The Video Vacuum (thevideovacuum) wrote,
The Video Vacuum
thevideovacuum

LEGENDS OF THE SILVER SCREEN: JACK PALANCE

Jack Palance famously won his Best Supporting Actor Oscar for playing Curly in 1991’s City Slickers. True Palance fans know he SHOULD have won for his back-to-back performances in Batman and Tango and Cash. (Not to mention an Emmy for Ripley’s Believe It or Not.) To make up for that oversight, I’m proclaiming Jack Palance a Legend of the Silver Screen.

First up is…

CHE! (1969) * ½

This is a movie about the dude who sold a million T-shirts. It’s not that two-part four hour movie Soderbergh made a few years back. It’s so dull that it often feels like a four hour movie though.

If you’re looking for a history lesson on Che Guevara, this won’t be of much help. All we learn about him in this movie that he hung out with Castro, did a lot of marching, had asthma, and that’s about it. When he thinks Castro has gone soft, Che hightails it to Bolivia, which eventually leads to his downfall.

Director Richard (Conan the Destroyer) Fleischer’s use of on camera interviews doesn’t really work. I don’t know if he was going for a Citizen Kane feel or what, but the scenes of eyewitnesses talking directly to the camera feel like filler more than anything else. It doesn’t help that all of the dramatic scenes in the movie are dull and mostly take place in somebody’s living room. Plus, Fleischer never ever shows Che’s face being put onto a T-shirt, so epic fail for that.

As Che, Omar Sharif is almost as funny as he was in Top Secret. He’s funny because he’s so lifeless that you can’t tell why anyone in the world would want to make a movie about his character. In fact, he shows more emotion in his autopsy scenes than he does in the rest of the movie. The only cast member with any fire in his belly is Sid Haig as one of Che’s upstart followers. He’s good when questioning Che’s methods and standing up to him. The movie only really comes to life really when Haig is on screen, and sadly he’s not on screen very much.

Of course, Che! is revered in bad movie circles just because it features the woefully miscast Jack Palance playing Fidel Castro. Covered in bronzer, a bad beard, thick glasses, a fake nose, and smoking a big cigar, Jack looks like he’s wearing a cheap Halloween costume. Even funnier is the fact that he doesn’t even bother with a Spanish accent! At all times he just sounds like Jack Palance. Believe it or not.

If you want a concise history of the real Che Guevara, you won’t find it here. I’m sure if that’s what you really wanted, you could always Wikipedia him. However, if you want to see a great actor floundering in a bad costume, bad make-up, and saying bad dialogue in a bad movie, then Che! should fit the bill.

Our next film in the Palance-A-Palooza is…

CAN BE DONE AMIGO (1974) **

Bud Spencer stars as a horse thief who helps an orphaned boy return home. When they get there, they learn the place has been taken over by the crooked sheriff. Bud eventually agrees to help the boy take back his ramshackle abode. Meanwhile, Jack Palance is in hot pursuit of Spencer because he knocked up his sister. Jack forces Bud into a shotgun wedding, which further complicates matters. In the end, Bud finds out there’s oil on the kid’s property, which leads to a big McClintock style brawl. (Except instead of mud, it’s oil everyone’s fighting in.)

Can Be Done Amigo (I think the full title is “It Can Be Done Amigo”, but the pan and scan transfer is so bad it cut off “It”) is a decent enough Spaghetti Western comedy. If you’ve sat through enough bad Spaghetti Westerns like I have, you learn to appreciate one that at least tries to be a bit different. Most of the film moves at a snail’s pace, but the interaction between Bud and the kid keeps you watching. There’s a funny running joke where Bud puts on his reading glasses every time he’s about to kick somebody’s ass. But other than that, most of the jokes fall flat.

Jack is pretty good too in a comical performance. It’s funny because his voice is dubbed in by somebody else sometimes. Most of the time, Jack speaks in his normal voice, but every so often, he’ll be speaking in a southern or even a Spanish (!?!) accent. Because of that and that alone, Can Be Done Amigo is at least good for a (unintentional) laugh.

AKA: It Can Be Done Amigo. AKA: Bulldozer is Back Amigo. AKA: Hallelujah Amigo. AKA: Saddle Tramps. AKA: The Big and the Bad.

And our final Jack flick is…

WELCOME TO BLOOD CITY (1977) **

A group of strangers wake up with no memory of who they are, only that they are convicted killers. They make their way to Blood City, a bizarre western town where Jack Palance is sheriff. The strangers are made to be slaves to the citizens, but one of them (Keir Dullea from 2001) defies the rules and kills a man, which makes him an honorary citizen of the town. Eventually we learn that Blood City is just an elaborate Virtual Reality simulation used to train assassins. One of the scientists monitoring the experiment (Samantha Eggar) falls in love with Dullea and doppels herself into the program, which could jeopardize the whole simulation.

Welcome to Blood City is an odd mix of western and sci-fi. It’s pretty much a riff on Westworld, but instead of Yul Brynner, we have Jack Palance playing more or less the same kind of heavy he played in countless westerns. Despite a semi-interesting only-in-the-70’s kind of premise, Welcome to Blood City wears out its welcome somewhere around the halfway mark. While it’s not entirely successful, it is watchable; well… for a while at least.

Keir Dullea’s performance anchors the film. He has a rebellious spirit that endears him to the audience. The best scenes in the whole movie come whenever he’s messing with the confines of the town’s silly “rules”. And Samantha Eggar isn’t bad either. I really liked the scene where she watches her computerized self bone Dullea on TV. And Jack does what he can. His part is kinda underwritten and he gets to say some goofy dialogue, but he keeps his dignity for the most part.

AKA: Blood City.

Next week’s Legend: Bruce Willis.

Tags: .legends of the silver screen, c, comedy, drama, sci-fi, w, western
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