Thief's Monthly Movie Loot - 2021 Edition

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My friend Brian Skutle invited me to his podcast, Sonic Cinema, to talk about documentaries. If anyone's interested, here's the link to check it out...

Sonic Cinema - Episode 95 - Discussing Documentaries

That website has the Google Podcasts and Apple Podcasts links for those that prefer those platforms, but I also think it's available on Spotify. Check it out and I hope you like it!
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Check out my podcast: The Movie Loot!



THE MUMMY'S HAND
(1940, Cabanne)
A film set in Egypt



"Should Kharis obtain a large amount of the fluid, he would become an uncontrollable *monster*, a soulless demon with the desire to kill and kill."

Yes, if someone were to feed the mummy with a certain leave juice, he would kill and kill and kill. Fortunately, if that happens at 40+ minutes in a 67 minutes, the time to kill and kill and kill is not that much; which is a good thing for most of the characters, but a bad thing for a "horror" film about a killing mummy.

Following the success of several sequels to their Universal Monsters, the studio released The Mummy's Hand to capitalize on the first film. This one follows archaeologist Steve Banning (Dick Foran) and his partner Babe Jenson (Wallace Ford) as they set out to find the tomb of Princess Ananka. However, they stumble upon the mummy of Kharis, who was buried alive for trying to bring Ananka back to life.

Going back to what I said in the first paragraph, the truth is that this film is less of a "horror" film and more of a comedy, that actually kinda vibes more with 1999's The Mummy than with 1932's original. And that is not necessarily a bad thing, but it's good to know what you're getting into if you decide to watch it.

Unfortunately, the film takes too long to get things going. The first half hour is devoted to Banning and Babe's shenanigans in Egypt, trying to get the expedition going. Once they get out, it takes around 10-15 minutes more until they find the mummy and it's brought back to life, and that's when it kinda picks up a bit. At least, the banter between the lead characters is solid, and I think Tom Tyler was menacing enough as the mummy, at least looks-wise.

But as far as uncontrollable, he isn't; and as far as how good the film is, ehh, it isn't very good. There's not enough of the mummy in it, the comic element didn't fully jive with me, and the overall pacing and flow was too dull and lifeless, and there's no fluid to revitalize it.

Grade:



For any listener here, The Movie Loot - Episode 49 is out. Since it's Noirvember, we're getting into the seedy underbelly of cinema to talk about film noir. My guest for this episode is Film Noir expert, Dr. Richard Edwards. We talk about the birth of film noir, what makes a film noir, and also share our Top 5 Noir Films.

The Movie Loot 49: The Noir Loot (with Richard Edwards)

Spotify users can check it out here, while Apple Podcast users can check it out here, but the podcast is also available on all the main podcast platforms.



ONE CUT OF THE DEAD
(2017, Ueda)
A film from the 2010s



"Fast, cheap, but average"

That's how director Higurashi (Takayuki Hamatsu) describes his work to the producers trying to hire him for a special film project. Filmed over the course of 8 days and at roughly $25,000, the actual film is all but one of those things.

Without giving too much away, One Cut of the Dead follows a crew of filmmakers tasked with shooting a zombie film while facing a series of unexpected and often hilarious constraints and problems. The nature and reasons of those constraints is best explained by watching the actual film, and being patient enough to stick with it all the way through the payoff.

For a genre that has been as beaten to death as zombie films, a film really needs to bring it to surprise us. Whether it is by chance or by design, One Cut of the Dead achieves that with a unique script and execution and a lot of heart. The end result is an undeniably fun film that manages to subvert the tropes of not only zombie films, but also of reality/live TV, and filmmaking in general.

If you haven't heard much or anything about this, then give it a chance as soon as possible. Especially if you're a zombie or horror fan, this is a film that rewards you for walking in blind. It is a film that moves at a breezy pace, and even though it may look cheap, average it ain't.

Grade:



CASUALTIES OF WAR
(1989, De Palma)
A war film



"First you don't know s-hit, then you don't give a s-hit."

That's how Private Hatcher (John C. Reilly) describes their situation as soldiers during the Vietnam War early on this film. There is a certain notion of soldiers being thrown into situations "not knowing s-hit", i.e. not fully prepared to what they were about to face, both in terms of warfare as well as psychologically. But some argue that that same "free-for-all" approach leads then to psychological and behavioral issues that can be easily summed up as "not giving a s-hit". Those two frames of mind are the core of this Brian De Palma war film.

