My top 5 favorite westerns: #2 The Shootist

In a feature here on “Random thoughts of 210Darryl” started weeks ago I’m listing my favorite movies in a few different genres. We started with my top five favorite comedy movies and counted up toward my favorite, Monty Python’s Life of Brian. Now we’re taking a look at my five favorite westerns, and at #3 we had The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. This week it’s John Wayne in The Shootist.

I think if I had first seen this movie when John Wayne was alive it wouldn’t be one of my favorites. It’s because I saw it after he died and I relate the movie to his life and death that it’s one of my favorites. Nevertheless it is still a great story, one of an aging gunfighter finding out he doesn’t have much time left and deciding to die on his own terms. It’s a sad story that doesn’t completely match the novel, but the changes made really help the story along.

While there are gunfights and the like The Shootist is not your classic western type movie. It’s really about a man looking back on his life and then knowing how he’d rather it end. It’s also about hero-worship in a way, and the ending scene with Ron Howard really plays to what the movie is about.

There are better John Wayne movies out there, but when I list my favorites The Shootist always comes out on top for me, and that’s why it’s number two in my countdown.

THE SHOOTIST
Directed by Don Siegel
Produced by M.J. Frankovich and William Self
Screenplay by Miles Hood Swarthout and Scott Hale
Based on The Shootist by Glendon Swarthout
Starring John Wayne, Lauren Bacall, Ron Howard, Harry Morgan, and James Stewart
Music by Elmer Bernstein
Cinematography by Bruce Surtees
Edited by Douglas Stewart
Release date August 20, 1976
Running time 100 minutes
Box office $13,406,138

My top 5 favorite westerns: #3 The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

In a feature here on “Random thoughts of 210Darryl” started a few weeks ago I’m listing my favorite movies in a few different genres. We started with my top five favorite comedy movies and counted up toward my favorite, Monty Python’s Life of Brian. Now we’re taking a look at my five favorite westerns, and at #4 we had The Magnificent Seven. This week Sergio Leone’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly comes in at #3.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is the third film in the “Man with No Name Trilogy”, with A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More being the first two to be released. The events in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly take place before what happens in the other two movies, making the last movie in the series really the first movie. In my opinion, it’s the best of the three by a good margin.

The one thing that detracts from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and most other Spaghetti Western is the voice dubbing is pretty bad. The actors all performed in their native languages and then has voices dubbed to match the language of the country the film was released in. Getting by the bad dubbing was easy for me, but I could see how it could turn others off from the movie.

One of the things I like about the movie is for the first ten minutes or so there is no dialogue. It really does set the tone for the entire movie. Leone does a masterful job of filmmaking in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and it really is one of the best westerns out there.

THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY
Directed by Sergio Leone
Produced by Alberto Grimaldi
Screenplay by Age & Scarpelli, Luciano Vincenzoni, Sergio Leone, Sergio Donati (uncredited)
English Version by Mickey Knox
Story by Luciano Vincenzoni & Sergio Leone
Starring Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, Aldo Giuffre, Mario Brega, and Eli Wallach
Music by Ennio Morricone
Cinematography by Tonino Delli Colli
Edited by Eugenio Alabiso and Nino Baragli
Release date December, 15 1966 (Italy)
Running time 177 minutes
Budget $1.2 million
Box office $25.1 million

My top 5 favorite westerns: #4 The Magnificent Seven

In a feature here on “Random thoughts of 210Darryl” started a few weeks ago I’m listing my favorite movies in a few different genres. We started with my top five favorite comedy movies and counted up toward my favorite, Monty Python’s Life of Brian. Now we’re taking a look at my five favorite westerns, and at #5 we had True Grit. This week it’s #4 with John Sturges’ The Magnificent Seven.

This is one of those movies I don’t understand why people don’t like it. Now granted I haven’t come across many that don’t, but The Magnificent Seven really is one of the better westerns ever made. Yes, it’s a rip-off of Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, but it’s done so well it does really stand on its own right. It’s basically the perfect western. Good guys in white hats (although not literally), bad guys in black ones. There’s no phony plot twist, and no fake ending to make sure the good guys win. It’s a solid story with an outcome that’s not ordinarily what you’d get from a western.

When I first saw it I was on a Charles Bronson kick, so it was an easy rental back in the day. I’d heard of Yul Brynner but didn’t really know anything about him, but the other selling point was Steve McQueen. I had seen a ton of his movies and really like the action stuff he was in. Although I didn’t know it before watching The Magnificent Seven, I did come to find out Eli Wallach plays a great bad-guy.

