Archive for June 27, 2013

No Guts, No Glory

Fred "The Hammer" Williamson in "The Inglorious Bastards" (1978)

It’s Week 4 of the 2013 Italian Film Culture Blogathon hosted by the Nitrate Diva, celebrating “2013: Anno della Cultura Italiana, Year of Italian Culture”. Here at WeirdFlix, we continue our exploration of Italian war film, affectionately known as “macaroni combat”.

When you talk about macaroni combat films, one name inevitably comes up. Writer-director Enzo G. Castellari has been called “the poor man’s Peckinpah.” While he may not achieve the cynical greatness of that particular auteur, he certainly knew how to make action movies on the cheap. His crowning achievement is perhaps The Inglorious Bastards (1978), not to be confused with the similarly titled Quentin Tarantino homage. Indeed, Tarantino’s appreciation for Enzino borders on the embarrassing, but it did manage to bring Castellari’s films and the whole macaroni combat genre to the fore.

Movie Poster for "The Inglorious Bastards" (1978)

Movie Poster for “The Inglorious Bastards” (1978)

The Inglorious Bastards (1978) stars Bo Svenson, Fred “The Hammer” Williamson, Peter Hooten, Michael Pergolani, and Jackie Basehart as the titular “Bastards”, but they get some help along the way from Raimund Harmstorf, Michel Constantin, Debra Berger, and Ian Bannen. The literally hundreds of German soldiers that get shot up, blown up, knifed, and run over by a train are nameless fodder for the most part, but they do a great job of flying through the air or wiggling morbidly as they get riddled with pretend bullets.

6’4″ Swede Bo Svenson is perhaps best known for portraying real life Tennessee tough guy Buford Pusser in two Walking Tall films and an NBC television series (1981). These made him the highest paid television personality at the time, eclipsed only by Johnny Carson. A 6-year stint in the U.S. Marines gives him credibility as a soldier, and his athletic accomplishments are considerable and varied. He was a U.S. Armed Forces Far East Heavyweight Division Judo Champion in 1961, won silver in the 2009 USA Judo National Championships at the age of 68 despite suffering three broken ribs just a few days earlier, and was subsequently inducted into the Martial Arts Masters Hall of Fame later that year. He’s a licensed NASCAR driver and played in NHL Celebrity hockey games against the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins Legends teams. Admittedly, his cinematic accomplishments aren’t nearly as impressive, but he’s always gotten work and continues to perform into his 70s.

After playing in Super Bowl I and retiring from the NFL, Fred “The Hammer” Williamson starred in a string of blaxploitation films, many with titles too racially charged to list here, others alongside fellow blaxploitation icons Jim Brown and Jim Kelly. While filming The Inglorious Bastards, Fred used the equipment and crew to shoot his own movie, Mr. Mean (1977), without the producers’ knowledge. Bastards was later re-cut and rereleased as G.I. Bro to capitalize on his appeal.

Peter Hooten was primarily a television actor with the notable exception of a supporting role in the Dino de Laurentiis debacle Orca (1977). Hooten has a difficult role with the largely unlikeable loudmouth Tony. With considerably more hair and a moustache to make a porn star jealous, he would appear in the little-seen TV pilot for Marvel Comics’ Dr. Strange (1978). We’ll certainly get to that one someday.

Michael Pergolani debuts here and really shines as the thief with the long hair and impressive moustache, a kind of Italian take on the anachronistic hippy Sgt. Oddball from Kelly’s Heroes (1970). Jackie Basehart made his acting debut back in 1967 alongside his father, Richard Basehart, in the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea television series. Though born in Santa Monica, he appeared in a number of Italian television and film productions.

Raimund Harmstorf was primarily a veteran of German television, but appeared in the Jack London adaptation of The Call of the Wild (1972) with Chuck Heston. This likely contributed to his casting in Lucio Fulci’s White Fang films. Michel Constantin appeared in one of the first Italian Dirty Dozen rip-offs, Dirty Heroes (1967). Both went on to appear in a wide variety of Italian films.

Debra Berger is the daughter of spaghetti western veteran William Berger (Ringo’s Big Night (1966), If You Meet Sartana Pray for Your Death (1968), Sabata (1969)). She appeared in three films with him, Terminal (1974), The Marvelous Visit (1974), and Parapsycho – Spectrum of Fear (1975). Though nominally the love interest here, she isn’t afraid to get her hands (and hair) dirty as French partisan Nicole.

Lastly, as Col. Charles Thomas Buckner, Ian Bannen is certainly the most celebrated actor in the cast. He was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for The Flight of the Phoenix (1965). After Bastards, Bannen was originally slated to replace David Niven as Miller in the Alistair MacLean sequel Force 10 from Navarone (1978), but clashed with a producer and was, in turn, replaced by Edward Fox. With a long list of credits that includes such British genre stalwarts as Fright (1971), Doomwatch (1972), and From Beyond the Grave (1974), I’m sure this won’t be the last time we talk about Mr. Bannen.

The Inglorious Bastards (1978)

France 1944. Our opening shot is straight from Tarantino’s own playbook. From total darkness, a canvas covering is lifted away so that we can see out the back of a truck where military prisoners are being loaded towards our viewpoint.

Our first two “Bastards” are a nervous Berle Hayes (Jackie Basehart) and the more resigned Canfield (Fred Williamson). As one MP describes, “Hayes went AWOL and the black guy’s a killer.” Up next are Tony (Peter Hooten) and the gloriously mustachioed Nick (Michael Pergolani). Tony is our resident clown and smooth talker. A pal hurries up to lay twenty bucks at three-to-one odds that Tony avoids court martial yet again, but considers his bet lost when Tony confesses that he’s up for murder this time around. Nick is a thief and pickpocket, displaying his sleight of hand skills by lifting the watch right off the lead MP.

Last, but certainly not least, is an officer. Lt. Robert Yeager (Bo Svenson), U.S. Army Air Force, may be a great fighter pilot, but jaunting off in his plane to visit his girlfriend in London was frowned upon by his superiors. After two warnings, the third time was the charm and landed him a court martial. In his brown leather aviator’s jacket and sunglasses, Yeager is a tower of swaggering insubordination.

With our cast of misfits assembled, we get a good look at the impressive motor pool before heading out to division HQ. There are some other prisoners in the truck, but they might as well be wearing red Starfleet uniforms because those unnamed grunts are clearly doomed. While changing a tire, the truck comes under fire by a German Stuka. Canfield is the first to flee and dive into a ditch, but the MPs gun down the next two prisoners to follow his lead. During the multiple strafing runs and execution of fleeing prisoners, Canfield is able to sneak around and choke the lead MP out from behind. This gives Yeager the opening to secure a submachine gun of his own and get the MPs to surrender.

