Halloween Havoc!: BLOOD FROM THE MUMMY’S TOMB (AIP/Hammer 1971)

Hammer’s ‘Mummy’ movies never really did it for me, but BLOOD FROM THE MUMMY’S TOMB is a shroud of a different colour. Adapted from Bram Stoker’s novel “The Jewel of the Seven Stars”, the movie suffered some behind the scenes setbacks, which contribute to its choppy nature. The backstage chaos began when original star Peter Cushing’s wife passed away after only a day’s filming. He was replaced by Andrew Keir (QUARTERMASS AND THE PIT). Then before shooting was complete, director Seth Holt (TASTE OF FEAR, THE NANNY) died of a heart attack, and Hammer veteran Michael Carreras had to step in to finish the film. Despite all this, BLOOD FROM THE MUMMY’S TOMB is one of the better latter-day Hammers, picking up steam as it goes along, with a great performance by sexy star Valerie Leon.

Leon plays Margaret Fuchs, who was born the same day her father Professor Julian Fuchs (Keir) opened the tomb of Egyptian Queen Tera. Margaret grows up to be not only a dead ringer for the evil queen, but is given a large ruby ring on her birthday for protection. But the ring pulls Margaret under the spell of Tera’s power, and soon she and her boyfriend (who goes by the name Tod Browning!! ) get involved with supernatural shenanigans courtesy of dad’s former expedition partner Corbeck (James Villiers, THESE ARE THE DAMNED), gathering up ancient lost relics taken by other expedition members.

The murders are fairly gory, and there are some good frights along the way to the climax, when Queen Tera rises from the dead and battles Margaret for dominance. This was Leon’s only starring role, and she makes a fine Scream Queen. I’m surprised Hammer didn’t use her for other horror entries; instead she continued appearing in the CARRY ON series and a pair of James Bond flicks (THE SPY WHO LOVED ME, NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN). Also in the cast is George Coulouris, veteran of such classic films as CITIZEN KANE, FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS, and WATCH ON THE RHINE.

I’m not saying BLOOD FROM THE MUMMY’S TOMB is a great horror flick; it’s far from perfect, and the behind the scenes tragedies hurt the continuity. But Leon and the cast somehow make it all work, and I’d choose it over the 1980 remake THE AWAKENING, with Charlton Heston and Susannah York trapped by a moldy script. At least this version has Valerie Leon to ogle, and she delivers a treat for your Halloween viewing.

 

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Halloween Havoc!: SUGAR HILL (AIP 1974)

The worlds of Horror and Blaxploitation intersected frequently during the 70’s, beginning with American-International’s BLACULA . The vampire tale spawned a subgenre of black oriented riffs on familiar themes: BLACKENSTEIN (man-made monsters), DR. BLACK, MR. HYDE (Stevenson’s classic novel updated), ABBY (demonic possession), and SUGAR HILL, a crazy voodoo-zombie revenge tale that’s creepy, outrageous, and entertaining as… well, as hell!

Foxy lady Marki Bey plays foxy lady Diana “Sugar” Hill, whose boyfriend Langston runs the voodoo-themed Club Haiti. Southern-fried gangster Morgan (Robert Quarry) wants to take over the club, and sends his goons to ‘persuade’ Langston. When he refuses, they stomp him to death in the parking lot, leaving Sugar no recourse but to return to her ancestral home and ask ancient voodoo queen Mama Maitresse (Zara Cully of THE JEFFERSONS) for help. Mama conjures up voodoo god of the dead Baron Samedi (Don Pedro Colley), who gives Sugar control over an army of zombies to enact her revenge on Morgan and his cohorts.

A series of weird set pieces follows, as Sugar and her zombies kill off the gangsters one by one. The machete-wielding zombies mutilate and decapitate one, feed another to hungry pigs (!), lock a goon in a snake-filled coffin, and give a zombie massage to lead goon Fabulous (Charles Robinson, NIGHT COURT). Sugar’s ex-boyfriend, police detective Valentine (Richard Lawson) suspects Sugar’s doing that voodoo that she do so well, but can’t prove it, and winds up hospitalized when he gets too close to the truth. Sugar saves the best for last as Morgan and his racist ho Celeste (Betty Ann Rees) get their just desserts.