I remember watching The Magnificent Seven on a weekday evening (probably was a Tuesday), and I watched it at least three times that night. I was hooked. It’s one of the first movies I ever bought on VHS and then again one of the first on DVD. I don’t buy a ton of Blu-rays, but of I see it I’m probably going to buy it. The Magnificent Seven comes in at #4 in my countdown, but it’s really 1c in a top four that would be 1,1a,1b,1c.

THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN
Directed by John Sturges
Produced by John Sturges
Written by William Roberts (Walter Newman & Walter Bernstein are uncredited)
Based on Seven Samurai by Akira Kurosawa
Starring Yul Brynner, Eli Wallach, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn, James Coburn, and Horst Buchholz
Music by Elmer Bernstein
Cinematography by Charles Lang
Edited by Ferris Webster
Release date October 23, 1960
Running time 128 minutes
Budget $2 million
Box office $5 million

My top 5 favorite westerns: #5 True Grit

In a feature here on “Random thoughts of 210Darryl” started a few weeks ago I’m listing my favorite movies in a few different genres. We started with my top five favorite comedy movies and counted up toward my favorite, Monty Python’s Life of Brian. Now we’ll take a look at my five favorite westerns, and #5 we have the movie that won John Wayne his only acting Academy Award in True Grit.

I have no idea why I like this movie so much because in general it isn’t very good. Wayne is hardly at his best here, Kim Darby was a terrible choice to play Mattie, and Glen Campbell is, well, awful. Yet there’s something about this film that draws me to it every time it’s on TV. I just can’t explain it. What funny is True Grit just narrowly made the cut over another Wayne movie, The Sons of Katie Elder, which itself isn’t all that great a movie but is probably better than True Grit in just about every way. But put both on TV and I’d pick True Grit every time.

I did see the 2010 version of the film staring Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn, and while it’s a real good movie and much better represents Charles Portis’ novel, it doesn’t have the same magic for me that Wayne’s 1969 performance does. There’s just something about those 1960s westerns have that just makes them so much better than many of the ones made after. That’s likely why you don’t see many made anymore. Good ones still do reasonably well at the box office, they just don’t make all that many good ones any more.

TRUE GRIT
Directed by Henry Hathaway
Produced by Hal B. Wallis
Written by Marguerite Roberts
Based on True Grit by Charles Portis
Starring John Wayne, Kim Darby, Glen Campbell, Robert Duvall, Jeff Corey, Dennis Hopper, Strother Martin, and John Fiedler
Music by Elmer Bernstein
Cinematography by Lucien Ballard
Edited by Warren Low
Release date June 11, 1969
Running time 128 minutes
Budget unknown
Box office $31,132,592

My top 5 favorite comedy movies: #1 Life of Brian

In a weekly feature here on “Random thoughts of 210Darryl” started a few weeks ago I’m listing my favorite movies in a few different genres. We’re starting with my top five favorite comedy movies and counting up toward #1. Two weeks ago at #2 was Ghostbusters, and this week at #1 we have Monty Python’s Life of Brian.

If you were to ask folks what their favorite Monty Python film was the vast majority of people would answer Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Then again, many would be hard pressed to name a different Monty Python movie than that either. But for me Life of Brian is not only the best Monty Python movie it’s also the absolute best comedy movie ever.

It is, as the title says, the story of the life of Brian Cohen, who was born in the stable next door to the one where Jesus was born. From that point on Brain is continuously mistaken for the Messiah, which leads to lots of funny situations. For many Life of Brian is as blasphemist a film as there is, but for myself it’s satire at its best. What’s even funnier is the folks that thing it’s blasphemy miss the point that much of Life of Brian is really about every day life of the time. The addition of thinly veiled modern (for the time the film was made) political issues shows how well the Monty Python crew can mix things up to the point where people are not even realizing what they’re making fun of.

Life of Brian is comedy at its finest, and while it may not have the open laughter as some of the others in my top 5, it is certainly worthy of my #1 ranking.

LIFE OF BRAIN
Directed by Terry Jones
Produced by John Goldstone
Written by Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin
Starring Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin
Music by Geoffrey Burgon
Cinematography by Peter Biziou
Edited by Julian Doyle
Distributed by Cinema International Corporation
Release date August 17, 1979
Running time 93 minutes
Budget $4 million (US)
Box office $20,045,115 (US)

My top 5 favorite comedy movies: #2 Ghostbusters

In a movie with a ton of laughs it’s funny that one line in it so aptly describes almost the entire movie: “Well, there’s something you don’t see every day.”

