Archive for Billy the Kid

Billy the Kid Week 2011: Review of The Illegal Rebirth of Billy the Kid

Posted in Billy the Kid, books, pop culture, reviews with tags , , , , on July 12, 2011 by Paxton

Billy the Kid Week

This week I am celebrating the 130th anniversary of the killing of Billy the Kid by Pat Garrett.  I’m reading books that feature either the historical Billy the Kid or a fictional version of Billy the Kid. Yesterday I looked at a comic series featuring the character of Billy the Kid.  Today we look at a science fiction story involving A clone of Billy.

Illegal Rebirth of Billy the Kid

Today’s book is called The Illegal Rebirth of Billy the Kid by Rebecca Ore. I found it during my search for Billy the Kid books and I’d never heard of it. The basic story line seemed interesting enough so I got it off paperbackswap.com and read it a few months ago.

On the surface it sounds awesome. The story takes place in the future. Cloning is legal but heavily policed. A government scientist creates an illegal Billy the Kid clone which escapes, and wrecks havok. Because the clone is illegal, the government sends out assassins to capture or kill it and find out who made it. The clone goes on the run like the real Billy the Kid, receiving help from a clone activist group, until Billy finally confronts his pursuers. But the book doesn’t completely go that route. For starters, we find out pretty early that this clone isn’t actually a clone of Billy the Kid. The clone was grown from generic government clone DNA and given flash memories based partly on historical record and partly on pop culture myth. Immediately that disconnected me. This clone could literally have been anyone and that hindered my enjoyment of the story.

Clone Commandos
These clones would have worked better.

Two, nothing really happens. “Billy” does get help from an activist group, then he has to get a fake id and a job. He is constantly lamenting the fact he’s just a clone and not the actual Billy the Kid. He’s not really “on the run”. He’s in hiding. Notice the difference. One implies action, the other doesn’t. Guess which.  Also, the story does imply that the government will, in fact, send out clone assassins (assassins who are themselves clones) to eliminate potential risks.  Awesome.  But this story only mentions it.  The bad ass subplot of the clone assassin hunting down one of his own kind who happens to be a created copy of one of the most notorious outlaws in American history never happens.  It’s just left to dangle there.  We then get the clone “Billy” working a deal with the government to reveal the scientist that made him in return for protection.  Just not enough there to actually make me care about the characters or what was going on.

I think I see where Ore was trying to go, though.  Maybe using this story as an analogue for societal classes or maybe even racism.  Clones are thought of as not really even human.  They are called meat dogs or meat pigs.  Some even consider them pets.  You also have the clone activist group helping clones get away from abusive owners, much like the Underground Railroad back during the Civil War did for blacks.  A lot of this is just barely under the surface in the story, but I didn’t care because the story was so goddam boring I just wanted it to end.

That pretty much wraps up the longest 210 pages I’ve ever read in my entire life.  This story would probably have worked better in 100 pages.  And maybe a re-write of the ending.  But I can’t recommend it.  I was bored to tears through the majority of the book.

Billy the Kid Week 2011: Review of Billy the Kid’s Old Timey Oddities

Posted in Billy the Kid, comic books, Frankenstein, monsters, reviews with tags , , , , , on July 11, 2011 by Paxton

Billy the Kid Week

Our last Billy the Kid Week was last August when I celebrated the 22nd birthday of the movie Young Guns.  Now, nearly a year later, it’s time for another Billy the Kid Week.  This time, I am celebrating the 130th anniversary of Billy the Kid’s death.  It happened this week back in 1881.  This week, I’ll be reviewing various fiction/non-fiction books featuring Billy the Kid.

For today, I’m beginning Billy the Kid week with a review of the comic book mini-series, Billy the Kid’s Old Timey Oddities.  It was released in 2005 by Dark Horse Comics.

