Monday, 12 March 2012


The Sometimes violent story of a driftin' cowhand!

Today we look back at the almost forgotten Delmer Daves western, Jubal.

Glenn Ford is Jubal, an injured rancher who is taken in by Shep Horgan who is played wonderfully by Ernest Borgnine. Jubal gains Shep's trust and is given a place to stay & a job as a cowhand. Borgnine is a lovable character with good intentions but unfortunately blind to what goes on around him. His wife Mae (Valerie French) feels she is trapped in her marriage with shep & takes a shine to Jubal. Mae flirts with Jubal in front of Shep, playing with her hair, even dancing with Jubal while Shep plays piano but Shep is oblivious to this. He's a happy-go-lucky kind of guy & cannot imagine that his wife would ever look further than himself.

Rod Steiger plays 'pinky'. Pinky has worked on the ranch for some time and becomes very jealous of Jubal's relationship with Shep. Until Jubal turned up Pinky was the top man on ranch but now he's being pushed aside as Jubal & Shep become closer & closer. Pinky (who has done more than just flirt around Shep's wife in the past) notices the close relationship between Mae & Jubal & will do anything to get one over Jubal.

 Jubal is a under appreciated gem in the western genre. There are some great performances by Glenn Ford, Ernest Borgnine & Rod Steiger. Unfortunately Bronson's role is a small role yet his character grows in importance towards the back end of the picture.

Bronson plays the part of Reb Haislipp, a lone man on his horse who Jubal brings in to work on the ranch. Bronson & Jubal become friends & it is Bronson's character that comes to Jubal's aid when the inevitable goes wrong. It's not a memorable role by any means. With not a great deal of dialogue it's as if the character of Reb was only written as a means to move the plot forward. Still, at this early stage in Bronson's career being able to act alongside the likes of Ford, Borgnine & Steiger can of only improved his confidence in front of established actors & let producers & director's know that he can hold his own alongside anyone.

Recommended as a well paced western with some memorable characters played by some great actors but a forgettable part for Bronson

Director: Delmer Daves
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Characters name: Reb Haislipp
Age during shoot:34
Bronson Kills: 0
Also Stars: Glenn Ford, Ernest Borgnine & Rod Steiger
Bronson rating: 5/10
Film rating 7/10


Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Once Upon A Time In The West

There were three men in her life. One to take her... one to love her... and one to kill her.

Cheyenne: - Do you know anything about a guy going around playing the harmonica? He's someone you'd remember. Instead of talking, he plays. And when he better play, he talks.

Before I begin to mention what this film is about I need to state that this review will be completely biased & comes from somebody who rates this one of the two greatest pieces of cinema ever created & finds the film perfect in almost every single way so please forgive me should this review be one sided & a little long winded.

C'era una volta il West (or Once Upon A Time In The West) is the epic story of a mysterious stranger with a harmonica who joins forces with a notorious desperado to protect a beautiful widow from a ruthless assassin working for the railroad.

Released in 1968 Once Upon A Time.. was the 4th Spaghetti Western by the now legendary director Sergio Leone. Leone had been responsible for the Dollars trilogy starring Clint Eastwood which started the Spaghetti Western craze in Italy. Leone was a big fan of Charles Bronson & had tried to get him for all three of his previous Westerns. Bronson turned down Leone the first time around for 'A Fistful Of Dollars' after reading the script which he described as the worst script he'd ever read. Bronson would later regret this decision & stated that 'What I didn't realise was the script didn't make any difference - It was the way that Leone was going to Direct it that would make the difference'. This is completely true, the dollars trilogy all sport very simple (to the point of being paper thin) plots. However it's Leone's style-over-substance approach which made those films so powerful with each film having a number of iconic scenes & characters throughout backed against unique cinematography & unbelievable scores by ennio morricone.

