by James May
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STUDIO: Warner Home Video
RUNNING TIME: 101 Minutes
Would you like to watch a western starring Yul Brynner? How about we add Leonard Nimoy as a man hunting him and Richard Crenna as his sometimes friend? What if we base it on a novel by Louis L’amour? Would you pay to see that?
Director: Sam (Superman IV: The Quest for Peace) Wanamaker
Cast: Yul “Whatever you do, just don’t smoke” Brynner, Richard “RC” Crenna, Leonard “The Full Body Project” Nimoy, Jo Ann Pflug”ly”, Daliah “THIS IS HOW I DELIVER EVERY LINE!” Lavi, Jose Nieto, Michael Delano, Julian Mateos
Everybody wants to get they’re hands on Catlow (Yul Brynner), a thief and cattle rustler. Ben Cowan (Richard Crenna), a marshal who wants to bring him to justice even if he considers Catlow a friend, and Miller (Leonard Nimoy), a bounty hunter who has made this one personal, both spend the majority of the film trying to one up Catlow. Catlow, meanwhile, plans to rob two million worth of confederate gold from the Mexican army. Some Native Americans keep getting involved, although I’m never really sure why.
There is something about Yul Brynner that is just so easy to like, isn’t there? Hell, the guy recruited two sets of seven magnificent guys to ride into what might appear to be a suicidal missions. Given the opportunity I may have done the same. Whereas Richard Crenna is an actor that always knew exactly the amount of Richard Crenna any role required. Whether it was First Blood Richard Crenna or it was Hot Shots! Part Deux Richard Crenna, the guy always Richard Crenna’d the appropriate amount. Leonard Nimoy on the other hand felt like an actor that was never given the shot to break away from his role as Spock, the role he made legendary. The chance to see him as a villain in a western was just too intriguing. As the core trio of actors playing a sort of Good, the Bad, and the Ugly three way dance, they seem impossible to say no to. Having seen the resulting film I can tell you now, you may want to do just that.
The film opens with an attack on Cowan by a band of Apaches that ends in a save by Catlow after Cowan gets shot in the leg by an arrow. While they rest unaware, Miller gets the drop on the gang. Miller is chased off by a surprise attack by Catlow’s bootgun, a weapon exactly as silly as it sounds. Cowan and Catlow arrive in town at which point Cowan announces his arresting of Catlow. While transporting him to his sentencing their stagecoach is ambushed by Catlow’s gang. They settle in town while Miller plans to ambush them but is instead ambushed in his room by Catlow. Having seemingly stopped Miller, Catlow is caught again by Cowan who in turn is ambushed by Catlow’s gang.
At this point you might start to sense a pattern. For about half the movie these characters do this back and forth game and it gets repetitive by about the third scene. The movie avoids moving the plot forward too much until about that halfway mark and never really pays off your patience. Once the plot, featuring the gold heist and subsequent chase into a standoff get going, the movie ends. There is a bit of gunfighting in the end but nowhere near the amount expected from a western and it all occurs in an anticlimactic fashion. While the movie never really sells itself as a serious affair, it never really is much fun either. Being that it was based on a novel by Louis L’amour, it seems to me like the screenwriters tried to include too many scenes from the novel without making many of them matter. Some of the early scenes really needed to be cut or made more compact and the second half of the movie needed more expansion of the main action. I have trouble blaming the director for wanting to spend as much time with the three main actors interaction during the early parts but little of it adds to the forward momentum of the plot.
Yul Brynner seems to be having a lot of fun in this movie, and if I was basing the review just on him it would be given a decent grade. As Catlow, Brynner is without the usual stern demeanor he is known for in some of his best roles, and it’s really the only part of the film that seems to hit the right note as far as what the movie seems to be going for. Leonard Nimoy as Miller was a part of the film I most hoped would be given good space and for the most part Nimoy seems to be doing good work, but he is severely underused. Nimoy (sporting one badass beard) makes a few appearances early in the film and then vanishes until the conclusion. Truly a disappointment for us Spock fans. Of all the things this movie misses on, none is worse than the casting of Daliah Lavi in the role of Catlow’s girl, Rosita. Lavi’s method of acting seems to be to scream all her lines and be as annoying as humanly possible. While I can’t claim to have read the book, if L’amour descibed her character as a shrieking harpy then I will take back my criticism of her acting abilities.
Of all the things this movie didn’t do, it does have one thing unexpected. Nude Leonard Nimoy. Now perhaps you’d like to hear about his emerging from a bath like Prince in the When Doves Cry video (of which I thought I heard the opening notes to, but that’s not possible), but I might sound like I’m fetishizing it. And while I’d like to describe his firm buttocks tensing as he wrestles with Yul Brynner trying to assert dominance in the most primal manner, that might be creepy. Hell maybe I could tell of the briefest of sightings of Spock cock, but you may think me weird. Nevertheless, it happens, it’s best not to try to make a big deal about it.
This movie would probably be best to avoid for all but the most die hard of fans of the actors. Given a better script and better editing this might have been a fun Sunday afternoon movie, as is it’s just a dull by the numbers western that no amount of charm can save from tedium.
