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Tag Archive: Han Solo


Coming in at about the same price as the actor’s screen-used prop blaster from Return of the Jedi this summer (discussed here at borg), Harrison Ford proved again he is #1 among pop culture and entertainment memorabilia collectors.  At Prop Store‘s entertainment memorabilia live auction in London yesterday, called Treasures from Film and Television (which we previewed from San Diego Comic-Con here in July), one of the fedoras worn by ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark brought record bids for a prop from the franchise, taking in an estimate of between $522,500 and $558,000, including fees and taxes.  Ford’s Han Solo blaster sold in June for $550,000 (before tax).  The hammer price for the hat was £320,000 when the winning bid was placed and the hammer struck, or about $424,755.  Provenance for this hat was not provided by Prop Store in its catalog, but the company said it could be screen-matched through identifying marks to several key scenes in the movie.  An Indy bullwhip from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom sold for $74,460, including buyer’s premium, at the auction.

One of the other auction lots worn by Ford was supposed to be the crown jewel of the auction, a simple stylized blue jacket worn in The Empire Strikes Back said to have been screen-matched to the film’s Cloud City scenes.  Although it was expected to garner $660,000 to $1.3 million, bidders were just not willing to push bids past the $600,000 mark and the seller’s minimum reserve price.  The jacket was one of the only hero costume pieces from the original trilogy to be offered at public auction.

This week’s big star prop of the Prop Store auction was crowded among other Hollywood props on display at San Diego Comic-Con this past July.

Several other key props from the four corners of genredom sold in excess of six figures (including buyer’s premium and net of taxes) in yesterday’s auction.  A light-up T-800 endoskeleton from Terminator II: Judgment Day (1991) fetched a massive price of $326,500.  A Christopher Reeve costume from Superman (1978) and Superman II (1980) sold for $212,200.  A Hayden Christensen Anakin Skywalker lightsaber from Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (2005) sold for $180,000 and an Ian McDiarmid Emperor lightsaber from the film sold for $114,000.  A background First Order Stormtrooper helmet from Star Wars: The Last Jedi surprised everyone, selling for a whopping $180,000.  A Johnny Depp costume from Edward Scissorhands (1990) sold for $106,100.  Of several original comic book art pages that sold, the star was Page 15 from The Amazing Spider-Man (1966), Issue #32, by artist Steve Ditko, which fetched $155,000.

More than two dozen other memorable props and costumes from sci-fi, fantasy, superhero, and horror classics fared well (prices quoted include pre-tax conversion from British pound, including buyer’s premium):
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Smuggler.  Gambler.  Rogue.  Pilot.

Han Solo.

The hero of the Rebellion and the Resistance and rescuer of the galaxy more than once, one of fandom’s favorites is featured in his own book in November.  Insight Editions announced Star Wars Icons: Han Solo will be a comprehensive look at the creation and legacy of one of Star Wars’ most beloved characters.  Covering the Han Solo’s journey from his genesis in George Lucas’s first Star Wars drafts to his portrayal by Harrison Ford in the original trilogy and The Force Awakens to his rebirth in Solo: A Star Wars Story, and beyond the films to his role in the Star Wars expanded universe: novels, comics, video games, and more–Insight promises this will be the definitive book for every Han Solo fan.

Illustrated with rare and previously unpublished images, including on-set photography and concept art, the deluxe 224-page volume will feature new interviews by author Gina McIntyre with Harrison Ford, Alden Ehrenreich, Mark Hamill, Billy Dee Williams, Peter Mayhew, Ron Howard, J.J. Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan, Jonathan Kasdan, and more.  This is especially noteworthy since Solo: A Star Wars Story director Ron Howard has not given many interviews about Solo: A Star Wars Story.

You can pre-order what we expect to be the first of several Star Wars Icons books, Star Wars Icons: Han Solo now here at Amazon (at a discount off the cover price).  And don’t forget to lock-in the pre-order price for Solo: A Star Wars Story on DVD, Digital HD, and Blu-ray here.

