Kendra Steiner Editions (Bill Shute)

April 27, 2022

SHARP-SHOOTING TWIN SISTERS, (Spain, 1966), starring Pili y Mili and Sean Flynn

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 1:56 am

PILI Y MILI were twin blonde sisters (Pilar and Emilia Bayona) from Zaragoza, Spain, who appeared together in a number of film vehicles in their native Spain, and later Mexico, in the 1960’s. Pilar worked in film and TV until 2011 and is still alive as of this writing; Emilia (also still alive in early 2020) retired from the screen after the final duo film with her sister, a 1970 feature from Mexico, co-starring well-known Mexican actor and pop singer Enrique Guzman (I have one of his albums, featuring teen rock and roll!). These ladies could seemingly do it all….comedy, dance, singing, trick horse-riding, vaudeville-style routines. They also fake the sharp-shooting mentioned in the film’s title convincingly. They have a lot of charm and a dynamic physical presence, and this film is very much their vehicle.

Things start as they ride into a western town (probably used in other Spanish westerns too), hanging dangerously off the side of their horses in the manner of Bob Steele or Yakima Canutt. As they get the attention of the people on the street, they set up a kind of medicine show where they sell an “elixir” made by their grandfather, who’s also part of the act, from syrup and tea, and which claims to cure whatever ails you. In the first few minutes, the girls encounter two young men, the son of a local rancher (played by lanky and charismatic Sean Flynn, son of Errol) and a railroad engineer. The girls are initially put off and offended by the men, but you know as soon as the guys are shown to be basically honest people, they will eventually become the romantic interests for the ladies.

Don’t expect any extreme violence or bleak nihilism as you find so often in Euro-westerns. This one could get a “G” rating in that on the whole, it’s got an “Apple Dumpling Gang Goes West” kind of feel to it. The sheriff may be corrupt and there are cartoonish villains, but you’ll see no one shot ten times, no one spitting on a corpse, none of the usual things you’d expect from a Spanish western. However, it moves well, the sets (surely erected for some other Spanish western and given a modest re-dressing) are convincing, in convincing you that you’re in a European “movie western town” version of Corriganville with names painted on signs in front of businesses, etc., and the ladies get a lot of chances do show you their various vaudeville-style dance routines, card tricks, acrobatic skills, and comic set-pieces. After seeing the film, I’d love to have caught their act at some swank nightclub in Barcelona or Mazatlán, circa 1967.…if I could afford it and they’d let me in!

The feel of the film is a lot like a Spanish version of a Judy Canova comedy, and the soundtrack is the light-hearted “western” music you’d get in a Canova vehicle, except for when the girls are in the midst of their comic pratfalls and acrobatics, where the score offers a Spanish version of circus music, including slide whistles, cymbal crashes, and the like.

Sean Flynn does exactly what he needs to do, which is act as straight man to the ladies (it’s THEIR film, not his), show his derring-do every ten minutes or so to extricate the ladies from a dangerous situation, and provide a red herring for the cattle rustling and attacks on the ranch until we found out who is REALLY responsible. He looks great in jeans and a western shirt, he’s fit, his face and body communicate whatever emotion he’s supposed to be showing (I don’t think there is an English language version of this—I’ve never seen one offered in 35 years of collecting, but I’d be happy to be proved wrong on that point—mine is in Spanish) since he’ll be dubbed into various languages, and he radiates boyish charm. What more could you want from him?

There is an English title online for the film of A WOMAN FOR RINGO, but Flynn is not playing Ringo, he’s playing Jimmy Trevor, so that makes no sense, but certainly sounds great! Perhaps in another dub he’s named Ringo, but certainly not in the Spanish version.

