When I was a kid I thought they were totally lame. Bunch of dudes on horses? No machine guns? No martial arts? No lasers? Not to mention that as near as I could tell, all these movies were OLD (eek!) and being a kid, I only wanted to see the newest stuff. Seriously, I remember turning down watching "Rio Bravo"
with my Dad to see "Flash Gordon"
for the fifth time. I don’t mind telling you now, I was an idiot. Here it is now, decades later, and I’ve made it my life’s work to catch up on all the fan-frelling-tastic iconic masterpieces I missed due to my distrust of anyone wearing a cowboy hat. While this phobia still extends to anyone who carries a guitar at the same time, the dudes with the stetsons AND the six-guns have officially become way cool in my book. It took a fandom of samurai films
first to figure it out, but now I’ve got years of entertainment ahead of me and some of the best movies ever made to watch and munch a bag of peanut butter covered pretty-much-anything to.
A good place to start for anyone would be the two new western box sets from the Warner Brothers collection
. They sent me so many gorram westerns at once, I have barely even BEGUN to dig in but let’s take a look anyway (because otherwise I’ll be reviewing these damn things six months after their release and sooner or later I gotta get to something else.)
ERROL FLYNN: THE WARNER BROS WESTERN COLLECTION
I knew about Errol Flynn
, one of the most famous and suave leading men in history, mainly from the arguably best ever version of Robin Hood
and his iconic career making swashbuckler films like Captain Blood
. I had no idea he had ever worn the white hat in the wild west. This collection puts together 4 of his ‘place name’
(1940): Directed by Michael Curtiz
and also stars Miriam Hopkins
, Randolph Scott
and Humphrey Bogart
This was the best of the films I’ve had time to watch from this set. Flynn
is a union officer during the civil war who has to track down Scott
who is trying to sneak a large shipment of gold out of the Union dominated Virginia City
in order to fund a last-ditch attempt from the south to stay in the war. Getting in the way is Hopkins
who is love-triangled between her secret devotion to the Confederate leanings of Scott
and a irresistible desire to make kissy face with Flynn
’s smaller role as a Mexican bandito is hysterical, bringing me back to Charlton Heston
’s Hispanic turn in "Touch of Evil"
or Mickey Rooney
as a Japanese feller in "Breakfast at Tiffany's"
...it’s sort of embarrassing now. Regardless of the racial problems, this has some stunt work that would be impressive even by today’s standards and more than enough drama and action to keep anyone’s butt glued down for two hours.
(1945): Directed by David Butler
and also stars Alexis Smith
Meh. Only a western this
gay (not that there's anything wrong with that) would be nominated for Oscars for Best Song and Best Art Direction. Flying Spaghetti Monster
please save me from cowboy movies with constant song and dance numbers. Flynn
is a cattle rancher who has had his entire stock stolen from him by a rich evil dude who controls downtown (well, that’s all there was pretty much) San Antonio
. He rides in to eventually settle the score but only after sitting through an interminable amount of dancing and singing from his girl-toy, Smith
. Eventually it gets to a nice shoot-up at the end culminating in the old burned out Alamo
, but it sure takes it’s time getting there.
(1950): Directed by Ray Enright
and also starring Alexis Smith
is an Australian (who mind you, doesn’t even ATTEMPT an appropriate accent) who wants to bring sheep into Montana
, but there’s a long and bitter history between sheep herders and cattle men up there and some sort of urban myth everyone believes about sheep keeping cattle from being able to feed or some such bulldren. Flynn
tricks one of the local major land owning anti-sheepites (Smith
) into leasing him some land for him and his sheep by making with the Flynn
charm on her. OH MY GOD is Alexis Smith
hawt in this. Red hair, demon eyes...totally my kryptonite. I can't believe she was the same girl annoying the crap outta me in San Antonio.
makes for a fun time watching Flynn
be slick and of course excel at everything he tries from bronco busting to guitar playing (just the once, luckily) until it all culminates in the ultimate legendary battle of stock footage of cattle versus stock footage of sheep.
(1950): Directed by William Keighley
and also starring Slim Pickens
(in his debut) and Patrice Wymore
(who married Flynn
a few weeks before release)
The last western Errol Flynn
made puts him in Confederate shoes this time, leading a group to California to enlist more soldiers but the Indians are determined to stand in the way (as Indians back in those fictional days were wont to do.) I’m gonna be honest and tell ya I didn’t get around to watching this one, but I will for sure. Come on, Slim Pickens
in his first role? I gotta see this for that alone.
The coolest thing about this set (other than the BEAUTIFUL transfers) is that each disk comes packed with a bunch of shorts appropriate to the time that would have been the sort of thing they played before the movies back then. Hear that, kids? Instead of an hour worth of commercials for Axe body spray
you got Looney Tunes
cartoons, western short films, newsreels, and who knows what else. I think we ended up getting the short end of the stick.
WARNER WESTERN CLASSICS COLLECTION
Unfortunately, the powers that be sent this to me about a week after its release date so I haven’t be able to watch any of the films yet but with some of the big stars in these, completely remastered transfers and especially with the wonderful John Sturges
(The Great Escape
, The Magnificent Seven
) helming two of them, you can be damn sure I will. Regardless, here’s a little taste of what the set has to offer:
Escape From Fort Bravo
(1954) Directed by John Sturges
and starring William Holden
, Eleanor Parker
and John Forsythe
Many Rivers to Cross
(1955) Directed by Roy Rowland
and starring Robert Taylor
and Eleanor Parker
(1960) Directed by Anthony Mann
and starring Glenn Ford
, Maria Schell
and Anne Baxter
The Law and Jake Wade
(1958) Directed by John Sturges
and starring Robert Taylor
, Patricia Owens
and Richard Widmark
Saddle in the Wind
(1959) Directed by Robert Parrish
and starring Robert Taylor
, Julie London
and John Cassavetes
(and written by Rod Serling
from “The Twilight Zone”
The Stalking Moon
(1958) Directed by Robert Mulligan
and starring Gregory Peck
and Eva Marie Saint
Unfortunately, there appear to be no discernible extras on these aside from some original trailers for the films, but for the cheap price it’s still more than worth the while for any old west fans.
Do yourself a favor and if you haven’t yet, get yoself some movie edumacation and some classics to make your collection look more classy, representing one of the only American invented major art forms. Whether you go with the Clint Eastwood
classics, John Wayne
’s trademarked swagger or just pick up either one of these great new box sets, you’ll be doing yourself a favor as a movie fan. It's time to "cowboy up" and expand your mind, my friends (and after watching ten westerns in a row, most likely your ass will follow by expanding as well.)
Click Here to Buy the "Errol Flynn Westerns Collection"
Click Here to Buy the "Warner Western Classics Collection"