Once the “Bastards” are free of their shackles, Yeager force marches the MPs back the way they came at gunpoint. He motivates them with bullets kicking up dust at their heels. He offers the enlisteds the MPs’ jeep and takes the truck, but, since he seems to have a plan, they race to jump on board. His plan involves a run for the Swiss border, only 160 miles away. Canfield likes the idea since, “them Swiss banks have mucho dinero.”

Subsequent scenes reinforce the roles of Nick as one-man supply depot, Yeager as take-charge leader, Berle as cowardly mechanic, and Tony as a loudmouthed gambler. After a German mortar team forces them to flee their truck, they take shelter in a gutted farmstead. There, Tony, perhaps out of boredom, tries to goad Canfield into a fight using racist rhetoric. He also claims to have worked for “Big” Mike Banion back in Chicago, but that’s likely just bravado. Yeager puts an end to the shenanigans with his SMG.

As they’re planning their next move, Canfield uncovers a lurker in the hay loft. It seems Adolf Sachs (Raimund Harmstorf) was an escaped prisoner himself, only from the other side. Yeager speaks fluent German and is opposed to Tony’s idea of summary execution. Instead, he believes Sachs can guide them to the border and freedom.

While Canfield seems comfortable laying low during a German ambush, Yeager can’t help himself. Duty calls. Soon, both he and Canfield are ambushing the ambushers. All goes well as they cross the forest until they run afoul of a German convoy, complete with halftracks. The only play is to let Adolf take them prisoner. There is a surprising amount of German spoken in the film, all without subtitles, but body language and inflection make it clear what is being said, if not the exact words being used. It’s actually very well done and keeps the authenticity high in the face of over-the-top action and silly schemes.

Once separated from the majority of their foes, the “Bastards” drop the ruse and overpower their would-be captors. Adolf even tosses the Lieutenant a submachine gun, validating his status as an honorary “Bastard”. Victory is short-lived as they find themselves cheering for Allied bombers up until the bombs start dropping a little too close for comfort. The sequence ends with an impressive matte composite shot of the bombed out convoy. Our erstwhile “heroes” are forced to pick through the wreckage to find a salvageable vehicle. In doing so, they manage to score a veritable arsenal’s worth of small arms and some German uniforms.

Tasked with forging some paperwork, Nick invents correction fluid seven years early, but, given his reputation, it’s easy to see why he would be unable to take credit. Both the paperwork and uniforms are insufficient to get past the first checkpoint, especially once the Germans get a glimpse of Canfield, but the rearmed “Bastards” shoot their way out with ease.

Michael Pergolani in "The Inglorious Bastards" (1978)

Nick (Michael Pergolani) can hardly believe his eyes in The Inglorious Bastards (1978)

Stopping at a river to wash and rest, Nick is astonished and overjoyed to see some German girls skinny-dipping. Keeping up their charade as German soldiers, the boys frolic in the spray until Canfield blows their cover. The girls prove to be heavily-armed, and send the would-be Casanovas packing under a hail of submachine gun fire.

While the “Bastards” hide under a bridge like a band of trolls, their truck out of fuel, Canfield spies a truck with seven Germans on the other side. Adolf asks to be allowed to parlay with them to hopefully get refueled. Tony warns Yeager against trusting the German deserter.

Once Adolf converses with the seven, he turns and shouts “Americans! Americans!” It’s deliberately vague who opens fire first, but it’s crystal clear that Adolf is the first to get gunned down. The ensuing firefight leaves all seven dead, along with Adolf, and Berle injured. Tony is smug in his “I-told-you-so” attitude.

As the gang rests and tends to the wounded Berle, they find themselves surrounded by the French Resistance. The armed partisans ask for Lt. Sykes, so the “Bastards” all point to a confused Yeager, who plays along and meets with their leader, Veronique (Michel Constantin).

Veronique thinks their mission was suicide with seven, but will be nearly impossible with only five, especially since one of them is clearly black. Yeager is still at a loss. Tony soon figures out that they made a horrible mistake and killed their own men. Adolf wasn’t ratting them out, he was trying to tell them the Germans were also disguised Americans, a misunderstanding Adolf paid for with his life.

Berle is shown to Nicole (Debra Berger), the closest they have to a proper nurse. Believing him to have volunteered for Sykes’ mission, she thinks he must be very brave. He’s immediately smitten with the young lass. When Tony starts harassing Berle about her, Canfield takes a very physical exception. Once again, their altercation is interrupted by Yeager, who explains that their assumed mission is to attack a train.

Tony feigns injury to get some quality time with Nicole. He proves to have the gift of gab when he wants to, and sweet talks her into sympathy, but not much more before Col. Buckner’s arrival is imminent. Bonfires are lit, and Buckner makes a hell of an entrance via late night parachute drop.

Debra Berger and Peter Hooten in "The Inglorious Bastards" (1978)

Tony (Peter Hooten) benefits from the healing hands of
Nicole (Debra Berger) in The Inglorious Bastards (1978)

Col. Buckner can tell immediately that the Lt. Sykes he’s supposed to rendezvous with is not the blonde giant standing in the glare of headlights. Yeager gets the Colonel to keep his cover, drawing him off to parlay off-camera. By the time the story thus far is told, it’s the next morning, and Buckner is beside himself with anger.

The Colonel is unimpressed with the “Bastards” before him, but Berle offers that his brother was a railroad man and he can run a locomotive. Yeager offers that he can speak fluent German and his men have proven themselves in combat. When Buckner promises a firing squad for all of them, Yeager pulls a pistol and tells him about the promise he made to the “Bastards”, to get them to Switzerland.

Yeager sets out to raid an SS Command Post in a nearby castle for a working truck with Canfield and Buckner playing prisoners. The sequence, though picturesque, is primarily played for laughs and without gunfire since the Italian government had suddenly banned all firearms on set, even those that fired only blanks. What few prop guns are used in the castle raid are never fired. Instead, the “Bastards” use a slingshot, a halberd, a dagger, and a crossbow to effect their plan. With the tone of the other related hijinks, it makes for a surprisingly fun and lighthearted diversion.

“…And you have the guts to offer me in exchange
a gang of deserters… cutthroats… and thieves?”