In my humble opinion the dollars trilogy got better and better with each release. 'A fistful..' set the tone & showed off the then unseen style. 'A Few dollars..' combined this with a better script & improved on everything that A fistful had delivered. Then there was 'The Good, The Bad & The Ugly' which took everything which made the first two so great but had a great (yet still simple) plot to boot with three amazing characters running the show & some of the most iconic scenes to ever grace a cinema screen.
You'd think that it could get no better than 'The Good, The Bad..' but somehow Leone made his greatest masterpiece just two years later with 'Once Upon A Time In The West'

Harmonia, Bronson's most iconic character
'The Good, The Bad & The Ugly' ends with one of the greatest scenes ever put on film with all three lead characters facing off in a shoot out. The tension built through the close ups of eyes, the score & the cinematography is something which you'd think Leone could never come close to again. Well guess what? Leone manages it with the opening 12 minutes of Once Upon A Time In The West with what I consider the greatest intro to a movie ever.

A classic example of Leone's wide style of shooting
 The film opens with three nasty looking gunmen approaching a run down train station. They scare off the old employee and wait around anxiously for a train. This scene lasts a good ten minutes. What happens in this ten minutes? Hardly anything, Now you may ask yourself how on earth can this be part of the greatest intro to a movie ever but these 10 or so minutes are some of the most thoughtful & planned out scenes I've ever seen. The three gunmen (Jack Elam, Woody Strode, Al Mulock) are waiting for someone. You can feel the tension surrounding them as they wait for the train. The use of sound design in these scenes is nothing short of genius. There is no traditional score. Instead the soundtrack we hear is constructed of their surroundings and their surroundings only.
First there is the monotonous squeak of a nearby windmill which comes once every 5 or 6 seconds. Then there is the constant sound of wind passing the outdoor setting. Drops of water fall through the roof onto Woody Strodes hat, the splash of each drop hitting his hat is so carefully thought out. Then there is a fly buzzing around Jack Elam as he tries to rest. The fly buzzes around Elam's face to the point where it even becomes irritating to the viewer.

Jack Elam, not an Insect lover.
Each of these little episodes add up create a certain level of tension which gradually reaches boiling point when the train finally begins to roll into the station. Barely a word has yet been spoken & already as a viewer the tension is almost unbearable.
The train comes to a standstill & there is barely anyone departing. The 3 gunmen look on wondering where the man they are waiting for could be. The train takes off & behind the track is the lonely figure dressed in a white coat with eyes of a devil playing a Harmonica. Words cannot describe the power of this scene, it is a scene that you would find in most scripts for this type of movie however never will you find it executed with such perfection as it is here by Leone.

Woody Strode, uses his hat for a cup
The lonesome character is in fact Charles Bronson playing a man simply known as 'Harmonica' throughout the film. Bronson's first lines are classic with him asking where is Frank (Hendry Fonda) and asking if the gunmen had brought him a horse too which they reply 'looks like we're shy one horse' to which Bronson replies 'You brought two too many'. There's a standstill for a few seconds as the gunmen and Bronson gaze back at one another & then the guns go off.
This 12 minute sequence could be a short movie in it's own right. The film could end here & you would be more than satisfied. For me it is the most obvious example I'd use to demonstrate what complete cinema is. It really does not get any better than this.

Charles 'One Tune' Bronson
Rumour has it that Leone wanted the leads from The Good, The Bad & The Ugly to play the three gun-men in this opening scene though I can't imagine Clint Eastwood who had become an enormous star through the Dollars films being happy with being blasted away within 12 minutes of the picture. Still as much as this sounds great on paper I can't imagine anybody else playing the three bandits, their faces & expressions in those opening minutes are unforgettable.

The good news is the 138 minutes which follow these iconic scenes are also fantastic. This time round Leone has a story which has much more depth than anything he had dealt with for the Dollars trilogy.
So we've been introduced to Harmonica. Next we are taken to a run down farm named Sweetwater where Brett McBain & his children are preparing a wedding feast as McBain has been away & married a former prostitute called Jill played by the puppy eyed Claudia Cardinale. Suddenly gunshots in the distance are heard & McBain and his daughter are shot dead. five gunmen in duster overcoats appear from a distance & the camera pans around to reveal the character of Frank played by Henry Fonda. Fonda was known for playing clean-cut good guys in the Westerns of yesteryear so when it was revealed he was the evil man who shows know mercy at shooting at defenceless child it would of been an enormous shock. So enormous that for years when being shown on American T.V they would edit out the final moments of the scene.

