Hannie Caulder (1972)

hanniecaulder71aThe long-threatened western.

It took some time with Google to remember what made me watch this. Turns out, it was a reference in a review of Jane Got a Gun to the hat worn here by Raquel Welch.[1]  Leave it to the New Yorker to remember Raquel’s iconic role as hat-centric, rather than the obviouses.  But then, the new movie stars waifish Natalie Portman, so a comparison couldn’t really be drawn based on Raquel’s usual calling cards.

The Clemens brothers [2] ride up to the local banco (bank, according to Google Translate).  In a scene sure to warm The Donald’s heart, the Mexican Police are all comically lying about, taking siestas in the sun as the gang robs the banco across the street; also heart-warming because they are still in Mexico.  An overzealous teller triggers the non-silent alarm — i.e. a bell with a rope — waking up the policias, triggering a chase on horseback with a great pounding orchestral score.

hanniecaulder01The three gringos — despite one being shot and another being Ernest Borgnine — escape the pursing cops. They stop at an adobe ranch house where a man introduces himself as Jim Caulder — I don’t like his odds.  Not surprisingly, he is dispatched within seconds and the gang goes inside to find the titular Hannie Caulder.  Over a static shot of the house we hear her screams as she is raped.  Nothing funny about that, although there is an odd bit of business with one of the men being thrown out the front door . . . twice.  Or maybe they were different men; they were indistinguishable from the distance.  No idea what they were going for there.

The next morning, the gang stumbles out the front door and leaves Hannie and her burning house behind as they oddly just walk their horses away.  It is a nice shot as she comes out of the flaming house holding a serape around her to find her bloody husband dead.  Like all good movie characters, she digs a back-breaking grave in the desert and buries her husband without breaking a sweat; a glistening, clothes-clinging sweat.

hanniecaulder32Up rides bounty hunter Thomas Price (Robert Culp) asking for water from her well. Hannie quite understandably points a rifle at him.  He easily takes it from her, but she is learning the ways of men . . . and brains him when his back is turned.  They end up riding together to find a gunsmith to outfit Hannie.  As you would expect, the gunsmith is played by Christopher Lee.  Wait, what?

After they are attacked by a band of illegal aliens — wait, I mean citizens — we see that Hannie has become a killer.  They ride to a town where they meet up with the Clemens bothers.  Hannie’s luck with men continues as Price is knifed by 1/3 of the Clemens gang.

The ending is a little anti-climactic, but it might have not been so at the time.  This was an early example of the rape-revenge genre, so maybe audiences were shocked enough just by a woman avenging her rape, that it had an excitement not conceivable today.  Hannie is also ahead of her time in getting off some good zingers as she kills the bad guys.  Finally, there is a strange deus ex Messala appearance by Stephen Boyd that makes no sense to me, and undermines Hannie’s accomplishment.  That’s men for ya.

hanniecaulder55It is obvious this was filmed in the early days of Hollywood’s new freedom.  A few son-of-a-bitches and asses are thrown around, but they come off as being spoken by a 10 year-old who just discovered them. There is no weight to them — to be fair, a lesson Martin Scorsese still has not learned.

Shockingly, Raquel is the best performer in the film.  Culp is perfectly fine in a TV movie sort of way, but nothing special.  The Clemens brothers are just boobs.  Ernest Borgnine screams every line.  Strother Martin and Jack Elam are just there for the comic effect of their antics and squabbling, but consistently fail.  Raquel, however, pulls it together with as much subtlety as the role allows, and with her natural beauty.  I’ll go out on a limb here and say there is just a pleasure in watching her on the screen that you don’t get from, say, Ernest Borgnine.  Strangely for the era, and for this actress in particular, there really is no gratuitous exploitation of her looks or figure.  Well, one shot of her bare back, but nary a hint of side-boob.


The only example I’m aware of that has shotgun-POV. Literally, first-person-shooter as the viewer is the shotgun.

There is enough thick red paint for a barn-raising, although not the projectile bleeding that Sam Peckinpah was pioneering at the time.  The natural pre-CGI sets, the natural pre-silicone set, the non-Clemens performances, and the always-welcome story of a woman getting revenge make this a good one.


