Sunday, October 15, 2017

Reluctant Heroes

This is my entry in the Hispanic Heritage Blogathon hosted by Once Upon a Screen

The Three Amigos stars Steve Martin, Chevy Chase and Martin Short.  It is a comedy (you were expecting something else with those three...?) that takes place in 1916.  Most of the film takes place in Old Mexico, and has several familiar faces if you are a frequent viewer of movies with Hispanic actors.  Tony Plana, who plays El Guapo's second-in-command, Jefe, will probably be the most recognizable, but there are others, to be sure, depending on your movie-viewing habits.

It also has Alfonso Arau, a Mexican film star, but one who has had numerous appearances in Hollywood films, too.  You've seen him in The Wild Bunch and Romancing the Stone, as well  El Topo, if you are a devotee of foreign films.  He has also directed a few movies.  Like Water for Chocolate and A Walk in the Clouds will be the most familiar to American audiences.

Fred Asparagus, who plays the bartender at the cantina  (real name Fred Reveles) will also be familiar as a character actor in several movies. Jorge Cervera, a face you seen on countless TV shows, plays one of the banditos.   A fully clothed (darn!) Rebecca Ferrati, a former Playboy model, has a brief appearance.  And Patrice Martinez, the female star of the movie, may also look familiar.  She was the receptionist in the afterlife in Beetlejuice.

Three Amigos! (1986):

One for each other and all for one,
The three brave amigos are we.
Brother to brother and everyone,
A brave amigo.

Wherever they need us
Our destinies lead us, 
Amigos we'll always be together.
Wherever we go
We're three brave amigos,
And we'll always be amigos forever.

We are the three amigos.
We are the three amigos.
We are the three aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamigos!


Lucky Day (Steve Martin), Dusty Bottoms (Chevy Chase) and Ned Nedermeyer (Martin Short) are three actors in Hollywood during the silent era, who have a career as characters in a western series as "The Three Amigos".  As the movie starts they are in the office of the head of the studios, Harry Flugelman (Joe Mantegna).  It seems the Amigos films have started to become box office bombs, and Flugelman wants to go a different direction. But the egos of the actors cause them to get fired instead.

Luckily for them, a woman who lives in a remote village of Santa Poco in Mexico has trouble.  Carmen (Patrice Martinez) is looking for men to help her fight off a villain, known as "El Guapo" (Alfonso Arau), who has been consistently raiding their village.  None of the "upstanding" citizens who frequent the Cantina de Borracho (which translates as the Drunk's Bar) will help her.  She goes to a local mission which is showing one of the Amigos movies, and believing them to be real heroes, sends a telegram asking them to come save the village.  Of course, they have limited funds, so the message gets a little truncated.

When the Amigos receive the telegram, they think they are being asked to put on a show and head straight for Santo Poco.  At the same time, a German shows up in Santo Poco looking for El Guapo, to whom he is bringing guns and supplies.  If you see the potential for confusion already, you are well versed to know what happens next.  After killing a few hecklers and telling the bartender that his friends are much less understanding, the German leaves. The villagers initially think the German's  friends are the Amigos, who show up shortly thereafter.

When three banditos show up to raid the village, the Amigos put on what they think is a show and the banditos are startled and leave.  Of course, the villagers think the Amigos have successfully scared off the banditos, but they just go back and tell El Guapo about what has happened.

El Guapo vows to go back to the village tomorrow with 50 of his men.  When he arrives, the Amigos, still thinking this is all in fun, do their act again, including the Amigos' oath which is just fantastic, not only in its message but in the perfunctory seriousness in which it is stated:

"Wherever there is injustice, you will find us.
Wherever there is suffering, we'll be there.
Wherever liberty is threatened, you will find...
The Three Amigos!"

 (I don't think it's just a coincidence how reminiscent it sounds of Henry Fonda's speech in The Grapes of Wrath).  Jefe shoots Lucky in the arm, and the three realize that this just ain't the show they thought they were hired for and ride off in panic.  El Guapo takes Carmen prisoner and his men lay waste to the village.