Fonda, as you've never seen him before

Jason Robards is fantastic as the escaped outlaw named 'Cheyenne'. His character is an interesting one as we as the viewer are presented with a man who is on the run & we assume he is mean spirited just like the character of Frank. Though, as the film progresses we begin to warm to Cheyenne as he becomes a more sympathetic character especially towards that of Jill.

Claudia Cardinale is the final part of the jigsaw. Her character really is the centre of the picture & ties together the three male leads. It would be the first time Leone had included an important female lead in one of his spaghetti westerns & he makes the character of Jill just as memorable as any of his iconic characters from past movies.

The plot which ensues works perfectly with each characters actions consequently affecting the other three in some degree. This is made even more clearer by the unbelievable score by Ennio Morricone. The opening scenes may of been sound tracked by natural sounds but the rest of the picture has possibly the greatest score of all time with each of the four characters having their own theme music. When characters paths cross the score would blend these themes in and out & almost mirror what was going on between the actors.

The richness to detail continues with each and every shot planned to perfection. Little things like Cheyenne walking into a bar and asking for a drink is given so much more impact by not showing his hands until he picks up the bottle to reveal that he is in fact shackled by the hands.

Dialogue is kept to a mininum throughout favouring watching peoples facial expressions yet of the little dialogue there are so many memorable quotes from this film.

Harmonica: I saw three of these dusters a short time ago, they were waiting for a train. Inside the dusters, there were three men. Cheyenne: So? Harmonica: Inside the men, there were three bulletThis exchange though sweet and simple gives the characters of Harmonica & Cheyenne and us the viewer an understanding of their then new relationship

This exchange though sweet and simple sets up the relationship between these two characters in an instant. Jason Robards has many memorable lines, this one in particular where he is talking to Jill is another favourite

You know, Jill, you remind me of my mother. She was the biggest whore in Alameda and the finest woman that ever lived. Whoever my father was, for an hour or for a month - he must have been a happy man.

This is Charles Bronson's most iconic & for my money, greatest performance he would ever put on screen. This set the standard for the Bronson that most people would grow to know and love. It's as if that everything before this film was Bronson searching for his character, his calling card, his special trait that was Bronson & Bronson only. Through Harmonica the Bronson persona was born. Here was the quiet character who only spoke when he had to but when he opened his mouth everybody listened. A man who's stare could say more than any piece of written dialogue. A man who would fight for justice & of course.. a man of vengeance. Bronson had now gained that almost X factor which would make him almost bigger than any film imaginable. From now on people casting Charles Bronson were casting this persona. Bronson was Harmonica & Harmonica was Bronson.

Even Leone himself has been quoted calling Bronson 'the greatest actor I ever worked with' & for somebody who has worked with some of the all-time great actors to make that statement & after seeing Bronson's performance here, you really can't argue with that logic.

It really does get no better than Once Upon A Time In The West. Film students should be forced to sit down and watch this film, this is film-making at it's purest form. The direction, performances, score, cinematography, script & dialogue all come together to make what I can only describe as.. perfection. Throw Bronson into the mix & you have the greatest film of all time.


Director: Sergio Leone
Running Time: 159 Minutes
Characters name: Harmonica
Age during shoot:46
Bronson Kills: 7
Also Stars: Henry Fonda, Jason Robards & Claudia Cardinale
Bronson rating: 10/10
Film rating 10/10

Monday, 5 March 2012

Rider On The Rain

Who will he terrorise... Who will he attack... Who will be his next victim ?

Bronson asked for the artist of this poster to
make his arms look more muscular.

Le passager de la pluie (known as Rider On The Rain in America) was a French Psychological Thriller by legendary French director René Clément which was released in the early part of 1970.

In Rider On The rain a young women called Mélancolie (Marlène Jobert) is stalked & raped by a mysterious masked man. Afterwards she shoots him dead with a shotgun & dumps his body in the sea. She thinks she has got away with the murder until an American investigator by the name of Harry Dobbs (Bronson) turns up & appears to know an awful lot about the murder.

Following Bronson's success in France with Adieu l'ami the director was convinced by his co-star in that movie (Alain Delon) that Bronson would be perfect for the part of Harry Dobbs. This was a great part for Bronson playing an ambiguous character for the majority of the picture. With Harry Dobbs you are never completely sure what he's intentions are. Do you route for this guy? Is he what he says he is? Should we & Mélancolie trust this man? Bronson keeps his cards close to his chest in a performance which in some respects is not a million miles away from 'Harmonica' in Once Upon A Time In The West.