This is the smuggler you’re looking for.  Check out this preview of Star Wars Icons: Han Solo:

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Han Solo 1 interior view a

Marvel Comics continues to expand its offerings in the Star Wars universe with this summer’s new monthly Star Wars: Han Solo.  Marvel released the first images of the new series this week, including cover art by fan favorite artist Lee Bermejo.  Here is the promotional summary for the series:

Han Solo has finally entered his ship into the Dragon Void Run – an infamous high-stakes race across the stars.  You know, the race Han has dreamt of winning.  Only there’s a catch – his entry into this legendary race is a top-secret undercover mission for Princess Leia and the Rebellion!  Will he keep his mind on the mission?  More importantly – can he manage to pull it off while still maintaining his lead in the race?!

Han Solo 1 interior B

Urban fantasy author and Marvel Comics writer Marjorie Liu will script the series with interior art by Mark Brooks and cover art by Lee Bermejo, whose painted art always looks great in his distinctive style:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It is three years before Star Wars: A New Hope.  Jahan Cross is posing as special envoy for the diplomatic service.  His preferred companion is a feminine-inspired android named IN-GA 44 or “Inga,” adept at researching corrupt officials’ computers and uncovering just what they don’t want uncovered.  Cross reports to the director of Imperial intelligence, Agent Cross’s very own “M,” who sets him out on a dangerous mission.

Next week Dark Horse Comics is releasing a compilation of its take on dropping James Bond in the Star Wars universe with Star Wars: Agent of the Empire, Volume 1– Iron Eclipse, reprinting Issues #1-5 of the monthly comic book series.

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By Jason McClain (@JTorreyMcClain)

As I drive back and forth to visit my parents in Arizona, I use those long solitary times in the car to listen to podcasts. “WNYC’s Radiolab,” “the memory palace,” “Thrilling Adventure Hour,” “A History of the World in 100 Objects,” “Doug Loves Movies” and “The Sports Poscast” all satisfy different moods and help make the drive a chance for laughs, learning and great stories.  On my past visit, I queued up the two-hour plus “Poscast” from 3/14/2012 featuring Joe Posnanski and Michael Schur as I drove across the Mojave Desert.  The first half concentrated on my favorite sport, baseball, and discussions and predictions regarding the upcoming season.  (Go Cardinals).  The second half concerned something that I think all readers of borg.com can get behind – a draft of the characters of Star Wars.  (Star Wars was defined as Episode IV through Episode VI – any other movies never had existed.  That is the correct view).

So, as much as I loved the baseball discussion (go Cardinals, again) this draft excited me.  My one addition to the draft (everyone’s a critic) – I would have drafted Biggs.  The idea of an infinite universe and somehow two friends from Tatooine end up flying X-wings together is better than just running into someone you know on the streets of Chicago or in a café in Paris (though both of those are pretty awesome).  It’s just my idea of magic and what I read into the trilogy, though all of their picks made perfect sense.  I still am up in the air about who would have won – each team had two Jedis, each team had people good with blasters and the last pick, though one was much more powerful, one was a lot more lucky.  As far as favorites go though, I have to side with Schur’s draft.  He had the first pick and of course he took Han Solo and the ensuing discussion got me to thinking.  That moment they cite as the favorite Han moment, that moment that we all want for ourselves, the moment where chills run through me, my hair stands on end and my eyes well up is the Millennium Falcon shooting a TIE Fighter out of space, disrupting Darth Vader’s shot on Luke’s X-wing, and Han exclaiming, “You’re all clear kid, now let’s blow this thing and go home.”

The rogue becomes a hero.  He is in it for more than the money, he has a heart.  He cares enough to love something.  We all want to be that person.  In continuing to think about that, it ran up against my thoughts of Community as I finally got to see a panel for the show at WonderCon the previous Sunday.  Then, I finally had my epiphany on my love of this show and other well crafted ones like Schur’s own Parks and Recreation.