  • [1] The New Yorker only referenced Hannie Caulder to say that, bad as it was, it still “blew away” Jane Got a Gun.  It did, however, say that the supporting cast had “gusto.”
  • [2] Ernest Borgnine, Jack Elam and Strother Martin.  Say, this supporting cast does have gusto!
  • Director Burt Kennedy previously directed Support Your Local Sheriff.  In 1969, the other New York braintrust over at the Times called it “dreadful”, illustrating that the NYT’s utter detachment from reality is nothing new.  The trailer I linked actually is pretty poorly done, but the film itself is 2nd only to Blazing Saddles in the comedy-western genre.  Granted, with competition like A Million Ways to Die in the West and The Ridiculous Six, the bar is lower than the saloon’s in The Terror of Tiny Town.
  • OK, the hat was pretty cool.

Harbinger Down (2015)

In June 1982, a Russki spacecraft is burning up on re-entry and makes a 3-point swish shot, never touching the Arctic Rim.

Then to current-day Alaska.  One of the reasons I clicked on this movie was the cover which had a nice, clean design and an attractive bluish tint.  Holy crap did they go overboard with the blue tint.  Think of the green tint in The Matrix — it was only subtly noticeable and you got used to it.  This opening of this movie looks like it was shot through a bottle of Windex.

Stephen, Sadie and Ronnell hook up with the titular Harbinger captained by Lance Henriksen.  The trio is tracking a pod of whales that have been tagged.  One of the crew tells them that research grants are nothing but white people’s government cheese.  This is from a guy nicknamed “Dock” because he used to live under one.  Seriously. Whatever it is that is going to do the killing in this joint, please start with this idiot.

While Ronnell is sleeping and Stephen is yopping, Sadie bundles up and goes up on the deck of the crab boat.  They spot something shaped like a Russki spacecraft which is attracting the whales.  So naturally, they haul it on-board.

harbinger04Ronnell is the first to notice that they are getting no cellphone service.  Being a thousand miles from a cell tower might to be blame.  Maybe they should have sprung for a satellite phone.  Sadly, she is not the least respectable of the group.  Stephen is a douche-bag determined to steal credit for the find.

Sadie nabs a Russki member of the crew and inspects the spacecraft while Stephen is distracted by a crew-member playing him like a harp.  They find the crewman still remarkably well-preserved for having spent 30 years in the ocean.  Short time later, however, it is discovered that the body is missing and a giant raw oystery-looking snot-ball kills a crewman.  Thus bringing us to the Alien portion of our program, where the crew must pursue the monster and get picked off one by one.  But that’s not a bad thing.

Shockingly, the first to go is not Dock, but is the even more unlikable Stephen.  He does not get a chestburster scene, but does get a pretty awesome backburster scene.  Unfortunately, the actor looks too much like Andy Bernard from The Office and it makes it a little hard to take the scene totally seriously.  To be fair, I’m not sure it is intended to be totally serious.

harbinger07And so the picking-off begins.  But it is not as dreary and mechanical as one might fear.  there are surprises and tentacles, teeth, and slime.

It ain’t no Alien, but then neither was Prometheus.  It floats in that middle ground, better than SyFy and Asylum, but not worth seeing in a theater.  The casting is better than the acting — I really enjoyed everyone except for the miscast Nard-Dawg.  Dock was annoying, but at least he was a character.  Even the order of deaths is not what I expected.

The plot and score are entirely adequate, and the creature is nicely unconventional and not CGI.  I doubt it was intended even on a satirical level, but the biggest horror was that it frequently reminded me of pink slime.

I feel like this was 90 minutes well-spent.


  • On Rotten Tomatoes, this film has a rating of 50% from critics and 25% from normal people.  I suspect this is due to the film’s heavy endorsement of global warming.  The quality of the film doesn’t matter as much as sticking to the state-sanctioned narrative.
  • It is also noted that the Russki chick says she “can see Alaska from my house.” It’s a pretty funny twist on the misquoted line, but clearly also pandering to the left.



Faults (2014)

faults01Faults has many tricks up its sleeve.  The first being that the first scene in the diner leads us to expect a Coen Brothers style of comedy.  In fact, cult deprogrammer Ansel Roth seems at times to be perfectly channeling William H. Macy’s Jerry Lundegaard in Fargo.  He needs money, he is twitchy-nervous, he will constantly tell small shortsighted lies which will only benefit him until the next question.  He even loses control and begins flailing his arms around in frustration.  He a loser.

Though it is impossible to watch this first scene and not start thinking of Macy, it takes only seconds for Leland Orser to replace him in your mind.  Whether he had Macy in mind when forming this character, or not, Orser owns it — both in the first scene and as the tone of the movie changes.

faults02From his brown suit to the gross way he scoops up ketchup with his fries, to his trying to scam the diner out of a free meal and struggling with the manager, it is a great dark comic scene establishing his loserhood.  It is a delight, but not a surprise that he steals batteries out of the hotel’s TV remote.

