Some weeks ago we held the annual summer meeting of the Finnish Western Society in which I've been the chairman for over ten years now. What we really do is publish the magazine called Ruudinsavu, meaning Gunsmoke, with articles, essays and reviews of all things western. In our annual summer meetings - this time not held during the summer, as you can see - we have a habit of watching some pretty stupid and outlandish western films, such as The Terror of Tiny Town or the Czech Lemonade Joe. This time we watched - or actually tried to watch - some five films. We really failed at three. Here's a lowdown.
The first one was Winnetou, the German-made film with Lex "Tarzan" Barker in the lead as Old Shatterhand. The scenery of the film shot in Yugoslavia was very nice and there was some nice action, but we had the film only with the Bulgarian subtitles and it wasn't even dubbed in English, so we pretty much gave up on it and went to sauna. [Edit: I fixed this bit, since it was explained to me that Barker played Old Shatterhand, not Old Surehand - just have to wonder where Karl May picked the names for his characters!]
After sauna we ate chili with tortillas and watched Alex Cox's Straight to Hell (1987), a film I'd always wanted to see, but for some reason always failed. I've liked everything I've seen by Cox (especially Repo Man and Highway Patrolman), but this proved to be a disappointment. Well, it was said to be disappointment already when it came out. There was still some pretty cool and outrageous pre-Tarantino violence and some familiar faces throughout the film. Not much sense in any sense of the word, though.
Then we tried to watch the only really good film in the bunch, the Portuguese sardine western (cf. spaghetti western) called Estrada de Palha, Hay Road in English. The story about a Portuguese translator of Thoreau trying to right some wrongs with his rifle reminds one very much of Budd Boetticher's and Monte Hellman's minimalist westerns, but it was so slow-moving the other guys didn't want to watch it. Here's the trailer, though.
Our host, Sami, had bought some Turkish pirated movies some years back and one of them was western-themed. I forgot the title already, but it was about a stupid jerk who truly loves his westerns and wears a Stetson all the time and beats the big town baddies just with his luck. Without any titles, we gave up on this pretty soon. I don't really know why we even tried. It was fun for the first 15 minutes, I guess.
The last film - and we were pretty wasted at this time - was the godawful The Legend of Alfred Packer (1980) that looks like some guys from the small town summer theatre get lost in the desert during winter and start eating each other in scenes that are lit only by candlelight. There's no word to describe this atrocity, but we did have some fun with it, especially with the beards everyone's wearing. I don't know why, but the ancient Finnish VHS cassette boasts the director of the film has won the Academy Award (actually it says he won the "Oskar", whatever that is), but I didn't know there were those for the worst films.
I think the other guys were left watching the 1994 Bad Girls, but I left home to get some sleep. It was a fun night, but not for everyone.
More Overlooked Movies here.