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Cowboys and...

Posted by : Dean Newman

James Bond and Indiana Jones in the same film, directed by the bloke who gave us Elf, okay, I mean Iron Man. If that’s not enough the title of the film they are in, Cowboys and Aliens is more than enough to get you excited. I mean what else do you need to know?

Turns out that in the pantheon of cinema cowboys have faced off against all manner of things. Dean Newman squints his eyes and twirls his six shooter at a Magnificent Seven good, bad and ugly varmints that cowboys have had to endure on our screens.

 

Dinosaurs

The Valley of Gwangi (1969)
Cowboy James Franciscus seeks fame and fortune by capturing a Tyrannosaurus Rex living in the Forbidden Valley and putting it in a Mexican circus. A film with that plot just can’t fail. Add stop motion by the master - Ray Harryhausen - into the mix, and you have yourselves one guilty pleasure of a film.

 

Dracula

Billy the Kid Vs Dracula (1966)
Rubber bats, a Western backdrop, and John Carradine as Dracula. Someone shines a red light on Carradine's mugging face during the (ahem) scary scenes. Was filmed back-to back with Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter.

In the end, Billy the Kid uses a railroad spike as a stake. Better than a cactus I suppose!

 

Cyborgs

Westworld (1973)
The blueprint for Jurassic Park, by the same author, is ever so clear in Westworld. Also clearly blazing a trail for the like of The Terminator some 20 years later. Yul Bryner is remorseless in his pursuit and just like Arnie absolutely will not stop. The robot man with no name if you will. Playing on his cowboy persona, especially his character of Chris from The Magnificent Seven, Bryner was truly menacing in everything from his walk to his unflinching features. The score was fab as well.

 

Monsters

Tremors 4: the legend begins (2004)
You can’t keep a good Graboid down, or Michael Gross for that matter, who is the only person to appear in each film (here playing an ancestor of his original character, just like they did in Back to the Future III – talking of which, Gross once played Michael J Fox’s dad in the hit sitcom Family Ties, which he was filming at the same time as the original BTTF).

In 1889, the town of Rejection, the same town from the original, depends on a nearby silver mine for its income. When a hot spring causes four eggs to hatch, several men who work in the silver mine are killed by whatever hatched from them…

 

The Devil

High Plains Drifter (1973)/ Ghost Rider (2007)
A haunting western, ‘Drifter’ is hailed by many as Eastwood’s first masterpiece. Just like the ‘Dollars’ trilogy Eastwood plays a man with no name but this time there are hints of supernatural undertones as he brings hell to town. Eastwood emerges from the heat haze like a mirage, and disappears back into it too; he dreams of past events before he’s told about them; and he has no name, of course — this is an Eastwood western, after all. That’s not to mention the ton of mentions of the devil, Hell and the dead not resting…

In Ghost Rider it’s the ever reliable Sam Elliot, complete with his standard issue tache, who provides the mentoring cowboy muscle, complete with horse with flaming hooves, against the devilish Peter Fonda in this flawed but still enjoyable Marvel adaptation which is set for another reboot.

 

Time Travellers

Deep breath...as seen in Doctor Who, Star Trek, BTTF 3, Bill and Ted and Timestalkers. We all know BTTF III and Bill and Ted, the latter who bring Billy the Kid forward in time, so I’ll discuss the others in more depth.

Star Trek - Spectre of the Gun (1968)
A third season episode which sees Kirk and Co forced to re-enact the shootout at the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral for having trespassed on an alien world (a common daily occurrence).

The setting for the town is actually downloaded from Kirk's mind (?) so buildings are obvious facades, doors open to nowhere, etc. The landing party also sees their equipment is changed; phasers turned into six-shooters and there is no longer a way to make contact with the Enterprise…with the crew on the losing side.

Doctor Who – The Gunfighters
The Doctor and the crew of the TARDIS find themselves in Tombstone, Arizona, circa 1881.  When they realise just where and when they are the companions check out the local scenery.  The Doctor, however, has a very bad toothache and runs off to see the local dentist, none other than Doc Holliday himself who has just been warned that the Clayton's are gunning for him.  The travellers find themselves about to be caught in the middle of one of the most famous gunfights of the old west.

Timestalkers (1987)
Time travelling with a gun slinging Klaus Kinski (bonkers as ever) and western memorabilia nut William Devane.

The story follows Professor Scott McKenzie (Devane), an old western memorabilia collector who discovers in a photograph from 1866 a 20th century .357 Magnum revolver in the hands of a cowboy (Klaus Kinski). Scott soon starts questioning the possibility of time-travel and writes a paper on it. Devane must find out why this time-traveller has gone back to the old-west and eventually stop him from changing the face of history. Being a TV movie the concept was better than the execution but had some nice ideas.
 

Zombies

Red dead Redemption: undead nightmare
To paraphrase Dawn of the Dead, When Hell is full, the dead shall walk...straight into a western video game. Apparently you can battle against four different Zombie classes with detailed character design and encounter some ‘graveyard action’, whatever that means? As zombie law dictates, it’s death by headshot or they’ll keep a comin’.

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