Once the truck is secured and the SS Command Post disabled, Buckner is clearly impressed. Briefing the team on their mission, he explains the main objective is a rail car laboratory carrying a prototype of the new V-2 rocket warhead. The aim of the mission is to capture the gyroscope in the rocket’s guidance system. Buckner and Yeager will disguise themselves as rocket experts and smuggle the device off the train.

Berle and Tony will blow a bridge on the train’s route, forcing it to back up and shunt down a side line. When the train has stopped to reverse direction, they will board the train and uncouple the armored car carrying the escort. Canfield and Veronique’s partisans will attack the train and drive it towards the Allied lines.

Nick inquires about his role in the operation. Aside from forging a stack of documents, he’ll be in charge of signalling to Rene that the train has been successfully boarded by Buckner and Yeager, or else Rene will blow the bridge with the train on it.

At high noon, the partisans intercept the command car carrying the two rocket experts. Nick uses it to drive Buckner and Yeager, in disguise, to the rail yard to board the train. Nick watches with glee as his forged papers pass muster. He sets out to covertly signal Rene, but the car’s door is knocked shut, breaking the radio.

Nick is forced to steal a motorcycle and race to the bridge in advance of the train to keep it from being blown up with Buckner and Yeager on board. Meanwhile, Tony, Berle, and Rene all wait at the river bank, trying desperately to hail Nick on the radio while preparing for the worst. Jumping a machine gun nest, Nick’s motorcycle takes a round in the gas tank, but the Macaroni MacGyver seals it up with a comically large wad of chewing gum.

Bo Svenson in "The Inglorious Bastards" (1978)

Col. Buckner (Ian Bannen) and Lt. Yeager (Bo Svenson)
bide their time in The Inglorious Bastards (1978)

Looking over the blueprints in the mobile laboratory, Col. Buckner identifies a self-destruct mechanism that will blow the whole rocket and take the lab with it. When the door to the lab unlocks, Yeager creeps in and takes out the remaining rocket scientists.

Within sight of the bridge, Nick runs afoul of a patrol and is shot down. He still manages to crawl his way to the bridge and, with his dying breaths, gives the word to blow the bridge according to plan. As expected, the train stops, and the armed escort gets off to address the situation. During the onslaught, Berle and Tony sneak onto the train and take command of the engine. Tony uncouples the escort car while the Colonel starts dismantling the warhead.

At Pont Mossons, Nicole, Veronique, Canfield, and the rest of the partisans take over the depot. They are soon met with an unpleasant surprise, however. The next locomotive to arrive is not the one they expected with the mobile laboratory attached, but a whole new train full of German reinforcements. Some dismount to retake the station, with Veronique getting a live “potato masher” grenade dropped at his feet.

The rest keep on rollin’, with Canfield and Nicole in pursuit. They split up, and things start happening very quickly like a cinematic runaway train. Berle gets shot in the back while feeding the engine, but finally musters the courage to turn and fire back. Finding him already dead, Tony jumps from the roof of the train onto a signal tower to escape. Buckner gets the gyroscope out, but accidentally activates the self-destruct mechanism. Yeager blocks the trigger with a pencil. Canfield reaches an overpass and drops down onto the train.

He reaches Yeager and warns him about the Germans waiting at the station just before getting shot up by a guard. After eliminating the threat, Yeager checks on Canfield and throws him off the train. “See you in Switzerland!” he shouts.

After bidding farewell to Yeager, Buckner jumps off the train with the gyroscope. Yeager is en route to blow up the rocket when he is shot in the back by a German hiding under a desk. As the Germans lurk in ambush at Pont Mossons, Yeager pulls the pencil free and blows up the train. It derails and crashes through the station in spectacular fashion. The ensuing HO scale destruction is a far cry from John Frankenheimer’s The Train (1964). Still, there’s some cool shots of German soldiers running around on fire, and the music gets suitably dramatic to make the big finish satisfying, if admittedly silly-looking.

Banner for the Italian Film Culture Blogathon 2013 hosted by The Nitrate Diva

Click above for more of the Italian Film Culture Blogathon 2013 hosted by The Nitrate Diva

Nicole catches up to Tony amidst the flames to give us our supposed happy ending. Despite the romantic musical cues and his heroic actions, I can’t be won over. He’s a jerk. More appropriately, I guess, he’s a real “Bastard”. Roll credits.

In all, a super fun time. The film is no Saving Private Ryan (1998) and certainly not meant for WWII purists, but in the vein of war comics like Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos, there’s worse ways to spend 99 minutes. Some day, I’ll probably take a look at Enzo’s other big macaroni combat epic, Eagles Over London (1969), but first, we’re going to see how macaroni combat changed with the times. The 1980s were the era of Rambo and rampant historical revisionism, and Italian genre film wasn’t going to let low-budget American actioners have all the fun. Warbus (1985) will be rolling into this blog real soon. Don’t miss it.

Also, be sure to click on the poncho above to explore some of the other entries in the 2013 Italian Film Culture Blogathon hosted by the Nitrate Diva. There’s some great work being done to honor “2013: Anno della Cultura Italiana, Year of Italian Culture”.

Macaroni Combat… “It’s a Hot Smell”

Press Photo for "Commandos" (1968) with Lee Van Cleef

Okay, I’m going to confess something that may undermine what little credibility I might have as a film blogger. I don’t like John Wayne. I like his movies even less. This iconoclastic opinion has threatened to end friendships. I’m usually forced to steer the conversation back towards classic film icons I do appreciate and adore, like Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, and Jimmy Stewart.

For largely this reason alone, I spent most of my youth under the mistaken impression that I didn’t like war movies or westerns, since John Wayne was all over both, especially in anything that ran on a Turner cable network. Long before I had ever heard the term “spaghetti western,” I discovered Clint Eastwood and his “Man with No Name.” Now, here was a western anti-hero I could wrap my mind around.

Banner for the Italian Film Culture Blogathon 2013 hosted by The Nitrate Diva

Click above for more of the Italian Film Culture Blogathon 2013 hosted by The Nitrate Diva

The Duke’s movies always felt trite and condescending to me. It was like a grown man telling me that if I didn’t eat my peas then Santa Claus wouldn’t bring me presents. I wanted to shove him into a muddy ditch with flag in hand. Sergio Leone’s western characters didn’t wear white hats or black; their morality was colored in shades of grey. Imagine my surprise and joy to find this same ethic applied to the Italian war films of the same era, “macaroni combat” if you will.