Colley’s over-the-top Baron Samedi makes a great supernatural villain (Geoffrey Holder played the Baron in the James Bond film LIVE AND LET DIE). Miss Bey, if not the greatest of thespians, sure does looks sweet as Sugar. In the middle of the film, there’s a wild cat fight between Sugar and Celeste that serves no purpose but is a lot of fun! The zombies are appropriately eerie-looking,  and the murders are done well, though not as gory as later zombie flicks.

SUGAR HILL was filmed in Houston, standing in for New Orleans. The backlot swamp is peppered with stock footage of gators, crawling snakes, and assorted swamp critters, and some familiar film sound effects, including that classic kookaburra that pops up in every jungle pic:

Too bad the kookaburra is only indigineous to the wilds of Australia! This was Quarry’s final AIP film; the studio had tried to build him into the next Vincent Price in COUNT YORGA VAMPIRE, RETURN OF COUNT YORGA, DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN , and DEATHMASTER without much success. Director Paul Maslansky shows a steady if unspectacular hand; he went on to produce the POLICE ACADEMY movies, which were a horror of another kind! And we can’t have a Blaxploitation flick without a funky theme song, “Supernatural Voodoo Woman” by Motown’s The Originals:

SUGAR HILL is a sweet (sorry) entry in the Horror/Blaxploitation  field, and it’s overblown insanity, sense of fun, and downright spooky atmosphere makes it a worthy Halloween treat for lovers of both genres.

 

 

Cleaning Out the DVR #14: SEX & VIOLENCE, 70’S STYLE!

Groundbreaking 60’s films like BONNIE & CLYDE, THE GRADUATE, THE WILD BUNCH, and MIDNIGHT COWBOY led to the complete obliteration of the Production Code, and by the sizzling 70’s it was anything goes! Low budget exploitation filmmakers benefitted most by this loosening of standards as the following quintet of movies illustrates, filled with bouncing boobs, bloody action, pot smoking, beer drinking, and hell raising:

THE MUTHERS (Dimension 1976; D; Cirio H. Santiago) – A Filipino-made “Women in Prison” Blaxploitation actioner? Yes, please! Former Playboy Playmates Jeanne Bell and Rosanne Katon, future NFL TODAY commentator Jayne Kennedy, and ex-Bond girl Trina Parks are all trapped on a coffee plantation run by the sadistic Monteiro with no chance of escape… until there is! Loaded with gore, torture, kung-fu fighting, bare breasts, a funky score, pirates (that’s right, pirates!), and a slam-bang run through the jungle – what more could you ask for? Forget about some of the gaps in logic, just sit back and enjoy the ride. Fun Fact: The prolific Santiago produced and/or directed such Grindhouse classics as WOMEN IN CAGES, THE BIG BIRD CAGE, TNT JACKSON, EBONY IVORY & JADE, and VAMPIRE HOOKERS, among many others.

THE POM POM GIRLS (Crown International 1976; D: Joseph Ruben)- One of the better Crown International “teensploitation” flicks is a practically plotless but immensely fun outing dealing with the high school shenanigans of football players’n’cheerleaders, featuring a pre-REVENGE OF THE NERDS Robert Carradine as the school’s “class stud” and the ever-delightful Rainbeaux Smith as (what else?) a swingin’ cheerleader. Writer/director Ruben throws in every teen flick trope in the book: food fights, dirt bikes, a groovy “love van”, a football brawl, and a “suicide chicken” race straight outta REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE! There’s plenty of gratuitous nudity and hormones running wild on display, so if drive-in movies are your thing, you can’t do much better than this one. Fun Fact: Ruben went on to helm the mainstream films SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY and MONEY TRAIN.

