Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Ten Percent: Come and See (1985)

This post originally appeared on BiffBamPop.com

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“Ninety percent of everything is crud.” – Theodore Sturgeon

Welcome back to “The Ten Percent,” a regular column where every other week K. Dale Koontz and I take a look at the inverse of Sturgeon’s Law; in other words, the small portion of everything which is not crud. So many films premiere each year, but only a very few are remembered and revered years later. That’s not a matter of genre – the Ten Percent is a big tent, with plenty of room for comedy, drama, horror, animation, musical, science fiction and many more. But admission into the tent is not easy to come by. Films in this category last because they are high quality productions which demand more of their viewer than simple passive reception.

Elim Klimov’s Come and See (1985) takes its place in an unusual corner of the Ten Percent. A place for works of art that are so powerful, so honest, and so terrible that they absolutely must be seen, but which are also so psychologically and emotionally intense that they are revisited only rarely. The late Roger Ebert wrote that Come and See “is one of the most devastating films ever about anything, and in it, the survivors must envy the dead,” while Mark Cousins called Come and See “the greatest war film ever made.” Both are correct.

The film follows a young, teenage boy named Florya (Alexi Kravchenko) who joins an anti-German partisan group in Belarus in 1943. He meets a beautiful girl, Glasha (Olga Mironova), just two or three years older than he, and the two become separated from Florya’s unit as it is attacked by German dive bombers. Come and See then follows the two teens as they journey into an unrelenting hell. Historians believe that Belarus (at that time called the Byelorussian SSR) was the hardest hit of the Soviet Republics in World War Two, with the Germans destroying 209 of the regions 290 cities, 85% of its industry, and killing between 2 and 3 million people (a quarter to one-third of the total population) between 1941 and 1944. 90% of Belarus’s Jewish population was murdered in the Holocaust. As the Red Army inexorably began to push the Germans back through Belarus, the Wehrmacht and various SS units, including the notorious 36th Waffen SS Grenadier Division, the “Dirlewanger Brigade,” engaged in a scorched earth policy that eradicated farms, villages, cities, crops, animals, and humans by the tens of thousands.

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Glasha (Olga Mironova) and Florya (Alexi Kravchenko) in Come and See.

This is where Florya and Glasha, still innocents despite the world around them, walk. Step by step, everything that is good, beautiful, pure, and innocent in the world is ruthlessly brutalized and then slaughtered by the war, including Florya and Glasha, although both physically survive their experiences. Come and See is horror at its most sublime, and is likely the closest any film has yet come to capturing the realities of war, particularly as it was fought in the Eastern European Theater.

The film’s title is taken from the Book of Revelation 6: 7-8:

And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, “Come and See.” And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.

And this is exactly what the film invites the viewer to see – an utter apocalypse that devours everyone and everything in its path. By the time the end credits roll, Florya and Glasha have learned that things like love and morality and goodness are just tissue-paper in a firestorm, consumed without even being noticed, while ideals of meaning or God are laughable illusions in the naked face of war. There are no other films like Come and See, and the number which can even come close to its unflinching gaze into reality can be counted on one hand with digits to spare. It is a work of art that is almost too painful to endure. It is required viewing – even if only once, for it lies in the darkest part of the Ten Percent.

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Ensley F. Guffey and K. Dale Koontz are co-authors of Wanna Cook? The Complete, Unofficial Companion to Breaking Bad, and of the forthcoming A Dream Given Form: The Unofficial Guide to the Babylon 5 Universe. You can find Dale online at her blog unfetteredbrilliance.blogspot.com and on Twitter as @KDaleKoontz. Ensley hangs out at solomonmaos.com and on Twitter as @EnsleyFGuffey.


Filed under: Ensley F. Guffey, Film, The Ten Percent Tagged: alexi kravchenko, come and see, elim klimov, mark cousins, olga mironova, Roger Ebert, The Ten Percent, world war ii

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Thursday, March 16, 2017

C’est la Guerre Review: REDLINE #1

This post originally appeared on FreakSugar.com

Redline (Oni Press) presents a darkly hilarious future that looks way too much like our present military quagmires, and is one of the best new comics of 2017.

Redline #1, cover A, art by Clayton McCormack.

So as a comics nerd, I spend an hour or two every month going through Previews Magazine in depth, both to find interesting looking titles from the smaller independents, and to give the owner of my local comic shop a heads up, since Diamond’s distribution system pretty much demands he (and pretty much every other dealer) order stuff three months in advance in order to (mostly) guarantee shipment. So what I’m saying is that I usually do my due diligence and manage to keep pretty well caught up on much of what is coming down the pike.