Having second thoughts, the Amigos return to the village and find they are not exactly welcome anymore.  At this point Ned convinces the other two to help the Amigos become real heroes.  They ride off in search of El Guapo's hideout.  Meanwhile the Germans have shown up at the hideout and present El Guapo with the guns they brought.  The clueless Amigos arrive and are captured.  Hijinks ensue as the three try to escape from the clutches of El Guapo.

They rescue Carmen and ride back to the village.  But El Guapo is not pleased.  He takes his entire army with him to attack the village.  Reminiscent of The Magnificent Seven, the Amigos use the villagers innate abilities to help defend the village. In a dramatic (and comedic) soliloquy, Lucky exhorts the villagers to band together to help defeat El Guapo.

"In a way, all of us has an El Guapo to face.  For some, shyness might be their El Guapo.  For others, a lack of education might be their El Guapo.  For us, El Guapo is a big, dangerous man who wants to kill us.  But as sure as my name is Lucky Day, the people of Santa Poco can conquer their own personal El Guapo, who also happens to be the actual El Guapo."

Since it would spoil one of the best scenes in the movie, I won't reveal how they defeat El Guapo.  But I will tell you it is funny as all get out.

Time to ride off into the sunset, folks.  Hasta la vista!



Saturday, October 14, 2017

Announcing the Inspirational Heroes Blogathon

I was listening a few days ago and the song "Holding Out For a a Hero" by Bonnie Tyler came on the radio.  As I listened to it, I realized that the song could have fit into dozens of movies at crucial points in said movies. (It was actually a part of the movie "Footloose").  My first thought was that it would have fit in the movie "Rocky", the scene where he is jogging in downtown Philly.

Inspiration came to me.  A new blogathon.  I got in touch with my friend Hamlette and discussed the potential of the idea.  We agreed that it was an interesting blogathon idea and she came on board to help host it.  So....

 What movies make you want to stand up and cheer?  It could be a downtrodden everyman who overcomes the odds.  It could be a man (or woman) who challenges the prevailing ethos and champions right over wrong.  It could even be a idealistic "Joe Blow" who got inadvertently bit by a radioactive spider and  uses his new found abilities to fight crime and injustice.

The object here is to delve into heroes who inspire you.  And there is no limit here.  Inspiration is a unique thing that is subjective.  If it inspires you, it inspires you, and no one can argue with your personal feelings.  So pick a movie that inspires you and write about it.

If you need spark to your inspiration here is a list of movies you can use, but you are definitely not limited to just these.


1.  We would prefer a variety of movies.  As such, we would like you to limit multiple choices for the same movie, so only one person per movie.  However, if one person chooses a movie, that does not mean another couldn't choose an actor in said movie and write about him or her.

2.  Please choose one of the banners below for your blog.  Hamlette worked made them and it would be a shame to see them go to waste.

3.  The blogathon runs from Dec 29th to Jan 1st.  But since this is a holiday and you might have other plans, early submissions are copacetic.  Just be aware that they won't be linked until the blogathon actually starts.

4. Have fun.

The Inspirational List:

Your Hosts:
The Midnite Drive-In:  Rocky (1976) and Hoosiers (1986)
Hamlette's Soliloquy:  Apollo 13 (1995)

Angelman's Place:  It's A Wonderful Life (1946)
Caftan Woman:  Torchy Blane
Cinematic Scribblings:   The Ascent (1977)
Hamlette's Soliloquy:  (A guest post by Jessica Prescott) Stand by Me (1986)
Love Letters to Old Hollywood:  His Girl Friday (1940)
Maddy Loves Her Classic Films:  To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
Meanwhile, in Rivendell:  Secretariat (2010) and Meagan Leavey (2017)
Movies Meet Their Match:  Stand by Me (1986)
Silver Screenings:  The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
The Story and You:   Good Will Hunting (1997)
The Wonderful World of Cinema  Mr Deeds Goes to Town (1936)

Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Bond Age (Pt. X)

