Egad! Is this a Weird Menace pulp or a detective mag? Either way, that's a mighty eye-catching cover. This is the second issue of SPICY DETECTIVE STORIES and features the first Dan Turner yarn by Robert Leslie Bellem, who also has a story in here under his pseudonym Jerome Severs Perry. There are also two stories by Norman A. Daniels, one under his own name and the other as by Robert Marks. And since all the other authors in this issue are credited with five stories or less, it's likely that most or all of those are house-names and that Bellem and/or Daniels wrote most of those stories as well.
Another Old West poker game gone bad! SIX-GUN WESTERN being a Trojan Magazines, Inc. pulp, you'd expect a racy cover (check!) and a veritable plethora of house-names (not so much). In fact, Ralph Sedgewick Douglas is the only verified house-name in this issue, although two other authors listed in the Table of Contents, Tom Morant and Henry K. Dallett, are very little known today and published only a few stories, so who knows about them. Otherwise, though, it's a line-up of prolific pulpsters: E. Hoffmann Price, Clee Woods, Clark Gray, and Ben Frank (whose real name was Frank Bennett, a name under which he also published).
A comic book mini-series about The Lone Ranger (one of my
all-time favorite characters), written by Chuck Dixon (one of the best comic
book scripters of the past thirty years), and somehow I missed it when it came
out back in 2012? How is that possible? Well, thankfully I’ve remedied that
oversight and have now read THE LONE RANGER: SNAKE OF IRON.
This isn’t a Weird Western or a Revisionist Western (although it does feature
the current, more politically correct version of Tonto rather than the Jay
Silverheels version, which I suspect is the way the license holder wants it
based on my own experience writing a Lone Ranger story). It’s pure Traditional
Western, with the Kiowa going on the warpath and trying to join forces with the
Comanche, a train derailed and stranded in a snowy winter Texas landscape, a
plucky female newspaper reporter, a little kid in danger, a cavalry patrol, and
a touch of Indian mysticism (but not enough to make it a Weird Western). In a
bit of a twist, The Lone Ranger and Tonto are apart for most of the series,
although it’s inevitable that their storylines will come together in the end,
which they do with quite satisfactory results.
Dixon’s script is top-notch, with plenty of action, good characters, the
occasional poignant moment, and bits of humor here and there. His Lone Ranger
absolutely rings true to the character, and his Tonto lacks the pretentiousness
that shows up in some other authors’ versions. I also like the fact that the
story takes place in the winter, with snow on the ground, instead of the hot
summer like most Westerns set in Texas. The art by Esteve Polls, an artist I’m
not familiar with, is good as well, with strong storytelling so I was always
able to keep up with what was going on. That’s not always true with modern
comics artists. I could quibble a little with some things. There are no
towering, snow-capped peaks in the part of Texas where this story takes place,
and frontier forts didn’t look like how Fort Griffin is depicted. But that’s
just part of the mythology of the Western, and overall I was quite pleased with
the art. (Hey, West Texas doesn’t look like Monument Valley, Utah, either, but
that doesn’t make THE SEARCHERS any less of a classic film, does it?)
I’ll admit I’m a bit of a curmudgeon and a purist where The Lone Ranger is
concerned, so I haven’t liked some of the modern tales featuring the character.
But I really enjoyed SNAKE OF IRON and don’t hesitate to recommend it to any
Lone Ranger fan. It’s a good yarn.
No pulp cover this morning, but I'll wish you all a Happy Easter with this installment of Stan Lynde's great comic strip RICK O'SHAY, which I read every Sunday morning with my dad when I was a kid. The ones featuring the gunfighter Hipshot Percussion were always my favorites. (Click on the image to read it.)
This issue of TWO-GUN WESTERN features another appearance of the trio who turn up on so many Western pulp covers: the Stalwart Cowboy, the Wounded Geezer, and the Gun-Toting Girl. True, there's a little variation on this one. The Geezer isn't quite as old as some, but he's still got the blood-stained bandage on his head. And the Girl is a brunette instead of the usual redhead and is also showing a little more cleavage than most. But as always, their presence makes for a good cover. What's puzzling is why stories by Philip Morgan (who?) and John Lumsden (again, who?) are featured on that cover, when inside there are also yarns by Noel M. Loomis, Bennie Gardner (once as Gunnison Steele and once as house-name Johnny Lawson), Jonathan Glidden (as Peter Dawson), L.L. Foreman, Stephen Payne, and Lee Floren. There are also stories by house-names Brent North and Ken Jason, who was also at various times Bennie Gardner or Jon Glidden, so the story in this issue may be by one of them. Or it might be by editor Robert O. Erisman, who was known to use the name as well and sell stories to himself. Hard to say. All I really know is that this looks like a pretty good issue.
