Double Down by [Max Allan Collins]

I thought I was the only one who thought of basing a fictional character on actor Lee Van Cleef, who played the man in black in those spaghetti westerns, like “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.” I used Van Cleef as the model for Mordecai Slate, the bounty hunter protag of “Vampire Siege at Rio Muerto” and “Hunting Monsters is My Business.”

Turns out Max Alan Collins had the same idea years ago for a character he called “Nolan,” a professional thief modeled on Donald Westlake/Richard Stark’s character Parker.

As Collins says in the intro to “Double Down,” “We’re all thieves.”

Brood X Periodical Cicadas Emerge In 15 States : NPR

There’s an old haiku that goes:

There is nothing

In the voice of the cicada

That implies its imminent death.

—Basho

Is that why it’s necessary for ten thousand of them to sing at once?

Yeah, buddy. I know. Existence is rough. It doesn’t last very long and nobody gets out alive.

Go ahead. Sound off about it. We understand.

Traffic Intersection Simulation using Pygame, Part 1 | by Mihir Gandhi |  Towards Data Science

Almost got hit by a car today while walking Jax, the dog.

Crossed an intersection in broad daylight only one car coming up hill to the intersection. Figured since I was the only one out there he saw me. But by the time I was half way across he was all the way up the hill and coming through the crosswalk, full speed ahead, aiming right at me. The thought flashed: Is he going to run me down deliberately? Some kind of nut? A dog hater?

No time to think about it. The dog was out of harm’s way so I swear as the car was about to hit me I suddenly grew a pair of wings and jumped up out and away, the car barely missing me. I stood there not sure I’d escaped injury and the car stopped. A guy in his thirties looked back at me through the open window. I screamed: “You son of a bitch! What the hell is wrong with you?” He said. “I’m truly sorry. Honestly I just didn’t see you.” I yelled. “Get off your f—in’ cell phone, sonny.” He blinked and said. “Have a good day,” and drove off. Didn’t ask if I was alright, or was maybe having a heart attack. Just took off. Probably scared, because I was so pumped up I must have looked like I would kill him if I got my hands on him.

It was an experience. Shows you how quick disaster can strike. When it happens you think, oh no, this isn’t logical. No normal human being would deliberately run somebody down on the road. And then you realize no, they probably wouldn’t. It would have been some freak accident that wipes you out for no good reason at all.

The most disappointing part of the incident is that Jax, the dog, didn’t even bark or snarl at the guy while he sat there in the road. I think a growl at least would have been appropriate.

I guess because of the Pandemic I’ve been watching too much television lately. I mean hour after hour, day after day, show after show after show. And what I’ve figured out is that television is not an entertainment medium. It’s an advertising medium. Because after watching all those Law and Orders, and CSI’s, and The Rookie, and The FBI, etc. I can’t remember a single episode of those shows. They all run together in an endless blur.

Faceless lawyers and cops and doctors trying to do who knows what. Totally forgettable. But what I do remember are the commercials. Because the commercials today are so totally obnoxious, so utterly annoying, so flamboyantly bad that they linger in the mind as irritants long after the shows have faded into oblivion.

The Insurance company commercials are probably the worst. Liberty Mutual with that freakin’ EMU wasn’t bad enough now they got a guy hawking Wet Teddy Bears out of a hot dog stand! What? And equally weird is the Nationwide commercial with the guy driving the convertible with the singing hood ornament. “You got the brains, I got the looks, let’s make lots of money.” A singing hood ornament. Who has a singing hood ornament? What does it mean? What are they really trying to say? I don’t get it.

And of course there are the toilet paper commercials with the cartoon bears bragging about how clean their butts are. “Enjoy the go!” Why don’t they just go off quietly and do it in the woods like they’re supposed to?

In the 1960s FCC Commissioner Newton Minnow called TV “a vast wasteland.” What would he call it now?


“Springtime in the Sierras” is one of Roy Rogers’ better movies. Solid cast, great script, and plenty of action. Unfortunately most people have only seen an edited version that has 25 minutes of footage missing. The good news is that the full length version is available. Read my review over on Cinema Retro and find out what makes Roy Rogers’ movies so special, why Quentin Tarantino rates director William Witney so highly, and find out about the secret connection between Roy and the classic 1960’s TV series “Route 66.”