2017 marks 55 years of James Bond on the movie screen.  To celebrate this momentous year, I am undertaking to review the entire oeuvre of Bond films, all 24 of them (at this juncture in history), two at a time.  These will appear on the 7th day of each month  (Bond's agent number being "007").  At the beginning of each entry I will give my personal ranking of each movie and of each movie's theme song.  (These are subjective rankings and do not necessarily agree with the view of the average Bond fan, so take it as you will).  I hope you enjoy them, nay, even look forward to the next installment.  As an added note, I am deeply indebted to Tom DeMichael, and his book James Bond FAQ,  for tidbits of information with which I am peppering these entries.                                                                                                                                                                                                  -Quiggy

By the time the series reached the dawn of the new millennium, the Bond saga had been going on for 40 years.  Many of the series regulars over the years had come and gone.  We had seen a woman take over as M, we had seen four separate actors don the tuxedo and persona of Bond, and we had even seen the departure of the stalwart Lois Maxwell, and her unrequited passion for Bond.  The only remaining figure who was still being played by it's original actor was "Q" (Desmond Llewelyn).  But even that was not a taboo role to change.  In The World is Not Enough, we still had Llewelyn's "Q", but looking forward to the eventual retirement of the actor, a new associate was introduced in this outing.

John Cleese, the Monty Python star, was introduced as an assistant to "Q".  Although he was not actually named in the film, Bond quips that if Llewelyn was "Q", Cleese must be "R".  The introduction turned out to be more prescient than the producers had thought.  Shortly after the movie was completed, Llewelyn was tragically killed in a car accident in December.  Having John Cleese take over the role added a bit of a twist to the character.  He continued the role of being exasperated by Bond's nonchalance with his gizmos, but he also added a twist of an acerbic wit, reminiscent of some of his characters on Monty Python's Flying Circus.

The World is Not Enough (1999)

Quiggy's Personal Ranking of the movie: #14

Quiggy's Personal Ranking of the theme song: # 14

Best Bond Quote:  I couldn't resist...The last line as Bond and Dr. Christmas Jones make their ubiquitous liaison in the finale:  Bond "I thought Christmas only came once a year."

Best Bond Villain Quote: Renard: "There's not point in living, if you can't feel alive"

Best Weapon:There are lots of neat little things in this one.  I'm particular fond of the helicopter that has five circular saws attached to it for use in tree trimming.  Of course, you just KNOW that's not the only use they have...

In one of the longest opening sequences ever in a Bond film, James Bond is in Spain, where he is retrieving a satchel full of money.  While he and the Swiss banker who is holding the money converse, the banker is killed by his personal assistant, just as the banker was about to name the killer of another MI6 agent.  The killer gets away.

 Bond returns to MI6 HQ where he gives the satchel of money to its rightful owner, Sir Robert King.  But King has been rigged so that a lapel pin explodes killing him while he is inspecting the money. Bond sees the same assassin from Spain, and gives chase. She commandeers a boat, and Bond hijacks an experimental boat from Q to try to catch her.  An exciting chase scene around the Thames makes for a very good opening.  Bond ends up injuring his shoulder as the assassin explodes in a flaming balloon.

 The opening credits feature a song by a band called Garbage.  The song, however is not truly garbage, although it does push the envelope a bit with the sultry style that lead singer Shirley Manson brings to the song, but as far as I'm concerned, it is much better than some of the other songs that were chosen over the years.  I still feel a hard-driving style, like the themes for A View to a Kill and Live and Let Die fit the Bond theme more, but I'll take this one.

Bond is eager to go after the killers, but M decides that his injury is too severe, so she denies him the opportunity to be on the case.  Bond of course has other ideas, and he convinces his physical therapist to give him a clean bill of health.  Bond takes off to investigate the terrorism angle, first by meeting up with King's daughter, Electra (Sophie Marceau).  Electra has taken over her father's oil business, and is overseeing the installment of a pipeline.

It turns out that the money that Bond retrieved is somehow connected with an extortion ransom that Sir Robert had paid to get his daughter released from being kidnapped by an anarchist named Renard (Robert Caryle).  Renard has one unique attribute.  He is dying from a bullet lodged in his brain, which has the effect of rendering him immune to feeling pain and gives him extraordinary endurance.  Bond is sent to protect Electra from further harm, but she is initially indifferent, since she thinks MI6 is responsible for her father's death, by not preventing the assassination.