Recently, however, I missed one. Oni Press’ Redline, written by Neal Holman (Archer), with art by Clayton McCormack (Café Racer, Godzilla: Rage Across Time), and colors by Kelly Fitzpatrick (The Black Hood, Peter Panzerfaust) showed up on the rack at my local shop as a complete and delightful surprise. Billed as a black SF comedy, the first issue also shows a big potential for a not-so-subtle satirical look at America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Set on a dusty, arid Mars after a victorious war with the indigenous species, the human security and military forces find themselves in the middle of an insurgency by the supposedly defeated aliens. 

Redline #1, p. 3.script by Neal Holman, art by Clayton McCormack.

After one such supposed attack, Superintendent Denton Coyle of the AFOSI (A-something F-something Office of Special Investigations?), an, experienced, cynical, and gastrically distressed investigator suspects that the natives may not be responsible after all. The art and future military tech design are tight, and best of all Redline provides some of the best, and wittiest, dialogue that I’ve read in quite some time. The writing definitely has an Archer-esque edge, but it works perfectly in Redline‘s setting of sudden violence, corporate interests, fading distinctions between private and state military forces, and the men and women who have to try and exist in the middle of all of that. 

So I’m going to put Redline on my pull list and hope that my local shop has ordered a least a few of the upcoming issues, because Holman & Co.’s future that looks way too much like our present military quagmires is one of the best new comics of 2017 so far.

The post C’est la Guerre Review: REDLINE #1 appeared first on Freaksugar.



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Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Ten Percent: The Great Escape (1963)

This post originally appeared on BiffBamPop.com

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Original poster for The Great Escape, 1963.

“Ninety percent of everything is crud.” – Theodore Sturgeon

Welcome back to “The Ten Percent,” a regular column where every other week K. Dale Koontz and I take a look at the inverse of Sturgeon’s Law; in other words, the small portion of everything which is not crud. So many films premiere each year, but only a very few are remembered and revered years later. That’s not a matter of genre – the Ten Percent is a big tent, with plenty of room for comedy, drama, horror, animation, musical, science fiction and many more. But admission into the tent is not easy to come by. Films in this category last because they are high quality productions which demand more of their viewer than simple passive reception.

Before I talk about why 1963’s The Great Escape belongs in the Ten Percent, it’s worth taking the time to point out the film’s flaws. First, neither bicycles nor motorcycles were used in the 1943 escape from Stalag Luft III. Second, the “Great Escape” of 76 Allied POWs took place in unseasonably cold weather during one of the worst winters seen in Eastern Poland in 30 years. Third, there were no Americans among the escapees who were mostly British and Canadian. Finally, there was never any regulation which stated that Allied prisoners were duty-bound to attempt to escape. In fact, many, perhaps most, American and British POWs were generally leery of escape attempts.

Yet despite the heaping helping of historical inaccuracies, The Great Escape is a fantastic film, and a prime example of the star-studded, blockbuster World War II movies that were produced in the 1960s. Starring Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, David McCallum, and Donald Pleasence to name a few, The Great Escape is a Who’s Who of male action heroes. Above all, the movie is cool (difficult not to be when both McQueen and Garner are involved).

The film’s pace is always fast, even manic at times, and is off and running from the get-go as truckloads of POWs arrive at a newly constructed high-security camp and immediately begin attempting to escape. In a great, and pleasantly brief, bit of exposition, the viewer learns that the new inmates are the worst of the worst, each having attempted to escape several times before and many having had to be recaptured once they broke out of other camps. So the Luftwaffe (all of the POWs are fliers) has decided to put them all in one basket, and to watch that basket carefully (seriously, that’s pretty close to a direct quote form the camp commandant, played by Hannes Messemer).

Of course, that doesn’t stop anything, particularly McQueen who’s lanky, sly-smiled, aw-shucks-who-me? attitude carries him through about five different escape attempts in the course of the movie while the British, led by Attenborough as the master strategist, concentrate on digging a 300+ yard tunnel for a mass break-out. The tunnel excavation and inevitable last-minute problems provide an increasing tension for most of the film, and the means by which Garner, McQueen and Coburn escape are the stuff from which action-movie dreams are made (and just about as realistic). The film is a romp, and keeps the viewer hooked from the beginning, and there really is not much in American film that is as cool as Steve McQueen jumping a stolen Nazi motorcycle over a barbed wire fence in an attempt to get to Switzerland. All in glorious Technicolor.

