Ready to rehash some old good guy/bad guy tales now out on Blu-ray via the folks at MGM?  Then hang on to that lasso rope tight, jump on your horse and board the moving train cause we’re going on a bumpy ride with the likes of Blu-ray baddies "The Big Country," "Quigley Down Under" and "The Taking of Pelham One Two Three."  Hold on tight to the saddle horn stud – the long review road ahead awaits!




   Title: "The Big Country"

   Grade: 3 1/2

   Cast: Gregory Peck, Jean Simmons, Charlton Heston

   Director: William Wyler

   Rating: Not Rated

   Runtime: 165 minutes

   Release Company: MGM Home Entertainment





The Flick: As much as I was engaged by the unusual tale of Gregory Peck as a cowboy who’s against violence of any kind, "The Big Country" is a film that frankly takes too much time.  I get that it comes from an era when they used copious amounts of time to build a tension and suspense, but this film seems to reveal in treating every plot point and story turn as if it were "Lawrence of Arabia" itself.  (Not everything is worthy of a big reveal!)  The story is original (how many west men use their minds to solve disputes?!), the characters memorable (love seeing Peck and tough guy Charlton Heston go toe-to-toe!) and the setting lovingly lush (visual landscapes like that just don't exists anymore!), but even for 1958 this lengthy land lover is still in need of a serious trim. 

Best Hidden Gem: Jean Simmons, she of "Spartacus," plays a great part here as a tough yet hot schoolteacher with gumption!

Worth the Moola: It’s a classic for a reason – just wish the editor had been awake during some of those all-nighter sessions!




   Title: "Quigley Down Under"

   Grade: 4

   Cast: Tom Selleck, Laura San Giacomo, Alan Rickman

   Director: Simon Wincer

   Rating: PG-13

   Runtime: 120 minutes

   Release Company: MGM Home Entertainment





The Flick: Revisiting this western movie about an American who heads to Australia to become a possible hired gun, it’s surprising just how delightfully dark at times Simon Wincer’s flick really is.  Meaning for all the typical cowboy clichés, there’s also a darkness that looms under the surface of Quigley and it makes for one interesting outing.  Tom Selleck may be the standard heroic straight man, but Alan Rickman, fresh off playing Hans “Die Hard” Gruber makes for one chilling baddie here and Laura San Giacomo hot from Steven Soderbergh’s "sex, lies and videotape" has the thankless task of playing a lovable woman...who’s insane! (And she does it well!)  So for all the bravado, getting even and in danger stuff in Quigley, it’s the fact that it all plays out with a distinctive dramatic undertone that makes Quigley worth checking out.  I think Wincer could have been a major director of note – but one "Free Willy" and an "Operation Dumb Drop" later and the Quigley effect seems to have worn off.   

Best Hidden Gem: Again, playing a normal woman who is lovable is easy, but Giacomo playing an insane woman right to the bitter end of the film and still coming off as likable – a hidden feat indeed!

Worth the Moola: This is a must for those who want to see what early directorial potential looks like – cowboys with kick.




   Title: "The Taking of Pelham One Two Three"

   Grade: 4

   Cast: Walter Matthau, Robert Shaw, Hector Elizondo

   Director: Joseph Sargent

   Rating: R

   Runtime: 104 minutes

   Release Company: MGM Home Entertainment





The Flick: I actually prefer this version of "The Taking of Pelham One Two Three" to the more recent flash and dash version presented by Tony Scott.  Walter Matthau fits the everyman persona to a tee (Denzel Washington felt a tad too acty!) and Robert Shaw never met a bad guy he couldn't make memorable (Travolta isn’t even in the same acting ballpark!) – think an odd couple...but with guns!  Not that the danger is any less dramatic, but there’s a realism that comes with the time and makes this original Taking a much more suspenseful ride.    

Best Hidden Gem: Love the fact that the main gunman – named Mr. Blue, Mr. Green, Mr. Grey and Mr. Brown – were the obvious inspiration behind Quentin Tarantino’s "Reservoir Dogs!"

Worth the Moola: Matthau AND Shaw together in the same movie – if you have to ask, you don't deserve to own it!