We all love Star Wars.  It’s a great story.  However, the characters are archetypes and therefore, we can vicariously insert ourselves into them and become the hero.  We can “play” Han and Luke and Leia as kids because the simple traits that they have don’t intrude on our true personalities.  We all want to be heroes.  We all want to find that cause to champion.  We will defend ourselves.  We will defend our friends.  We will save the girl or the boy with our own bravery and pluck.

On the other hand, you look at a Jeff Winger or a Leslie Knope and you run into something different and that is specifics.  Winger is a lawyer.  He cheated his way into becoming a lawyer and once he was found out, he had to return to community college to earn his degree.  He knows how to talk himself out of about any situation and can convince about anyone to do anything, but he’s learning that isn’t always a good thing.  He’s trying to coast through college because he doesn’t know how to work hard and study.  His Halloween costumes are just excuses to dress well and show off his good looks.  He once wet himself playing foosball.  He’s an agnostic.  He interferes with others’ relationships.  He stinks at pottery and it can infuriate him.

We know Leslie is a tireless worker in the Parks Department.  We know her mother intimidates her, but that she looks up to her success in city government.  Her mom can be a rival for the affection of a man like Ben Wyatt – and she will stand up to her to fight for him.  She will prepare 72 hours of reading for her best friend Ann Perkins to do in 12 hours for an interview Ann never wanted.  She’ll risk her career for love, but she won’t give up either because she wants it all.  She’ll steal artwork to protect it from censors.

We can’t project ourselves onto these people – they’re too different.  There may be some similarities, but I doubt there is a real Leslie Knope or Jeff Winger or Britta Perry or Ron Swanson or Abed Nadir.  However, because they are so likable, we can project ourselves into Greendale or into Pawnee, Indiana because we want to hang out with them for the 22 minutes every week.  Then I have to shift to first person as my adventures of driving an hour to WonderCon after waking up at 5 am to volunteer at the L.A. Marathon to go and sit in a room for two hours watching the two previous panels just to be sure I can get an early viewing of “Digital Exploration of Interior Design” and see my first Community panel after two years of Comic-Con disappointment due to not getting to the line in time, because my experience is more specific.  (It also deserves more than one, long, rambling sentence).

Following the episode, Gillian Jacobs, Yvette Nicole Brown, Chris McKenna, Ken Jeong, Dan Harmon and Steve Basilone assembled at the panel table in front of the huge crowd.  We found out that in the 18-34 demographic Community beat American Idol, which got a huge cheer.  Then Yvette prefaced her comments by saying that “Dan Harmon is broken” and thanked the audience for their support, because through all of the tributes, they can feel that love for the show.  The best line was, “The fact that you guys walked away from your computers and watched us live and got us those numbers, it’s magic.”  Even though I’ve seen this week’s show, I’ll be watching again live, though no one will count it.  If you have a Nielsen box, please do the same.

Some of my other favorite moments of the panel:

While discussing the episode “Remedial Chaos Theory” that the moderator attributed to Chris McKenna, he said, “We have a writing staff.  Dan came in and vomited up a bunch of ideas for it and we picked through the vomit.”

Gillian mentioned going to Comic-Con last year and a few people whooped, while Dan jumped in and said, “You guys like comic books?”

Steve describes the episode “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas” as “retardedly awesome” and the moderator steps in and asks, “Are there any retardedly awesome people in the audience?”  (As an aside, I love How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Scrooged as my favorite holiday entertainments, but this year, I just watched “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas.”  It’s easily in the top 3 of Christmas for me now).

The interplay between Yvette and Dan when Yvette started talking about Dan’s skills with rap flow and lyrics and Dan’s humility deflecting it to a voicemail from Chevy Chase that says he won’t live past 57.  Most of it is Dan going in to detail and Yvette repeatedly saying, “Harmon.”

The character of Britta was just a list of stuff that the writers (and Dan) considered as things they found attractive in a woman.  Then a female writer, Hilary Winston then said that she didn’t like Britta and gave Dan the reasons.  Dan then said, “Instead of changing the character, I thought, ok so that’s who Britta is.  She’s the woman that women don’t like.”

