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Friday, June 9, 2023

My All-Time Favorite Scene From "Lonesome Dove" (1989) (video)

Captain Woodrow F. Call (Tommy Lee Jones) refuses to admit...

...that young orphan Newt (Ricky Schroder) may be his illegitimate son.

But just let anyone do any harm to the boy...

...and Captain Call strikes with a mindless, vengeful rage.

He hates rude behavior in a man.

I neither own nor claim any rights to this material.  Just having some fun with it.  Thanks for watching!


Thursday, June 8, 2023



(NOTE: This review originally appeared online in 2007.)


WANTED: DEAD OR ALIVE, SEASON THREE picks up right where volume two left off, giving us the 26 episodes that comprise the final season of this irresistibly entertaining Western series which ran from 1958-1961.

But unlike, for example, STAR TREK:THE ORIGINAL SERIES, which was running on fumes during its third and final season, WANTED ended only because Steve McQueen left to pursue a film career. Thus, the series finished stronger than ever with a season of episodes featuring better scripts, sharper dialogue, and roughly twice the amount of gunsmoke and flying lead. Even Rudy Schrager's original music is better this time around.

A distinctive new opening sequence begins with darkness punctuated by three gun flashes. As the title appears, McQueen's "Josh Randall" character steps into the light and holsters his gun with a steely-eyed glare.

As usual, Josh Randall is a decent, laidback sort who only shoots when it's absolutely necessary--he'd rather bring 'em in alive than dead. But if he's pushed too far, he lets the Mare's Leg, the sawed-off Winchester '92 that he carries in a clip holster, settle things in a definitive way. Josh doesn't tolerate rude behavior from bad guys ("You put down that blade or I'm gonna start blowin' off fingers") but will go out of his way to avoid violence whenever possible. Which, fortunately for us, is often impossible.

One episode in particular ("Journey for Josh") finds him falling in love with a female prisoner (Debra Paget's sister, the extremely hot Lisa Gaye) during their trek to another town. Something happens to her along the way which raises Josh's ire like never before, and, in an uncharacteristic moment of rage, he shoots the offending bad guy full of holes. The gunshot sound effects are turned up really loud in this series, too, lending more consequence to each shot fired. (Verna Fields, who handled most of the third season sound effects, went on to edit Steven Spielberg's blockbuster hit JAWS.)

Even more so than before, several of the stories break away from the usual bounty hunter formula in which Randall is either tracking someone down or bringing him in for trial. More and more, in fact, he finds himself being hired for all sorts of things, from keeping a prospective bridegroom on the wagon until his wedding day ("The Cure") to helping a young widow retain custody of her son while her domineering mother-in-law uses her wealth and political connections to take him away from her ("One Mother Too Many").

In a particularly exotic episode ("The Long Search"), he helps a Japanese mail-order bride locate her reluctant husband-to-be and not only finds himself participating in an elegant ancient tea ceremony in the middle of nowhere but also runs into an ill-tempered samurai intent on turning him into sushi.

Such a broad premise allows writers such as TV veterans Ed Adamson and Norman Katkov to come up with a wide variety of engaging stories, some of them intensely dramatic, which easily sustain interest throughout. Each 26-minute mini-Western is superbly rendered with movie-quality black and white cinematography by talented directors including Richard Donner (SUPERMAN, THE OMEN) and Murray Golden (ST:TOS' "Requiem for Methuselah").

There are even several comedy episodes which give Steve McQueen a chance to exploit his playful side. I actually LOL'd a few times at "Baa-Baa", the story of a distraught couple who hire Josh to find their beloved pet sheep, Baa-Baa. When news of his latest assignment gets around, Josh becomes a laughingstock at the local saloon and almost gets hanged by a couple of sheep-hating cattlemen for his trouble. It got to the point where I was laughing every time a character said the name "Baa-Baa." The final shot of Josh being chased across the prairie by a smitten Baa-Baa is just plain nutty.