Porn on the networks! It has finally happened. A Gillette razor commercial shows a woman shaving her pubic hair. In prime time. I don’t know if that’s as bad as the toilet paper commercial with the three bears bragging about how clean their butts are. “Enjoy the go!” We are going down like a ship caught in a gigantic tidal wave of trivia and bad taste.

REVIEW: Kung Fu Is a High-Kicking, Uneven Reimagining of the Martial Arts  Classic

I caught some of the Kung Fu reboot rebroadcast Saturday. Probably the crowd that watches CW will like it. Lots of action, flashy photography, synth music with a pop beat. The Caine replacement is a pretty vacuous young girl. Like the original she has a mentor, an older Asian woman standing in for Keye Luke. It is what it is– if Queen Latifah can do the Equalizer, I guess this Chinese Chick can play Kung Fu.

We are living in a world where everything we ever knew is being kicked to pieces and replaced with current politically correct ideas. They say this is progress. True, biases and racism should be corrected, but do we have to agree that our entire past is invalid? That the things I remember from the past should be banished from memory forever. And that rewriting history will correct the ills of the past? 1984 has come 40 years late.

And the nightmare of it is that it didn’t come with a right wing dictator leading it. It’s actually a two pronged attack. The left and the right both want to redefine everything on their own terms. The radical left and the insane right, who seem totally out of touch with reality, are equally rabid about achieving their goals. It’s obvious this will eventually lead to a cataclysm of some time. As the pandemic continues and the left tries to get everyone vaccinated the right will draw a line, refusing to get vaccinated. Even something as obvious as the benefits of a vaccine gets confused and distorted by those who see it as a government plot. I’ll be surprised if we get to a 50 percent vaccination rate in the country. This summer will witness either success in combating COVID or an even bigger surge.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is WINGSOFHAWK.jpg

I’ve written before about cult-film director Budd Boetticher and the seven films he made with Randolph Scott that are universally recognized as some of the greatest westerns ever made. His film “Comanche Station” is in my opinion the best of the bunch, and was the inspiration for my novel “The Big Shut Down.” Before he helmed the Scott westerns he had worked many years at several studios on low budget pictures, until securing a two-year, nine-picture deal with Universal-International. Among the films he made for UI were “The Man from the Alamo” starring Glenn Ford, and “Wings of the Hawk,” starring Van Heflin and Julia Adams.

“Wings of the Hawk” is noteworthy for being only the second film to be shot in 3-D. Made just a few years before the Randolph Scott films you can see glimmers of the thematic elements that would later become the hallmarks of his best work: the idea that there are “some things a man can’t ride around;” that men must face the truth about who they are and what they would and would not do; that who you are is determined by the choices you make. Boetticher’s heroes are all men of stature. “Wings of the Hawk” shows Boetticher’s ideas still in their gestation period before coming to full flower just a few yeas later.

You can read my full review of “Wings of the Hawk” on the Cinema Retro website.

Vampire Siege at Rio Muerto by [John M. Whalen]

In my Cinema Retro review of CURSE OF THE UNDEAD, which was the first weird western movie about a vampire in the Old West, I noted that so far no one has given us the kind of weird western vampire movie we are all waiting for.

There’s one coming up that could have possibilities. Chloe Zhao, director of NOMADLAND, has been hired to write and direct a Dracula movie set in the Old West. It will also have some sci-fi elements in it. Sounds promising except Chloe intends to focus on portraying the Blood Sucker as one of society’s poor unfortunate outsiders. The outsider is one of the consistent themes in her work.

Not the Dracula I know. Certainly not like Kord Manion, the evil vamp in my VAMPIRE SIEGE AT RIO MUERTO. Why keep glamorizing or sympathizing with these evil fiends? Why not make a movie about a hired gun who makes a living blasting these monsters to kingdom come? No mercy. Get with it, Hollywood.

I’ve got a new movie review up today on Cinema Retro. TAZA, SON OF COCHISE, starring that great Native American actor Rock Hudson in the title role. This was one of those movies that aimed to show American Indians in a favorable light, yet somehow, could not manage to hire one Native American to play any of the major roles. You can read the review by clicking here.