VIGILANTE FORCE (United Artists 1976; D: George Armitage) – Crack open a frosty PBR and enjoy this slice of 70’s exploitation insanity. The small California town of Elk Hills is being torn up by rowdy oil field workers, so Jan-Michael Vincent recruits his Vietnam vet brother Kris Kristofferson and his crew to clean things up. But Kris has other ideas, and soon he and his boys take over the town, beginning a reign of terror that leads to a violent, explosive climax with Kris’s vigilantes pitted against Jan-Michael’s Green Mountain Boys. Kris is one crazy, mean sumbitch in this wild actioner! Bernadette Peters shines as his sexy off-key saloon singer girl, and Victoria Principal plays Jan-Michael’s more sedate sweetie (who takes a bullet in the back courtesy of Kris… I told you he was mean!). The better-than-average supporting cast is filled with Familiar Faces: Loni Anderson (as ‘Peaches’!), Antony Carbone, Peter Coe , Brad Dexter , David Doyle (Bosley on CHARLIE’S ANGELS), Paul Gleason, James Lydon, Shelley Novack, Andrew Stevens, and a cameo by the one-and-only Dick Miller ! Hang on to your hardhats and get ready for non-stop action. Fun Fact: The producer is exploitation king Roger Corman’s brother Gene, which explains Miller’s cameo and the casting of Carbone (THE LAST WOMAN ON EARTH, CREATURE FROM THE HAUNTED SEA).

THE VAN (Crown International 1977; D: Sam Grossman) – Recent high school grad Bobby (Stuart Getz) buys the “love van” of his dreams in order to score with chicks in this quintessential 70’s teen sex comedy. Hollywood car customizer George Barris created Bobby’s dream machine, complete with 70’s staples like a waterbed, 8-track player, shag carpeting, and mag wheels. It’s a genuinely funny lowbrow drive-in flick featuring a pre-TAXI Danny DeVito as Bobby’s boss at the car wash, who doubles as a bookie. And remember: “Nobody calls Doogie a turd! Nobody!”. Fun Fact: The soundtrack by Sammy Johns includes his big hit “Chevy Van” as the movie’s theme song – even though Bobby’s van is actually a Dodge!

CORVETTE SUMMER (MGM 1978; D: Matthew Robbins) – High school student Mark Hamill restores a ’73 Corvette Stingray to it’s former glory only to have it stolen, so he hitches a ride to Las Vegas with wanna-be hooker Annie Potts to retrieve his baby in this uneven but harmless ‘B’ comedy. The film shifts into high action towards the end, and the finale doesn’t really satisfy, but Potts (in her film debut) delivers a wonderfully deft comic performance as the ditzy chick in yet another 70’s-style “love van” (they were everywhere!!). The supporting cast includes Danny Bonaduce, Philip Bruns, Eugene Roche, Kim Milford, and the ubiquitous Dick Miller! The glittery lights of late 70’s Vegas (set to a glittery disco soundtrack) make it almost worth your time. Fun Fact: This was Hamill’s follow-up to 1977’s STAR WARS , attempting to break free of his Luke Skywalker image. It didn’t work.

More “Cleaning Out the DVR”:

 

Stone Cold: Charles Bronson in THE MECHANIC (United Artists 1972)

Stone-faced Charles Bronson is perfect as an ice-cold, classical music loving hit man who mentors young Jan-Michael Vincent in 1972’s THE MECHANIC. I’d say this is one of Charlie’s best 70’s actioners, but let’s be serious – they’re ALL damn entertaining!

Arthur Bishop (Bronson) takes his work seriously, meticulously planning every assignment he receives from his Mafia boss (Frank De Kova ). Given a job to kill family friend Big Harry McKenna (Keenan Wynn), Bishop does the deed with chilling precision. McKenna’s son Steve (Vincent) is a stone-cold sociopath himself, and soon worms his way into becoming Bishop’s apprentice. Their first caper together goes sour, bringing Bishop’s boss much displeasure. Bishop’s next hit takes the two overseas to Naples, where they’re set up to be killed themselves, resulting in a violent conclusion and a deliciously deadly twist ending.

