Tuesday, August 02, 2022

Movie Music: Alan Silvestri's "The Quick and the Dead" (1995)

I, Hamlette, love westerns. You probably know that by now, since I just finished co-hosting Legends of Western Cinema Week for the... fourth year?  Something like that. 


I feel like The Quick and the Dead (1995) is not an especially well-known movie, so I'll quick recap what it's about: An unknown female gunslinger (Sharon Stone) enters a gunfighting competition on a quest to avenge her father's death. It is a leeeeeetle bit cheesy here and there, but that's more than made up for by the presence of Russell Crowe as a killer turned pacifistic preacher, and of Gene Hackman as the powerful man who runs the town and knows everyone's secrets. There's also a young Leonardo DiCaprio, and Gary Sinise is in a flashback scene. Good cast, good music, satisfying story. It's rated R, though, so watch with caution, as there are some skippable things. 

But you don't need any caution when listening to the soundtrack by Alan Silvestri! Here are a few tracks to give you an idea of what the soundtrack as a whole is like.

"Redemption" has such a classic western sound to it, with the whistling, the whip-cracks, and lots of guitar. Really captures the exciting-but-sometimes-dark-and-pensive tone for the movie. 


"The Big Day" starts off all edgy and off-kilter, upping the tension handily. It builds slowly, finally reaching a moody climax that conveys more sorrow than triumph. 


Back to that main theme again that you heard in "Redemption," only this time it's presented with a clear and determined trumpet instead of whistling. Then, because this is played during the end credits and composers like to do this, it pulls in other themes from throughout the score, so that this one track is kind of a nice overview of the major themes.  In fact, it might be my favorite track on the whole album!


Silvestri's score for The Quick and the Dead is one of my favorites to write to, especially if I'm writing action scenes or gunfights.  But it's also great when I need a little burst of energy while cooking or doing housework.

(Most of this review originally appeared here at J and J Productions on October 22, 2015.)

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Giveaway Winners for LOWCW 2022 and Wrap Up

Y'all ready for this?  Here are this year's winners for my giveaway!


Prize One:  The Rare Breed (1966) on DVD -- Chloe the Movie Critic

Prize Two:  Angel and the Badman (1947) on DVD -- Eva S.

Prize Three:  Calamity Jane (1953) on DVD -- CC

Prize Four:  Cat Ballou (1965) on DVD -- Dennis S.

Prize Five:  Tall in the Saddle: Great Lines from Classic Westerns by Peggy Thompson and Saeko Usukawa -- Hannah

Prize Six:  Three stickers -- Andrea

Prize Seven:  A set of western-themed nail art decals -- Alicia

Congratulations to the winners!  Please check your email for a message from me regarding where to send your prize :-)


Thank you so much to everyone who contributed to this year's festivities!  We couldn't (and wouldn't) do this without you.

If you're like me and need to catch up on everyone's posts, here's that widget one last time with everyone's contributions, all rounded up in one handy little herd for your convenience.


Adios until next time!

Answers to Western Movie Poster Guessing Game

Alrighty, it's time to post the answers to my guessing game, with everyone's scores below :-)  How'd you do?

1 - The Searchers (1956)


2 - Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)


3 - Tombstone (1993)


4 - True Grit (2010)


5 - High Noon (1952)


6 - Blazing Saddles (1974)


7 - The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)


8 - Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)


9 - Ride the High Country (1962)


10 - The Man from Snowy River (1982)


SCORES

Andrea - 10
Classic TV Fan - 10
Elisabeth Grace Foley - 10
Eva - 9
Olivia - 8
Chloe the Movie Critic - 7
Heidi - 7
CC- 4
Lissa - 4

Nicely done, friends!  :-D

Friday, July 29, 2022

My Answers to This Year's LOWCW Tag

Every year, Olivia and Heidi and I have a lot of fun coming up with the questions for our tag.  Every year, I look forward to answering them myself.  And, every year, there's at least one question that stumps me or makes me have to think really hard about my answer.  Which is all part of the fun!  (This year it was question #9 that I struggled with.  Now you know.)

You can find the original tag here, on my kick-off post.  Also, don't forget that today is the LAST DAY to enter my giveaway!

If I've reviewed a movie I talk about here, I've linked its title to my full review, in case you're curious to read more about a particular film.

1) Favorite western focused on a lone hero? 

That would be 3:10 to Yuma (1957), in which struggling rancher Dan Evers (Van Heflin) singlehandedly stands up against an entire outlaw gang to take its leader, notorious Ben Wade (Glenn Ford) to the train that will transport him to prison.  It is a moody, atmospheric, aesthetically pleasing masterpiece of tension.



