So the doctor tells me that my partial deafness in one ear was caused by my overly cautious, damn near OCD-levels of Feeling Unclean. Good thing I chose the mono version of the The Beatles box set, I thought to myself. Sensing my depression over possibly spending the rest of my life as half-a-listener, he smiled and said that if worse came to worst, with my deaf ear and psychotically hygienic ways I can always consider working in the aviation industry. Upon my non-response, he then asked if I didn't think he was funny. "Not at these prices", I answered. Hello lady and gentleman, I'm now going to ramble about my visit to Grindhouse night at the New Beverly Cinema, where I'm assuming the 70's films they were showing that evening were good ol' fashioned one-speaker sound mixes. I needed something to cheer me up, so I went.
While waiting in line, badass motherfucker Clu Gulager asked a cute girl in glasses (a redundancy, in my opinion) if she was looking forward to tonight's fare. "What kind of question is that?!" she responded in an excited and good-natured manner. It was nice to hear a girl say something like that in a way I'm not accustomed to; for the most part, any question I ask a young lady is met with annoyance and disgust, as if she could hear the desperation dripping from every syllable. Lots of people kept asking an older gentleman "Where's Cathie?" and I'm assuming they meant the movie geek heroine/New Bev regular Cathie Horlick, otherwise I would've spelled the name Cathy or Kathy. Having assumed that, I then assumed the older gentleman was Cathie's father.
Before the Revenge-themed triple-feature began, I listened the best I could from my good ear as the New Bev sound system played old radio ads for movies like The Gay Deceivers (the title sounds like some shit you'd hear from Glenn Beck or my mother) and Superchick. My favorite was for a Jack Palance film called Mister Scarface, and boy oh boy, did the advertisers have no fuckin' shame whatsoever because the ad bragged about how this film "outsmarts The Godfather". I love that, and I wish they still did that because it's been a while. The last time I remember a movie trying to bullshit the potential audience into seeing it by putting down another, it was back in 1994 with The Professional (that's Leon to you and me); "makes Speed feel like a slow ride to Grandma's house" or something like that.
Usually these guys are the guys who do the Grindhouse nights, but this month St. Quentin is programming this shit with flicks he digs and hopes you dig as well. It was a sold-out crowd that night, double the usual amount of people
for a Grindhouse night according to host Brian Quinn (I think) and he figured
Tarantino's name had something to do with that. Patton Oswalt was walking up the aisle when he was stopped by a fan, and it was cool to see that Big Fan seemed genuinely happy to meet a big fan -- either that or spending most of your life dealing with people getting all up in your shit gives you lots of practice on how to deal with potential crazies.
The 1st film of the night was called The No Mercy Man, starring some dude I never heard of, Black Samson, a bunch of goofy white motherfuckers and muthafuckin' Sid Haig. This low-budget movie was shot by Dean Cundey, who went on to shoot movies for Steven Spielberg and John Carpenter, but more importantly he lensed Sir Rowdy Herrington's Road House. The No Mercy Man takes place somewhere in Arizona, and in case you hadn't picked that up, the movie gives you a nice hint by having one of the characters nonchalantly refer to a "nigger" while eating dinner with his family. This guy is the hero's father, by the way. What's funny is that for about 20 minutes or so, I had no idea who the hero was supposed to be, but that's probably because this is one of those flicks were they don't so much have Good Guys and Bad Guys but Protagonists and Antagonists.
Black Samson plays Prophet, this fuckin' carny who makes extra money on the side by hooking up with his mixed race buddies and holding up liquor stores and stealing cars and whatever the fuck else you can steal from a one-horse town. He's introduced calling a liquor store owner "Honky!" and then he and his stupid goofy white-boy partner-in-crime go on one of those 35 mph car chases where it seems like nobody's life is in danger, but it sure is a pain in the ass to those involved. There's a pretty amusing theme song playing over it that I guess would share the Unlikely Use Of The Word "Rape" In A Theme Song Award along with the John Saxon/Rosey Grier joint, The Glove.
Prophet makes the mistake of stopping at a ranch to try jacking some old WWII vet; at one point, he grabs the old farmer's daughter and since it's a 70's revenge movie, you think you know what's going to happen next, but it turns out he ain't no punk-ass rapist. Anyway, she gets away and runs into her brother Olie who's just come home from a stay at the hospital. Turns out this ex-patient is also a Vietnam Vet, he's got the uniform and medals on to prove it. He's got these former Army buddies who think he's the fuckin' man over how much fuckin' ownage he brought to Charlie in the Nam, but he's all Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder'd over it.