Bond and Electra go skiing to view the pipeline and are attacked by some terrorists.  Bond manages to save Electra, and wins her trust.  Bond then goes to see an old nemesis, Valentin Zukovsky (Robbie Coltrane), who now runs a casino.  Zukovsky tells him about the Renard connection.  Electra shows up at the casino, and promptly loses a million dollars to Zukovsky.  She dismisses the loss when Bond expresses his dismay and  tells Bond "there's no point in living, if you can't feel alive".

Bond follows a lead and goes to Kazakhstan where he meets nuclear scientist named Dr. Christmas Jones (Denise Richards), {who must be the most improbable scientist ever, but this is Hollywood and they were trying to reach a younger audience}.  Jones betrays Bond, who was posing as a scientist, to Renard.  She doesn't know who he is, she just was suspicious of him.  Renard, it turns out, is working on getting a nuclear bomb which he plans to use to blow up the pipelines that compete with Electra's pipeline.  If you are already ahead of me, you know what that means.  And so does Bond.  He confronts Electra, who it turns out, has been a victim of what is called the "Stockholm syndrome" in which a victim ends up falling into a romantic relationship with her captor.

The finale has Bond, with Jones, who is now on his side after discovering who he really is and what Renard's evil plans entail, trying to stop Renard from his plan.The movie works on several levels, but this trope of using nuclear weapons to cause havoc has started to become passe' in my opinion. Still, I think that the story is entertaining enough that it keeps one riveted throughout.  My only quibble is the casting of Denise Richards as a nuclear scientist,as I intimated earlier.

Die Another Day (2002) 

Quiggy's Personal Ranking of the movie: # 9

Quiggy's Personal Ranking of the theme song: #19

Best Bond Quote: (Bond has just turned over a briefcase full of diamonds, rigged with a bomb) Bond: "Don't blow it all at once."

Best Bond Villain Quote: Graves: "You only get one shot at life.  Why waste it on sleep?"

Best Weapon:  Without a doubt, it's the invisible car.  I want one of those!

Bond is in North Korea with a couple of South Korean agents.  He poses as an arms dealer where he trades a satchel full of diamonds for a cache of weapons from Colonel Moon (Will Yun Lee), along with his aide, Zao (Rick Yune) .  But he is revealed as a impostor, and  he is exposed.  A chase ensues which ends in the death of Colonel Moon, but Bond is captured by General Moon (Kenneth Tsang), the colonel's father.

As the opening credits roll, featuring one of the worst Bond theme songs in recent years, by Madonna, instead of seeing the classic dancing shadows and such that one has come to expect, we instead are treated to scenes of Bond being tortured while in captivity.

After the credits, Bond, who is now almost unrecognizable with shaggy long hair and beard, has been traded in exchange for Zao, who had been captured by the West during Bond's captivity.  M, who thinks that Bond probably revealed secret information while in captivity, has revoked his  007 status and plans to have him removed to a re-education facility (or possibly imprisonment, it's kind of vague to me).  Bond insists that someone must have betrayed him and wants to go after the traitor, but M refuses.

Bond engineers an escape from the hospital and goes to Hong Kong where he gets help from a Chinese agent.  He makes a deal with the head agent because the Chinese have had three of their secret agents killed by Zao.  The Chinese agent sends him to Havana where Zao has gone to a gene therapy clinic.

In Havana, Bond encounters Giacinta "Jinx" (Johnson (Halle Berry), who it turns out has her own agenda.  It turns out, as Bond later discovers, that Jinx is an agent for the American NSA.  While Jinx performs her own operation, Bond finds Zao as well as the diamonds that had been given to Colonel Moon. The diamonds now have a signature of Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens), a wealthy industrialist.

Bond seeks out Graves and manages to make an enemy of him right away.  Graves has an assistant, Miranda Frost (Rosamund Pike) who is helping him.  But Miranda turns out to be an agent of MI6 and is trying to find out what Graves' plans are.  Graves has created a satellite called "Icarus" which, ostensibly, is his gift to the world.  It can focus light from the sun to create ideal climates in areas for growing food.