2) Favorite western focused on a group of compadres? 

The Magnificent Seven (1960), no contest.  It truly is magnificent.  The acting is superb, the writing is taut and masterful, and the score by Elmer Bernstein is one of the finest movie scores ever written.  I never, ever get tired of this movie.



3) Favorite western with a female main character? 

The Rare Breed (1966).  It's about a British widow (Maureen O'Hara) and her daughter (Juliet Mills) who bring a prize Hereford bull to the St. Louis stockyards to auction off.  They get worried that something terrible will befall the bull while it's being shipped to its new owner (Brian Keith) in Texas, so they insist on accompanying the man (James Stewart) tasked with delivering him.  It's a pretty unusual western in a lot of ways, and really enjoyable.



4) Favorite western with a POC main character? 

That would be Silverado (1985).  It has three main characters: Emmett (Scott Glenn), Paden (Kevin Kline), and Mal (Danny Glover), who join forces to take down a common enemy.  Mal's trying to save his family's homestead and convince his sister to abandon some questionable life choices she's been more or less forced to make.


Now, since Silverado is an ensemble piece, I'm going to answer this question twice so I can also mention Buck and the Preacher (1972) , which Sidney Poitier starred in and directed.  It's about African American pioneers seeking new homes in Kansas after the Civil War.  I highly recommend it to older teens and adults.  It probably hits a little too heavy for kids.



5) Favorite western with kids in it? 

Shane (1953) is told through the eyes of a boy (Brandon de Wilde) who idolizes the gunfighter (Alan Ladd) that his father (Van Heflin) and mother (Jean Arthur) have befriended and hired to work on their farm.  It's a beautiful meditation on what happens when a child idolizes an adult, and the kind of influence that idolization can have on the adult in question.  Shane works as hard as he can not to let that little boy down, but he works even harder to convince the boy that his own father is the real hero of the story.



6) Favorite western set somewhere other than the United States? 

The Man from Snowy River (1982).  It's also my favorite movie of all time, and it's all about a young man coming of age in Australia, finding work and falling in love and generally proving himself.  I saw this in the theater when I was two years old and fell in love with horses, Australia, and westerns all in one fell swoop.  It's been my favorite ever since.



7) Favorite "western" that doesn't fit the genre's dictionary definition? 

Well, The Proud Rebel (1958) takes place in Illinois, and so it's not technically a western.  But it feels like a western, so I call it one anyway.  It's about a man (Alan Ladd) searching for a doctor who can cure his mute son (David Ladd).  They end up working for a farmer (Olivia de Havilland) who's being harassed by some neighbors that want to buy her land, or force her off it if she won't sell.  And they have to overcome a bunch of problems, but they also form a nice little family in the process.



8) Favorite funny western? 

Support Your Local Sheriff (1969), always and forever.  A quirky, clever drifter (James Garner) takes the job as sheriff in a lawless goldrush town, makes a deputy out of the town drunk (Jack Elam), falls in love with the mayor's daughter (Joan Hackett), and dispatches a family of ne'erdowells, all in the most unconventional ways possible.  It's a spoof of western tropes, but such a loving spoof that its humor completely works.



9) Favorite tragic/sad western? 

The Alamo (1960).  Almost every single character dies.  Gloriously, yes, but still!  Tragic.  And yet, I watch it over and over.



10) Favorite western TV show?

The Big Valley (1965-69).  I love every member of the Barkley family, most especially Heath (Lee Majors) and Victoria (Barbara Stanwyck).  I want to be friends with them and hang out with them and go on adventures with them and just... can I either get adopted into or marry into that family already?  Please?


There you have it!  I can't believe that today is the last official day of Legends of Western Cinema Week already!  Like I said, if you haven't entered my giveaway yet, do that here.  And if you haven't made your guesses about my movie poster game yet, do that here.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

"Buck and the Preacher" (1972)

Black pioneers?  Black cowboys?  Did those exist?  Why, yes, as a matter of fact, they did.  Not only did they exist, they were a major force in settling the west, especially after the American Civil War.  Black pioneers headed west by the thousands, looking for a place to start over far from the land where they had been enslaved -- forty thousand or more.  Many of them were part of the 1879 "Exoduster Migration" to Kansas, but many others went in small groups whenever and however they could.