I saw this film at the end of a long workday, and it was just what I needed. I could check my brain at the door and then let the magical PILI Y MILI do a western-themed nightclub act shot in a movie-western town in Almeria, Spain, with an authentic American who’d been in Western films, Sean Flynn, for a little authenticity (authenticity that would pass in Spain, that is). The version I saw did have English “fan-dub” subtitles that were more than adequate, but if you were told the plot, you probably wouldn’t even need subtitles because things are played so broadly. I did not take a bathroom break or go to the kitchen for a snack for the film’s 88 minute running time, so in terms of entertainment value, I must credit director Rafael Romero Marchent (a reliable director—this was the second of 32 films for him–I’ve seen 6 or 7 of his other films and enjoyed every one….DEAD MEN DON’T COUNT, with Anthony Steffen and Mark Damon, PREY OF VULTURES with Peter Lee Lawrence, HANDS OF A GUNFIGHTER withCraig Hill, etc.) with delivering the goods. And for a 56-year-old throwaway vehicle for a nightclub sister-act, that’s impressive. NO on the Netflix—SI  on the PILI Y MILI CON SEAN FLYNN!

Bill Shute, originally published elsewhere online in 2020

April 20, 2022

DAMNED PISTOLS OF DALLAS (Spain 1964), starring Fred Beir

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 1:47 am

DAMNED PISTOLS OF DALLAS is one of those Euro-westerns that came rather early in the cycle (this was released only weeks after FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, so its makers had their film completed before they could even have seen DOLLARS) and had no discernible Sergio Leone influence. Thus, it was a Euro attempt at doing a 1950’s or early 60’s American B-western, without the elements one expects from the post-Leone, post-Sergio Corbucci Euro-westerns. There are no twanging echoed guitars, whistling, or trumpets blaring during the theme song—-it sounds more like a sing-along you’d find in a dancehall floorshow in 1890’s Central City, Colorado, but a bit “off,” the way a song-poem record is a bit “off”. Of course, even without the music, ten seconds into this, you know it’s not American-made, the same way that you know within 10 seconds of hearing some French or German 60’s rock and roll single that the band is not from Iowa. However, since the film is dubbed in English, there are not European accents to give its origins away. It’s more the sets, the pacing, the overall ramshackle feel, the staging of the fights, the dialogue, the costumes, the grungy look to pretty much everything, and the strange mixture of more violence and brutality than you’d find in an American B-western of the 50’s and cartoonish elements that seem rooted in a Hanna-Barbera Quick Draw McGraw episode. Judge this film by either the standards of some late 50’s Audie Murphy or Rory Calhoun formula western at Universal, or judge it by the standards of some Django or Sartana film, and you’d find it wanting….a lot….but take it on its own terms (like, say, a 60’s record by the German band “The Lords”), and it will take you into its own unique world, with a kind of western play-acting based on film and pulp-novel clichés, but in the second half jumping the tracks a few times into unexpected territory, with twists and turns and a satisfying climax.

Imported American star FRED BEIR (see pic from this film, with cowboy hat) has always been a favorite of mine. Though he’s known primarily for television roles (a number of TV stars other than Clint Eastwood were used as leading players in European genre films, some before Eastwood….such as Don Megowan and Lang Jeffries…others like Beir and Ty Hardin, around the same time), Beir starred in two European films in the mid-60’s that I consider classics: the Eurospy romp MMM 83, whose soundtrack I have memorized, and the surreal ASSASSINATION, with Henry Silva. He also made a second western in Spain the same year with the same director and the same female co-star as DAMNED PISTOLS, TRES DOLLARES DE PLOMO. The actor then returned to the US to star in a western from Fox’s B-unit, FORT COURAGEOUS. Beir could be compared with a Doug McClure or a James Franciscus, and at certain angles I’m reminded of a shorter Lex Barker (who was 6’ 3”) in his non-Winnetou westerns (such as WHO KILLED JOHNNY R). Beir’s got sandy hair with a slight wave, he’s got a charm and warmth and self-deprecating quality that’s appealing, and he must have been a quick study and a reliable worker with all the TV guest shots (100+) he had over the years.