But of course, that isn't Graves real objective.  You see, the Icarus satellite can also be used to create a giant laser than can be focused to destroy military installations.  Something quite similar to the object Scaramanga created in The Man with the Golden Gun, but 30 years later, technology has made an even more devastating weapon possible.

And once you find out what Graves true agenda is, you will be just as surprised as I was.  I won't reveal who Graves actually turns out to be (although you may guess just based on that passing comment).  The last 20 minutes of the movie is what puts this one so high in my personal rankings.  That and the invisible car of course, which I still want..

Time to go off and try to save the world.  Or at least save the part where I live...


Friday, September 29, 2017

Come to Texas! The Texas Blogathon is here

The Texas Blogathon begins today.  If you haven't been paying attention, I am a Texan through and through, and I love my state.  Texas is the setting for many a movie, and Texas is also a producer of many icons of the cinema.  This blogathon was started to honor those movies and heroes.  Keep coming back all weekend to this post, as I will be updating this thread with all the entrants who have chosen movies to cover for this blogathon.  (Note to my fellow entrants: As always, be patient with me in getting your entries posted.  I am a working man, so the job must take precedence...)

The Illustrious Roll Call:

  My personal entry is a tribute to John Wayne, and the movies he made with Texas as its center.

Reaweegiemidget Reviews gushes about the TV series "Dallas"

Angelman's Place praises a true Texas classic, Giant.

It Came from the Man Cave looks at the box-office failure of The Lone Ranger.

Sometimes They Go to Eleven gives us a view from the darker side with Cohen and Tate

Coffee, Classics and Craziness  gives us some thoughts about Texas (1941)

Phyllis Loves Classic Movies tells about a Hope/Crosby-like duo in Two Guys from Texas

Hamlette's Soliloquy fills your weekend schedule up with ten movies about Texas

 Pure Entertainment Preservation Society covers a vast area with Texas, Brooklyn and Heaven

Crítca Retrô looks at an interesting family in Duel in the Sun

Moon in Gemini talks about a Terence Malick masterpiece Days of Heaven

Home from the Hill gets the Thoughts All Sorts treatment.

 Hamlette's Soliloquy adds another entry with Texas Across the River

Mildred's Fatburgers chimes in on The Last Picture Show 

John Wayne: The Texas Hero

This is my entry in The Texas Blogathon, hosted by yours truly.

John Wayne was not born in Texas.  He was born in Winterset, Iowa just to clarify, a place I would like to visit just to see his birthplace, but otherwise a nondescript burg in southern Iowa. (An interesting  side note: Winterset was also the birthplace of Henry A. Wallace, who was vice-president under Franklin D. Roosevelt for most of WWII.)

John Wayne was not raised in Texas.  He was actually raised in southern California, where his mother and father moved in about 1914.  John Wayne did not attend university classes in Texas.  He actually went to USC (gak!), where he was a football player on scholarship.  He later had to drop out after he was cut from the team.

John Wayne never lived in Texas, at least not on a permanent basis.  He resided there briefly during the making of the movies he filmed in Texas, but his permanent residence was still in California.  In point of fact, only two of the many movies he made that were set in Texas were actually filmed in Texas.  Most of them were filmed on back lots of studios in California.

So why does Texas revere John Wayne (or more to the point, why do I revere him)?  Because Wayne was the quintessential Texan in ethos and demeanor. He is the ideal of many, a force that stood his ground despite opposition in Hollywood.  In 2015, Governor Greg Abbott and the Texas legislature officially declared Wayne an "honorary Texan" and designated May 26 of that year as "John Wayne Day". (By contrast, in 2016 a plan to name May 26 John Wayne Day was voted down in Democrat-dominated California)

The following represents an overview of some of the movies Wayne starred in that take place in the state of Texas (though not all, less this post become unmanageable in length...)

One cannot begin such an expansive overview without touching upon the epic tribute Wayne did for the history of The Alamo (1960)The Alamo was Wayne's dream project.  He spent years finagling with the studios and various inside personnel trying to get the movie financed. He famously even committed to making what is arguably his worst movie ever, The Conqueror, because he thought by doing so he could finagle some financial backing.  He eventually put up a large chunk of the financing from his own pocket to get the movie done.