In honor of “2013: Anno della Cultura Italiana, Year of Italian Culture” and the 2013 Italian Film Culture Blogathon hosted by the Nitrate Diva, let’s take a look at one of my favorite entries in the genre. Commandos (1968) stars spaghetti western icon Lee Van Cleef as MSgt. Sullivan, a soldier haunted by the war that threatens to break his mind, body, and soul. If the dreaded Afrika Korps doesn’t kill him, there’s a good chance Captain Valli (Jack Kelly) might, either by malicious intent or sheer incompetence.

WARNING! The screen shots in this post are press photos and not actual screencaps from the film. They are a suggestion of scenes rather than a genuine representation of what was filmed. Most prints are so murky that you’ll never see the film remotely this clear. Mine looks like it was filmed through a fish tank.

Commandos (1968)

Commandos is based on a short story by Israeli Roger Corman understudy Menahem Golan. Golan had cut his teeth as a production manager/assistant director/production assistant on Corman’s The Young Racers (1963) alongside a little upcoming director named Francis Ford Coppola. For Commandos, Golan’s story got some spit and polish from screenwriter Dario Argento just before his big break, director Armando Crispino, and Stefano Strucchi. Director Crispino had only two directing credits under his belt before helming Commandos, the Gina Lollobrigida comedy Pleasant Nights (1966) and the spaghetti western John the Bastard (1967).

October 1942

On the eve of the American landings in North Africa,
A secret American commando base,
Somewhere in the Mediterranean.

MSgt. Sullivan begins by briefing his commandos on their cover identities, that of Italian fascists from Brescia in the shadow of the Alps. This provides ample excuse for an opening credits sequence largely composed of stock footage being viewed by the titular commandos. They are also shown footage of their new “allies”, Erwin Rommel’s infamous Afrika Korps.

The arrival of untested Captain Valli doesn’t exactly fill Sullivan with confidence. “There’s a machine in the brass department. It’s designed to screw Sullivan.” He greets Valli with a mocking Nazi salute, then tries to play it off as part of his cover while only reluctantly taking the offered handshake. Sullivan has good reason to be wary. Valli replaces Lt. Freeman, a man Sullivan and his pal Dino grew close to during the grueling Battle of Bataan in the Pacific Theater, with the three of them being the only survivors from their unit.

Lobby Cards for
Commandos (1968)
(click to enlarge)

Lobby Card for "Commandos" (1968)
Lobby Card for "Commandos" (1968)
Lobby Card for "Commandos" (1968)
Lobby Card for "Commandos" (1968)
Lobby Card for "Commandos" (1968)
Lobby Card for "Commandos" (1968)

Jack Kelly (Forbidden Planet, Maverick) plays Valli as straight as an arrow, all smiles, sunglasses, and starch, stiff as a flagpole. He’s clearly educated and bright, but also has no battle experience, and is unused to leading men of action. This becomes apparent as Sullivan awkwardly introduces Valli to the team and vice-versa. These men were chosen because of their Italian heritage and special training, but Valli is surprised to find some are actually Italian-born with an oblique reference made to Chicago mob ties.

Afterwards, Valli tries to allay some of Sullivan’s fears in private. To say it goes poorly is a grand understatement. Sullivan puts down his drink and tries to hear the captain out, but the booze has already done its damage and he’s beyond surly. Valli may know his plan “exactly, right down to the last detail,” but Sarge knows firsthand how worthless plans are in the face of the enemy.

“Exactly? What the hell do you know about ‘exactly’? You got a lot of bright ideas, Captain, but do you know what killin’ is? Exactly? With these? (jazz commando hands) Or with this? (draws a commando knife) You stick the knife in his throat or gut and twist, and you’ve got to hug him tight because if he gets loose he might get away before the job’s done. Do you know what blood smells like, Captain? It’s a hot smell. And you can get things messed up, too, Captain, because most men die hard. But how the hell would you know? Exactly.”

Lee Van Cleef’s aggressive body language and post-production dubbing go far beyond mere chewing up the scenery into full on over-the-top awesome that leaves nothing standing in its wake. It’s like an F-5 of testosterone-driven machismo. Wait until his character meets the enemy!

The next day, Valli gives our mission briefing in front of a ludicrously large map. Sullivan and Valli take a moment to clarify that they will take no prisoners and that they will have to preserve their cover identities at all costs. Their German “allies” will be just a short distance away.

On the night flight to the oasis, Sullivan spots a commando with a picture of his sweetheart. He takes it away, examines it, then rips it into pieces in what seems, at first, to be a moment of pure churlishness. When Valli and others get upset, Sullivan points out the trademark for Empire State Photographers, a dead giveaway that they’re Americans.

Parachuting in and approaching the target oasis goes surprisingly well. There’s some classic commando cliché from burying their parachutes to snipping barbed wire to silenced pistols.

One enemy soldier takes a moonlit stroll for a cigarette, unable to sleep on account of the oppressive heat, and avoids the carnage. This will become important later.

Valli and Sullivan personally secure the radio room to prevent any calls for assistance. During the raid, we get our first glimpse that all is not well with MSgt. Sullivan. He goes all thousand-yard stare, and we see a flash of fire from his perspective. When asked what’s wrong, a guilty “nothing” is all he can muster as he pulls on his gloves for the dirty work of killing men in their sleep.

Press Photo for "Commandos" (1968) with Lee Van Cleef

Press Photo for Commandos (1968) with Lee Van Cleef

They’re briefly interrupted by a watchman rousing some men for shift change. Sullivan and Dino take care of that with some thrown commando knives to the back. Clearly, this ain’t their first rodeo.

Meanwhile, our cigarette-smoking insomniac stumbles upon one of the murdered sentries and instead of raising the alarm, heads to the garage for a rendezvous. He and his comrades try to roll out, but are spotted, identified as visiting Germans, and gunned down. So much for silence and stealth. An all-out firefight ensues in which Valli grows a conscience and stops Sullivan from executing unarmed prisoners out of hand. Valli even “shoots down” Sullivan’s very practical suggestion of using the Italian prisoners as cover to take a couple of machine gun nests. Instead, they’re forced to waste a precious bazooka shell.

They soon find out what the machine guns were so desperately defending when they kick in a door and find the deliciously scandalous Marilù Tolo clutching a pillow. By 1968, Tolo was already a veteran of many peplum and Eurospy films, with a few spaghetti westerns thrown in for spice. Here, she’s the last working girl standing and didn’t leave with her erstwhile business partners, choosing to corner the market instead. Square jaw that he is, Captain Valli immediately puts her on lock down.

