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David F. Walker
Monthly: April 2018

Movie Poster of the Week (Special Edition) – FRIDAY the 13th

Seeing how today is Friday the 13th, it seems appropriate to feature the poster for the classic hack ’em-n-stack ’em flick of the same name. Believe it or not, I’ve never seen the original Friday the 13th, but I’ve always been fascinated with the poster. With more sequels than anyone can really keep track of (only a few of which I have seen), the first film in the series definitely has the best poster.

 

BadAzz MoFo’s Spaghetti Western Archive – DEATH RIDES A HORSE

This grim tale of vengeance starts when young Bill Mecita witnesses the brutal murder of his family by a group of marauding bandits. An unseen stranger saves Bill from the family’s burning house, and fifteen years later the boy has grown up to be John Philip Law (Golden Voyage of Sinbad). And if you were to guess that Bill has spent the last decade and a half training himself to become a well-oiled killing machine with only one thing on his mind, then you wouldn’t be too far off base. Bill is looking to send the varmints that butchered his family on a one way trip to Boot Hill. But it seems our hero ain’t the only one looking for a little pay back. A gunslinger named Ryan (Lee Van Cleef), fresh out of prison, has a few scores to settle, and his path of revenge crosses with that of our beloved Bill. Will the two men come to see that they can both join together on their murder-happy spree, or will they allow petty differences like blinding hatred and the all consuming need for vengeance to keep them apart?

Directed by Giulio Petroni, and accompanied by Ennio Morricone’s score, Death Rides a Horse is a shining moment in a genre that was more often than not plagued with some truly crappy filmmaking. Petroni’s only other western is the largely forgotten (but still solidly entertaining) Tepepa (a.k.a. Blood and Guns), starring Tomas Milian and Orson Welles. Yeah, that’s right, even Orson Welles was in spaghetti westerns. Luciano Vincenzoni’s screenplay is one of the better scripts the genre has to offer, which should come as no surprise, since he was one of the writers on Leone’s For a Few Dollars More, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and Duck, You Sucker, as well as Sergio Corbucci’s A Professional Gun. Vincenzoni cannbalizes elements of For a Few Dollars More, but that’s kind of common practice in this genre.

When it comes to leading men in spaghetti westerns, John Philip Law stands somewhere in the middle of the road. He certainly doesn’t have the charism of the best leading men—Franco Nero, Tomas Milian, Gianni Garko, to name a few—but he isn’t the worst. Law’s biggest problem is that at times his performance resembles that of a plank of wood. And even when he’s not wooden, he still seems like he has a pole up his ass. In a lesser film, Law’s acting might break the movie, but Death Rides a Horse is not a lesser film, and balancing out Law’s tepid charisma is Lee Van Cleef. This was Van Cleef’s first Italian western after The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, and he steals the film—elevating it to a level well above so many other genre entries—and giving it one of the more inspired performances of what would become a long career in the spaghetti westerns.

With the exception of Clint Eastwood, no American actor is more closely associated with spaghetti westerns than Van Cleef. Before becoming a huge star in Europe, he was an American character actor who’d been turning up in film and television for more than a decade. Despite more than one hundred appearances on just about every television western you can name, plus other shows like Perry Mason, The Untouchables, and The Twilight Zone, and even classic films like High Noon, Van Cleef wasn’t exactly a name commodity. In fact, if Sergio Leone hadn’t cast him as one of the protagonists in For a Few Dollars More, and then again as one of the villains in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, chances are Van Cleef’s career would have never amounted to much more than a series of supporting performances as henchman and heavies on shows like Bonanza and The Rifleman. But Leone’s two films reinvigorated Van Cleef’s career, and turned him into a major star. He would go on to star in over a dozen more spaghetti westerns, including his own franchise film, Sabata. And yet with all these westerns starring Van Cleef to chose from, with the exception of Leone’s film, it is difficut to find one better than Death Rides a Horse, a true genre classic.

Get this review and dozens more in my electronic book, BadAzz MoFo’s Book of SPAGHETTI WESTERNS.

Movie Poster of the Week – THUNDER (a.k.a. THUNDER WARRIOR)

BadAzz MoFo’s celebration of the art of the movie poster (though not necessarily the movie itself).

I absolutely love the poster director Fabrizio De Angelis’s shameless First Blood rip-off, Thunder (a.k.a. Thunder Warrior). Seriously, this is one of my all-time favorite exploitation posters (this version is from the Italian release). The irony, of course, is that this movie is more than a piece of shit, it is an entire pile of steaming shit. But as I keep saying over and over again, the Movie Poster of the Week has nothing to do with the quality of the movie itself, as it does the pure beauty of the poster. And this poster is gorgeous—at least within the context of the genre. Even lead actor Mark Gregory, best known for his work in 1990: The Bronx Warriors, looks kind of like an actual action hero in this image.  As a bonus, I’m also showcasing the poster for Thunder III (a.k.a. Thunder Warrior III), also directed by De Angelis (a.k.a. Larry Ludman), this poster for the video release is pretty badass too, but not quite as bombastic as the first. And it should come as no surprise that the third movie also sucks. For some reason I’ve never seen the second film in the Thunder series, which may explain why I have so much trouble sleeping at night.

Movie Poster of the Week – AMIN: THE RISE AND FALL

BadAzz MoFo’s celebration of the art of the movie poster (though not necessarily the movie itself).

I’d be a liar liar, with my pants on fire if I said Amin: The Rise and Fall (a.k.a. The Rise and Fall of Idi Amin) was a good movie. It’s not a good movie—it’s a great movie!!! Of course, by “great movie” I really mean that it is an exploitative bit of grindhouse schlock from the sadly neglected ripped-from-the-headlines genre that once cranked out classics like Guyana: Cult of the Damned. But more important—as it relates to the Movie Poster of the Week—this is one badass, kickass, bat-shit-crazy poster. Check out both versions of this poster. The painting of buggy-eyed actor Joseph Olita as the kill-crazy Ugandan dictator Idi Amin captures almost everything you need to know about this flick.

The only thing missing from either of these versions are the decapitated human heads in the refrigerator and cannibalism (both of which are in the actual movie). Still, this is a much better poster than the one for the disappointing movie The Last King of Scotland, which sadly did not go far enough in portraying Amin as the lunatic he was. I mean look at that poster below, and tell me which movie you would rather see.

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