Wayne is not a Texan in this movie.  He plays Davy Crockett who arrives with a band of Kentuckians to help defend the Alamo from the imminent attack by Generalissimo Santa Ana and his Mexican army.  The film is a rousing tribute to the ideas and values that the average Texan feels toward his or her state.  And, although the film is at times jingoistic, and does get a few things wrong (San Antonio is not "right here on the Rio Grande" as Sam Houston [Richard Boone] states early in the movie...the nearest point is about 150 miles away...)

The Alamo is probably the first Texas movie that comes to mind, when you think of John Wayne, but that's not the ONLY movie that has a Texas connection.  Wayne worked with Howard Hawks to film Rio Bravo (1959) and its subsequent remakes, El Dorado (1967) and Rio Lobo (1970)In the first two Wayne plays a sober fellow who helps a notoriously drunk friend to defend a jail against an assault by a mob of bad guys trying to get a jailed friend out of the jail.  Wayne is typically the hero of these films, but shares that role with his newly sober friend, a gunslinger who sides with them and a crotchety old codger who fills the role of comic relief in some rather great scenes.

Although actually filmed in Arizona, John Ford's classic The Searchers (1956) involves Wayne, along with Jeffrey Hunter as a half-breed associate, searching for the kidnapped daughter of his best friend across parts of West Texas.  This one is the one that most people consider one of the best westerns ever made, and John Wayne's best performance.  To some Wayne enthusiasts, like myself, Wayne's character, Ethan Edwards, is hard to like because he is a hard-bitten cynic who has no love at all for the Native American. You might say he's "racist", and I would not disagree completely, but I'm pretty sure his racism only extends to the "Indian" and not to all non-white peoples.  Nevertheless, he puts an Academy Award worthy performance, which is all the more frustrating since the Academy did not nominate him for the role.

When Red River (1948)  came out, John Ford, the director most people associate with Wayne, famously quipped "I didn't know the big son of a bitch could act."  Red River features Wayne as Tom Dunson, a man who yearns to have a cattle ranch in Texas.  Wayne once again plays a hard-hearted man, and once again put in a virtuoso performance that was ignored by the Academy.  Dunson's interaction with his adopted son, played by Montgomery Clift in an early role, is the stuff of legend.  This movie, by the way, is the only other movie besides The Alamo which was actually filmed on location in Texas.

One of my favorite John Wayne movies is Big Jake (1971) .  Here Wayne is paired up with Maureen O'Hara in what was the fifth (and final) pairing of the two. O'Hara runs the McCandles ranch and her son, young "Little Jake" McCandles is kidnapped by a band of outlaws led by Richard Boone.  Rather than rely on the Texas Rangers, she sends for her estranged husband, the titular "Big Jake" to come home and lead a team to go after the outlaws.  Some of the greatest action sequences ever filmed in a Wayne movie appear here, and Wayne's character is the ideal I envision when I think of Wayne.   Outside of El Dorado, my absolute favorite Wayne movie, this is the one I would recommend for people who have never watched a John Wayne movie (are there really such people?)

In The Sons of Katie Elder (1965)Wayne has to share the stage with his "brothers" (Dean Martin, Earl Holliman and Michael Anderson, Jr), the titular sons of a woman who really loved her sons and wanted only the best for them.  Fate saw their fortunes go a bit differently as three of them grew up to be less than the saintly sons their mother expected, and with the fourth, despite the opposition of the three older brothers, seemingly on his way to follow in their footsteps., all around disappoints to their mother.  The four have arrived to see to the burial of their mother (who passed away prior to the beginning of this movie).  The sons go after a rancher who, through chicanery,  has taken over the family ranch in Texas, and you know how that will all turn out.  No one ever upstaged Wayne, in my opinion, but Martin and Holliman come damn close in this one.

The Comancheros (1961)  features Wayne as a Texas Ranger who takes a custody of a Louisiana man who has run from te law after a duel in New Orleans and endeavors to return him to justice back in Louisiana.  The outlaw (Stuart Whitman) escapes, but later teams up with Wayne to help battle the titular Comancheros, a band of renegades, led by Lee Marvin, who have been helping the Comanches out by supplying them  with liquor and guns.Another rousing story that gives Wayne one of his best roles.