Some readers may remember his colorful but brief (he’s the murder victim) appearance on the 70’s ELLERY QUEEN TV series with Jim Hutton, an episode called “The Adventure of the Hardhearted Huckster” where Beir played a workaholic tobacco company executive who mercilessly abuses his advertising agency people, playing them against each other, and making arbitrary decisions they are expected to click their heels and agree to. The supporting cast in that was amazing, with Carolyn Jones, Juliet Mills (whose character attempts suicide), Eddie Bracken, Herb Edelman as an ex-alcoholic “serious writer” who is on the wagon doing hack-work writing advertising copy, and Bob Crane at his funniest as a butt-kissing yes-man who does an about-face every 30 seconds, agreeing with whatever changes Beir dictates (see pic where Fred’s got a moustache). It’s the episode where the solution hinges on exactly when Beir’s character ate his lunch alone in his office.

The plot in DAMNED PISTOLS involves Beir, playing Clay Stone, son of a banker, returning to his home town, where his father was just murdered, having to pick up things after his father’s death and to find his father’s killer, but finding himself in the situation where he must free the killer who is about to be executed and return him to his criminal gang in order to free a hostage who will be murdered if the killer is hanged. Stone then has the law after him for breaking out a criminal, and when he returns the hostage to the town (something they are not at all appreciative of, being downright abusive to the lady who was just freed, laughing at her when she shows the welts from her torture!), he then must go back and re-capture the killer, taking on the entire gang. There is one shocking and unexpected scene about 2/3 through that will jolt even the most jaded viewer (no spoilers here!), even though the film has a “happy ending” to some extent. The version I saw ran about 90 minutes. It starts in high gear and works its way through a number of moods including humor (the shocking scene referred to above mirrors a humorous scene a few minutes before). Co-star Evi Mirandi will remind many of Brigitte Bardot, or more accurately, her sister Mijanou. It’s also interesting to see many Spanish western regulars, such as Angel Alvarez, in roles against their usual type. I also think that Fred Beir is dubbing his own voice, which is always a plus and not that common when the imported leading man is not really a “star” whose voice would be recognized.

The print of this I viewed would, in record grading terms, be described as VG+ for the most part, except for a 10 minute sequence in the final third taken from a damaged video tape with Greek subtitles, which I’d label Fair quality. I understand that the film is available on one of those Mill Creek multi-pack cheapo DVD sets, although from the screen shots I’ve seen online, it looks like a different and inferior print was used by Mill Creek (mine has French credits and that one has Spanish credits, for instance). Spanish-speakers can find a copy of the film on You Tube, “Las Malditas Pistolas de Dallas”—the color on that version is a bit more washed out, but it’s better than nothing. Films like DAMNED DOLLARS OF DALLAS remind us how much variety there was among Eurowesterns, and I found it a pleasant way to kill 90 minutes while stuck in the house in virus-lockdown mode. Now I’m on the hunt to find Fred Beir’s other 1964 Spanish western, TRES DOLLARES DE PLOMO.

Bill Shute, originally published elsewhere online in June 2020

April 13, 2022

Stefan Grossman on Reverend Gary Davis

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 1:23 am

We should be very thankful to the great guitarist and guitar-teacher Stefan Grossman for keeping the music and the legend and the example of REVEREND GARY DAVIS (1896-1972) not just alive, but fresh and contemporary, though his many projects devoted to Davis. In fact, Grossman’s 50+ year career as a guitar teacher, rooted in the Davis aesthetic, no doubt grows out of his own tutelage at the feet of the master, as Davis himself was a powerful and unique teacher. I’ve been listening to a lot of Davis again recently (I had the Yazoo LP of his 30s sides and the one 1949 record when I was 14 or 15 and it made a huge impression on me–it’s no coincidence that my first poetry book was titled TWELVE GATES TO THE CITY), and stumbled across this fascinating video tribute to Rev. Davis from Stefan Grossman. As an overview of the music of Rev. Davis, and an introduction to the man from someone who spent much time with him in many different situations, it’s a precious document.