Billy the Kids Old Timey Oddities

The comic is written by Eric Powell who also writes another popular comic, The Goon.  Like most of the Billy fiction I’ll read this week, this comic book assumes that Billy was not killed by Pat Garrett back in 1881.  That he somehow escaped. The comic starts off with a drawing of what looks like an old newspaper article talking about the chase, capture and killing of Billy the Kid (left).  At the top of the article is an image that homages an old dime novel woodcut from 1881 called “Killing the Kid” (right). I thought, historically, that was a nice touch.

billy the kids death killing the kid woodcut

Initially, we see Billy riding a train.  A man named Bill Sproule approaches Billy while on the train.  Of course Billy is suspicious, but Sproule offers Billy a job with his traveling circus, Bill Sproule’s Biological Curiosities.  Billy is reluctant at first, but decides to go with Mr Sproule to see what the job entails.

So, Billy goes to work for another guy’s traveling freak show.  Now, I think it’s weird that the title of the book is Billy the Kid’s Old Timey Oddities.  Like Billy owns the freak show.  That’s actually what I expected.  I guess not.  *shrugs*  Let’s press on, shall we?

The traveling show is populated by a bunch of awesomely freaky characters like a tattooed lady who’s tattoos constantly change to predict the future and a wolf man.  Billy is, of course, stubborn and immature.  He manages to alienate all the “freaks” immediately after meeting them.  Then continues to use “freak” slurs when describing them.  At first, it’s irritating.  Billy just seems like a mean douche.  But as the story goes on, Billy’s edge softens a bit and he helps the group when they get in trouble.

And they do get in trouble.  The group goes looking for a jewel called The Golem’s Heart.  It is owned by none other than Dr Victor Frankenstein.  So the group goes after it and immediately becomes trapped by the mad doctor.  The doctor has been performing ghastly medical experiments on the people in the surrounding town.  He plans on using the freaks in some of these experiments.

Dr Frankenstein comic Dr Frankenstein movie

I love the depiction of Victor Frankenstein in this book (pic on left).  It’s eerily close to Peter Cushing, who portrayed Victor Frankenstein in a bunch of movies for Hammer Films in the ’70s (pic on right).  Just a really nice touch by the artist.

So Victor traps all of the group in his castle and plans to do horrible, horrible experiments on them.  Billy becomes locked in a chest but escapes and helps the group overcome and defeat Frankenstein.  They manage to turn Frankenstein’s mutated creations back on him.

It’s a pretty good book.  I enjoyed the majority of it and the artwork is perfect for the story.  It reminds me of some of the early EC work in Vault of Horror or Tales from the Crypt.  Very cool.  I can honestly recommend it to people wanting a nice, quick, fun read.

Billy the Kids Old Timey Oddities v2
(Via Dark Horse.com)

Last year, Dark Horse released a sequel called Billy the Kid’s Old Timey Oddities and the Ghastly Fiend of London (that’s a lot of title to type).  However, I was not able to track down a copy to read, but it looks pretty awesome.  It looks like a Billy the Kid and freaks vs Jack the Ripper.  When I finally get a copy, I’ll put up a review.  It seems Powell is including his other comic creation, The Goon, as a backup feature to this second volume of Billy the Kid’s Old Timey Oddities.  I look forward to reading this.

Stay tuned, this week on the Cavalcade is full of Billy the Kid as we lead up to the 130th anniversary of the outlaw’s death on Thursday.

Billy the Kid Week 2010: I cast a Billy the Kid vs Dracula remake

Posted in Billy the Kid, Dracula, monsters, movies, pop culture with tags , , , , , , on August 20, 2010 by Paxton

Billy the Kid Week

So, Billy the Kid Week was last week and I finished it up with a review of the movie Billy the Kid vs Dracula.  This was a movie that looked and sounded terrible, but had a concept that was so completely out of left field (and AWESOME) that I fell head over heels for it.  Unfortunately, the movie lived up to how bad it looked and I gave up an hour into the complete mess of a movie.  However the concept stuck with me and I decided I wanted someone to remake this movie today (or, better yet, in the 80s/90s).  How incredible would that have been?  Something like Young Guns but with a little Lost Boys mixed in?  FANTASTIC.