Press Photo for "Commandos" (1968) with Marilù Tolo and Lee Van Cleef

Press Photo for Commandos (1968) with Marilù Tolo and Lee Van Cleef

Valli has questions for his prisoners, most notably Lt. Tomassini (Marino Masé). Question # 1 is “What were those three Germans doing here?”, and one of the other prisoners can’t help but point out that there were four, and one of them must have gotten away. This drives Sullivan crazy which, in turn, makes Tomassini clam up. Valli plays his trump card. If Tomassini won’t cooperate, then all of his men will be summarily executed. Conscience only goes so far.

Marino Masé is almost slumming here as the captured officer, having previously appeared in Luchino Visconti’s costume period epic The Leopard and Jean-Luc Godard’s The Carabineers, both in 1963, with the lead role in the latter. Still, he was no stranger to genre fare, having appeared in the peplum Goliath at the Conquest of Damascus and Nightmare Castle, both in 1965 and both alongside the incomparable Helga Liné. He even got some commando experience in the short-lived CBS television series Jericho (1966), in which he played a French weapons expert on the side of the Allies.

With the lives of his men in jeopardy, Lt. Tomassini has no choice but to answer the question. The Germans were mining the well and they were expected to leave this morning. That puts a definite time limit on Valli’s little take and hold operation.

Movie Poster for "Commandos" (1968)

Movie Poster for Commandos (1968)

As if to hammer home the danger, we immediately cut across the desert, where the Afrika Korps are rolling around in their Panzers (actually Italian and American tanks, but I’m not going to take them too much to task for that; Crispino’s no Spielberg). Here, we’re introduced to Oberleutnant Heitzel Agen, “The Professor”, (Joachim Fuchsberger). Agen is fatigued by being in the rear with the gear, and his men jokingly compare him to the “Desert Fox” himself, Erwin Rommel. There’s clearly some tension between the aristocratic “Professor” and his working class troops, “the field promotion type” as he disparagingly refers to one.

The story of Joachim “Blacky” Fuchsberger is almost more interesting than the film itself. Billed here as Akim Berg, he was an honest-to-goodness(?) Hitler Youth, recruited as an elite paratrooper and shipped off to the Eastern Front at 16. Joachim was wounded and captured by the Red Army and spent time as a prisoner of the Soviets, British, and Americans.

After the war, he worked as a coal miner and an engineer, as well as in advertising and radio. He tried a bit of acting, but really hit his stride in Krimis, German adaptations of mystery stories written by Edgar Wallace. Joachim appeared in the first, Face of the Frog (1959), and would go on to make a dozen more through 1972.

In the early 1960s, he talked producer Horst Wendlandt out of accepting film rights from Ian Fleming, thinking it too expensive to transition from black-and-white Krimis to a full color exotic spy film. Joachim had been Wendlandt’s pick to play Fleming’s spy character “James Bond”. For his part, Fuchsberger isn’t bitter and is still acting as of this writing.

Meanwhile at the oasis… The Italian water trucks show up, and it’s time for charades. Everyone act natural.

End Act I, right at about the 30-minute mark.

Complications predictably ensue. A kicked soccer ball keeps Lt. Tomassini from turning an invoice into a rescue note, a commando intercepts a horny Italian with his heart and wallet set on visiting Adriana, and the missing fourth German is too wounded from his cigarette break slash firefight to raise much of an alarm.

In the radio room, they find out the Germans are on their way for dinner. Adriana is “encouraged” to drink herself unconscious. To keep him from losing his cool, Sullivan is put in the attic to observe through a knothole in the floor.

Press Photo for "Commandos" (1968) with Lee Van Cleef

Press Photo for Commandos (1968) with Lee Van Cleef

“Professor” Agen meets Captain Valli for the first time and seems pleased to make his acquaintance, happy to break bread with a fellow officer. Oberleutnant Rudi immediately wants to know where his engineers are. Lt. Tomassini tries to convince them that they have already left, and Valli even jokes that they may have gotten lost or deserted. This only serves to infuriate their commander, who trained them himself, and Agen has to calm Rudi down.

During their dinner conversation, we learn that “The Professor” was an entomologist before the war, and he seems wistful about those bygone scholarly pursuits. Captain Valli and Agen bond over quoting Goethe. Sullivan, rattled about Germans wandering around unchecked, interrupts and almost blows their cover.

This whole sequence reminded me of the “Twenty Questions” scene in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, especially the brief cut to Sgt. Hugo Stiglitz gritting his teeth to keep from choking the Nazi officer to death while haunted by his own personal flashback hell just like Sullivan. Given his pedigree, it’s hard to imagine Tarantino was not influenced by Commandos.

Sullivan goes out alone for some air and to clear his head of Bataan flashbacks when he runs afoul of our missing engineer. He dispatches him with a gunshot, but that draws everyone out from their spaghetti dinner. After an awkward pause, someone takes credit for shooting at a jackal. “Professor” Agen jokes that he hoped it was commandos. The Germans depart, happy and none-the-wiser, taking us to…

End Act II, right at about the 60-minute mark.

Lt. Tomassini returns to his men, and we can see some distinct juxtaposition here as they are loyal to each other, unlike either Valli’s or Agen’s relationship with their respective troops. It’s escape time, and the ever popular “This guy’s sick” routine works like a charm. Soon, they’ve got guns and head out under cover of darkness. They steal a truck and sabotage the others with a little sand in the ol’ gas tank.

The transition here’s a little rough as morning comes in the blink of an eye. Tomassini and his boys find themselves pursued across the dunes by Valli, Sullivan, and the commandos in a salvaged truck. Sullivan warns that if they reach the Germans, it’s all over but the shooting.

The Italians get reckless and get themselves stuck in the sand. As they’re pushing with the commandos coming over the horizon, we get a great exploitation shot of one man getting caught under the wheels. Still, it gives them the traction they need to get out of their rut.

Close enough to shoot at each other, the chase is now in full gear. Even Valli loses his patience and executes a surrendering Italian with his sidearm. Dino takes a bullet just as the Italians drive into a mine field, and Valli calls for a halt. As Sullivan struggles to bandage his friend, an explosion in the distance indicates the final fate of Tomassini and the escapees. We get a glimpse of the truth, however, and see a critically wounded Lt. Tomassini crawl to his feet.

Even though the engineers have yeat to be found, the Afrika Korps is moving out to engage the Americans. Oberleutnant Heitzel Agen asks for permission to go fill up the water trucks at the oasis and bid farewell to his newfound friend, Captain Valli, over a bottle of cognac. After he leaves, Tomassini stumbles into the camp a bloody mess.