Dan again on Britta and other female characters, “What creates a good female character is a guy forgetting that it’s a female character.”  Then Yvette added, “It works for diversity as well.”  Then Yvette and Dan went into another dialogue, as Dan got a little humorously offensive about writing about race and talked about going to RaceCon.

Re-listening to the panel, it didn’t strike me then because I had no clue who it was, but I have to say that Gillian is pretty darn correct in the fact that she can resemble the later-in-life Michael Jackson that she plays in “Contemporary Impressionists.”

Just re-reading this, the differences between a fan of Community or Parks and Recreation and a fan of Star Wars (heck, they’re probably the same people a lot of the times) are not that great.  The characters have more depth in the TV show because they have over 20 hours to develop over three seasons instead of six hours over three movies.  Fans get crazy excited about all three.  I just want to figure out what makes a show like Community so special to me and that makes me spend the past few days watching my DVDs of seasons 1 and 2.  I thought the idea that I wouldn’t play a sitcom out with friends when I was a kid might be that germ of understanding because of the character depth.  Then again, if I were ten again, maybe I would “play” Community.  I get to be Troy.

By Art Schmidt

What a simple question.

Borgeditor: Hey, I’m asking all of the staff to write something about their five characters?  Are you in?

Me a Week Ago: Sure, that sounds great!  What could be easier and more fun?

Then, fast forward to Me Last Night:  Wow, this is hard as hell.  Who are my favorites?  Today?  Yesterday?  When I was a kid?  Why are they my favorite?  What makes them tick?  What makes me tick?

Needless to say, it’s been a struggle.  I normally think about something a long time before I ever write one word.  A story, an article, a review, whatever it is.  I dream about it and cogitate on it and mull it over in my head for days or weeks before I ever put a single word to paper.  I normally sit down in front of my portable imagination recording machine (otherwise known as a laptop) with most of what I want to say already outlined in my mind.

As of this writing, I am sitting here with next to nothing.  Well, that’s not entirely true, but I have a hell of a lot less than I normally do.  Every time I scan my bookshelves, my DVD/BD collection, or my DVR favorites list, I come up with a handful of great characters that I somehow missed during the previous evenings’ preview.  Hard, hard, hard.

But it’s time to fish or cut bait, and I ain’t about wasting bait.  And this is good bait, this ‘Five Character’ idea.  It’s certainly made me think a whole lot, about a whole lot, for a whole lot longer than I normally do.  And so without further procrastination, here’s my Top Five Favorite Characters.

5.  I’ll start with more of a character type (and sliding toward an actual actor), than a specific character.  And that’s Han Solo / Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford).   Yes, I know, that’s kind of breaking the rules.  But then, that’s what Han and Indy were all about, right?  Bend the rules, live by your own code of morality, and as long as you’re crusade is just, damn the torpedoes.  And no one could have played these guys with as much success as Harrison Ford.  Admit it, even if you’re not a Star Wars fan, you liked Han.  Especially in the original Star Wars, where he shot Greedo first.  (Damn, I promised myself I wouldn’t go there, again.  Sorry.)  And Indiana is obviously one of the most well-known and beloved characters in film.  Other characters fit into this archetype: Batman, obviously, and John McClane being among the most popular.

But why?  The films were fun and amazingly entertaining, especially back before CGI and $100 million budgets.  The stories were engrossing, the action was breathtaking, you cared about the characters, and everyone came away smiling.  Han and Indy were a big part of that, perhaps more than people usually acknowledge.  One of my favorite quotes from an actor (and there are endless quotes from self-important actors clouding the ether out there) is from the normally down-to-earth, personable Harrison Ford:

“I think what a lot of action movies lose these days, especially the ones that deal with fantasy, is you stop caring at some point because you’ve lost human scale. With the CGI, suddenly there’s a thousand enemies instead of six – the army goes off into the horizon. You don’t need that. The audience loses its relationship with the threat on the screen. That’s something that’s consistently happening and it makes these movies like video games and that’s a soulless enterprise. It’s all kinetics without emotion. I don’t have time for that.”

