The Wal-Mart $1 and $5 DVD bins provides a mixed bag of goods
. In the past I've often passed them by, but not long ago, on a whim while at one of the self-service check out lines, I grabbed a copy of a one dollar double feature that included Gone with the West
and Molly and Lawless John
. For pure amusement value it was worth more than the buck I spent.
For the record, I'd watch a film with Sam Elliot in it even if it lacked a story line [has one], had incomphrhensible dialogue [clever, actually],
and the image grainy at best [this copy was clear]. Molly and John Lawless
was a minor gem that apparently passed me by. The film got an R Rating, perhaps due to Sam Elliot twice uttering the word "shit" and one scene where he climbs on top of a whore, and both of them are bare chested.
It is commonplace for one to watch an Oater
where the two principal characters are on the lam from the law, but while carrying a papoose with them? I've never seen that catch before. Vera Miles and Sam Elliot are an odd-couple pairing, a proper sheriff's wife runs away with a sociopath bank robber killer who had smooth talked her into helping him escape the hangman's noose. It may not be what most would consider a proper western, and while it is comic in it's delivery, I'm not certain if it was intentional, or if 30 years passage since production [1978 release date] has rendered it somewhat camp.
The conventional western fan might be uncomfortable with what seems to be an actual intimacy between the two characters. But it's a rather decent watch throughout.
I'll refrain from spoiling the ending, just in case you want to see it yourself. Now relegated to knock-off bins at places like Wal-Mart
, still worth it.
Of the two, when taking into consideration things like clever dialogue, awareness of social issues perhaps not considered in the time period shown, but may have been a draw to contemporary viewers, Molly and Lawless John
was the better of the two. All in all it provided a rather quirky take on the history of the old American West while the other... well, I'm about to get to that.
Which brings me to my thoughts on Gone with the West
, for which it was impossible to find a review [It receives mention on both Rotten Tomatoes
and the IMBD
websites, but I found no write-ups] so I suppose mine is the first one online. [correct me if I am wrong on this
]. For a friend of mine and I we found the film was an entertaining debauched romp.
Re-released in 1978 as Little Moon and Jud McGraw: Plot Synopsis: "Somewhere in the mirage-laden distances of the Southwest is a ghost town called Black Nullar. Jud Mc Graw, a tarnished hero, and Little Moon, a not-so-innocent Indian maiden, have scores to settle"
Released in 1975, and starring James Caan, my guess is that Mr. Caan likely doesn't have it high on his resume list. Neither, I suppose would Stephanie Powers. As for Aldo Ray
[who went on to do a quasi-porn film, Sweet Savage
, a year later in 1979] he might not have cared but his filmographies don't list it. Sammy Davis, Jr. often appeared as a comic foil, so maybe would not have minded the credits.
The film got a PG Rating. how the film makers got that when there is a cockfight, a simulated rape scene -- these both early in the film --
and lots of pawings about in a brothel/saloon is beyond my understanding but, oh well.
In some measure, the review is more about the writing, direction, even the musical score, than about the acting, which is ham-handed and [sometimes] silly.
The villain played by Aldo Ray exposed he hairy chest several time in "Gone with the West." The image to the right is from an unrelated flick. Aldo Ray was a George Cukor "discovery" - I leave you to ponder that one.
There is precious little dialogue. The principals - Caan as a wronged cowhand Jud McGraw, and Ms. Powers as Little Moon, a Spanish speaking half-breed [it is she who gets gang raped] - don't understand what each other is saying so body language becomes a more important communication tool. With other characters, much of the talk is almost guttural, and often drowned out by gun shots, fight noises and TNT going off.
With such sparse dialogue, it is odd to see two writers assigned to the project. Both with histories in television series writing; one apparently toward the end of his script writing career [Monroe Manning
- Lassie, Flipper, The Witnesses], the other [Douglas Day Stewart
- Bonanza, Room 222] went on to write and co-produce An Officer and a Gentleman
, so this piece of celluloid shrapnel didn't kill his career.
Then there was the music: From the 1970's brassy urban jazz overture [the soundtrack from the film Shaft comes to mind
] to the plaintive theme song; at least three times the hymn "Abide with Me" was sung be a scruffy looking counter tenor, always as a preface to a funeral, none of which were maudlin. The theme song about "What a Man has to be," with repetitive inane lyrics that spoke to the unfairness of life, and how men had to be men and deal with things in a manly way, even if it was unpleasant. [perhaps this was to help explain the many bar brawls as well as a wrestling match that showed me from where some of the World Wrestling Entertainment moves were born
Finally, I want to say a little about the print copy I watched. Although the movie was originally filmed in color this copy was a dark, grainy, sepia-toned version that could pass for intentional but every now and again a strong red or blue would stand out. This somber and, at times, almost opaque quality of the image, actually served to increase its unintended humor aspect for my friend and I.
I am guessing that it is bootleg from the "Digiview Entertainment Made in China
. The folks in China were likely violating copyright protections to burn the DVD. The copyright protection is carefully written to extend only to the DVD cover art.
Would I watch it again? You betcha! Am I glad I didn't pay full price to see the film in a theater? You got that right. But for 50 cents per film with the viewing cost to go down each time it's seen, as they say at VISA, "priceless
Labels: humor, James Caan, oaters, Sam Elliott, Stephanie Powers, Vera Miles, westerns