The movie is also notable in that the escape is unsuccessful for all but a handful of men – not the expected ending to this kind of film. Indeed, in this The Great Escape actually lines up with history, including the 50 unarmed, recaptured POWs who were executed by the Gestapo under direct orders from Adolf Hitler, a war crime for which 18 men were convicted at the Nuremberg Trials, and for which 13 of them were hanged in 1948. Even so, the ending is oddly triumphant, and the viewer is left with the clear impression that Steve McQueen, James Garner, and the other prisoners who were returned alive to the camp are far from done trying to escape, and the feeling that, eventually, they will succeed.

All in all The Great Escape is lifted to the Ten Percent by great pacing, an ensemble that is so implausibly cool, collected, and competent that you are completely sucked in, and just enough of an amazing true story at its core to provide a bit of verisimilitude. Plus, Steve McQueen doing his own motorcycle stunts as he attempts to jump a barbed wire fence into Switzerland. It really just doesn’t get much better.

Ensley F. Guffey and K. Dale Koontz are co-authors of Wanna Cook? The Complete, Unofficial Companion to Breaking Badand of the (finally!) forthcoming Dreams Given Form: The Unofficial Companion to the Babylon 5 Universe. You can find Dale online at her blog unfetteredbrilliance.blogspot.com and on Twitter as @KDaleKoontz. Ensley hangs out at solomonmaos.com and on Twitter as @EnsleyFGuffey.


Filed under: Ensley F. Guffey, Film, The Ten Percent Tagged: charles bronson, david mccallum, donald pleasence, hannes messemer, history, james coburn, james garner, k. dale koontz, richard attenborough, steve mcqueen, The Great Escape, The Ten Percent, theodore sturgeon, world war ii

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Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Ten Percent – Beasts, Beauty, and Wonder

This post originally appeared on BiffBamPop.com

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“Ninety percent of everything is crud.” – Theodore Sturgeon

Happy 2017 and welcome to another installment of “The Ten Percent,” a regular column – well, last year it was more of a semi-regular column, but we’re resolved to change that, now that one gigantic project is wrapping up. Ahem. Let’s start again . . .

. . . “The Ten Percent,” a regular column where every other week we’ll take a look at the inverse of Sturgeon’s Law; in other words, the small portion of everything which is not crud. So many films premiere each year, but only a very few are remembered and revered years later. That’s not a matter of genre – the Ten Percent is a big tent, with plenty of room for comedy, drama, horror, animation, musical, science fiction and many more. But admission into the tent is not easy to come by. Films in this category last because they are high quality productions which demand more of their viewer than simple passive reception.

Equally at home writing poetry and novels, painting, sculpting and making films, Jean Cocteau (1889 – 1963) was one of France’s leading intellectual lights, particularly in the time between the two World Wars. His version of Beauty and the Beast (1946) is an absolute must-see for the film buff.

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While certain elements (a heroine named “Belle,” some very strange wall sconces in the Beast’s castle, and several aspects of the design of the Beast) are echoed in the 1991 Disney version, Cocteau’s version is dreamy, surreal, and altogether unique. Here, Belle is a daughter in a family of four children. She is dedicated to tending to her father and is modest and self-sacrificing while her brother is a wastrel lay-about and her sisters are vain and superficial. When someone has to go be the sacrifice to the Beast, it is Belle who sneaks into the stable to ride the Beast’s magical horse back to the castle.

The Beast is – well, beastly. He hunts and rips his prey to bits. He drinks from a forest pool by lapping at the water like a cat. And yet, his first words to Belle are, “You are in no danger.”

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What truly sets Cocteau’s film apart is the fact that it is a true fairy tale in that it is suitable for children to watch, yet is not intended for them. Fairy tales are cautionary tales with life lessons embedded in the narrative. From Little Red Riding Hood, we learn the perils of leaving the path. From Rumpelstiltskin, we learn the power of names. And from Beauty and the Beast, we learn what can turn a man into a beast and what can turn him back.

Cocteau claimed that one lesson of his film was that anyone who had an unhappy childhood could become a beast – truly a horrifying lesson in post-WW2 Europe, which was overrun with children whose childhoods had been snatched away from them. But the hope lies in the fact that spells can be cast, yes, but they can also be broken and that true love is a mighty tonic indeed.

