Also known as: The Silent Flute (working title) Release Date: July 25th, 1978 (France) Directed by: Richard Moore Written by: Bruce Lee, James Coburn, Stirling Silliphant, Stanley Mann Music by: Bruce Smeaton Cast: David Carradine, Christopher Lee, Jeff Cooper, Roddy McDowall, Eli Wallach, Anthony De Longis, Earl Maynard, Erica Creer
Sandy Howard/Richard St. Johns Productions, AVCO Embassy Pictures, 102 Minutes
“Tie two birds together. Even though they have four wings they cannot fly.” – Blind Man
The concept and story for this film were developed by the legendary Bruce Lee and he was even slated to star in it but, as we all know, he died really young and with that he never got to see this go into production.
A few years after Lee’s death, however, this project got the green light and David Carradine was given the multiple roles that would’ve gone to Lee. What’s strange about that is Carradine was also given the main role in the television series Kung Fu, which Lee said was a role that was also originally meant for him.
This movie also has several legendary actors in minor roles. We see Christopher Lee, Roddy McDowall and Eli Wallach all pop up for different sequences. And honestly, all of them took this really seriously and gave solid performances.
The lead actor was the only really unknown to me but he was good with the material, believable as a hero and you bought into his arduous and challenging journey, which was more about self discovery than what he thought it was about upon starting the journey.
One thing I personally dig about this is that it’s a martial arts flick but it has more of a sword and sorcery aesthetic to it. Granted, there aren’t buff dudes with swords, it’s just a really cut, physically fit guy using his kung fu to conquer his challenges.
Being that this was Bruce Lee’s concept also means that it is much more philosophical than your standard beat’em up movie. It probably isn’t as philosophical as what Lee would’ve done had he been alive to make this but his spirit still exists in this and is weaved into every important scene.
This film surprised me. I figured that I would enjoy it but it definitely exceeded the expectations I had for it and I’d now rank it pretty high up on my list of favorite David Carradine movies.
Rating: 7.5/10 Pairs well with: other martial arts flicks of the ’70s and ’80s, as well as sword and sorcery pictures of the same era.
Young Guns was kind of a big deal when it came out in 1988. It had hip young stars and it was a western in a decade where they weren’t too popular. It was like a gritty, Brat Packy action flick that saw our heroes face off against one of the greatest western villains of all-time, Jack Palance.
And then there was a sequel, which brought in some other young stars on the rise.
Since it has been awhile since I’ve seen these two movies, I felt like it was time to revisit them.
Young Guns (1988):
Release Date: August 12th, 1988 Directed by: Christopher Cain Written by: John Fusco Music by: Anthony Marinelli, Brian Banks Cast: Emilio Estevez, Kiefer Sutherland, Lou Diamond Phillips, Charlie Sheen, Dermot Mulroney, Casey Siemaszko, Terry O’Quinn, Jack Palance, Terence Stamp
Morgan Creek Productions, 20th Century Fox, 103 Minutes
“Hey, Peppin. I see you got Charley Crawford down there with you.” – Billy the Kid, “Yeah, that’s right, Bonney. We got a whole…” – Peppin, [Bonney goes to the window and shoots Charley Crawford] “Hey, Peppin. Charley Crawford’s not with you anymore.” – Billy the Kid
While I still enjoyed this movie, so many years after I had seen it last, it isn’t a film that has aged well. Still, it has a lot of high adrenaline moments and a great young cast of up and coming talented actors. It just feels very ’80s and kind of hokey, at points.
Emilio Estevez is the star of the picture but he is surrounded by Kiefer Sutherland and Lou Diamond Phillips, who would also join him in the sequel, as well as his brother Charlie Sheen, Dermot Mulroney and Casey Siemaszko. There is also Jack Palance as the villain, Terence Stamp as the mentor and John Locke himself, Terry O’Quinn, as an ally of sorts.
It is cool seeing these guys come together for a real balls to the wall adventure but the writing was pretty weak. This chapter in Billy the Kid’s life was interesting to see on screen but the movie does take some liberties, albeit not as many as its sequel.
Estevez is really enjoyable as William H. Bonney and he made the historical figure cool, even if he was a killer and not a very good person. He embraced the role, ran with it and gave it a lot of energy that someone else probably wouldn’t have been able to muster. At least not quite the same way Estevez did. Plus, I always like seeing him act with his brother. Sadly, Sheen doesn’t last too long and obviously didn’t return for the sequel after meeting his demise in this one.
Problems aside, Young Guns is still entertaining and a really fun movie. This one is considered the superior of the two but I actually like Young Guns II a hair bit more.
Rating: 7/10 Pairs well with:Young Guns II.
Young Guns II (1990):
Release Date: August 1st, 1990 Directed by: Geoff Murphy Written by: John Fusco Music by: Alan Silvestri, Jon Bon Jovie Cast: Emilio Estevez, Kiefer Sutherland, Lou Diamond Phillips, Christian Slater, William Petersen, Alan Ruck, Balthazar Getty, James Coburn, Jenny Wright, Robert Knepper, Viggo Mortensen, Tracey Walter, Bradley Whitford,
Morgan Creek Productions, 20th Century Fox, 104 Minutes
“Yoohoo. I’ll make you famous!” – Billy the Kid
Young Guns II was a good sequel to the first. It’s far from a perfect film and has its share of issues but it feels consistent with its predecessor and I liked the additions to the cast in this one. And then there is the sexy bare ass scene with Jenny Wright that really got me excited when I was an 11 year-old in the movie theater seeing her majestic bum on a thirty foot screen. It was one of those special moments in life where you truly believe that God is real and he’s your best friend.