An action hero that understands the power and necessity of the emotional connection between a character and the audience.  I love it.  And no characters bring that to bear on the big screen like Doctor Jones and Captain Solo.

4.  Othyisar Du’Morde – Who?  I know, probably no one reading this knows who this character is or what piece of fiction he is from.  Well, this is a bit self-serving, and you’ll have to forgive me for that.  Othyisar is a character I created myself, and who has only seen print one time.  If you have no interest in reading a short bit about this arch-mage from the Forgotten Realms, by all means skip ahead to #3 and forget I even listed this guy.  If you forgive me for listing him, I’ll forgive you for skipping him.  We’re square.

Othyisar is my favorite ‘character’ from the days of my youth, playing RPGs (read: Dungeons and Dragons) and computer games endlessly, before marriage and kids and profession all took priority over my free time.  If I created a character who was a wizard of any kind, he was named Othyisar.   If you ever encountered an ‘Othyisar’ in Norrath or Azeroth, or in The Old Republic, it was me.   🙂

So it’s no surprise that my first published article featured Othyisar Du’Morde.  It was for the ‘Arcane Lore’ feature of Dragon Magazine issue #203, and it was my first paid gig as a writer.  The following year at Gen Con, I got my copy autographed by the three guys who did the cover for the issue, artists Tim Bradstreet and Fred Fields, as well as the model who posed for the cover (hey, he was standing there at the booth with the artists, and I didn’t want to be rude).  And in that same issue, the folks at publisher TSR reviewed a little video game that had just came out and was taking the world by storm, called Doom, which is one of my favorite games of all time.  All reason enough for Othy to be one of my favorite characters.  But it got better.

Years later, in a different State and a different place in life, I was chatting with a new co-worker and, after much hesitation, he asked me ‘Is this you?’ and showed me issue #203 online.  In quiet “we shouldn’t be talking about this at work” tones, I admitted that it was me, and he proceeded to gush to me how his gaming group ran a long adventure based not only on the contents of my article, but also with the Othyisar character and the little background piece I had written.  He said it was one of his favorite adventures (I know, he was probably just being nice, but indulge me).  Wow, that was one of the coolest moments ever.

It’s amazing to find that you can view PDFs of this (and other) back issues of Dragon Magazine here.  If you’re curious and want to check it out.  But no pressure.  Just sayin’.  And no, I don’t get a nickel if you click on the link.  🙂

3.  Mr. White – At the time, Quentin Tarantino was unknown, Sundance was a quaint little film festival where artsy films made by non-European directors were showcased, and Hollywood’s ‘independent’ film-makers hobnobbed in the snow and sun.  Then came Reservoir Dogs and in a blaze of unapologetic gunfire and stylish F-bombs the place was turned upside-down.  The movie centers on four main characters, all members of a criminal gang brought together to pull off a major heist.  Given anonymous names by their leader to maintain secrecy and minimize his liability, the story follows the lives of the four main members of the gang: Mr. White, the unacknowledged leader played with brilliant ruthlessness by Harvey Keitel; Mr. Orange, the in-over-his-head undercover cop played by Tim Roth; Mr. Blonde, the unhinged crazy killer given life with gleeful abandon by Michael Madsen; and the skinny, twitchy Mr. Pink, played by the always scene-stealing Steve Buscemi.

Mr. White is a master criminal, a bad guy, and a cop killer.  No argument there, and no apologies; he’s not one of my favorite characters because I admire or even like him.  He’s my favorite ‘Love to Hate’ character, more so than Darth Vader or Elric of Melnibone, because the performance by Keitel is so top-notch, and the character so likable when he needs to be, but ruthless and evil when he wants to be.  Mr. White is the epitome of the gun-toting thief, loyal one moment, then sticking a gun in his comrade’s face the next.  He alternately hefts drinks and guns with the same zeal.  You can argue that the glue in this story is Mr. Orange, but for me, Keitel’s character holds Reservoir Dogs together and makes it just as much a thrill ride today as when it came out.