The film is astonishingly gorgeous. Remembering that this is decades before CGI, Cocteau’s accomplishments become even more noteworthy. He felt he lacked the technical expertise to carry off the trick photography he wanted to use in order to create the rich fantasy world of the Beast’s castle, so he brought aboard acclaimed director Rene Clement as his technical adviser, along with cameraman Henri Alekan to bring the trick shots to fruition. The elaborate Gustave Dore-inspired costumes were created by theatrical designer Christian Berard and were intended to be “as much as the actors could stand up in.”

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All of this comes together so beautifully. Just watch as the Beast gently carries Belle into the castle and her clothes transform in the space of a doorway from the sturdy working clothes of a peasant girl to the bejeweled confections of a queen. The world of the Beast is a dream world and is a world where true love actually can grow, develop, and change the hearts of the lovers.

When the real world of Beauty’s family collides with the dream world, we see the terrible results. Yet, as in all the very best of fairy tales, virtue is rewarded and Beauty finds happiness with her prince in the end.

beauty-3Beauty and the Beast is worth seeing for the sheer gorgeousness of the film. Cocteau was an artist and his source material was rich for overlaying with Freudian symbolism and off-putting magic. His actors – notably Josette Day as Belle and Cocteau’s lover Jean Marais in the triple role of Avenant/Beast/Prince Ardent – play the roles absolutely straight, which brings a heightened sense of magic to the film. The smallest details – glitter in the horse’s mane, magic mirrors, the shadows cast by the magic glove the Beast gives to Beauty – are crafted with care.

I have seen a number of extraordinary films and I have seen a number of beautiful films, but seldom are the two matched to such perfection as they are in Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast. Truly, this vision is part of the Ten Percent.

 

Ensley F. Guffey and K. Dale Koontz are co-authors of Wanna Cook? The Complete, Unofficial Companion to Breaking Badand of the (finally!) forthcoming Dreams Given Form: The Unofficial Companion to the Babylon 5 Universe. You can find Dale online at her blog unfetteredbrilliance.blogspot.com and on Twitter as @KDaleKoontz. Ensley hangs out at solomonmaos.com and on Twitter as @EnsleyFGuffey.


Filed under: Film, K. Dale Koontz, The Ten Percent Tagged: Beauty and the Beast, christian berard, disney, fairy tale, henri alekan, jean cocteau, jean marais, josette day, rene clement, The Ten Percent, theodore sturgeon

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Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Ten Percent: MST3K

This post originally appeared on BiffBamPop.com

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“Ninety percent of everything is crud.” – Theodore Sturgeon

Hello, and welcome back for another installment of “The Ten Percent,” the bi-weekly column here at BiffBamPop.com where K. Dale Koontz and I take a look at the inverse of Sturgeon’s Law (quoted above) and examine the cultural productions that fall in that elusive 10% of things that are not crud. The Ten Percent is the place where all of the films, TV shows, comics, novels, visual arts, etc. that stand the test of time live. These are the things that are not forgotten, and continue to inspire us generation after generation and decade after decade.

Yet the 90% is comprised of a hell of a lot of (generally forgettable) stuff, and in the modern era, more and more of it has been and is being preserved for some theoretical posterity. In a way, the crud becomes grist for the larger cultural mill, and that means that – in theory at least – it should be possible to take some of the 90% and transform it into a part of the Ten Percent. This is exactly what Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K) did from 1988 – 1999, and threatens to do once again when it returns in 2017 with a new season and a cast featuring geek royalty Patton Oswalt and Felicia Day.

The show premiered on KTMA in Minneapolis back in the days when local stations actually had a slate of their own programming. The idea behind MST3K was simple: as an affiliate TV station, KTMA had access to a catalogue of public domain (or cheaply licensed) movies, the best of which were B-movies, while more than a few hovered around the X, Y, or Z level. Creator Joel Hodgson and his friends and co-writers Trace Beaulieu and Josh Weinstein decided to make use of all of these old films as fodder for a show that was all about riffing on bad movies. Constructing a paper-thin plot wherein Joel was sent into orbit by a pair of mad scientists (Beaulieu and Weinstein) as part of an experiment where he was subjected to really terrible movies while the “Mads” monitored his reactions – the goal being to see how long it took Joel to break. To help him survive this cruelty, Joel created several robot friends, including Tom Servo, Crow T. Robot, and Gypsy. As for the show itself, it consisted of one of the bad movies shown in its entirety, while Joel and the ‘bots were seen in as silhouettes in a row of theater seats at the bottom of the screen, wisecracking about the movie.