As always, every time Josh Randall rides to a different town for which an indoor set is used, it's the same town that served as "North Fork" on another Four Star production, THE RIFLEMAN. It's fun to see how all the signs and certain bits of scenery are switched around in an effort to make it look different each time. In season two, you can spot a sign for North Fork's Doc Burridge, and in this collection Lucas McCain's favorite blacksmith Nels Svenson appears long enough to get murdered by some escaped outlaws. Even the interior and exterior sets for Lucas McCain's ranch are reused here and there, notably in "The Long Search."

The guest cast continues to offer a wealth of interesting character actors in addition to past and future stars. These include a young James Coburn (McQueen's co-star in THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN and THE GREAT ESCAPE), Paul Burke, Harold J. Stone, Tom Drake, RIFLEMAN regular Bill Quinn, Olan Soule', Don Gordon, director Mark Rydell (ON GOLDEN POND, THE COWBOYS), Cloris Leachman, J. Pat O'Malley, Frank Albertson, Richard Anderson, Gloria Talbot, Warren Oates, Howard Morris, Noah Beery, Richard Farnsworth, and an insanely-young Mary Tyler Moore.

Jeanette Nolan is unrecognizable in an incredible performance as a spooky Mexican witch woman in (what else?) "Witch Woman", while "The Choice" is a special treat for old-time horror fans as it offers an aging Dick Foran (THE MUMMY'S HAND, THE MUMMY'S TOMB) as an over-the-hill bounty hunter whose concerned wife hires Josh to make sure that her husband survives his final hunt for a desperate outlaw.

But it's the series star, Steve McQueen, who makes this show so much fun to watch. He's ever so cool, but not in a detached way. His Josh Randall character is warm, caring, funny, fallible--in other words, human. He loves money, but he values honesty and friendship even more. His love life consists mainly of brief encounters with the various dancehall girls he's gotten to know over the years, which are usually played for laughs. But when the situation gets dangerous, you can always depend on him to say something cool and go into action.

Add this to all the other elements that make WANTED: DEAD OR ALIVE one of the best Western series of all time, in addition to seven featurettes, and you've got a 4-disc DVD collection that provides a wagonload of pure entertainment. As Josh Randall would say: "Let's go!"




Wednesday, June 7, 2023



(NOTE: This review originally appeared online back in 2007.)


Three of the main things that make me glad I own a DVD player are Steve McQueen, Westerns, and classic TV.  So when WANTED:DEAD OR ALIVE, SEASON TWO fell into my hot little hands, my inner joy buzzer went haywire.  This is the good stuff, pardner!

Steve McQueen was effortlessly cool in whatever he did.  His "Josh Randall" character is a bounty hunter, but instead of the cold, ruthless type we usually associate with that occupation, he's more of a kind-hearted Good Samaritan who spends much of his time getting involved in other people's problems and helping them out.  This gives the stories a lot more variety than they'd have if Randall just tracked down bad guys all the time, although we often get to see him do that, too.  But even then, there's always some novel twist that makes it more interesting than the standard "good guy vs. bad guy" yarn.

Since Steve is the sole continuing castmember, the show's premise is similar to that of "Route 66", "Then Came Bronson", "The Fugitive", "The Incredible Hulk", etc., in that the main character travels from town to town interacting with a different set of guest stars in each episode and getting himself mixed up in their affairs.  (Josh Randall has one advantage over the others, though--he doesn't have to find a different odd job in every town.)  And if you enjoy watching great character actors as I do, the endless assortment of notable guest stars in these episodes is a constant source of delight.

In "The Hostage", Lee Van Cleef makes a very imposing outlaw who breaks out of his jail cell and threatens to kill the captive Josh Randall unless he's given safe passage out of town.  "The Empty Cell" features both classic horror icon Lon Chaney, Jr. and Star Trek's DeForest Kelley in fine performances.  In "Bad Gun", King Donovan plays a prissy gun salesman from the East who hires Randall to lead him into the badlands to track down "Curly Bill" Brocius, simply to exchange a defective gun that he sold him!  Even Tony "Scarface" Montana's mother, Miriam Colon, shows up in the episode "Desert Seed", along with Kurt Russell's real-life father, Bing, who would later appear with Steve in THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. 

