The Gunman From Bodie (1941, directed by Spencer Gordon Bennett)

The second of the Rough Riders films opens with Bob “Bodie” Bronson (played by Buck Jones) seeking shelter from a storm and coming upon a house.  Brodie enters the house, just to discover two dead bodies, a crying baby, and a note that says that the house was attacked by rustlers.  After the storm passes, Bodie takes the baby to a ranch owned by Alice Boden (Christine McIntyre) and her boyfriend, Joe (David O’Brien).  Alice and Joe agree to look after the baby while Bodie heads into town.

Anyone who has seen Arizona Bound or any of the Rough Riders films that  came out after The Gunman From Bodie will know that Boodie Bronson is actually Marshal Buck Roberts and that he’s working undercover.  His partner, Marshal Sandy Hopkins (Raymond Hatton), is already working as a cook at the ranch.  Soon, the third rough rider, Marshal Tim McCall (Tim McCoy), shows up with a wanted poster for Bodie.  It’s all a plan, of course, to help Bodie ingratiate himself with the actual rustlers.

The Gunman From Bodie is considerably darker than Arizona Bound.  Because of the murder of the baby’s parents, the Rough Riders aren’t just looking to uphold the law.  They’re looking to avenge a terrible crime and to dispense some frontier justice.  Buck Jones and Tim McCoy both give grim and determined performances that leave you with no doubt that you don’t want to get on their bad side.  While Alice and Joe tug at the audience’s heartstrings by becoming parents to the orphaned child, the Rough Riders do what they have to do to prevent any more children from losing their parents.  I especially liked the scene where Marshal McCall graphically described what happens when someone is executed by hanging, describing each detail until the actual murderer freaks out and reveals himself.  The Gunman From Bodie is quick-moving western for adults that features Buck Jones, Tim McCoy, and Raymond Hatton at their best.

Previous Rough Rider Reviews:

  1. Arizona Bound

Retro Television Reviews: Fantasy Island 2.22 “The Comic/The Golden Hour”

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Tuesdays, I will be reviewing the original Fantasy Island, which ran on ABC from 1977 to 1986.  The entire show is currently streaming on Tubi!

This week, Fantasy Island brings us a mix of crime and comedy!

Episode 2.22 “The Comic/The Golden Hour”

(Dir by Earl Bellamy, originally aired May 5th, 1979)

Since this series began, I’ve been wondering what the legal status of Fantasy Island is.  Is it a territory of the United States?  Is it a part of the British Commonwealth?  Is it an independent nation?  Finally, in this episode, the question is answered.  Fantasy Island is an independent nation, though one that appears to be closely aligned to the United States.  And Mr. Roarke is the sole legal authority.  In short, Mr. Roarke is a bit of a dictator and the Island’s laws are pretty much determined by his whims.

This becomes apparent when a plane is forced to make an emergency landing on the island.  The plane is carrying a prisoner named Mike Banning (Michael Parks) to the United States.  When Federal Marshall Victor Grennan (Morgan Woodward) announces that there is no way he’s going to let Mike out of his handcuffs, Mr. Roarke announces that he’s in charge of the Island and, on the Island, no one is handcuffed.  Reluctantly, Grennan sets Mike free.

It also turns out that Mr. Roarke had a specific reason for wanting Mike on the island.  While in prison, he developed a pen pal relationship with a woman named Sandy Larson (Toni Tennille).  Mike’s letters provided a lot of comfort to Sandy after an auto accident left her in a wheelchair.  In fact, Sandy is in love with Mike and she’s on the Island!  Roarke arranges for Mike and Sandy to finally meet face-to-face.  Unfortunately, Sandy is self-conscious about her wheelchair and Mike feels like he’s a loser with no future.  Mike even tries to escape at one point, running through the jungle until he’s eventually captured by the Marshal.  Still, despite all of that, Mike and Sandy realize that they really do love each other.  Mike is willing to finish out his three years in prison if it means that Sandy will be waiting for him on the outside.  Fortunately, a bit Deus ex Machina comes into play as evidence is miraculously found that proves that Mike wrongfully convicted.  Yay!