The second Captain Shark novel, JAWS OF DEATH, begins mere
seconds after the previous novel, BY PIRATE’S BLOOD . . ., ends. (See last week’s
Forgotten Books post for the story on that one.) This makes me even more
convinced that author Kenneth Bulmer, who wrote these books under the pseudonym
Richard Silver, intended for the story to be told in one long novel.
The cliffhanger from the previous book is resolved quickly, and then Captain
Shark sets out on a new adventure, a quest for Morgan’s Gold, the treasure that
famous pirate Henry Morgan was after when he sacked Panama, but then the loot
mysteriously disappeared. What’s a pirate yarn without a treasure map, and to
get his hands on it, Shark has to resort to disguise as he penetrates into the
very heart of his mortal enemy’s stronghold.
It’s all very dashing and swashbuckling and romantic (of course there’s a
beautiful countess at said stronghold), and just as you’d expect, the action
winds up on the deserted island where the treasure is buried, with Shark and
his crew in a desperate race against the Spanish to reach the treasure and
recover it first. There’s no cliffhanger this time, but once the action is
over, one of the buccaneers declares, “Cap’n Shark will return!” Alas, he doesn’t.
That’s the end of this short-lived series.
However, the two books taken together make for an exciting, if somewhat
rambling, tale. Bulmer has a sure hand with the action scenes, Captain Shark is
a likable protagonist (and for a bunch of bloody-handed pirates, his crew is
pretty sympathetic, too), the villains are properly despicable, and some
welcome touches of humor crop up here and there. These novels are also as violent
and lurid as you’d expect from books written for the men’s adventure market in
the mid-Seventies, which, of course, doesn’t bother me a bit. I have quite a
few historical novels by Kenneth Bulmer on hand and look forward to reading
I didn’t mean to write about two Raoul Walsh movies in a
row, but that’s the way it’s worked out after last week’s post on DESPERATE
JOURNEY. COLORADO TERRITORY is a Western remake from 1949 of the Humphrey
Bogart classic HIGH SIERRA, also directed by Walsh eight years earlier in 1941.
Both are based on the novel HIGH SIERRA by W.R. Burnett. In COLORADO TERRITORY,
Joel McCrea plays outlaw Wes McQueen, in prison for robbing banks and trains,
who is broken out so he can take part in a payroll heist from a train in
Colorado. Along the way there, following the same general outlines as the story
in the first film, he encounters a farmer (Henry Hull) and his daughter
(Dorothy Malone), who are heading west to make a new start. McQueen falls for
the girl, of course, and starts to think about going straight and making a new
start for himself . . . after this one last job, of course.
COLORADO TERRITORY, despite its Western setting, is pure film noir. The other
members of the gang, once McQueen meets them, can’t be trusted, and they have a
beautiful dance hall girl (a perfectly cast Virginia Mayo) with them who stirs
up even more trouble among thieves. Double-crosses and plot twists abound, and
McQueen’s goal of giving up the outlaw life seems more and more out of reach.
Will fate catch up to him, or will he manage somehow to avoid it?
This is a wonderful film, very well-acted by a good cast and directed with
great skill by Walsh, who balances the action and characterization about as
well as I’ve ever seen. The train robbery sequence is excellent and had me
grinning all the way through it. The stunt work is top-notch. The gritty black
and white photography is very effective, too.
I remember watching this movie on TV with my dad when I was seven or eight
years old. All the more adult stuff went over my head, but I’ve never forgotten
the closing scenes set in an abandoned Indian cliff dwelling known as the City
of the Moon. No spoilers here, but that was the first time I had encountered
such an ending, and it’s stuck with me for nearly six decades since then. You
don’t hear much about COLORADO TERRITORY anymore, but it’s a classic Western
and gets a high recommendation from me.
This issue of 10-STORY DETECTIVE MAGAZINE features another great Norman Saunders cover, with stories inside by some top-notch authors: Norman A. Daniels (with a second story under his pseudonym David M. Norman), Harold Q. Masur, Walt Sheldon, J. Lane Linklater, and even Walker A. Tompkins, best known for his Westerns, of course. Plus some I haven't heard of, such as Tagre Detbar, Byron Dalrymple, and Thomas Lamar.