The series became a cult classic, and began to spread nationwide largely due to VCRs and video tapes becoming affordable and widespread. Fans in the KTMA broadcast area would record the shows and send tapes to others outside of the stations radius. A year after its debut, MST3K became one of the first two shows picked up by the new Comedy Central cable network, and its fame grew rapidly. Running for a total of 11 seasons (1 on KTMA [1988-89], 7 on Comedy Central [1989 – 1996], and 3 on the Sci-Fi Channel [1997 – 1999]) plus one feature film release, and despite (or perhaps because of) a changing cast, the series garnered an intensely loyal fan-base. After the series was cancelled in 1999, MST3K entered a second-life of thriving DVD sales in which relatively inexpensive box sets of episodes from various seasons attracted new fans. As of this writing, 38 four-disc DVD sets have been released since 2002, with number 39 scheduled for 2017.

While often described as quirky, and always self-deprecatingly silly, MST3K’s humor was also quick-witted, sometimes obscure, and often incisively intelligent. Indeed, this is a very smart show with references pulled from an astonishing range of pop-culture, literature, film, music, and – of course – Minnesotan sources. It is also an incredible resource for learning about filmmaking, as many of the movies MST3K mocks are using special effects, lighting, and camerawork that are integral to movie production – they’re just doing it really, really badly. After all, what’s a 1950’s giant, radioactive creature-feature without the use of forced-perspective? Or stop-motion photography? The MST3K Gang, in all its iterations, knew the medium backwards and forwards, and kept a skeptical and rather walleyed view on the politics and culture of the world around them, while rooting their riffs firmly in material that withstands the passage of time, and ages very well.

Part satire, part stand up, part scripted comedy, Mystery Science Theater 3000 remains astonishingly fresh, and even relevant today, and is still some of the sharpest comedy to ever grace the small screen, giving it a firm place in The Ten Percent.

 

Ensley F. Guffey and K. Dale Koontz are co-authors of Wanna Cook? The Complete, Unofficial Companion to Breaking Bad, and of the forthcoming Dreams Given Form: The Unofficial Companion to the Universe of Babylon 5 (fall 2017). You can find Dale online at her blog unfetteredbrilliance.blogspot.com and on Twitter as @KDaleKoontz. Ensley hangs out at solomonmaos.com and on Twitter as @EnsleyFGuffey.

 

 


Filed under: comedy, Ensley F. Guffey, television, The Ten Percent Tagged: comedy central, felicia day, joel hodgson, josh weinstein, k. dale koontz, mst3k, mystery science theater 3000, patton oswalt, Syfy, The Ten Percent, theodore sturgeon, trace beaulieu

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Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Ten Percent: Wonder Woman, 1941 – 2016

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Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Ten Percent: Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)

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Poster for <i>Once Upon a Time in the West</i>.

“Ninety percent of everything is crud.” – Theodore Sturgeon

Hello and welcome back to “The Ten Percent,” a regular column here on Biff Bam Pop! where every other week K. Dale Koontz and I take a look at the inverse of Sturgeon’s Law; in other words, the ten percent of everything which is not crud. Sometimes it can be hard to remember that for each film or television show that gets people talking years after its premiere, there are hundreds of others that barely cleared the horizon before being (thankfully) shot down. The works that soar above the rest – well, those are the works that stand the test of time.

The American West has been a place of myth, violence, and wonder ever since the first Europeans looked up from their toehold on the east coast and gazed towards the distant Appalachian Mountains. As the young United States once again expanded in the aftermath of the Civil War, coming into direct contact and conflict with the great horse peoples of the plains, and with the often brutal realities of life in often marginal environments between the Mississippi and the Rockies, the Western myth only grew. William “Buffalo Bill” Cody and his Wild West Show began framing the mythic space into the shape we know today, and The Great Train Robbery (1903), one of the first American movies ever made, opened the door to an era of cinematic American mythopoeia that continues to this day.

The myth is epic. Vast open spaces, scrub desert, and red dust against the primordial background of John Ford’s greatest discovery: Monument Valley. It is a space of violence and bravery, endurance and reduction, with heroes and villains who rival the legends of Arthur or the pen of Shakespeare. It is an immigrant story, and of the men who stood above them for good or ill by virtue of their guns and their deadly willingness to use them. It is a racist myth, where white skin is ascendant while red and brown are in degraded decline. It is difficult to overestimate how much of American mythic culture is bound up in the Western, yet it is somehow appropriate that the director to take the genre, and the myth of the West, to its highest cinematic summits, was an Italian: Sergio Leone.

