of my impressions, with some SPOILERS.

Texas, 1843. For some time already people living near Comancheria territory (today's western Texas and eastern New Mexico) are targeted by particularly daring raids by the Comanche, who not only have modern weapons, but are also helped by some mysterious white renegades. Indians seem to get their weapons from a secretive, extremely well organised gang of gunrunners - who also may or may not be the same people who ride with the Comanche during their murderous forays... But nobody knows for sure, because no gunrunners were ever captured or even identified and the mysterious white renegades don't let themselves be taken alive...

In the same time, on a steamer on Mississippi, a gambler named Paul Regret (Stuart Whitman) meets Pilar Graile (Ina Balin), an enigmatic and VERY liberated young woman, travelling on business of her own... What Pilar ignores however, is that Paul Regret is wanted for murder in Louisiana - and therefore their romance is soon interrupted as arrives a certain Jake Cutter (John Wayne), a captain of Texas Rangers. Cutter takes Regret in custody and this is the beginning of a travel, which will take both men to places neither of them ever expected to visit...

The title and part of the plot of this film come from real life Comancheros, mostly Mexican or American-Mexican traders who from 1785 (peace treaty between Spain and Comanches) to 1885 (surrender of last Comanche tribes to US government) made business with Indian tribes (Comanches, Pueblo, Kiowa, Navajo and Apaches) in today New Mexico and Texas. The Comancheros created some settled communities which lived in the middle of nomadic tribes - and also intermarried with Indians. When USA and Comanches started to fight, the Comancheros not only supplied the latter with guns and munitions, but many also joined the Indians on the battlefield.

This film is of course a western and therefore contains a lot of westerny thingies: cowboys, Indians, Texas Rangers, shootouts, fistfights, saloons, saloon girls, John Wayne, whiskey, cigars, poker games, horse riding, six-shooters, hats, campfires (with obligatory coffee, beans and bacon), rattlesnakes, buxom chiquitas, John Wayne again, ruined haciendas (in a western every Mexican building must be ruined), tequila, derringers, gambling, a young attractive widow struggling to keep her ranch, etc.

But as some other reviewers already noticed, "Comancheros" actually looks a lot like a James Bond movie, even if it was made before the first 007 film ("Dr. No" in 1962). It was adapted from a novel written by Paul Wellman in 1952, one year before the first 007 book ("Casino Royale" in 1953). Still, you will find in this film a lot of things which made the success of James Bond movies (I mean the real ones - not those Daniel Craig abominations). WARNING - some SPOILERS ahead:

- an almost superhuman superhero
- a megalomaniac demonic secretive larger than life villain
- extravagant, outlandish and quite large henchmen of the villain (but no, they do not have iron teeth or steel ringed bowler hats - which actually is a pity)
- a hoooooorrrrrrible, evil plan of the villain
- the secret base of the villain
- superhero going undercover to infiltrate the army of the villain
- the cleverness of the villain who knows from the first moment the true identity and intentions of the superhero
- the idiocy of the villain who doesn't act on this knowledge
- the long-winded ranting of the villain who reveals all his plan and all his weaknesses to the hero
- the death of some expendable sidekicks of the superhero
- an absolutely impossible final victory of the hero against the evil hordes of the villain, which, albeit numerous and heavily armed, couldn't shoot an elephant in a corridor...
- the secret base of the villain explodes at the end
- etc, etc.

As you can see, this actually is a James Bond film - with John Wayne! Which makes it an AWESOME thing!

However it is the complex relation between Cutter and Regret that is the greatest treasure of this film. It involves quite a lot of twists and also a shovel and therefore I believe that Sergio Leone found in it the inspiration for the relation between Blondie and Tuco in "The good, the bad and the ugly".

Lee Marvin appears briefly in this film as Tully Crow, a guy who was born angry and got meaner and meaner every year he lived - and having been scalped alive at one moment didn't help his condition... He also has a very special relation with alcohol as the more he drinks, the more sober he is - and he REALLY doesn't like being sober and therefore needs somebody to pay for this, if possible with his life... Tully Crow is a really, REALLY scary dude and I believe playing him was for Lee Marvin a useful rehearsal for the role of Liberty Valance - although, when compared to Tully Crow, well, Liberty Valance was a rather nice gentleman...

Another character who makes a short appearance is chief Iron Shirt. There actually really was such a Comanche chief, who in real life was killed in a fight with Texas Rangers at the battle of Antelope Hills in 1858. The man was greatly feared because he seemed to be bullet-proof. His ability to survive being shot even in the middle of the chest was attributed to a magic shirt he wore - but once he was killed (by a lucky shot which went through his armpit) it was revealed that under his "magic" shirt he wore an old but thick armour plate, which his ancestors took from a dead Spanish commander somewhere around 1700...

