PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID and Walks across Hell

BILLY: You know, I believe ole Pat has lost his sand.

DEPUTY BELL: You ought not to talk about him that way. You and him used to be pretty close.

BILLY: He ain’t the same man… He signed himself over to Chisum and every other goddamned landowner that’s trying to put a fence around this country. Hell that’s what you been doing, ain’t it, Bell? Selling us out and getting fat.

Which version of PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID should you see?

You didn’t know there were multiple versions? Unfortunately there are.

This is why I dislike multiple versions of a film. A film is a touchstone to a culture, it’s one of those key moments where you could say ‘I saw Star Wars’, and all of you can agree what the movie was, and what scenes you loved. You can have a conversation based on a shared cultural memory, a shared moment that in the crosstalk, connects us across time and across class or ethnicity or gender. That’s the very core of culture, these communal touchstones that bind us. That bind us all.

“Billy they don’t like you to be so free.”

And multiple versions of a film take away from us having this easy cultural shorthand with each other. Because the films and the moments that should bind us may not be there, depending on the version of the film we saw.

PAT GARRET AND BILLY THE KID unfortunately is like that. Depending on which version you see will determine if you walk away thinking it’s a masterpiece or overrated, bordering on inane.

There’s the TURNER MOVIES 1988 cut that finally restored the movie to its full length, and then there is the inexplicable 2005 version.

Avoid watching the 2005 version first, as your introduction to the movie, as it is… in ways deep and decisive, a betrayal of what the film is (If you listen to the commentary on the 1998 version, by ‘experts’ on Peckinpah that I typically find interesting, you hear the art by committee, art by consensus, ‘back seat’ driving and editing that leads to the butchered 2005 version. People who confuse being fans of a creative person, with being able to create in that person’s name. And as the 2005 version shows, that’s just not the case). Let’s just take the opening scene as an example, where, if you lose the power of that… you might as well just turn the movie off.


Jailer: Repent you son of a bitch.

Billy: Sweet Jesus I repent.

Jailer: Not till you taste the fear of the lord! I’ll show you! I’ll take you for a walk across hell on a spider web.

—(This is one of the great iconic lines of the film, of any film, and the actor (not the writer) came up with it, similar to how Rutger Hauer added the best line in BLADE RUNNER, the monologue about ‘tears in rain’. And the above line, “A walk across hell on a spider web” is completely cut out of the 2005 edit. Whoever the moron or morons are who are responsible for the 2005 version they should never work in film… ever. In fact I would sign off on a good stoning! 🙂 It’s one of multiple lines they either change, or yank out of the film. Unbelievable that someone could think they were doing anything but butchering the film by making these changes. Amazing.)

The 2005 version cuts the heart out of that first scene. The risqué joke that Billy and Pat share, removing some of the pauses and freeze frames, and shortening the conversation, and cutting out the pivotal final exchange of:

“he’s my friend”
“he aint no more”
“I reckon”

That exchange, the moments between those lines, and Billy’s quiet acknowledgment that times may indeed… have changed, is essential to the next scene and the rest of the movie.

It’s like they want to rush the movie, and that flies against the very heart of the film. Allegories and myths should not be rushed.

It’s a film about the pauses, what is not said between characters, it’s about a jail-break staged unlike any jail-break in any film, ever. Where it’s not about the jail break, it’s about a town, and a time, and a song, and a held moment of myth. It’s about the history that these two… once friends, share. That story is told in much that the 2005 version cuts out.

It’s a film that lives in the pauses.

“She was laughing like the devil when I caught her, but she was smiling when I left her.”

PAT GARRET AND BILLY THE KID is, in the purest sense of the word an existential movie, a movie (not a biography, Peckinpah is not interested, and neither are we, in the reality of these men, but in the mythology, in the romance) that is not about rushing to the next scene, but a movie that in the pauses and in the held shots says something about existence; and the 2005 edit of the film, doesn’t want to give it the time… to exist.

I’m saying avoid the 2005 edit, and stick to the 1988 Turner version with all those scenes still there (Both versions are available in the same box set available here, just make sure to watch the 1988 version).

To see any other version of PAT GARRET AND BILLY THE KID is not to see it at all.


