Below The Border (1942, directed by Howard Bretherton)

In the fourth Rough Riders film, the boys head down to Mexico City to defend the Garcia Ranch from a gang of cattle rustlers who are also planning on stealing the Garcia Family Jewels.  (Would the Rough Riders have any legal jurisdiction in Mexico?)  This time, Buck Roberts (Buck Jones) assumes the identity of a well-known outlaw who deals in stolen goods, Tim McCall (Tim McCoy) pretends to be a cattle buyer, and Sandy Hopkins (Raymond Hatton) gets a job sweeping up the local saloon.  As with almost all of the Rough Riders films, the owner of the saloon, Steve Slade (Charles King), is also the leader of the thieves.  Slade is blackmailing a reformed outlaw named Joe (Dennis Moore) into helping Slade and Scully (Roy Barcroft) steal the family jewels.  Joe is in love with Rosita Garcia (Linda Brent).

Below the Border has much in common with Forbidden Trails, the Rough Riders film that came before it, right down to a villainous saloon owner and a former outlaw being blackmailed to return to his old ways.  As usual, the outlaws try to humiliate Sandy Hopkins, just for Tim McCall to show up at the saloon and turn the tables.  Scully is a despicable bully and it feels good when McCall forces him to grab Hopkins’s mop and clean up the bar himself.

It’s not the strongest of the Rough Riders films. The plot is predictable, Linda Brent gives a terrible performance as Rosita, and even the action scenes are by-the-numbers.  The main appeal of Below the Border is to watch the three Rough Riders themselves.  Jones, McCoy, and Hatton all seem to have genuinely enjoyed working together and that comes through in their scenes together.  You never have any doubt that, even though they live in different parts of the country, all it would take is one telegram for them to get back together.  The highlight of each film is the final scene, where the Rough Riders tell each other what they’ve been up to between adventures.  This time, Buck invites everyone to visit him in Arizona but Tim has to get back to Wyoming and Sandy’s running a hotel in Texas.  They ride off separately but there’s little doubt they will reunite as soon as there’s a new rustler who needs to be brought to justice.

Previous Rough Rider Reviews:

  1. Arizona Bound
  2. The Gunman From Bodie
  3. Forbidden Trails

Retro Television Reviews: Hang Time 4.21 “Phenom Blues” and 4.22 “New York Nick”

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Mondays, I will be reviewing Hang Time, which ran on NBC from 1995 to 2000.  The entire show is currently streaming on YouTube!

Play-offs, baby!

Episode 4.21 “Phenom Blues”

(Dir by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on November 22nd, 1998)

It’s play-off time and, once again, the Tornadoes are at Indiana State University.  Unfortunately, the Tornadoes are having a crisis of confidence because their first game is going to be against a team that has the best player in Indiana.  Despite Julie calling them all a bunch of losers for being afraid and the Coach giving them a lot of game tape to watch, the boys are convinced that they’re going to lose and get sent home.

“This is our last night in Bloomington,” Hammer says at one point, “We should at least have some fun!”

Seriously, how can you not have fun in Bloomington?

Michael, Silk, Rico, and Hammer all go to a cow-themed amusement park.  Unfortunately, due to a malfunctioning hanging gondola, they nearly plunge to their deaths.  A helicopter shows up at the last minute and drops a ladder down to them.  Yay, I guess.  I don’t know, this was actually kind of dumb and it annoyed me that we only saw the ladder and never the helicopter.  I mean, if you’re going to fake an amusement park disaster, spend some money and get a real helicopter!

Julie, meanwhile, spends the night watching game tape and talking to herself about how the other team is good but can be defeated.  Even when she’s talking to herself, Julie is condescending.

Finally, Kristy and Coach K. play in a pool tournament.  Kristy is playing because she wants to win a bike so that the team can give it to Coach K as a thank you present.  Coach K wants to win the bike because his old bike got stolen.  Sounds like a win-win, to be honest.  Fortunately, Coach K has to forfeit the game so he can help rescue the players at the amusement park.  Kristy wins and gives Coach K. the bike that he would have won anyways.  Wow, that was suspenseful.

