Thursday, January 5, 2012

5 Unusual Westerns You Might Like...


1. HOPALONG CASSIDY AND THE FIVE MEN OF EVIL

I got my copy of this "graphic novel" in a comic book store in Mesa AZ around 1997.  I think it cost about 6 bucks and I am right glad I hung on to it... 'cuz used copies at Amazon are starting around $134!!   I don't know why in the world it is that valuable but I DO know I love it for what it is... awesome entertainment!

Basically it is a reprint of a story arc of the Dan Spiegel - drawn comic strip that came out during the "Hoppy boom" of the early '50s.  The "script" is credited to Republic serial writer Royal Cole and it's a great sequential tale about Hoppy and sidekick "Mesquite" pursing five psychotic hillbillies to a dramatic-- and surprisingly violent-- conclusion.

Great if you can find it [and have no fear... I found a couple different offers for less than 10 bux with a little deeper web search.]




2. FIGHTING PARSON OF THE OLD WEST by Bernard Palmer
[also published as PARSON JOHN]

This is a great "Christian Western" first published by Moody Press back in 1942.  It is a surprisingly well-rendered and frank picture of the working life of a preacher in the lawless Sand Hills region of Nebraska Territory just after the Civil War.  The lead character Pastor John Woodring [a fictionalization of the author's real-life grandfather] is presented as a sincere but driven man of faith who fights corruption, murder, subjugation of womenfolk, and even his own doubts through a quick moving narrative.

This book is written in a straightforward style that makes it suitable for reading aloud to children.  It actually deals with some mature subject matter [prostitution is one example] but does so in a thoroughly tasteful style.  Great little read.




3. MAIL ORDER BRIDE [1964]

This overlooked gem of a movie was completely new to me when I saw it last night DVR'd from the Turner Movie channel [Praise God for DirectTV!]

Made the year I was born, this western "dramedy" is the delightful tale of a savvy old frontier codger [played beautifully by the great Buddy Ebsen] who who pressures the wild son of his dead friend into marrying a mail-order bride in an attempt to settle the crazy youth down a notch.  Much hilarity ensues.

That short description may make it sound pretty run-of-the-mill, but an amazing cast-- and expert direction from no less a hand than Burt Kennedy-- really elevate this charming piece of Americana to a special level.

Plus it features Denver Pyle as a wacky preacher man... bonus!


4. REBEL SPURS by Andre Norton

Sci-fi legend Mary Alice Norton wrote this oater back in '50s and as far as I know it is her only true western.  She should've written more.

This sequel to her civil war novel Ride Proud, Rebel finds hero Drew Currie involved in horse racing, horse stealing and a pretty good mystery in 1860s Arizona!  As a plus for me it all takes place in my home county [Santa Cruz Co. on the Mex border!] and Norton's research into period setting and detail is highly impressive.   Great coming-of-age element involved too.




5. THE LAST OUTLAW [1936]

Finally we have my all time favorite movie... and I mean that sincerely.

B-western great Harry Carey turns in the bittersweet performance of a lifetime as aging outlaw Dean Payton, and Hoot Gibson is unbelievably funny as a cynical young cowpoke. This is a smart, greathearted western that will please just about anybody. I have shown it to a score of friends so far and NONE have failed to LOVE it.

This one I cannot recommend highly enough.  Look it for it on VHS... sadly, the DVD has yet to appear.

PEACE.

7 comments:

Oscar said...

Some great references there, Albie! I liked those Hoot Gibson movies, but I don't remember The Last Outlaw.

Anonymous said...

"The Last Outlaw" was a very good western with a perfect cast. Tom Tyler plays the villain and Fred Scott parodies the singing cowboy fad. (Ironically, Scott went on to become a minor singing cowboy star in a "B" movie series.)

Albie The Good said...

OSCAR: You should see it! It's really a treat. [And just so you know... it's actually an "A-western" from RKO, so its different from every other Hoot vehicle I ever saw.]

ANONYMOUS: Yeah, the FRED SCOTT movie scene at the theatre is one of my favorite scenes ever! I love it when Hoot asks the girl "if he's sposta be runnin' cattle, why is he dressed like a girl?" or someting like that... hilarious!

Anonymous said...

Burt Kennedy was at his best when directing comedy Westerns like Mail Order Bride. His straight Westerns-Return of the Seven, The Deserter, The Train Robbers-are routine, while his comedies-The Rounders, Support Your Local Sheriff, The Good Guys and the Bad Guys, Sidekicks-are all well above average. John Sturges (Bad Day at Black Rock, Gunfight at the O K Corral, Magnificent Seven) was the opposite. He could direct drama, but not comedy. Maybe Sturges should have directed Return of the Seven, and Kennedy should have done Sergeants Three and The Hallelujah Trail.

Albie The Good said...

ANONYMOUS: I agree with ya when you say it like that... I love Sturges for action, yes. GREAT ESCAPE is on my permanent top 10 for all movies, ever.

The only thing I might say is I kinda like HALLELUJAH TRAIL as it stands, even though it is definitely inferior to the original book.

Gulick is one great western writer who has never been satisfactorily filmed IMO.

Thanks for stoppin' by and commentin' :)

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