Casualties of War follows a squad led by Sergeant Meserve (Sean Penn) that after an ambush, decide to kidnap and rape a young Vietnamese woman. Although most of his fellow soldiers go along with the plan, Private Eriksson (Michael J. Fox) is against it, which leads to tension, confrontations, and the moral dilemma of whether he should "give a s-hit" and who ultimately "gives a s-hit" in the end.

I had seen this film a couple of times back in the day, but for some reason, I hadn't seen it in maybe 15-20 years. However, it had left an impression and I often cited it as one of my favorite war films and probably on my Top 5 films from De Palma. Despite exposing some flaws, revisiting it last night proved that this is still a well-made and powerful film.

The primary burden of the film lies in the performances of the two leads. If they can convincingly sell the two attitudes ("giving a s-hit" and "not giving a s-hit"), most of the work is done. Fortunately, although not at 100%, Penn and Fox are both capable enough in their roles. Fox does a pretty good job conveying Eriksson's idealism and naivete. He does feel a bit too naοve and aloof at times, but I guess that's the point. Penn has the showier role and although he does go a bit overboard at times, he's pretty good as the despicable Meserve.

The supporting cast, which includes Reilly, John Leguizamo, Ving Rhames, Don Patrick Harvey, and Thuy Thu Le is also pretty good. The other main flaw for me is that as the film reaches its climax, the dialogue becomes more preachy and forced. I also don't think the flash-forwards that bookend the film added much, but overall, this remains a harrowing film that depicts a microcosm of the horrors of war, as well as the psychological effects it has on everyone involved.

Grade:



Absolutely adore Alien, one of my favourite cinematic viewing experiences ever. Not seen 10/31, not a mad fan of anthologies in general and your rating isn't making me want to rush to watch it either. I like The Narrow Margin, it's pretty good with some nice snappy dialogue. Ministry Of Fear is ok but nothing special, a lesser Lang imo. Haven't seen Out Of The Past in absolutely ages, your rating reminds me I really ought to pop it in the player sometime soon.

Not much of a superhero films fan personally but I generally give most of them a go and Black Widow will certainly get a shot whenever it's freely available to me. Rififi is very much another favourite of mine - absolutely love that lengthy heist scene. Whatever you do don't take my quiz on it here though - was the first one I wrote and I set the questions ridiculously hard and far too much based on observation.

Have I seen The Mummy's Hand? Probably. When younger I'd watch most of that fare if I got the chance, doesn't count now though as those brain cells have long since departed. One Cut Of The Dead sounds interesting, I'll have to try to remember to keep an eye out for it. Casualties Of War is another that I've seen but an awful lot of water has passed through since so I can't really comment.

Phew, either I need to keep up more often or you need to slow down a bit
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Absolutely adore Alien, one of my favourite cinematic viewing experiences ever. Not seen 10/31, not a mad fan of anthologies in general and your rating isn't making me want to rush to watch it either. I like The Narrow Margin, it's pretty good with some nice snappy dialogue. Ministry Of Fear is ok but nothing special, a lesser Lang imo. Haven't seen Out Of The Past in absolutely ages, your rating reminds me I really ought to pop it in the player sometime soon.

Not much of a superhero films fan personally but I generally give most of them a go and Black Widow will certainly get a shot whenever it's freely available to me. Rififi is very much another favourite of mine - absolutely love that lengthy heist scene. Whatever you do don't take my quiz on it here though - was the first one I wrote and I set the questions ridiculously hard and far too much based on observation.

Have I seen The Mummy's Hand? Probably. When younger I'd watch most of that fare if I got the chance, doesn't count now though as those brain cells have long since departed. One Cut Of The Dead sounds interesting, I'll have to try to remember to keep an eye out for it. Casualties Of War is another that I've seen but an awful lot of water has passed through since so I can't really comment.

Phew, either I need to keep up more often or you need to slow down a bit
Me? Slow down? Nahh, you gotta keep up

(thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts)



Rififi is very much another favourite of mine - absolutely love that lengthy heist scene. Whatever you do don't take my quiz on it here though - was the first one I wrote and I set the questions ridiculously hard and far too much based on observation.
Took the quiz. 60%



11:14
(2003, Marcks)
A film with the number 11 (Eleven, Eleventh, etc.) in its title



"I can't f*cking do it! It's the worst idea you ever had!"

