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Cowboys & Kiwis - AKA Beauty & The Bodice

By Bennett Owen

The film is called ‘Good For Nothing’ and will go down as the first western movie ever filmed in New Zealand, which I guess is good for something.  It’s been doing the rounds of the film festivals to generally positive reviews and will see limited US release this spring.

Credit: GoodforNothingMovieFrom what I’ve seen of it, the scenery alone might be worth the price of admission…

Credit: GoodforNothingMovieThe title takes on a fully new meaning as the film unfolds.  Basically it tells the story of a young British lady kidnapped by a merciless desperado…who in turn is ‘humbled’ in his efforts to make a woman of the lass.  

The Hollywood Reporter describes the film thusly: “Imagine a Kiwi Spaghetti Western filtered through the offbeat sensibilities of early Sam Raimi or the Coen brothers.”

Director Mike Wallis and his fiancée, co- producer and female lead Inge Rademeyer, funded the shoot.

Credit: GoodforNothingMovie"We were going to buy a house but instead we made a movie," Rademeyer said.

This is also Rademeyer’s film acting debut and US critics have given her positive reviews.

Five years in the making, the very fact that this project is seeing the light of day is a tribute to the grit and determination of its makers and their utter defiance of the odds.   The pioneer spirit, alive and well down under.


When Legend Becomes Fact, Print the Legend

By Bennett Owen

Credit: gonemovies.comI know, I know, I’ve said it about ‘Lonesome Dove’ and ‘High Plains Drifter’ and ‘Red River’ and ‘Magnificent Seven’ and both versions of 3:10 to Yuma … hell I probably even said it about ‘Silvarado’. But after yet another viewing last night I am now unequivocally stating that ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’ truly is the best western movie of them all.  Take a look:

There is so much going on in this movie and at so many levels it’s hard to keep track of it all.  At the very least it features the colossal personas of John Wayne, James Stewart and the incomparable Lee Marvin. 

Credit: 1001afilmodysseyMarvin as Liberty Valance embodies one of the most malevolent and wholly irredeemable creatures in motion pictures, a loathsome miscreant who thrives on fear and violence. 

Credit: cinema.deHe finds a pigeon in Stewart’s Rance Stoddard, an adventurous, idealistic eastern lawyer seeking his fortune out west … and bringing with him notions of civilization that the town of Shinebone is nowhere near ready for. Feisty and short-tempered in his own right, Rance is by no means a coward … yet what he fears most is the quick erosion of his principles.

Credit: © 1962 ParamountAnd of course, John Wayne. As Tom Doniphon, he’s the pioneer archetype, a man for whom the law is a matter of steady nerves and a quick draw.  And yet with his essential decency, he and those like him pave the way for justice and democratic rule.

But at the bottom of this story remains one essential truth. The action here is motivated less by good and evil…less by the endeavor to bring a fearsome criminal to justice and a measure of order to a lawless land ... than by a jealousy-fueled rivalry for a woman’s love.

Credit: cinegeekRealizing he has lost her heart, Wayne’s Doniphon loses his own too, bitter and increasingly self-destructive … until at the very end, he settles things the only way he sees fit … and in doing so saves the life of the very man who robbed him of his true love.   The scene was heart-stopping when I was 10 years old … it was heart-stopping last night.

The admission is also a selfless act and yet we all know their shared secret will haunt Stoddard for the rest of his life. For he’ll be living a lie, a legend, not for his legal brilliance but as, “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.”

By the way, this was both Wayne’s first picture with James Stewart and his last Western with legendary director John Ford.

When legend becomes fact print the legend. So there you have it. The best Western movie of all time. At least until my next viewing of “The Professionals.”

Related Stories:

Rifleman Redux

Fistful of Giggles – The Five Funniest Westerns

10 Outstanding Westerns of the New Millennium



Rifleman Redux

By Bennett Owen

Chuck Connors as Lucas McCain, The Rifleman, Credit: theuglybug

Oh my God! This is too good to be true! Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, The Rifleman is returning to a home entertainment system (AKA boob tube) near you!  CBS is working on a reboot of the original hit that made Chuck Conners a household name in the early 60s:

By the way, the original was produced by Hollywood legend Sam Peckinpah…he knew a thing or two about box office appeal.

Credit: Sneakpeek

Credit: Sneakpeek

But as the LA Times reports, Rifleman is just the tip of the iceberg, as Tinseltown recognizes the blowout success of True Grit, 3:10 to Yuma, HBO’s Deadwood and the solid current performance of Hell on Wheels on AMC.

