Ride in the Whirlwind,
and a few more films

#220  [archive]
NOV. 19, 2023

Ride in the Whirlwind (1966)

Three cowboys are on a long ride across the range, headed for Waco. Come nightfall, they chance upon four strangers in a hillside cabin, and accept food, water, and general hospitality from them. Turns out, though, their hosts are stagecoach robbers on the lam. 

Come morning a posse gallops up, there be gunshots, and as our cowpokes ride away the vigilante bounty hunters assume they're part of the gang and follow after. For the rest of the movie they're on the run, because there's no 'splaining innocence to gunmen in it for the money, dead or alive.

This looks and sounds and unfolds like a 1950s horse opera, but it's smarter and more interesting than most of the genre, just for having some middle ground between good guys and bad guys. Also gets points for early diversity — Harry Dean Stanton's band of bad guys at the cabin includes a black man, and a white guy who trips my gaydar.

Cameron Mitchell and Jack Nicholson star. Nicholson wrote it, with Monte Hellman (Cockfighter, Two-Lane Blacktop) directing.

When there are gunshots, the horses jolt and shiver at the noise, and I reckon that's what horses would do, but I've never noticed it in a western before.

Interesting story, beautiful Utah scenery, fine thespianatin', and Nicholson looks good in a bowler-style cowboy hat. 

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦

Birth (2004)

Ten years after her husband's death, Anna has decided to remarry, but then who walks in? Her dead husband, reincarnated.

And in addition to the hassle of having her husband and fiancé in the same room as she plans her second wedding, Anna's first husband is now a ten-year-old boy.

It's unnerving, creepy, and sweet all at once, and it easily could've become a horror movie, but it's more a mystery — what's up with this kid? — or even an illegal romance about love that would not die.

Nobody believes the boy could be who he claims, except the boy himself, and he's eventually quite convincing. He doesn't know everything about the dead man he's claiming to be, but he knows more than he could know if he's faking. By halfway through the movie, Anna's beginning to lose her mind and/or believe him, and so was I.

Nicole Kidman has the leading role, which I must've missed in the opening credits and sure surprised me in the closing crawl. She's a great big movie star and it's definitely her, but I hadn't recognized her. At all. Guess that's great acting.

Written and directed by Jonathan Glazer (Sexy Beast), this flick gives its concept a good ride, and it swept me along about 3/4 of the way. Then comes a plot twist that eases the story toward a cop-out ending, so it lands in the category of 'gallant effort' but, oh well.

Verdict: MAYBE.

♦ ♦ ♦

Nobody Lives Forever (1946)

Novelist and screenwriter W. R. Burnett was one of the greats. Picture Edward G. Robinson in Little Caesar, Bogey and Lupino in High Sierra, Veronica Lake in This Gun for Hire, Sterling Hayden in The Asphalt Jungle, Steve McQueen in The Great Escape — they all spoke words from Burnett's typewriter.

He also wrote this, in which an ex-GI from WW2 (John Garfield) tries to swindle a dame (Geraldine Fitzgerald), with scheming help from Walter Brennan and the guy who played Mr Kravitz on Bewitched. Brennan is great and Mr Kravitz isn't bad, but unlike all the other Burnett movies I've seen, this one wouldn't let me care.

Garfield's character is a prick, even as he's falling in love. Much of the drama is built around one of his fellow bad guys who's running out of patience with Garfield's cocky demands, and you're supposed to be concerned about whether he'll survive the coming confrontation, but I was hoping he wouldn't.

Verdict: NO.


• • • Coming attractions • • •

The Internet's Own Boy (2014)
Romper Stomper (1992)
Room Service (1938)
Who Farted? (2019)

... plus occasional 
schlock and surprises 

• • • But wait, there's more  • • •

Alexander Nevsky (1938)
Brainwaves (1983)
Cellular (2004) 
The Dark Glow of the Mountains (1985)
The Day My Parents Became Cool (2009)
The Decline of Western Civilization (1980)
Downsizing (2017)
Frankenhooker (1990)
Hugo (2011)
The Importance of Being Earnest (1952)
Love Happy (1950)
The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)
The Man with Nine Lives (1940)
Phone Booth (2002)
PickAxe (1999)
Poison (1990)
Revelations (1993)
Same Kind of Different as Me (2017)
Saved! (2004)
Scared to Death (1947)
Secret Weapons (1985)
The Shooting (1966)
The Soloist (2009)
The Train (1964)
Welcome to New Orleans (2006)
Wristcutters: A Love Story (2006)

There are so many good movies out there — old movies, odd or artsy, foreign or forgotten movies, or do-it-yourself movies made just for the joy of making them — that if you only watch whatever's on Netflix or playing at the twenty-plex, you're missing out.

To get beyond the ordinary, I recommend:

AlterCineverseCriterionCultCinema ClassicsDocsVilleDustFandorFilms for ActionHooplaIHaveNoTVIndieFlixInternet ArchiveKanopyKinoCultKino LorberKorean Classic FilmChristopher R MihmMosfilmMubiNational Film Board of CanadaNew Yorker Screening RoomDamon PackardMark PirroPizzaFlixPopcornFlixPublic Domain MoviesRareFilmmScarecrow VideoShudderThoughtMaybeTimeless Classic MoviesVoleFlixWatchDocumentaries • or your local library

Some people even access films through shady methods, though of course, that would be wrong.

— — —

Illustration by Jeff Meyer. Reviews are spoiler-free, or at least spoiler-warned. Click any image to enlarge. Arguments & recommendations are welcome, but no talking once the lights dim, and only real butter on the popcorn, not that fake yellow stuff. 
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