Daily Archives: June 21, 2015

“Let’s get to the rat kill’n’.”

I was having a discussion with author Chad J. Stone @AuthorCJStone about how I wanted to do a post on my favorite John Wayne movies growing up.  He said it’d be a good idea so I’m doing it.  I won’t split it up like I did Hitchcock…

…I shouldn’t make promises like that.

We’ll see how this goes…I’d like to start off with some impressionable JW films and then I’ll leave my favorite of all time for last.  “The Cowboys” is on this list somewhere in the middle and hopefully you have already checked that post out.  One of my favorite posts in retrospect, but it was a tough one to get through.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Vallance” had one of the best cast compilations of its time.  Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne, Lee Marvin, Vera Miles, and of course John Ford directed.  Valance, played by the haunting Lee Marvin, is a bully of a man that terrorizes everyone in the valley.  Jimmy Stewart as Ransom Stoddard is the local would be politician that would stand up to Valance, because he doesn’t know any better.  John Wayne as Tom Doniphon is the “man’s man” (of course) that is there to help Stoddard along the way as Doniphon is the only man that Valance would not dare cross.  Would you?  It is a well told story with old western politics as the back drop for a movie about bullying and standing up for what’s right.  Great performances all around.

The Searchers” is a very interesting performance by Wayne.  He is such a hater as Ethan Edwards in this movie that it is hard to like him, even if you think his hate stems from the “just” side of things.  This movie is daunting, ensnaring, and suspenseful, right up to the climax.  I’d like not to give anything away, other than Edwards is a man searching–for what feels like a lifetime–for his niece that has been taken by a Comanche tribe.  A must see for film buffs.

El Dorado” is just a fun movie.  Along Wayne it stars Robert Mitchum (one of his real life drinking buddies), and a very young James Caan.  There is a story about water and land rights that gets in the way of the chemistry of Wayne, Mitchum, and Caan.  The scenes they share together are electric and I wish they had more.  It’s an entertaining Western with high comedy, action, gun fights and horse chases.

Rio Bravo” is another entertaining Wayne film, but it is not just about the humor.  Though there is plenty humor, there is tension, drama, suspense, action, and of course, gun fights.  Get a load of this cast: Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson, Angie Dickinson, and Walter Brennan to name a few that you will remember.  Quentin Tarantino has been quoted mentioning this as one of his top five favorite films of all time, along with “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.” I would say it is a favorite Wayne film, but it is also one of the greatest Westerns ever made. Check it out.

McLintock!” fits the mold of a romantic comedy that happens to be set in the old west.  That is one of the great things about it.  You won’t find any gunfights here.  Just some very well written humor of all types including sarcasm, sass, and slapstick; all of which Wayne and Maureen O’Hara find themselves at home in, as a couple that is struggling to make their complicated marriage work.  There are some great supporting performances by Chill Wills as Drago and Patrick Wayne–John Wayne’s real life son who plays the love interest of McLintock’s (Wayne’s) daughter Becky in the movie.  A mouthful I know.  Campy comedy.  Go see it.

Red River” is probably the most well crafted Western that I have ever seen.  It centers around a cattle drive by a baron, Thomas Dunson (played by Wayne in his best acting performance that I can recall), who is a ruthless man.  During the drive, Wayne becomes so cruel that his adopted son Matt (Montgomery Clift) revolts and leaves him on his own out in the wilderness.  The cattle men on the drive are more than happy to follow Matt.  The movie takes a turn here and we follow both story lines as they are set for impact at the film’s climax.  Hands down the feature that should be rented first for film buffs.  Don’t hesitate.

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“Right. When you’re right, you’re right, and you’re right.”

Writing this essay, I remember what a HUGE impact this movie had on me and my taste as a young child.

It is a moving picture full of plot, intrigue, interesting characters, fantasy elements, action, violence, and witty comic relief (thank you Dom).

This animated feature is the story of a mother with a dilemma.  It is “moving day” when everyone leaves their hovels for the spring as the farmers begin to plow their fields and grow their crops.  The problem, her son Timmy has a terrible case of pneumonia, and any attempt on a move from his bed could kill him.  What is a mother to do?

Did I mention mom is a mouse?

Mrs._Brisby

The Secret of NIMH” is one of the first full length animated feature films that I remember watching, on HBO, for the first time while sitting in my home without getting up to go do something else. I didn’t want to look away.  There are things in my life that have stayed with me from that film to this day.  There are a lot of cool names to give your pets from this movie.  My favorite being Brutus, which I named my first dog ever.  He was a pit bull and he was my best friend.  I feel that if I ever got a dog again, I’d name it Brutus for a boy or Brisby for a girl.  The names are so cool.

Another great name, villainous as it was, is Jenner.  Our villain that shows up late in the game like all of the best of them.  I’d probably name a male cat Jenner…or a Pomeranian.

Mrs. Brisby sets out on a quest to save her youngest child Timmy, and seeks guidance from The Great Owl, who informs her of the Rats of NIMH that preside in the rosebush by the farmer’s home.  They should be able to aid her in moving her home so that Timmy can stay safely in his bed, while placing their home safe from the farmer’s reach.  Along the way she learns so much about her recently deceased husband Jonathon and why everyone seems to know how important he was…that is, everyone except her.

There are subplots of murder that arise among the politics within the Rats’ new society.  Mrs. Brisby is caught right in the middle of one of the most important periods of the Rats’ community as she seeks their aid in saving her son’s life.

I mentioned there was comic relief as well.  Jeremy the klutzy crow, voiced by the late great Dom DeLuise steals the show with very limited scenes.  He is another line of “lovable loser” that not only trips over everything, he gets used and abused by almost everyone he interacts with.

At the end of the day, the names in this movie stick with you: Nicodemus, Jenner, Brutus, Mr. Ages, Sullivan, Brisby, and who could forget–nay, who hasn’t had their very own–Auntie Shrew.

I think the name Brutus resonates with me because of the affect it had on my parents when they viewed the movie.  Brutus, in the picture, has no lines.  He is a wild eyed rat that guards the rosebush with a rather large, menacing spear.  We see him in one unforgettable scene when he terrorizes Mrs. Brisby when she tries to enter the rosebush for the first time.  After the assault, she runs into Mr. Ages who aids her in accessing the rosebush.  She makes it clear to him that she cannot go back the way she just came as a rat almost murdered her for doing so last time.

“That’s just Brutus,” said Mr. Ages as an annoyed afterthought.

My parents laughed at the name, and found it very fitting for the homicidal rat that we had just witnessed.  That experience has stuck with me all of these years, and I have always enjoyed that name ever since.

This is a great family film for all ages, with a great theme and story line that maintains a great pace.  Take the time to listen to the song through the credits.  It states clearly the “key” to unlock any door.  John, Paul, George, and Ringo concur.

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