Anyway, having survived a near-death experience, the team is able to win their playoff game.  Yay!

This was pretty dumb but it did have one funny scene where, while flipping channels on the TV, Julie comes across an old episode of Saved By The Bell and dismisses it by saying, “I’ve seen all of these 50 times already.”  That’s my type of humor right there.

Well, I guess that, in the next episode, we’ll find out if the Tornadoes won that championship or not….

Episode 4.22 “New York Nick”

(Dir by Patrick Maloney, originally aired on November 22nd, 1998)

The Tornadoes are going to New York!

Wait a minute, what?  Aren’t they supposed to be playing for the state championship?  It is true that they won a trip to New York when they were in San Antonio but why are they going now?  It doesn’t make — eh, forget it.  I’m doing trying to justify this show’s messy timeline.  Life’s too short and I’m getting a headache.

In New York, Mary Beth and Kristy can’t wait to go shopping at Bloomingdale’s!  Julie can’t wait to talk down to everyone!  Michael, Silk, and Rico can’t wait to go to a Pacers/Knicks game!  And Hammer can’t wait to see his ex-girlfriend, a supermodel named Cindy!  He asks Mary Beth for permission and Mary Beth is like, “Sure!”  But she doesn’t really mean it.  She’s jealous and annoyed and I would have been as well.  To be honest, she should have just dumped Hammer right there.  I mean, Julie will dump a guy just for having uneven sideburns.  Why is Mary Beth always trapped in these go-nowhere relationships?

While eating lunch with Cindy, Hammer is approached by the editor of Teen Life, who wants to put Cindy and Hammer on the cover of their Coolest Couple Issue!  Mary Beth says that she doesn’t have a problem with it but when Cindy and Hammer are invited to an industry party, it’s time for Mary Beth, Kristy, and Julie to put on some silly wigs and crash the party!  In a fit of jealousy, Mary Beth destroys a cake and loses Hammer the job.  So, now …. oh God, this headache is intensifying …. Mary Beth has to find a way to sneak into the editor’s hotel room and talk her into rehiring Hammer.  In fact, Mary Beth is so persistent that the editor decides to put Mary Beth on the cover instead of Cindy.  File this under things that would never happen in real life.

Meanwhile, at the Knicks/Pacers game, Michael, Rico, and Silk get into a food fight with a Knicks fan who later turns out to be a friend of the coach and …. oh, who cares?  The only thing memorable about the game scene is that it was pretty much recreated word-for-word in a later episode of City Guys.

Who won the championship!?  Maybe we’ll find out next week.

Film Review: The Irish Mob (dir by Patrick McKnight)

Valentino “Val” Fagan (played by Rob McCarthy) was named after Rudolph Valentino but he didn’t grow up to be a chivalrous lover, the type whose romantic eyes make hearts swoon.  Instead, Val grew up to be a mobster, the head of the Irish mob.  His eyes view the world with mistrust and anger.  As he tells us in the cocky voice-over that runs through The Irish Mob, Dublin is his city.  Whether its drugs, theft, or dealing weapons with the IRA, Val is involved.

However, it’s not easy being the boss.

For one thing, Val has the Garda after him.  Detective Liz Delahunt (Pauline O’Driscoll) is obsessed with taking Val down.  She’s got the wall of her office set up with one of those crazy charts that links Val and his associates to a series of unsolved murders throughout Ireland.  Liz is clever and she’s determined.  In one of the film’s funnier moments, she puts Val under a protection order so that he ends up with Detective Kevin Hogan (David Greene) following him around 24 hours a day and staking out his home.  Whenever Val looks out of a window, Hogan gives him a friendly wave.

As well, the Corrigan Brothers, who are Val’s Amsterdam-based drug connections, have just lost a fairly large shipment of drugs and the money that they would have made from selling them.  The Corrigans expect their associates to kick in to help make up for the loss and it’s pretty clear that failure to do so will lead to something not good happening.  Val may be rich but he’s not that rich and he soon finds himself taking risks in order to raise the money.  Right when it appears that Liz’s funding has been cut, one of Val’s brazen robberies leads to Liz being told that she’ll have all the money that she needs to pursue her case against Val.

