Saturday, January 31, 2015

the hard ride wasn't an easy ride

I watched The Hard Ride a long time ago.  I watched it again last night.  It was the opening title sequence that hooked me.  In the distance there are nineteen motorcycles coming toward you, side by side, chrome gleaming and the biker's silhouettes are clouded by the dust.  The soundtrack begins with a lone organ, soon followed by the lone voice of Bill Medley singing 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot'.  It really was a great opening for a low budget biker movie.

Sadly the rest of the soundtrack consisted of weak folk rock ballads.  It's a shame the movie didn't have the incredible sound-scape that EASY RIDER offered.  The movie had lots of panoramic biker on the open road footage, but the score brought the movie down to forgettable.  
This had the potential for a great road picture, some good ideas, but falls flat.  It's clear to see that the director was going for EASY RIDER, and yet EASY RIDER had the killer soundtrack.  EASY RIDER to me isn't that great of a flick, the writing wasn't anything special, it was just a B movie that had great vibes and connected with the audience.  THE HARD RIDE lacked the great vibes and the connection.

This movie starred Robert Fuller of LARAMIE, WAGON TRAIN and EMERGENCY! fame.  In fact, it was Jack Webb who saw THE HARD RIDE and insisted that Fuller play Dr. Kelly Brackket in his medical drama.  Fuller didn't want to at first, cause he's a cowboy at heart and had hopes of staying in the saddle.  Webb insisted after Fuller's refusal, Webb reminding him that westerns weren't doing well at that time. Fuller eventually accepted the part and the show had a nice long successful run.

In THE HARD RIDE, Fuller plays a Marine (Phil) who returns the
body of his buddy back to the States from Vietnam and finds his pal's old bike club. His friend had left him his prized souped-up chromed-out 'Baby' and from there attempts to understand the biker's life until the funeral for his friend. Phil runs into trouble with a bad-ass biker gang, who's leader wants Baby for himself, and Phil dead. That's the set-up.

This movie acquires it's 'R' rating with a couple of cheesy-cheap boob shots and poorly choreographed fight scenes. The story really isn't that bad, but the production brought the movie down to it's well deserved B-ness. There's plenty of clumsy romantic scenes as Fuller puts the moves on his dead buddy's girlfriend. It would've been better to have told a better love story, or just focus on the open road.

I have a question. Is this the first movie to interject Vietnam flashbacks?  The best flashback was Fuller carrying his buddy out of a  fire-fight, his friend crying out to him, Fuller looking down at him and then he's looking down while carrying the coffin.  It was a great transition at the first of the movie. This movie inspired the straight laced, straight shooter Jack Webb.  I am wondering if this is the movie that inspired countless Vietnam flashbacks in films that followed.

I don't really know if I'd recommend THE HARD RIDE, nor would I necessarily recommend its better, EASY RIDER.  They are both interesting B biker movie to behold.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Mr. Peepers, your mission if you should decide to accept it.

I'm in the process of revisiting the old television espionage thriller, Mission Impossible, that I used to love as a kid. Steven Hill played the Impossible Missions Force (IMF) team leader Daniel Briggs before Peter Graves took over as Jim Phelps. We associate the show with Peter Graves character, but to me, Steven Hill was better suited for the roll. Steven left the show because he was an Orthodox Jew and he wouldn't let the production work schedule force him to work on the Jewish Sabbath. I can respect that.

One surprising actor to pop up in the show's original pilot is Wally Cox. I was surprised to see Cox in a mission impossible role as a team member.  Cox was a comedian who played off his frail looking physique.  Don't let him fool you though, Wally Cox was rather athletic fellow as well an Army veteran. He gained notoriety through his Mr. Peepers television show in the 1950's.  Who knew this guy could could pull of a roll as an IMF team member who specialized in cracking-safes.

It really surprises me that the series didn't hire on Wally for the duration. His presence seems so harmless and unassuming that he could've been a great infiltrator, assassin. Cox had become frustrated with his career, always typecast as the prim, polite bookworm. He said in real life, he was nothing like Mr. Peepers. If any role came close to his real life, it might very well have been that one episode he played Mission Impossible as Terry Targo. Heck, you could've made the entire show around this unassuming athletic fellow.

This blog will self-destruct in five seconds...

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Marty and Claire

I've watched a lot of old classics in my time, but I have yet to see them all.  I've always enjoyed seeing Ernest Borgnine on film, Marty is the movie that garnered him the most attention, yet I hadn't seen it until tonight.  I noticed Netflix is streaming it, so I took the time to watch it.

I'm not much into romantic movies, but I do have some favorites.  Frank Capra's 'It Happened One Night' is at the top of my list.  I'm going to have to add Marty to that very short list.

Marty isn't a glamorous movie, this isn't Hollywood, it's a down to earth with characters that come through as believable. Today's romantic movies leave much to be desired, too much skin, always with the R rating.

To me, Marty really captures when two people find each other, those first moments when a guy and a gal are compelled by one another, when that connections made. It captures that fascination, that moment of realization that this person is 'the one'. Even though Marty was made before I was born, in another time and place, I can see a little bit of myself.  I was pleasantly reminded of those days when I first met the girl I married.  In a low key, quick pace, this movie connected with this viewer. Two thumbs up!