Doc West (2009), Worth A Look

Doc West (Terence Hill)

After the “how’s he look”, “how’s he sound”, and “is he still the Looney Toon of the West” questions are answered, you are left with one question. Is this Terence Hill’s My Name Is Nobody? In other words, is this the proper sendoff that he helped to give Henry Fonda some 40 years ago?

Doc West begins with a robbery at the post office. West (Terence Hill) was there sending money and he sets off in pursuit of the outlaws. He arrives in Holysand and he finds two families set against each other. The sheriff with an aching back is played by Paul Sorvino. West figures out from which family the outlaws came and helps the other one. Between them and the sheriff, they bring the bad guys to justice. In the process, West must come to peace with an incident that changed him from a European surgeon in Boston to Doc West, the cardsharp. It’s very straightforward, cheesy, and family-oriented.

The Face

How’s he look? Good and bad. For his age, he is obviously in good physical condition. You look at his face, those eyes, the expressions and you know it’s him. But you also look at that face that has seen so many years and so many films and he looks like he is near his end. Then again, he is Italian and good sections of that side of my family meet 70 years with another 30 years left to go. It’s just the impression that you get when you watch.

How’s he sound? Again, good and bad. He no longer speaks with that almost comical pitch and American accent. His deliveries feel like those from a beloved grandfather who is all there mentally, but world weary. However, he’s 70, and he’s not trying to play anything younger. I find it soothing to listen to him speak slow and with that beautiful Italian accent. There is an honesty to his voice that I only hear in his earlier films when I compare the characters of Cat Stevens and Trinty. He was honestly a comedian, not a tough guy. Here he’s honestly an old Italian cowboy, not a young American gunslinger.

I Drink Tea. Gotta Problem With That?

Is he still the Looney Toon of the West? No, not at all. He hasn’t lost his sense of humor, but at his age, he can’t give the same physical performances he did in his prime. That would be like asking Buster Keaton to do his silent movie stunts circa Sunset Boulevard (1950). Buster probably couldn’t do it and shouldn’t have because he would look ridiculously over extended. The same goes for Hill if he tried to do the same slap happy fist fighting that was his signature.

Still Eats Beans Straight From The Frying Pan

So we come to the most important question. Is this Terence Hill’s My Name Is Nobody? No, that movie not only gave Henry Fonda a proper sendoff, but it was a passing of the torch from the classic to the spaghetti. We can argue, but it’s fair to say that it went from cowboys like Dix and Hart to Wayne to Eastwood to Nero to Hill. There were others like Fonda in the classic era and Milian in the spaghetti west, but Hill was a king. The kings were dead by the 1980’s and by the 2000’s the only king left has taken a throne behind the camera. Hill has no-one to pass the torch onto. For that alone, Hill can never have his My Name Is Nobody. What he can have is Doc West. A movie that lets us see Hill one more time. See him eat beans again. See those facial expressions and those blue eyes. Hit a group of guys quickly, one more time. Let us who know and love his work, enjoy him one last time.

Don't Keep Hill Waiting

I mentioned that he looked and sounded tired. I also used language that made it sound like this was his last film. There are at least two sequels that I haven’t watched yet. Maybe he looks and sounds worn out because that’s the character. I’m sure at 70 he is, but he is probably accentuated it to give a good performance. The film would never stand if it were not for Terence Hill’s presence, but who cares. Neither did Man Of The East (1972), which a good section of the film seems to be borrowed from. It never felt sad or uncomfortable. I was ecstatic to see him again and look forward to watching the sequel.

West and The Dog

If you love Terence Hill, remember him as Trinty. I get the feeling that this is a look at Mario Girotti. It’s worth a look.

A Virgin In Hollywood (1953), Worth A Look

With Points Like That, She Won't Be One For Long!

I know, how can I be saying that this sexploitation film is worth a look. It’s just a clothesline to hang sequences of scantily clad women and sexually humorous encounters with men upon. Call me ignorant, but despite coming out in 1953, it plays exactly like most soft-core porn you expect to find late-night on Skinimax…sorry Cinemax. The only difference is that they go that next step and have sex whereas this film stops short at voyeurism. The rest of the formula is there. It’s about a woman who comes out to Hollywood to write a column for her paper back home. She quickly stumbles upon a sexy photo shoot and soon is in the biz herself.

The Photo Shoot


The "Indian" Pose

She is still writing the articles and sending them back home, but now she seems to go into any business or situation that could be sexually humorous or enticing. My personal favorite is the distinguished actor who wants to show her how he had to whip a fellow actress onscreen.

I Whipped Her Just Like This!

She compares legs with a female impersonator, gets in a cat fight, and lets us peep at her fellow models.

You Must Be European, Right?

That's My Lingerie!

Who Needs Faces, When There Are Legs A Plenty!

Almost Laying It Bare For All To See

It’s pretty stupid, kinda fun, and a bit of a prototype for modern soft-core porn. At least, it knows that when you are making a sex film for the heterosexual man, you marginalize or leave men out all together. So much of the porn for them shows nothing but penises. It’s worse than a western pretending there is no homosexuality present. For those things, it is a borderline worth a look.