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Publicity photo. Left to right: Henry Fonda, Claudia Cardinale, Sergio Leone, Charles Bronson, and Jason Robards.

Perhaps best known for his “Dollars Trilogy” starring Clint Eastwood as the Man with No Name, Leone was the great director of the “spaghetti western.” These films were made relatively cheap and fast, using a mix of American and European actors, used Cinecitta sets, and Italian and Spanish exteriors to create a (for the time) hyper-violent, heavily symbolic version of an already legendary West. The films found international success, even in America, and helped to launch Eastwood’s career as a star and a director. With scores by the ever-brilliant Ennio Morricone, Leone’s westerns reinterpreted the genre for audiences of the mid- and late-1960s as Europe and the US convulsed in unprecedented peacetime social and political upheavals. Despite a desire to move away from Westerns, his Dollar Trilogy was so popular in the States that Leone found that before he would be able to direct something new, he would have to create one last western – only this time, he would be able to film in Monument Valley.

The result is Once Upon a Time in the West, one of the greatest westerns of all time, and truly the apotheosis of the mythic West in film. At the height of his powers, Leone’s mise-en-scene is almost obsessive. There are no accidents in composition here, and every scene, every sequence partakes of a detail and a slow devotion to telling the story that creates frame-by-frame works of art. Leone’s use of both ambient sound and Morricone’s score is brilliant, and his trademark close-ups show every dusty crease and pore, and allow every pair of eyes its own revelations, right from the opening sequence of the film.

Once Upon a Time in the West is operatic in scope and scale, and cries out to be seen on the largest possible screen. The tale centers on a former prostitute, Jill, played by the staggeringly gorgeous Claudia Cardinale. She has travelled into the West to join her husband, only to arrive hours after the massacre of him and his children by a group of ruthless, duster wearing outlaws led by Frank, played with true malevolence and dark joy by Henry Fonda.

This may be the most brilliant stroke of the film. At the time, and even today, Fonda is known for playing good guys, and his entrance, every bit as dramatic as Charles Bronson’s still chills. Indeed, this intertextual effect was exactly what Leone wanted to achieve. When Fonda arrived on set with brown contacts and a moustache he’d grown for the role, Leone ordered that both be removed – he wanted to shock of an immediately recognizable Fonda in the role, and he wanted those sharp blue eyes. Frank and his employer, railroad magnate Morton (Gabriele Ferzetti) want the widowed Jill’s land, but the Man with the Harmonica (Bronson want’s Frank, as does the  infamous outlaw Cheyenne, who’s given a perfect comic edge by a scruffy Jason Robards. The two combine forces to protect Jill and, through her to get to Frank and Morton. Interwoven with the drama are the themes of technological and social change, of the coming of civil order into formerly untamed spaces, and destruction of a world.

It’s a pretty standard plot, but the meat lies in the telling of the tale, and Leone and his cast elevate the story into something so tightly choreographed that the grime, murder, greed, heat, lust, and hatred come together to transcend the usual limits of the genre, and catapult the story into the realm of pure myth, where something like demi-gods, or Jungian archetypes stride across the screen, their every twitch a symbol – of power, of inevitable change, of resistance and revenge.

There really is nothing quite like Once Upon a Time in the West. The film mesmerizes, and takes over the space in which it is viewed. Taken out of Leone’s hands for editing for US release, the movie failed at the box office, but the uncut, international release gained widespread acclaim and is now the standard version for DVD and Blu-Ray. Leone’s film is superb, but there is more to it than mere mastery of craft, artistic talent, and decades of experience. One Upon a Time in the West is myth making, a tale passed down around fires lit against the darkness in which failed and fallible gods walk and limp and dance and kill. It is, without a shadow of a doubt, part of the Ten Percent.

 

Ensley F. Guffey and K. Dale Koontz are co-authors of Wanna Cook? The Complete, Unofficial Companion to Breaking Badand of the forthcoming Dreams Given Form: The Unofficial Companion to the Babylon 5 Universe (fall 2016)You can find Dale online at her blog unfetteredbrilliance.blogspot.com and on Twitter as @KDaleKoontz. Ensley hangs out at solomonmaos.com and on Twitter as @EnsleyFGuffey.

 


Filed under: General Tagged: ensley f. guffey, k. dale koontz, Once Upon A Time In The West, sergio leone, The Ten Percent

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