That's the desperate cry of Duffy (Shawn Hatosy), whose desperate need for money prompts his friend Buzzy (Hillary Swank) to ask him to shoot her in the arm to fake a robbery on the convenience store they work at. It is a dumb idea, and certainly not the only one that's pondered and executed on this little indie thriller from 2003.

Like many so-called Pulp Fiction rip-offs and copycats of the late 90s and early-00s, 11:14 follows a wide array of characters through multiple, separate storylines as they all crash and converge in weird, funny, and unexpected ways at the titular time.

Aside from the convenience store employees, the characters include a slightly drunk driver that crashes onto something and the cop that stops him (Henry Thomas and Clark Gregg), a trio of teenage pranksters (Colin Hanks, Ben Foster, and Stark Sands), and a couple worried about their teenage daughter (Patrick Swayze, Barbara Hershey, Rachael Leigh Cook). The common denominator between them all, aside from the time, is that all of them have the worst ideas in mind about how to get around their night.

I rented this film shortly after its release. Like I said above, it has that same vibe of Pulp Fiction, with a big ensemble cast, a broken narrative, and multiple storylines intersecting at one point. At that time, I had such a blast with it, that I bought it as soon as I could. I've been watching it often since and recommend it often as well. However, I hadn't seen it since 2007, so I was afraid of how it would fare now. But alas, I had as much of a blast as I remember having before.

This is not a deep, thought-provoking film at all, but it doesn't aim to be (nor I think that every film should be). But the thing is that the stories are so creatively written and weaved that you can't help but smile and laugh at the ways they all come together, and most of the performances are quite good. There is maybe one storyline where you have to suspend your disbelief a bit to believe that a certain sequence of events happened in 10 minutes, but it's a minor gripe to hold it all together.

I had this marked for 4/5 from back when I last saw it. I've been going back and forth with bumping it down a notch, just because of its "ambitions", or just leaving it where it's at for the sheer fun I just had with it. After careful consideration, I've decided to leave it where it is; no apologies, it is a lot of fun, even if giving it 4/5 sounds like the worst idea I've ever had.

Grade:



UNDER THE SKIN
(2013, Glazer)
A film with a title that starts with the letters U or V • A film from the 2010s



"Do you want to look at me?"

That's the question that the lead female character asks a man she picks up on the street. "Do you want to touch my neck?", she asks later. Looking, touching, feeling... senses tells us about the world around us and how to react. They play an integral part of the plot of this film, but also an integral part of how we, as the audience, experiment it.

Under the Skin follows an unnamed female character (Scarlett Johansson) as she prowls around the streets of Scotland, looking for men. Why? We don't know, but we can see it's not necessarily for good. In the process, there's a significant amount of sensorial experience as we see her scan her surroundings for potential prey like a Terminator.

When I tweeted that I was watching this, @ThatDarnMKS described the film as "a sensory masterpiece", and I think that's an extremely accurate way to put it. Just like the characters' senses are fed through what they see, listen, and feel, we — as the audience — are fed through Glazer's sometimes cold, sometimes bizarre visuals, as well as the masterful work of everyone at the sound department.

It's been a couple of days, but this is the kind of film that you just can't shake off easily. I've been puzzling about the meaning of certain things in it, like the frequent use of water (or liquid) in various forms, while also being emotionally affected by seemingly minor things (like the abandoned baby at the beach). But that goes to the film's main theme of there being more "under the skin" than we can absorb at first with our senses.

Grade:



Huge fan of that one.
I wanna see it again. I think I could've given it a 4.5, but I feel like a rewatch is in order.



Out of curiosity, what's your take on the ending as that's the only weak point of the film for me, though you may have another interpretation for it.