Other familiar guest stars include Brad Dexter and Robert Wilke (also of THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN), Warren Oates, Richard Farnsworth, John Carradine, Gloria Talbot, Dabbs Greer, John Dehner, child actor Richard Eyer (THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD), Everett Sloan, Royal Dano, Virginia Christine, Claude Akins, Beverly Garland, Philip Ahn, James Westerfield, Charles Aidman, Jean Willes, Jay "Tonto" Silverheels, Susan Oliver, William Schallert, Dyan Cannon, Martin Landau, Mara Corday, voice-over legend Alexander Scourby, R.G. Armstrong, Mort Mills, and Virginia Gregg. Wow!  As I've said before, this kind of consistently fine guest star line-up gives fans of these actors the feeling that they're watching an "all-star cast" during several episodes.

This DVD set consists of four discs in three attractively-designed slimline cases and contains 32 episodes from the classic series which ran from 1958-61.  They're so beautifully restored they could've been shot last week, and the cinematography is feature-quality.  Each episode is a 26-minute mini-Western that wastes no time in getting the story going and keeping things moving right up till the end.  Some of the scripts are penned by such familiar names as Charles Beaumont, Richard Matheson, and Star Trek's Fred Freiberger and Samuel A. Peeples, and contain some choice dialogue.  "Can you hit anything with this?" someone asks Randall in one episode, indicating his unusual gun.  "It's happened," he drawls.

My favorite TV Western of all time is still "The Rifleman", but "Wanted: Dead or Alive" is now a close second.  Like Lucas McCain, Josh Randall packs a distinctive weapon--the "Mare's Leg", a sawed-off 1892 Winchester lever-action rifle that he carries in a holster.  Unlike Lucas McCain, however, Randall rarely uses his gun, preferring to talk his way out of violent situations rather than shooting his way out, and the body count on an entire season of this show is lower than a few trips to town for Lucas McCain.  But the drama and excitement levels are just as high, and the fact that Randall isn't tied down by home and family gives him the chance to partake in a wide assortment of storylines that could never take place on shows like "The Rifleman" or "Bonanza." 

The sole bonus feature on this 4-disc set is a brief (approx. 11 min.) featurette entitled "The Women of Wanted: Dead or Alive", which is pleasant but not very informative.  But the 32 episodes of the show themselves are sufficient compensation for the lack of extras. 

Besides, the main thing that makes WANTED:DEAD OR ALIVE, SEASON TWO such fun to watch is that Steve McQueen is just so darn cool.  I'd watch this show just to see him even if it was a piece of junk, so the fact that it happens to be one of the finest Westerns in TV history makes it absolutely essential viewing for his fans.  Just out of curiosity, I checked to see when this series reached its "jump the shark" point, and the unanimous verdict was: never.  As one voter put it:  "The shark wouldn't stand a chance against Steve."

Read our review of Season Three


Tuesday, June 6, 2023

CARNIVAL MAGIC -- Blu-ray Review by Porfle

 Originally posted on 4/23/20


I'm not sure if it's a kid movie with adult elements, or an adult movie with kid elements, but Al Adamson's 1983 novelty feature CARNIVAL MAGIC (Severin Films) has all those elements rattling around in it and more, and you never know which one's going to jump out at you next.

Most of all, though, it's got that magical element of legendary exploitation filmmaker Al Adamson (SATAN’S SADISTS, DRACULA VS. FRANKENSTEIN, BRAIN OF BLOOD) knocking out his next-to-last finished movie with all his limited but very enthusiastic skills in play, making the most of a small budget to create something that, hopefully, will pack 'em into neighborhood theaters.

The final stage of Al's career veered inexplicably into family film territory, hence this colorful tale of a cash-strapped carnival whose desperate owner depends on the popularity of a very unpleasant and cruel animal trainer (Joe Cirillo, GHOSTBUSTERS) whose own animals are starting to turn against him. 

But when their resident magician, Markov (Don Taylor, star of the soap opera "The Guiding Light"), reveals that he owns a talking chimp--a fact he'd somehow managed to keep secret all this time--he becomes the carnival's lucrative star attraction while making a mortal enemy of the jealous animal trainer.

