by Louis Fowler
Most weeks, I review more DVDs than the Indy can fit into print. You can look for extra write-ups here on the IndyBlog.
Whenever we think of Billy the Kid, the first image that comes to mind is that of the good-looking young man with a devil-may-care grin and a devil-blessed quick draw. This is mostly thanks to movies like The Outlaw, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid and, most recently, Young Guns. In 1972, however, director Stan Dragoti urinated all over that cinematic legend with his grim and gritty (revisionist?) western Dirty Little Billy, most famous for its tagline that proudly says “BILLY THE KID WAS A PUNK.” And, as portrayed by Michael J. Pollard, he sure as hell is! This William H. Bonney is a true slacker of the frontier, a downright scummy, shiftless loser who refuses to lift a hand around the failing farm, instead opting to booze it up at a saloon presided over by a local tough who intimidates and bullies everyone in his path. This should have been the de rigueur portrayal of Billy for years to come, but I guess we prefer our outlaws whitewashed by history and good-looking for the lobby poster.
It’s kind of weird that, as much as Hollywood loves to co-opt a good idea, it's never really capitalized on Italian comedy superstars Bud Spencer and Terence Hill, famous for the Trinity movies, among others, into American success. Their comedy is pretty universal: the big bearded brute and the thin blond charmer getting into all kids of wacky mix-em-ups, with a heavy reliance on physical comedy. As a matter of fact, the closest we came to our own Spencer-Hill flick was 1979’s hilarious Hot Stuff, starring Burt Reynolds regulars Dom DeLuise (who also directed) and Jerry Reed as two well-meaning Miami cops who, in an effort to stop the shutdown of the force’s robbery department, open up a crooked pawn shop to entrap local hoods. Gangsters and the like get embroiled in the mess, with a slapstick happy ending for good measure. Co-written by crime novelist Donald Westlake, Hot Stuff is also the sweatiest movie I’ve ever seen, with just about everyone baking under the Florida sun, soaking wet with perspiration. You don’t see that too much in the movies anymore.
For years I have confused Nick Mancuso’s Blame It On the Night with Rick Springfield’s Hard to Hold. Both were melodramas about jaded rock stars dealing with their feelings and both were in regular HBO rotation when I was kid, although I don’t think I had ever really watched either one in anything but passing. With Blame It On the Night recently released on DVD, however, I can say: One down, one to go. Night stars the aforementioned Mancuso as Chris Dalton, the biggest rock star in America. He’s also in the middle of a huge tour. Between the parties and sound-checks and all, he discovers that he has a rigid, stuffy 13-year-old son in military school. He stupidly takes the kid on the road and the mother of all personality clashes ensue, as you could have probably guessed. It’s a pretty manipulative movie, tugging on my heart-strings way too many times than I would like to admit, all with a great mid-’80s soundtrack to embarrassingly go with it. In retrospect, I actually feel like I don’t even need to see Hard to Hold now. Your point, Blame It On the Night!