So, I started to cast my remake of this movie.  I decided I wanted Emilio Estevez as Billy (obviously).  Late 80s or early 90s Estevez would be ideal.  However, if we made it today, I like the idea of an older Billy clashing with the King of the Vampires, too.  Now, for Drac, I really want to say Bela Lugosi, however, Bela died WELL before the ’80s/’90s so I needed someone else that could make a good vampire lord.  After much thought I came up with Sam Neill.  He was a fantastic vampire in Daybreakers and I think he would make a great Dracula. Plus, if we made this movie in the late 80s early ’90s, Neill doesn’t look much different now than he did back then (see him in Hunt for Red October in 1990 or Jurassic Park in 1993).  So, here’s our two protagonists.

Emilio as Billy Sam Neill as Dracula

I am so in love with this movie right now.  I literally would take this movie, move to Connecticut and marry it in a commitment ceremony, then make sweet, sweet love with it on a bear skin rug next to a raging fire until the sun comes up.  That’s right, bear skin rug by the fire love making.  You know I’m seriously in love.  Anyway, I also wanted a female caught between these two guys.  I thought about Angelina Jolie, but she may be too tough and doesn’t really fit into this.  I wanted more of a sweet female character.  My first choice would probably be Gwyneth Paltrow.   The first thing I remember seeing her in was Se7en in 1995.  I loved her in that and I love her now.  That’s my first choice, so I’m going with that.  Besides, 1995 seems like a good year to make this movie now that I think about it.  Gwyneth would be 23 and fresh off Se7en.  Emilio would be a few years past the Young Guns movies and he didn’t appear in any movies in 1995 but appeared in D2: The Mighty Ducks in 1994 and a small role in Mission: Impossible in 1996.  Sam Neill would be two years after his role in Jurassic Park. So 1995 seems like a nice fit for this movie.  Now the poster.

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Billy the Kid Week 2010: Freaky Friday the 13th featuring Billy the Kid, The Three Stooges and Dracula

Posted in Billy the Kid, Dracula, monsters, movies, nostalgia, pop culture, reviews, vampires with tags , , , , , , , , on August 13, 2010 by Paxton

Billy the Kid Week

This is Day 5 of Billy the Kid Week. All week I’ve been reviewing movies featuring the character of Billy the Kid. Here are the previous week’s entries:

Day 0: Young Guns II 20th birthday
Day 1: Howard Hughes’ The Outlaw
Day 2: The Left Handed Gun starring Paul Newman
Day 3: Sam Peckinpah’s Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid
Day 4: Young Guns 22nd birthday

Since today is Friday the 13th, I am dubbing today as Billy the Kid Week’s “Freaky Friday”.  I will review one wacky and one scary movie featuring Billy. The first movie will be the Three Stooges’ epic western, The Outlaws IS Coming. The second movie will be the horror schlockfest Billy the Kid vs Dracula. These movies look like they should be appropriately zany, so let’s get started.

The Outlaws is Coming

Released in 1965, this is the last fully completed film featuring The Stooges. They began filming one more movie, Kook’s Tour, in 1970, but Larry had a stroke before filming was completed and the movie sat unfinished and unreleased for years afterward.

The original title of this movie was The Three Stooges Meet The Gunslingers.  That earlier title sounds reminiscent of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein for a reason as this movie is setup in much the same way. Instead of being a “monster rally” movie featuring a famous comedy team, it’s a “gunslinger rally” movie featuring a famous comedy team. There are 9 famous gunslingers in this movie including Billy the Kid, Jesse James, Wild Bill Hickock, Bat Masterson, Wyatt Earp, Johnny Ringo, Cole Younger, Rob Dalton and Belle Star.  Each of the nine gunslingers were played by popular local Kid-TV hosts of the day.  Other notable stars in this film are Adam West as Kenneth Cabot,  a naive ne’er-do-well who works with the Stooges, the gorgeous Nancy Kovack as Annie Oakley and Henry Gibson as Charlie Horse, the Indian chief’s son.  The movie is even narrated by Paul Frees, known for his voice work on Rocky and Bullwinkle (most notably, Boris Badenov).  So, lots of talent were culled together to make this last movie for the Stooges.  West would go on to Batman the very next year.  Nancy Kovack would go on to several roles in geek classics like Queenie in two episodes of West’s Batman as well as Nona in an episode of the original Star Trek in 1968.

