I cut my teeth on Western movies and Sci-Fi films. What, you think I was watching estrogen-charged tearjerkers like An Affair to Remember when I was nine? Bushwah! I wanted action and gunplay . . .
Before CGI, Sci-Fi effects were so cheap and obvious that the allure was gone with the wind. By the time I was eight, I could pretty much tell that the goofy spaceship thingy attacking the 50 Foot Woman was suspended by fishing line, probably ten pound test Stren. By the age of ten, Ming the Merciless bore a suspicious resemblance to Charlie the egg roll man at the Yung Lung Noodle Shop.
At twelve, I just knew that Robby the Robot was actually Bibendum, the Michelin Man in drag. The weapons were cheesier than a Domino’s pizza. There were disintegrators, disruptors, discombobulators, death-rays, beams, particle accelerators, but not a 1911 in sight. Well, the last may have been a good thing.
Ah, but Westerns. Westerns were better. They were simple and they had great guns. The good guys were really good and the bad guys were really bad. The virtuous schoolmarm was really virtuous. Plus, she looked way better than Mrs. Goldhammer, my virtuous first grade teacher who could comfortably wear Trigger’s saddle. Hey, I just continued the whole Western motif. See how I did that?
Speaking of Trigger (or Topper or Champion or Silver racing away at the first flugelhorn blast of the William Tell Overture), the good guys’ horses were all so smart they had postgraduate degrees in celestial navigation or astrophysics. They could add, subtract, come when called, understood the binomial theorum and knew their way home from Tanganyika or Timbuktu.
Just seeing Trigger on the big screen, you could tell he wasn’t nearly as aromatic as Roger the flop-eared gelding who pulled Tony’s fruit wagon through my neighborhood. And unlike Roger the nutless, Gene Autry’s Champion never seemed to dump a huge load of road apples at an inopportune moment, like when my mom was trying to sniff-test the cantaloupes.
And the dogs! Those dogs were even smarter than the horses. They understood complex instruction sets, like “go back to town, round up a posse and grab a six pack of Schlitz.” Movie dogs like Rin Tin Tin, Bullet or Champion never crapped on their mom’s valuable Persian carpet or hosed down the living room sofa if they were five minutes late for their walk. Never. Compared to my own mutt, those noble Alsatians weren’t just a different breed, they were a whole new species of genetically altered superbeings. With teeth.
Being raised in The Bronx also gave me a certain perspective on Western movies that went beyond the characters and the animals. Allow me to contrast and compare . . .
The Bronx was dirty, crowded and sometimes a little dangerous. The West was open, clean and sometimes a little dangerous. Western towns had kindly old doctors, while The Bronx had drunken old doctors. The west had devoted mayors all the time, The Bronx had public servants doing time. The West had more overdressed hookers than Charlie Sheen’s living room on a Saturday night. The Bronx had tastefully-dressed streetwalking transvestites.
Want more? Western doctors operated under the most primitive conditions but they could cure a rainy day. Bronx doctors smoked two packs a day and killed more patients than Mengele. Western mayors were never a-feared of picking up their trusty side-by-sides to defend the local bank from armed robbers. New York’s mayors couldn’t be trusted and stole enough money to buy their own banks.
Western hookers had hearts of gold and never collected a fee. Bronx hookers carried straight razors and sometimes collected their customers’ ears. Got the picture now? I guess those were just some of the reasons why I spent a lot of my youth looking West toward Arizona and Texas instead of South down the Grand Concourse toward Manhattan.
Sad to say, Westerns are now as passé as Billy Ray Cyrus. There hasn’t been a truly great Western since The Magnificent Seven, or even a really good one since Silverado. Movie bad guys and good guys are different today, too. If you scratch Clint Eastwood from Grand Torino, Daniel Craig as Bond, James Bond, or Jason Statham in anything, most movie good guys are dull, boring and pedestrian. They’re uncool. Wimpy even.
Movie bad guys, on the other hand, have become the new cool. They’re meaner than your ex-spouses divorce lawyer, they don’t give a rat’s hat about anything, and they have the best toys. Combine movie-bad-guy-cool with cool guns, and we’re talkin’ ice, ice, baby.
So, because I have way too much time on my hands, I put together a list of my top five baddest, meanest and hypnotic movie “gunslingers” of all time, in all genres, and the guns that made them that way. No good guys need apply for inclusion among these few, these happy few. Here are my Five Fave BGs in reverse order:
5. Tony Montana in Scarface
I must admit that when Al Pacino said, “say hello to my little fren’, I was totally relieved when the only thing he whipped out was his AR-15. The 40mm grenade launcher was a fake, borrowed from Predator, and cost some points. Still, this was an easy pick.
4. Jack Wilson in Shane
Jack Palance’s character was the vilest bastard who ever lived. How vile? A sidewinder once bit him on the nads and immediately died. Wilson picked a fight with a proud Southern dwarf (Elisha Cook, Jr.) just to watch him die, that’s how vile. But, Wilson had a sweet brace of Colt SAAs, so that was cool. By the way, check out the smile on Palance as he guns down Cook. It’s gotta be the most evil grin in movie history. Best line: Shane, after killing Wilson. “That was Wilson, all right, and he was fast, fast on the draw.”
3. Lola in Transporter 2
Kate Nauta played Lola, and whatever Lola wants, Lola gets. Especially since she dressed entirely in lingerie throughout the whole movie. Or maybe the brace of automatic Glock 17s were more persuasive. Nah. It was the underwear. A homicidal chick in her BVDs? What could be cooler. Oh, and wingnuts, note the deadly “assault clips.” Gotta get them banned. Best line: Lola, “My problem isn’t physical… it’s psychological.” Yeah, we kinda got that when you tried to knock off the entire cast.
2. Frank Booth in Blue Velvet
Who was ever scarier and more wacked out of his mind than Dennis Hopper’s wig-wearing, amyl nitrate snorting Well Dressed Man? Okay, there was Donald Rumsfeld, but he wasn’t allowed to carry weapons, only the launch codes to our nuclear arsenal. The suppressed Smith and Wesson Model 39 that Frank carried was the sweeter than sweet icing on the nutcake.
Best line: Frank, “Don’t be a good neighbor to her. I’ll send you a love letter, straight from my heart, f^cker! You know what a love letter is? It’s a bullet from a f^cking gun, f^cker! You receive a love letter from me, you’re f^cked forever! You understand, f^ck? I’ll send you straight to hell, f^cker!” Wow. I guess f^cking Frank really f^cking meant it.
1. The Gunslinger, Westworld
Yul Brynner’s character mixed my two favorite childhood genres. There was a big batch of Terminator. The robot was dressed all in black like “Chris” from the Magnificent Seven, also played by Brynner. He was shaved bald which only accentuated the robotic menace. The Gunslinger was a relentless and inhuman killing machine. Cool. Trippy, but cool. The revolver was a Colt SAA cavalry model, which is way cool. Robo-slinger’s best line: “Draw.” A man, uh, machine of few words.
If you think you have better choices, this is the time to prove it. Draw, pardner.