Ride, Vaquero! (1953): We both know how this will end

This is an MGM Movie?
In the rousing opening scene of Ride, Vaquero! (1953), a half-drunken bandido leader called José Esqueda (Anthony Quinn), announces to his ragtag, brawling followers that the Civil War has ended. The Americans, he explains, will turn their violent attentions to the Indians and gangs like theirs, moving into their territory along the Rio Grande border. To counter this threat, José Esqueda (Quinn), self-described as “the strongest and most cunning of them all,”  promises that they will now burn all the newcomers’ ranchos as soon as they build them.This bit of desperado theater may seem to be performed for the animalistic men and women who populate the squalid lair of Esqueda, but it is soon clear that his real capering is reserved for an audience of one–his intense, soft-spoken right hand man Rio (Robert Taylor), who privately questions the logic of this promised action while he carefully cleans his gun. Their relationship is a study in contrasts. Esqueda is the personification of every human appetite on two legs, filthy, effusively violent, shooting a man who dares to drink from his bottle. He’s also illogically generous, sending Rio to town to give a priest some of his booty for orphans. Esqueda even indulges in a bit of wood carving sculpture in his off-hours. However, when faced with Rio, Esqueda is confronting his beloved opposite, a man he calls brother, though they are not related in a traditional sense. Rio, encased in a black moodiness as dark as his clothing, has a self-possessed, lethally quiet manner and an unsettling detachment from life that frustrates Esqueda. Alternately threatening Rio and cajoling him, the garrulous Esqueda thinks that the other man relies on his fondness for him to keep him from killing him.

Giving his companion a cold, knowing glare after he is threatened, Rio asks “Why do you talk to me this way? You wouldn’t kill anything…unless it was alive.”

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Hannie’s Revenge

I love a good revenge film. I’m a firm believer in turning the other cheek and experience has taught me that it’s better to walk away from a fight than take part in one but I don’t often go to the movies for a dose of reality. Most of us know someone who we’d like to get even with for some past deed. Movies offer viewers the opportunity for catharsis and a good revenge film will allow its audience to be immersed in the heroes plight, take part in their journey and right an assumed wrong. But when all is said and done, no one should be left unscarred by the experience. Revenge is never easy or pretty and my favorite revenge films usually end in an empty victory for the hero. The winner might take all but often gains nothing.

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Variations on a Theme

All month long TCM has been celebrating the 100th birthday of Akira Kurosawa and playing many of the director’s best films. On Sunday TCM will also be showing one of my favorite westerns, John Sturges’ THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960) which happens to be based on Kurosawa’s classic THE SEVEN SAMURAI (1954). If you haven’t had the opportunity to see THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN it’s a great time to catch up with this entertaining movie.

One of my favorite things about John Sturges’ film is its incredible theme composed by the legendary Elmer Bernstein. Elmer Bernstein is responsible for some of Hollywood’s greatest film scores but his theme for THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN is one of the most recognizable pieces of music he ever recorded.

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The Straight Story on Richard Farnsworth

A holiday movie, like the raised expectations of the festive season, can be burdened with some pretty extravagant hopes. Like the day itself, we always seem to hope for a cinematic experience that might transcend the reality of an enjoyable if sometimes stressful day such as Thanksgiving. This year we got lucky. After rejecting family votes for some familiar films, including Avalon (1990-Barry Levinson), with its cri de coeur line, “you cut the too-key without me?!” spoken by with the now immortal Lou Jacobi; any hopes for those who wanted to see The Searchers (1956-John Ford) for the umpteenth time were also dashed; as was one l-tryptophan induced vote for Pulp Fiction (1994-Quentin Tarantino). We finally settled on a movie with little obvious connection to the holidays, The Straight Story (1999) on DVD.

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Insomniac Theatre: Open All Night

Awake all night? Try watching a movieMaybe it was the moon, or that 4th cup of tea I had that afternoon or just a touch of Spring fever. In any case, last week, the Sandman forgot my address. I was wide awake at 3a.m. Those burning coals that used to be my eyes just weren’t eager to dive into the text of any of the books next to the bed, it was too cold to be star-gazing, (I’m always hoping to catch a glimpse of the aurora borealis), and flipping on the tube, those infomercials about the joys of cryovacing food at home just aren’t something I’d like to watch at any time. Inevitably, a perusal of those late night movies seemed to be a pretty good way to entice Morpheus to drop in soon. Except for the movie I came across while channel surfing.

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