Just as Sullivan is burying Dino, a plane flies over, dropping a parcel. The note orders Valli and the commandos to move out as their mission has been scratched. Taking and holding the oasis was for naught. The commandos, used to this sort of behavior from the high command, take it all in stride, but Valli refuses to abandon his meticulous plans without confirmation via radio. Sullivan, enraged, takes charge with pistol in hand, insubordination be damned. “The Professor” and company arrive in time to prevent Sullivan from ending Valli’s commission with a bullet.

Press Photo for "Commandos" (1968) with Lee Van Cleef, Joachim Fuchsberger, and Jack Kelly

Press Photo for Commandos (1968) with Lee Van Cleef, Joachim Fuchsberger, and Jack Kelly

Agen inquires about the missing Lt. Tomassini, but is called to the radio room before getting even an improvised answer. With the headset on, “The Professor” is warned that Tomassini escaped from a team of American commandos and that he should hold tight until they can arrive with their tanks.

Now, it is Agen’s turn to bluff. He breaks into the cognac and shares a toast with Valli, thanking him for their pleasant dinner and camaraderie. Agen presses his luck by ordering Sullivan to drink with him, and Sullivan disobeys by dropping the bottle to draw his pistol, predictably causing all hell to break loose for our explosive finale.

Press Photo for "Commandos" (1968) with Lee Van Cleef

Press Photo for Commandos (1968) with Lee Van Cleef

Bazookas, tanks, dynamite, and even an anti-aircraft gun all come into play as the commandos fight for their lives and not much else. Agen finds he cannot kill his friend Valli, but Sullivan sure has no qualms about killing “The Professor”. The carnage is nearly absolute, and one has to assume that even Adriana buys the farm as the whole oasis compound gets destroyed.

In the end, with only a single unnamed soldier to a side left, they lay down their arms and set about burying their dead… together.


War sucks. How delightfully Italian.

Check out some of the other contributions to the 2013 Italian Film Culture Blogathon. Here at WeirdFlix, I’m sure we’ll be cooking up some more “macaroni combat” real soon. Just be warned, “It’s a hot smell.”

Happy Birthday, Yellow Medicine Dancing Boy!

Yellow Medicine Dancing Boy

One in Ten Million

Yellow Medicine Dancing Boy was born in Goshen, Connecticut on this day just one year ago. This rare white bison was born on the Mohawk Bison farm of Peter Fay. Not an albino or genetically modified, Yellow Medicine Dancing Boy is believed to be a sign of hope and unity, and some considered his birth and naming ceremony to be sacred events.

Stories of the Lakota people tell that White Buffalo Calf Woman taught them seven sacred rituals and gave them the sacred ceremonial pipe, the Chanunpa. There is a dark side to her story, however, as one of the two scouts who first found her was reduced to a pile of bones when his intentions for the white-clad beauty were revealed as less than pure. The tale of a mortal man overcome by lust for a divine beauty reminds me of “The Frost-Giant’s Daughter” by Robert E. Howard. In the Conan story, the barbarian predictably fares far better than the Lakota scout.

With a screenplay by Richard Sale based on his novel, The White Buffalo (1977) is a strange little western, full of dream-like imagery, dodgy special effects, and genuine frontier gibberish.

The White Buffalo (1977)

They say the last white spike was put down by “Prairie Dog” Dave Morrow last month way the hell and gone on the Cimarron. Still, James Otis is obsessed with a white buffalo that haunts his dreams, resulting in all manner of flummery. There’s suspicion that James Otis is actually the infamous “Wild” Bill Hickok, but that’s likely just sassafras. In his final western, Charles Bronson plays the haunted man wearing two names, who is in search of the white buffalo that rampages through his nightmares.

Movie Poster for The White Buffalo (1977)

Movie Poster for The White Buffalo (1977)
Ridiculous but awesome painting by Boris Vallejo

Our opening credit sequence is set to ominous, ethereal music that, along with the copious amounts of dry ice fog shades of Ridley Scott, helps to set an otherworldly mood. This ain’t no wagon train. Before we meet any of the human cast, we get a good look at our title behemoth, and it’s a mixed bag. Personally, I like the obviously animatronic critter, but some folks will find it laughable. Your mileage may vary.

We soon find it’s all a dream as Hickok wakes with a two-gun barrage that probably puts a few holes in the roof of his train berth. Bill sports slick sunglasses that are likely the byproduct of a “disease of passion”, but we’ll get to that later. Suffice it to say, he’s got problems.

After our brief introduction to Hickok, we get two more opportunities to see the monstrous white buff in action. Mountain man Charlie Zane (Jack Warden) doesn’t see the thing first-hand, but hears its roar and is forced to dodge an avalanche created by it. This scene has all the hallmarks of a traditional western tall tale, the subject of dime novels and American folklore. Zane fares far better than a poor Sioux village that gets utterly (udderly?) ravaged by the angry buffalo for no really good reason.

Crazy Horse, War Chief of the Oglalas, returns too late to prevent the carnage. When he asks “Where is the little one?”, his wife can only reply “She’s gone to the stars.” The normally stoic chief, played with surprising depth by Will Sampson, weeps openly for his dead daughter, but such public displays of emotion are considered unbecoming of a man in his role. For this transgression, he is renamed “Worm” by his father. Worm makes a pilgrimage to the site of his daughter’s burial, Enchanted Mesa, far from the whites and safe from wolves, but he is told her spirit will be tortured until he can avenge her and reclaim his true name.

Charles Bronson in The White Buffalo (1977)

Charles Bronson in The White Buffalo (1977)

When Hickok arrives in Cheyenne by train, he is astounded by the buffalo graveyard. Killed to make way for the railroad as well as deny game to the Native Americans, the bones are piled high like mounds of white coal. While catching up with an old friend, we find that Hickok’s no friend of the Indians himself, with the Sioux in particular holding a grudge for his killing of Whistler the Peacemaker.

Hickok can’t exactly count many allies on the other side of the law, either. Tom Custer (Ed Lauter) and his cavalrymen are in Cheyenne hunting “Injuns”, relaxing when we meet them in Paddy’s Saloon. As Custer relates it, “Back in Hays City in ’69, Hickok killed my horse from under me and backshot two of my best soldiers.”

Barkeep Paddy recalls differently and insists “Bill never backshot nobody, not in his whole life.”

“You’re looking to wear a marble hat,” threatens Custer, but Paddy is nonplussed.

