Five Bloody Graves
S. Baker | 04/25/2004
(1 out of 5 stars)
"Very fuzzy pic, no doubt sourced from a VHS. The 4:3 presentation is cropped ... badly."
Five Bloody Graves
Steven Hellerstedt | 09/01/2005
(2 out of 5 stars)
"FIVE BLOODY GRAVES, photographed by young Hungarian immigrant Vilmos Zsigmond (who would go on to win an Academy Award for `Close Encounters of the Third Time,' and receive nominations for a couple of others), looks good. It probably looked a lot better in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, but I'm trying to open up this review on a positive note, so I won't mention the cheap full screen transfer. It has some good actors - Jim Davis (`Jock' Ewing of Dallas), Scott Brady, the ubiquitous John Carradine as a randy preacher. The actors acquit themselves in a professional manner. And... er... did I mention the scenery looked nice?
This low-low budget indy production from 1970 was directed by Al Adamson, an Ed-Wood-level bad director, and was written by, co-produced, and stars Robert Dix, son of Academy Award winning actor Richard Dix. Dix plays western gunslinger Ben Thompson. In a short commentary track that the 30-years older Dix literally mailed in we learn that Ben Thompson was a real-life western bad guy with a `death wish.' First time screenwriter Dix makes Death a ride-along character. Even though the Pale Rider is never seen, he, or He perhaps, provides the portentous off-screen narration (veteran actor Gene Raymond plays the Voice of Death.) The story is a little choppy, a fact that Dix reminds us of during an apologetic segment of the commentary track (Remember, this was a first effort....) and the characters are more than a little undercooked. Saloon owner Brady, a trio of floozies and preacher Carradine are traveling cross country towards a mining camp - a cradle of craven sinners, I reckon, good pickings for the floozies and the preacher - when their wagon is attacked and destroyed by a passel of passing blood-thirsty savages (`They aren't just Indians. They're Yacqui!') Ben Thompson and sidekick - John Cardos, husband of the first, or second, or third bloody grave occupant, depending on how you count such things. We certainly aren't counting the Yacqui. They tumble like ten pins and would spike the body count deep into double figures. Anyway, Ben Thompson and sidekick stumble on the endangered travelers, rescue them, and escort the party out of danger.
There's no such thing as too many movies about western sociopaths. A real movie about the real-life Ben Thompson (who had a wee bit of a drinking problem) might have worked. Davis, who plays a prairie psycho here, is about the only one of this lot with the studly stature and enough acting chops to pull it off. Dix didn't inherit a whole lot of screen charisma from his illustrious father. His Ben Thompson is little more than a blue-stubble gunslinger with a serious, albeit inevitable, case of the laconics. There's another voice on the commentary track - an Independent International producer whose name I missed - who at one point hails the release of FIVE BLOODY GRAVES as an opportunity for fans of director Adamson to see one of his rare westerns. I gather Adamson is best known for his motorcycle and cheesy horror flicks. That he would have a fan base eager to study anything he did is, to put it mildly, hard to fathom. FIVE BLOODY GRAVES is a disorganized, wretched movie that suffers from a sloppy video transfer. Beyond the fun of seeing a couple of familiar faces and some pretty scenery there's nothing much else to recommend it.