Bronson, after over twenty years and 50 plus movie roles, became an overnight success with the same year’s THE VALACHI PAPERS. He’s his usual stoic self as Bishop, but the character has a bit more depth. Bishop is prone to anxiety attacks, and trouble forming a meaningful relationship, causing him to visit a call girl (wife Jill Ireland in a cameo), paying her to read him love letters before sex. Bishop’s bonding with young McKenna was originally homosexual in nature as envisioned  by screenwriter Lewis John Carlino (THE SAILOR WHO FELL FROM GRACE WITH THE SEA, THE GREAT SANTINI), but producers Robert Chartoff and Irwin Winkler (the ROCKY films) nixed the idea. Still, the relationship between Bishop and McKenna comes off almost as intended, as Bishop doesn’t seem to respond to anyone else, including the hooker.

Jan-Michael Vincent is good as the antisocial McKenna, and makes me wish he and Bronson had done more films together. Vincent is well known to fans of 70’s flicks for his roles in the TV Movie TRIBES, the Disney comedy THE WORLD’S GREATEST ATHELETE, and a slew of drive-in fare: WHITE LINE FEVER, BABY BLUE MARINE, VIGILANTE FORCE, DAMNATION ALLEY, and DEFIANCE. He played Robert Mitchum’s son in the miniseries THE WINDS OF WAR, then headlined his own action series AIRWOLF from 1984-87. Vincent’s problems with alcohol and domestic violence have been well documented, and the actor, who lost a leg in a car crash, is now for the most part retired and living in Mississippi.

THE MECHANIC is the second of six films Bronson made with director Michael Winner, the last three being the first entries in the DEATH WISH series. Winner delivers (sorry, I can’t resist!) a winner here, keeping the suspense taut and the action exciting, including a cool dirt bike chase and the later scene with Bronson and Vincent chased by mobsters through a winding Italian mountain road. The film was remade in 2011 with Jason Statham in the Bishop role (and a sequel in 2016), which paled in comparison to this drive-in classic. Bronson and Winner’s DEATH WISH has been remade and is set for release this November, with Eli Roth directing and Bruce Willis in Bronson’s role. The trailer looks good, but like THE MECHANIC, it’ll be hard to top the original. We shall see…

 

Concrete Jungle: REPORT TO THE COMMISSIONER (United Artists 1975)

REPORT TO THE COMMISSIONER usually gets lumped in with the plethora of 70’s cop films, but I viewed it as a neo-noir. It’s structure tells the tale mainly in flashback, from the participating character’s differing perspective, and is dark as hell. I’m sure co-screenwriters Abby Mann and Ernest Tidyman were well aware of what they were doing: both men were former Oscar winners (Mann for JUDGEMENT AT NUREMBERG, Tidyman for THE FRENCH CONNECTION   ) familiar with the conventions of the genre. The solid cast features a powerhouse collection of 70’s character actors, led by Michael Moriarty’s patented over-the-edge performance as protagonist Bo Lockley.

Lockley is a young, idealistic cop caught up in circumstances beyond his control, snaring him in an inescapable downward spiral. The film opens with a pair of New York City detectives discovering the body of a young woman, who turns out to be one of their own, an undercover cop. Cut to a ruckus over at Saks’ 5th Avenue, where a disheveled Lockley, wrapped in a blanket, is being escorted from the building, charged with the murder, and put into the Bellevue Hospital Psych Ward.

The sensationalistic papers cry “Scandal!”, and the Commissioner (Stephen Elliot) assigns Internal Affairs Captain Strichter (Edward Grover) to untangle the mess. Through flashbacks, we, along with Strichter, uncover the truth. Undercover cop Patty Butler (Susan Blakely in her finest screen performance), disguised as a runaway teen called ‘Chicklet’, had infiltrated the life of known drug dealer ‘Stick’ Henderson to the point of being his live-in lover, without the permission of the powers that be. Only her superiors Lt. Hanson (Michael McGuire) and Capt. D’Angelo (Hector Elizondo) are aware she’s this deep undercover.

