July 28th, 2007

Tuco (The Good the Bad & the Ugly)

"Four bullets for one man, that's a waste."

In preparation for the Bruce Broughton western mix, I have of course been listening to his two scores for Silverado and Tombstone. While the latter is indeed a darker cousin to the optimistic former, both are primarily written in the style of the old school, classic western score, as perhaps most essayed in a most iconic manner by Elmer Bernstein's The Magnificent Seven and Jerome Moross' The Big Country. As a result, I have been listening to those scores and several other more traditional westerns, not to mention going back to the well and pulling out my Aaron Copland records.

Ironically, while viewing the very traditional Silverado may have been the impetus for my current western kick, my tastes tend to gravitate me towards the darker areas of the genre, and I found myself quite enraptured by Deadwood, which certainly deflates most of the western tropes. I have also finally gotten around to mixing up some of what's on my Netflix queue.* One such title was Da Uomo a Uomo, or Death Rides a Horse.

The revenge story is a fairly straightforward one, and one that has been a standard of the western genre since its inception. The twist here is that Death Rides a Horse is not one, but two revenge stories intertwined with one another. Bill (John Phillip Law) witnesses his mother and sister brutally raped and murdered as a boy, and now that he is a man, he wants revenge. Ryan (Lee Van Cleef), on the other hand, has spent the last fifteen years in jail and is after the same gang because they cheated him out of his share and left him to take the heat. Bill is angry and passionate about his vengeance, while Ryan is cold and calculating. The contrast between the skilled but naive Bill and the world-weary Ryan is the backbone of the film, neither one really trusts the other, but often must depend on the other in order to have their justice.

Death Rides a Horse is not a great film. Giulio Petroni's direction is sometimes very sloppy and Luciano Vincenzoni's plotting a bit convenient, but despite the horrible dubbing and Law's wooden performance, the film ultimately ends up being very satisfying because of Van Cleef, the right quota of often well-done western action and Ennio Morricone's brilliantly pulsating score, which yielded one of his most unusual themes (you've heard it in Kill Bill Volume 1 when Uma Thurman faces off against Lucy Liu). Indeed, the score is perhaps the best single element of the film, propelling it forward and adding a mythic layer to the story.

While I am a great fan of Sergio Leone's westerns, the DVD of Death Rides a Horse is exactly why I have a hard time getting into other Spaghetti westerns... they are often in really bad shape. This disc looks and sounds godawful, with the Techniscope frame terribly cropped (often events happen just off screen making it difficult to follow the action), the sound is hissy with a cramped dynamic range, and the whole affair apparently taken from a faded, dirty sixteen millimeter print, giving the picture a very muddy apperance. I'm satisfied with a decent, no-frills transfer, as was done with Tonino Valerii's brilliant Sergio Leone parody/homage Il Mio nome è Nessuno (My Name is Nobody), but I actually found it hard to watch this film because of the condition it was in.

* I have no idea where the third disc of I, Claudius is, however, which is irksome as I was really looking forward to seeing more of that show. I ended up reporting it lost/damaged. This ensures that the missing disc will show up very shortly, undoubtedly as soon as the replacement arrives.
Egon (Ghostbusters)


While the cable modem was indeed quite fast and most relieving to have, the cord was a real pain to navigate around. I kept knocking things over and having to toss things aside in order to make room for it... I was not helped that the included ethernet cable was only ten inches long, which meant that I wasn't just moving the cable around, but the modem itself. Naturally, this meant that I accidentally hit the "Internet Off" button that is inexplicably located on the modem fairly often (melancthe observed that such a switch rather defeated the purpose of having the modem in the first place; I am inclined to agree).

I went out today and bought myself a new wireless router. And I am once again typing this to you completely unfettered the ethernet cable, but this time not dependent upon anybody else's public network. Once again my whole "Better living through technology" credo is borne out (I have found that the phrase is also the name of an organization that provides educational technology for people with disabilities).

Speaking of better living through wireless technology, the new phone is colossal improvement over the old one. I can actually make and receive calls in my apartment again, which makes me quite relieved. Furthermore, I tried pairing the Bluetooth headset I had with the phone and found that the results with the new phone were much better than on the other one. Nobody has yet complained about the sound quality, and there is no way around the fact that it really makes life a whole hell of a lot easier.

Bluetooth has caused more people to come around to the fact that hands free devices are just a better way to communicate in general; I started using the headphone in for my cell phone several years ago for car use and found that I just preferred it to holding the phone to my ear in general. I would therefore carry my headphone with me at all times, which meant another cord to get all tangled. Now, no cords and no hassle; the Bluetooth fits easily in my pocket (I don't wear it all the time like those yuppies on the street that look like Locutus of the Borg), only when I'm using it) and the answer features are fantastic. I love Bluetooth.

I'm off to jailnurse's for dinner tonight.
  • Current Music
    Bruce Broughton: Roughing It