BILLY: To ole Pat. Sherrif Pat Garrett, sold out to the Santa Fe Ring. How does it feel?

PAT: It feels like… times have changed.

BILLY: Times maybe, not me.

Law, the Films of Peckinpah & Unsupportable Dichotomies

What becomes apparent, revisiting the films of Peckinpah, particularly THE WILD BUNCH and PAT GARRET AND BILLY THE KID is Peckinpah’s stance on Law in the dimming days of the west and beyond. And it’s not a favorable view.

The Law in the films of Peckinpah is nothing more than crime tamed to serve the rich, crime in the service of rich interests.

If we accept the definition of crime at its basest definition, to be ‘the violation of the other’, be that a violation of property or person, than in Peckinpah’s world the law is such violation used in the service of monied interests. It is crime not just organized, it is crime… sanctified.

If you as a private citizen go over and kill citizens in Iraq or Haiti or Afghanistan it is a crime. But if you do it at the behest of monied interests, that same crime is suddenly sanctified.

Let’s take the crime of bombing. That same crime of bombing, vilified for the individual (suicide bomber) becomes glorified if that crime is done en masse (bomber pilots) for your betters; done for your masters… corporate and civic.

Whether in the fictions of Peckinpah or the ‘reality’ of our Nightly News, it is an unsupportable dichotomy.

AUDIO OF THE DAY: STEVEN BARNES Interviewed by Horace Digby AND Wild Bunch Talk

I’m in the process of getting the MONARCHS OF MAYHEM: LR GILES interview posted. Should have it up in another couple of hours.

In the interim I’m listening to a pretty informative audio interview from 2007, Steven Barnes interviewed by Horace Digby. (interview covers books, scifi, comics, martial arts, self improvement, ethnicity, Alan Moore, Batman, Plato, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Marvel Comics, Cinema, Television, Sliders, Alexander the Great, and much more).

Listen here:

Part 1
Part 2

(In fact the only problem I have with the interview is how Steven Barnes is introduced. Steven Barnes is one of the most celebrated science fiction writers of his generation. Full stop. How he is introduced is with a modifier that strikes me as being both unnecessary and unthinkingly dismissive. But that aside, an interesting listen)

Also I’m watching the end of Peckinpah’s THE WILD BUNCH, and ‘wow’ what a great film. There’s that moment in THE WILD BUNCH, where the four, guns drawn, are surrounded by an army in shock, everyone frozen, in that pause between heaven and hell.

And Ernest Borgnine into that silence… chuckles, and the gates of hell are opened.

It’s as good a moment of film, as you’ll find.

A movie of brutal violence, that is at its heart.. a romance about the dying of an age.

Anyhow, excuse any slowness in getting the next post up, but it’s… THE WILD BUNCH.

Sam Peckinpah’s Legendary Westerns Collection (The Wild Bunch / Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid / Ride the High Country / The Ballad of Cable Hogue)

BEST AND WORST DVDs OF 2011!

‘Nasty things [Orchids]! Their flesh is too much like the flesh of men, and their perfume has the rotten sweetness of corruption.’
— 1946’s THE BIG SLEEP

“When one tries to rise above Nature one’s liable to fall below it.”
— Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes in Robin Chapman’s THE CREEPING MAN

Like most people I like lists. As a writer, perhaps more than most.

Hence with everyone tossing out their best of 2011 lists I thought I would compile my own rather eclectic list. But this being a best and worst list, if you will. The main thing to note about my favorite and least favorite things of 2011, are that they are largely things made in previous years and I discovered in 2011. But that said there are some actual 2011 produced items.

Okay, onto the list:

My Best and Worst DVDs of 2011 (Best meaning I enjoy it and I’m glad I bought it, and worst meaning I disliked it, and it was a waste of money):

BEST
Day Break: The Complete Series – Taye Diggs – Dvd Set- One of the first DVD sets I purchased in 2011, and a year later still one of the best shows I saw all year. Not just one of my top ten of 2011, but one of my top ten of all time. I love this show. Have bought it as presents, and everyone I buy it for loves it. Just one of the best shows I’ve seen in years! Essential DVD. There are two versions however, make sure you get the 4 DVD BCI set, and not the poorly compressed 2 DVD set being put out by moneygrubbing scumbags like Navarre and MillCreek, it’s a crime how awful their version looks. Unfortunately the 4 DVD set appears to be super hard to find since BCI went out of business. Versions of it are not even on Amazon. This is a gorgeous looking series and deserves to be on Bluray.