The cover of this issue of POPULAR WESTERN is further proof, as if we needed it, that every poker game in the Old West ended in a shootout or a brawl. I'm sure there are plenty of fisticuffs and gunplay in the stories inside, which are by Tom Gunn (actually Syl McDowell, in this case, with another Painted Post yarn featuring Sheriff Blue Steele), Gunnison Steele (Bennie Gardner), Laurence Donovan, Oscar J. Friend, and house-name Scott Carleton with a Buffalo Billy Bates story. I've always found POPULAR WESTERN to be a pretty good Western pulp, and I'm sure this issue is no exception.
British author Kenneth Bulmer is best remembered for his
scores of fantasy and science fiction novels, but like a good freelancer, he
wrote a little bit of everything and was especially good at historical and
nautical fiction. Those two genres are combined in the Captain Shark novels, a
two-book series of paperback originals Bulmer wrote for Pinnacle Books in 1975. Both books are available as e-books from Thunderchild Publishing.
It seems unlikely that the protagonist of these books, Captain Sebastian Shark,
was born with that name, but that’s the only way he’s ever referred to in BY
PIRATE’S BLOOD . . ., the first volume. Shark is the captain of the sloop Draco, and he’s not so much a pirate as
he is the mortal enemy of the Spanish, out for revenge on them more than loot.
He does, however, have the usual motley, colorful crew of buccaneers sailing
Bulmer barely touches on a fairly extensive back-story in which Shark is
captured by Barbary Corsairs as a young man and learns swordplay from another
captive, a Spaniard (the only Spaniard Shark likes) and medicine from an Arab.
(Wasn't Captain Blood actually a medical doctor? It’s been close to fifty years
since I read Sabatini’s novel.) Eventually escaping from the Corsairs, Shark
winds up in the Caribbean, throws in with Henry Morgan, takes part in the
sacking of Panama, and finally becomes the captain of his own ship and crew.
Because many of his friends have suffered at the hands of the Spanish
Inquisition, Shark declares an unofficial war on them.
And that’s where BY PIRATE’S BLOOD . . . begins. It’s a rather episodic tale in
which Shark and his men clash with other pirates, capture a Spanish ship, and
take a beautiful young Spanish noblewoman prisoner. Shark and the girl even
wind up marooned on a deserted island, but things don’t play out the way you
might expect. And before you know it, he’s a prisoner in a castle on a
Spanish-held island, and then who should show up but the beautiful Captain
Elizabeth Wren, a female pirate who is Shark’s former lover, sometimes ally,
and sometimes enemy. The action hardly ever slows down, and Bulmer really packs
this yarn full of twists and turns and then . . . it’s over.
Yep, BY PIRATE’S BLOOD . . . ends in a semi-cliffhanger, and this really leads
me to believe that Bulmer wrote this story as one long novel that Pinnacle
split in two for publication. In those days, short books were in fashion, and
Pinnacle published a lot of ’em in the men’s adventure genre, which includes
swashbucklers like this.
I really enjoyed this book. Bulmer had a good touch with his characters and wrote
some really good action scenes. I’m a landlubber, through and through, but I
was able to follow the sea battles just fine. I would have been really annoyed,
though, when I got to the end and found that the story just stops . . . if I
didn’t have the second and final book, JAWS OF DEATH, queued up on my Kindle
ready to read.
And that’s what I’ll be posting about next Friday.
Scott Harris has become a very popular Western author in the
past couple of years, best known for his series featuring Brock Clemons and the
non-fiction volumes he’s edited about Western novels, movies, and TV shows. But
he’s also writing a series of Western action novels about a character known
only as Caz, Vigilante Hunter. (Just to be clear, he is a vigilante, he doesn’t hunt
vigilantes.) In the best tradition of Western TV shows such as CHEYENNE, he’s a
drifter who helps people out and hunts down bad guys who need hunting down
simply because it’s the right thing to do. And he doesn’t show any mercy to
those bad guys, either.
I’ve just read the first book in this series, SLAUGHTER AT BUZZARD’S GULCH, and
it certainly doesn’t stint on the action. Caz takes pity on a mistreated soiled
dove and winds up being targeted for death by the owner of the whorehouse and
his brutal minions. Much shooting, fighting, and stabbing ensues. Harris never
lets the pace slow down for very long, but when it does, it’s to put in some
nice bit of characterization. Caz is enough of an anti-hero to give this book a little of the same feeling as the Edge books and other British Western series
written by the Piccadilly Cowboys. In his dispensing of his own brand of
justice, he also comes across like a Western Mack Bolan at times, although
there’s no organization he’s fighting like Bolan took on the Mafia. He’s
certainly a compelling character, and creating characters like that seems to be
Harris’s strong suit.
