The Quick and the Dead Review

This review is of the edited TV-14 version. All thoughts below should be addressed as such as a review of the unedited version would be more negative

The Wild West genre usually isn’t really my thing. It tends to usually squeeze in some animal violence with the horses and the setting isn’t as exciting as having a lot of cool buildings or things of that nature. A lot of the villains tend to be rather crude as well. This film does a good job of avoiding a lot of those possible errors by making this a tournament setting and the approach works well for the most part. Unfortunately the film stepped in one land mine near the end that shaved a few points off. It’s always rough when you trip right by the finish line.

The movie starts off with Ellen riding into town. She’s just in time for a big tournament that is held here as per tradition. The prize is a lot of money so Ellen enters but is money really all that she wants? Naturally the leader of the town John will be entering as well. His son “The Kid” decides to enter to prove to his father that he really is the best. Then you have Cort, a preacher who has renounced violence but is forced to enter. Then you have a bunch of other guys including the crude Eugene, the immortal Spotted Horse, Ace the bragger, and Clay a mysterious professional. This is one tournament that will involve a lot of fatalities so the heroes better be ready. You either land the first blow or it’s game over.

It’s been a while since I’ve watched a tournament film. Sure I’ve seen some tournaments but it’s rare that they take up the entire film. That was a good idea on the film’s part because who doesn’t like a tournament right? The gun fights are on point so each match is pretty exciting. The countdowns to the draw are dramatic as well. In effect the film managed to capture the most exciting parts of a Western while shedding the weaker elements.

There isn’t enough time to give every competitor a big role but they all stand out in their own ways. Take Ace. The guy brags a whole lot but you know that he is doomed once John reveals the truth of his past. The writing in the film is pretty solid for the most part with a lot of intense dialogue. Clay’s backstory is also intense as he’s a guy mostly wrapped in shadow whose skills are the real deal.

Then you have Spotted Horse who believes himself to be bullet proof. He also is very skilled with a gun so he makes for a powerful antagonist. The worst competitor here is Eugene by far. Unfortunately he wasn’t content to merely be a bad character and did drag the film down with him. He has a small subplot where he is going after a little girl in town throughout. Ellen steps in a few times but unfortunately can’t be everywhere at once and also has to save Cort at times.

Eugene ends up catching the girl and that plot’s just terrible. Eugene is quickly taken care of afterwards but the damage is done both to the film and to the characters in-universe. It’s the kind of dark plot/scene that is completely out of place here. We understand that this guy was a true villain and that the town’s an awful place to live. You don’t have to go out of your way to make things even darker. I would say that single handily took 3 stars off the score.

It’s the kind of scene that immediately destroys any possible replay value as well. It’s a shame because the tournament set up was so good but you really just can’t get past that kind of moment. Eugene should have just been cut out of the film if anything and just throw in a random minion or something for the next fight.

Then we have Cort who is a pacifist but that’s usually an annoying trait in these things. It means that the villains spend all film pushing him around and the guy can never really fight back. By the time he is ready to fight it’s not like he is really in a position to do so anymore. He’s a nice guy but it’s annoying to see him as a sandbag the whole time.

Next is the Kid and he made for a fun character. He’s definitely confident and this is well deserved with how good his gun skills are. In the film he can certainly compete with any of the other fighters. One scene that was a bit much though is when he has a one night stand with the main heroine Ellen. Considering that every scene prior to that was her talking him down or insulting him, it didn’t make any sense that things escalated like this.

It felt like a quick way to cram in some last second romance to check a box off but even then it’s more of an affair than a true romance. I dunno, the scene was just completely out of place and also felt out of character for Ellen. Definitely would have been good to leave that scene on the cutting block. All in all Kid was a charismatic fighter though.

Then there’s John who is the main villain here. This guy was a lot of fun. You can see where Kid gets his confidence from. John’s rules the place with an iron fist and fears nobody. That’s because he knows that he can take out any other fighter if he so desires. That’s the kind of confidence you have at the top and his skills never dulled.

Finally there’s Ellen. She’s a solid heroine who is all business. Ellen has a tough personality and doesn’t even entertain the other fighter’s ideas. She just wants to win the tournament. As you can probably guess it has more to do with her origin than the money. I do think that considering her true goal, she had dozens of opportunities to pull it off though. I suppose most of them would end up with her being dead afterwards but it didn’t seem like she really minded dying in the process. To an extent I suppose this is true for just about all gun films though where you figure they can just shoot the villain at any point.