The one thing which I didn't like a lot was the ending, which seemed rushed and poorly executed. Maybe the reason was that director Michael Curtiz (of "Casablanca" fame) became very sick before he could end the film - sadly, he ultimately died the same year. In order to finish the film on schedule (and therefore on the attributed budget) John Wayne stepped in and directed the last part, but refused to be credited, by respect to the old dying master... Now, the Duke knew how to direct (anybody says the contrary, I answer "Remember 'Alamo') but here he was clearly in a terrible hurry - and things didn't work well. Because of this weak ending I cannot rate this film more than four stars.

There is one HUGE anachronism in this film. Even if the story happens in 1843, almost everybody uses... Winchester 1866 lever action rifles and Colt 1873 "Peacemaker" pistols! This is almost as disturbing as making a film about WWII and giving to actors AK-47s, RPGs and Stinger missiles...

But all this notwithstanding, this is a good, funny, interesting western and I enjoyed watching it. ENJOY!


Yangtse Incident [DVD]
Yangtse Incident [DVD]
Dvd ~ Richard Todd
Price: £5.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "The story of HMS "Amethyst" is true and this reconstruction of it was shot with accuracy in and aboard "Amethyst" herself...", 20 Sept. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Yangtse Incident [DVD] (DVD)
I liked this little known 1957 British war movie, which describes in a quite realistic way a very real event. Below, more of my impressions, with some SPOILERS.

1. The real story (SERIOUS SPOILER WARNING - don't read further the point 1 if you want to discover the story of HMS "Amethyst" by watching this film)

On 20 April 1949, during Chinese Civil War, frigate HMS "Amethyst" was on her way from Shanghai to Nanking to replace destroyer HMS "Consort", which was standing as guard ship for the British Embassy. Even if she displayed very prominently the Union Jack, at 9.30 AM she was attacked by communist artillery and machine guns on the north bank of Yangtse. The ship suffered serious damage and was grounded. 22 men were killed and 31 wounded. HMS "Consort" came soon to help and tried to tow her, but was also damaged by communist artillery and forced to retreat, with 10 crew members killed.

After a huge effort of her crew, HMS "Amethyst" was refloated but every attempt of escaping was stopped by communist artillery. A second attempt to assist her, this time by heavy cruiser HMS "London" and her sister ship, frigate HMS "Black Swan", also didn't succeed.

Negotiations began in order to secure the release of the ship, but communist negotiators asked as the first condition that the British recognise that they opened fire first and also that the British government excuses itself for this "aggression". This exorbitant and in fact quite outrageous demand locked all negotiations in an impasse and HMS "Amethyst" remained blocked in position for the next 10 weeks.

Soon after the sunset on 30 July HMS "Amethyst", profitting of a moonless night and of the passage of a Chinese steamer, departed and dashed downriver. Communist artillery opened fire but mistakenly focused first on the civilian steamer - this mistake allowed HMS "Amethyst" to escape. The ship sailed 167 km passing under the nose of numerous other communist batteries - but ultimately made it to the sea without further damage or loss of life. Ship's commanding officer, Lt Commander John Kerans send at that moment the signal "Have rejoined the fleet south of Woosung ... No damage... No casualties....God save the King!".

2. The film (this point is spoiler free).

This film was made with a maximum effort to show events as faithfully as possible, with drama and "licentia poetica" kept to the minimum, and indeed it has a strong feeling of realism. HMS "Amethyst" still existed in 1957 and most scenes occur actually in the same places real events happened. However, as she was no more seaworthy at that moment, in the scenes in which the ship moves and fights she was replaced by her sister ship HMS "Magpie". An authentic, fully operational destroyer, HMS "Teazer", was also used to play HMS "Consort". John Kerans himself (at that time promoted to Commander) served as technical advisor.

Actors did very well, beginning with Richard Todd, who plays Kerans. Some slightly lighter moments are provided by Akim Tamiroff who plays wonderfully communist colonel Peng, a man who gives a whole new meaning to the expression "pigheaded"...))) William Hartnell, who was later to become the "First Doctor" in Doctor Who series, is excellent as Leading Seaman Leslie Frank.

This is a good film, but the realism and the low key/low drama approach took their toll on it - in some moments it takes a little effort to stay interested (this is the reason for four stars only). Still, I am very happy that I bought and saw it and I will keep my DVD for a possible future viewing. Enjoy!


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