Most traditional Western readers ought to enjoy SLAUGHTER AT BUZZARD’S GULCH. You
can get it for a great price in a boxed set including the first four books in
DESPERATE JOURNEY is a World War II movie that I somehow
missed seeing on TV when I was growing up. In fact, I’m not sure I’d even heard
of it until recently. It was made in 1942, long before the war was over, and
stars Errol Flynn, Ronald Reagan, Arthur Kennedy, Alan Hale, and Ronald
Sinclair as the survivors of a crash landing when the B-17 they’re in is shot
down in Germany after a successful bombing run. It’s not enough for them to
avoid capture by the Nazis and escape into Holland. They decide to turn
themselves into a five-man invasion force and wreak as much havoc with the
German war effort as they can along the way.
As helmed by veteran action director Raoul Walsh, this movie hardly ever slows
down. Our intrepid heroes are in and out of one jam after another, blowing
stuff up real good and confounding the German officer leading the effort to
capture them, played by Raymond Massey. Along the way they even meet a pretty
girl who’s a member of the German resistance, although there’s no time for any
romance before the guys are dashing off to carry out another act of sabotage.
Despite the serious subject matter—and the fact that not everybody makes it out
alive—DESPERATE JOURNEY is almost breezy at times with its over-the-top
adventure and wisecracking heroes.
I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. It’s old-fashioned entertainment. Flynn and
Reagan are very good in their roles. Reagan has the best scene, when he’s being
interrogated by Massey and pressured to give up Allied secrets. The script sort
of glosses over the fact that out of the five protagonists, only one (Sinclair’s
character) is actually British, although they’re all in the RAF. But that
international flavor is at least acknowledged, even if nothing much is made of
it. There’s some good miniature work, maybe not up to the same level as the
Lydecker brothers over at Republic (but when it comes to miniature work, what
was?) and an excellent car chase late in the picture. I’m glad I came across
this movie and watched it, and if you haven’t seen it, it’s definitely
It's been a while since there's been a Mountie cover in this series, so here's one from the February 1938 issue of THRILLING ADVENTURES. Not only does this issue feature a cover with a two-gun Mountie on it, there are stories inside by E. Hoffmann Price, Edmond Hamilton, Philip Ketchum, Arthur J. Burks, and S. Gordon Gurwit. That's a pretty strong line-up for any pulp with the word "Adventure" in the title.
.44 WESTERN MAGAZINE was another solidly dependable Western pulp from Popular Publications, and this issue has a nice action-packed cover. The lead novella is by Max Kesler. I don't know anything about him, but I've seen several oil field stories by him and this appears to be another one, judging by its title. Other authors in this issue are Walker A. Tompkins (one of my favorite Western writers), Will C. Brown (actually C.S. Boyles, Jr., the other writer from Cross Plains, Texas, who was a few years older than Robert E. Howard), Lee E. Wells, Harold F. Cruickshank, and Harrison Colt, a name that's always struck me as a pseudonym or house-name, but I don't have any confirmation of that. This looks like a pretty good issue.
As I’ve mentioned here before, I recall seeing new issues of
RANCH ROMANCES on the magazine racks in various drugstores during the late
Sixties and early Seventies. It was the last true pulp, although by then it was
slightly smaller than regular pulp size and had trimmed page edges. I never
bought any of those issues, though, because it had “romance” right there in the
title, and I didn’t read romances. That’s what my mother read, for gosh sake!
However, over the past fifteen years or so, I’ve read numerous issues of RANCH
ROMANCES and have developed a real appreciation of the Western romance. Far
from being sappy, many of them have their fair share of gritty action. Romance
is a pretty primal emotion, after all, and a talented storyteller can spin a
good yarn from it.
HEARTS OF THE WEST is a collection of Western romances gathered from a variety
of pulps and a few slick magazines. None of them are from RANCH ROMANCES, and
indeed, only one story is from a pulp recognized as a Western romance title,
THRILLING RANCH STORIES. But that doesn’t make them any less well-written and
The book opens with “Guardian Angel” by Gene Austin, originally published in
THRILLING WESTERN, November 1952 as “The Beautiful Guardian”. When I started
reading this one, I immediately realized it was familiar, and when I looked it
up, I discovered that it appeared in an issue of THRILLING WESTERN I had read
and blogged about fairly recently, so I’ll just repeat what I said about it
there: “The Beautiful Guardian” by Gene Austin, an author who wrote several
dozen stories for assorted Western pulps, none of which I recall reading until
this one. It’s a pleasant enough yarn about a young cowboy, a trio of
trouble-making brothers he’s feuding with, and two beautiful young women, one
of whom he wants to marry and the other who wants to marry him. This seems like
it should have appeared in RANCH ROMANCES in an earlier era, but it’s probably
not hardboiled enough for the Fifties version of that magazine.
