After robbing a bank in a small western town, an outlaw stops by the home of his estranged wife and takes his own son hostage. The town’s aging sheriff (Patrick Duffy) teams with the boy’s grandfather (Stacy Keach) to take the outlaw down and save the child’s life. Accompanying them is the bank president, Edwin Bornstein (David Rees Snell). Edwin may be a city boy who talks about how much he’s always wanted to say “I reckon,” but it turns out that there’s more to him than meets the eye. He’s also good with a gun.
I probably should have given up on Desolation Canyon as soon as I saw that it was a “Hallmark Presents” film but I like westerns and Stacy Keach has always done well whenever he’s been cast as a gunslinger so I decided to give it a try. Starting with a bank robbery and endings with a duel, Desolation Canyon is about as old-fashioned as an old-fashioned western can be. Because it was made by Hallmark, there’s nothing dangerous or edgy about the film. A few people do get shot but there’s no blood. The shoot outs in Red Dead Redemption are more violent and suspenseful than anything to be found in this film. (Of course, that’s because most of the shootouts in Red Dead Redemption occur because the play pushed the wrong button while trying to greet someone. I still feel bad for accidentally shooting the kindly old homesteader who just wanted someone to help him collect some flowers for his wife.) This is the type of western that you can safely watch with your grandparents, since that’s who the film was made for. That’s not bad because grandparents need movies to but if you’re looking for a complex or an unpredictable western in the style of a Larry McMurtry novel or a later Eastwood film, I reckon this ain’t it.
Giving some credit where credit is due, Stacy Keach, David Rees Snell, and even Patrick Duffy are credible in their roles. Stacy Keach is especially convincing a former gunfighter who can still outdraw anyone. Stacy Keach is 81 years old and still working. Someone needs to write a great Stacy Keach role and they need to do it now.
Through the Shattered Lens has already shared the original video for Blondie’s Atomic, the one that was released in the late 70s and which featured the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat in a small role. This second music video is for the live version of the song. It was filmed in 1999, while the band was performing at New York’s Town Hall. The entire show was filmed by VH-1.
What can I say? I just like this song. It’s a song that makes me want to dance. It’s also a song that makes me appreciate my hair. “Your hair is beautiful” is a simple lyric but it’s also one that perfectly captures a very certain feeling, that feeling that this night is going to be greatest night of all. Of course, the song itself is often interpreted as being about the end of the world. If the world was ending, wouldn’t you want your hair to be beautiful?
(For the record, Debbie Harry says that “Atomic” was simply a way of describing something as being powerful, that the lyrics were just some words that sounded good to her, and that there really isn’t any sort of deep meaning to the majority of the song. I would argue that the fact that Atomic is about nothing makes it about everything. I would also argue that it’s occasionally fun to make pseudo-profound pronouncements and see if anyone takes them seriously.)
Uh huh make me tonight Tonight make it right Uh huh make me tonight Tonight Tonight Oh uh huh make it magnificent Tonight Right Oh your hair is beautiful Oh tonight Atomic Tonight make it magnificent Tonight Make me tonight Your hair is beautiful Oh tonight Atomic Atomic Oh
I spent most of this week sick. No …. not COVID sick. Instead, I just had a cold. I get a cold every January. In fact, I almost always get a cold during the second week of January so really, I guess I should be happy that I’m consistent about these things. The temperature is plunging outside. The nights are below freezing. The days aren’t much better. The snow that is covering the rest of the country might reach us eventually. Who knows? But, my point is, this is the type of weather that always leads to me getting a cold so it’s no surprise or reason for worry that I ended up with a cold this week.
Still, being sick when there’s things you want to do sucks! And it especially sucks right now because anytime I so much as sniff in public, everyone turns around and stares like I’m a witch. And it doesn’t matter if I’m wearing a mask. I could probably carry a negative COVID test around with me and there’s certain people in the world who would freak out the slightest hint of a cough.
