Saturday, April 3, 2021

Quickshots- Glorious

Can you get excited about a novel that telegraphed it's big mystery around page three?

Sure you can!  Journalist Jeff Guinn's Glorious is a pretty good modern western novel.  Set in St. Louis and Arizona in the 1860s, it plays well with some of the historical oddities of the period like the Robber Barons, impromptu mining towns, prospector culture, and the start of the big cattle ranches.  As a change of pace the hero is no kind of gunslinger; he fires a gun a handful of times at the end of the novel, and is more likely to talk his way out of trouble.

Guinn's writing is fun, fast, and readable.  Glorious is the first of the Cash McLendon trilogy, with the next featuring buffalo hunting and the Battle of Adobe Wells.  As soon as I finished Glorious I read 50 pages of Buffalo Trail (#2) and started looking for Silver City (#3).  Guinn will probably not hit my list of all time favorites, but the books are worth the time. 

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Guns and Guts! A Better Than Expected Wild Bunch Ripoff

I may have found the perfect western- or at least the perfect guilty pleasure western.  Las Viboras Cambian de Peil, known in English as "Guns and Guts", is a 1974 Spaghetti western homage to Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch with a big slice of western decadence on the side.  Excepting that it was made in Mexico.  I swear I've seen the term "Tortilla Western" somewhere, but I'm not sure if that's a real expression or a "build the wall" douchebag style term.  Regardless, the film has a real Eurotrash feel to it, with a hero ("El Pistolero") looking a bit more like an Italian fashion model than a hardened gunslinger.  It works, because while El Pistolero makes his living with a gun, his real passion in life is prostitutes (just like his Mama!).  This sets the stage for a regular rotation of nude or scantily clad saloon girls and soiled doves making their way through the film.  The title could have been "Guns and Guts and Boobs".

Keep in mind that there are still plenty of both guns and guts.  Shootouts are frequent and increase in violence each time.  I get a sense that director Rene Cardona sat down with his visual effects guys and said "can you get me 50% of The Wild Bunch look on 10% of the budget?", and they did a decent job.  The blood tends to leak out of the squibs instead of splatter, and it's a little more orange than you would think, but it's effective.  The final gunfight is in some ways a direct rip off of the cataclysmic ending of The Wild Bunch.

What's that, you say?  What's the plot?  We don't need to stinking plot!  Just kidding.  It's a tough plot to explain, since the "hero" has by the end quadruple or quintuple crossed just about everyone in the film, setting up an assassination so he can retire to a found a personal brothel in Montana.  I think it was Montana, there were lots of breasts on the screen at the time and I think I lost track of the details.

It's that kind of movie. Don't sweat the details, just sit back and enjoy.  Currently found on Tubi, another good review found here.

PS- Google translate is stymied by the original Spanish title, it may be something like "The Serpent Sheds It's Skin".

Typical scene from the film

Friday, February 19, 2021

Crossed: Garth Ennis takes on Blood Meridian

In the middle of a resurging pandemic with a non-zero chance of a civil war in the next year, I decided to read Garth Ennis’ Crossed.  

Most people likely know Garth Ennis from the books he’s written that have gone on to be television series (Preacher on AMC and The Boys on Amazon).  Ennis’ big jump into comics was in fact with Preacher, way back in 1994, where he explicitly set out to write a western, but turned it on it’s side with the modern time period, metaphysical plot, crude humor, and general insanity.


Ennis’ work comes in two flavors- derivative nonsense (Streets of Glory) and pure genius (Saint of Killers).  Sometimes he manages to do both in the same book (Punisher: Born).  From the outside Crossed looks like something completely derivative, just being Ennis’ take on the ever popular Zombie Apocalypse.  Once I got a few issues in it became clear that just as Preacher is inspired by a broad brush of western tropes, Crossed is inspired by Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian.


In this story an unknown event infects a mass of the population.  Rather than turning them to zombies, it strips away social constructs like morality, guilt, or conscience, leaving nothing but rage and depravity.  The infection leaves a cross-shaped rash on their faces; someone who is infected is referred to as having “crossed” over.  A group of survivors make their way through the wilderness to safety, dogged for hundreds of miles by a pack of Crossed.


