Apache Territory (1958, directed by Ray Nazarro)

In this B-western, Rory Calhoun plays Logan Cates, an old west drifter, while traveling through the desert, comes across a young woman named Junie Hatchett (Carolyn Craig).  Junie’s parents were settlers who were captured and killed by a group of Apaches.  Knowing that the Apaches will still be looking Junie, Logan takes her to a nearby canyon where there’s water and shelter.  Soon, other victims of the Apaches start to show up at the canyon.  With their supplies dwindling and the Apaches surrounding them, Logan has to keep everyone alive and lead them to safety.

Complicating matters is that one of the people who shows up at the canyon is Logan’s ex-girlfriend, Jennifer (Barbara Bates).  Jennifer is traveling with her new husband, the wealthy (and therefore cowardly) Grant Kimbrough (John Dehner).  Also seeking shelter at the canyon are a group of Calvary officers, a Pima Indian named Lugo (Frank DeKova), and a naive teenage cowboy named Lonnie (Tom Pittman).

Based on a novel by Louis L’Amour, Apache Territory is a pretty standard western.  Some of the battle scenes are surprisingly brutal — particularly when one of the Calvary officers gets hit by a flaming arrow — but otherwise, this is a typical B-western, the type of movie that would have been the second part of a double bill at a Saturday matinee.  Logan Cates is able to survive because, unlike Grant Kimbrough, he knows and respects the land and, unlike the Calvary officers, he respects his enemy.  He’s a typical western hero, though well-played by Rory Calhoun.

The main problem with the film is that, for a film about a group of people trapped in one location, it never achieves any sense of claustrophobia.  The size of the canyon seems to change from shot to shot.  The film’s finale involves a well-realized dust storm but it still never reaches the type of action-packed conclusion that most western fans will be hoping for.  It ends with a whimper instead of a bang.  It feels more like an extended episode of Gunsmoke or The Virginian than a feature film.

This one will be best appreciated by undemanding fans of the genre.

A Tribute To Diana Rigg

I was sad to hear that Dame Diana Rigg died today in London.  She was 82 years old.

Like a lot of people, I’ll always first think of Diana Rigg as being Emma Peel.  My dad loves the Avengers and I grew up watching reruns of the show with him.  He taped every episode and, a few years ago, he transferred all of his old VHS tapes to DVD.  I think we saw every episode of The Avengers (and The New Avengers, for that matter) that ever aired in the United States.  (The first season, which featured Patrick Macnee working with Ian Hendry, was never aired in the U.S. and, with the exception of three episodes, is now believed to be lost.)

Even though both Honor Blackman’s Cathy Gale and Linda Thorson’s Tara King both had their strengths, the show was at its best during those three seasons when Patrick Macnee (as John Steed) was partnered with Emma Peel.  It wasn’t just that Diana Rigg was amazingly beautiful and sexy as Emma Peel, though that was definitely some of the appeal.  It was also that she could take care of herself.  As many people learned over the course of her time on the show, you underestimated Emma Peel at your own peril.  She was as smart as Steed, she was as cunning as Steed, and she was as witty as Steed.  Never a damsel in distress, she was John Steed’s equal in every way and they made for a great team.  She could fight and she could deliver a one-liner with the best of them and, because she was played by Diana Rigg, she did it all with a very distinctive British classiness.

However, Diana Rigg was not just Emma Peel.  Not only was she the best of the Bond girls in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (you could believe that James Bond would settle down and retire just for a chance to spend the rest of his life with her) but she also had a co-starring role in one of my favorite British thrillers, The Assassination Bureau.  In the States, she played Portia in Charlton Heston’s production of Julius Caesar and then, in The Hospital, she proved she could handle Paddy Chayefsky’s dialogue with the same charm and skill as Shakespeare’s.  In the 80s, she took over the job hosting Mystery! on PBS when Vincent Price retired from the job.

Of course, to a whole new generation of viewers, she’ll be best known for appearing on Game of Thrones and for bringing Olenna Tyrell to life.  Rigg received three Emmy nominations for her performance as Olenna and her final scene, in which she voluntarily drank poison without a hint of fear or hesitation, was one of the strongest moments in the series.

I’m going to miss the talented and classy Dame Diana Rigg.  I know I’m not alone.


What’s That? “Whisnant”!

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

No matter how you look at it, you don’t know how to look at Max Huffman — nor what to expect from him. Which means, of course, that he’s unquestionably one of the most interesting and surprising of the true auteurs working in comics today — but even with that in mind, his latest self-published mini, Whisnant #1, is something well and truly out of left field.

As deliberately and overtly “cartoony” as anything Huffman has done, this thing reminded me more than a bit of Bud Blake’s old syndicated strip Tiger on the margins — only it’s actually, ya know, good, and has something to say about actual existential concerns. I think, at any rate.

So, what have we got here? Cubism, a black-and-white protagonist in a full-color world who inexplicably becomes full-color himself, an ice cream truck that sells gems and crystals, “people” that aren’t people, family…

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Music Video of the Day: House of Fun by Madness (1982, directed by Dave Robinson)

This is probably one of the best songs ever written about a 16 year-old buying condoms before heading to a brothel (that would be the House of Fun referred to in the title).  Only Madness could have pulled it off.

This video was filmed at a Camden joke shop, a Kilburn chemist (or pharmacy), and a roller coaster in Great Yarmouth.  Reportedly, the band had to ride the roller coaster 54 times before director Dave Robinson was happy with the footage.