The cover on the DVD is about as boring as most value DVD’s with a simple image of Brynner riding a horse. The only feature on the disc is an original theatrical trailer, which is worth a look if only to see how different trailers were in the 70’s. The picture is mostly nice looking and is presented in it’s original aspect ratio, with only the occasional ugliness of the cinematography marring the presentation.
by Worm Miller
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STUDIO: MTI Home Video
RUNNING TIME: 90 Minutes
Take 1 jigger of Tarantino criminal-cool aesthetics, 1 jigger of Lynchian surreal Americana, a dash of torture porn, then pour over a standard doomed-outlaw-lovers motif in a late 90’s straight-to-Cinemax tumbler, and top it off with a twist of twist ending.
Rachel Miner, Christian Kane, Polly Shannon, Beth Grant
Billy and Betty were two fast talkin’, bank robbin’, and oddly movie literate lovers on the run, when Johnny law finally caught up with them and arrested Billy. Now seven years later, Betty busts Billy out. Still fast talkin’ and oddly movie literate, the only things standing in their way are Billy’s newfound conscience, numerous conversations on the complexions of love and the universe, and a mysterious masked Slasher with mysterious masked goals. Quoth the press kit – “A modern day Bonnie and Clyde – with a twist!”
The opening of Hide is so frothing with movie clichés it is a little painful. As anyone who has seen Pulp Fiction will find boringly familiar, Billy (Angel’s Christian Kane) and Betty (ex-Mrs. Macaulay Culkin, Rachel Miner) gobble down breakfast and chain smoke in a diner’s window-side booth while Billy espouses his “cool” theories about life. Of course, they refer to each other with cute nicknames and of course they’re Southern; outlaw lovers always seem to be. They’ve already murdered the entire diner, and finally the fuzz shows up. Furthering the Tarantino bootleg, Billy and Betty discuss the ending of Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid as they ready to burst outside, guns-a-blazin’ (when they finally do, the picture slows and freezes in a blowmage to BC&SK).
Fortunately, just as you’ll be contemplating shooting either your TV or yourself, the movie eases off the film student meta-wankery. We jump seven years ahead, when Betty busts Billy – who got pinched after the prologue – out of a prison transport van. Betty assumes the couple will pick up where they left off, but seven years in prison has changed Billy. Dude’s got regrets, yo: for the thievin’, the murderin’, and presumably for being such a derivative character. Nonetheless, the couple embarks on a journey back to the town from the opening, where it’s revealed Billy cleverly hid their bank booty.
The movie then slides from Natural Born Killers to Wild At Heart, adopting more of a Lynchian dreamlike state (complete with Billy’s tormented flashbacks). The tone shift is welcome but the film still gets bogged down in masturbatory dialogue and inane philosophizing. For example, an otherwise interesting scene where Betty leads on a gas station lowlife just so she has an excuse to attack him is ruined by inter-cutting it with Billy delivering a monologue to a dog about how they’re both dangerous animals – “You needs those chains. I know that feeling.” Readying that gun again…
Meanwhile, the “with a twist!” element surfaces in cutaway scenes featuring a masked Slasher-type who kidnaps Billy’s sister and his prison guard, then ties them to a chair and tortures them for reasons we don’t know. We also learn this masked Slasher-type has been sending Billy Polaroids of the victims. The biggest problem with this subplot, aside from being unimaginative torture porn, is that it feels like an entirely different movie instead of enhancing the one we’re already watching. It feels tacked on to appeal to a current trend.
The film’s most successful moment arrives when Billy and Betty return to the diner from the prologue, now dusty and abandoned. Billy has a flashback featuring the always fantastic Beth Grant (Extract, most recently) as a waitress who recognizes Billy and thus gets everyone killed. The scene is smart and well acted, and a bit later, in another flashback, we learn an important piece of information about Grant, which manages to bring a bit of depth and clarity to the otherwise horrible opening.
Alas, the torture porn subplot inevitably catches up and we suddenly spiral into a twist on par with Donald Kaufman’s The Three script from Adaptation. Then, in a fascinating move, after completely betraying the story by kicking us in the balls with a non-sequitur twist, the movie punches us in the dick with another fucking twist. Yup. Double twist ending! While unsatisfying and wholly stupid, the second twist at least nullifies the sheer nonsense of the first twist.
Hide isn’t a totally terrible film. The directing, though trying too hard at times, is competent, and there’s some nice desert scenery (Argentina respectably doubling for the Southwest). The film’s real standout is Kane, who at this point has mastered surly-cool, and actually being a Southerner, does not suffer from fake-accent issues Miner does (at times she seems to be doing a Holly Hunter impression). This film was always going to be derivative by virtue of its chosen subject matter, but the filmmakers simply bit off more than they could chew with their “with a twist!” The fact that Billy didn’t want to be wicked anymore, while Betty still whole-heartedly did, was enough of a ‘twist’ on the tired subgenre for me.
Don’t feel right commenting on the picture quality, as I had a screener (unless of course the actual film has the words “For Promotional Use Only” repeatedly pop up on screen). A lonely trailer was the only special feature on my disc.