Thursday, July 22, 2010

Duel At Diablo: James Garner AND Sidney Poitier. We are talking EXTREME coolness!


Duel At Diablo is just brilliant.

So, today I was avoiding cleaning my room and trying not to get sucked into spending hours trying to stump Akinator, the Web Genius (IT KNOWS EVERYTHING). Instead, I was doing something useful-- like scrolling through my personalized recommendations on Hulu.

On about the 7th page it popped up with the message: You watched Alias Smith and Jones so you might like Duel At Diablo. I was quite excited. I have been wanting to see this FOREVER! I mean: it's 60's, it's a western, it has two brilliant actors I utterly adore. How can it go wrong?!

It can't.

Well, first of all, it becomes immediately apparent that this film is going to be highly awesome when a blood-soaked knife rips through the United Artists credit:

The first scene seemed to be progressing along in a normal western way (which is NOT in any way a bad thing...KATE!) when suddenly James Garner was riding away from the Apache with Bibi Andersson on the back of his horse. They're riding through this gorgeous Utah desert (filmed on location) and this amazing 60ish score starts playing. I think my jaw literally dropped. (I had actually been worried that I might fall asleep (I was already quite tired)....NOT ANYMORE.)

This (written by Neal Hefti) is already in my top ten movie scores. I can't stop listening to it.

The score runs through the entire film. In that first scene it seems almost jarringly out-of-place, but it really fits the movie perfectly. It's a song played in every mood. It's played in victory and played in death; it just keeps playing. Completely captivating!

Also, it's perfectly written so that during the climax of the song you can ride off into battle and say awesome stuff like: "Men, here we go to gory death...or victory" without even changing the tone of your voice. The score does it all for you. ;-D

A synopsis of the film is a bit difficult! In short terms: Bill Travers is Lt. McAllister. He needs to get wagons full of ammunition across the desert (also across all the Apaches on the war-path; they aren't liking the reservation too much) to Fort Concho. He needs James Garner to be his scout (all the others keep dying off...). Sidney's just along for the ride because he's a former Army Sergeant turned horse dealer person, who may have sold the Army a few horses still unbroken and bucking everyone. (now he has to break them in during the journey, in order to get paid). Of course McAllister has only a few men...who ALL have never been in battle before. His own second-in-command has never been west of St. Louis. There's also Dennis Weaver (henceforth he will be referred to as the racist, chauvinistic, selfish, annoying jerk) who's trying to get merchandise across the desert or something. And his wife (Bibi) who recently returned from having been in captivity by the Apache. Oh, and there's this awesome Army private who wears his hat sideways...always...

Anyway, moving on to the brilliant cast:

I don't think any movie with Garner + Poitier can fail to be awesome! I just don't think the world works that way! The sun rises in the East, sets in the West; bananas are yellow, oranges are orange; Garner + Poitier are always stupendously amazingly cool.

James Garner was perfect, of course. I love him in every genre, but I always seem to think he belongs in the western. I mean, HE IS BRET MAVERICK. And he is "basically on his way to Australia"! ;-D

James Garner is one of those people who never give a bad performance. No matter what. They may have the worst role in the universe...but it still turns out awesome. In this he's just stupendously amazingly cool.

And Sidney Poitier. Well, he obviously could never be uncool! I really particularly loved the role he had in Duel At Diablo. In the 60's, Poitier so often played the role of the "strong, moral black man fighting against racism and prejudice". This was obviously huge, important and necessary-- and he was ALWAYS great-- but I so enjoy seeing him in a film where he gets to just be cool; actually, his character was written in a way that it could have been played by anyone (except not really...because WHO could be as cool as Sidney Poitier?!).

He's definitely the best-dressed man in the middle of any crazy battle against the Apaches. He can calm down babies instantly by just looking at them. AND HE PULLS AN ARROW (SHAFT AND THEN HEAD) OUT OF HIS OWN ARM WHILE STILL SHOOTING AND GIVING ORDERS. ---Guide to coolness.

And there was the racist, chauvinistic, selfish, annoying jerk. (Sorry Dennis!)

TCMDb wrongly wrote their synopsis, or at least mislead readers. (This has happened SO MANY TIMES, I almost wrote a post about it once.) It says:

Racial tensions flair when a black officer joins a Cavalry troop fighting the Indians.

Uh. No. There are some racial tensions, but they have NOTHING to do with Poitier. These are COMPLETELY confined to the racist, chauvinistic, selfish, annoying jerk who tells his wife (after she was rescued from the Apaches):

"Lots of white women have been grabbed off by an Indian, and many a decent one of them would have killed herself before she let them turn her into an Indian squaw."


"My horse is dead and you're back - shoulda been the other way around."

When he wasn't dead and there was only 20 minutes left to the movie, I began to get worried, but, no, there was no redemption for him. MWAHAHAHAHAHA!

I'm not necessarily blood-thirsty or anything, but I actually went "hehehehe" out-loud when he was dying! END SPOILER ALERT!

Oh my gosh, I almost forgot about Bill Travers as Lt. Scotty McAllister. He was really a stand-out. So often in westerns, it's the big stars who also happen to be the "outsider", "loner" characters who get all the coolness. And the Army guys are "old-fashioned" and DUMB. Not at all with this character!

