Movies · Stuff You Should Know

Workin’ for the (freeview) weekend

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Good news, everyone!  DISH has bestowed upon us a “freeview” weekend of the Epix movie channel…and that’s always most welcome here in the House of Yesteryear because while I’ll admit their film offerings may suffer from a mild case of same-ol’-same-ol’ (we’re only getting the free weekend because Epix is promoting a new series entitled Deep State) there is one saving grace to having free Epix.  It’s called…the Vault.

vaultEpix’s On Demand has a section called “Vault”—it’s crammed with a lot of public domain titles (so the prints are iffy at best) but they sprinkle in a few goodies now and then to break up the monotony; I liken it to hunting around for treasures in an old record or book store.  For starters, I’m always on the lookout for a movie—any movie, provided that it’s a western and in color—to unspool for the Laird and Master here in Castle Yesteryear (that would be Dear Ol’ Dad) in the evenings.  I found a little over two dozen sagebrush offerings for mi padre (that ought to keep him occupied for the next two weeks) though I had to whittle this number down initially because I accidentally downloaded a few monochromatic oaters (I just deleted these after checking with the [always reliable] IMDb).  I have no explanation for why my father has an aversion to black-and-white movies…but I’m starting to question what Mom has always insisted about me being his flesh-and-blood.

To give you an example of the fine evening cinematic entertainments we enjoy here at Rancho Yesteryear, Thursday night’s feature was a little offering called Arizona Bushwackers (1968).  It’s an aggressively average oater, though it boasts a cast that would make any classic movie maven’s heart skip a beat: Howard Keel, Yvonne De Carlo, John Ireland, Marilyn Maxwell, Scott Brady, Brian Donlevy, Barton MacLane, and many others.  I knew of the movie only by reputation, but I did remember that Bushwackers features a silver screen legend (James Cagney) doing the narration at the beginning.  So I say to Mom: “I’m not going to tell you who it is…I’ll let you guess.”

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Marilyn Maxwell and Howard Keel in Arizona Bushwackers (1968). (The still’s in black-and-white but the movie isn’t.)

Ten minutes into the movie, she’s stumped: “I don’t know the narrator—who is it?”  When I gave her the answer she responded: “Oh…I didn’t recognize him without his gangster voice.”  Ninety-five percent of the time, she and Dad don’t have any problems with the movies I schedule…but every now and then, there’ll be one that meets my father’s displeasure.  (McCabe and Mrs. Miller [1971]?  He hated that one.  Too morally ambiguous for his tastes.)  This usually results in my borrowing of that hilarious line of theatre manager Emory Parnell in It’s in the Bag! (1945): “You understand—we don’t make these pictures…we just show them.”

thunder3There were some interesting items in the “Vault”: a B-Western here and there (I found a Texas Rangers programmer along with a Range Busters), a silent or two (a Lon Chaney and a D.W. Griffith I’ve not viewed), and some documentaries (I’m a sucker for documentaries)…but the pleasantest surprise was finding Rain Without Thunder (1992), a movie I caught on Hulu back in 2009 (I did a write-up here) and have been looking for a physical copy ever since (I don’t think it was ever released to DVD…but don’t hold me to that). I’m also stoked about the downloads of The Woman of the Town (1943—I have not seen this Claire Trevor starrer) and The Passion of Anna (1969—Bergman!).

DISH didn’t promote this…but we’re apparently also getting a free glance at Showtime/The Movie Channel/Flix along with our Epix, and I found a couple of movies that piqued my interest such as Paranormal Activity (2006—yes, I’m the one person who hasn’t seen it) and Life During Wartime (2010).  (I also downloaded Star Trek [2008]—I’ve seen it, but it’s been a while.)  So there’ll probably be a review or two of some recent flicks on the blog within the next month in case you were curious.  Pass the popcorn!

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