I dug how his father is proud of the man his son used to be, but kinda ashamed of the pussy he currently is. A couple times during the film, Olie shows flashes of how awesome he can be, but usually he's just playing the shell-shocked vet, either standing around and looking assed out at his horses or drinking beer with salt in it while still retaining his strong masculine good looks. Yeah, I know -- that was a pretty fruity thing to write, but you should be used to it by now.
But come on, people, the movie is called The No Mercy Man, not The Puts Salt In His Beer Man so you know it's just a matter of time before this artist of death is about to paint his masterpiece. This is a slow-burn kind of movie, where shit gets worse and worse and you keep waiting/hoping for the guy to do the absolute last thing he wants to do -- put some fucking permanent hurting to these assholes. This played a few years ago at the New Bev, along with Rolling Thunder, which sounds about right because that's a similar style of slow-burn revenge flick. According to the guy I'm sure was Mr. Quinn, the last time they screened this, the reels were out of order and even guest Sid Haig couldn't tell because he hadn't seen the film before (or at least for a long time), but the audience was so stoned and drunk, they didn't give a fuck and liked it all the same.
I liked how Prophet was a fuckin' asshole but not necessarily boo-hiss evil (besides, that's the Sid Haig character's territory); he can get violent in his crimes but at one point, one of his guys kills a mark and you can sense Prophet's whole fuckin' crime paradigm flip the fuck over. I mean, he just wanted to scare the poor goofy old white guy and maybe hurt him a little, but now thanks to his Javier Bardem-sounding henchman not knowing his own strength, he's been dragged kicking and screaming into No Witnesses territory. From that point on, I guess he figured there's no such thing as getting a little blood on you, and since he and his gang are now murderers, it's time to hit bigger targets and make more money.
I'm sure there are better movies to compare it to, but off the top of my head I was reminded of Death Sentence, the movie where revenge is a dish best served cold and with a side of bacon -- Kevin Bacon. Both films are in the revenge genre but they seem to have an attitude like Hey Guys Violence Only Creates More Violence. Both movies are basically about one incident provoking another incident which then provokes another incident, violent act escalating to even more violent acts and Oh Won't Someone Think Of The Children. Both movies manage to make that point while still managing to make you clap your hands and get all Fuck Yeah about seeing some motherfucker take a shotgun blast to the fuckin' chest. At first I cared for Olie's sanity and seeing him succumb to occasionally putting foot-to-ass felt like a combo of Exciting & Bummer, but eventually I just wanted him to snap out of his funk and, I don't know, burst through a wall (come to think of it, they could've called this movie The Kool-Aid Man).
I have to give this flick extra credit for having some of the good guys be casually racist without calling them on it, and I wonder if this was just a ballsy move by the filmmakers or if it was just a 70's thing. Like, in the beginning of the movie, Prophet stops by the ranch to ask Olie's father for water. Olie's dad senses something is up, so he goes inside the house to get his shotgun. Even now, I still wonder if he felt Prophet was up to no good or if it was his Racist Spidey Sense tingling, as in Black = Criminal. The real bitch of it is that he's right, Prophet was gonna try to jack him. It reminds me of the time a couple of my black brothers got pulled over by a cop -- for DWB, driving while black -- and the cop decided to search the car and found weed. Basically they got pulled over for no reason, and the cop found one. "They pulled us over 'cuz we're Black!" my friend told me. He wasn't amused when I told him that finding weed in your car pretty much justified the cop's action, as well as future DWB stops.
After the film, Clu Gulager stopped and asked this cute blonde girl if she enjoyed the shoot 'em up action at the end. She happily responded by telling him that she really liked the movie and wished she had a machine gun on the top of her car (like one of the bad guys in the film). At that moment, I felt a little wistful as I spent four seconds imagining being married to her. We can't all be Clu Gulager, some of us just have to settle for imagining being married to cute blondes who want machine guns on top of their vehicles.