While all of that’s going on, joke writer Jerry Burton (Fred Grandy) fantasizes about quitting his job working for comedic legend Danny Baker (Jack Carter) and instead pursuing a stand-up career of his own.  Mr. Roarke arranges for Jerry to perform at a bar on the northside of the Island.  Roarke explains that the bar is popular with the workers at the local pineapple plantation.  (See?  We’re learning even more about the Island!)  However, when the bar is shut down due to a brawl, Jerry instead finds himself performing at the big Fantasy Island talent show.  In fact, he’ll even be substituting for Danny, who was scheduled to host but has been held up on another part of the Island.

At first, Jerry bombs.  He has no confidence.  But then Danny joins him on stage and they bring down the house.  Jerry and Danny arrived on the Island as employee and employer but now, they’re leaving a comedy team.  Yay!  Plus. Jerry reconnects with his old high school girlfriend (Pat Klous).  Yay again!

The comedy stuff was fun, largely because Fred Grandy was as likable and goofy here as he was as Gopher on the The Love Boat.  However, what really made this episode memorable was the method intensity that Michael Parks brought to the role of Mike Banning.  While all the other guest stars goof around and enjoy the scenery, Parks plays his role with a seething rage.  It’s unexpected but it works.

All in all, this was a good episode.  The combination of Fred Grandy and Michael Parks turned out to be just what Fantasy Island needed.

Film Review: Your Place or Mine (dir by Aline Brosh McKenna)

Your Place or Mine asks the eternal question: Can a woman and man be best friends without also being lovers?

The answer to that is that of course they can.  It happens all the time.  The more important question is whether or not to physically attractive people can be friends without eventually falling love.  The answer there is of course not.  Being the most attractive person in your social circle means that you eventually have no choice but to pursue a relationship with the second most attractive person around.  That’s just the way it works.

Your Place or Mine opens in 2003, with two attractive 20 somethings named Peter and Debbie having sex for the first and what they initially believe will be the final time.  The action than jumps forward to 2023.  Peter (Ashton Kutcher) lives in New York City and has seemingly given up his dream of being a writer.  Instead, he makes a lot of money doing …. well, I’m not really sure what Peter’s job was.  It had something to do with banking and it allowed him to afford a really big apartment.  Meanwhile, Debbie (Reese Witherspoon) lives in Los Angeles.  Recently divorced, she is the overprotective mother of 13 year-old Jack (Wesley Kimmel) and she is a teacher.  Apparently she’s not supposed to be as rich as Jack but, for a teacher, she has a surprisingly big house.  She also has eccentric neighbor, played by Steve Zahn and an eccentric co-worker played by Tig Notaro.  Everyone was so eccentric that it made me miss the days when the lockdowns gave me an excuse not to talk to anyone.

Peter and Debbie are still best friends, even though they haven’t actually been in the same room together since 2008.  Still, that’s about to change.  Debbie’s coming to New York so that she can complete an accounting program and get a better job.  (Ha!  Take that, teachers!)  However, when her eccentric babysitter is cast in a movie, it looks like Debbie will have to cancel because there won’t be anyone around to keep Jack from accidentally eating something with nuts in it.  Peter, who has recently been dumped by his eccentric girlfriend and who is having a bit of a midlife crisis, volunteers to come to Los Angeles to look after Jack while Debbie goes to New York and stays in his apartment while taking her super-exciting accounting class.

Okay, let’s pause while I catch my breath.  This is one of those comedies where it takes way too long to set up the central premise.  Sometimes, it’s best to keep things simple.