“Frontier Spirit” by Ann P. Hurt appeared in DOUBLE-ACTION WESTERN, February
1956, as “The Resourceful Week of Little Silly” by A.P. Hurt. It’s a wagon
train story about the pampered daughter of a rich man who has to take care of
herself and deal with the dangers of the frontier. The plot’s fairly
predictable, but I thought it was handled well and I enjoyed the story.
John and Ward Hawkins were brothers from Canada who started writing for the
pulps in the Thirties, mostly detective and adventure stories, but by the Forties
they were writing serials for THE SATURDAY EVENING POST and COLLIER’S and
eventually wound up in Hollywood where they wrote a lot of TV episodes for such
series as VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, BONANZA, and LITTLE HOUSE ON THE
PRAIRIE. Their story “Pioneer Woman”, published in the August 31, 1940 issue of
LIBERTY as “Pioneer Lady”, is another wagon train tale, although it’s set for
the most part in St. Joseph, Missouri, as a wagon train is forming to head for
Oregon. The protagonist is a young woman with two children whose abusive
gambler husband has abandoned her, but he shows up to make her life miserable
just as she’s trying to make a new start by joining the wagon train. Some nice
twists, as well as a murder, give this story a fairly hard edge, and it works
Charles H. Snow, the author of “Blue Eyes and Blue Steel”, from the March 1934
issue of THRILLING RANCH STORIES, is best remembered for one thing these days: a
novella called “One ‘Hopped-up’ Cowboy” which appeared in the July 1936 issue
of WILD WEST STORIES AND COMPLETE NOVEL MAGAZINE. I’ve never read it, but I
seem to recall reading that the hero of that one is known as The Marijuana Kid.
Snow is an interesting author over and above that one story, though. A former
miner, he was blinded in an accident in 1914 and decided to become a writer in
an attempt to support his family. He dictated his stories to his daughter, who
then typed and submitted them. He sold a good number of stories to the pulps in
the Twenties and Thirties but found his best market in England, where he sold
more than 400 novels under several different pseudonyms. He was also elected to
the position of justice of the peace in Napa, California, during the Twenties
and served as a mentor to Western writer L.P. Holmes, who always referred to
him as Judge Snow. I had never read any of his work before “Blue Eyes and Blue
Steel”, but I really enjoyed this tale about a rancher’s daughter pursuing a
dangerous outlaw. I saw the big twist coming but thought the story was
well-written enough to be very entertaining, anyway. Snow skimps a little on
the action at the end, but I was still impressed enough that I want to read
more by him.
Zachary Strong was a house-name, so there’s really no telling who wrote “Cup of
Happiness”, which appeared in the April 1940 issue of COMPLETE NORTHWEST. It’s
a Northern, as you’d expect from the magazine where it was published, and takes
place in Canada. A schoolteacher who loses her job when the boomtown where she’s
been teaching is abandoned for a new strike elsewhere decides to become a
prospector herself. Things don’t go well. The resolution of this one seems
really far-fetched to me, but I’m not a miner, so what do I know?
“The Marquis and Miss Sally”, EVERYBODY’S MAGAZINE, June 1903, under the name
Oliver Henry, is set in a roundup camp on the Texas range and features the
trademark twist ending of an O. Henry story. I didn’t see the twist coming
until very late in the game. This is an excellent story. I put O. Henry in a
book once as a supporting character, before he was a writer and was just a bank
clerk named William Sydney Porter.
“End of the Trail” by editor Jean Marie Stine is the only tale original to this
collection. It’s a “stranger rides into town and takes on the local bully”
story with a couple of nice twists. Well-written and shows that Stine knows
Frank Bennett, writing under the pseudonym Ben Frank, had stories in many
issues of TEXAS RANGERS during the Fifties, most of them featuring his series
character Doc Swap, and to be honest, I’m not a fan of them. His stand-alone
story “The Bar-Girl, the Battle, and the Bar-D” (TEXAS RANGERS, July 1957, as “A
Woman for the Bar-D”) is pretty good, though. A widowed rancher looking for
someone to care for his young daughter hires a woman who’s new in town and
winds up with more trouble than he bargained for. This one is a lot grittier
than the author’s Doc Swap stories, which probably explains why I liked it
quite a bit.
