Thursday, April 28, 2016

Under Burning Skies: The Americano, Hombre, and Backshot

The Americano (1955, film)

You have to love low-budget RKO Pictures for always throwing in everything but the kitchen sink. In the first thirty minutes of The Americano, Glenn Ford on a trip to sell three Brahman bulls in Brazil, encounters piranhas, crocodiles, mountain lions, snakes, and a desperado named el Gato played by Cesar Romero! Silly, undemanding, pulp Western grounded by the ever reliable Ford and mucho on-location filming of Brazil that’s astounding to behold. But, without a doubt, Romero steals every scene, and as I watched The Americano I realized I would rather be watching a story about the colorful el Gato.

Film flub: Ford’s horse quite clearly changes back and forth between two different animals.

Hombre (1967, film)

Paul Newman is John Russell, reared for a period by Apaches and now as an adult would prefer to live with them. He returns to the land of the white man when his biological father dies leaving a boardinghouse to John. Traveling by stagecoach with the standard cliché of passengers (Hollywood is all but unpredictable) they are held up by Cicero Grimes (menacing perfection by Have Gun, Will Travel’s Richard Boone) and it’s up to John to lead them to safety. This socially conscious Western has aged well thanks to a strong cast that also includes Richard March, Martin Balsam, and Diane Cilento.

Trivia: The photo that closes the film is that of Jimmy Santiago McKinn captured by Apaches in 1885.

Backshot (2015, novel) by Ed Gorman

Parnell is a ne’er-do-well who has pissed off his last friend in the town of Granite Bend with his mounting gambling debts. When his corrupt boss and the woman he longs for plan to rob a judge of a wealthy coin collection, he figures he has nothing to lose by throwing in with their scheme. But then nothing goes as they planned in this authentic Western that steers clear of mythological posturing. The jacket blurb of Backshot states “in the tradition of Charles Willeford noir Westerns.” Future practitioners of this subgenre will be likened to Ed Gorman—a master of crafting Westerns dripping with raw human emotions.

Note: another superb Ed Gorman story is Relentless that I reviewed for Macmillan’s Criminal Element blog.


G. B. Miller said...

I saw Hombre. Thought it was pretty good although it was just a tad stretch of believability watching Paul Newman plan an Indian. Still, it was very cool to watch Richard Boone play against stereotype (thought he was pretty good in The Shootist as well).

Charles Gramlich said...

Gorman is always amazing

David Cranmer said...

G.B., Richard Boone was straight up awesome in just about everything he did. And, yes, Newman in the opening scenes did stretch the believe-ability factor.

That he is, Charles.