The 2nd revenge movie of the night was Johnny Firecloud, and this one has no qualms about how it treats the whole vengeance deal. It's like Olie's father from the previous movie wrote the screenplay for this movie, considering how Getting Violent is not-so-much seen as an unfortunate extension of having disagreements with your fellow man, but more like a gift that would be a waste to never use -- only the producers took the script away from Olie's father and changed the main character from a clean-cut White Man to a dirty goddamn Injun.
Yup, this one also takes place in a desert town that most likely borders Mexico, hence the absolute hate-with-fervor these white motherfuckers have for anything non-Hick. The title character is this Native American who is just trying to get by and work an honest day's work, but he keeps getting hassled by The Man, which in this film's case, is actually just one man (and a deputy). The sheriff is your basic small town hassler, breaking tail-lights just so he has something to write you up on. Later on, you find out the sheriff isn't so much a bad guy as much as he's just really confused (in more ways than one) and kind of a pussy because there's kind of a Road House deal going on in this town; this rich old guy (played by the formerly young guy from Kiss Me Deadly) owns the fuckin' town and is pretty much the law behind the law. Yeah, that's right -- that's two Road House references up in this bitch.
So this rich asshole Ben Gazzara wannabe is pissed at Johnny Firecloud because the stud knocked up his daughter before heading over to Nam, and it doesn't matter that the dude became a war hero, and it doesn't matter that the baby was stillborn (lucking him out of having to buy gifts), he's still just a worthless Indian to this douche. He's got his despicable cronies fucking with Firecloud as well as his old Chief grandfather while hooting and hollering (you figure these hicks would be cool with the Chief since he's a drunk, just like them) and I guess Billy Jack hasn't played at the local drive-in yet because otherwise they'd have known that you just don't fuck with the friends, relatives, and emotional sanity of any Native American back from Nam.
Let's get back to this sheriff character; somewhere along the way, he has a kind of heart-to-heart with Firecloud -- or as heart-to-heart as one can get when the other person is handcuffed in a cell while you aim a gun at him -- and explains why he's pretty much Ben Gazzara Sr's bitch. Long story short, this guy pulled a Hennessey-in-Biloxi Blues and was dishonorably discharged as a result, sending him back to town with his tail between his legs and his pants around his ankles. When he was telling that story, people in the audience were tittering and giggling because it was sounding kinda odd the more he went on (it doesn't help that some of the film's dialogue sounds like it was written by Tobias Fünke) and finally when the truth -- ahem -- came out, all of us showed our sympathy for his plight by laughing our fuckin' asses off.
When you look like Johnny Firecloud, you get your pick of chicks. Problem is that the selection comes down to just two girls because the rest of the female townsfolk consists of cunts who gather around to watch motherfuckers get hanged (hung?) from a tree. The first pretty lady is a schoolteacher on the reservation, and she's played by the broad who accepted that dead fat Method-acting motherfucker's Best Actor award at the Oscars, and she's basically on Firecloud's nuts because she thinks he wants to be White rather than own up to his pure badass Native American heritage. He's all like You're Talking Crazy, but she might have a point because he doesn't really give her the time of day yet he had no problems putting a dead baby inside Gazzara Senior's daughter (aka The Second Girl in Firecloud's Life).
I was a particular fan of Ben Gazzara Sr's daughter; she's all depressed about the baby and Firecloud, so she spends most of her time drinking herself into a Native American-style stupor, only having enough energy to slur her love for the guy while opening up her shirt and making me feel all funny in the audience (which would explain the guy next to me switching seats, I reckon). Plus it's not like there's much to do in that town, aside from harassing the Reds and hanging out in that canyon area that looks a lot like where they filmed that one episode of Star Trek (and Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey) at.
Anyway, shit gets really fuckin' serious about halfway through when someone close to Firecloud is murdered and it really fucked me up because it's one of those horrific angry/crazy/rabble-rousing lynch mob scenes where the only sane person in the bunch happens to also be the recipient of the noose treatment, and everyone in the audience went quiet because we all knew what we saw -- we saw That Moment in a revenge movie when you're just about a few minutes away from watching sweet, sweet Brutal Ownage. At that point we (and by we, I mean me) are silently asking the filmmakers if they are going to deliver. Some films do, and some films don't. The waiting got me all jittery with excitement. It could go either way, you know.