Other movies include several of Wayne's earliest work in the movies when he was cranking out westerns at, like two or three a month in the B- movie world.  Such titles as Texas Cyclone (1932), THe Lucky Texan (1934), Texas Terror (1935), King of the Pecos (1936) and The Lonely Trail (1936) all came out prior to his breakthrough role in Stagecoach,  all with cookie cutter story lines.  These roles gave Wayne his first acting chops and, although they were all really filmed on a backlot at Hollywood studios, essentially put him in the state of Texas for purposes of the story.  These early Wayne pictures are really only good for either true Wayne aficionados, or lovers of classic western potboilers, but they do entertain on their own level.

This has only been a smattering of the many movies John Wayne made, and some of the Texas themed movie I left out in the interest of brevity, but suffice to say Wayne became the icon in the heart of many Texans based on his ethos and appearance in many epic Texas themed movies.  I hope you enjoyed this brief foray.


Saturday, September 23, 2017

Robots With Guts

This is my entry in the Duo Double Feature Blogathon hosted by The Flapper Dame and Phyllis Loves Classic Movies

Science fiction movies are always better when you place them in a dystopian future.  Of course, that defines about 99% of all sci-fi movies set in the future.  After all, how long could you last sitting in a movie theater where everything was hunky-dory and life was beautiful all the time.  Personally I'd doze off after about 10 minutes....

Peter Weller is the star of several movies in my list of the top sci-fi and horror movies  A look at his oeuvre of films shows that he is a prolific actor in the genre,  The same goes for Nancy Allen.  She had been in several movies before this role, some of which I had seen, but this was the first one in which I had ever noticed her.  Both of these went on to do many more movies after the RoboCop movies, and I will list some other appearances you can check out later.

The chemistry between the two on screen is great.  They start out as partners in the police force, but gradually come to respect each other. 

RoboCop (1987)

In the near future (an unspecified year), the city of Detroit is in turmoil.  Crime is rampant.  A company called Omni Consumer Products (OCP) has bought the Detroit Police Department and runs it as a corporate entity.  Officer Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) is transferred to the inner city division and is assigned as a partner to Officer Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen).

Meanwhile, at corporate headquarters of OCP, a senior executive, Dick Jones (Ronny Cox), introduces a concept of a robotic cop called ED209.  The ED209 is a disaster as it malfunctions, killing an executive.  The head of OCP, called 'The Old Man" (Daniel O'Herlihy), is "disappointed" with the results.  Bob Morton (Miguel Ferrer) immediately takes initiative in proposing his idea for "RoboCop", which would involve taking a human officer and imbuing him with a vast array of cybernetics.  Jones  is not very happy with the usurping of his authority, however.

On patrol, Lewis and Murphy chase down a criminal mastermind, Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith, who endows the character with MUCH more menace than he did as Red Forman on That 70's Show).  Boddicker and his gang trap Murphy and literally pour an entire armory of bullets in him while Lewis watches in horror from a hiding place.

Murphy is taken to a hospital where OCP officials take over, and in the name of enterprise, convert him to the prototype for the RoboCop program.  The faceless corporation (which isn't exactly faceless, per se, but you get the point) commandeers the former Murphy and makes him essentially a product owned by OCP.  They send him back to his former precinct, where several incidents show that he is a superior force with which to be reckoned.

Lewis observes RoboCop do a fancy move with his gun and realizes that the robot has the personality and memories of Murphy, since she had seen Murphy perform the same maneuver.  She approaches RoboCop and calls him Murphy, which triggers some memories in the machine, remembering not only his life as a married man with a kid, but also his death at the hands of Boddicker and his men. Meanwhile, Dick Jones has taken an extremely vengeful dislike for Bob Morton, and has his stooge, (guess who?  If you said Boddicker, you've been watching just about the right amount of these kinds of movies) to kill Morton, but not before Jones tells Morton via video why... Because he's a mean vindictive SOB, that's why.

