The Bad, The Bad and the Bad

FOUR FOR TEXAS is the Aldrich movie which sent him running back to hagsploitation. Apparently he didn’t have a good time with Frank & Dino. Frank & Dino were enough to make Bette & Joan look like a rest holiday. Frank & Dino together in a western is altogether too much of a disputably good thing, I think — it matters in RIO BRAVO that Dino has Duke to balance out the goombah energy with some more “authentic” movie-cowboy attitude.

Talk about spaghetti westerns. In fact, the first ten minutes of this one, a stagecoach raid and a series of reversals with the two stars pulling guns on one another over a carpetbag full of loot, plays quite Leonesque. Cynical, amoral, with a cold-hearted attitude to the little guy, who in this case is Percy Helton so maybe we can say it’s justified? But it’s the “zany” Leone of MY NAME IS NOBODY, all trick opticals and flippancy. Still, it really feels like a miniature dry run for the Italian west, just as VERA CRUZ feels like a more coherent and successful early clue to the new direction.

Then, however, the film gets REALLY bad. It follows the basic pattern of anything that’s died: stinking, bloating and decaying before your watering eyes. Sure, lots of familiar Aldrich faces show up, including V. Buono and that irritating va-va-voom fucker from KISS ME DEADLY. Who tragically doesn’t get blown up in this one.

Admittedly, I was watching a 4:3 DVD (why do such things exist?) but once the movie moves into town and indoors, the effect becomes very televisual, apart from one or two eyeball-searing sets. I can’t be fair to the film having seen it in the wrong ratio, but somehow I don’t WANT to be fair to it.

“Ekberg! Dead ahead!

“Why does this film sound like Batman?” asked Fiona, wandering in like a small child. I looked up Nelson Riddle, composer — her diagnosis was spot-on. I could wish it sounded EVEN MORE like Batman, had the Batman TV theme tune, in fact, and maybe starred Adam West as Batman. Was Buono ever a Batman villain? Any speculations as to his probable villain name are almost certainly going to make me sound fattist, and I’m not skinny enough for that look.

(Here’s how you figure out your Batman villain name: you pick something you always do, and put “‘er” on the end of it and “the” on the front.)

New Batman villain: The Flasher.

The movie is written by a woman, Teddi Sherman, a western specialist. Aldrich liked to selflessly claim the blame for the script also, and IMDb has the great W.R. Burnett playing some kind of wisely uncredited writing role.

The women are all costumed as if for a porno western.

Charles Bronson is maybe the only performer to emerge with credit, and it makes sense that Leone selected him.

Maybe watch the first reel but then avoid avoid avoid.

Everyone’s in it! I really found myself hating the leads. Phonetic transcriptions of Ursula Andress’s line readings would be the only way to get any pleasure out of this one.

“I’m glat you feels zat way. Main who worry about little sings bo-arr me.”

“I like main whoh wurr about me.”

“I was afraid off der disaternoon you may sink my gown wuss too raivealing.”

“Ope erhaps you fail like most American mendoo.”

It’s not clear that the Three Stooges are CORRECTLY UTILISED.

FOUR FOR TEXAS stars Tony Rime; Matt Helm; the killer nun; Honey Ryder; Paul Kersey; Edwin Flagg; Daggoo; Pablo Gonzalez; ‘Knuckles’ Greer; ‘Moose’ Malloy; Lt. Pat Murphy; Dehlia Flagg; Wilma Lentz; Grandma Walton; Alamosa Bill; Miss Hearing Aid; Dr. Lehman; Mr. Peevey; ‘Dum-Dum’ Clarke; Og Oggilby; and Not Themselves.

10 Responses to “The Bad, The Bad and the Bad”

  1. Simon Kane Says:

    Was Buono not King Tut?

  2. Victor Buono was KING TUTT in many a Batman episode.

  3. Matthew Clark Says:

    Victor Buono’s villain on Batman was King Tut.
    I remember reading in some long ago article about Charles Bronson, that this film ran at a European theater for a year, because of Bronson’s presence in this film.
    I’ve always like the opening scenes of this film. The rotating wheel of the over turned stagecoach. The back and forth between Frank and Dino. The gritty look of the shots. But, from what I understand of the production, big stars Frank and Dean didn’t want to spend anymore time out on location, and appear to have over ridden Aldrich and had the production moved into the studio and the back lot. Similar to what Dino would do with his Matt Helm films, he didn’t want to travel to locations and the final production looks more like an TV show and not a major film with an A level movie star.

  4. ehrenstein47 Says:

  5. Glad to know that my instinct a few years back (watching the first 10 minutes and then refusing to watch the rest) was the SHADOWPLAY-approved (TM) viewing method!

  6. Just read Joan Didion’s John Wayne article written about The Sons of Katie Elder. The portrait of Dino on location is fairly affectionate, but he does seem to be complaining a lot about being away from home. I guess the golf at Durango and Churubusco wasn’t up to snuff.

    swiley193 on Twitter just informed me about Buono’s Batman role too, but typo-ed it as “Kong Tut” – an improvement, I’d say.

  7. Tony Williams Says:

    A full comedy film was not Aldrich’s forte. William Smith will later be the saving feature for THE FRISCO KID. Buono was Sinatra’s revenge casting for Peter Lawford whom he always referred to as “Fat Boy” when RFK advised JFK not to stay at Sinatra’s Florida residence” Instead, he stayed with The Bingle.

  8. And then there’s ALL THE MARBLES…

  9. ehrenstein47 Says:

    It should have been called “Lost His Marbles”

  10. Buono also played villain in one of the Matt Helm films, and Riddle’s long resume included arrangements for Sinatra.

    Never caught this one, but always curious about the Three Stooges segment. Since Columbia didn’t cut them in on the hugely profitable TV sales of their shorts, they monetized their new fame with personal appearances, a string of super-cheap kiddie movies and other ventures. But they never quite cracked the A or even major studio B level, aside from the lush misfire “Snow White and the Three Stooges” and a fleeting cameo in “Mad Mad Mad Mad World” … and this, so far as I know.

    I recommend “Snow White and the Three Stooges” to you as a family film for intensely sarcastic families. Big money was spent and somebody made an effort to give the aging knockabout comics viable new schtick. But it was also meant to be a starmaking vehicle for an Olympic skater, so there are production numbers on soundstage ice, odd attempts at “drama”, and a song, “There’s a Place in the Sky Called Happiness”, calculated to make the Stooges’ base of preteen boys cringe. There’s single action scene where the prince is plausibly heroic in battle, but it’s too little too late. And when the boys are called upon to get physical, the bits aren’t even up to the level of what they were doing in their B&W kiddie features.

    For all the expense everything is off the mark, looking like a parodic film-within-a-film. I saw it in a theater as a child, and it was an early clue that grownups didn’t always know what they were doing.

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