A Town Called Bastard (1971, directed by Robert Parrish)


A Town Called Bastard is a British-produced Western that was shot in Spain and which was obviously designed to capitalize on the popularity of the Spaghetti westerns of the two Sergios, Leone and Corbucci.  When the movie was released in the United States, the title was changed to A Town Called Hell because it was felt that Americans would find the word “bastard” to be too offensive.  I’m not sure how naming your town Hell is somehow an improvement on naming a town Bastard but apparently, that was the thinking.  Actually, the town is called Bastardo is both versions of the film so the American title makes less and less sense the more you think about it.

Of course, how you can expect a film to make sense when the opening scenes feature Martin Landau and the very British Robert Shaw as two Mexican revolutionaries who, in the year 1895, ride into the town town of Bastardo and murder almost everyone that they see.  Ten years later, Robert Shaw is still living in the town but he’s now a priest and he’s renounced his formerly evil ways.  The town itself is ruled by a ruthless outlaw played by Telly Savalas, who doesn’t bother to hide his New York accent despite playing a Mexican outlaw.

One day, a black carriage arrives in town.  Inside the carriage is a glass coffin and inside the coffin in Stella Stevens, who is very much alive.  Stevens’s husband was among those killed by Shaw and Landau back in the day and she offers gold to anyone who can avenge his death.  Savalas is interested in the gold but then his character literally disappears from the film.  Instead, Martin Landau rides back into town.  He’s now a colonel in the Mexican army and is searching for a fugitive.

A Town Called Bastard has potential but it’s done in by poor casting and Robert Parrish’s inconsistent direction.  The story is told so messily and the editing is so sloppy that it often feels like major scenes were left on the cutting room floor.  (Just try to figure out what’s going on with Telly Savalas’s character, for example.)  Stella Stevens has one or two good moments as the vengeful widow and her entrance into the town is one of the few interesting moments in the movie but both Savalas and Shaw overact in an attempt to hide just how miscast they are while Martin Landau’s main concern seems to be to get his paycheck and move on to the next movie.

In the end, A Town Called Bastard goes straight to Hell.

The Many Adventures of Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective!


Hollywood could be a dangerous place and no one understood that better than Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective!  Turner was a hardboiled detective who made his first appearance in a 1934 issue of Spicy Detective.  Turner proved to be so popular that he not only continued to appear in Spicy Detective but he also got his own magazine.  Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective ran from 1942 to 1950 and featured Turner solving cases involving directors, producers, stuntmen, and starlets.  In fact, the stories often featured details about the infamous “Hollywood casting couch,” which made Turner’s adventures both popular and controversial in the 40s.

Here are a few of the covers of Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective!  Where known, the artist has been credited:

Artist Unknown

Artist Unknown

Artist Unknown

Artist Unknown

by Hugh Joseph Ward

by Hugh Joseph Ward

by Hugh Joseph Ward

by Hugh Joseph Ward

by Joe Szokoli

High Noon, Part II: The Return of Will Kane (1980, directed by Jerry Jameson)


One year after throwing his tin star to the ground and riding out of town in disgust at the cowardice of the citizens who he once served, former Marshal Will Kane (Lee Majors, stepping into the role that won Gary Cooper an Oscar) returns to Hadleyville with his bride, Amy (Katherine Cannon).

Hadleyville has a new sheriff.  When Kane angrily left, he was replaced by J.D. Ward (Pernell Roberts), a corrupt tyrant who runs the town with an iron fist and who is more interested in making money than upholding the law.  Ward is determined to collect the bounty on Ben Irons (David Carradine), a reformed outlaw who swears that he’s innocent.  Kane decides to try to help Ben escape from Ward and his posse, which leads to potentially disastrous consequences for him.  Will the town finally show the courage necessary to stand behind Kane or will he once again be forced to go it alone?

High Noon, Part II is a made-for-TV movie.  It was obviously designed to be a pilot for a potential television series, one that would have featured the weekly adventures of Will Kane in Hadleyville.  As far as made-for-TV westerns are concerned, it’s about average, neither particularly good nor bad.  Lee Majors may not have been a great actor but he was believable in western roles and both Pernell Roberts and David Carradine give good performances as well.  Jerry Jameson directs in a workmanlike manner.  The story’s predictable but it’s a western so what do you expect?

The main problem with the film is that it’s set up to be a sequel to a film that never needed one.  When Gary Cooper threw that star in the dust and climbed up on that wagon with Grace Kelly in High Noon, the whole point of the story was that Will Kane was never going to return to Hadleyville because the citizens of Hadleyville deserted him when he most needed them.  Hadleyville didn’t deserve Will Kane.  That’s what set High Noon apart from other westerns.  Having Kane return to Hadleyville and once again pick up the tin star negates everything that made High Noon so effective.  The whole point of the ending was that Will Kane was never going to return but, according to this movie, he did and forgave the town for the unforgivable.  It’s impossible to watch High Noon II without thinking about how it goes against everything that the first High Noon was all about.

Oddly enough, the film’s forgettable screenplay was written by the great Elmore Leonard.  Leonard did better work before this film and he would do better work afterwards.

