Better In The Dark #133



The Boys Outta Brooklyn finally pay off on a long-standing bet with The Gentlemen’s Guide To Midnight Movies by diving into the wild, twisty rapids of Eurocrime! Join Tom and Derrick as they cover this seminal trio of films by Fernando DeLeo which includes two performances by Brooklynite Henry Silva that have to be seen to be believed, as he tears up Milan as only a half-Filipino madman can. Plus Tom can’t trust Beyonce, Derrick defends Chuck Barris, and they both have had enough of Jennifer Lopez’ shit. You know it’s time for Gene, Gene The Dancing Machine, so Get to Clicking!

Two Guys Outta Brooklyn Talk Movies
Silver Age Comics Through Modern Eyes
Join us now at!
Nocturne, The City That Lives By Night….needs a darker shade of protector

A Gathering Of Old Men


Consolidated Productions/Jennie & Co.

Directed by Volker Schlondorff

Produced by Gower Frost

Screenplay by Charles Fuller

Based on the novel “A Gathering Of Old Men” by Ernest J. Gaines

It’s a boiling hot summer day in a Louisiana sugar cane field once upon a time in the 1970’s.  An overweight black man named Charlie runs for his life, yelling for help.  And with good reason.  There’s a white man pursuing him on a tractor with a shotgun.  In desperation Charlie runs into a house as he simply cannot run any more.  The white man gets off the tractor and strides toward the shack, shotgun at the ready and loudly proclaiming his intention to enter the house and kill Charlie.  A shotgun blast comes from the house, killing the white man.

The house is owned by Mathu (Lou Gossett, Jr.), an elderly black man who tells the younger one to make a run for it.  Since we’re not shown who fired from the house we don’t know if it was Mathu or Charlie who did the killing but it hardly matters.  As one of the characters says later on in the film; “Ain’t no colored ever kilt a white man in this parish and got away with it.” Even though it’s the 1970’s and still in the white-hot passion of the civil rights movement everybody who lives in the parish knows full well that things really haven’t changed all that much.  Somebody’s going to get lynched over this.

Mathu lives on land owned by the Marshall family and it’s Candy Marshall (Holly Hunter) who concocts a plan to save Mathu from certain arrest and the probable lynching: she sends out a call for all of Mathu’s equally elderly friends to fire off their shotguns and bring them along to Mathu’s house.  She also calls for her fiancé, journalist Lou Dimes (Will Patton) to come to Mathu’s house to document what happens next.  And it could get bloody.  The white man who was killed was a Cajun and his father Fix (Stocker Fontelieu) intends to see to it that the man who killed his son pays for it.

Stuck in the middle is Sheriff Mapes (Richard Widmark) who started the day intending to go fishing and certainly didn’t plan on having to deal with this mess. Because each one of Mathu’s seventeen friends proclaim loudly and with finality that they were the one that did the killing and here’s the just fired shotgun to back it up.  And each one of those seventeen friends have brought along more shotgun shells as they don’t intend to see their friend lynched.

A GATHERING OF OLD MEN is a movie that is so far under the radar it isn’t funny.  I remember seeing it on CBS just once way back in the 1980’s and I’ve never seen it aired again on network television.  Which is a shame because it’s a powerful piece of filmmaking with outstanding performances from Richard Widmark, Holly Hunter and a cast of classic black actors such as the late great Joe Seneca, Woody Strode, Tiger Haynes and Julius Harris.

It’s a story exploring the desire of black men in the twilight of their years having one final chance at regaining their manhood and standing up for themselves.  It gets even deeper into the various attitudes of the white characters who all have their own agendas regarding the black characters.  The Cajuns want blacks to “stay in their place” so that they have somebody to feel superior to.  The Marshall family are guilty of patronizing the blacks and believing they are superior to Cajuns which they despise for being “poor white trash”  The patronizing attitude of the Marshalls is brought out sharp and clear in a scene when Candy proudly proclaims that these are “her” blacks and they “need” her to protect them from “those” white people.

It’s a story that doesn’t pull any punches and there are some today who might be uncomfortable watching this movie.  Especially now in this era of the Obama presidency where many believe that racism doesn’t matter and that we all walk around holding hands and singing “We Are The World.”  A GATHERING OF OLD MEN is an engaging reminder that such is not so.  And it’s simply a damn fine piece of ensemble acting that can be enjoyed as such on those terms.  It’s available on DVD and well worth your time to track it down.  Enjoy

Once Upon A Time In The West


Paramount Pictures

Directed by Sergio Leone

Produced by Bino Cicogna

Written by Dario Argento, Bernardo Bertolucci, Sergio Leone and Sergio Donatti

Music by Ennio Morricone

Three men wait a remote train station.  One man (Al Mulock) endlessly cracks his knuckles.  The second man (Woody Strode) stands underneath a leak in the water tower. Eventually the water gathers in the crown of his hat and he drinks it with a really satisfied smile.  The third man (Jack Elam) engages in an existential war with a fly that just won’t leave him alone.   The train arrives and one man (Charles Bronson) disembarks.  The three men have obviously been waiting to kill him.  The lone man plays a sad dirge on an old battered harmonica and he asks the three men if they brought a horse for him.  The third man jokingly says that it looks as if they’re one horse shy.  The harmonica player disagrees:

“You brought two horses too many.”

