Welcome back to BCB After Dark: the chill spot for night owls, early-risers, new parents and Cubs fans abroad. So glad you could join us tonight. If you have something that you’d like us to check, we can do that now. There’s a few good tables near the front. There’s no cover charge. Bring your own bottle. Please no recordings or photography.
BCB After Dark is the place for you to talk baseball, music, movies, or anything else you need to get off your chest, as long as it is within the rules of the site. The late-nighters are encouraged to get the party started, but everyone else is invited to join in as you wake up the next morning and into the afternoon. BCB After Dark is the place for you to talk baseball, music, movies, or anything else you need to get off your chest, as long as it is within the rules of the site. The late-nighters are encouraged to get the party started, but everyone else is invited to join in as you wake up the next morning and into the afternoon.
Last week I said I was in the business of making people relax and feel better. We’re in the entertainment business. We want you to leave with a smile on your face. So we’re not going to mention tonight’s Cubs game. Nights like tonight I’m glad that I have family obligations on Monday evenings.
Last week I asked you who was going to win the National League West. In a landslide, 75 percent of you picked the Los Angeles Dodgers. Twenty percent of you said the Padres and only five percent felt the Giants would repeat.
Here’s the part where I write about jazz and movies. You’re free to skip ahead to the baseball question at the end. You won’t hurt my feelings.
Tonight’s jazz track is “Lockjaw’s Lament” by saxophonist James Carter. This song is Carter’s tribute to saxophonist Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis. It’s from his 1998 album In Carterian Fashion, back when Carter was still a Young Turk of the jazz world. I guess like all revolutionaries in art, you eventually become the establishment or you fade away. Carter has not faded away.
(It is better to burn out than to fade away. My my, hey hey.)
So here’s Cyrus Chestnut on organ, Steve Kirby on bass, Alvester Garnett on drums and James Carter on the tenor sax.
This week’s film is the 1962 Western, Ride the High Country, directed by Sam Peckinpah and starring Randolph Scott, Joel McCrea and Mariette Hartley. It also has some beautiful cinematography of the Inyo National Forest in California’s Sierra Nevada by Lucien Ballard. The film has a strong reputation in retrospect (contemporary reviews were not so kind) and it’s considered a classic of the genre. However, what I find the most interesting thing about this early work from Peckinpah is how it serves as a kind of bridge between the Westerns of the period of “classic Hollywood” from the late-thirties to the early-sixties to the revisionist “New Hollywood” Westerns that came about after the collapse of the studio system in the mid-to-late sixties. It has a foot in both eras and it’s the better for it.
I didn’t have the time to do a full essay on Ride the High Country tonight, but I’ll start with an introduction tonight and I’ll finish what I have to say on Wednesday night/Thursday morning.
If you want further illustration of how this film has a foot in two eras, the careers of the three stars of the movie span the distance of the talkie era of cinema. The two leads, Scott and McRae, both had credits from the 1920s and Hartley’s career continues into the 2020s. Not many films have an almost 100-year stretch of work out of its leads.
The studio system and the Production Code were still around in 1962, but they were both shaky and on their last legs. Ride the High Country was only Peckinpah’s second film, although he had extensive work on television Westerns before this. Peckinpah gets away with a lot more graphic violence than any film of the “classic” era would have been allowed, but Ride the High Country is still pretty tame compared to his “New Hollywood” era films like The Wild Bunch and Straw Dogs that would earn him the nickname “Bloody Sam.” From accounts, Peckinpah wasn’t consumed by the drug and alcohol abuse and violent outbursts on the set here that he would become famous for later. The result is something that is still a familiar, slick Western with a lot of expected beats, but with some discordant notes throughout.
MGM thought very little of Ride the High Country. The studio executive who green-lighted it got fired midway through the filming and the new one refused to back it. The film got almost no publicity and was often got stuck as the bottom half of a double-feature and as a result, the film flopped. In Europe, the movie was released under the title Guns in the Afternoon, which is a truly terrible title. However, the film got a big promotional push there and was a big hit in Europe, so what do I know?