Sadly, Hollywood has largely ignored this aspect of Old West history.   Buck and the Preacher (1972) is the only feature film that focuses on this mass migration.  Black characters show up in other westerns, sure.  But they're usually side characters, co-stars, or part of an ensemble cast.  Buck and the Preacher broke that tradition.

Former Army sergeant Buck (Sidney Poitier) leads wagon trains of hopeful settlers to new homes on land they've purchased in Kansas.  He's done this successfully in the past, many times, paying the native tribes whose land they cross for safe passage and even supplies.  He's respected by the natives and trusted by the people he leads.


Some plantation owners in Louisiana get angry when all their former slaves decide to move west instead of staying on as sharecroppers to work the same land where they were once enslaved.  Those owners hire a killer called Deshay (Cameron Mitchell) to kill Buck and take the would-be settlers back to Louisiana.  Deshay and a band of vicious followers attack a wagon train Buck has just lead to land they've purchased and mean to settle.  The night riders kill most of the livestock and draft animals and terrorizing the people.


But Buck isn't there.  He's finished his job and headed off to visit his wife Ruth (Ruby Dee) at their own homestead.  Deshay tracks Buck there and try to ambush him, but he escapes.  


Buck leads his attackers away from his home and wife, pushing his horse until it's exhausted.  Then he spots an isolated campfire with an unattended horse.  Desperate to keep ahead of his pursuers, Buck decides to trade his horse for this fresh one, since its owner is nowhere around.


As a matter of fact, the horse's owner, a slick-talking con artist called Preacher (Harry Belafonte), is sitting naked in a nearby creek, reveling in a nice, cold bath.  Preacher notices Buck saddling up his horse and tries to stop him, but he's unarmed and unclothed, so there's not much he can do.  At least Buck leaves his own horse in trade and doesn't just strand Preacher there.


Of course, that's not the last time Buck and Preacher meet up.  Before long, they have reluctantly joined forces to outwit Deshay and his men.  


Buck is determined to lead another wagon train to Kansas, but Deshay attacks it and not only brutalizes and kills many of the pioneers, but finds and steals the money they were saving to buy food for the winter and seeds for the spring.  Without it, they will starve.


Buck and Preacher come up with a daring plan to steal the money back, with Buck's wife Ruth's help.  When it goes awry, they come up with an even more daring plan.  Once they've returned the money to the settlers, Buck and Ruth plan to head to Canada to start a family in a land untainted by even the memory of slavery.  Preacher's plans for the future remain ambiguous, even to him.


Sidney Poitier not only starred in this movie, he directed it too.  He wasn't planning to direct it, but the original director left early in the shooting, so Poitier took over, even though he had never directed a movie before.  He proved to have a talent for it, and went on to direct eight more movies after that.

This is one of the very rare 1970s westerns that I actually like.  It doesn't try to provide entertainment by being crude or gross, or by trying to shock or titillate the audience, which far too many '70s movies do.  Yes, it's violent, but the violence is more like a '60s western, not relying on gore or spurting blood to keep you interested in the story.  

Aside from the violence, is this movie family friendly?  Well, probably not for most kids, no.  There's one brief instance of rear male nudity as Preacher skedaddles out of the creek in an effort to stop Buck from taking his horse.  There's a little suggestive behavior and dialog, enough that it would be rated PG-13 today, but that rating didn't exist back in 1972.  It's implied that a woman was assaulted and probably raped.  The night riders patronize a whorehouse, though no adult activities are shown.  There's some bad language here and there.  I would not call this movie family friendly, but it would be good for older teens and adults to see because it presents an often-overlooked part of history in a respectful and uplifting way.  Or, you could watch it with a filtering service if any of them carry it.


This review is my latest addition to our 2022 Legends of Western Cinema Week celebration!  And, yes, the button above is a shot from this movie.  Click here to go to the main post and see the list of all the other things people have contributed to this event.  And don't forget to enter my giveaway!

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

My Ten Favorite Female-centric Westerns

When you think of western movies, I'm betting you think of stories that revolve around men.  Lone gunmen, groups of men, a man and a sidekick, and so on.  But there are actually quite a few westerns that are centered on women.  

Because people were grappling with life-and-death issues like food, shelter, and enemies trying to kill you in the Old West, they weren't always so caught up on little things like whether women should own and run businesses, boss men around, make decisions, choose their own husbands, defend themselves, own and work the land, and so on!  Hollywood has often used that reality to help tell stories about women that might not be suited to other time periods, including the ones they were making the movies in.

It may surprise you to find that 7/10 of the movies on this list were made before the year 1970.  Strong Female Characters might not be as recent a phenomenon as you've been led to believe.


