Happy Father's Day From GeekWeek

This weekend brings Father’s Day, a celebration of all that is Dad: barbecues, beer, golf, questionable taste in shirts and ties and the Manliest of all movie genres— The Western. This year, we bring you two classic, underrated Westerns, a sci-fi variant on the great genre (and its outer-space sequel) and a trip down memory lane that will appeal to fathers of all ages.


First up is the double-bill of 3:10 To Yuma (the original, not to be confused with the solid 2007 James Mangold remake starring Christian Bale and Russell Crowe) and Jubal, a pair of great ‘50’s Westerns directed by Delmer Daves, a solid filmmaker best known for his collaborations with Glenn Ford, the star of both these films and 1958’s Cowboy. Daves, a screenwriter who penned the original Love Affair (1938) and its remake, 1957’s An Affair To Remember, was a director less interested in action than the drama that exists around the conflict at hand. Both 3:10 To Yuma (1957) and Jubal (1956) deal with Glenn Ford at the center of each story— as a killer being held by good-guy rancher Van Heflin in the former and a cowboy who finds himself caught up in a love triangle involving Rod Steiger and employer Ernest Borgnine, whose wife (Valerie French) he falls for in the latter — as a man trapped by circumstance, which suits the stalwart Ford to a T. The Criterion Collection has released both films with sterling Blu-Ray transfers, though without the copious extras you might expect from Criterion; Jubal is accompanied by only a trailer (fortunately the price point reflects the lack of bonus content), while 3:10 To Yuma has featurettes focusing on Ford’s son and biographer Peter and novelist Elmore Leonard, who penned the pulp short story on which the film is based.


Looking to the future, Warner Bros. has just released 1973’s Westworld, writer-director Michael Crichton’s thriller about an amusement park whose robot denizens run amok, which is still effective forty years on. James Brolin and Richard Benjamin star as a pair of tourists visiting “Delos,” a futuristic park divided into three areas: MedievalWorld, where guests engage in swordfights; RomanWorld, where one can partake in “decadent delights”; and WestWorld, where you experience frontier living and do battle with the deadly Gunslinger (Yul Brynner). The parks are all filled with human-looking robots who can “die” over and over again and aren’t able to harm the human guests— until a glitch causes them to malfunction and begin killing the visitors, with the perfectly-cast Benjamin forced to escape WestWorld before the Gunslinger takes him down. It’s a fantastic concept done well by Crichton, who focuses more on the suspense angle than high-tech sci-fi— for contrast's sake, the Warner Bros. Blu-Ray contains the ill-fated 1980 TV pilot spin-off, "Beyond Westworld," which turns the story into a run-of-the-mill political thriller.


A sequel, Futureworld (1976), followed. Delos has reopened for business — with WestWorld having been replaced by a now-very-dated-looking FutureWorld — with Peter Fonda as a reporter infiltrating Delos to uncover a conspiracy where politicians and dignitaries are being replaced by androids. The concept is better than the fairly routine execution by TV director Richard Heffron — a highlight is a subplot involving a mechanic (Stuart Margolin of “The Rockford Files” fame) who’s befriended a faceless worker android (see above) — and anyone expecting much of Yul Brynner’s billing as co-star will be disappointed by his cameo appearance in a dream sequence. Still, Shout Factory does a solid job with the recently-released Blu-Ray, which includes a featurette, trailers and radio spots.


Shout Factory also brings us the cream of the Western crop with Howdy Kids!!: A Saturday Afternoon Western Roundup, an anthology of vintage Western TV shows from the 1950’s and early 1960’s. It’s a perfect gift for the Baby Boomer Dad (or Grandpa) who grew up with shows like “The Lone Ranger,” “The Rifleman” and “The Roy Rogers Show,” all of which are represented here along with more obscure programs such as “Sky King,” “The Adventures Of Rick O’Shay” and “Sergeant Preston Of The Yukon,” which, despite its Canadian heritage, works as a frontier adventure. The three-disc set showcases episode after episode of classic programming and, while the picture quality varies from great (the two episodes of “The Rifleman” look like they were shot yesterday) to mediocre (the video transfers on some shows are smeary and dupey-looking and you can see top-and-bottom matte lines on the episodes of the boy-and-his-horse yarn “The Adventures Of Champion”), the content will bring a smile to the face of any Dad who ever had a cap gun and played Cowboys And Indians growing up. 

You can purchase Jubal (50% off for a limited time) at Amazon and 3:10 To Yuma for the same discount at Amazon. 

Westworld is available through Amazon.

You can purchase Futureworld through Amazon or directly from Shout Factory.

You can purchase Howdy, Kids!! through Amazon or directly from Shout Factory. 

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