Scott and McCrea in the parts of Gil Westrum and Steve Judd respectively was a bit of meta-casting. Both Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea were known for turning out formulaic Westerns for decades under the studio system. Here, they play aging gunmen who know that the frontier has gone and life has passed them by. Scott retired immediately after this film, figuring he should go out on a high note.
Gil and Steve are dual leads. (Scott reportedly got top billing because he won a coin toss.) Steve is hired by a bank in Hornitos, California in the foothills to escort some gold back from a mountain mining camp. Previous shipments had been robbed and the bank wanted someone with some experience to get it back safely. Unfortunately, when they meet Steve, he was maybe a bit too experienced for the bank as they wonder if a man this old is up to the task. Still, with nowhere else to turn, Steve gets the job.
In Hornitos, Steve runs into Gil, an old buddy from their youth. Gil is now calling himself “The Oregon Kid” and running a crooked shooting game at a traveling carnival. Steve offers Gil the chance to accompany him on the job and Steve brings along a young apprentice, Heck Longtree (Ron Starr).
Unfortunately for Steve, Gil has no intention of brining the gold back to the bank. His plan, along with Heck, is to rob the shipment. Gil feels like he’s owed the money for all the jobs he’s done for little to no reward. They hope to bring Steve along on the deal, but they’re going to run off with the gold whether Steve agrees to the plan or not.
Along the way, they stop for the night at the farm of Joshua Knudsen (R.G. Armstrong) and his daughter Elsa (Hartley). Joshua is a rigid and extremely religious man who keeps his daughter under wraps so tightly that she’s his prisoner, for all intents and purposes. Elsa wants nothing more than to get away from her oppressive father and to live her own life, but that’s not something that he’s going to permit. She’s not allowed to leave the farm until she’s married to a proper Christian man, and no man who stops by the farm is ever a suitable match for Elsa in his eyes.
I think the part of Elsa is overlooked in a lot of discussions of this film. Elsa’s story is almost feminist. Her life is controlled by the men around her and the film really argues that she needs to be free to live her own life and make her own mistakes. Ot at least to a point. As I will write next time, when Elsa really gets in over her head, she needs Steve to bail her out. But at least Steve isn’t trying to tell her what to do. He’s just making it possible for her to get out of a terrible situation and to make her own choices later on. For 1962, this is almost revolutionary.
I’ll have to finish up on Ride the High Country next time. But I will say that it’s an enjoyable Western featuring two aging veterans of the Western genre and Hartley in her first credited role. If you think you’d like a film that challenges the conventions of the genre without truly overturning them, you’re going to like Ride the High Country.
Here’s the trailer for the film. It does give you a sense of the beautiful scenery of the Sierra Nevada that is a big attraction for the movie.
Welcome back to everyone who skips the jazz and movies.
On Friday, in his preview of the afternoon clash between the Cubs and Braves, Al wrote about Cubs’ starting pitcher Keegan Thompson “But why would you keep doing this? It seems pretty clear that Thompson is not suited to starting.”
After Thompson threw six scoreless innings, gave up two hits and struck out nine as the Cubs snapped a ten-game losing streak, Al wrote: ‘Welp. Been wrong before, will be wrong again.”
Here’s the thing though: I’m not sure Al was wrong. Oh, make no mistake about it, he was wrong on Friday, but one good start does not a starter make. Anyone can have one good game. But the hallmark of a starting pitcher is someone who can go out every fifth game and give his team at least 5-to-6 innings and give them a chance to win most of the time. I’m not sure that Keegan Thompson isn’t a starter, but I’m not sure he is yet.
So tonight’s question is simple: Is Keegan Thompson’s future in the rotation or the bullpen? For those pessimists out there, I’m going to give you a third option of “Triple-A.” I’m not going to let you vote “On an operating table.” That would just be mean.
So where does Keegan Thompson’s future lie?
Where does Keegan Thompson’s future lie?
This poll is closed
In the starting rotation
In the bullpen
Thank you again for stopping in. We hope you’ve enjoyed yourself and intend to come back. Please get home safely. If you need us to call a ride, let us know. Don’t leave anything behind at your table or with at the coat check closet. Except a tip. Leave that. And come back again tomorrow night for another edition of BCB After Dark.