Shortly thereafter, RoboCop goes on a vengeance raid of his own, tracking down Boddicker and his men in an abandoned factory.  He proceeds to extract his revenge, all in the name of the law, f course, since his directives (program) prevent him from becoming a true vigilante.  Boddicker, in a panic, trying to save his ass reveals that he works for Jones at OCP.  RoboCop arrests him instead of executing him.  He then goes to confront Jones, but finds that he has a hidden directive in his program that prevents him from acting on his evidence against the OCP executive.

The final third of the movie is very entertaining as RoboCop and Lewis try to stop Boddicker (who was bailed out by Jones) and a final confrontation with the executive board which will make you stand up and cheer, if you haven't already left the theater because of the violence... 

Which brings me to a final point.  This movie is ranked as one of the most violent movies ever made.  I think even Sam Peckinpah would have cringed at this movie.  And surprisingly, director Paul Verhoeven's original cut was even much more violent.  According to my research, it was originally rated X for violence, and Verhoeven had to re-cut the movie an astounding seven times before the movie review board finally gave it an R rating.  Admittedly the movie is over the top as far as violence is concerned.  The question as to whether it is worth it is up to the viewer.

 RoboCop II (1990)

The movie takes place sometime after the events of RoboCop.  Detroit has gradually fallen on hard times financially, and the mayor (Willard Pugh) has taken some financial assistance from OCP to keep the city in the black.  But they are about to default on their loan, which would allow OCP to have complete ownership of Detroit.  Part of OCPs plan to financially ruin Detroit involves the cut in pay to Detroit's police, which causes the police force to go on strike.

.OCP has designs to create a new RoboCop to help curb the rampant violence and crime in the inner city.  "The Old Man", who still runs the company, has become a less attractive character by this time.and wholly desires the outcome of control of Detroit, and is behind the plans of Dr. Faxx (Belinda Bauer) to create her new RoboCop 2.

Her plan is to fully integrate a personality with the cybernetics and she seeks a willing volunteer to be the human portion.  Enter drug lord Cain (Tom Noonan), a despicable character who is trying to engineer a worldwide addiction to his manufactured drug, "Nuke". 

He is helped by his associate, a young kid called Hob (Gabriel Damon).  RoboCop assualts the drug plant, where his programming stops him from shooting the kid who actually shoots him instead.  The criminals then dismantle RoboCop and send him back to police HQ in pieces.

Faxx and company rebuild RoboCop, but they screwith an army of new directives which basically turns him into a politically correct dumbass.  Lewis is frustrated with her new partner and tells him so.  RoboCop uses an electrical grid to fry his circuits, which eliminates all his directives, then goes after Cain, enlisting the help of his fellow striking officers.  They raid Cain's factory an in the ensuing melee, Cain is severely wounded.  Faxx decides that Cain is the perfect specimen for her RoboCop 2 program and turns him into the new cyborg.  To help matters, Cain has an addiction to Nuke which she feels will commit him to helping out.  But Cain, still with part of his own personality still in place, has other ideas.

Once again, this is a violent movie, and as opposed to the first one, this one just seems to relish in the violence for it's own purposes.  It doesn't have Verhoeven's touch to help it along so it basically just becomes something like one of those ultraviolent video games where the point is just to notch up the violence just for titillation.    I recommend it only because of Weller's presence, and suggest that you avoid RoboCop III, because without Weller to balance the violence, it was just a mess of hash.

Well folks, that ends this session with the ballad of the gun.  Drive safely.  I end with the promised list of Weller and Allen movies:

Peter Weller Movies: (Only ones I have seen, and like... not a complete list)

Of Unknown Origin (1983)
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension (1984)
RoboCop (1987)
RoboCop II (1990)
Naked Lunch (1991)
Screamers (1995)
Top of the World (1997)
Star Trek: Into Darkness ( 2013)

Weller also appeared briefly as a chacter in an episode of my favorite TV series Monk.

Nancy Allen Movies: (again, only ones I have seen, and liked...not a complete list)

The Last Detail (1973)
Carrie (1976)
1941 (1979)
The Philadelphia Experiment (1984)
 RoboCop (1987)
RoboCop II (1990)
RoboCop III (1993) (This one had a different actor as Murphy/RoboCop)
My Apocalypse (2008)