He exudes a little more confidence when he is standing in front of the small group that is attending his seminar / book-signing seminar at the hotel.  But really, how many people is that topic going to draw?  The ones that are there certainly have little interest in buying his books.  It is strange that they did not set this in a larger room to emphasize the size of the crowd.

faults03Book-signings are kind of anxiety-inducing events anyway.  If it is a popular author, you will have no time at all with them, and walk away with an illegible scribble.  I can’t even conceive what a proper thing to say is.  What could you possibly say to them that they haven’t heard a million times; and what could you ask them that you couldn’t Google in 30 seconds.  You’re left with a full price hard-cover that has gained nothing  in value[1].

faults04If it is a less popular, or local, author, it is just kind of sad seeing them sit at the little table by themselves with stacks of unsold books as you can’t help but glance furtively from your various vantage points in the store.  It’s like a guy at CostCo whose at the end of the aisle whose job is giving out samples of kale.

I am trying (and projecting ahead, probably failing) to make 500 words without saying almost anything about the story.  Claire’s (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) parents hire Roth to kidnap their daughter for deprogramming from the Faults cult.  Even though he is a loser who has recently fallen-from-grace, he once had a TV show and a popular book.  And frankly there aren’t that many deprogrammers in the yellow pages[2].

There are so many things to be enjoyed along the way, that I just can’t being myself to pick and choose.

This is a good one.


  • [1] The same booksigning issues also all apply to the actors who appear at conventions. At least there you can gawk at the actors — hey, that Traci Lords is holding up well!
  • And paying for an autograph at a convention would just make me feel like a whore even though I’m the one paying (in theory — I don’t really get the point of that either (in the convention context)).
  • [2] Fat yellow books of phone numbers in the old days that listed businesses by category, then alphabetically — so every region had an AAA Bail Bondsman and AAA Locksmith).
  • Title Analysis:  Conveniently, Faults is the name of the cult.  Claire explains that it means a change is on the way.  Roth later describes how pressure can build in a fault causing it to explode.  So, well done.
  • And that’s 600.

Creep (2014)

creep01Hipster Doofus videographer Aaron is heading for the mountains.  He answered an ad for $1,000 per day “filming services, discretion is appreciated.”

Aaron walks up a virtiginous set of steps and knocks; and rings; and calls.  No answer to any of them.  Not even a ruffled curtain.  Whoa — prom night flashback.  He ponders his next move as he looks down these amazing stairs, and the nice new axe buried in a tree stump right beside them.  He decides to wait in the car.

Luckily it is a short wait as Joseph shows up and and tells him he likes his face and gives him a big hug.  They go inside and Joseph describes his health, how he had cancer of the liver which spread to the lungs, how he took chemo, and beat his cancer into remission immediately.  Is this the project?  Not exactly Shoah.

creep03And now he has an inoperable brain tumor the size of a baseball.  Oh . . . sorry about the Shoah crack.

He says he experiences dizziness and cognitive misfirings which I’m thinking is going to come into play anytime now.  Joseph has a wife name Angela and has a child on the way.  He wants to make a video diary for his unborn son just as he saw one time in a movie.

creep05The job is to keep the camera rolling and Joseph says to just following him around, a normal day in the life of his dead dad.  Oddly, he wants the first scene to be in the tub.  If he was that intent on a full day, why not start with taking his morning dump on camera?  He indeed gets naked and in the tub, pantomimes playing with his baby boy (not a euphemism).

Then he dances around for his unborn son in a wolf mask named Peach-Fuzz.  They put on some wacky hats go on the road.  They are heading for a lake that supposedly has healing powers.  And maybe more opportunity for nakedness.  They park the car and head into the woods.  Not being loaded up with camera equipment, Joseph is able to dart into the woods.  Aaron goes looking for him, and Joseph pops out from behind a rock, throwing a scare into him.  Joseph says after the shock faded, there was a couple of seconds where Aaron looked like he wanted to kill him.

creep07Aaron is a little worried that they won’t be able to find their way home. Then Joseph spots the healing waters — a small rapid / waterfall and a pit of water shaped like a heart. Absolutely nothing comes of this or the idea of being lost as they are wolfing down pancakes in a diner seconds later.