Overall, The Quick and the Dead is a very different kind of Western film. The fact that there is a tournament at all is just pretty cool. The movie does a good job of juggling all the characters. I suppose the tradeoff is that the bigger the cast, the more likely you are to add one that messes things up which is basically what happened here. If you can get past that one scene and all the dark baggage it brings with it then it could be worth checking out but otherwise check out FF VII Advent Children instead for a movie that lands the ending while also having a large part take place in a wild west environment.

Overall 4/10

Catlow Review

It’s time to look at an old western film. This one doesn’t take itself quite as seriously as the last few and sort of goes for a more classic LOTR adventure type feel instead. It works pretty well and this very nearly became the definitive western for me. Unfortunately it does fall into the animal violence trap by the end which was pretty unfortunate. Still, it does at least still succeed at being pretty entertaining from start to finish.

The film starts off with Marshall Cowan getting attacked by Indians. Just as he is about to be finished off his old friend Catlow shows up. It’s a mixed outcome for Cowan as he is glad to be saved of course, but Catlow is now a wanted man who has been stealing cattle and gold. Catlow’s defense is that he only steals unclaimed things which is true on a technical level, but the town is corrupt so Cowan still has to bring him in. They may have been the best of friends at one point, but right now their jobs are their top priority. This leads to both characters engaging in a back and forth fight where neither one will surrender. Catlow’s ultimate goal is to steal a massive shipment of gold so he can retire nicely while Cowan has to stop him. Meanwhile you have Miller who has a personal vendetta against Catlow and wants to end him. Who will come out on top?

I definitely liked the tone this film went for. The banter between the characters is great and they constantly get the other one to take a humiliating loss. Both Catlow and Cowan can hold their own scenes pretty easy. Even while threatening each other they manage to stay civil. At the same time, both of them are willing to push the trigger if it came down to that. There’s a lot of tension under the words they share which is interesting in itself. At the same time, they’ll also go out of their way to save the other. The film is filled with great moments like this and that’s why it’s a lot of fun. The film could have possibly gone on to be an 8 star title.

Alas, there are horses in this film as it’s a wild west. It’s always a red flag for me. There doesn’t necessarily have to be animal violence in these titles, but typically if you see a horse then you know what’s going to go down. In one of the fights with the Indians they specifically target the horses which was unfortunate. When that happens the film is destined to lose quite a few stars. It’s the number one mistake that most films make and this one was no exception. What makes it tragic is the fact that the film was solid otherwise.

As I mentioned, Catlow is pretty fun. He’s a smooth talker and is great at thinking outside the box. He handles the climax of the film exceptionally well as he gets to act like a sheriff. It was a pretty smooth move on his part. Meanwhile, Cowan may not have quite as sharp a wit as Catlow, but he is able to keep up pretty well. You don’t want to underestimate either one of these combatants. As for Miller, he’s a pretty fun main villain. I’d say his best scene is the first one he appears in. As with the main characters Miller does have a flair for the dramatic. He has fun toying with Catlow although he definitely did get pretty overconfident there and it cost him big time. Still a fun addition to the cast.

In that respect, Miller and Cowan continue to make the mistake of underestimating Catlow and his gang. They often have the thief on the ropes, but take so long gloating that he manages to get away. They seem to forget that he has a whole army of supporters backing him up. He’s also just got a bunch of connections like how every village seems to be under his thumb. I think it all goes back to his smooth talking ways. The lady with him also has a lot of influence. I do question how she managed to beat everyone to one village when they had such a huge head start, but that’s a head scratcher for another day.

There is one scene that really makes no sense though. It’s probably the one main moment that may throw off the immersion for you. Catlow and his gang infiltrate a kingdom and take down a huge chunk of the army one at a time. They wait until the sleepy soldiers are passing through a passageway and then lasso them. Catlow then knocks the guard out and they keep repeating this until they have them all. None of the guards think to yell and they all go down like chumps. Sure, they were sleepy and potentially drugged, but really? At first I thought the guards were all in on it, but they only pretended to be the main 2. The rest should have been able to do something. It’ll probably make you either chuckle or roll your eyes. As this film is mainly a comedy anyway I wouldn’t call it a negative. I don’t think the film meant for you to take it seriously anyway.

Overall, Catlow is definitely a very fun film. It’s probably the most enjoyable western that I’ve seen and the writing is absolutely on point. The main characters all do a great job at being entertaining when they’re on screen and the plot is sound. There’s really only one main negative here which is the animal violence and unfortunately it is absolutely killer. The film just couldn’t recover from this, but the important thing is that it came close. If you can stomach the horse stuff then this is definitely a film I’d recommend checking out. Otherwise check out a different one like Hang em High.