The Hire BMW Films Clive Owen – BMWFilms.com Presents The Hire

Doctor Who – The Complete Third Series- This was the series at its best. The current, Matt Smith, Doctor is okay, but his companions of Amy and Rory are unwatchable. Just nail on chalkboard annoying. Very bad writing throughout, so re-watching the third season keeps me happy until Dr. Who gets good again. – Doctor Who: The Complete Third Series

Detective Story (DVD)
Takashi Miike, Media Blasters –Detective Story

The Prowler (DVD)
Van Heflin, Evelyn Keyes, John Maxwell, Katherine Warren, Emerson Treacy, Joseph Losey, VCI ENTERTAINMENT –The Prowler

WORST

Chaos Starring Jason Statham, Wesley Snipes, Ryan Phillippe, et al. (2008)

BEST
Let Me In (DVD)
Chloe Grace Moretz, Richard Jenkins, Kodi-Smit McPhee, Matt Reeves, TCFHE/ANCHOR BAY/STARZ

Black Dynamite (DVD)
Michael Jai White, Scott Sanders – Black Dynamite [Blu-ray]

The Confessional: House of Mortal Sin (DVD)
The Confessional: House of Mortal Sin

WORST

Footprints on the Moon ( Le orme ) ( Primal Impulse ) [ NON-USA FORMAT, PAL, Reg.0 Import – United Kingdom ] (DVD)
Florinda Bolkan, Klaus Kinski, Ida Galli,

Stagefright (DVD)
David Brandon, Barbara Cupisti, Robert Gligorov, Martin Philips, Michele Soavi

BEST

Undisputed II – Last Man Standing (DVD)
Michael Jai White, Scott Adkins (II), Ben Cross – Undisputed II – Last Man Standing

Rififi – Criterion Collection (DVD) – Rififi (The Criterion Collection)

Darkness (Unrated Version) (DVD)
Anna Paquin, Lena Olin, Iain Glen- The ending is a mess, but there’s enough good in this film, that’s it’s a keeper and I see myself rewatching

The Girl By the Lake (Sub) (DVD)
Toni Servillo, Valeria Golino,

The Russian Specialist (DVD)
Dolph Lundgren – The Russian Specialist

Sauna (DVD)
Ville Virtanen, Tommi Eronen – Sauna

WORST

The Killing Machine (DVD)
Dolph Lundgren

The Tournament (DVD)
Robert Carlyle, Kelly Hu

BEST

Delirium (DVD)
Mickey Hargitay, Rita Calderoni- US language version is surprisingly far superior to the Italian version, and the US dub, better acted, and just a longer, better cut of the film. – Delirium

WORST

From Within (DVD)
Steven Culp, Adam Goldberg

Fangoria Frightfest Presents – Fragile (DVD)
Calista Flockhart, Elena Anaya

Belly of the Beast (DVD)
Steven Seagal, Byron Mann, Monica Lo

BEST

Splinter (DVD)
Paulo Costanzo, Shea Whigham – Splinter

Boss (DVD)
Fred Williamson, D’Urville Martin – Boss

Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eye (DVD)
Jane Birkin, Boschetti, Bruno – Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eye

British Horror Quadruple Feature (Frightmare / House of Whipcord / The Flesh & Blood Show / Die Screaming Marianne) (DVD)
Penny Irving, Pete Walker – British Horror Quadruple Feature (Frightmare / House of Whipcord / The Flesh & Blood Show / Die Screaming Marianne)

WORST

The Nameless (DVD)
Emma Vilarasau, Karra Elejalde, Tristán Ulloa, Toni Sevilla, Brendan Price, Jordi Dauder, Núria Cano, Isabel Ampudia, Carles Punyet, Aleix Puiggalí, Susana García Díez, Pep Tosar, Xavi Giménez, Jaume BalaguerÃ-
A great begining, stylish film, but like most Balaguera films falls apart at the end, becoming just inane

