There's news abrewing, folks, but it's not quite up to full simmer just yet. So how to fill space here while we're waiting for the pot(s) to boil? Well, Hockensmith suggested I write something about whatever BVDs I've been watching lately. "Movies in Brief," he said I should call it. Which amused him no end and me no beginning. I suspect it had something to do with all this modern lingo I don't quite have the hang of. So I just told him to go twitter himself.
Still, I suppose he had a fine enough idea. Long as I can't talk about our new books and stories and speaking appearances and such (soon, friends, soon!), I may as well stick to BVDs. Here's what I've watched the last couple weeks.
Seeing as I enjoyed SYLS! so much a while back, I thought I'd give another comedy-Western a go. And as us cowboys do love laughing at sheepherders (when the more cussed of us aren't taking potshots at them), I decided to try The Sheepman starring one Glenn Ford. As Mr. Ford is the star and he doesn't play a sheep, you can probably guess what his character, Jason Sweet, does for a living. And as he's trying to do it in cattle country, you might also be able to guess how popular he is with the locals (cattlemen looking upon sheepmen as about two steps below ratmen, roachmen and maggotmen).
Perhaps the thing I liked best about the whole picture was how little Sweet cared what anyone thought of him. In fact, he reminded me of a certain close familial relation in that regard, though the affable Mr. Ford made Sweet's bitterness go down easier than it would from other folks I know.
There were other things to recommend the movie, too: a few good fights, a few good laughs (though not as many as I'd expected), a hissable smoothie/slicker villain (in the form a Mr. Leslie Nielsen). Enough to make up for a plot that starts out interesting (as in "What is that crazy so-and-so up to?") before veering into the tried and true (as in "Oh...it's another 'They killed my gal' revenge flick. Too bad.") In short, it wasn't great, but I really enjoyed it. And isn't that all we're hoping for from a BVD, sometimes?
Lowered expectations also helped out in my viewing of Big Jake, a Western/action/thriller/revenge/quest/comedy. The star is Mr. John Wayne, who I only knew vaguely from the time I saw him introducing a Gunsmoke BVD. He seemed to be some kind of big deal there -- why else was I supposed to give a crap what this guy thought of Gunsmoke? -- and in Big Jake he's an even bigger deal. He's older, he's beefier and craggier and slower, and the way he saunters through the whole picture fairly screams "living legend." Which was alright by me, partially because his character -- Jacob "Big Jake" McCandles -- is a living legend himself.
A tough old Texas cattle baron of the Charles Goodnight school, Big Jake goes on the warpath after a band of desperadoes (led by The Tall T's Richard Boone, playing more or less the same character) kidnaps his grandson, Little Jake. Much is made of the fact that it's the early 20th century, so the boobs who tag along to help (the wooden Christopher Mitchum and the positively petrified Patrick Wayne) rely on motorcycles and eight-shot automatic handguns and other such modern frippery. But Big Jake comes through in the end thanks to his Old School wiles and his faithful companions Dog (a dog) and Sam Sharpnose (an Indian -- and the way the character's written, they could've just named him that, too).
That the annoying, knee-pantsed Little Lord Fauntleroy Little Jake (Hockensmith called him "Eddie Munster without the widow's peak," whatever that means) is saved while Dog and Sam Sharpnose die I counted as a nearly unforgivable injustice. Yet forgiving's easy with Mr. Wayne, I found. He plays an ornery old S.O.B., but by jingo if you don't like him more than anyone else around, except maybe for Dog. I'll have to catch more of his BVDs soon. As for Big Jake, it's not great, but I really enjoyed it. And isn't that all we're hoping for from a BVD, sometimes?
The third BVD I've squeezed in of late was Major Dundee, starring Mr. Charlton Heston. Like Mr. Wayne, Mr. Heston plays a hard-driving S.O.B. In this case, a hard-driving cavalry S.O.B. stuck plum in the middle of the Indian Wars. And also in this case, you don't like him. Or at least I didn't. Maybe I would've warmed up to the man if given enough time. Three or four weeks, say. As it is, I'll never know.
Hockensmith showed me his Cuisinart once -- he was making guacamole at the time -- and Major Dundee felt like it had been tossed into one of those whirly-bladed contraptions like so many over-ripe avocados. In the first 15 minutes, you're jerked from one battle to another so fast it's like to give you whiplash, while some goobery voice pipes up at random intervals to tell you who's fighting who (cuz Lord knows you won't be able to figure it out from just, you know, watching the damned movie!).
It's not great...or even good...and I really didn't enjoy it. And isn't that exactly what we don't need from a BVD, ever?
So I turned it off.
Otto "Big Red" Amlingmeyer
April 20, 1893