“You never did give me goosebumps, Tom.”

This exchange and others like it are representative of the style of dialogue employed in The White Buffalo. Fans of True Grit and the HBO series Deadwood (minus the outrageous profanity) should be pretty familiar with the flowery language, but contemporary audiences may be put off. Personally, I can’t get enough of circumlocution.

A Corporal Kileen interrupts this smacktalk session to say Hickok’s on his way to the bar, so Custer and his boys set up an ambush. This set-up goes awry when Paddy reveals his true colors, passing Bill first a revolver then a shotgun so the legendary gunfighter can shoot his way out. Despite their superior numbers, Custer and what’s left of his troop are sent packing. Afterwards, Hickok inquires about “Poker” Jenny, but Paddy claims she’s now known as the Widow Schermerhorn, gone to Fetterman to open her own place. Paddy also warns Bill about the Sioux “riding the Bozeman Trial like Irish banshees.”

Hickok takes a stagecoach to Fetterman, and Slim Pickens has an amusing cameo as the put-upon driver. This sequence serves to illustrate how the world-at-large perceives the persona of Mr. Otis, not knowing that he is actually Hickok. Among the passengers is a foul-mouthed Irishman named Mr. Coxy, who makes the mistake of bringing a knife to a gunfight in trying to rob Hickok. Bill forces him out into the mud and rain at gunpoint. When the stage is assaulted by Worm, Hickok exchanges gunfire with him. Bill hits nothing, but manages to impress the driver who previously thought of Mr. Otis as a “dude”, a “green tenderfoot”, probably on account of his fancy dress.

We’re treated to another cameo as horror icon John Carradine plays Amos the Undertaker in Fetterman. While talking with Pickens’ stage driver, he lets slip that the two dead men in his cart were arguing over a White Buffalo sighting. Bill also learns that an old friend of his is in town, Charlie Zane.

Kim Novak in The White Buffalo (1977)

Kim Novak in The White Buffalo (1977)

Bill goes to Schermerhorn’s as James Otis, but “Poker” Jenny (a rare 1970s appearance by Kim Novak) doesn’t recognize him at first. She offers him some coffee, “strong enough to float a colt,” then quickly registers that Mr. Otis not only looks like her old pal “Cat Eyes”, it is him in the flesh.

After some smalltalk, Jenny tries to get down to business, but it seems Bill “ain’t got the gumption,” not even when Jen offers to “fly the eagle.” “One of your scarlet sisters dosed me proper,” he says, implying venereal disease. Widely circulated, it’s of dubious historicity that Bill caught VD, but it certainly fits the haunted man depicted here. Historical accuracy isn’t of paramount importance in this little Wild West fable.

Napping out at Jenny’s place, it’s nightmare time again, and Bill awakes with a start, shooting up the place and decimating some white buff heads. Bill questions why the hell Jenny has such expensive totems, worth an easy $2,000 in gold a piece, but she admits they’re not real and were painted white at her request.

The nightmare beast is very real, however, and Bill knows “If I don’t kill this buff, the dream’ll kill me. Like my own… my own fate is chasing me into the grave.”

Bill meets up with Charlie Zane at a makeshift camp saloon. It isn’t long before Zane tells Bill of his own wide-awake encounter with the white buffalo. Before Bill can get the particulars, “Whistling” Jack Kileen (Clint Walker) and his gang saunter in, all moustache and menace. Bartender Tim Brady offers Mr. Otis $500 in gold to back him against Kileen’s gang as they appear ready to rumble. Brady knows that Jack’s son was the unfortunate Corporal Kileen, shot dead by Otis in the Cheyenne ambush. Thought not called out by name, Martin Kove has a cameo as one of Brady’s men, billed in the credits as Jack McCall. McCall was a notorious buffalo hunter and the man who would later murder Hickok in Deadwood.

Provoked by the young hothead “Kid Jelly”, a shootout ensues in which Hickok kills three of Kileen’s men almost instantly with two Navy Colt revolvers. The patrons are astonished, and word quickly spreads that they’ve just witnessed THE “Wild” Bill Hickok in action. Charlie wants to immediately head out for Deadwood, but Hickok isn’t rattled. He’s not afraid of what was in the saloon, he’s afraid of what’s out there, in the wilderness, in his indeterminate future.

The next morning, Kileen and his remaining men bid Zane and Hickok adieu as they ride out of town. Director J. Lee Thompson treats us to some beautiful outdoor photography, full of snow-capped peaks, verdant pines, and boulder-strewn valleys as opposed to the stagey scenes of the film’s first half.

After a campsite discussion establishes that Hickok hates Indians with a passion reserved for one’s mortal enemies, he and Zane awaken to gunshots, finding themselves surrounded by Crow Indians. Zane quickly points out that they aren’t after them, but a single Lakota instead. Zane admires the lone buck’s bravery, but, at fifteen to one, gives him no chance. Hickok corrects him, “Fifteen to three.”

Once the Absarokee are driven off, a parlay is called between the three victors. Hickok quickly realizes that they’re all after the same white spike, but bids their one-time ally farewell just the same. Later, Hickok thinks he spots his quarry amongst the snowcapped rocks. “Old Timer, shake out a round.”

The gunshot rousts the beast, forcing it to retreat into a mountainside cave. Like a sword and sorcery hero, blazing torch in one hand, revolver in the other, Hickok warily pursues. He finds the buffalo went out another exit, but knows the time ain’t right based upon the details of his dream. “There has to be snow. Heavy snow.”

A mighty roar wakes them from their slumber inside the cave. Outside, Hickok has to put down their gored mare and finds hoofprints leading up across the mountaintop. Hickok tumbles through a carpet of pristine white in a stunning distant shot. Careless in his pursuit, Hickok doesn’t see “Whistling” Jack Kileen, snowshoed, lurking in ambush with two of his men until it is too late. Hickok is forced to take cover behind a ridge and quickly becomes pinned down.

Charles Bronson in "The White Buffalo" (1977)

Charles Bronson in The White Buffalo (1977)

The exchange of gunfire is interrupted by the howl of a wolf, and Hickok seems to take particular attention. After Zane takes one the men out with his rifle, Kileen spots what he believes to be the howling wolf, only for the wolf to stand up and riddle him with arrows like Boromir. Dumbstruck, Kileen’s last man stares and gets an arrow in the gut for his trouble. Worm celebrates their victory, but warns the whites that they are in Lakota land, his land.