There is a lot of Davis to enjoy on You Tube and on the free version of Spotify, as long as you don’t mind being interrupted by ads. To some extent these ads puncture the balloon of transcendence created by a Davis performance, but on the other hand, the tacky and mundane ads just remind you by contrast what sacred ground one is treading while involved in listening to a Davis performance, and it’s hard to not get involved.

April 6, 2022

Rockin’ Country Style Volume 2 (Classics Records CD, Sweden)

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 2:42 am

1 Clyde Arnold– Black Smoke And Blue Tears
2 Billy Nix – Susie And Earl
3 Ray Smith – You Heard About Texas
4 Cal Maddox– Hey Bill
5 Billy Clark – I Saw A Dream Walkin’
6 Kirby Ladner– Money, Money, Money
7 Rose Maddox, Cal Maddox– Gotta Travel On
8 Wally Black– I’m A Country Boy
9 Don Sessions– You’re A Cheater
10 Joe Castle (3)– My Baby’s Crazy About Me
11 Wally Black– Flying To The Moon
12 Danny Brockman– Big Big Man
13 Olen Bingham– Bayou Queen
14 Rem Wall– One Of These Days
15 Darnell Miller– Back To You
16 Jack Bradshaw– Joe-Joe
17 Don Sessions– Watchin’ TV
18 Carl Phillips – Salty Dog Blues
19 Joe E. May– Don’t You Fool With Me
20 Bobby Butler – A Short Romance
21 Colman O’Neal– Town With Neon Signs
22 Luke Gordon – You May Be Someone
23 Jack Tucker– Lonely Man
24 Fred Maddox– Who’s Gonna Chop
25 Bill Hall– Let Me Love You
26 Lefty King & His Rangers*– I’m Losing You
27 Del Reeves, Chester Smith – Love, Love, Love
28 Jericho Jones – Save Your Lovin’ For Sis
29 Jimmy Dawson– Let’s Take A Chance
30 Money Lewis And The Coasters– What Do I Care

V.A.–Rockin’ Country Style, Volume 2 (Classics, Sweden) CD

 The second entry in Classics’ series devoted to late 50’s and early 60’s small label

and custom pressing country 45’s is as fine as the first: 30 tracks from mint singles, mastered loud and not neutered by noise reduction systems, including a booklet with label shots, pictures, and whatever info exists about the records and artists, often only a listing in Billboard or Cashbox. It’s like finding a box of obscure country 45’s, with the ballads and the over-produced Country-politan sides pulled out in advance.
Despite the title, every track here would be filed in the “country” section of the record store, NOT the “rockabilly” section. The tracks are rockin’ in the sense that they have a boogie or shuffle or walking honky-tonk beat, with no string (as opposed to fiddle) players or Anita Kerr-style backing singers within a mile. It’s real country.
The big names on the album are Del Reeves and The Maddox Brothers & Rose although their tracks here are obscure. The rest are folks who were hoping for the success of a Johnny Cash or a Johnny Horton or a Wynn Stewart or a Ray Price. Some jumped from label to label looking for a hit; some recorded only the one single. With some of them, it’s clear why they were not hits. Timing issues, an out-of-sync splice, slightly-off novelty lyrics, and the like can be found (not that that would bother UT readers!), but such blemishes are what makes small label music so interesting and so real. Nothing here is scrubbed or sanitized.
The album is programmed well, with nice variation in tempo and style, and with 30 big tracks, it’s like the 1961 C&W radio station of your dreams. Thanks to artists such as Clyde Arnold, Don Sessions, Joe E. May, Luke Gordon, and Money Lewis for bringing us a solid collection of hardcore 1956-62 country. Another home run from the Classics label!

(Bill Shute, originally published in 2016 in Ugly Things magazine….I was enjoying this album today and remembered that I’d reviewed it in the past, so here is that review)

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