Saturday, February 21, 2015

Return With Us Now To TV Westerns: 'LASH OF THE WEST'

By Steve Crum

Lash LaRue (aka Al "Lash" LaRue) was a top B-western movie star of the 1940's and '50s, specializing in his use of the bullwhip. (He reportedly taught Harrison Ford how to use it for the Indiana Jones movies.) 

He was the man in black outfit, riding a black horse. AND he had a great sidekick, Al "Fuzzy" St. John.

His TV "career" is hardly worth mentioning since his 15-minute Lash of the West ran a mere four months on ABC. (The show consisted of him introducing clips from his old movies.) Lash is pictured above in his heyday, and as a guest on an early David Letterman show. 

"The Humphrey Bogart of Westerns" died May 24, 1994 at 78.

Return With Us Now To TV Westerns: 'SKY KING'

By Steve Crum

Kirby Grant, who portrayed the title heroic character in TV's Sky King from 1951-52, did not age that much--which is apparent in these photos taken in 1951 and 1984. 

Grant tragically died in a car accident on Oct. 30, 1985, near Cape Canaveral. He was on his way to observe the Space Shuttle Challenger liftoff.

Return With Us Now To TV Westerns: 'THE CISCO KID'

By Steve Crum

Was The Cisco Kid a friend of yours like he was mine? One of the earliest TV shows filmed in color, The Cisco Kid [1950-56] starred Duncan Renaldo and Leo Carillo. (It is still rerun today.) 

At right is Renaldo shortly before he died in 1980. He was actually of Romanian descent.

Since Carillo, who died in 1961, was elderly when he portrayed Pancho, I've included his early portrait. Carillo was an original California aristocrat who has a state park named after him. 

The correct Castilian pronunciation of his last name is Cay-reel-yo.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Excessive violence kills Bond-spoof ‘Kingsman’

By Steve Crum

The comic book-based Kingsman: The Secret Service tries so hard to spoof Bond films, but never quite succeeds. God knows serious money was loaded into it, from extensive digital effects to star power. But at best Kingsman only emulates Bond takeoffs that have preceded it over the last 50 years, making it a spoof of a spoof. Let me put it another way: Via the hind teat this movie sucketh.

Directed and co-written by Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass; X-Men: First Class), Kingsman: The Secret Service most closely echoes the Matt Helm series, an early James Bond spoof, which starred Dean Martin. There have been other take-offs on Bond flicks—from movies (Our Man Flint, Austin Powers) to TV (Get Smart). My guess is that since the Bond franchise is still alive and well after all these decades, why not give today’s young audience something old, which to them translates to something new: another Bond parody. 

After all, how many 20 year-olds have seen even one of the four Matt Helm movies, a series that ran from 1966-69? Update that sub-genre with more sex and profanity, and add a heavy dose of digital effects to really enhance the violence. For Kingsman, fail to include any of the humor, wit, and suspense its predecessors contain. 

Like the Bond setting, Kingsman is British based and centers on the exploits of licensed to kill agents protecting the Queen’s realm. The plus of the story is the focus on “Eggsy” Unwin (Taron Egerton), whose secret service father was killed years ago by enemy agent Gazelle (Sofia Boutella), who sports prosthetic legs resembling razor sharp swords. Shades of Bond’s Oddjob with that slice and dice hat. It turns out that Eggsy’s dad’s friend and fellow agent Harry Hart (Colin Firth) has waited 17 years until Eggsy is grown so he can basically recruit the young man to become a Kingsman, thus following in his father’s footsteps. 

Eggsy reluctantly agrees, and undergoes combat and survival training along with other young recruits. This is where Kingsman: The Secret Service is interesting and thoroughly original. Once trained and properly dressed for the part, thanks to Hart, Eggsy is off to avenge his father and save the world from a nefarious, lisping, hip-hop villain, Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson). (How appropriate this movie opens on Valentine’s Day weekend.) Valentine plans to control the world via cell phones and electronic implants.

The second half of the movie becomes a loud, f-bombing cliché of excessive violence. There is a near endless, disgusting mass murder sequence occurring inside a church that is over-the-top gross. Don’t we get enough of decapitations and shootings on the evening news? Despite the violent sequences (that go on too long) featuring mass killings and heads exploding, there is not much blood spilled…even when one guy is literally sliced in half. Accept this as an observation, I am not a fan of bloodletting. 

Another original touch is the naming of secret service agents, borrowing from the legendary King Arthur’s knights. Michael Caine plays home-based leader Arthur; Colin Firth is Galahad; Mark Strong’s Merlin trains the candidates; and Eggsy’s father was Lancelot. 

Clocking in at 129 minutes, Kingsman: The Secret Service seems even longer. 
Grade on A-F Scale: C