The harmonica player whips out his gun, kills all three men with incredibly fast and accurate shots and that’s how ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST begins.  A movie that I think is the best western ever made.  You can disagree with me.  I don’t mind.

Jill McBain (Claudia Cardinale) arrives in the boomtown of Flagstone to take up housekeeping with Brett McBain (Frank Wolff) whom she met and married in New Orleans.  Jill is desperately looking to put her former life as a prostitute behind her but that dream is totally shattered as she finds that McBain, along with his three children have all been brutally murdered.

The townspeople are quick to put the blame on Cheyenne (Jason Robards) a local bandit noted for his flamboyance and rough charm.  But Cheyenne is for once the innocent party.  The McBains were actually killed by Frank (Henry Fonda) a merciless killer in the employ of railroad tycoon Morton (Gabriele Ferzetti) who is dying from tuberculosis of the bones but is determined to stay alive long enough to see his railroad reach The Pacific Ocean.  Frank’s got other plans.  And those plans include the McBain ranch of Sweetwater which Jill has inherited.

The ranch is sitting on a vast underground lake of fresh water.  And Brett McBain’s intention was to build a railroad station right on the spot where the railroad would pass through.  McBain knew that the water was worth millions and whoever controlled the water would control the town that would spring up around the station.  Frank is determined to get that land.  Jill is just as determined that he doesn’t.  Cheyenne genuinely likes Jill and genuinely doesn’t like Frank and wants to help her out.  Nobody knows what the motives and intentions of the mysterious man that they all call Harmonica are.  But he moves among these four and manipulates their actions for his own dark purpose.  A purpose we don’t learn until the end of the movie and one I wouldn’t dare reveal here.

I love all of Sergio Leone’s movies and I’ve thought for years that ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST was his highly underrated masterpiece.  Most would say that “The Good, The Bad And The Ugly” takes the top honors among Leone’s films but I gotta disagree.  Much as I love “The Good, The Bad And The Ugly” I love ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST even more.  Why?  Okay, sit back.  This will take a while.

First of all is the title: ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST.  Leone is letting you know right up front he’s telling you a grown-up fairy tale.  This isn’t going to be a fairy tale that has a happy ending because it takes place in the west.  But it really isn’t The American West we know.  The film critic Danny Peary wrote in his review of ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST that Sergio Leone’s West was inhabited by a select group men who belonged to an elder race of warriors who possessed near supernatural skills with guns.  And I think that’s valid.  Sergio Leone’s American West is actually as much a fantasy realm as Robert E. Howard’s Hyborian Era.  But in Leone’s fantasy world his warriors tote sixguns instead of swords.  In fact, there’s a key scene where Charles Bronson’s Harmonica says to Henry Fonda’s Frank that he belongs to ‘an ancient race’.

Second of all is Claudia Cardinale.  Sergio Leone may have slighted women is his other movies but he made up for it with this one.  He takes every opportunity to film Claudia Cardinale the best way he can.  She’s an astoundingly beautiful woman and Leone takes advantage of that, giving her an amazing amount of close-ups where we can just take delight in how lusciously gorgeous she is.  And she’s not just there as eye candy.  Miss Cardinale’s character is the one that sets everything in the movie into motion.

Third is Henry Fonda.  ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST is legendary as the only movie where he played a bad guy and I guess we’re lucky because if Mr. Fonda had really put his mind to it we’d have gotten some of the scariest bad guys of all time from him.   Henry Fonda  scares the you-know-what outta me everytime he shows up on screen in this movie.  He’s so scary that when this movie was first shown on American television, some of his scenes were actually cut out including Frank’s killing of a little boy.

Fourth is just the way the story is told.  Sergio Leone takes his time in all of his movies and this is no exception.  He’ll tell the story he wants to tell in his own way and in his own time.  ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST is no exception.  There are many scenes which have nothing but characters staring at each other.  And compared to how fast the gunfights happen you might be bewildered at how much time Leone takes setting up the gunfights.  But that’s because Leone is more interested in the rituals leading up to the gunfight.

Fifth is the score by Ennio Morricone which I think is the best he’s ever done.  Do yourself a favor and pick up the two-disc DVD version of ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST in which you’ve got commentary by guys like John Carpenter, John Milius, Claudia Cardinale and numerous others including Morricone who himself says that Leone wanted ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST scored liked an opera.  Every main character has their own theme music and the hauntingly evocative ‘Jill’s Theme’ is used to its greatest effect in the last ten minutes of the movie.  Which is Leone’s commentary in full on the mythic Old West he loved so much.

Should you see ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST?  It’s one of the movies in my Movies You Can’t Call Yourself A Movie Fan If You Haven’t Seen list.  It’s got terrific performances by Charles Bronson, Henry Fonda, Jason Robards and the exquisite Claudia Cardinale.  It’s not a western you want to see for non-stop action and bloody shootouts.  But the way it’s filmed, its story and the acting it’s captivating.   If you call yourself a fan of movies or a fan of westerns then ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST is a movie you need to see.

171 minutes

Rated PG-13