SPOILER ALERT: In fact, I was quite sad to see him go! By the end though, he had so many broken limbs, bullet holes, and arrows in him-- it was getting PRETTY IMPRESSIVE! I have this theory that, in westerns, any character who bravely rides ahead in battle, shouting victoriously, maybe with lance upheld...well, he's going to be either dead or insane by the end of the movie. Poor Scotty. He went insane and then died. Very sad indeed. END SPOILER ALERT!

But really, that guy who played the second-in-command Apache-- well I simply CAN'T take him seriously. He's played a dumb headhunter on Gilligan's Island TOO many times.

Well, I don't know what else to write! I had so much to say about this film in my mind as I watched it...but now it's all forgotten (the stunning score is till running in my head though). Also, I've been drinking Mango Lemonade the ENTIRE time while writing this...and well I told you about the evilness of mangoes just a few posts ago. SERIOUSLY! ;-D

In conclusion, I just want to recommend this movie to EVERYONE. It's brilliance comes from the fact that it's not a normal good guy vs. bad guy western, but neither is it a "we must deconstruct/ruin everyone amazing about westerns" western. It's just cool.

EDIT: Oooh, I was just reading this review on Amazon and I think it PERFECTLY expresses this film:

"One of the most unusual westerns ever filmed, Duel at Diablo deals with a number of clicheish situations in a refreshing, fascinating manner. More engrossing than entertaining, the intense emotion and delicately intertwined subplots are almost hypnotically effective in holding the viewer's attention. James Garner, Sidney Poitier and Dennis Weaver headline an excellent cast. Beautiful locations and an eerie soundtrack add to the overall power of the production. This film is probably too violent for many young viewers, but will prove a most satisfying experience for western buffs who prefer gritty realism to the more common shlocky horse operas. Duel at Diablo will never be found in a listing of top westerns, but it belongs there. In fact, it holds its own in any movie library, regardless of genre."



If my review doesn't make sense, do understand that it's 4:30AM and I've been up for 20hours! THE MILLIE DOESN'T NEED SLEEP! *as my eyes are twitching and foot tapping uncontrollably to the Hefti's score* ;-D


Sophie said...

YES! I defeated Akinator on my first attempt! He guessed Audrey Hepburn instead of Deborah Kerr! WIN! ;D Thanks for introducing me to something that I will undoubtedly waste too many hours of my life one! ;D

Anyway, magnificent review! I've seen some of it...a long, long time ago with my Grandma on a Saturday afternoon - she was asleep and my attention span was short. Garner and Poitier *are* just too amazing. However...


(We can't get it over here, and that makes me sad :( )

Millie said...

Darn you, Sophie! I don't expect people to be reading my posts at 4:30am (when I post them...ALWAYS! ;-D). So, I always spellcheck/add/change sentences and whole paragraphs AFTER I POST!

You've probably missed the new and improved version! ;-D


AHAHAHA! Nice! I've conquered him a few times...but only a few! Haha!

SERIOUSLY! He's addicting!

Aww, thanks! But, as I said...IT WASN'T FINISHED! ;-D

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Did you not see what that Amazon person said?! IT'S STINKIN HYPNOTIZING! Why were you not hypnotized?! ;-P

They both are! DEFINITELY!

OH MY GOSH! How depressing! :-(((

Sophie said...

HAHAHA! Well, I'll reread, because I'm just that kind! Actually, I always do that too! I reread them in the editing section, but, for some reason, I only notice the grammatical errors and mistakes when it's been published...typical. ;D

Oh, and it's after 1 P.M. here ;D

YEEEEEEEEESSSS! But, NOOOOO! I've always disliked Westerns, despite my Mum and my Grandma both being fans. They just don't do anything for me...

I know!!! But, I have magnificent skills of detection...I WILL RETURN WITH THIS FILM, NEVER FEAR!

P.S. Your caps have a bad effect on me! ;D

Penny Carrol said...

I've never seen this movie, but after reading this you've made me want to see it!

Millie said...

Sophie: Why thank you, dear!

Haha! Exactly! Normally I just have to correct a few errors, BUT NOT ON THIS POST! The HTML was all messed up too! I had to fix that!

Haha! I don't care! ;-D

-_- I DON'T NEED TO HERE THIS. Westerns pretty much rule the universe. ALWAYS AMAZING.


AHAHAHAHA! Oh my gosh! Seriously! That was one of my blogging new year resolutions. Not, that I've actually been working to stop writing in ALL-CAPS! ;-D

Penny: Thank you so much! I hope you do! And if you do, you simply MUST tell me how you like it!

kate gabrielle said...

Ugh, thanks Millie. I had forgotten about the akinator until now.... I just spent like 20 minutes on that site (but I walked away the victor.. he has no clue who Dirk Bogarde is! Don't know whether I'm happy about that or not. ;-D)

I like the score! Not as good as MB, but pretty cool!! :)

You know I'm not usually big on westerns, but I do really like James Garner & Sidney Poitier so maybe I'll give this one a shot! :)


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