The soundtrack by Jon Bon Jovi makes the film feel dated but the instrumental versions of his pop rock song are still enjoyable and give the film an extra level of hipness that the previous picture didn’t have.
I really like the addition of Christian Slater here and he is my favorite character in this film series. I also liked seeing Alan Ruck and Balthazar Getty join the gang. Another plus for me was seeing Bradley Whitford get a small but important role, as I always liked him, even if I only knew him as being a dirtbag in several ’80s teen comedies. Whitford would go on to have a pretty nice career where he could show off his acting prowess much more effectively than his earlier roles.
While the big finale in the first film was bigger than anything that happens in this one, this film has a grittier feel to it, which I liked. I also liked that it told the Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett story, even if it took some big liberties.
The film also entertains the Brushy Bill Roberts story, where an old man back in the ’40s claimed that he was Billy the Kid and that he actually wasn’t killed by Garrett in 1881. Emilio Estevez also plays the older Bill, where Whitford plays the guy interviewing him.
Both films have some scatterbrained writing but that doesn’t make them hard to follow and not enjoyable. This chapter is more disjointed than the first but its positives give it an edge, in my opinion. The returning cast seemed more in tune with their roles and Slater was fun to watch. Rating: 7/10 Pairs well with: Young Guns.
RETRO RELAPSE is a series of older articles from various places where I used to write before Talking Pulp.
*Originally written in 2015.
Spaghetti westerns are better than westerns, at least in my opinion. Sure, there are fantastic American-made westerns but as a whole, the Italian-Spanish (sometimes German) films are superior. There is more grit, more bad ass shit and a level of violence that adds realism and authenticity to a genre that has typically been family friendly in the U.S.
The greatest film of all-time is a spaghetti western. And many of the other greatest films ever also fall into this genre.
I have spent the last several months watching a lot of these films. I have always been familiar with the greats but I had to delve deeper into the more obscure reaches of the genre. A special shout out goes to the Spaghetti Western Database for the hours of research I was able to accomplish in mostly one place. Also, thanks to Amazon, Hulu and YouTube for providing several of these films. The rest were an adventure to track down.
This list is the result of my hundreds of hours of film watching.
1. The Good, The Bad and the Ugly
2. Once Upon A Time In the West
3. The Great Silence
4. The Big Gundown
5. For A Few Dollars More
7. A Fistful of Dollars
8. The Mercenary
9. Face to Face
10. Django Kill… If You Live, Shoot!
11. A Bullet For the General
13. Duck, You Sucker! (A Fistful of Dynamite)
14. Day of Anger
17. Return of Ringo
18. Death Rides A Horse
19. Cemetery Without Crosses
20. My Name Is Nobody
21. The Grand Duel
22. A Genius, Two Partners and A Dupe
23. A Pistol for Ringo
24. If You Meet Sartana, Pray For Your Death
25. The Dirty Outlaws
26. Django, Prepare a Coffin (Viva Django)
27. Run Man Run
29. Navajo Joe
30. Four of the Apocalypse
31. Massacre Time
32. Shoot the Living, Pray for the Dead
34. Django Strikes Again
35. The Return of Sabata
36. A Few Dollars For Django
37. Light the Fuse… Sartana Is Coming
38. Machine Gun Killers
39. Beyond the Law
40. Ace High
41. The Bounty Killer (The Ugly Ones)
42. Trinity Is Still My Name
44. Django the Bastard
45. God Forgives, I Don’t
46. Minnesota Clay
47. God’s Gun
48. They Call Me Trinity
49. Ringo and His Golden Pistol (Johnny Oro)
50. Arizona Colt
Also known as:Giù la testa, lit. Duck Your Head (Italy), A Fistful of Dynamite, Once Upon A Time… the Revolution Release Date: October 29th, 1971 (Italy) Directed by: Sergio Leone Written by: Luciano Vincenzoni, Sergio Donati, Sergio Leone, Roberto De Leonardis, Carlo Tritto Music by: Ennio Morricone Cast: Rod Steiger, James Coburn, Romolo Valli
Rafran Cinematografica, Euro International Film, San Miura, United Artists, 157 Minutes
Duck, You Sucker is the last spaghetti western film to be directed by Sergio Leone. He was involved in the film My Name Is Nobody, which was a western that came out after this, but it was in a limited and uncredited capacity.
This is one of Leone’s most under-appreciated films. It doesn’t have the popularity of his Dollars Trilogy (A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More and The Good, The Bad and the Ugly) or the more critically acclaimed Once Upon A Time In the West but it does exist on a filmmaking level similar to those masterpieces.
Duck, You Sucker stars Rod Steiger and James Coburn and it is my favorite role for both actors. Steiger plays the leader of a Mexican bandit family and Coburn plays an ex-IRA explosives expert. The two happen to meet and team-up: building a strong bond.
The greedy bandit wants riches while the Irishman wants something much different. In a comedic turn of events, the bandit becomes a Mexican folk hero due to his unintentional part in the Mexican Revolution.
In scope, this may be Leone’s biggest film. The Good, The Bad and the Ugly had some massive scenes featuring Civil War battles and an enormous graveyard but Duck, You Sucker feels so much larger. Most notably, there is the sequence where our revolutionaries find themselves battling a tank in the desert. The scene obviously inspired the Nazi tank battle from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
I wouldn’t call this Leone’s best film but it is hard not to have it in the conversation, as it takes what he has done previously in the western genre and expands on it artistically and in scope. The visual style and presentation is consistent with his other western films and you can imagine that all of these movies exist in the same world that he carefully crafted for several years, at the height of his career.
It is the lesser known cousin of his other spaghetti westerns but it doesn’t deserve to be. It is solid through and through and a great companion piece to Leone’s other work in the genre.