Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Viva Zapata, Rio Bravo, The Pharaohs and In Bruges

I had a dreadful first part of the night, the consequence of having stayed up until 2 am plus for five nights in succession to watch the cricket and the self imposed pressure to start to rise early again to recommence the swimming exercise. It was also very cold with growing anxiety about going away for Christmas. I must commence Christmas activity planning now. Another top of the list activity is a haircut. I will test run the car to Seaburn shortly followed by the hair cut.

I did not leave the house until about 11.30 and passing the barbers noted that it looked empty and parked the car just outside a found a man waiting who thought I was back as the notice on the door said back in ten minutes. He decided to go over to the Wouldhave for a pint thus enabling me to take the first place when the barber returned, the female owner or part owner I think and we had a good chat before the man who had gone for the pint returned. Soon two others joined so I was fortunate. I decided to listen to Prime Minister Question time en route to Seaburn where I encountered the first of query of the day in that I could not find the key to the petrol cap but fortunately the spare was in the shoulder bag at the back of the vehicle. I will need a good search to see if the original key is lost.

I did the shop before going back to the petrol station. I managed to get the salad, some ice cream and lemon for the pancakes and filled up with petrol earning the £5 voucher so all together I will have around £35 of Morrison vouchers after next week’s shop. Christmas is rapidly approaching and tomorrow is Christmas sort out day. It was time to make my way back having established that all the main roads in Shields through to the Marriot were excellent. The problem remained the cold and the iced covered pavements. I was to test this out on arrival back in Shields at Asda for the Cash machine. I could not member my pin using the new pin for new AA Card and also using the Pin for the TV which is closer to the Bank card. I remembered at the second attempt and withdrew £50. The next visit was B and Q where I purchased the wrong batteries for the electric door but managed to get one return. I then went to the adjacent Halfords where success I got the correct battery which also works and also purchased a spare. I have hesitated booking the car service which is required because of the continuing state of the pavements. I will wait until the next couple of days with rain and better temperatures forecast.

It was then hoe for a late lunch and some films on TV. I am very satisfied with HD development and having the Sky plus box with the ability to record up to two performances at the same time and to pause a current programme and the continue rewinding back to the break point. There are other extras which I will learn. Usually I promise myself to go through manual and never do until the need arises. This time I will explore what is available. It has been one of better decisions of recent times. I am eating too much and not undertaking exercise. I must correct this before doing further damage to myself

I enjoyed watching Rio Bravo again especially I did not remember how the story unfolded. This is a film with seven primary characters. John Wayne plays the State Sheriff John T Chance, a man of strength and integrity. Dean Martin, the singer, plays the drunk town sheriff who gets the shakes when he sobers sufficiently to hold a gun. The cause of his condition is a woman who we do not meet. When the film opens Dude is being humiliated by the brother of a wealthy rancher.. Joe Burdette, the town baddie tries to make Martin go for a coin in a spittoon which Wayne kicks away. There is a fight in which Joe shoots a bystander who dies and goes off to another saloon knowing that no action will be taken against him because of the weak local sheriff and an indifferent and afraid local community.

However Wayne goes after him but a stalemate eschews as Burdette’s men hold fire on Wayne. Martin who attempting to become sober then surprises by intervening with the consequence that Wayne is able to render the murderer unconscious and the two law men take him to jail. Enter Walter Brennan who acts as the heroic elder jail keeper with a limp which severely affects his mobility. The films reminds of High Noon and several others. Later I find out that this 1959 film was remade in 1967 as El Dorado and then in 1970 as Rio Lobo. I have seen these films in the past.

The wealthy brother makes it clear through his men that he wants his brother released or he will remove the two men who are the witnesses. In the meantime Wayne has an exchange with an attractive female card players Angie Dickineson, no less, who fits the description of the female assistant to a wanted card sharp. She has a hard time convincing Wayne of her innocence of the crimes committed but becomes a key player on the side of the good against the bad. He also encounters the young stud fast gun wise enough not to get involved or prove his ability played by teenage heart throb of the day Ricky Nelson. He later joins the goodies. Dean Martin has a drunken relapse and period of self doubt and Wayne mages to get himself caught before they turn tables and a shoot out occurs during which the wealthy brother accepts he had failed with quite a count of dead hands as a consequence. Law and justice triumph..