The film was shot in two versions (English & French) with Bronson's voice being dubbed in the French version. The DVD I watched was from Optimum releasing & has a clear print and both versions of the movie. The version I watched & am reviewing is the English language version, though I'm told the only difference is a slight difference in some of the dialogue. Plot-wise both versions are exactly the same.

I chose the English version as I couldn't bare to hear Bronson dubbed in French. I felt whilst Marlène Jobert's English was perfect she kind of delivered her dialogue very slowly which kind of damaged the pacing in a few scenes.The plot also is a little bit clunky in times though you are taken along for the ride with Mélancolie so often your confusion or lack of knowing is mirrored by her performance. Despite my gripes with her delivery I thought she was excellent as the fragile victim who is forced to kill in self defense.

Bronson proves he is the world's greatest Tenpin bowler.

Jill Ireland has a short appearance as Nicole, the owner of a clothes store, though her part is completely forgettable & you get the feeling that her character was just written in last minute so that Bronson would accept the part. Another downside for me was the ending which, whilst it tied up all loose ends, felt a little anti-climatic.

Some plus points were Marc Mazza who plays the part of the rapist is great in a small yet important role. He looks intimidating, vicious & quite frankly, evil, so you can't help feel for Mélancolie as she is inevitably overpowered by him.

Rider On The Rain sports some impressive cinematography against some great locations. Theres a great shot of  Mélancolie where the camera looks straight down the barrel of her shotgun then the shots of the constant rain early on help add to the atmosphere of the picture. The score is an interesting one, it boasts an almost typical French Thriller score for it's time yet at times has a harsh & almost industrial sound that overpowers it for added tension.

'Love Love' aprons coming to a store near you.

Bronson's performance was so impressive that the film's credit cards were changed to give him higher billing than that of Marlene Joubert's. Rider On The Rain was a big success in France & Bronson is quoted as saying that the film was a real beginning for him as it was the first huge success that he hadn't had to share with other male stars. Bronson was now arguably the biggest star in the whole of Europe & later in his career in '83 Bronson put forward the idea of an English remake to Cannon pictures but nothing ever materialised.
Another interesting fact is that Jim Morrison of the Doors wrote one of his most famous songs 'Riders On The Storm' after seeing this picture.

Overall Rider On The Rain is a slow paced thriller & though not perfect is well worth two hours of anyones time. Looking back on it it's a shame Bronson never made more films in France in this period as I feel we could of had many more great Bronson performances had he not gone back to American pictures so soon after.

Year: 1970
Aka: Le passager de la pluieDirector: René Clément
Running Time: 113 Minutes
Also Stars: Jill Ireland and Marlène Jobert
Character Name: Harry Dobbs
Age During Shoot: 48
Bronson Kills: 0
Bronson Rating: 8.5/10
Film Rating: 7.5


Thursday, 1 March 2012

Cold Sweat

They took his family, he took revenge

Captain Ross: 'Do you know how many pints of blood a man has? He has ten pints, and mine's pumpin' out, slowly but steadily, at an estimated rate of four pints per hour. Therefore, in another hour, I will have lost consciousness and finally "check out."

Cold sweat is a Italian/French production directed byTerence Young, a Brit who was best known for directing the first four James Bond movies. The plot focuses on Bronson's character Joe Martin, a quiet American, lives a quiet life in the South of France renting boats to tourists. He is happily married to Fabienne and has a twelve-year-old daughter named Michèle. But the quiet man has a past: ten years before, Joe (then Moran) had escaped with four other convicts, among whom the sadistic ex-mercenary Katanga. Seeing the latter brutally kill an M. P., Joe had abandoned his accomplices and left with the car. One day out of the blue the convicts pay Martin a visit & suddenly he & is family are in great danger.

Cold Sweat has a very impressive cast with Liv Ullmann best known for her work with legendary Swedish director Ingmar Bergman playing Bronson's wife. She starts off unaware of Bronson's secret past and comes across as a gullible character but as the film goes on and the stakes are raised you realise that she is tougher than she looks. Legendary Italian character actor Luigi Pistilli always pops up as a trigger happy villain.