My point is, people are paranoid out there. But again, I’m not a witch. I’m just a girl with asthma, trying to survive the cold season. I will happily be weighed alongside a duck because I am definitely not a witch.
Anyway, I was sick from Monday until Thursday. I’m over it now and I’m ready to make up for missed time over the upcoming week! Here’s what I watched, read, and listened to this week:
Today, everyone takes at least three things for granted: television, football, and football on television.
However, that wasn’t always the case. There was a time when television was a novelty and the idea of watching a game on television while it was being played was nearly unheard of. The first televised football game didn’t involve any of the teams in what would eventually become the NFL. Instead, it was a college game between Fordham and Waynesburg. It was played on September 30th, 1939.
The game was aired on NBC, as part of an experiment to see whether or not a game could actually be carried live over the air. The game was called by Bill Stern, a radio announcer who was famous for embellishing the action on the field while he was calling it. Unfortunately, since no footage of the game appears to still exist, no one knows if he attempted to embellish the action that was being televised.
All in all, NBC spent $100,000 to show the game. What was the size of the audience for the very first televised football game? It was speculated that 500 to 1.000 people watched the game on television! In 1939, with television still a luxury for most people, that was enough to convince NBC that sports and television could go together. 82 years later, it appears that NBC was right.
Galactus has always been one of my favorite Marvel characters and it’s a shame that his only film appearance was botched in 2007’s Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. Now that the Fantastic Four are once again free to be a part of the MCU, my sincere hope is that we’ll get a worthy Galactus film. If Marvel Studios could bring Thanos to life, why not the Planet-Eater?
Below is Galactus (and the Silver Surfer) as imagined by Alex Ross. All four of these images are from Marvels #3 (March 1994) and they really capture Galactus in all of his glory.
Hopefully, the next time Galactus appeared in a film, he’ll be as impressive as he was here.
Space Rage is a mix of science fiction and the old west.
In what the movie insists is the far future, a sadistic and notorious criminal named Grange (Michael Pare) is a captured after robbing the Bank of the Moon. As his punishment, he’s sent to a prison planet called Botany Bay. Despite the name, the entire prison is a desert. (Maybe they named it after the doomed colony from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.) The prison is run by Gov. Tovah (William Windom), who uses the prisoners as slave labor in his mines. Grange doesn’t want to work as a miner so he plots his escape. There’s only one shuttle that goes from Botany Bay to Earth and Grange plans to be in control of it.
Two men are determined to stop Grange and his partners from escaping the planet. Walker (John Laughlin) is a young bounty hunter who is haunted by he death of his wife. The Colonel (Richard Farnsworth) is a former policeman who is haunted by nightmares of his time on Earth. Working together, the inexperienced Walker and the crusty, old Colonel try to thwart Grange’s plans. Grange has an itchy trigger finger and is willing to kill anyone to get what he wants. Grange may be quick on the draw but the Colonel might be even quicker.
Space Rage starts out as a western before becoming a prison film before then concluding as a Mad Max rip-off, with everyone chasing each other through the desert in intergalactic dune buggies. The movie is only 75 minutes long but due to a repetitive soundtrack and some less than inspired dialogue, it often feels longer. The Botany Bay is too obviously Southern California to be an effective setting and neither Michael Pare nor John Laughlin seem to be invested in their roles. Not surprisingly, the film’s greatest strength is Richard Farnsworth, playing another no-nonsense veteran tough guy and doing what a man has to do to keep Earth safe. His presence alone does not make Space Rage worth watching but it definitely helps. It’s a good thing he was out there looking out for us.
Society has collapsed. Biological warfare has changed the majority of humans into werewolves. Those who have not been infected live in locked-down shelters. You live in Shelter 5, with your second wife Lorraine. You used to live in Shelter 4 with your first wife, Wendy. Wendy kicked you out after she found out that you were cheating on her with Lorraine. Things have been tense ever since.