 

Lifetime Film Review: The Secret Life of a Celebrity Surrogate (dir by Mark Gantt)


So, put yourself in this situation.

You’re an aspiring writer, which is a really nice way of saying that you don’t have much money.  Because you haven’t paid your rent in four months, you’ve just gotten kicked out of your apartment.  As bad as that is, you can take some comfort from the fact that your incredibly hot boyfriend owns a really nice and really big apartment and he probably won’t have any issue with letting you live there.  I mean, he’s always eager for you to sleep over so why not just move in?  So, you head over to his place to give him the news and….

….some blonde that you’ve never seen before opens the door and asks you who you are!

Okay, now you’re in trouble.  Not only do you not have an apartment but you also don’t have a boyfriend.  You have no money and you have no family to fall back on.  While many writers wrote some of their best work while living in boxcars and drifting across the country, you’re not sure that’s what you want to do with the next few years of your life.  So, you get on social media and you let the world know that you need a job.  ANY JOB!

That’s what happens to Olivia (Carrie Wampler), the character at the center of The Secret Life of a Celebrity Surrogate.  It all happens during the first 10 minutes or so of this movie and it does make Olivia into an instantly likable character.  There’s no way that you can’t sympathize with her because everything that could go wrong in her life has gone wrong in just the course of a few hours.  When Olivia is contacted by Cassidy (Jordyn Aurora Aquino) and told that there is a job opportunity for her but that it requires Olivia to be discreet, you can’t blame Olivia for jumping at the opportunity.  What else is Olivia going to do?  Starve?

It turns out that Cassidy works for Ava (Brianne Davis) and Hayden (Carl Beukes) von Richter, a celebrity couple who, after Ava’s last few films flopped at the box office, are now mostly famous for being famous.  Ava and Hayden hire Olivia to act as a surrogate to carry their child.  Olivia will get $150,000 once the baby is born and she’ll get to stay at Ava and Hayden’s fabulous mansion.  The main conditions seem reasonable: Olivia will have to be discreet and she’ll also have to stay healthy and be regularly checked out by Ava’s army of doctors.  Olivia agrees.

And, at first, everything seems okay.  Ava and Hayden are charming, even if Ava is a bit high-strung and Hayden often seems like he’s lost in thought.  Olivia bonds with Cassidy and chef Peter (Kenneth Miller).  Ava can be demanding but that makes sense and …. wait, a minute, did Ava just do cocaine in a public restaurant?   And what exactly is Hayden doing with that hypodermic needle?

Needless to say, Ava and Hayden are not as perfect as they initially seem and Olivia soon starts to have doubts about whether or not they should even be parents.  Hayden, especially, seems to get creepier (and more and more gropey) with each passing day.  Soon, that fabulous mansion starts to feel like a prison and Olivia comes to realize that her employers are even more dangerous than she originally suspected….

The Secret Life of a Celebrity Surrogate is a film that’s very much of the moment.  We live in a society that is obsessed with celebrities, even faded ones like Ava and Hayden.  We also live in a world where ordinary people — like Olivia — can actually connect with celebrities via social media.  At the same time, though people may not always be quick to admit it, we all secretly suspect that most celebrities are actually crazy and probably have a dungeon underneath their mansion.  Even our favorites are often suspected of harboring dark secrets, as seen by the eagerness of the twitter mob to cancel their former heroes.  As such, we can all relate to Olivia’s willingness to be a part of Ava and Hayden’s seemingly glamorous life while, at the time, Ava and Hayden’s “quirks” serve to confirm what we’ve always suspected about what goes on behind closed doors in Beverly Hills and on Park Avenue.

The Secret Life of a Celebrity Surrogate strikes a good balance between thriller and satire.  It embraces the melodrama while also retaining enough self-awarness to be fun.  Brianne Davis and Carl Beukes are both entertainingly sleazy as the celebrity couple from Hell while Carrie Wampler is sympathetic and likable in the role of Olivia.  This is an entertaining Lifetime movie that will be enjoyed by anyone who has ever looked at a celebrity tweet and thought to themselves, “What a weirdo.”

Catching Up With “Ley Lines” : Victor Martins’ “Cabra Cabra”


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Separating art from artist has always been a tricky proposition, but it’s doubly so when the artist in question is a symbol of liberation and subjugation both. Many artists from various media whose work I generally respect hold or held views I absolutely abhor, from Steve Ditko to Jim Steranko to Douglas Pearce to Peter Sotos, but it’s not all that difficult to say “their worldview’s repugnant, but I like their stuff” without coming off as a hypocrite. Respect for one facet of a person’s life isn’t a tacit endorsement of all of it. But what do you do with Virginia Woolf, who’s justly lauded for her trailblazing feminism and fearlessness in dealing with overtly queer subject matter and themes literally decades before such things were discussed in “polite” (as in, bigoted) company — but was also a fairly pronounced racist?

Cartoonist Victor Martins tackles that very conundrum in…

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Music Video of the Day: The Drugs Don’t Work, covered by Boh Doran (2020, dir by Jesse Hines)


Today’s music video of the day is for a cover of The Verve’s The Drugs Don’t Work.

I like the video.  It has definite drowning feel to it, which is appropriate for the song.

Enjoy!