Like many great comedy movies the script to Ghostbusters really was just a guideline as to what was supposed to happen. When you consider it was written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis that alone would likely have resulted in a pretty funny movie, but throw in the ad-libbed dialogue of Bill Murray and Rick Moranis and you’re destined to have a very funny movie. And such was the case with Ghostbusters.

Yes, I admit that the plot has a few holes in it, but the comedy itself is top notch with some of the best lines from the movie still being used as jokes 30 years after the film’s release. The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man is one of the great all time movie “monsters”. Its creation is also funny, as super-bad guy Gozer tells the Ghostbusters that the next thing they think of will be the form it will assume to destroy their world. Ray Stantz (Aykroyd) said he tried to think of the most harmless thing and that’s what popped into his head.

While there’s lots of easy jokes to get the script has lots of stuff that’s often missed that’s funny when you see it. Louis (Rick Moranis), the future “Keymaster,” gets locked out places two or three times in the movie. When the librarian was asked if anyone in her family had ever had any history of mental illness, she says her uncle thought he was St. Jerome. The patron saint of librarians is St. Jerome.

Ghostbusters is one of those comedies where watching it several times doesn’t diminish the humor. There’s lots of stuff going on in the movie and things are easy to miss with just one watching.

Oh, and yeah….I ain’t afraid of no ghost.

GHOSTBUSTERS
Directed by Ivan Reitman
Produced by Ivan Reitman
Written by Dan Aykroyd & Harold Ramis
Starring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, Rick Moranis, Annie Potts, and William Atherton
Music by Elmer Bernstein
Cinematography by László Kovács
Edited by David E. Blewitt & Sheldon Kahn
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release dates June 7, 1984 (nationwide on June 8)
Running time 107 minutes
Budget $30 million
Box office $295.2 million

My top 5 favorite comedy movies: #3 Airplane!

In a feature here on “Random thoughts of 210Darryl” started a couple of Wednesdays ago I’m listing my favorite movies in a few different genres. We’re starting with my top five favorite comedy movies and counting up toward #1. Last week at #4 was The Jerk, and this week at #3 we have Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker’s Airplane!

What makes this film incredibly funny is that most of the well known actors appearing in Airplane! were at the time not considered not comedic actors. Robert Hays was just a TV character actor and Julie Hagerty was a stage actress who had a role in the film All That Jazz that ended up on the cutting room floor. The rest of the main cast of Airplane! were all “serious” actors with little or no comedy training. What sells the film is Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker have their cast playing the entire movie as if it was one of those schlocky thrillers that were popular at the time.

Every actor simply says their lines as if it’s being played as a straight thriller, with only Stephen Stucker (as air traffic controller Johnny Henshaw-Jacobs) purposefully making funny lines. In fact, his parts were not scripted. Stucker was only given the “straight line” before his and was allowed to throw in whatever struck him at the moment. Everything else, while written to be funny, was played totally straight.

There are few movies that have generated so many funny lines that are still repeated more than 30 years after its release. From Barbara Billingsley’s cameo performance where she tells the stewardess “I speak jive” to Leslie Nielsen repeating “and don’t call me Shirley” and Lloyd Bridges admitting “Looks like I picked the wrong week to stop (insert drug use)”, there are so many memorable lines that still make people laugh despite hearing them over and over.

Airplane! is about as far from intellectual comedy as you can get, but it’s funny scenes and one-liners make it one of the best comedy movies ever made.

AIRPLANE!
Directed by Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker
Produced by Jon Davison & Howard W. Koch
Written by Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker
Starring Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, Leslie Nielsen, Peter Graves, Lloyd Bridges, and Robert Stack
Music by Elmer Bernstein
Cinematography Joseph F. Biroc
Edited by Patrick Kennedy
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates July 2, 1980
Running time 87 minutes
Budget $3.5 million (est.)
Box office $83,453,539

My top 5 favorite comedy movies: #4 The Jerk

In a feature here on “Random thoughts of 210Darryl” started last Wednesday I’m going to talk about my favorite movies in a few different genres. Making these lists took more work that I thought they would because limiting it to five in each category took some doing. I figured 10 was too many, so down to five I cut my lists. We’re starting with my top five favorite comedy movies and counting up toward #1. At number five was Young Frankenstein, and this week at #4 we have Steve Martin’s The Jerk.