And you have to admit, he’s got a cool-sounding name.

2.  Dream of the Endless – Otherwise known as The Sandman, Dream is the central character in Neil Giaman’s award-winning and world-renowned comic book series of the 90s.  He is one of The Endless, who control the destinies and lives of all mortal creatures in the universe.  His realm is The Dreaming, and he is alternately the benign King of Dreams or Morpheus, the bringer of nightmares.

Gaiman’s character is an endless conundrum, never really a clear-cut hero or villain.  And the stories are as deep and intellectually satisfying as anything in print.  Dream confronts his adversaries the same way we approach life; uncertain, unsure, with imagination and help from friends, at times alone and in the best way he knows how.  Part of the character’s allure is that he’s both a mystery and an open book.  The Dreaming gives him the ability to create things out of thin air, partially illusion but at times also very real, things that can directly affect the lives (and deaths) of mortals in the real world.

Amidst his Endless brothers and sisters, Dream is the introvert, the thinker, the recluse.  He’s hesitant to interfere in the lives of people, despite his stations’ often demand of it.  His dream powers are the super power everyone wants, even if they don’t know it: the ability to create something out of nothing, to weave dreams into reality, and to travel anywhere, at any time, he chooses.

The series ran in the early to mid-nineties, and has been collected in multiple editions of paperback graphic novels ever since.  My two favorite collections, or story arcs as the author Neil Gaiman refers to them, are ‘A Game of You’ and ‘The Kindly Ones’, both of which reflect both the breadth of Gaiman’s story-telling ability and the best (and worst), of the Sandman character.  In short, his humanity.

1.  Prince Corwin of Amber – My favorite character of fiction is Prince Corwin, hands down.  Why, you ask?  Well, I could give you a bunch of reasons (and I will in a bit), I could go into a mini-review of the books themselves (the five original brilliant novels, followed by five less-worthy ‘sequels’), and wax poetic about how Roger Zelazny created what could be perhaps one of the very few real contenders against The Lord of the Rings for best fantasy series of all-time.  I could go on and on, but really, it boils down to one thing.

Prince Corwin kicks ass.  Plain and simple.

Zelazny’s masterpiece The Chronicles of Amber is the saga of the ruling family of Amber, the magical kingdom of which all other worlds are but shadows, including Earth.  In by far the best use of amnesia as a plot device, the story opens as Corwin awakes in a mental institution and subsequently escapes, lying, fighting, and sneaking his way through a dangerous landscape of monsters and villainous relatives, where he doesn’t really know who anyone is but his instincts tell him enough to be wary.  He’s clever, he’s strong, and he’s decisive.  He knows what he wants, and he works hard to get it.  He gives others a fair shake, but if they cross him he doesn’t hesitate to let them know it, with words or steel.  Corwin is a modern-day update to the Conan archetype (one of my favorite characters who didn’t make the ‘Final Five’ cut), but unlike Conan, Corwin is a little more down-to-earth, a little more accessible, a little more human.  He’s fallible and can be beaten; he eventually comes out on top, but at times only after years of torture and toil.

Corwin cemented the blueprint that was used for DC Comics The Warlord (another favorite I had to cut out of my list) and countless other fantasy heros who had access to both guns and swords, heroes thrown into bad circumstances and had to make the best of it.  The latest incarnation, in the movies anyway, will be Edgar Rice Burrough’s second-most-popular hero John Carter of Mars, from the Barsoom series, thanks to Disney’s upcoming epic adventure based on the character.  But even then, Corwin is still the epitome of that archetype.

One of thirteen siblings, all scheming to hold their father Oberon’s abandoned throne, Corwin is not the best at anything; his brother Eric is older and smarter, his brother Benedict is a better swordsman, his brother Gerard is stronger, sister Fiona is an unmatched sorceress, and on and on.  But Corwin is perhaps the amalgam of all of them, the ‘Jack of All Trades’, good at everything and more well-balanced than the others.