Overall 4/10

How the West Was Won Review

It’s time for a perfect example of why only some films deserve to be 3 hours. Granted, you can chop off around 30 minutes or maybe even more if you take out the credits and the intermission, but it’s still way too long. This has got to be one of the most boring, uneventful films I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s right up there with The Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit. If you are even a little sleepy when you start this film, you’ll be knocked out in minutes. When you mix all of the sad elements this film has: Wild West setting, Boring Main Characters, Old Gender roles, Slow Pacing, Long Filler scenes, it results in a plain bad film all around. It’s just not my cup of tea and while the film could have probably earned an extra star or 2 if it was an hour shorter…it wasn’t so it’s a moot point.

The film tries to play itself out as a really low budget documentary for the most part. It starts off with some early settlers who head to the Wild West. It isn’t really developed yet so they have to plot their own land and such. Lets ignore the fact that there already are a bunch of people here though like the guys who sucker the heroes and steal their stuff, but fortunately the villains are shot before this can end badly. Did you understand that really convoluted sentence? Okay, lets start again. A longer walks into a village and the country girl tells him that she wants to show him someone they captured. He agrees because he’s hoping to score, but she throws him into a pit and runs off. The guy…gets out of the pit and shoots them all dead. During this part, the people who suckered him were trying to sucker the main settlers next and then the shooting battle starts. It’s one of the only action scenes you’ll see until the very, very end so savor it now.

We get a pretty big jump later on as someone’s Dad dies and two sons get back to the farm. One wants to work the land and the other doesn’t. I was wondering what the point of this all was, but apparently the characters were the grown up forms of two characters from near the beginning of the film. Well, good to see everyone returning with all of the time jumps happening, but this is exactly why 99% of the film felt like filler. The problem is that you can only talk about building America before it turns into memes and repetition. Honestly, you’ll be thinking of memes constantly during the film.

The only semi exciting part would be the final act. A retired sheriff is enjoying life with his family, but then notices that some fierce outlaws are back in town. The current cops claim that they have gone over a new leaf and aren’t planning to steal the large gold train that’s about to leave town. The ex-Sheriff doesn’t believe this hogwash for a second and goes after them. Not to mention that the outlaws were basically harassing him earlier and threatened his family. He can’t let them walk away after that. A shootout happens and the Sheriff is victorious. He was right about those rascals and showed them what’s up. Hopefully the cops will remember to actually carry guns next time they protect a train and to hire better security. They must not care about their gold if it’s so loosely protected eh?

The film also had one of the worst romances. So, one of the girls became a successful singer, but then gets a message that someone died and she can inherit a gold mill. She drops everything (big mistake) to go there. Since these were the olden days, it takes a long time to get there. Along the way she meets an old lady who flirts with everyone and a guy who just wants her for her money. (And she knows it) She still falls for the guy and then they get to the mill. The problem is that the gold ran out and the workers paid themselves first so there was no money left. The girl heads back to her dancing career while the guy continues his successful gambling. It all works out and they get together…booooooo. It’s pretty cheesy and just not all that interesting. It was something to see the girl get old and sell all of her stuff though. Just goes to show that nothing goes with you to the grave. From there is transformed into the ex-sheriff story. It’s pretty surreal to have the characters start the film off as little kids and then be quite old by the time the film ends. It could have been great if it was handled delicately like DBZ with big fights happening constantly to keep you engaged. Wrong kind of film though.

There’s not much of a soundtrack here although I trust that you wouldn’t expect one. Also, the visuals are never any fun. The characters head to a civilized kind of city once which is where all the singing/dancing is, but for the most part they’re in the wild west. That doesn’t make for a fun backdrop. The film also feels really ancient. I get that this film is from the 60s, but it plays out more like a film from the 50s with how poor the sound quality can be at times and how old everything looks. The oldness is probably just the Wild West effect I suppose though.

Overall, How The West Was Won is not a story that we ever needed to know. It’s rather obvious and self explanatory after all as everyone knows the story. The Americans rode in, murdered everybody, and then “Discovered” the land and made it our own. We then used good ole American muscle power to build all of the buildings and establishments that we have today. It’s a story of determination and good work ethic, but one that doesn’t make for an entertaining film in the slightest. There’s nothing to smile about or anything to keep your interest in the film. Now imagine that going on for almost 3 hours. I dare say that the first act was the worst as well so it started the film out on a less than optimal note. I can’t decide on what the worst part there was. The father insisting that the daughter sing to entertain some random blokes, or another daughter wanting to run away with a random guy who flirts with everyone and then saying no once he finally says yes because she likes the country life. We definitely got a lot of drama here….just not the good kind. Wait…there’s a good kind? It’s in your best interest to avoid this film.

Overall 2/10