Hanson and D’Angelo look for a patsy to search for the missing “runaway”, and land on Lockley, a NYC Police ‘legacy’ who’s ill-suited to the job. Lockley’s been working with veteran ‘Crunch’ Blackstone (the amazing Yaphet Kotto), trying to learn the ways of the streets. The two men take different approaches to the job, with Blackstone’s pork-pie hat wearing, hard-assed cop a direct contrast to the compassionate, long-haired Lockley. Still, the older man develops a fondness for the naïve youngster.

Lockley takes his new assignment seriously, and almost blows Butler’s cover at a disco. He diligently tracks her to Stick’s apartment, where he discovers a cache of weapons slated for use by a black radical group. The cop and the dealer engage in a shoot-out, where Butler takes a fatal bullet from Lockley’s erratic barrage. A chase over the rooftops winds up with Lockley and Stick trapped in an elevator, surrounded by the law, with no chance of escape.

Michael Moriarty’s unhinged performance as Lockley foreshadows his work in Larry Cohen’s Q: THE WINGED SERPENT and THE STUFF. His Lockley is ill-suited for the job, and doesn’t understand that, as his mentor Crunch tells him, “Nothing is what it seems”. Tony King, the ex-football player who later became head of security for hip-hop legends Public Enemy, adds his menacing presence as Stick. Among the other Familiar Faces you’ll find Bob Balaban excelling as a legless street person, Richard Gere making his film debut as a lowlife pimp, and William Devane, Bebe Drake-Hooks, Dana Elcar, and Vic Tayback.

REPORT TO THE COMMISSIONER was directed by Milton Katselas, more known as a Broadway producer/director and acting coach, whose filmography includes FORTY CARATS, BUTTERFLIES ARE FREE, and WHEN YOU COMIN’ BACK, RED RYDER?. He’s also known as a hard-core Scientologist, and was portrayed in the biopic SAL (about the actor Sal Mineo) by that film’s director, James Franco (which I’m sure my TSL colleague Lisa Marie Bowman will be interested in!). Cinematographer Mario Tosi (CARRIE, THE STUNT MAN) captures the gritty Times Square street life with a dark, gloomy eye, and Elmer Bernstein contributes a fine, sometimes even funky score. The neo-noir atmosphere and outstanding cast make this an interesting if not quite classic film that deserves a second look.

Familiar Faces #5: She’s Like A Rainbeaux!

I’ve got a confession to make: I’ve had an insane crush on 70’s exploitation queen Cheryl “Rainbeaux” Smith ever since I first saw her brighten the screen in Jack Hill’s 1974 THE SWINGING CHEERLEADERS. Never a big star by any stretch of the imagination, the delightful, delectable blonde graced us with her presence throughout the 70’s and 80’s, making even the tiniest of parts memorable. This girl was just soooo damn cute!

Cheryl Lynn Smith was born on June 6, 1955. A typical California girl with blonde hair and freckles, Cheryl used to hang out on the Sunset Strip, a fixture at all the rock clubs: The Whiskey A-Go-Go, The Roxy, The Rainbow. She allegedly got the nickname “Rainbeaux” from the owner of these venues, the legendary rock impresario Mario Maglieri. Cheryl was well-known in the LA rock scene, and later in life played drums in an incarnation of The Runaways featuring Joan Jett.

Cheryl’s first claim to fame came with the 1973 cult classic LEMORA: A CHILD’S TALE OF THE SUPERNATURAL, in which the 18-year-old plays 13-year-old Lila Lee, daughter of a Deep South gangster who’s taken in by the church and dubbed “The Singin’ Angel” (she gets to warble “Just a Closer Walk With Thee” and “Rock of Ages”). This grim fairy tale is filled with bizarre imagery and sound (those creepy kids laughter!), as Lila’s Christian values are pitted against evil vampiress Lemora (Lesley Gilb). The low-budget work of writer/director Richard Blackburn (who went on to cowrite another cult hit, 1983’s EATING RAOUL) is claustrophobic and disturbing, and a must-see for horror buffs. LEMORA turns up occasionally on “TCM Underground”, and is available on YouTube (where I recently viewed it). It serves as a fine showcase for young Cheryl’s acting abilities.