And as if that weren't enough, an unscrupulous research scientist named Dr. Poole wants to kidnap "Alex" the talking chimp so that he can run him through an exhaustive series of experiments back at the lab, ending with a complete vivisection.

If you think some of this sounds a bit strong for a kids' film, wait'll you get a load of sexy Adamson regular Regina Carrol's boob-a-licious costumes as Markov's assistant, Alex the chimp's lecherous mumbled asides, and the sight of the increasingly hostile animal trainer going on a booze bender and beating the daylights out of his girlfriend.

Still, the plot also includes some nice stuff like the carnival owner's tomboy daughter "Buddy" (Jennifer Houlton) coming into her own as a young woman and falling for her dad's handsome young public relations guy as Markov gives her life advice while trying to deal with his own bitter memories.

But the main focus of this ostensible "kid" flick is Alex the mumbling chimp, who comes off like some senile old vaudevillian or a simian version of Buster Keaton at his most sullen. 

Not only does he play an active role in Markov's cheesy magical act, mostly by making insulting remarks or blowing raspberries from the sidelines, but there's a lively sequence in which he takes off in a car and causes havoc along several miles of highway as your standard redneck cop gives chase.

The very leisurely-paced story finally picks up in the latter half when Alex is ape-snatched by the horrible Dr. Poole and taken to his lab of horrors, with Markov, Buddy, and all the other good guys racing against time to rescue him.

When compared to Al Adamson's quick and dirty exploitation jobs with their hasty set-ups, bobbling hand-held camerawork, and threadbare production values, CARNIVAL MAGIC seems relatively lavish. 

(He even stages a real parade during the closing credits in which the joyous inhabitants of the local town act as extras, many of the female ones rushing up to give soap opera star Don Stewart a big kiss.)

The three-week shooting schedule must've seemed luxurious to a director used to lensing a feature by the seat of his pants in five-to-ten days or so, and the producer for whom he shot the film obviously gave him a more substantial budget to work with.

Thus, while hardly resembling a Grade-A film, this modest production shows Al Adamson capable of doing a workmanlike job under the right circumstances, while still allowing his somewhat oddball imagination to bleed through the more mundane material given him in lieu of one of his own fevered screenplays.

The Blu-ray from Severin Films boasts the last surviving pre-print 35mm elements of CARNIVAL MAGIC, already in a state of decomposition when discovered and scanned to create the nicely-restored copy we see here.

Special features consist of the very entertaining restoration featurette "A Boon To Science: A Critical Appreciation by Zack Carlson & Lars Nilsen", an audio commentary with producer Elvin Feltner, outtakes, and a trailer and TV spot.

In addition to this we also get a complete second feature, LOST, which was Al Adamson's final completed film and yet another odd  foray into family entertainment, this time about a man (Don Stewart again), his wife (Sandra Dee), and her daughter moving from the city to a cabin in the wilderness. Ken Curtis and Jack Elam also appear in this tale of the daughter getting lost in the mountains as her family endures much emotional distress during the frantic search.

While it will hardly appeal much to viewers whose tastes run toward films that are more polished and less conspicuously odd, CARNIVAL MAGIC is essential for Al Adamson fans who will delight in seeing him work within a normally mundane genre and turn it into something which, in its own way, pretty much defies description.

Buy it from Severin Films

Special Features:

    A Boom To Science – A Critical Appreciation by Zack Carlson & Lars Nilsen
    Audio Commentary with Producer Elvin Feltner
    TV Spot

    Bonus Film: LOST
    The Happy Hobo – Rushes for Promo From Unproduced Adamson Kids Film
    LOST Trailer


Monday, June 5, 2023

Ten Old-School Jump Scares (video)

Ten Old-School Jump Scares

"Prior to the 1980s, jump scares were a relatively rare occurrence in horror movies." -- Wikipedia

The Haunted Castle (1896)
The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
Cat People (1942)
Hideous Sun Demon (1958)
The Killer Shrews (1959)
House On Haunted Hill (1959)
The Birds (1962)
The Night Walker (1964)
Wait Until Dark (1967)
Jaws (1975)


Originally posted on 4/23/18
I neither own nor claim any rights to this material.  Just having some fun with it.  Thanks for watching!