Monday, 18 February 2013

No.171 : Wichita

Wichita on IMDb

Off to the wild west now, or rather the ‘mild’ west as there’s not a drop of blood or even any cussing in this strait-laced affair.

We open as some cattle drovers settle down for the night with some beans and possibly gay sex. Their plans, whatever they may be, are interrupted when they spot a stranger on the horizon. They give him a cautious welcome and it turns out he’s Wyatt Earp. Although the aging actor playing him, Joel McCrea, is already 50 no one knows who he is - better get a move on Gramps or they’ll need to install a stair lift by the time you get to the OK Corral!

They bed down for the night and soon two drovers approach Earp’s bed - maybe his red shirt and neckerchief was a signal? but no! They're after his cash. They get hold of his fat bank roll but Earp is wise to the game and after recovering his cash he punches the miscreants out. He heads off to Wichita with his dreams of opening a hardware shop intact. The drovers lick their wounds safe in the knowledge that they’ll be in Wichita soon themselves, and may get their chance at some revenge.

Earp hits town and wins favour with the mayor as his plans don’t involve opening another bar - Kavos this ain't. He goes to the bank and is able to thwart the tamest robbery attempt you’ll ever see, with robbers who look more like Sunday School teachers than brigands. The mayor immediately offers Earp the job of Marshall but our man is determined to sell his buckets, goddarn it!

Fate naturally takes control however when the pished up drovers enter the town and start grappling with some overdressed whores and shooting off their pistols. A hooker and then, seemingly more importantly, a young boy get shot by stray bullets and the even mild mannered Earp has had enough. He grabs the Marshall’s badge and a shotgun and kicks some ass. Well he politely asks them to stop, if it wouldn't be too much trouble.

Now mad with power Earp bans all guns from the town much to the chagrin of local worthy Doc Black who hires two guns to take out this meddlesome Marshall. But D’oh! He’s only hired Earp’s own brothers and gets run out of town for his bother. While all this non-killing is going on Earp finds the time to picnic with a local lass half his age. Tragedy looms however when the evil Doc returns and shoots Earp’s girl’s mother. Earp feigns anger and sets out in pursuit. Can he bring the villains to justice and ride off into the sunset with his gal?

This is definitely a film of its time with nothing remotely offensive or even slightly troubling going on. The biggest crime is the shooting of the boy, who frankly deserved it for his terrible ‘Oh I'm shot' acting. It was so bad it was only beaten by the leg shaking wackiness of Lloyd Bridges in his big shoot out scene. The whores showed nothing and the drunken drovers are so disinterested, even after six month’s abstinence, that they’d rather go about shooting their guns than getting to grips with the painted ladies.

The script is dire with every western cliché present and correct. The baddies literally wear black hats as if we’d mistake our clean cut hero for any of those less than menacing characters. The romance aspect looked tacked on with ‘do you want to go on a picnic’ seemingly shorthand for ‘let’s get it on’. Of course a small peck is followed by asking permission to be married - remember that kids!

The action scenes were dreadful with our man never missing a shot and the bad guys only chalking up one whore’s arm and a 5 year old in return for 10,000 rounds fired.

Of course the film was made for more innocent times, and no doubt some people gasped when the villain twirled his moustache, but nowadays it just looks like a funny throwback to a more naive and gentle period when the good guys won and the bad guys got their just desserts.

Best Bit : "The boy’s name was Michael Jackson - he was 5 years old" - Ow!

W Score 11/23

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