I think one of the reasons I love this movie so much is it was my father’s favorite movie. The Jerk is really just Steve Martin’s early comedy act fleshed out into a movie, with added comedic scenes written by Carl Gottlieb and Michael Elias to create some continuity. It’s said they wanted to make sure there was one laugh per script page, and they succeeded. It’s not any sort of intellectual comedy, it’s just flat out funny stuff full of one liners and sets ups that can be seen coming from a mile away but it’s hard not to laugh at them.

I still chuckle when I recall the scene of Martin jumping around exclaiming “The new phone book is here!” and when the sniper is trying to kill him Martin shouting “he hates the cans!”. The bit at the end where he grabs everything in sight as he’s leaving his house is great, and for many years my brother and I will randomly say to each other “all I need is this thermos” and make references to “Iron Balls McGinty”. The escargot scene with Bernadette Peters is classic Martin comedy. Roger Ebert said The Jerk is “all gags and very little comedy”. I disagree. It’s all gags and incredibly funny comedy.

One has to wonder if parts of this movie could ever be made today. The line “I was born a poor black child” spoken by Martin in the opening scene would no doubt raise the ire of some folks despite it being one of the funnier parts of the story and not really doing anything but poking fun at this white guy for not realizing he was adopted by a black family. Political correctness run amok, I’d say. It’s funny because the joke is, as are most in the film, on Steve Martin.*

THE JERK
Directed by Carl Reiner
Produced by David V. Picker & William E. McEuen
Written by Steve Martin, Carl Gottlieb, & Michael Elias
Starring Steve Martin, Bernadette Peters, M. Emmet Walsh, Jackie Mason, Dick O’Neill, and Mabel King
Music by Jack Elliott
Cinematography by Victor J. Kemper
Edited by Bud Molin & Ron Spang
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date December 14, 1979
Running time 94 minutes
Budget $4 million
Box office $73,691,419

*We’ll also see if the joke is on anyone else. The first person to make a reply here or on social media that says “Well, the Jerk Store called, and they’re running out of you” or the like has to make a $20 donation to a local food bank.

My top 5 favorite comedy movies: #5 Young Frankenstein

In a new feature here on “Random thoughts of 210Darryl” on Wednesdays I’m going to stray away from my normal posts about books and for the next few weeks I’m going to talk about my favorite movies in a few different genres. Making these lists took more work that I thought they would because limiting it to five in each category took some doing. I figured 10 was too many, so down to five I cut my lists. We’ll start unveiling my top five favorite comedy movies, and at #5 we have Mel Brook’s Young Frankenstein.

Brooks released two movies in 1974, Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein (not a bad year, eh?). As a kid Blazing Saddles was definitely my favorite of the two mostly because of the campfire scene with all the cowboys eating beans and farting. Not exactly intellectual humor, but to a young boy you couldn’t do anything funnier. As I’ve gotten older it’s been Young Frankenstein that’s become my favorite of the two. It’s one of the few films that I’ve seen multiple times where still laugh out loud at many of the scenes.

It’s not just a movie filled with one-liners. Granted it has a ton of them, but how Brooks puts everything together, including making it in black and white, just makes for a great film. Just sitting here writing this I can hear Peter Boyle, as “the Monster”, singing “Puttin’ on the Ritz” in my mind and I’m chuckling. The “Abby Normal” brain scene with Marty Feldman and Gene Wilder is classic comedy. The running gag of every time Frau Blucher’s (played by Cloris Leachman) name getting mentioned causing the horses to whinny is incredibly funny. It’s hard to keep a running gag funny throughout a film, but this one works.

In one of the many things the actors ad-libbed was Igor’s hump moving from side to side, and no one noticed for days. It wasn’t until the actors saw it that it was even mentioned and written into the script. Feldman’s line “What hump?” was also ad-libbed. Gene Hackman has a small uncredited part in the movie where he plays a blind man, and just after his famous scene with the monster he ad-libbed the line “I was gonna make espresso”. The crew was laughing so hard Brooks had to cut the scene short so as not hear them laughing.

In several point in the film you can see Wilder trying not to laugh. It’s actually hard for me to think of a part of Young Frankenstein where I don’t want to laugh, and that’s why it makes my top five.

YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN
Directed by Mel Brooks
Produced by Michael Gruskoff
Written by Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks
Starring Gene Wilder, Peter Boyle, Marty Feldman, Cloris Leachman, Teri Garr, Kenneth Mars, and Madeline Kahn
Music by John Morris
Cinematography by Gerald Hirschfeld
Edited by John C. Howard
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date December 15, 1974
Running time 105 minutes
Budget $2.78 million
Box office $86,273,333