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Sons of Ringo: The Great Spaghetti Western Heroes by [Blosser, Fred ]

Do  the names Sergio Leone, Sergio Corbucci, and Frank Kramer, Sartana, Sabata, Tuco and Trinity mean anything to you? If they do you are probably one of those cursed individuals who has seen one too many Spaghetti Westerns. “Spaghetti Western” is the name given to a host of western films made in Italy during the sixties and seventies featuring an international cast usually headed by an American actor who had seen better days.  Although patterned after the Hollywood western, they are different in style, form, and content. They’re also addictive. If you watched  “Fistful of Dollars,” or “Once Upon a Time in the West,” for example, and enjoyed them, you’ weren’t likely to stop there. You searched for more.

They weren’t always easy to find. Most of them never played in neighborhood theaters in the U.S.. They’re easier to find now via the burn on demand market, and YouTube but back in the day you had to hunt down bootleggers selling blurry, hard to watch VHS tapes, and later, DVD’s that were not much to look at. True fans didn’t let the poor picture and sound quality bother them. They’d happily sit bleary-eyed, watching the likes of Rod Cameron, Edd Byrnes, or Guy Madison trying to revive a failing movie career.

My friend Fred Blosser, author and movie reviewer for http://www.CinemaRetro.com , is one of those wretched creatures– the  True Spaghetti Western Addict. Blosser, better known as a Robert E. Howard scholar, (see, “Western Weirdness, and Voodoo Vengeance: An Informal Guide to Robert E. Howard’s American Horrors“),  has seen more Spaghetti Westerns than anyone I know. He probably wouldn’t admit it (I wouldn’t either), but I’d say he’s an expert on the subject.

As something of a public service, he’s put out a book that every Italian Western fan should track down. “The Sons of Ringo: The Great Spaghetti Western Heroes,” is “an informal Readers Guide to the pistoleros, bounty hunters, mercenaries, and desperadoes of the Italian Western.”

Fred explains in the introduction, the idea for the title of the book comes from the fictional movie that Rick Dalton (Leonardo DeCaprio) makes in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time. . . in Hollywood,” “Uccidimi Subito Ringo, Disse el Gringo,” (“Kill Me Now Ringo, Said the Gringo”). “Like Tarantino’s fictitious film,” Fred says, “dozens of actual Italian Westerns were released with names like Ringo, Django, Sartana, Sabata, and Trinity in the title. These films still remain an indelible part of Pop Culture more than a half-century after they first appeared on big screens in Europe and the U.S.”

The book examines a representative section of these films, beginning with a brief overview of the genre.  Selections from Leone and Corbucci are highlighted, followed by the movies of the Sabata series, four non-series Westerns starring the legendary Lee Van Cleef, two films by “the Fourth Sergio” (Martino), two classics in the socially conscious “Zapata Western” sub-genre, an array of lesser-known Sons of Ringo, and as a postscript, five representative examples of the German Western school that paralleled the opening phase of the Italian Western.

This book is the dope as far as Italian westerns are concerned. It’s full of descriptions of films ranging from the well known, to the really obscure. If you’re a fan and are looking for a book that provides some historical context for these movies, and gives you enough info on many of the titles that you’ll be able to fake it and tell your friends you’ve actually seen them, this is the book. Don’t wait. Mosey on over to Amazon and tell them Tuco sent you. And remember: “When you have to shoot, shoot. Don’t talk.”

Available from Amazon in Kindle e-book or paper back. Click here to order.

Image result for kirk douglas as spartacus

A bad day all around.

Trump acquitted.

Spartacus found dead.

Image result for rise of skywalker

Saw the Star Wars movie.

I lost track of who was dead and who came back alive. Who was dead in real life and was brought back by CGI. Who we only thought was dead but was actually still alive. And who was really dead but showed up as a ghost.

Left feeling there there is nothing certain in this world anymore. Not even death and taxes.

Especially death.

Edd Byrnes

 

Edd Byrnes, better known as “Kookie” (as in “Kookie, Kookie Lend Me Your Comb”) died Jan. 9 at the age of 87. He died of natural causes at his home in Santa Monica, Calif. Here’s a link to his obituary. 