Now, Lorraine’s pregnant. The midwife has told you that the delivery is not going as planned. A C-section has to be performed to save the lives of both Lorraine and the baby. (With humanity nearly wiped out, the survival of your baby could give hope to those few who remain.) You have to get a doctor but that means making you way across the desert wasteland and the ruined city to Shelter 4. Not only do you have to save the life of your second wife but you’re going to have to convince your first wife to help you do it. You only have a few hours to make it and all of the shelter’s hoverbikers are damaged beyond use. Best of luck!
Second Wind is an interactive fiction game for adults. The stakes are real. The puzzles require thought. Your mistakes have consequences. Puzzles are usually my great downfall when it comes interactive fiction. Timed challenges are my second greatest downfall. As you can probably guess, I had to play Second Wind a few times before I got anything close to a good ending and, even then, it was only as good as any ending can be when the world’s gone to Hell in a bucket without anyone even enjoying the ride. But the challenge made the eventual success even more rewarding. When playing a game like Second Wind, the best advice would be to remember that using google is not the same as cheating and that Occam’s Razor is your friend. It also helps to take notes because a lot of the game’s puzzles depend on remembering numbers and then inputting them into the keypads necessary to enter the shelters.
I dug Second Wind. It’s better-written than most and the descriptions are so vivid that you’ll feel like you’re in that apocalyptic desert, trying to make your way back home. And if you really do get lost, there is a walk-through that explains the puzzles without leaving you feeling too ashamed for not being able to figure them out for yourself.
I had a lot of screenshots to choose from this year to use to open this post. There was Tab Hunter shooting a magic arrow from a flying carpet, someone in a dog suit trying to lick Elvis Presley, Betty Compson doing Cinemax shadow theatre in 1929, chandeliers made of women, and much, much more. I decided to go with the geeky choice. That’s Warren Beatty in Kaleidoscope (1966) demonstrating a supply chain attack.
He breaks into a factory that makes playing cards for the different casinos/clubs in the area. He marks the originals that will be used to print the cards. Then he sits back and waits for the marked cards to be printed and delivered securely, end-to-end, to the casinos/clubs. He can win as much as he wants because all the cards are pre-marked. Is he winning too much? No worries, cause even if the casino opens up a fresh deck, they’re marked too. Of course he eventually runs into a problem when the film realizes it doesn’t have a story beyond this neat idea.
As you might have guessed from my mention of Tab Hunter, Elvis Presley, Betty Compson, and a staple of pre-code films, I watched a lot of TCM last year. I don’t know what happened. I haven’t watched the channel this much in close to 15 years. But It was well worth it. It help me rediscover why I got into film back in the mid-2000s.
Unfortunately, unlike previous years, I only got through 761 films. On the other hand, this year I don’t have to stretch things to have 25 best films. The sheer tonnage of garbage I watched in 2020 made that a tough list to compile.
I do have to preface these lists with a little bit of information. Since I was watching TCM, it meant that I did several of their Stars Of The Month (John Garfield, Doris Day, and Elvis Presley). I watched a lot of films during the month where they only play Oscar nominated films. Finally, I also sat through almost every official IOC commissioned Olympic film. I try to have a variety of different films when I make these lists. It was just more difficult this time because of the large clumps of similar films.
The rules are the same as in previous years:
There is no particular order to the films in these lists. They either made it, or they didn’t.
These lists do not necessarily have films that came out in 2021. These are films that I saw for the first time in 2021. Unlike previous years, there is actually one from 2021. I wanted to include at least one this time.
The gems list has films that don’t make the best list, but I want to put a spotlight on them.
Disagree with any of my choices? Good! I want people to form their own opinions and think for themselves. But if you care to share those opinions, then be nice about it.
I link to reviews of these movies if I can find any that have been written by one of our contributors here on Through the Shattered Lens.
One final thing of note is that The IX Olympiad In Amsterdam (1928) is the Italian cut. It’s not the slightly less awful version–The Olympic Games, Amsterdam 1928 (1928)–that was done in Germany by UFA to try and get Dutch theaters to stop boycotting the film. Perhaps they were boycotting the film because it is the worst Olympic movie ever made.