And did I mention that he kicks ass?  🙂

Come back tomorrow for Elizabeth C.  Bunce’s five favorite characters.

After a year of advertising, Cowboys and Aliens finally arrives in theaters June 29.  With a sci-fi western starring the coolest James Bond ever (Daniel Craig) and our favorite scoundrel/spice smuggler Han Solo (Harrison Ford), our current favorite actress on-the-rise, Olivia Wilde (Quorra in Tron: Legacy, Thirteen in House M.D.), and the coolest director cranking out hits, Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Elf), this movie is going to really have to screw it up to not be the biggest blockbuster of the year–even competing against Green Lantern, Thor, Captain America, another Harry Potter movie, another Pirates of the Caribbean movie, another Planet of the Apes movie, another X-Men movie and another Transformers movie.

And what do you look forward to the most?  The first big western in years?  Harrison Ford finally in a genre movie again?  Daniel Craig playing another cool as ice character?  That Boba Fett-style gauntlet blaster?  Favreau is on a roll with his recent films, and the trailer looks like it came out of a Philip K. Dick short story.  So while we’re waiting, eagerly, for Cowboys and Aliens to premiere, let’s run down a list of the all-time best westerns and alien movies.  We’ll start with the westerns and in two days we’ll look at the best alien movies.

1.  STAGECOACH (1939).  The best western director, John Ford, shooting in the best western location, Monument Valley, with the best western movie star, John Wayne.  A character study more than a standard shoot ’em up, the relationship of people trapped and how fear affects a small group dynamic and how each deals with an unseen threat just around the next turn.  Heroics and prejudice and good guys and bad guys.  Cowboys and Aliens is an obvious play on Cowboys and Indians, and this film follows a stagecoach ride under a threat of Geronimo and his posse–a real story of cowboys vs Indians in frontier America.  The source of the modern cool customer Han Solo-type, Wayne plays a tough but valiant Ringo Kid.

2.  FORT APACHE (1948).  Horse soldiers of the frontier, a mix of dying and dealing with command and authority, another John Ford and John Wayne partnership with a tough as nails Henry Fonda and the Ford/Wayne ensemble B-team of Victor McLaglen and Ward Bond.  Co-starring the no longer just a kid actor Shirley Temple.  This must have been what it was like to spend your years living out of a military fort.  Wayne grows in acting skill, develops his own persona and defines his swaggering hero with the confident and cocky Captain York.

3.  HIGH NOON (1952).  The rarity of a true hero in the face of real danger with no help from anyone.  Gary Cooper’s Marshal Kane must decide whether he is a runner or whether he must take a stand.  With Thomas Mitchel and a brilliant but frustrating Grace Kelly as the new Mrs. Kane.  Those who don’t like High Noon are usually frustrated with everyone but Cooper.  That’s because you’re supposed to be frustrated–sometimes people just don’t do the right thing until someone comes along and shows them the way.  Most of the film doesn’t make you feel good.  That’s why High Noon is not a garden variety western but a stand-out masterpiece.

4.  HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER (1973).  Clint Eastwood directs himself in his best western role as the mysterious stranger.  I’m a big fan of genre bending and like Cowboys and Aliens bridges sci-fi and westerns, here we see a natural bridging of western meets ghost story.  Or does it?  Paint the town red?  Right on.  Seek a little revenge?  You bet.  Where Eastwood’s  other westerns seem to blur together, Drifter stands out as a film that seems to go a little crazy from the desert heat.

5.  THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE (1962).  More John Ford directing John Wayne?  Yep, it’s because they were that good together.  And here we add on Jimmy Stewart as honest, frustrated but determined lawman turned senator, Ransom Stoddard.  Stewart’s Stoddard is a bit of High Noon’s Gary Cooper, but without the skill and edge.  Liberty is played by an oily, vile Lee Marvin in one of his best film roles.  And believe it or not, John Wayne again builds on his performance as the swaggering early Han Solo-type, including even a plotline pretty much stolen for the original Star Wars.  Whose steak did Liberty kick to the floor?  That was my steak, Valance.  Who shot Liberty Valance?  Watch and find out.