WARNING: spoilers below
I get that the point of it was to show that when Johannson was following the orders of the motorcyclists, she had little freedom, but a long lifespan. When she disobeyed them though, she had a lot of freedom, albeit a short lifespan (the shots of the ant and the fly showed this). Due to that, it made sense that she died at the end. The issue I have here though is with the way she was killed as it appeared to strangely suggest that any woman walking alone will encounter the same fate as she did. In fact, it was implied that the woman who was loaded into the van at the beginning of the film seemed to encounter a similar fate since her body was found on the side of a road. The fates of these two seemed to serve as examples of what befell all the other women who came before them. The problem with this implication though is that I feel like encountering the fates which Johannson's character, the woman at the beginning, and, presumably, the other women (as was implied) did is highly improbable. If the area she was walking around in was shown to be really dangerous, I guess I could kind of see this fate befalling her. This just wasn't represented in the film enough. In fact, the area she escaped to seemed quite peaceful. If the film had ended with the motorcyclists catching up to her and killing her for being of no use to them anymore, this would've been more of a believable fate. Despite this though, really good film.



Out of curiosity, what's your take on the ending as that's the only weak point of the film for me, though you may have another interpretation for it.

WARNING: spoilers below
I get that the point of it was to show that when Johannson was following the orders of the motorcyclists, she had little freedom, but a long lifespan. When she disobeyed them though, she had a lot of freedom, albeit a short lifespan (the shots of the ant and the fly showed this). Due to that, it made sense that she died at the end. The issue I have here though is with the way she was killed as it appeared to strangely suggest that any woman walking alone will encounter the same fate as she did. In fact, it was implied that the woman who was loaded into the van at the beginning of the film seemed to encounter a similar fate since her body was found on the side of a road. The fates of these two seemed to serve as examples of what befell all the other women who came before them. The problem with this implication though is that I feel like encountering the fates which Johannson's character, the woman at the beginning, and, presumably, the other women (as was implied) did is highly improbable. If the area she was walking around in was shown to be really dangerous, I guess I could kind of see this fate befalling her. This just wasn't represented in the film enough. In fact, the area she escaped to seemed quite peaceful. If the film had ended with the motorcyclists catching up to her and killing her for being of no use to them anymore, this would've been more of a believable fate. Despite this though, really good film.
Oh boy, I'm just gonna throw a couple of wild stabs in the dark cause, like I said, I'm still puzzled about it...

WARNING: spoilers below

First, she dies at the hand of a predator, much like herself. One can infer that this probably wasn't the first time that this guy had preyed upon a vulnerable female there in the woods, or anywhere else.

Second, she dies by fire out in the open in the middle of a snow (white) field, which is the opposite of how she dealt with her victims, in a dark, enclosed (black) void, drowned in water.


Not really connected to what you brought up about the other women, but I feel like there's something to get out of that. I just can't work it out.



Oh boy, I'm just gonna throw a couple of wild stabs in the dark cause, like I said, I'm still puzzled about it...

WARNING: spoilers below

First, she dies at the hand of a predator, much like herself. One can infer that this probably wasn't the first time that this guy had preyed upon a vulnerable female there in the woods, or anywhere else.

Second, she dies by fire out in the open in the middle of a snow (white) field, which is the opposite of how she dealt with her victims, in a dark, enclosed (black) void, drowned in water.


Not really connected to what you brought up about the other women, but I feel like there's something to get out of that. I just can't work it out.
WARNING: spoilers below
I think there's definitely a contrast between the way Johannson's character killed her victims and how the man in the woods killed her. Both of them kill someone from the opposite gender, with Johannson doing it in a pitch black setting, while the man does it in a white, snowy area.

As for the significance though, I'm kind of mixed on it. I think the final sequence is going for a 'the predator has become the prey' dynamic, but it didn't quite register for me. If she was going to die, I was expecting for the motorcyclists to catch up to her and kill her for being of no use to them anymore (I assumed the motorcyclist killed the woman in the beginning, until I saw the ending), but it instead goes off the wall and has a highly implausible fate befall her (and, assumedly, the other women who came before her).


Still though, it's a really good film.



Out of curiosity, what's your take on the ending as that's the only weak point of the film for me, though you may have another interpretation for it.

WARNING: spoilers below
I get that the point of it was to show that when Johannson was following the orders of the motorcyclists, she had little freedom, but a long lifespan. When she disobeyed them though, she had a lot of freedom, albeit a short lifespan (the shots of the ant and the fly showed this). Due to that, it made sense that she died at the end. The issue I have here though is with the way she was killed as it appeared to strangely suggest that any woman walking alone will encounter the same fate as she did. In fact, it was implied that the woman who was loaded into the van at the beginning of the film seemed to encounter a similar fate since her body was found on the side of a road.
Oh boy, I'm just gonna throw a couple of wild stabs in the dark cause, like I said, I'm still puzzled about it...