I actually met Kookie in 2009 at a Hopalong Cassidy Reunion, an annual event that used to be held in Cambridge, Ohio, Hoppy’s birthplace. I don’t know if they still hold reunions there. But it was a pretty nice affair with celebrities and cowboy star look-a-likes. The Lone Ranger and Tonto were there. Gabby Hayes, John Wayne, Sunset Carson were also represented.

In addition to the celebrity look-a-likes, there were some actual stars in attendance. I remember Martin Kove of the KARATE KID movie (“Sweep the leg!”) was there. Bo Hopkins, who was in Sam Peckinpah’s THE WILD BUNCH (“How’d you like to kiss my sister’s black cat’s ass?”) was there. And so was Edd Byrnes. You may ask what he was doing at a Hoppy Reunion with a bunch of cowboy actors, but the fact is aside from playing the comb-wielding Car Hop on 77 Sunset Strip, after his contract with Warners was expired, he went the way of all Hollywood cowboys from Clint Eastwood to Rick Dalton. He went to Italy and made some spaghetti westerns.

He seemed like a great guy. Down to earth and friendly. I got him to autograph one of stills he brought along from one of his Italian films (I can’t locate it. It’s somewhere in my vast file of trivia, but I think it was “Professionals for a Massacre” (a great title). He spent the entire day talking to fans, participated in a cockamamie awards ceremony, which gave awards to local members of the Hopalong fan club consisting of Procter and Gamble products. It was the cleanest awards ceremony I ever saw. Ricky Gervais wouldn’t have been allowed.

His last acting credit, according the the Internet Movie Data Base, was a TV movie made in 1999 called “Shake Rattle and Roll: An American Love Story.” His disappearance from movies and TV didn’t seem to bother him. When Kookie gave me his autograph I asked him what he was doing these days? He answered right back: “Whatever the hell I want!”

Later that night, my wife and I went back to the motel and to my surprise I saw Byrnes standing in a corner of the lobby talking on a pay phone. He didn’t seem to care he had no privacy and was talking loud enough that you could tell he was calling someone back in LA, some loved one back home, telling how the day went. He was just a guy calling home from out of town, letting them know he was okay. He even mentioned the awards ceremony, but the way he told it made it sound like a bigger deal than it actually was. I went up the elevator to my room, thinking how true that old cliche is: “How fleeting is fame.” Here was Gerald Kookson III, the friend and acquaintance of Connie Stevens, Efrem Zimbalist Jr., Clint Walker, Troy Donahue, James Garner, and many others, standing at a pay phone in a cheap motel in Cambridge, Ohio. Doing whatever the hell he wanted.

 

I always thought my rabid dislike of the morning talk shows was kind of irrational. I really can’t stand any of the morning personalities. Jenna, Joda, George, Al,  Kelly and Ryan, etc. I mean I guess they’re all right. But I just can’t sit and watch any of them. And I just figured out why. Nothing to do with them.

It’s just that back in the 1950s I was about 12 years old, and for a brief period before shows like Today became common, a local Philadelphia station (WPTZ) let a fresh new talent do a wild, crazy kind of show that had all kind of strange things going on. Like guys in gorilla suits running along the balcony of the theater where the show broadcast from, and people getting hit with pies in the face and, man,  it was total chaos.

Well the guy was Ernie Kovacs and it was his first TV show. So having that show stored deep in the inner recesses of my cranium how could I not find Al, Joda and Jenna too boring for words. Here’s a short clip from one of the shows:

 

Today on Cinema Retro I review the Blu-Ray release of The New Centurions starring George C. Scott and Stacy Keach with a script by Hollywood legend Stirling Silliphant. Silliphant in his lifetime wrote more scripts than just about anybody, but he was not only prolific he was good. He had the awards and the money to prove it.

Click here to read all about it. 

 

The paperback version of my latest novel, TRAGON OF RAMURA, is now available. It’s been available in e-book Kindle format for over a year now. I thought of keeping it that way but there have been some requests to get it out in paper, so here it is. I used Amazon’s Createspace softwear to format and publish the book as well as design the cover. It’s not the big, splashy kind of cover I’ve had on the other books, but that’s deliberate. This cover has some aspirations to being a literary kind of cover. You know, like the Scribners’ editions of Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Thomas Wolfe back in the sixties. No illustration, just the title and the author’s name.