The Mercenary (1968), Worth A Look

Like A Bullet For The General (1966), this is a political spaghetti western that pairs the professional with the revolutionary. The professional is the titular mercenary played by Franco Nero who everyone calls the Polack. The revolutionary is Paco (Tony Musante), a Mexican who has recently broken free from a silver mine. The two meet early in the film and together face numerous foes from bank owners to the mine owners to the evil Curly (Jack Palance). Of course, by face I mean Paco and his men pay the Polack his salary and they become the beneficiaries of his abilities and tactics. Just like in A Bullet For The General, the experience of being with the outside pro corrupts the revolutionary. It’s just not as good as A Bullet For The General. The material is lacking in substance and tries to be fun with a violent edge. The many uses of the machine gun are gratuitous references to Nero’s success in Django. It has it’s moments like when we get a shootout in a bullfighting arena a la The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. There is plenty of comedy that works and there are more violent films. In my book, that makes it a spaghetti western that’s worth a look.

The Butcher Boy (1917), Worth A Look

Fatty goes from butcher boy to crossdresser for his love. He does it all while fighting off the evil Buster Keaton and his fellow henchmen. And he gets help from Luke the dog, of course.

Luke On A Treadmill

Fatty The Butcher Dealing...

...Buster A Blow To The Head

Fatty The "Lady"

Vernon, Florida (1981), Worth A Look

This Only Looks Like A Turtle, Don't Be Fooled!

Between Gates Of Heaven and The Thin Blue Line lies director Errol Morris’ second documentary film called Vernon, Florida. Morris really found some oddballs his second time around. Take the man pictured above for instance. That is a turtle he is holding, he knows that people think it’s a turtle, and he even notes how slow it moves, but still insists that it is a gopher. He also keeps a live possum in that metal container with the turtle.

The Wiggler Man

Then there is the wiggler man. He’s kind of like Bubba from Forrest Gump in the sense that he feels the need to enumerate the many different types of wigglers. There’s orchard-worm wiggler, big red wiggler, eel worm wiggler, big ring-neck wiggler, and they got one they call the night crawler. He says there is a book about how to raise wigglers, but that it’s wrong.

The 'Therefore' Preacher

We also listen to a wonderful preacher who gives an entire sermon on the word ‘therefore’. We enjoy in the exciting discovery that ‘therefore’ is a conjunction. Then it’s back to the dictionary to find out what a ‘conjunction’ is, only to discover another mystery word called ‘indeclinable’. It goes on for quite a while and we even end up looking at the Greek meaning of a certain word. Ultimately, he concludes that because of the widespread use of ‘therefore’ in the Bible, you shouldn’t take control of your own life. That would violate the word’s meaning and take away your God given peace.

Turkey Hunter

However, not all of the characters Morris meets are jokes. The turkey hunter who looks like he belongs riding in a car with James Bond or in a Smokey And The Bandit film, turns out to be an enjoyable storyteller. Sure all the stories are about hunting turkeys, but he does it so well that we are mesmerized. Every time he mentions the word gobble, it’s funny, but the more time you spend with him, the more it becomes the call to his lifelong turkey hunt. It’s what he loves to do and hearing his stories lets us into that world for a short time.

They're Talking About The Sand, Not The Dog

While the turkey man who hears the call of the gobble is probably the sanest person in the lot, most are scary ignorant. I joked about the preacher and the old man who thought a turtle was a gopher, but there is a couple who actually believes the sand they retrieved from a nuclear testing site is growing. That’s right, that jar only had a little bit of sand when they first got it, now look at it! Another man actually advocates running people out of town on a rail complete with tar and feathers. I won’t even talk about the three old guys discussing whether taking off your shoe is necessary to blow your head off.

The members of this town can be funny and entertaining, but in the end they are sad. Morris never says this and he never demeans any the people he films. Still, you almost wish a nuke or a natural disaster would let the people and the place die. It’s short at a little under an hour, so as long as you know what you are getting into, it is worth a look.

Angel Face (1952), TSPDT #934, Worth A Look

Diane Tremayne (Jean Simmons)

How could Robert Mitchum fall for the femme fatale? That was the question I kept asking myself as I watched Angel Face. Mitchum plays an ambulance driver named Frank Jessup who gets a call to the home of Diane Tremayne whose stepmother is found alive in her room with the gas running. A suicide attempt or a murder? In no time, Diane tries to sink her hooks into Jessup and we find out that she really doesn’t like her stepmother.

Diane Tremayne (Jean Simmons) and Frank Jessup (Robert Mitchum)

This is where the film differentiates itself from other noirs. My original question was answered with…he isn’t. Diane tries to bring Frank into her plot to murder her stepmother, but he only seems to take the job as her family’s chauffeur because he isn’t happy at home. She manages to drive a little wedge between the stepmother and him by getting his hopes up for possible business funding, but it’s still preexisting unhappiness that drives Mitchum. Meanwhile, Diane moves forward with her murderous plan.

Prelude To A Murder

The film is really the story of her obsessions, her “love”, and her guilt. Jessup is along for the ride and seems content with her till the end. The movie can feel trying at times, such as the trial sequence, because we don’t feel that Double Indemnity manipulation and step by step murder plot. The manipulation never takes hold and the murder comes suddenly. However, the fatalism is strong even if it is easy to miss at first. Jessup stepped into Diane’s toilet bowl when he arrived at her home at the beginning and we are just watching as it spins up to suck them both down.

The End

Director Otto Preminger does a fine job and so do the actors, but while I think I get it, that doesn’t mean I enjoyed it. Nothing made me care, nothing made me appreciate the fatalism, or enjoy the downward spiral. I felt like I was just on the fringes of the actual story of Diane’s self destruction rather than engaged in it. So for me, it gets a worth a look.