Film Review: Last of the Wild Horses (1948)

Release Date: December 27th, 1948
Directed by: Robert L. Lippert
Written by: Jack Harvey
Music by: Albert Glasser
Cast: James Ellison, Mary Beth Hughes, Jane Frazee

Robert L. Lippert Productions, Grestwood Pictures, 84 Minutes

Review:

“There oughta be a law against a man carrying concealed weapons. You boys get tempted too easy.” – Duke Barnum

It’s possible that this is the worst western film I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen a ton of terrible ones.

It’s drab, uninteresting and the plot is disjointed and quite a mess. Granted, my issues with the plot could also be due to being so bored to tears that my brain kept tuning out. And really, the only thing that got me through this picture was the commentary provided by the cast of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

The story is about a rancher who is accused of trying to force smaller ranchers out of business. Even for 1940s standards, there are a lot of interesting directions this plot could go. But it just moves along at a snail’s pace and doesn’t throw anything compelling at the viewer.

If there are any positives to speak about, it’s the scenery. This was primarily shot in the wilderness of Oregon and the actors are immersed in natural beauty. However, that being said, for the most part, the natural world isn’t well shot. You get wide vistas but the angles and general cinematography are pretty amateurish.

The biggest thing working against this movie is that a lot of it takes place in a courtroom. I’ve never seen a trial cowboy movie. Now I have seen cowboys in courtrooms but it’s usually a quick scene to give context to a plot. I’m not interested in Perry Mason Meets Bonanza brought to us by a cast and crew with ten percent of the talent.

The Last of the Wild Horses should probably only be watched by the hardcore MST3K completist.

Rating: 1/10
Pairs well with: watching a GIF of a tumbleweed for 84 minutes.

Comic Review: The Ghost Rider, Issue #1 – First Appearance of the Phantom Rider

Published: February, 1967
Written by: Gary Friedrich, Roy Thomas
Art by: Dick Ayers, Vince Colletta

Marvel Comics, 18 Pages

Review:

The character referred to nowadays as the Phantom Rider was actually the first version of Ghost Rider. They changed his name later on due to there being confusion with the more modern Ghost Rider, Johnny Blaze. However, now there are at least five different Ghost Riders, so whatever… confusion once again ensues!

Anyway, I’ve read stories featuring the Phantom Rider but I never really knew his origin story. I guess I always assumed that it was similar to all the other Ghost Riders but it is, in fact, quite different.

Being that this is his first appearance, this also serves as his origin.

This Ghost Rider a.k.a. Carter Slade was just an average dude in the Old West. He had some boxing experience under his belt, so I guess that helped him know how to throw a punch. However, he gets his ass kicked almost immediately and nearly dies.

He is then saved by some powerful spirit while in the care of some nice Native Americans. They give him some glowing powder, he then tames some special horse, decides to rub the glowing powder all over his outfit and thus, becomes the original Ghost Rider.

It’s a bit of an odd origin tale but so where a lot of early comic book origins. But this is also probably why he was soon replaced with Johnny Blaze, the first Ghost Rider with a flaming skull, motorcycle and magic chains.

The story is hokey and kind of weird, even for late ’60s comics. But I thought the art was pretty good for the time and it lives up to what was the Marvel standard.

Having now checked this out, it’s certainly not a must read and the first Ghost Rider is kind of an obscure character anyway. But it’s not a waste of time and worth reading if you already have an affinity for the character.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: the issues that came after it, as well as other ’60s and ’70s Marvel titles with horror elements.

Comic Review: Preacher: Book Six

Published: 1999-2000
Written by: Garth Ennis
Art by: Steve Dillon, Glenn Fabry (covers)

Vertigo Comics, 377 Pages

Review:

Well, here we are… the end of the road.

And man, what an end this was.

I was half expected the series to end with a whimper because everything I truly love never seems to know how to properly end itself. But Garth Ennis penned a worthy story that channels back to a lot of what he built this series off of and gives us a pretty satisfactory conclusion to not just the series but to all the plot threads involving the key characters.

Having also just finished the television series, I can say that the comic is, by far, the superior version of the story with the better ending for all parties involved.

This moved by at a brisk pace, pushed the envelope as it always does but it gave us a real slice of humanity amongst all the rubble and edgy boi ’90s shit.

I didn’t really know how much I loved these characters until their stories concluded.

It’s really hard to talk more about it other than my actual feelings because to delve into the plot, at this point, would kind of spoil the whole thing.

Frankly, just read this series if you haven’t. It’s one of the best long running series ever created for the comic book medium.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: the other Preacher stuff, as well as ’90s Spawn and Garth Ennis’ run on Shadowman.

Film Review: A Visit From the Incubus (2001)

Release Date: October, 2001
Directed by: Anna Biller
Written by: Anna Biller
Music by: Anna Biller
Cast: Anna Biller, Jared Sanford, Natalia Schroeder

Anna Biller Productions, 26 Minutes

Review:

I didn’t discover Anna Biller until I came across The Love Witch a few years ago. I really liked that movie in regards to its style and overall tone. Since then, I’ve become aware of an earlier film she did called Viva but it’s still in my queue to watch. In the meantime, I saw that this very early short film from her dropped on the Criterion Channel, so I wanted to check it out.

Even though this predates her only other film that I’ve seen, thus far, it’s still damn impressive for a lot of the same things that I adored in The Love Witch.

First off, Biller does a stupendous job in crafting the world she wants her films to live in. Between the costumes, the set design and the use of colors and lighting, her films look otherworldly and like real throwbacks to the motion pictures that have influenced her personal style.