The Gunslingers

In the movie, the Stooges work as photographers and “undercover investigators” at an organization similar to the ASPCA.  They work with West’s Cabot and are sent on an undercover mission to Casper, Wyoming to determine why the population of Bison are dwindling.  They discover that a ruthless cattle baron, Rance Roden, has a group of deadly gunslingers killing off the bison to stir up the Indian population into an uprising that will slaughter the cavalry and put Roden in charge of the government (how the cavalry being defeated puts Rance as ruler of the government is not explained).  Oh, and Roden is selling government weapons to the Indians.  We meet the group of gunslingers in the beginning and learn where their territories are.  For some reason, Billy the Kid is said to be in charge of the Dakota Territory instead of Santa Fe (New Mexico, where Billy spent the majority of his life).  Johnny Ringo is in charge of Santa Fe.  Not a big deal since this is a Stooges movie, but it surprised me.  Anyway, we meet the gunslingers in the beginning, then we really don’t see them again until the end when there’s a big gunfight.  So, Billy the Kid only has dialogue in like two scenes.  Also, he’s played with the temperament of a teenager or child.  He whines and cries whenever he doesn’t want to do something.  Roden’s henchman Trigger Mortis (Get it? It’s a play on Rigor Mortis…haha!) gets most of the screen time for the villains.

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Billy the Kid Week 2010: Young Guns turns 22 years old this month

Posted in Billy the Kid, movies, pop culture, reviews with tags , , , , , on August 12, 2010 by Paxton

Billy the Kid Week

Welcome to Day 4 of Billy the Kid Week. I’ve been reviewing Billy the Kid movies every day. Here are the previous days’ reviews:

Day 0: Young Guns II 20th birthday
Day 1: Howard Hughes’ The Outlaw
Day 2: The Left Handed Gun starring Paul Newman
Day 3: Sam Peckinpah’s Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid

Which now brings us to today’s movie review, Young Guns, which also celebrates its 22nd birthday today.

Young Guns movie ad

Young Guns was released on Aug 12, 1988.  I was fourteen years old.  I didn’t see it on the day of release, I saw it later that year.  I didn’t know that much about the movie going into it, only that it was a western starring Emilio Estevez.  I decided to see it on a lark towards the end of the movie’s run.

When I was done watching it, I was blown away.  I had no expectations going in so this movie blew me out of the back of the theater.  I loved it.  I was especially in love with Emilio’s portrayal of Billy the Kid.  He played the living sh*t out of that character.  Also, the movie was full of action and snappy dialogue.  I loved the movie so much I started reading everything I could get my hands on about Billy the Kid.  I checked out library books about real life gunslingers and started reading western fiction including titles like The First Fast Draw by Louis L’Amour and other Billy the Kid titles like Anything for Billy by Larry McMurtry.  It really shaped some of my interests during high school.  I was even Emilio Estevez’s version of Billy the Kid for Halloween one year.

Young Guns poster

So, for the 22nd anniversary I sat down with my wife and watched this movie for the first time in probably 9-10 years. It was the first time ever for my wife to watch it.  When I watched this movie last I remember thinking that I had started liking Young Guns II better, I thought it was more fun.  I remember thinking that Young Guns was a little more boring than I remembered.  Well, I’m here to say that my 10 years ago self was full of crap.  This movie is anything BUT boring.  I still love it.

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Billy the Kid Week 2010: Review of Sam Peckinpah’s Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973)

Posted in Billy the Kid, movies, nostalgia, pop culture, reviews with tags , , , , , on August 11, 2010 by Paxton

Billy the Kid Week

Welcome to day 3 of Billy the Kid Week 2010. I’ll be reviewing Billy the Kid movies all week. Day 1 I reviewed Howard Hughes’ The Outlaw starring Jane Russell. Day 2 I reviewed The Left Handed Gun starring Paul Newman. Today I look back at a classic Billy the Kid western from the early ’70s directed by one of the last great directors of the genre, Sam Peckinpah, who also directed the wonderful The Wild Bunch. The movie is 1973’s Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid.

Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid

Directed by legendary director Sam Peckinpah (The Wild Bunch) and starring James Coburn as Pat Garrett and Kris Kristofferson as Billy the Kid. This movie also contains the motion picture debut of Bob Dylan in the small role of Alias.  Dylan would also score the soundtrack (his first music score) and created “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” for this movie.  This particular movie is legendary for the “behind the scenes” battles between Peckinpah and MGM studio head James Aubrey.  Aubrey did everything he could to undermine Peckinpah who, to be fair, was battling a severe bout of alcoholism which would plague him for the rest of his life.

Aubrey constantly questioned Peckinpah’s camera setups, time to shoot scenes and would continually tell Peckinpah to remove certain scenes he felt were unnecessary.  Peckinpah convinced the cast and crew to work covertly on lunch breaks and weekends to complete all the scenes he wanted shot.  When principal photography was finished, the picture was 21 days late and over $1 million over budget.  Peckinpah’s final cut of the film was 124 minutes.  However, the studio was so unhappy they took the film away from him and re-cut it to 102 minutes and released it.  The film was a box office failure.  Peckinpah’s 124 minute director’s cut was restored in the early ’80s on home video and laserdisc.  Eventually public opinion on the movie was turned and people began considering the movie to be an overlooked masterpiece, on par with The Wild Bunch.

Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid DVD

Before a few days ago, I’d never watched this movie.  I was aware of it, I planned on watching it many years ago during my Billy the Kid movie marathons, but I just never got around to it.  I was glad that I now had the chance to see it.  Honestly, this movie is better than the previous two movies I reviewed, but it’s still not one of my favorites.

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Billy the Kid Week 2010: Review of The Left Handed Gun (1958)

Posted in Billy the Kid, movies, nostalgia, pop culture, reviews with tags , , , , , on August 10, 2010 by Paxton

Billy the Kid Week

Welcome to Day 2 of Billy the Kid Week 2010. I’ll be reviewing Billy the Kid movies all week. Yesterday I reviewed the 1943 Howard Hughes movie, The Outlaw starring Jane Russell. Today, I’m reviewing The Left Handed Gun starring Paul Newman.

The Left Handed Gun poster

In 1955 Gore Vidal wrote a teleplay for The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse called The Death of Billy the Kid.  It starred Paul Newman as Billy the Kid.  Several years later Vidal’s teleplay would be used as the basis for Leslie Stevens’ screenplay for The Left Handed Gun.  Originally, James Dean was cast to play Billy the Kid for this movie but he died in 1955 and the studio cast Paul Newman as Dean’s replacement.

Many critics of this movie believe star Paul Newman was miscast.  Newman, at the time, was 33 years old and seen as too old to play the teenage Billy the Kid.

I originally watched this movie back in the late ’90s when I was trying to watch as many movies that had Billy the Kid in it as I could find.  I thought, “Paul Newman as Billy? This should be pretty good.” However, I was wrong.  You can tell that this screenplay was written for a younger actor.  Dean probably would have been able to pull off the “troubled teenager” bit a little more convincingly than the mid-30 year old Newman.  But even with a more convincing lead, this movie is just boring.  Newman’s Billy seems like a petulant child and the events transpiring barely registered in my consciousness.  By the time the movie was over (what felt like 6 hours later) I had forgotten most of the story.  Plus, Billy’s “love interest” shows up half way through the movie and all of sudden they are in love.  It’s weird.  She’s played by Lita Milan, and she’s pretty, but she has a very distracting haircut; the infamous femme-mullet.  The whole movie feels like a jumbled collection of boring scenes capped off with a very unsatisfying ending.

Billy the Kid tintype

Per the movie’s title, for many years Billy the Kid was believed to be left handed.  The mistake occurred because the one known/verified photograph of Billy the Kid (above) was a ferrotype (or, tintype) which portrays a mirrored image of the subject.  Unfortunately, publishers over the years reproduced this photo in numerous books “as is” and didn’t document the fact that we are looking at the mirror image of Billy the Kid.  This led to the mistaken belief by many people that Billy was left handed (as that’s where his gun is holstered in the photo).  Extensive expert photo analysis has concluded that Billy wasn’t left handed and this image is in fact reversed.

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