Anyway, Peter bonds with Jack and helps him to find some confidence.  Living in Debbie’s house, Peter realizes that he has always loved Debbie.  Meanwhile, Debbie goes to New York, bonds with Peter’s eccentric ex-girlfriend (Zoe Chao), and discovers that Peter has written a novel!  Debbie takes it upon herself to read the novel.  She takes manuscript out of Peter’s apartment and is seen reading it at various New York locations.  I found myself cringing as I worried that a sudden gust of wind would blow the pages away or maybe someone would spill coffee on it.  (For all of Debbie’s happiness to discover that Peter is still writing, she’s not particularly careful with his manuscript.)  Without talking to Peter, Debbie gives the manuscript to an eccentric publisher named Theo Martin (Jesse Williams) and explains that the story is about a 13 year-old boy who can’t go out in the sun.  It sounds like an extremely dreary read but Theo is impressed with both the manuscript and with Debbie.

I usually enjoy romantic comedies and I like Reese Whitherspoon and I’m coming around on accepting the idea of Ashton Kutcher being a movie star (especially after his excellent performance in Vengeance) so I was really hoping that I would enjoy Your Place or Mine.  Unfortunately, the film itself suffered from what I call the Apatow Syndrome, in that every character had to be quirky, every joke had to be repeated ad nauseum, and there was a deliberate awkwardness to the dialogue that got old pretty quickly.  As individuals, Witherspoon and Kutcher were likable but I never really bought them as lifelong friends, much less a romantic couple.  They just didn’t have the right spark.  Unfortunately, Your Place or Mine just didn’t work for me.

My Cannes Prediction

Today is the opening day of the 2023 Cannes Film Festival.

It’s notoriously difficult to predict who or what is going to win at Cannes.  The Cannes juries can be very idiosyncratic and, traditionally, they are encouraged to spread the awards around and to resist the temptation to give too much to one film.  Every year, it seems like there’s a movie that everyone says is the front runner to win the Palme d’Or and every year, it seems like that film ultimately goes home empty-handed.

That said, having looked over the jury (which includes Ruben Ostlund, Paul Dano, Brie Larson, and Julie Ducournau) and having taken a look at the film that will be competing this year, I’m going to throw caution to wind and make a prediction.

The winner of the Palme d’Or will be Ken Loach’s The Old Oak.

It doesn’t give me a lot of pleasure to say that because I’m not a huge Ken Loach fan.  I find the majority of his political-themed film to be heavy-handed and his efforts to bully other artists into supporting BDS to be reprehensible.  Many of his comments about Israel have been so extreme that, even if one chooses not to believe him to be a flat-out anti-Semite, he’s still what Lenin used to refer to as being a “useful idiot.”

That said, Loach’s style of social realism has always found a more receptive audience in Europe than it has in the United States.  Ken Loach has already won the Palme d’Or twice before.  (“Who is Ken Loach?” trended on American twitter after he won it for I, Daniel Blake, which just goes to show you how one can be a household name in one country and totally unknown in another.)  He’s in his 80s and he’s announced that, after a 60-year career, The Old Oak is his final film.  This is the film that he’s going out on and it’s presumably the film that sums up his concerns are a filmmaker.  This plot description is from the film’s Wikipedia page and it certainly sounds like a Ken Loach film:

A pub landlord TJ Bannatyne (Dave Turner) in a previously thriving mining community in County Durham struggles to hold on to his pub and keep it as the one remaining public space people can meet in the town. Meanwhile, tensions rise in the town when Syrian refugees are placed there but Bannatyne strikes up a friendship with one of the refugees, Yara (Ebla Mari).

This really does sound like a film that hits at every issue right now.  At a time when the film industry is caught up in a labor dispute, the film is about the owner of a pub in a dying mining community.  In a time in economic uncertainty, it features a small business owner trying to keep his business alive.  And, it deals with the refugee crisis.  I doubt there will be anything subtle or even-handed about it but then again, one could say the same thing about the previous Loach films that won the Palme d’Or.  Politically, the film sounds as if it hits all the right buttons and, regardless of what I may think of him, Ken Loach is a filmmaker who definitely has his admirers.

I’m predicting The Old Oak will win the Palme d’Or.  We’ll find out if I’m right on May 27th.