Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Some Halloween Viewing for CK Readers

I, for one, was surprised when Cowboys and Aliens hit the big screen back in 2011.  The thought of combining my beloved cowboys with a bunch of aliens did not sit well with me.  Even more surprising was discovering that the combination of cowboys and the various permutations of the paranormal has been going on in cinema since at least 1935. A little investigation, spawned by no less than True West magazine, has brought up this short list of films to delight and (in some cases at least) spook you through the Halloween season.  All films are currently available through either Netflix or Amazon Video:

Still from Riders of the Whistling Skull

1)     The Return of Dracula, 1958—calling this a western might be stretching it a wee bit but most of the action does take place in California.  After killing a fellow train passenger in Transylvania (where else?), the blood-sucking Count takes the man’s identity, heads to CA, visits the dead man’s family, and begins a killing spree. 
2)     Billy the Kid vs. Dracula, 1966, starring John Carradine.  With a title like that, this hardly needs an explanation.  As the poster says, ‘The West’s Deadliest Gunfighter! The World’s Most Diabolical Killer!’ The bloody Count travels west by stagecoach and has toothmarked his next victim. Presumably, Billy hasn’t been shot as yet by Pat Garrett and has some indefinable relationship with one Betty Bentley, whose blood the Count is out to get. Drac pretends to be Betty’s uncle, Underhill.  You get the idea . . . .
3)     The Phantom Empire, 1935, starring Gene Autry, plus there
was a remake in 1986. This was a series of twelve episodes in which the singing cowboy discovered the lost civilization of Mu beneath his Radio Ranch. He attempts to stop war between the Muranians led by a subterranean queen and, well, his listeners—and pals.
4)     Riders in the Sky, 1949, another Gene Autry vehicle. Anyone who knows the country/western song ‘Ghost Riders in the Sky’ will immediately get the idea of the main event here. Detective Autry takes one last case to help a lovely lady rancher clear her father’s name when he’s been wrongly accused of murder. Gene goes looking for the three witnesses who can clear the innocent man, and ends up singing the popular song.
5)     The Valley of Gwangi, 1969, starring the rather dishy James Franciscus. They don’t come much weirder than this one, folks.  Members of a Wild West show head to Mexico’s Forbidden Valley after discovering a 50,000,000 year old midget horse. There they discover dinosaurs still exist and aim to take home an Allosaurus, Gwangi, to lighten up their act.  Great scene of the cowboys lassoing the dinosaur.
6)     Riders of the Whistling Skull, 1937, starring The Three
Mesquiteers with an early appearance by renowned stuntman Yakima Canutt. The Three Mesquiteers starred in a series of fifty-one B westerns between 1936 and 1943, including eight with John Wayne, believe it or not. In this episode, the three accompany an archaeological expedition along with a woman on the team whose father has been lost in the Indian village of Lukachukai. As several deaths occur and a member of the team appears in an adorable pajama onesie (worth the one hour viewing alone), it turns out the tribe is under the control of a power-mad white man.  Most of the actors seem to have graduated from the Wooden School of Dramatic Art, the music is strictly left over from silent films and, by my reckoning, it contains the worst Native American dancers in the history of cinema.  Somewhat hard to swallow is the 1930’s view of Indians but, if you can ignore that, for the fifty-two minutes of watching, it might be worth the laughs.
7)     The Hanged Man, 1974, starring great jobbing actor Steve Forrest, and meant as a pilot episode for a series that never took off.  With several well-known faces in this, it’s surprising it didn’t make the grade.  It has Cameron Mitchell (Buck from The High Chaparral)  as a greedy mine-owner after the heroine’s ranch and mine; the perennially old Will Geer, Grandpa from The Waltons, as Nameless, the lady’s ranch hand; and Academy Award winner Dean Jagger as Forrest’s lawyer; plus it was produced by Bing Crosby Productions. The storyline sees Forrest as wrongly convicted gunslinger Devlin who somehow survives his swing on the noose only to sport what looks like a Burberry scarf around his neck to hide the rope marks.  Devlin, now hell-bent on doing good, gets caught up in the dispute between the lady mine-owner and the villain after her mine. Numerous Biblical and Christian references throughout might not have garnered a wider audience with those who prefer their sermons on Sunday. It is, however, well-acted albeit slow moving at times.  The ending is straight out of Dante’s Inferno.
I haven’t mentioned more recent films because most of you will know about movies such as High Plains Drifter, Westworld, and the aforementioned Cowboys and Aliens.  The old films are not only spooky in several senses but good for laughs. However, should film-viewing not be your scare of choice, may I direct you to a duet by Patti Sherry-Crews and myself, and wish you all a very Happy Halloween.

The Wild West gets even wilder when Nat Tremayne sends out his agents from Psychic Specters Investigations offices in St. Louis and Denver. Across country and across time, these agents will stop at nothing to unravel the mysteries that beset poor unsuspecting ranchers and cowboys who have no idea what they're seeing . . .or not, as the case may be.
In Patti Sherry-Crews' The Ghost and The Bridegroom, P.S.I. Agent Healy Harrison is sent to Tucson to rid a rancher of the ghost in the bedroom interfering in his marriage to a mail-order bride. Healy doesn't think she's destined for romance--until she meets Pinkerton detective Aaron Turrell. But when their two cases dovetail, will their newfound love survive the ultimate showdown  between mortal and immortal.

In Andrea Downing's Long A Ghost and Far Away, agent Dudley Worksop aims to unravel the mystery of Colby Gates' dead wife. Lizzie not only seems to have reappeared as a ghost, but has time traveled from 2016 to the 1800s. Can revenge be had for her murder? And can the couple be reunited across country and across time?
 Available at all good eBook-sellers snd, of course, Amazon


Patti Sherry-Crews said...

Oh, my gosh, I'm laughing at your description of Riders of the Whistling Skull! And Gene Autry, what were you thinking? Next time I think a plot I'm working on is far-fetched, I'll remember The Phantom Empire. I think the recent movie with Kurt Russell, Bone Tomahawk, about a stone age-like band of cannibal Indians terrorizing a frontier town may be the most disturbing movie I've ever seen!I know it's challenging to come up with new story lines, but jeez, sometimes a line is crossed. Unlike in our book, which is spooky, funny, and easy to relate to. Thanks for a fun read and a nice plug, Andi!

Andrea Downing said...

OOOOhh, I'm sorry I missed Bone Tomahawk! Cannabalistic Indian cave-dwellers eating up good pioneers! What was Kurt Russell thinking? He must've been desperate. Sounds like maybe it should have been a vehicle for his comedic wife, Goldie Hawn. Thanks for bringing that to our attention, Patti. Put it on the list, gang!

Andrew McBride said...

There's a 1971 TV movie called BLACK NOON with Roy Thinnes that's a sort of a western/horror hybrid.

Andrea Downing said...

Thanks for that Andrew. I checked it out and it wasn't available on either Netflix or Amazon, which I wanted for these to be generally available. Thanks for stopping by.