At nightfall, Aaron feels he’s earned his $1,000 but Joseph insists they have a whiskey to celebrate their “merry day.”  Joseph also wants to relate a story, off-camera, of bestiality and the wacky time he broke into his own house and raped his wife disguised in the Peach-Fuzz mask.  Aaron’s key’s go missing and he tries to search Joseph while he is sleeping.  Unfortunately, Joseph’s phone rings and Aaron answers it.  Angela — who says she is really his sister — advises him to leave the house immediately.  OK, so now that raping-his-wife story is creepy.

The film takes an unexpected turn structurally.  Up to this point, the scares were jump scares — literally — Josef jumping into view and scaring Aaron.  But there was more curiosity than suspense in trying to figure out just what was happening.  But Aaron makes it home and receives several strange objects, in the mail, on his doorstep, on his windowsill.

Now, what could happen on a beautiful day like this?

There are a few minutes of genuine creepiness and suspense, then it goes back to more of a curiosity.  In the end, though — especially at the end — it came together for me, but can see how others would hate it.


  • The movie refered to is My Life with Michael Keaton and Nicole Kidman.
  • So Joseph’s Internet was slow because the “History was full”?
  • Aaron calls the police but has no evidence he can offer — no last name, no address, guess he ditched the phone.  Too bad he didn’t have anything.  Except the picture Josef sent him, and hours of video, which he didn’t think to mention to the police.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents – Flight to the East (03/23/58)

ahpflighttotheeast002Fictional carrier Trans-World Airlines is taking on passengers in Nairobi in 1958; just as the made-up company Pan-Am ruled the skies in 2001.

Beautiful (although maybe not by not by Nairobi standards) Barbara boards and squeezes into the window seat beside two business-men.  Being 1958, her seatmate Ted bums a cigarette and they both start smoking like TWA Flight 800. [1]  You can tell this is a product of the 1950s — the flight out of Nairobi seems to have no black passengers.

Barbara recognizes Ted as a journalist (a relic just as extinct as TWA, TWA-800, and Pan-AM) and says she has read his pieces on the North African Campaign and later his dispatches on the Mau-Mau uprising in Kenya.  They discuss “Sasha the Terrible” who Ted believes was railroaded for war crimes.

Witness after witness — wait there was a trial in an African uprising? — told of loading crates or driving trucks under Sasha’s guidance.  They told of night trips into the countryside.  The crates delivered under cover of darkness and Sasha getting small packages of payments.

ahpflighttotheeast003Ted tells how an old man in the gallery caught his eye — an old man who showed up every day.  It was Sasha’s father, and he asked that Ted interview his son to prove his innocence.  Ted is convinced that Sasha is innocent, and that he was merely a patsy used by the real ringleader, Arthur Smith.  When it is clear Sasha is going to be found guilty and executed, Ted’s editor has him fired and deported.  Sasha is executed.  Ted reveals to Barbara that he is hand-cuffed to his traveling companion, being escorted out of the country.

Ted tells a story of searching the world for the mysterious Arthur Smith, he just happens to stumble into an obscure shop, on an obscure dirt street, owned by Sasha’s father. The old man accuses Ted of taking a bribe to abandon Sasha.  He throws a Nazi knife at Ted, but is juuuuust a bit outside.  As the old man is pulling out a Nazi pistol, Ted is able to stab him with the knife.

ahpflighttotheeast004Barbara admits knowing more than she let on — her father was the prosecuting attorney.  Her father believed Ted had a plan to advocate for Sasha’s innocence, through his writing, in exchange for half the diamonds Sasha had been stealing.  They invented the character of Arthur Smith to be the kingpin.

The prosecutor believed that Ted’s worldwide search was not for the non-existent Arthur Smith, but for Sasha’s father, who knew where the diamonds were.  He conjectured that Ted  went to the old man to demand half of them.  Ted pulled out his Nazi pistol.  When the old man knocks it from his hand, Ted throws his Nazi knife at him, killing him.

Blah blah blah, Barbara knew a soldier who said on his deathbed that he sold the Nazi pistol and Knife to a journalist that smoked.  Yeah, that’ll hold up in court.

ahpflighttotheeast005A tedious story tediously told, and not just by me.  Poor Barbara does the best she can with a role that requires absolutely nothing of her but to sit in an airplane seat and talk to the person next to her — a role I can’t even play in real life.

I just didn’t like Gary Merrill.  I didn’t like him when he was the crusading journalist and I didn’t like him when he was the conspiring extortionist and killer (although I suppose that second part is pretty reasonable).


  • [1] This was originally a reference to United 93.  Rereading it 18 months later, that seemed disgusting.  Reading this 18 seconds later, I’m not sure why TWA 800 is any more acceptable.
  • AHP Deathwatch:  No survivors.