Well, the film sure as fuck delivers as Johnny Firecloud does not hold back as he fucks up these assholes Indian-style. No, I don't mean he does it while sitting cross-legged, I mean he's fuckin' scalping motherfuckers and other various Native American violent specialties. The first person he takes out, holy shit, I wanted to jump out of my fuckin' seat and thank the movie gods and St. Quentin for allowing me to live long enough to watch some fat fuckin' hick bleed profusely from the head; so freaked out by the ownage done to him, this guy doesn't even know he's supposed to die. It's almost like he needed it confirmed by walking inside a church just so everyone can see what just fucking happened, like Hey Everyone, Look How Fuckin' Bad I Got It, because it would be a waste to not share that kind of shit with at least one other person. You have to understand, lady and gentleman, I LOVE it when an action movie goes horror on me, I absolutely love it.
This is an unapologetic revenge movie, where there's nothing wrong with seeing the hero get back at them and there's no emotional asides about how we as a people Shouldn't Be Doing This and how we're all human beings and all that shit. So it kinda broke my heart a little that the ending nearly throws a wrench into the works; it suffers from the same shit as the 2004 version of Man on Fire, where you watch payback after payback after payback and then all-of-a-sudden SCREEEEEECH we're given an ending we didn't want. OK, I won't speak for you -- I didn't want that fuckin' ending. It didn't help that the print started jump-cutting during the final lines of dialogue, rendering the end even more WTF.
Goddamn it, I don't want the ending to Man on Fire, I want the ending to Vigilante, bitches. As it is, the movie is 95 percent Fred Williamson and 5 percent Sidney Poitier, so it's still a sweet revenge flick, and besides, I did what the MST3k guys did in that Girl in Lover's Lane episode by rejecting the ending that was given to me and making up my own better ending in my head. Such is the magic of cinema and the human imagination. And when all is said and done, this movie does feature one of my favorite shots in a film EVAAAAAR; Johnny Firecloud is handcuffed, laying facedown on his cot, behind bars. The sheriff and deputy standing beside him. Firecloud is shirtless, revealing a bunch of bloody welts and gashes from a Jesus-style whipping he received. There's something written in chalk among the rest of the graffiti on the wall: TO HELL WITH NIGGERS AND INDEONS. That fuckin' tableau just about sums up all the shit these poor Native Americans in this town have to deal with, ignorant crackers who can't even spell their goddamn racial epithets right.
There's this really good biography on Robert Mitchum I permanently borrowed from a friend, it's called Baby I Don't Care and there's a part detailing how his son Christopher followed in his father's footsteps. Turns out the guy didn't even want to be an actor, he went to university to become a writer. Then, like most people with English degrees, he couldn't find work, he couldn't even get non-writing jobs because people figured he was already set by having a rich & famous daddy. So he decided to give acting a try, eventually finding his niche in the European market, starring in movies like The Summertime Killer, the 3rd and final film of the night.
I noticed that in The No Mercy Man, the revenge doesn't come until the end, while the revenge in Johnny Firecloud starts about halfway through, but in The Summertime Killer, the revenge begins right after the opening scene. Not only that, but the title character (played by Mitchum) pretty much gets his revenge by the 15 minute mark, save for the last motherfucker on his list. Basically, The Summertime Killer is about what a fucking pain in the ass it is to finish what you started. I know one assassin in the Tarantino-scripted True Romance refers to his first kill as the "bitch of the bunch", but this movie begs to differ.
So, Mitchum has finished taking out most of the guys who killed his father back in the day, either by sniping them or riding his dirt bike right up to their cars and blasting the fuckin' bastards in the face, and now he's off to Spain to take out the last mafioso motherfucker (who looks like Ian McShane, by the way). At first this guy is stone-cold Golgo 13 about his business; he ends up romancing this chick by engaging her in a dangerous bike vs. putt-putt Euro-ride chase on the highway that coulda killed other people on the road (but who cares 'cuz we're in LOVE) and for a while I thought maybe he just decided to take some time off and enjoy the local vag, but it turns out this chick is his target's secretary and he's just trying to get closer to the motherfucker. That's cold, yo.