There’s a point in the story where a group of Crossed makes an attack, and it immediately looked like the Indian attack that broke up Glanton’s gang in Blood Meridian: 

“A legion of horribles, hundreds in number, half naked or clad in costumes attic or biblical or wardrobed out of a fevered dream with the skins of animals and silk finery and pieces of uniform still tracked with the blood of prior owners, coats of slain dragoons, frogged and braided cavalry jackets, one in a stovepipe hat and one with an umbrella and one in white stockings and a bloodstained wedding veil and some in headgear or cranefeathers or rawhide helmets that bore the horns of bull or buffalo and one in a pigeontailed coat worn backwards and otherwise naked and one in the armor of a Spanish conquistador, the breastplate and pauldrons deeply dented with old blows of mace or sabre done in another country by men whose very bones were dust and many with their braids spliced up with the hair of other beasts until they trailed upon the ground and their horses' ears and tails worked with bits of brightly colored cloth and one whose horse's whole head was painted crimson red and all the horsemen's faces gaudy and grotesque with daubings like a company of mounted clowns, death hilarious, all howling in a barbarous tongue and riding down upon them like a horde from a hell more horrible yet than the brimstone land of Christian reckoning, screeching and yammering and clothed in smoke like those vaporous beings in regions beyond right knowing where the eye wanders and the lip jerks and drools.”


Ennis’ nine issue first story of Crossed is a horrible, hopeful, and brilliant western.  It'll break your heart.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Quickshots- The Hawkline Monster


Two turn of the century gunslinging hitmen from the Pacific Northwest are hired by a white woman in native dress named Magic Child to kill the monster that lives in the ice caves in the basement of her father’s mansion in remote Oregon.  Yes, you read that right, and it actually gets weirder from there.  This short novel from the 1970s is best described as a literary gothic horror weird western Lovecraftian comedy.  Also, sexy times.  Pretty great read. 

Gaming notes- this book makes a great inspiration for a Call of Cthulhu scenario.  Set in 1902, it’s right smack between the traditional Call of Cthulhu time setting (1920s) and the Down Darker Trails setting (1880s).


The Hawkline Monster - Photo Gallery - IMDb

Friday, February 5, 2021

Quickshots- Western Religion


Western Religion Movie Watch Online | Find Where to Stream Full Movie in HD  @ 24reel 

Tubi, a free streaming service, has become one of my go to sources of entertainment.  While I love period dramas like The Son, Peaky Blinders, and Babylon Berlin, they require solid attention.  Sometimes you just want to zone out, and Tubi serves up a bunch of mostly forgettable content like low-budget westerns.  One surprise was Western Religion, which kept my attention the whole way through.  With a classic plot of a collection of misfit gamblers assembling at a frontier town for a poker tournament, the film is highly laced with Biblical and occult references to the point where some of it blends into another favorite genre of mine, the Occult Detectives.  There’s a “grey wizard” and a man with a ghostly companion, and an bisexual Austrian morphine & cocaine fiend named Salt Peter (a nod to Saint Peter, perhaps).  The film had a $250,000 budget, so don’t expect a lot, but it’s good Weird Western fun.


Western Religion (2015) - Once Upon a Time in a Western
Salt Peter, the bisexual Austrian dope fiend

Friday, January 29, 2021

Quickshots- Westworld


Watch Westworld - Season 1 | Prime Video

Season 1- This is the best thing ever on television

Season 2- Really liked that Raj scene, couldn’t get myself to finish the season

Season 3- Is this thing still on?

Friday, January 22, 2021

Quickshots- Trailblazer Trailblazer One Shot (9781607063858): Jimmy Palmiotti: Books 

Not good.  Palmiotti and Gray have written some great westerns, and this isn’t one of them.  Interesting concept (hitman goes into witness protection that happens to be in the old west) that could have been held up with decent art, but this is like the Rob Liefeld’s understudies got together and decided to try a western.  Ugh. Cover art is great, though!