Sunday, January 8, 2012

Rare Westerns on Netflix Instant Watch Capsule Reviews, vol.15

Two-Gun Lady (1955)

Peggie Castle plays an Annie Oakley style sharpshooter who comes to perform in a town, but is also looking for the men that killed her father many years prior. She teams up with a marshal who happens to be looking for the same men, and they find out that a local farming family was responsible. An interesting proto-feminist western that doesn’t shy away from its B-movie roots. The most interesting character is probably the farmer’s daughter, who is an innocent living among evil men out to destroy a feminist figure (the father says of his daughter: “she better be a good cook, cause she ain’t good for anything else”). She also looks up to Peggy as a feminist pop icon who, ironically, wants to murder most of her family, although it appears that the daughter would welcome it so she can finally be freed from this hateful patriarch. The daughter even defends Peggy as the fastest gun in the west to some boys that think girls can’t shoot. However, if you think feminism is actually a FBI conspiracy, please ignore most of this paragraph. Marie Windsor also plays a significant role.

Very good black and white transfer, and never released on home video.

Hellfire (1949)

Wild Bill Elliot plays a no good atheist who cheats at cards, which apparently was the worst offense one could commit in the old west. Correspondingly, the cheated tries to shoot Bill, but a bible thumping preacher that Bill previously scoffed at jumps in front of the bullet. On his death bed, the preacher asks him to read the bible and build a church in his name to repay him, in that order. Bill jumps aboard the Jesus bus and agrees to try to build this church, but finding funding proves difficult, until he happens upon uber-tough outlaw Marie Windsor, who happens to have a price on her head. Marie and Bill are entertaining in this Republic B-western that also doubles as a Christ-sploitation movie that was possibly created as a recruitment piece. Strange and campy in its bible-thumping, and amusingly slanted against non-believers (at one point an atheist character starts shooting at someone just for reading the bible).

Decent trucolor transfer (which is that two-strip teal tinted color process), but the sound is pretty poor (although you can make out the dialogue over the white noise if you turn it up a bit). Previously available on VHS.

Gun Fever (1958)

Mark Stevens wrote, directed, and stars in this one as Luke Ram (if you’re gonna give yourself a hero name, that’s the one you wanna pick), who seeks revenge against a scenery chewing white man who led a sioux attack on a stagecoach, killing his parents. Luke teams up with another dude who ends up being the villian’s son, and they are led through Sioux country by a hot native American chick, searching for their man. Standard revenge tale is cheap and bloated in the middle (it takes a long time to get to the actual quest for revenge), and lacks an interesting relationship between villian and son, but is enlivened by a few campy moments and the diametrically opposed performances of the lead baddie and the adorably sweet Sioux girl. Also, this is no doubt the windiest western ever made (only maybe Twister was windier in all of filmdom), as most every outdoor scene is supplemented by two gigantic wind machines cranking off screen. This adds some interesting atmosphere, although if I lived in a western town that resided permanantly within the eye of a tornado, I wouldn’t ever leave the house, even for revenge (or for anything really). But I guess that’s why Luke Ram is a man’s man and I'm not (insert forced Ram Jam reference here).

Excellent black and white transfer, and never released on home video.

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