Because we still have another 70 minutes or so to kill, the hit is a miss and Mitchum has to improvise a new plan to get to The Last Motherfucker; he kidnaps this smoking hot girl (The Last Motherfucker's daughter) and holds her hostage until he can arrange a meeting and finally kill this guy. The smoking hot girl is played by smoking hot Olivia Hussey, which is kind of an appropriate last name (even if the spelling is different). Again, is it me or were these actresses so much hotter back in the day. She's healthy, this girl, she's thin without looking like the stick figures of today. Thankfully, the filmmakers were pervy Spaniards who knew what they had, so her character is mostly in swimsuits.
Speaking of smoking hot, Karl Malden plays a New York detective who does the occasional job for the mob, and once they catch wind that some blond-haired kid is shooting their guys in the face, they hire him to come down to Spain to take care of The Last Motherfucker, which later then becomes a mission to find the motherfucker who attempted to kill The Last Motherfucker. Malden does his usual solid work here, picking up his paycheck like a fuckin' pro and I guess he always dressed in his Streets of San Francisco clothes.
While Malden's doing his thing, Mitchum is finding it kind of hard to get to the other side of his task because his hostage is always pulling something cute, like trying to escape or impale him with a metal rod, like most women do. Sure enough, they start to like each other and I don't mean to spoil the movie (not to mention every other fuckin' movie ever fuckin' made) but they end up falling in love, so now he's got THAT to deal with as well. And while they never mention it, I like to think that maybe Mitchum is second-guessing his original goal because we're never told why his father was killed in the first place, or maybe they did and I just didn't hear it because I only have one good ear and I'm falling apart and Death please welcome me into your warm arms.
I mean, maybe his father talked shit about these mafia guys' mothers. These guys are probably Italian, so that's like making fun of your mother X 10. The only way the man could've made it worse for himself is they were Sicilian and he decided to go about THAT route. Ah, whatever -- family's family, I guess; it's like that scene in Die Hard With A Vengeance when Dead Ringers tells The Return of Bruno something like "there's a difference between not liking your brother and not caring when some Bruce Willis-looking motherfucker drops him from goddamn Nakatomi". Something like that, but you get my drift (no, you don't).
I don't know, maybe it was because it followed the one-two punch of Ownage that was The No Mercy Man and Johnny Firecloud, but I wasn't feeling this one so much. Maybe it would play better on its own, and at a much earlier time (it was 2 in the morning by the time it ended). As it is, it's got some decent action (with one jaw-dropping use of a real horse fuckin' buckling over as it fell down a hill -- you Just Fucking Know that right after the director called the Spanish cinema equivalent of Cut, some "animal expert" walked up to that horse with a .45 and put it out of its misery. Then they got ready for take 2 and got the next horse) and the locations are pretty to look at and Olivia Hussey is even more pretty to look at.
The movie was OK and my favorite character was Mitchum's Boxer dog. That dog was beauty, eh. He's introduced running in slow-motion alongside Mitchum on his dirt bike with that Run and Run song playing over it (really loved that lame song) and I could've watched that shit for 90 minutes. That dog is awesome, like most dogs are awesome, and he gives a great performance because you can see that the Boxer really digs Chris Mitchum, either that or he thought that was Robert Mitchum (there is a strong resemblance) and was just being star-struck. I choose to believe the former, and besides, dogs have good hearts. I don't mean that in a creepy Mola Ram kinda way, I mean, dogs are full of love and can be pretty goddamn selfless in their actions.
Take Mitchum's dog, for example; that beautiful dog ends up making the most selfless move on behalf of his beloved owner and I felt for the pooch. That poor dog doesn't even have a tail anymore because Mitchum wrongly believed like most Boxer dogs owners, that chopping its fuckin' tail off is OK. No, it's not, that's strictly cosmetic bullshit and the poor dog doesn't deserve to be done that way. And you know what gets me the most, I see Mitchum's dog with his nub tail, and the goddamn magnanimous creature is still happily wagging what he has left. He has no ill will towards his master. Meanwhile, I'm a human being and I wish you and your family DEATH just for not saying thanks when I hold the door open for you. Dogs have good hearts, people.
Now, you can be the kind of asshole who tells me that dogs only love you because you're the person responsible for feeding them, but you're probably the kind of motherfucker who gets off on telling children there is no Santa Claus, believers that there is no God, and Sam Raimi fans that there will most likely never be an Evil Dead 4. And if you're that kind of person, I hope Johnny Firecloud pays you a visit in your bed late one night and tangles assholes with you.
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