Once Bronson's past catches up with him Ullmann & her 12 year old daughter are kidnapped by Captain Ross played brilliant by James Mason.
Jill Ireland plays the part of Mason's wife, she appears in the film as a carefree hippie & Bronson soon kidnaps her & Bronson sets up a swap which of course goes horribly wrong. I'm usually find Ireland a bit hit or miss on screen but I thought she did a pretty reasonable job this time around.

Bronson's character is one of his most memorable & one of my personal favourites. Joe Martin is confident, self assured & always in control of every situation he faces. Even though he & his families lives are in constant danger you always have the sense that he knows exactly what he is doing.

Bronson's physique is remarkable in this movie. He must of been working out as his arms look like they are going to pop out of his t-shirt at any given moment. Unbelievable to think he was almost 50 during the shooting of this picture. I don't think I've ever seen him look any meaner or leaner at any other stage of his career. He uses this to great effect in a couple of physical confrontations. Early on in the film he kicks a chair leg away and knees an intruder to the ground and snaps his neck in an exiting and well shot set piece. Despite the great supporting cast this really is Bronson's movie & he was payed handsomely for this part reportedly receiving $400,000 for his services.

Bronson shows off his weapons

At just 94 minutes long Cold Sweat is a tight & fast moving action/thriller with a few great set pieces and some good performances. Highlights include a breathtaking race against the clock via car chase across narrow French hillside roads. This is down to stunt co-coordinator Rémy Julienne who is best known for his car-stunts in many James Bond pictures, yet another great set piece.

With it's great cast, top end action scenes & Charles Bronson on top form Cold sweat is a highly entertaining and very memorable thriller.

Year: 1970
Director:Terence Young
Running Time: 94 Minutes
Also Stars: Liv Ullmann, James Mason & Jill Ireland
Character Name: Joe Martin
Age During Shoot: 49
Bronson Kills: 2
Bronson Rating: 9/10
Film Rating: 8/10


Master Of The World

The fabulous adventures of the man who conquered the earth to save it!

 Bronson in 'Masters of the Universe' would of been more entertaining

This hybrid of sci-fi & adventure was released in 1961 & starred Vincent Price as Captain Robur who is determined to start a war to end all wars & bring peace on earth with his airship named The Albatross. A scientist and his team including Charles Bronson end up by misfortune trapped on the ship. Captain Robur refers to them as 'guests' but that are clearly prisoners on board his outrageous creation.

Vincet Price plays the mad scientist in the only way that Vincent Price could. It's typical Price yet it's a part he's played countless times & with most of them being stronger performances. The films strength is in the questions raised of who should be blamed for war? Are the people that build the machines that kill the savages or the people that use them the ones to blame? However this concept isn't played with nearly as much as it should be and is overlooked in favour of the adventure element of the movie.

A major draw for this picture back when it was released would of been the special effects. Seeing people dangled from a rope against superimposed backgrounds may of been a big thrill back then but now it just kind of looks silly. This wouldn't be a problem if the film delivered in other areas but unfortunately it doesn't.

The plot is a predictable cliche with a forced love triangle thrown in for good measure which consists of.. 'good guys trapped in air vs mad scientist, they escape death a few times and finally get back to earth taking the ship down with them'. I guess a film like this would of served purely as a entertaining popcorn flick back in the day but I'm not convinced it would of even succeeded at that.

Screenwriter Richard Matheson has said in interviews that he thought Bronson was miscast as a government agent with good intentions. Though from watching the film I find it hard to understand exactly what he thought was required from this paper thin role. Bronson spends the first hour of the movie observing and asking a few questions. Then come the hour mark he comes alive, shows off some physical attributes & then the film comes to an end. It's a very poorly written character which I can't see anybody being able to make very memorable.

Taking on 'Masters Of The World' was a really poor decision from Bronson. From the script it must of been pretty clear that this part would do him no favours whatsoever. He'd just finished one of his most memorable roles as Bernardo O'Reilly in The Magnificent Seven & surely would of been offered much more interesting parts than this completely forgettable role.

Unless you are an enormous Vincent Price fan I'd recommend staying well clear of this film.

Would you trust THAT face?

