Things are going to be changing slightly here at 5-Word over the next couple of weeks, since tomorrow is the start of the Edinburgh Film Festival. Well, the start of the press screenings at least; the fest proper begins on Wednesday with the UK premiere of William Friedkin’s Killer Joe. I’ll be going to at least two or three screenings each day so there’ll be more (probably shorter) posts appearing here for the duration. But that’s all tomorrow. For today, I bring you…
Lainie Kazan was in Playboy?
The town of Chili Verde in New Mexico has a legend. Tales tell of a stash of gold stolen many years ago and buried somewhere nearby. Local cantina owner Marguerita came looking for it a few years ago and still hasn’t found it. One day, dance-hall girl Rosie wanders into town alongside the laconic gunfighter Abel Wood – both looking for a payday – closely followed by Hard Case Williams and his gang. All four find themselves up against each other for the stash. Will any of them manage to work together, or will they all kill each other in the process?
For a movie directed by Paul Bartel, starring Divine, this 1985 western comedy is surprisingly family-friendly. Well, almost. It is certainly less racy than I was expecting considering the talent involved. There’s plenty of innuendo of course, and a brief flash of Divine’s body double’s tits but that’s about it. Apparently the script was offered to John Waters to direct but he refused since it wasn’t his own script. A John Waters western would certainly have been a sight to behold though. Bartel and his cinematographer Paul Lohmann have done a very good job recreating the classic look of the spaghetti westerns from twenty years earlier, even the film stock looks the part. Whether that was for stylistic or budgetary reasons remains to be seen, but you can’t argue with the end result. Now that I think about it, the movie shares some key plot points with Leone’s all-time greatest, The Good, The Bad And The Ugly. Giving any more away would be getting into spoiler territory, so I’ll leave it to you to spot the similarities for yourself.
Tab Hunter plays the typical Eastwood role of Abel Wood, the man with a name but not much to say. As written, he’s a fairly stock character, and Hunter doesn’t really get to do much but drink, shoot and ride his horse. Divine and Lainie Kazan get the much showier roles of Rosie and Marguerita, respectively. I don’t know what he was like on stage, but Divine’s movie characters all tended to be a slight variation on the same extravagant presence. In this – the first time he acted for anyone other than Waters, incidentally – he’s marginally more reined in than usual but still plays to his strengths. Kazan’s Marguerita gets all the best lines, but Geoffrey Lewis is the stand-out as Hard Case Williams, the overly educated bandit with a dislike of the clergy and a surprisingly multi-ethnic gang made up of a black man, a Mexican, a Chinese and a dwarf named Clarence.
This is never going to be considered a great comedy or a great western, but there is some fun to be had, particularly if you’ve been drinking. There is also the novelty of seeing such counter-culture staples as Bartel and Divine go almost mainstream – by their standards at least – and at barely 80 minutes, it is snappy enough to never outstay its welcome.