Most of her other films focus more on Cheryl’s other attributes rather than her thespic talents. 1974 was a banner year for the actress, now being billed as Rainbeaux Smith. CAGED HEAT, Jonathan Demme’s directorial debut, casts her as convicted murderess Lavelle in one of the “women in prison” genre’s best efforts, with a cast that includes Erica Gavin (BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS) and horror icon Barbara Steele . The aforementioned THE SWINGING CHEERLEADERS finds her as virginal Andrea, and VIDEO VIXENS has Rainbeaux in a commercial parody as “The Twinkle Twat Girl” (yes, really!).

There was more exploitation to come: In 1976’s THE POM POM GIRLS, Rainbeaux is once again a cheerleader, one of “class stud” Keith Carradine’s conquests. That same year’s REVENGE OF THE CHEERLEADERS was a milestone of sorts for her; she had become pregnant by her musician boyfriend, and appears in the end credits holding her baby boy, Justin. Another cult classic, MASSACRE AT CENTRAL HIGH, finds our Cheryl in peril being threatened by bullying rapists. SLUMBER PARTY ’57 takes Rainbeaux back to the past in a film notable only as Debra Winger’s debut.

Rainbeaux got the opportunity to headline once again in 1977’s CINDERELLA, a softcore musical sex farce with heavy emphasis on the SEX! Rainbeaux (back to being billed as Cheryl here) gives a charming performance as the poor stepsister who goes to the ball thanks to her “fairy godmother” (who’s actually a gay brother!), and is given a magical “snapping pussy” that takes the prince to kingdom come! Produced by the infamous Charles Band and directed by actor Michael Pataki, it’s loads of good dirty fun, with a catchy disco-flavored soundtrack allowing Cheryl to sing once again, showing off her wonderful vocal talents (as well as the rest of her ample charms!). CINDERELLA, from the Golden Age of Erotic Cinema,  is my favorite Rainbeaux Smith role, and despite all the lewdness is well worth watching. They just don’t make ’em like this anymore!

FANTASM COMES AGAIN (1977) returned her to softcore porn territory, along with genre stalwarts Rick Cassidy, Uschi Digart, and Serena. LASERBLAST (1978) was another Charles Band classic, with Cheryl the girlfriend of alien possessed Kim Milford. She also managed to score small parts in more mainstream films of the era: FAREWELL MY LOVELY, DRUM (the sequel to MANDINGO, as Warren Oates’ horny daughter!), THE CHOIRBOYS, MELVIN AND HOWARD, and two with her old Sunset Strip buds Cheech & Chong, UP IN SMOKE and NICE DREAMS. But by the early eighties her film opportunities were drying up.

Cheryl had developed a heroin habit with her musician boyfriend, and after bits in VICE SQUAD (1982), DEAD MEN DON’T WEAR PLAID (doubling for Veronica Lake), and INDEPENDENCE DAY (1983) disappeared from the screen altogether. Her addiction led to losing custody of Justin, homelessness, prostitution, and two bids in prison. She was in and out of recovery until finally getting clean with the help of methadone maintenance, but it was too late. The ravages of heroin addiction had taken their toll, and Cheryl died of liver failure brought on by untreated Hep C on October 25, 2002. She was just 47 years old.

Cheryl “Rainbeaux” Smith never became a big star. Her films were mostly in the world of low-budget exploitation, and mainstream success eluded her. She’s fondly remembered by fans for her girl next door looks and giving her all in whatever she appeared in. She lit up the screen with her presence, and when given a chance to act (LEMORA, CAGED HEAT, CINDERELLA) proved she could’ve been bigger. Her downfall into heroin addiction is just another Hollywood cautionary tale; the movies she left behind, and her son Justin, are Rainbeaux’s brightest legacies.

Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door: PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID (MGM 1973)

(PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID airs tonight at 11:45 EST on TCM. Do yourselves a favor… watch it!)

PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID was director Sam Peckinpah’s final Western, and as usual it’s about more than just the Old West. It’s about the new breed vs the old establishment, about the maverick auteur vs the old studio guard, and about his never-ending battle to make his films his way. The fact that there are six, count ’em, SIX different editors credited tells you what MGM honcho James Aubrey thought of that idea! They butchered over 20 minutes out of the movie, which then proceeded to tank at the box office. Fortunately for us, PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID has been restored to its full glory, and we can enjoy Peckinpah’s original artistic vision.

I’m not going to try to make excuses for Peckinpah; he was a legitimate pain in the ass, a chronic alcoholic and drug abuser with manic mood swings and a violent temper. A real reprobate. But damn, he made some of the best films of the 60’s and 70’s! His takes on the western and crime genres were ultra-violent lyrical tone poems, influencing an entire generation of filmmakers who tried to copy his style, but rarely succeeded. Take a look at virtually any action-packed movie made in the last fifty years, at directors from Scorsese to Tarantino, and you’ll see the Peckinpah influence. Sam Peckinpah may have been a pain in the ass, but the man was an artist of the first order.

PAT GARRETT & BILLY THE KID concerns the familiar tale of two old friends, one an outlaw, the other now a lawman, and their final confrontation. The two leads are veteran James Coburn as Garrett and relative newcomer Kris Kristofferson, better known at the time as a singer/songwriter. Garrett has been hired by the powers that be in Lincoln County, New Mexico to rid the territory of Billy and his gang. The pair had ridden together as outlaws, and been on opposite sides before (Billy: “Wasn’t long ago I was the law, riding with Chisum. Pat was an outlaw. The law’s a funny thing.”). Garrett doesn’t want to kill Billy, but knows in his heart that’s exactly what it’s going to take.

Cinematographer John Coquillon got his start working on AIP horrors (WITCHFINDER GENERAL, THE OBLONG BOX ), and was a favorite of Peckinpah. There are marvelous location shots of the rugged Durango, Mexico scenery, notably the reflective river. A standout comes when Billy kills his religious fanatic jailer (a scary R.G. Armstrong), and at Billy’s capture, his arms stretched out like Christ on the Cross when he gives up. Coquillon and Peckinpah worked together on the director’s seminal STRAW DOGS, and later on CROSS OF IRON and THE OSTERMAN WEEKEND. They make a great duo, each man enhancing the other’s artistic vision.

The plaintive score, as you may already know, is by Bob Dylan, who also has a role as Alias, an enigmatic figure to say the least (Pat: “Who are you?” Alias: “That is a good question”). Dylan may not be an Olivier or DeNiro, but he’s just right in this role, saving Billy by throwing his knife at just the right moment, being intimidated by Garrett, and pretty much just being Dylan. The hit song “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” is featured on the soundtrack, which was released as his 12th album, and I’m sure you Dylan fans already own it!

The movie is stocked with some of Hollywood’s best character actors, all of whom get their chance to shine. Slim Pickens and Katy Jurado play a pair of lawmen (lawpersons??) aiding Pat, and Pickens’ death scene is played out to the aforementioned Dylan hit. Jack Elam is Alamosa Bill, who tracks Billy down and dies in a gun duel. Good Lord, there’s Luke Askew, John Beck, Richard Bright, Matt Clark, Elisha Cook Jr , singer Rita Coolidge, Jack Dodson, Gene Evans , Emilio Fernandez, Paul Fix Richard Jaeckel , L.Q. Jones, Jason Robards Charlie Martin Smith , Harry Dean Stanton, Barry Sullivan , Dub Taylor, Chill Wills, a veritable Who’s Who of Hollywood Familiar Faces!

The final, fatal killing of Billy the Kid is haunting for both its beauty and its ugliness. That pretty much sums up the best of Sam Peckinpah’s work, the dichotomy of beauty and the grotesque, the proud and the profane, walking hand in hand through a random, chaotic world. PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID was Peckinpah’s final word on the Western genre, and I’m glad it’s been restored to its original form, so future generations can study the cinematic artwork of this difficult, self-destructive, brilliant genius.