“Big Nose Kate’s Man”, by Marie Antoinette Parks, originally published in REAL
WESTERN STORIES, June 1956, as “They Ain’t Going to Lynch My Man” by Will
Watson, is a short, mostly historical piece about Doc Holliday and his lover
Big Nose Kate set in Fort Griffin, Texas, when Doc is arrested for murder. It’s
okay but there’s not much to it, making it the weakest story in the collection.
Overall, I found HEARTS OF THE WEST very entertaining, with several excellent
stories (the ones by the Hawkins brothers, Charles H. Snow, and O. Henry were
my favorites) and all of them quite readable. I’d love to see more such
collections of Western romance stories from the pulps and think this one is
well worth reading.
Private Eye Larry Kent
started his life as the hero of a half-hour radio show on Australia’s Macquarie
Network, and was inspired chiefly by the success of the hardboiled mysteries of
Carter Brown. As the popularity of the radio show grew, the Cleveland Publishing
Pty. Ltd decided to publish a series of Larry Kent novels. Two authors, Don
Haring (an American who lived in Australia) and Des R Dunn (a Queenslander) are
primarily associated with the series. Between 1954 and 1983, Larry appeared in well
over 400 adventures.
Kent is a
typical hard boiled private eye. He smokes Camels, drinks whiskey and within the
first dozen pages or so, has usually met a dame and is fighting for his life.
His mean streets are pure New York (although the radio series was set in
Australia) and include Harlem nightclubs and Jersey roadhouses.
Generally the body counts are high: about six
deaths per novel. But there’s
another side to Larry Kent. He’s a Vietnam war veteran, he used to work for the
CIA and still does, usually reluctantly, on occasion. And once, when an attempt
was made on his life, the Agency paid for him to have plastic surgery that
altered his appearance ... something he never quite managed to get used
Larry Kent is fast and fun,
and Piccadilly Publishing is proud to be bringing his cases to a whole new
generation of fans, complete with their original ‘good girl’
artwork. The first FOUR books
will be available on APRIL 4th!
A Thompson machine gun
erupted its violence as soon as the door began to move. A guy stood in the
opening, his big gun smoking in his hand. I took one shot and sent a shell into
his stomach. The guy went back on his heels for two very deliberate paces, then
folded onto his knees. His gun slipped out of his hands and came into the
There was another guy with my dying friend—a guy with the most
surprised face in New York. He wore a hat over his eyes, but I could see a
crooked nose and thin lips and a fat-jowled jaw.
I said, “Sleep tight,
I let him have it.
There’s something about me makes me ornery when
guys pump lead into my doorway late at
(I had two or three of the original Australian editions of Larry Kent novels but never got around to reading them before they were lost in the fire of '08. I've always been curious about the series and hoped someone would reprint some of the books. Now Piccadilly Publishing has brought the series back, and I just bought the first four books, which are already available. I'm looking forward to reading them!)
I’m not sure how I completely missed this 2014 movie
starring Jason Statham, based on a novel (HEAT) by William Goldman, with a
screenplay by Goldman. Even odder, there was already a movie based on that
novel, also with a Goldman screenplay, made in 1986 starring Burt Reynolds. I’m
sure we watched it—we watched just about everything Burt was in, back then—but I
don’t remember it. So, taking WILD CARD on its own merits (I haven’t read the
book, either), it turns out to be a decent little action film.
Statham plays Nick Wild (a name change to justify the title, I suppose), who
works as a bodyguard/“chaperone” in Las Vegas. A very wealthy but innocent young
man hires Nick to show him around town and protect him while he’s gambling.
Meanwhile, a hooker friend of Nick’s gets raped and badly beaten up by the
vicious son of a mobster, and when Nick finds out about that, he sets out to
get revenge for her. He’s also trying to get his hands on enough money to
retire to Corsica and sail around on the Mediterranean.
Those plot strands weave in and out in a rather meandering fashion, and that
aimlessness hurts the movie. On the other hand, the dialogue is good, as you’d
expect from a movie written by William Goldman, and the cast, which also
includes Jason Alexander and Stanley Tucci, does a good job. Statham is always
likable. There’s enough action to keep things interesting, and also as you’d
expect, it’s handled well. WILD CARD is a pleasant enough way to spend some
time and I enjoyed it. It’s just not very memorable.