BEST

Watchmen (Director’s Cut + BD-Live) [Blu-ray] (DVD)
Billy Crudup, Matthew Goode, Malin Akerma- Don’t be fooled by the 9 million other versions, this is the version to have. And one of the few Blurays I think enough of to own. –

Tombstone – The Director’s Cut (Vista Series) (DVD)
Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer- This is the version to have, with excellent commentary – Watchmen (Director’s Cut + BD-Live) [Blu-ray]

Manhunter (Restored Director’s Cut Divimax Edition) (DVD)
William Petersen, Kim Greist- This is the version to have with excellent commentary – Manhunter (Restored Director’s Cut Divimax Edition)

Secret Agent AKA Danger Man: The Complete Collection (SLIMLINE) (DVD)
Patrick McGoohan- One of my top ten DVDs of the year – Secret Agent AKA Danger Man: The Complete Collection (Slimline Packaging)

Johnny Staccato starring John Cassavetes – 3 DVD Box Set! (DVD)
John Cassavetes – Johnny Staccato starring John Cassavetes – 3 DVD Box Set!

Farscape: The Complete Series (DVD)
Ben Browder, Claudia Black- One of my top ten DVDs of the year, The Bluray is not worth paying more for. Video Improvement by all reports is negligible.- Farscape: The Complete Series

Brotherhood of the Wolf (3 Disc Collectors Edition) (DVD)
Samuel Le Bihan, Vincent Cassel- This is the version to get! – Brotherhood of the Wolf (3 Disc Collectors Edition)

Robin of Sherwood: Set Two (DVD)
Jason Connery

Kings – The Complete Series (DVD)
Ian McShane, Christopher Egan – Kings – The Complete Series

WORST

Justified: The Complete First Season (DVD)
Timothy Olyphant- Talk about overrated. Was bored by the whole season

Alexander the Great (DVD)
Richard Burton, Fredric March- Not a bad film, but ultimately pretty forgettable

BEST

The Philanthropist: The Complete Series (DVD)
James Purefoy- Lasted only seven episodes it’s one of my favorite television shows. Just brilliant – The Philanthropist: The Complete Series

The Well (DVD)
Richard Rober, Gwendolyn Laster

The World, the Flesh and the Devil (DVD)
Belafonte, Inger Stevens – The World, the Flesh and the Devil

Dead Man’s Shoes (DVD)
Paddy Considine, Gary Stretch

WORST

The Dark Hours (DVD)
Kate Greenhouse, Aidan Devine

BEST

Sam Peckinpah’s Legendary Westerns Collection (The Wild Bunch / Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid / Ride the High Country / The Ballad of Cable Hogue) (DVD)
Sam Peckinpah- One of my best deals of 2011. 4 Peckinpah movies, full versions with commentaries for under $15! – Sam Peckinpah’s Legendary Westerns Collection (The Wild Bunch / Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid / Ride the High Country / The Ballad of Cable Hogue)

WORST

Isolation (DVD)
Essie Davis, Sean Harris, Marcel Iures, Crispin Letts- This started out great but lost its way

Community: The Complete First Season (DVD)
Joel McHale, Chevy Chase- Had 2 great episodes, the others just annoyed me

Dexter: The First Season (DVD)
Michael C. Hall, Erik King- CSI meets Hannibal Leckter. Just find the main character/premise not something I want to root for support, plus find the supporting characters annoying as hell

BEST-

Breaking Bad – The Complete First Season (DVD)
Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul- Rarely does a show live up to its hype. Wow, was that good – Breaking Bad – The Complete First Season

Kidnapped – The Complete Series (DVD)
Jeremy Sisto, Timothy Hutton- Another brilliant show, unfairly cut short. Just when you think its losing its way in the middle, wraps up with a powerhouse couple of episodes. Plus it stars Delroy Lindo. The only reason I picked it up actually, and he’s great. Wish the DVD had commentaries, but that aside is just a must watch and must own series – Kidnapped – The Complete Series

Well that’s it for my best and worst DVDs of 2011. If intrigued by any of my recommendations please use the links as purchases through them help to fund and keep this blog going. Thanks and enjoy!