A second western type of film of historical significance is the Marlon Brando portrayal of the Mexican peasant revolutionary Emiliano Zapata who had a Nahua Spanish background and was the ninth of ten children. The country had a feudal structure with politically conscious land owners who dispossessed the peasants of their land forcing them to work for them in almost slave conditions. Although Zapata took the side of the peasants his family were landed and had supported the ruling system.

He was drafted into the army at one point but his skill with horses led him to be employed with men of power although his support for the peasants continued and he was elected as a local council member and then as President to represent and further their rights. This was only in relation to the family community where he campaigned for several years without success. It was only after the lack of progress that he turned to the use of force, building up his small army. He was in his early 30’s when he supported a rival to the existing regime. A man who appeared to support the cause of the peasants. After a battle in which Zapata distinguished himself the former President of the county fled and the new man did introduce elections and some land reform. But it was all too slow for Zapata who made more extreme in his demands after the influence of the writings of Peter Kropotkin and Flores Mag√≥n, anarchist syndicalism thinkers. Zapata rose rapidly into power becoming the Supreme Chief of the Revolutionary movement of the South. In fact there were several rebel groups but his was well funded and became ruthless in the standards he required from his followers.

He fought the government city by city until 1919 when he fell into a trap and was killed his body riddled with bullets. The film suggests that it was with his death that the legend was established.

Questions are still asked as whether he was just another Mexican bandit or a significant revolutionary. What has made him into a hero to this day is that he continuously fought on behalf of the rights of the peasants. He has remained an important cultural figure. Today Mexico is ravaged by ruthless killer gangs taking drugs into the USA, to an extent they have cleared populations from border towns and made parts of Mexico extremely dangerous.

The film Zapata was made in 1952 by Elia Kazan and Darryl F Zanuck and has Anthony Quinn playing his womanising self interested brother. The film charts his rise to power and integrity, a love and marriage relationship with the daughter of a merchant although the film also indicates that his time at home was limited. In addition to the performance of Brando which led to an Oscar nomination John Steinbeck, the great novelist, was nominated for his script with its emphasis on the way power corrupts..

A very different form of power was that of the Pharaohs of Egypt belief that their was an after life which would be more enjoyed the more gold one possessed at the time of departure, hence the placing of their wealth in the great tombs designed in such a way that it would be difficult for robberies to take place with false passages, traps and various devices. The film tells the fictional story of one Pharaoh played by Jack Hawkins who take a second wife Joan Collins who plots to get her hands on some of the gold and jewels for herself.

In order to try a thwart potential tomb looters Hawkins uses a captured tomb designer and builder on the understanding that when the work is done the rest of those captured will be freed including the man’s son. The builder along with a group of volunteers will die within the tomb so that its secrets will not be revealed. The building takes decades using thousands of volunteers on the promise of everlasting life but who grow weary when the years of hard work turn into decades. Eventually Collins grows impatient and works out a plot to kill the legitimate son and heir, his first wife the boy‘s mother, and then Hawkins. She is successful except that the son escapes and then she is tricked by the high priest into setting off the mechanism which entombs her, himself and the others so she will get her wish and gain access to all the gold.. The Priest also lets the builder, played by James Robertson Justice, escape with his son and the rest of the people.

The film was produced in Cinemascope in 1955 and had the largest cats of extras in the era of Ben Hur, the Ten Commandments and the Robe. It lasts some two and half hours and was Directed and Produced by the great Howard Hawks with the story written by another great American writer William Faulkner. Dmitri Tomkin provided the music.

I will also mention seeing In Bruges that great black comedy with Colin Farrell, Brenden Gleeson and Ralph Fiennes which won several awards and about which I have written extensively in early 2009 when the film was releases.

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