Credit: tvworthwatching

Quoting the Times: “the timing may be right for a revival of a genre that glorifies open spaces, opportunity and rough individualism, industry watchers say.”

But the new generation of westerns won’t be the classic good guy/bad guy 1950/60s fare. CBS is reportedly also developing a show about a cowboy cop in 1950s Las Vegas.

NBC is said to be working on two western sagas including one told from a female perspective.

ABC has given the go-ahead to two series’ tentatively entitled ‘Hangtown’ and ‘Gunslinger.’

Hangtown is intriguing…described as ‘Tombstone meets Castle,’ it centers on the crime fighting teamwork of a traditional Marshall…an East Coast forensic physician…and a female pulp fiction writer. Creator Ron Moore (Battlestar Galactica) describes it as, “a broad adventure with a high fun quotient.”

Fox is developing a series revolving around the legendary Wyatt Earp. And Ron Howard is putting together an HBO series with Doc Holliday as the main character. 

Wyatt Earp. Credit: kpbs and the Craig Foults Collection

A&E may soon give the go-ahead to "Longmire," about a widowed sheriff in Wyoming.  Goodness me, the list is long and irresistible.

The Times warns us to expect a high body count in the new offerings, with a premium on authenticity. As one studio exec puts it, "These stories are distinctly American, and they're timeless. I think audiences are looking for something clear-cut and unambiguous."

And let’s face it you can’t get any more unambiguous than the Rifleman.

Credit: tvparty


Full Head of Steam - Hell on Wheels Debut

By Bennett Owen

Credit: AMCTV

Despite scathing reviews, Hell on Wheels had one of the strongest debuts ever on AMC, attracting 4.4 million viewers last night.  It’s a post Civil War yarn about a revenge seeking gunslinger who takes a job on the railroad as it pushes westward.  It sounds like a great premise to me, but one critic described it as ‘a humorless Blazing Saddles.’

AMC points out that the young adult demographic was particularly strong. I read that to mean, ’20 something’ guys. Alright, so maybe this isn’t the series that will re-launch the TV western, but it is further proof that the genre is making a comeback.  Although… let’s just not mention Cowboys & Aliens.

Credit: AMCTV


Fistful of Giggles - The Five Funniest Westerns

By Bennett Owen

Mae West and W. C. Fields in My Little Chickadee. Credit: FadedVideoLabels

No strangers to controversy, the My-West staff has compiled THE definitive list of funniest westerns ever. Accept no substitutes.

We're not talking films with humorous elements. We mean movies that start out with a side order of smiles and finish off 90 minutes later with a full plate of sore ribs.  Here we go:

Number 5 - Texas Across the River - 1966 - Dean Martin, Alain Dellon, with Joey Bishop as an Indian (not so) Brave with a Yiddish-sounding name - Kronk.  In my favorite scene Kronk fires his pistol and two marauding Indians fall from their horses. Out of ammunition he THROWS the pistol...and again two Indians topple over. Here's the trailer:


Number 4 - Support Your Local Sheriff – 1969 - James Garner steals the show. A cowboy headed for Australia stops long enough to clean up a gold rush town, aided only by his sixth sense and a dim but loyal sidekick played by Jack Elam.  In this classic scene, the Sheriff puts a bad guy (Bruce Dern) in a jail cell that has no bars:

Number 3 - The Three Amigos – 1986 - An underrated comedy but with Martin Short, Chevy Chase and Steve Martin the laughs are guaranteed. Three washed-up silent movie stars help a Mexican village face down some real life banditos:

Number 2  - My Little Chickadee – 1940 - WC Fields and My-West namesake Mae West star in this romp about a Con Man and a show girl.  It’s funny from start to the very finish when “The End” flashes up on West’s wiggling posterior.

Money Quote:   Fields: My heart is a bargain, will you take me?
                       West: (eyeing bag full of money) I'll take you and how...

In this clip "Sheriff" Cuthbert J. Twillie finds himself tending bar...and contending with a pint-sized powder keg.

Number 1 - Blazing Saddles - 1974 - What else?  This movie is so utterly irreverent that there is no way it could be made today but Mel Brooks made movie history with the best genre spoof of all time.  The belly laughs begin with the theme song and linger on long after our heroes ride off into the that stretch limo.  In this scene Mexicans, the Klan and the Vatican all get the treatment …

So there you have it, the definitive list…at least until the Lone Ranger remake comes out!