Year Of Release: 1961
Director: William Witney
Also Starring: Vincent Price & Henry Hull
Running Time: 102 Minutes
Character: John Strock
Age during shoot: 40
Bronson Kills: 0
Bronson Rating: 4/10
Film Rating: 3/10


Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Chato's Land

What Chato's land doesn't kill, Chato will.

They should of known not to fuck with Bronson

Capt. Quincey Whitmore: - 'To you this is so much bad land - rock, scrub, desert and then more rock. A hard land that the sun has sucked all the good out of. You can't farm it and you can't carve it out and call it your own... so you damn it to hell and it all looks the same. That's our way. To the breed, now, it's his land. He don't expect to give him much and he don't force it none. And to him, it's almost human - a living thing. And it will give him a good place to make his fight against us.'

If you've not guessed, Bronson plays an apache
Chato's land is a western starring Charles Bronson & Jack Palance released in 1972 & directed by Michael Winner. This was the beginning of the relationship between Winner & Bronson which would see them work together on a further five films over the next few years.
Bronson plays the part of Chato, a half American, half Indian who in the opening scene kills a US marshal in self-defence. A group of locals led by Quincey Whitmore (Jack Palance) volunteer to hunt down & bring Chato to justice.

First of all, looking back at this film in 2012 the casting of Bronson as an Apache Indian feels kind of ridiculous. Whilst Bronson has a look of someone who doesn't quite fit you can't help but feel casting a person of actual mixed heritage or descent would of worked better for the movie. In the past this was the norm, most notably Burt Reynolds as Navajo Joe in the 1966 movie of the same name cast as a full blooded Indian.
Perhaps the studio felt that a star was needed for the role of Chato & there was nobody who could fit the part with the right credentials. However, this is not a major problem & very quickly into the film I began to accept Bronson as Chato.
Bronson says the reason he accepted the role was because 'I wanted to play an Indian as an Indian should be played. I've not seen an Indian played realistically on the screen yet... I want to give a good, clean-cut and fair identification..'

Bronson, professional snake thrower!

Bronson doesn't have a single word of English dialogue in this movie. On two occasions he talks in native tongue with fellow Indians but for the most part this is a silent role as Chato. Also, despite being the star of the film Bronson doesn't receive a great deal of screen time. The posse of men believe they are hunting Chato but as the picture progresses it becomes clear that the hunters are becoming the hunted.
As they ride deeper into Chato's climate they begin to slowly struggle to survive. They don't know where to find water from & they are starving so resort to eating one of their own horses. All this goes on whilst Chato watches from a distance. Chato knows where there are puddles to drink from & even catches a rattlesnake which he skins & eats.

The real star of this picture is Jack Palance. He & his group of volunteers go searching for Chino in the wilderness & end up deeper and deeper in Apache country. The majority of the group function simply as a bunch of bloodthirsty racists who cannot wait to put an end to an Indian's life. However Palance's character Quincey Whitmore is a much more sympathetic character who appears to be more cultured than the rest & understands the dangers of the Apache landscape.
In one scene members of the group find Chato's women & gang-rape her (yet another Winner film with rape!). Whitmore does not take part in this & covers the naked women up after the savages are finished with her. In another an Apache that has been caught & shot is being hung & burnt to death yet Whitmore pulls out his gun & puts the man out of his misery.

Chato's land features some strong cinematography, though with those kind of landscapes it would be almost impossible to not of made it look anything other than impressive. The score by Jerry Fielding is not your typical western score yet is very successful in subtle way which helps create the atmosphere & the feeling of dread which starts to creep into the posse as they travel further into Chato's territory.

Bronson may have little to work with considering his lack of dialogue & the fact he only pops up every once in a while to spy on his prey yet his performance is exactly what was needed for this picture. He looks more experienced, wiser & respectful of his surroundings than that of his hunters which gives Chato his believability throughout.

Overall Chato's land is a really tight & well performed western with some memorable scenes & some great characters. Not a classic Bronson performance but definitely a film that I'd personally place in the upper regions of pictures that he has starred in.

Turkish Promotional Poster

Director: Michael Winner
Year Of Release: 1972
Character: Chato
Also starring: Jack Palance & James Whitmore
Age during shoot: 51
Bronson Death Count: 7
Length - 110 Minutes
Film Rating: 7.5/10
Bronson Rating: 6.25/10