6.  MY DARLING CLEMENTINE (1946).  Yep, another John Ford directed masterpiece, again with Henry Fonda along with Ward Bond, but minus Wayne.  Walter Brennan is top-notch here playing the mouth flapper that made him famous.  The story is the most well known legend of the west:  the gunfight at the OK Corral.  Fonda plays Wyatt Earp, Victor Mature plays Doc Holliday.  Even if you know the story, Ford shows us how the streets of Tombstone were painted in blood more than a century ago.  Others have tried but no version of the story comes close to this classic.

7.  SHANE (1953).  Alan Ladd and Jean Arthur are perfect here, with real-life cowboy Ben Johnson along for the ride.  Neither a farmer nor rancher, Ladd’s Shane has his own code and his code is about being kind and reserved, despite his gunslinger past.  Like Wayne in Stagecoach, Cooper in High Noon, Stewart in Liberty Valance, and Eastwood in Drifter, Shane’s loner with the hidden past is sewn from the same cloth.  Not cool in a modern way, but in an example-setting way, Shane shows a young boy what kind of a man to grow up to be.  Like the triumph of the human spirit in several other great westerns, Shane is about looking out for the other guy.

8.  SILVERADO (1985).  My favorite western.  Lawrence Kasdan’s masterpiece that reintroduced the western genre and proved that you can make a western today every bit as good as decades ago.  The best ensemble western ever, yet it honestly pulls bits and pieces from all the other classics.  Kevin Kline’s Paden is an everyman just trying to get by, pulled into something he wants no part of.  Scott Glenn and Kevin Costner are brothers on their way to California who stop off on one last visit to their sister.  Too bad that the man who runs Silverado now is the son of the guy Glenn’s character went to jail for killing, and he just won’t let it go.  Enter Brian Dennehy as the sheriff and the Old West’s most perfect bartender named Stella, played by Linda Hunt. “Cobb can’t hurt me if he’s dead.”  With Danny Glover, Patricia Arquette and John Cleese.  Where’s the dog, Paden?

9.  THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960).  John Sturges directs an all-star cast in the best remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai.  Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Robert Vaughn and Charles Bronson are each skilled with their own special powers.  They must team up to complete a simple task–and selecting the team for the job is just plain fun.  Charles Coburn is solid as the expert in knife throwing.  A rollicking, exciting western.  Sturges’ line-up of heroes and familiar images of an up-and-coming western town is classic Old West.

10.  BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID (1969).  Paul Newman, Robert Redford and Katherine Ross star in the other most famous story of the west.  Bank robbers and the best ever buddy movie.  The trio play off each other so naturally you really miss these people after the movie is over.  Great fun, with popular music of the day.  “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” as a pop song behind Newman and Ross’s bicycle ride reflects a carefree spirit that must have accompanied the actual risky band of gunslingers.  The film stands strong today and on multiple viewings Newman and Redford only seem to get better.

HONORABLE MENTION: RIO BRAVO (John Wayne in a low-key performance, with some classic gunfight scenes, including a slick dive and rifle throw and catch scene you’ll have to rewind and watch again and again), BEND IN THE RIVER (Jimmy Stewart and the best western scenery outside of Monument Valley), ANGEL AND THE BADMAN (John Wayne’s quiet anti-hero/hero and the innocent Gail Russell have chemistry and somehow manage to come off as made for each other).

MUSICAL WESTERNS YOU SHOULD NOT MISS:  OKLAHOMA! (“the farmer and the cowman can be friends”), PAINT YOUR WAGON (Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin singing a good musical under backdrop of the sudden growth of a western town)

Delve further into the genre and check out these other actors from classic westerns:  Gene Autry, Dale Evans, Glenn Ford, Gabby Hayes, Tom Mix, Audie Murphy, Roy Rogers, Randolph Scott, and the Sons of the Pioneers.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
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