Anyway!  Here they are :-)  Titles are linked to my reviews where applicable.

1. The Rare Breed (1966)

A British widow (Maureen O'Hara) and her daughter (Juliet Mills) accompany the prize bull they've sold on its way to its new owner (Brian Keith) with the help of a determined cowhand (James Stewart). I've seen this so often, the characters all feel like dear old friends.

2. The Quick and the Dead (1995)

A woman gunfighter (Sharon Stone) enters a quick-draw contest because she believes it's her best chance to avenge her father being murdered by a former outlaw (Gene Hackman).  This movie has one of my absolute favorite Russell Crowe characters in it, but the movie really belongs to The Lady.

3. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)

A woman (Jane Powell) marries a man (Howard Keel) she just met that same day, and she's excited about the prospect of keeping house for just the two of them, back up in the mountains where he lives.  He fails tell her he has six brothers back home that he expects her to cook for too, and she is less than amused when she finds out. Trust me, this retelling of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" is funnier than it sounds. Also, it has gobs and gobs of awesome dancing.


Penelope Worth (Gail Russell) might not be quite an angel, but then again, Quirt Evans (John Wayne) isn't quite a bad man either. Her Quaker family takes him in when he's wounded, and he does everything in his power to make sure they don't regret that decision even though he's pitted himself against some pretty desperate characters.  Of all the movies on this list, this is the only one where you could argue that the woman isn't the central character, but Penny is so pivotal that I really think it counts.

5. Australia (2008)

A determined Englishwoman (Nicole Kidman) and a drifting Drover (Hugh Jackman) struggle to save each other and an orphaned Aboriginal child (Brandon Walters) in Australia's Outback during World War Two. This is the only movie that has ever given me cowboys and WWII soldiers in the same story.

6. True Grit (2010)

A fourteen-year-old girl (Hailee Steinfeld) hires a crotchety US Marshal (Jeff Bridges) to track down the man who murdered her father, and insists on accompanying him on the quest.  I love the unusual flavor of this movie's dialog, which comes straight from the book by Charles Portis.  You can read my review of the book here.

7. Calamity Jane (1953)

A completely fictional story revolving around Calamity Jane (Doris Day), Wild Bill Hickock (Howard Keel), and a big mix-up involving a famous singer who is supposed to come to Deadwood, but doesn't.  My favorite thing about it is that Calamity Jane's character arc doesn't involve her gaining a husband by giving up her "outrageous" behavior of wearing buckskins and trousers, shooting at outlaws, and guarding stagecoaches.  Instead, she finds love with a man who appreciates who she already is, not who she could become.

8. Cat Ballou (1965)

Cat Ballou (Jane Fonda) comes home to her family's ranch just in time to witness her father's murder by the notorious (and noseless) Tim Strawn (Lee Marvin).  She straps on a gunbelt and sets out to avenge him, eventually gathering up an outlaw gang of comically inept ne'erdowells, including washed-up gunfighter Kid Shelleen (also Lee Marvin).  This is a wacky, wild movie, but I like it.

9. The Redhead from Wyoming (1953)

A beautiful woman (Maureen O'Hara) arrives in town and starts running a saloon and buying cattle, all at the behest of a former lover (Alexander Scourby) who is trying to start a range war between the big cattle barons and the smaller farmers and ranchers.  A new sheriff (Alex Nicol) stands up against him, and the woman has to choose which side she'll support because the townsfolk like her so much, they'll follow her, not either of the men.

10. Westward the Women (1951)

One hundred and forty women travel west in a wagon train to find new husbands.  On the way, they learn to hitch horses to wagons, shoot and hunt, ford rivers, and generally protect themselves while surviving.  It's one of the most realistic portrayals of a wagon train that I have seen.


You'll notice that four of these are currently part of my Legends of Western Cinema Week giveaway, just in case you want to get a chance to own and watch them for yourself!  And, yes, this top ten list has been one of my contributions to this year's LOWCW shindig.


If you enjoyed this list, you might also enjoy some of my other Top Ten Favorite lists: 


Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Western Movie Poster Guessing Game

I did a game like this a couple years ago and it was good fun, so I'm reviving it.  But with different posters so you can't look that old game up and cheat!

I've removed the titles of ten famous western movies from their official posters.  Your job?  Guess what those missing titles are!  Put your answers in the comments (which I am moderating so you can't copy each other), and I'll reveal the answers and everyone's scores at the end of the week.











Good luck!