Being that this was a musical horror western, it sort of marries those elements and it does so quite well. At the very least, these are fun films to look at and they are pretty lively.

Now the acting is over the top and somewhat hokey but I’m pretty sure that’s the intent. I wouldn’t call this a comedy or a parody of what it emulates or tries to channel, the acting just works well and feels organic within the overall presentation.

I also really dug the musical numbers. They kept the film energetic and jovial and built towards a good conclusion.

Overall, Anna Biller has several different creative talents. I mean, she really does everything in her films and I think that she does a fantastic job in getting her vision across. While her films might not be everyone’s cup of tea, they’re beautiful and hard to turn away from.

While looking deeper into this in an effort to write this review, I saw that Biller has three other short films that came out before this one. I hope that they are also streaming somewhere in the future.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other Anna Biller films: Viva and The Love Witch.

Comic Review: Preacher: Book Five

Published: 1998-1999
Written by: Garth Ennis
Art by: Steve Dillon, Glenn Fabry (covers)

Vertigo Comics, 368 Pages

Review:

At first glance, Preacher‘s fifth volume may seem like filler. The reason being is that it diverts from the main storyline for almost its entirety and only comes back around to the primary plot at the very end.

In this chapter, Jesse Custer is basically on his own after somehow surviving death, a confrontation with God and having his heart broken by seeing the love of his life and his best friend sharing some romantic gestures.

Very late in this book we do catch up with Tulip and see her leave Cassidy behind, as months after what she believes to be the loss of her love has left her broken.

The first two-thirds or so of this follow Jesse as he becomes the sheriff of a small town, goes to war with new villain Odin Quincannon, a character I didn’t know was in the comics and thought was created just for the first season of the Preacher television show.

Jesse must free the town from the tyranny of the supremely fucked up Quincannon, as well as his Nazi lawyer that has the hots for him. During this plot thread, Jesse also discovers that his mother is still alive and they are able to reunite and find some peace with the loss they both suffered from each other’s absence.

In the last third of this volume, we catch up with Tulip and see how shitty her life with Cassidy has become. Mostly, we get her origin story told over a few issues, which added so much context to her character and her harsh life.

Honestly, if I knew what the gist of this book was beforehand, I might have been apprehensive, as the main story was rocking along at a great pace. However, this book gave us so much more character development and context that it only makes the series stronger and has thus, built up my enthusiasm for the sixth and final book.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Preacher stuff, as well as ’90s Spawn and Garth Ennis’ run on Shadowman.

Comic Review: Preacher: Book Four

Published: 1998
Written by: Garth Ennis
Art by: Steve Dillon, Glenn Fabry (covers)

Vertigo Comics, 365 Pages

Review:

Man, this series hit its stride from the get go but it hasn’t lost it and it actually comes even harder in this book.

Where the last collection was sort of the start of the second act of the entire series and didn’t have as much of an impact as the two volumes before it, this book really puts things back into a roaring motion with a pretty immediate bang.

The first issue in this collection is actually the origin story of Herr Starr. It lets you understand the villain more intimately, as well as his motivations and his hunger for power.

After that, this gets right back to the main story where the added context of Starr’s backstory really gives this string of issues a lot more depth.

This book is action heavy and a lot happens. This changes the game quite a bit, shuffles the deck and puts our heroes into positions they haven’t found themselves in yet. This is just great storytelling that feels like it is leading to something big. It’s as if Garth Ennis had a vision when he started and he’s fulfilling what that vision was.

Now I’m not sure how carefully planned this series was from its beginning but Ennis has created a rich, lived in world that only seems to get better. Most comic book series that run for a long time lose their momentum and the story gets lost.

Preacher is damn near perfection, which is pretty incredible considering that after this chapter in the saga, you’re more than forty issues into the story.

Rating: 9.75/10
Pairs well with: the other Preacher stuff, as well as ’90s Spawn and Garth Ennis’ run on Shadowman.

Comic Review: Preacher: Book Three

Published: 1996-1998
Written by: Garth Ennis
Art by: Steve Dillon, Glenn Fabry (covers)

Vertigo Comics, 349 Pages

Review:

The Preacher series reaches its halfway point with this volume and what’s great about it is that it is still rolling strong. This collection is a bit different than the first two, however, as it doesn’t just collect issues of the regular Preacher series but it also includes the Saint of Killers miniseries and the Cassidy starring one-shot. Both of these side stories add more context and some extra backstory to these characters.

Overall, this is still a fantastic chapter in Garth Ennis’ epic tale. It doesn’t flow as nicely as the first two volumes, as the inclusion of the other two stories gives it a somewhat disjointed feel but these stories felt necessary to the larger tale and I can’t really think of a better way to include them.

Once the main story gets going again, it picks up right where it left off. Some things come back into play that needed to be followed up on earlier in the series. For instance, Arseface returns for revenge but his story takes a pretty interesting turn.

While I love the version of Arseface that we’ve gotten with the television show, I like how the source material is so different and even if he’s not a main character, his material here is fun to read, I can see why they changed him for the show and gave him a bigger role in the scheme of things but I probably prefer this version of the character, as his arc works better and he seems more fleshed out, even though the comic used him less.

This is the first half of the middle act. So nothing huge happens but it moves forward at a good pace and drops some new things into the narrative to help build and enrich the plot.

In the end, this is the weakest of the first three collections but it’s still stellar and it just makes me want to keep on reading.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the other Preacher stuff, as well as ’90s Spawn and Garth Ennis’ run on Shadowman.