One reason for that is that I did not want to depict the two heroes, Tragon and Yusef, on the cover. I want readers to form their own images of the characters, based on the descriptions in the story. That way each reader will have his own concept of what they look like and form a more personal bond with them.  And I wanted to try and steer away, if possible, from the pulp fiction elements from which the Tragon story rises.

Some might say this is probably a mistake in terms of attracting the kind of reader who normally buys sword and sorcery fiction. Look at all the Robert E. Howard, Karl Edward Wagner or Edgar Rice Burroughs covers, and they are filled with wild action scenes featuring muscle men swinging wicked sharp blades, and half naked ladies who really don’t seem to need rescuing all that badly. And if TRAGON OF RAMURA were that kind of novel I’d probably follow that practice. But as you may know, despite what some reviewers seem to think, I don’t really write that kind of story. That may shock some of you, but if you read my stories with any close attention, you’ll discover that the books are not about the action, the horror, the insane villains and monsters that populate these tales. There is always something more going on. Something that reaches out beyond those genre conventions. What it is is hard to describe.

TRAGON OF RAMURA, of all the tales I’ve written, attempts to go beyond the limitations of genre and say things that can never really be said. It’s about IT. Like the characters in literary fiction, Tragon is a man trying to figure out what IT is all about? Why are we here?   Who are we really? Who are the people we love and why do we love them? Who are our enemies and why have we chosen them to do battle with?

Every writer worth his salt has tried to say it, really say it. Through all the bloody battle scenes of barbaric gore, through all the black mysticism of Stygian Darkness, through all the infinite flights into stellar space, and worlds of tomorrow, and through all the safaris in Africa and bull fights in Spain, and the meaningless cocktail parties in Egg Harbor– through it all is a man, or woman, conscious, curious, and ever questing for answers. Always trying to find his True Self.

That is the essence of TRAGON OF RAMURA.

 

 

dean

About five years ago there was a TV special featuring a “live” performance of Michael Jackson via a hologram. I blogged about it back then and predicted it would be just the beginning of a whole new era of long dead movie icons resurrected in feature films via CGI. Click here to read the blog. 

It actually took a little longer to happen than I thought but this week there’s a story in the Hollywood Reporter with the headline: JAMES DEAN REBORN IN CGI VIETNAM WAR ACTION-DRAMA. There you go. Poor Dean, dragged out of his grave, apparently sold out by his family, who gave permission to Magic City films to use his likeness in the film. The movie FINDING JACK, is about the search for a dog missing in action in Vietnam. Dean’s character will play Rogan, considered a secondary character in the drama. Read the link to the news story for further details. 

The sad part of this is that the filmmakers got permission to use Dean’s image through a guy by the name of Mark Roesler, CEO of CMG WorldWide, a company that apparently handles the estates of over 1,700 famous personalities, including Burt Reynolds, Ingrid Bergman and Christopher Reeve. One of the morons involved in this travesty was quoted as saying: “Now that we have closed with this iconic figure, we look forward to rapidly closing our remaining actors.”

That’s right. Drag them all out of their graves and get them to make more money for you, ya greedy bastards. I can only hope that this initial effort with Dean will backfire by turning the public off the whole sickening idea. But I’ll make another prediction: The public will probably love it.

They say a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. But Gregory Peck does just the opposite in William Wyler’s sprawling western epic THE BIG COUNTRY. You can read my review on the CINEMA RETRO website.

". . . Shiver When the Cold Wind Blows." by [Whalen, John M.]

Want to read a creepy story for Halloween? Something to give your chills chills. Sure you do, ya little munchkin. Even better, want to read it for free? This Halloween only, my short tale “. . . Shiver When the Cold Wind Blows…” will be free for the taking on Kindle.

That’s right. A free kindle. But I warn you it’s not for the faint of heart. And if there’s something ya got a guilty conscience about, maybe you shouldn’t read it. It’s different from the other stories I’ve written. Not the usual monster hunters in the old west. Not a space opera. Not set back in ancient prehistory.

It’s the only story I’ve done set in today’s world. And that’s horrifying enough in itself. Click here to learn more about this terrifying experience. And then come back on Halloween and get your free copy.

Meanwhile, as Zacherley always said: “Goodnight, Whatever You Are.”