Red Sun – Solar System week

In honor of my father-in-law, a retired professor of astronomy, this week we will spend exploring our solar system in the movies, starting of course with the sun. Red Sun is currently available on instant Netflix.

WATCH: Red Sun (1971) – Rated PG for adult content, adult language, brief nudity, and violence.

“This 1971 Western from director Terence Young stars Charles Bronson as an outlaw named Link who teams up with Kuroda (ToshirĂ´ Mifune), a noble samurai warrior, to track down a jeweled sword that the Japanese ambassador gifted to the U.S. president. The unlikely pair travels across the American Southwest in search of Gauche (Alain Delon), who double-crossed Link and made off with the priceless weapon. Ursula Andress and Guido Lollobrigida co-star.”

“Make no mistake Kuroda is no ordinary man.”

“Wrong. One Mosquito.” – one deft slice later – “No mosquito.”

“That is Christina for you. You never know which gun she is going to reach for.”

This film smacks of a committee to make it appeal to all countries. American tough guy Charles Bronson is the lead here. Toshiro Mifune appeals to the Asian market and French actor Alain Delon plays the villain. Round out with the striking Swiss actress Ursula Andress and have famed British director Terence Young take the reins.

Hysterically in the Philippines this film is known as “The Magnificent Three” in spite of the fact that it is two men on the trail of a third and his gang.

Terence Young does a nice job of keeping this East Meets Western movie moving. This cinematography looks attractive but it is hard to tell because of the butchered print.

It is unfortunate that this is presented in a cropped for TV format. This was originally filmed in standard widescreen (1.85:1) and Westerns, perhaps more than any other genre, benefit greatly from a panoramic view. Many of the Spanish locations look beautiful.

Just prior to this Young had made Cold Sweat with Bronson. Young of course made his name by directing the first three James bond films so he knows how to handle action with a touch of comedy. Presumably he picked Andress because he enjoyed working with her on Dr. No.

Charles Bronson is fun to watch and makes a good action hero even if he does not have much range. Red Sun helps mark his turning point from valuable supporting actor (The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape, The Dirty Dozen, Once Upon a Time in the West) to leading man. Over the next few years he would do some of his best work in The Mechanic (1972), Death Wish (1974), and Breakheart Pass (1975).

Toshiro Mifune is always great (why yes I am biased thanks for asking). Even this rare English speaking role is no exception. This is not one of his masterpieces (Yojimbo, Sanjuro, well anything by Kurosawa really) but is fun.

Alain Delon and Ursula Andress have a lot of  fun with their roles as well. Unfortunately the rest of the cast are mostly just targets.

The climactic fight takes place in an burned-out mission in the middle of some marvelously high grass. It is an inspired choice of location and makes the climax quite memorable.

I happily give this fun romp a watch recommendation even if it is a little on the cheesy side. The only drawbacks are the aspect ratio and the somewhat goofy looking “Indians” in the third act.

This was essentially remade as Shanghai Noon (2000) starring Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson in place of Mifune and Bronson. Red Sun is an action movie with comic elements whereas Shanghai Noon is a comedy with action elements.

People Watch: Former model Capucine has a small but fun part as Pepita.

The Concorde: Airport 79 – Do Not Get on That Plane week

This is Do Not Get on That Plane week. The Concorde: Airport 79 is currently available on instant Netflix.

AVOID: The Concorde: Airport 79 – Rated PG.

“In the fourth installment of the air-disaster series, a ruthless businessman (Robert Wagner) tries to destroy the Concorde and kill a corporate spy, forcing the flight crew to contend with an errant missile, the French air force and a midair explosion. George Kennedy reprises his role as Joe Patroni — now piloting the hypersonic jet — alongside a bevy of 1970s stars, including Charo and Jimmie Walker”

“My boy is starting college, my wife has been dead for about a year.” – Said with no emotion at all by Patroni (George Kennedy).

Last night I woke up in a cold sweat. I dreamt I was being chased by a giant banana.” (No I am not making that up)

To paraphrase Thumper, “If you do not have anything nice to say then say nothing at all”. Well that will not make for good reading so let me think a moment.

I have it – the good part about this movie is that it is broadcast in high definition for those with set top boxes. that is pretty much it.

In 1979, we are a half decade away from the height of the disaster genre, The Towering Inferno (pun intended). While Robert Wagner does appear in both of them, Inferno stars Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, Faye Dunaway and William Holden. Airport 79 stars Alain Delon, Eddie Albert, Susan Blakely, and George Kennedy.

George Kennedy reprises his role as Joe Patroni from the previous three Airport movies. Apparently when asked to appear, he must have told them “only if I get to fly the Concorde and have sex with a hooker this time “. Thus, inexplicably, he is now a pilot.

After treating the Concorde like the jet in the arcade game Afterburner, he dazzles the passengers with a story about what a minor problem it was. They proceed to give him a standing ovation (seriously).

What this movie lacks in star power, it makes up for in sheer mind-boggling quantity of low-tier celebrities.

Apparently the European nature of the Concorde inspired them to hire some international actors. My guess is that they were able to acquire them on the cheap. Alain Delon, Bibi Andersson, and Sylvia (Emmanuelle) Kristel all appear here.

For old TV and movie fans we have Mercedes McCambridge and Eddie Albert. For genre fans we have David (Time after Time) Warner and Sybil (Chained Heat) Danning.

Martha Raye makes her final appearance here as a bladder-challenged passenger. Jimmie (Dyn-O-Mite!) Walker appears as a dope-smoking, jive-talking musician (way to fight those stereotypes!). Charo (coochie coochie) is Margarita.

What are the odds that not one, not two but three consecutive news stories would all relate to our plot? Admittedly the first two are related to each other but seriously how often do we have news stories on state-of-the-art military hardware? I wonder if those drones will show up later in the film.

Since the sick kid ploy worked so well in Airport 75, here we have a 7-year old boy who needs a heart-transplant. Apparently they could not find a cute boy so they are transporting the heart to the boy. Do not worry though we have Cicely Tyson talking incessantly about it.

If that is not treacly enough for you, we also have a little deaf girl on the plane. Avery Scheiber plays her Russian coach father.

I have to say that I really do not understand why we do not have Concordes in the military. In this film the most sophisticated drone ever made (news story) is unable to shoot down the Concorde and neither is a jet armed with missiles and machine guns.

Of course, and I assure you that I am not making this up, when you have a missile locked onto you the obvious answer is to open the window and fire a flare gun. If this does not work, you can always turn the Concorde upside down for a second shot.

You would think all of those would be spoilers but they actually occur in the first half of the movie. I thought it was utterly ridiculous before they land in Paris but then they up the ante.

Really the only people I can imagine this appealing to are Concorde fetishists and train-wreck aficionados. This movie is just awful.

People Watch: Ed Begley Jr. has an early role here as the aptly named, Rescuer #1.