WARNING: spoilers below

First, she dies at the hand of a predator, much like herself. One can infer that this probably wasn't the first time that this guy had preyed upon a vulnerable female there in the woods, or anywhere else.

Second, she dies by fire out in the open in the middle of a snow (white) field, which is the opposite of how she dealt with her victims, in a dark, enclosed (black) void, drowned in water.


Not really connected to what you brought up about the other women, but I feel like there's something to get out of that. I just can't work it out.
I have several issues with the ending.

WARNING: spoilers below
First, as Speling notes, it gives her a death (rape and murder) that is something that could have happened to any woman unfortunate enough to cross that man. The whole thing would make so much more sense if the motorcycle man took her out, following the pattern of what we see at the beginning: the women serve their purpose, but if they develop emotion they cease functioning correctly and are swapped out for a newer model.

Second, the whole rape/murder thing is just SO way too cute. Hey, she's a predator who uses sex to ultimately kill men? Why, now she will be attacked by a sexual predator who also kills his victims. I do think that there's something to be said for the fact that her killings seem more merciful, but the symmetry of it ("The hunter has become the hunted, guys!!!!") annoys me.

I also thought that the film kind of lost its grip on the idea that she is an alien, or certainly not a person. You know what you don't do when you start to feel sorry for the cows that you've been grinding into burger? You don't sleep with one. I thought that the whole notion of empathy that had been explored in such an interesting way just totally went off of the rails in the last 20 minutes or so.

There's also something just . . . I don't know . . . in a film about a woman-presenting character who is hunting men, the most upsetting and graphic violence (including sexual violence) is reserved for that female character. And maybe there's a point to that, but the long the movie went on, the less I liked it and the less I felt like it actually knew what it was trying to say.


Again, though, I think that most of it is amazing.



@SpelingError @Takoma11

I'm not going to pretend that I got everything that the film intended us to, but I think this article has a pretty neat breakdown and analysis of what happens and what it could possibly mean...

The Colossal Explanation of Under the Skin

The thing that makes more sense to me is...

WARNING: spoilers below

That the woman in the opening is "Scarlett"s predecessor, who's role or mission is subsequently transferred to a new alien ("Scarlett"). The ant being a symbol of the colony-like work of the Motorcycle "guys" and the Hunter "girls", both working and "collecting" towards a main goal (i.e. feeding the ant queen? providing for the lead aliens?).

I think that the fact that "Scarlett" dies at the hand of a human, as opposed to the Motorcycle "guy" serves as some sort of contrast between the human experience that she's craving, or feeling drawn to, with the "dark side" that she's probably not that accustomed to (beyond the gang that attacks her van, we don't see her experience any mishap).

I kinda like what the guy in the article says about her ultimate fate being some sort of "somber victory" as she becomes smoke and ashes and in a way becoming one with the environment, instead of being disposed by her own kind. It goes to something that I mentioned about the presence of water (or liquid) in various forms and stages through the film, to sorta signal the existence of things (and people?) in various planes.

This is probably nothing but it's probably the shot that stuck with me more for some weird reason.



The thing that stuck with me is that in this single shot, you can see "water" in its three states: solid in the mountain ice, gas in the mist, and liquid in the water, obviously. And maybe I'm talking out of my ass, but at the moment it really hit me as a metaphor to how somethings can take various shapes and forms, and exist around us in many states... like the alien taking the shape of a human, but not being quite. In the second half of the film, she's stuck in a sorta middle state where she doesn't feel neither alien nor human. She's something, but it's trying to become other thing.



Like I said before, it's the kind of film that has stuck with me, even if I can't properly rationalize all its meanings and symbolisms.



The thing that makes more sense to me is...

WARNING: spoilers below

That the woman in the opening is "Scarlett"s predecessor, who's role or mission is subsequently transferred to a new alien ("Scarlett"). The ant being a symbol of the colony-like work of the Motorcycle "guys" and the Hunter "girls", both working and "collecting" towards a main goal (i.e. feeding the ant queen? providing for the lead aliens?).
I thought that this was pretty clear at the beginning of the film.