Hickok invites the Indian to his council. Zane thinks it a clever ruse, but Hickok warns “You try hanging a wooden suit on that child and you’ll answer to me.”

Charlie is aghast. “That snow ossify your brain?” Hickok points out the eagle feather, a chief’s feather. This is no ordinary Indian hunter.

Worm thinks he knows this man, “Okute the Shooter”, the one who killed Whistler the Peacemaker, the murderer called Hickok. Bill claims “The Cheyenne call me Pahaska.” Pahaska was actually a Lakota nickname for “Buffalo” Bill Cody, meaning “long hair”. Instead of being an instance of historical inaccuracy, in the context of the film, it is likely Bill is lying about his identity just as he was under the Mr. Otis moniker.

Worm, having seen Pahaska fight with pistols, offers a long gun looted from Kileen. “Long Hair” reveals that Zane’s long gun is actually his own, forcing Worm to gift the long gun to the suspicious Charlie Zane. Charlie is shamed, and has nothing to offer in return.

“You give me shelter. You share your food.”

Zane eventually gives Worm a knife. Worm seems afraid to touch it. Is he considering how many of his kin it has murdered?

“How is the old one called?” Worm asks.

“Cheyenne call him Ochinee.” Ochinee was actually the name of a Cheyenne subchief killed in the Sand Creek Massacre, but here it is taken to be a metaphorical nickname rather than a literal one, as Ochinee translates to “One Eye”.

“The Great White Warrior of Sand Creek? You speak crookedly. This cannot be true.”

Hickok quickly realizes the disbelief is because Zane has a glass eye. Charlie pops it out, and the superstitious Lakota is taken aback until Hickok calms him by saying Zane is only clowning and that the glass eye is not magic. Worm is about to teach them how to pee (to mark territory like a wolf, a sign the White Buffalo respects) when an avalanche threatens to block them out of their cave.

A debate over who can lay claim to the White Buffalo quickly turns to politics. Hickok offers the classic argument that the land was taken by force from other tribes with lance and tomahawk, not gifted by the Great Spirit. “Today, it’s the white man’s turn.”

Hickok believes resistance is futile. “They are more than the blades of spring grass, more than the buffalo when they smothered the earth in their great herds… You will bend to the long knives or be broken. You will live as they say or die on their bayonets.”

While the two hunters come to an understanding and peace, the old timer is skeptical. The White Buffalo will surely come between them.

In the morning, Zane is surprised Worm didn’t slit their throats. Hickok laments that they didn’t have just one more day of peace. Downhill, they follow the heady scent of buffalo all day until they reach the valley floor of Hickok’s nightmares. And if we didn’t recognize it, the musical cues would fill us in that something dreadful is about to happen just before Hickok flatly spells it out. In his haste, he foolishly ignores Charlie’s suggestion to take the Winchester over the shotgun, which has only one shot left.

The White Buffalo charges for what seems like forever, but it is only a full minute of footage and, yes, the track is clearly visible for the fuzzy white buffalo machine. Just as Charlie warned, the shotgun is, in fact, frozen, so Hickok breaks it over the beast’s dome like a cricket bat.

Worm takes to the high ground, buries an arrow ineffectually in its hump, and then leaps onto its back, stabbing it repeatedly with the same arrow and lasting well longer than PBR regulation 8 seconds. The beast flees with Hickok in hot pursuit unarmed, but all eventually grows still. Hickok helps Worm up and reveals that the beast yet lives and is likely long gone.

The money shot, given away for free in the trailer, is the White Buffalo crashing through a snowdrift to attack. Hickok pulls a Colt from Worm’s belt and empties it into the thing’s head while Worm rushes forward to stab away with an arrow. Afterward, Worm is elated, but Hickok is seemingly saddened to know that he has helped usher in the end of an era.

“Why didn’t you use your gun?” he asks Worm.

“I am War Chief of the Oglalas. I cannot use the White Man’s iron. This bull had to be taken in the old way.”

Hickok correctly identifies Worm as Crazy Horse. Crazy Horse believes he and Hickok are kin, of sorts. Zane wants to backshoot Crazy Horse, but Hickok says no. “The robe belongs to Worm” (meaning the hide).

Zane can’t believe he’d so easily give up $2,000 gold.

“Charlie, I’ll make it up to you in Cheyenne.”

“You can tell your blood brother to shove it up his ass. We’re quits.” Charlie walks away with the gifted long gun, a great symbol for the subsequent treaties between Native Americans and whites.

“You have lost a friend,” Crazy Horse says.

“So it seems.”

“And found one.” Crazy Horse acknowledges that he knows “Long Hair” is Hickok, a great enemy, and while he will tell no one, they must never cross paths again. They bid goodbye to each other, forever.

The epilogue gives birth and death dates for J.B. Hickok (Born 1837, Murdered 1876) and Crazy Horse (Born 1842, Murdered 1877). Hickok was only 39 at the time of his death, but Bronson was 55 at the time of film’s release. Crazy Horse’s birth date is in dispute, putting him at 34 to 37 at the time of his death. Sampson was 43 at the time of film’s release. The choice to cast older actors was certainly a conscious one, to give the impression of men whose time was growing short.

Criticism of the film as a rip-off designed to cash in on Jaws is largely misguided, but producer Dino De Laurentiis did the film no favors during its publicity, putting it in the middle of his killer animal trilogy along with King Kong (1976) and Orca (1977). Even the poster above and trailer below try to shill the film as a monster movie. It is more appropriate to compare both Jaws and The White Buffalo to Moby Dick, the original novel about the hunt for a great white metaphorical beast.

Hickok’s dialogue is the most telling, however, and truly gets to the heart of the matter. “If I don’t kill this buff, the dream’ll kill me. Like my own… my own fate is chasing me into the grave.” The White Buffalo is dying out, and so are men like Hickok and Crazy Horse, killing each other off in the name of progress and civilization. The times they are a-changin’.

“It was hated… and hunted… It was worshipped… and feared…
It was… The White Buffalo”

Though his coat has since turned largely golden brown, Yellow Medicine Dancing Boy will always be considered one of the elusive White Buffalo here at WeirdFlix. Many happy returns. So, take a moment today to give thanks for the wonders of the natural world around us and the diverse people and cultures who inhabit it.

Happy Birthday, WeirdFlix!

John Amplas and Carrie Nye in "Creepshow" (1982)

John Amplas and Carrie Nye in “Creepshow” (1982)

Hard to believe it’s been one year since we started this shindig.

And, yes, I know it’s technically a Father’s Day cake. Just shut up and eat it.