Finally, there’s Dessie Corrigan (George Bracebridge), a monstrous sociopath who has just been released from prison and who is looking to get back into the Dublin rackets.  A misunderstanding leads to Corrigan deciding that Val sold him out to the Garda.  Corrigan soon starts to attack Val’s men and makes plans to come after Val himself.  As with so many of the criminals in The Irish Mob, Corrigan is an idiot but he’s a very determined idiot.  He’s also someone who can easily be manipulated by those looking to take over Dublin.

Val has his ways of dealing with the stress.  He genuinely loves his son and comes about as close to being human as he probably can whenever he’s just being a father.  Though he spends a lot of time fighting with his wife, he does have a mistress who he enjoys spending an hour or two with.  And, of course, there’s always cocaine.  The more stressed Val gets, the more he does.  The more paranoid Val becomes, the more people he kills.  It’s not easy being in charge but, as Val tells us, Dublin is his city,

Plotwise, The Irish Mob is a standard Mafia movie, complete with a philosophical voice over and scenes of random violence.  Val reached his position of power by being smarter than everyone else but, now that he’s in charge, he’s forced to depend on people who are stupid, sadistic, and impulsive.  Val thinks that he can control the cycle of violence but what he doesn’t understand is that the cycle controls him and not the other way around.  Rob McCarthy gives a steely performance as Val and the Dublin locations give the film a gritty feel.  Unfortunately, the plot itself doesn’t really feature many surprises and the film’s concluding twist, while being appropriately tragic, is still one that most audiences will see coming from a mile away.  Then again, that may be the point.  Val’s fate is as predestined as those who came before him and those who will come after him.  In the end, the cycle just keeps repeating.

The Exciting Covers of Exciting Love

The magazine Exciting Love ran from 1941 to 1958 and it featured stories about lovelorn teenagers, loyal girlfriends waiting for their sweethearts to return from serving overseas, and married couples learning how to make it work.  If the magazine had been called Boring Love, it would not have lasted as long.

Below is a small sampling of the covers of Exciting Love.  I think almost all of these covers were done by Earle K. Bergey.  His signature is visible on a few of them and almost all of them seem to be done in his style.  The one exception is the the final cover.  That cover is from 1958 and, since Bergey died in 1952, we can be sure that he was not responsible for it.














Monday Live Tweet Alert: Join Us For Crackerjack and The Beastmaster!

As some of our regular readers undoubtedly know, I am involved in hosting a few weekly live tweets on twitter and occasion ally Mastodon.  I host #FridayNightFlix every Friday, I co-host #ScarySocial on Saturday, and I am one of the five hosts of Mastodon’s #MondayActionMovie!  Every week, we get together.  We watch a movie.  We snark our way through it.

Tonight, for #MondayActionMovie, the film will be 1994’s Crackerjack!  Christopher Plummer’s in it so you know it has to be good!

Following #MondayActionMovie, I will be guest-hosting the #MondayMuggers live tweet!  We will be watching 1982’s The Beastmaster, starring Marc Singer, Tanya Roberts, and Rip Torn!  The film is on Prime!

It should make for a night of fun viewing and I invite all of you to join in.  If you want to join the live tweets, just hop onto Mastodon, pull up Crackjack on YouTube, start the movie at 8 pm et, and use the #MondayActionMovie hashtag!  Then, at 10 pm et, switch over to Twitter and Prime, start The Beastmaster, and use the #MondayMuggers hashtag!  The live tweet community is a friendly group and welcoming of newcomers so don’t be shy.   


Music Video of the Day: Jaded by Miley Cyrus (2023, dir by Jacob Bixenman and Brendan Walter)

Miley’s sorry that you’re jaded.

Jaded is defined as being “tired, bored, or lacking enthusiasm, typically after having had too much of something,” so I guess it’s appropriate that the video for the song is kind of boring and features all of the tired Miley stuff that we’ve already seen in a hundred other videos, some of which featured Miley and some of which didn’t.  It’s interesting that we live in a world where we have many stars but few of them really seem to have much of a personality.