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Topics - JamesK

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Thanks to the miracle of Bit Torrent, I was able to see A Coffin for the Sheriff, a relatively obscure 1965 Italo-western starring Anthony Steffen and shot in large part in and around the same town set as was used in A Fistful of Dollars.

While I wouldn't say that A Coffin for the Sheriff is bad, I've definitely seen better.  The film has appeal beyond the occasional episode of, "Hey, I recognize that façade!" I found it interesting that the character of Shenandoah was largely a decent fellow, whereas many later Italo-westerns delved so deeply into the nihilistic side of the subgenre that their protagonists were little better than the men they killed.

Oh, and Luciana Gilli was smokin' hot.

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Off-Topic Discussion / Comrade Rockstar
« on: July 14, 2006, 05:22:10 AM »
Salon has an interesting review of the likewise interesting biography, Comrade Rockstar.  The book is an examination of Dean Reed's life and career.

Euro-Western fans may remember Reed from such films as Adios, Sabata (aka Indio Black), but there was a whole host of drama in his life offscreen.

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Other Films / The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (2005)
« on: July 12, 2006, 03:01:26 AM »
I managed to catch up with Tommy Lee Jones' directorial debut, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, last night.  While it's firmly in the category of "film of the American West," as opposed to a traditional western, there's plenty that will appeal to those of us who love the genre.  It is a quiet, almost meditative, examination of guilt, retribution and penance with strong performances by Jones and pretty much everyone else in the cast.  Don't miss it.

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Off-Topic Discussion / Western video games: good, bad or ugly?
« on: December 18, 2005, 08:24:16 AM »
Despite that fact that the western is an almost infinitely malleable genre, and one that almost everyone worldwide responds to in some fashion, video game developers don’t see much potential in it. Only three games have, of late, even made an attempt at reviving the western, and all are deeply flawed in some way or another: Dead Man's Hand, Red Dead Revolver and, now, Gun.

There's news that The Good, the Bad and the Ugly will make the transition to video games next year, though considering some of the clunkers Bits Studios has produced, I don't have high hopes.

So what's going on?  Can it really be that hard to make a genuinely good game featuring the western genre?  And what would it take to make a western game "good," in your opinion?

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Other Films / Dollar for the Dead
« on: December 15, 2005, 11:12:03 AM »
Anyone ever seen the film, Dollar for the Dead?  It looks awful, but the scanty reviews online are mixed.  Emilio Estévez is certainly an unusual choice for the lead in a gritty, Italo-Western sort of tale.

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Other Films / High Plains Drifter (1973)
« on: December 15, 2005, 10:04:34 AM »
I will never understand marketers who repackage things like books and DVDs to make them look worse than they did originally.  Case in point: High Plains Drifter.

Since the movie's been out on DVD, the box art has simply been a replica of the original one-sheet.  It's an instantly recognizable image -- stark, evocative and intriguing -- that has now been replaced with an extremely generic-looking screen capture.  What were they thinking?


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Off-Topic Discussion / Gun [SPOILERS!]
« on: December 13, 2005, 08:19:49 AM »
Well, I finished off Gun (not difficult), and am left disappointed.  Even more so, in fact, than I was with Red Dead Revolver.  Apparently it's a lot harder to make a western-genre video game than anyone would have realized.   :(

What was most disheartening about the whole affair was everything Gun did right.  The scale of the game world is impressive, as is the ability to wander freely.  The only problem is that one can do only that: wander.  There's nothing left to do after just a handful of hours.  Without even really trying, I knocked off every single side mission, plus the main storyline, and purchased every single upgrade and/or piece of equipment in two sessions.  After that, all I could do was gallop back and forth between the two towns hoping for a bandit attack, and wondering what happened.

Sigh.

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Off-Topic Discussion / Readin' westerns.
« on: December 09, 2005, 08:36:24 AM »
On the West of the Law list, a member mentioned the (apparently) mega-popular Edge series of westerns and I must confess that I'd never heard of them.  I've since located a copy of Edge #1: The Loner, so we'll have to see what all the fuss is about.  He also talked about his early encounters with Louis L'Amour.

I didn't get into recommended reading in the PDF for West of the Law because I felt throwing a page-and-a-half of movies, some obscure, would be enough for some people, but I suppose it would be remiss not to discuss at least a little the western books and/or stories that have influenced us.  The more we learn about one another's tastes, the better the final game will be... at least in theory.

The first westerns I ever read were the Lone Star series from Jove.  This must have been back in the early 1980s, when the series was new and there was -- as I have learned since -- something of a boom in series western fiction.  Because the '80s were The Decade of the Ninja™, the Lone Star books had a samurai tossed in with the usual action.  Oh, and there was sex, too.  At least three sex scenes per book.  Teen boys (and grown men) like the sexy.

Reading the Lone Star books led to its companion series, Longarm, which also had sex in tandem with more traditional western action.  It was only after reading those that I finally came around to the Louis L'Amours and Zane Grays of the genre.  Sort of an ass-backwards introduction to the western, really, but whatever works.

I still have a fondness for those "adult westerns" from Jove, despite their almost uniformly atrocious writing.  Lone Star is defunct now, but Longarm continues.  I also pick up the odd western I spot at the grocery store or wherever.  Not too long ago I managed to get my hand on seven novels by Joe Millard, written in the late '60s, based on the Eastwood/Leone bounty killer character they made famous.

When it comes to westerns in print, I tend to go for the stories with more grit, more violence and more sex.  It's because I'm such a sucker for the Italo-Westerns, I'm sure.  The occasional L'Amour (like Shalako) can grab me, but oftentimes I'm not that enthused by the more traditional material.

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