WARNING: spoilers below
I think that the fact that "Scarlett" dies at the hand of a human, as opposed to the Motorcycle "guy" serves as some sort of contrast between the human experience that she's craving, or feeling drawn to, with the "dark side" that she's probably not that accustomed to (beyond the gang that attacks her van, we don't see her experience any mishap).

I kinda like what the guy in the article says about her ultimate fate being some sort of "somber victory" as she becomes smoke and ashes and in a way becoming one with the environment, instead of being disposed by her own kind. It goes to something that I mentioned about the presence of water (or liquid) in various forms and stages through the film, to sorta signal the existence of things (and people?) in various planes.
.
This I push back against. I think it's very appropriate that she
WARNING: spoilers below
dies at the hands of a person, but the sexual violence and the sadistic nature of the killing goes beyond for me. And I think that's partly to do with how much sexual violence and sadistic violence towards women is a staple of the horror genre. It feels like making a well-worn, obvious choice, even if it's making that choice for different reasons than a "typical"horror movie.



IDA
(2013, Pawlikowski)
A film from Poland • A film from the 2010s



"What if you go there and discover there is no God?"

Set in 1960s Poland, Ida follows Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska), a young, aspiring Catholic nun who is confronted with the reality of her past before taking her vows. Orphaned as an infant during World War II, Anna is sent out to meet her aunt Wanda (Agata Kulesza), her only surviving relative, through which she learns about her Jewish parents. Both women set out on a trip into the Polish countryside to find out what happened to their family.

The thing is that Wanda is, in many ways, the opposite of what Anna (or Ida, which happens to be her real name) represents; she's a sexually promiscuous, chain-smoking, alcoholic that used to be a Communist resistance fighter during the war. The above question is one she poses to Anna/Ida as they are about to embark on their journey. Wanda challenges Anna/Ida's beliefs, but in the same way finds herself challenged by Ida's.

This is the second film I've seen from Pawlikowski, after Cold War, and as much as I liked that one, I loved this one even more. This film is, and I hope I can stress this enough, *gorgeously shot*. The framing and overall shot composition is superb, while the black and white cinematography conveys the lifelessness of the post-war world in which these women live, as well as the contrast within their mindset.

Both lead performances are magnificent, and you can feel the mutual "breaking" in both characters as the film progress. The contrast and similitudes continue, as both of their journeys are connected, but separate as well. Ida is determined to uncover a past she doesn't know anything about, while Wanda is drawn to uncover a past she'd rather keep buried.

In the end, we realize that first, the journey never ends. Life continues, despite whatever pit stops we make along the way. And second, that regardless of where the journey leads you to at any point, it is what you make with what you find what counts; even if it's God or your own demons.

Grade:



GUN CRAZY
(1950, Lewis)
A film noir



"We go together, Annie. I don't know why. Maybe like guns and ammunition go together."

The concept of "love at first sight" is a common idea among romantics and lovers. The belief that upon seeing someone you just can't imagine your life without that person, disregarding anything else. This classic film noir puts a bit of a spin to it by presenting what can be referred to as "love at first shot". But will it last?

Gun Crazy follows Bart Tare (John Dall), a young man that has been obsessed with guns since he was a kid. This obsession took him from reform school to the Army, and eventually back to his hometown. When he meets circus sharpshooter Annie Starr (Peggy Cummins) during one of her performances, the two become infatuated with each other. Is it love, or is it that gun obsession again?

Eventually, Bart and Annie embark on a crime spree across the nation. With Annie's ambitions and Bart's obsession, the idea of losing each other is so unbearable that they disregard law and morals in favor of a life on the run. Both Dall and Cummins are fantastic transmitting this attraction in a way that's believable, and both charming and toxic at the same time.

But aside from that, the camerawork from Lewis, especially during the car chases is nothing short of impressive. Moreover when you consider this was a low budget film, with little resources when compared to the big studio productions of the time. All of this adds a certain energy to the film that's maintained until the last scene.

Until a couple of weeks or months ago, I don't think I had heard about this film. But after Dr. Richard Edwards brought it up on one of my latest podcast episodes, and after reading some of you mention it, and praise it here, I decided to give it a shot. It is no surprise why it is so well regarded, cause Gun Crazy is a wonderful and thrilling ride. I guess it's love at first sight.

Grade: