Friday, August 5, 2016

Alexander the Great (1968)

Holy hot damn son of a bitch mother fucker great balls of fire.  William Shatner AND Adam West star in this week's B-Movie Enema, the 1968 made for television extravaganza Alexander the Great.

Just look at that cover to that DVD on the left.  Look at Adam West down there in the bottom left hand corner looking up lovingly at a redheaded Shatner riding a horse in his little cape.  In the bottom center, it looks like that Klingon guy who couldn't stop with the fucking Shakespeare in Star Trek VI is in this too.

We have some disembodied heads floating above Shatner's horse's head and looking over his back and floating down around the DVD logo.  Shit yeah.  This has gotta be great, right?

Yeah, I know, every goddamn article I write starts with that same optimism.  Before I start watching these shit cakes, I always think what I have in store for myself is gonna be great.  Yeah, sometimes there's a Thirst, or a Messiah of Evil out there that just knocks it all the way out of the park, but most of the time, it's a shittin' catastrophe - a nightmare of epic proportions that I keep subjecting myself to.  This time, though, with the combined might and epic dramatic pauses of both Captain Kirk and Batman, this has the potential to at least be a beautiful nightmare.

From my 50-movie DVD pack, The Sensational Sixties, the synopsis goes as follows: "A historical film that follows the life of Alexander the Great, the Macedonian king that united all ancient Greek tribes and led them against the vast Persian Empire. Alexander conquered most of the then-known world and created a Greek empire that spanned all the way from the Balkans to India."

I... have some doubts.  The synopsis didn't really say anything other than what the intro to a Wikipedia page about Alexander the Great would say.  I can't say I like this.  Not one bit... But Shatner!  Adam West!  I'm staking a lot on this being the best movie I have ever seen in my life.

So there's no time like the present to get started!


Two minutes in and these guys are already wanting out of
this Shatner flick.
Out of the gate, we have that one thing that frustrates me so - listing people as "Special Guest Stars".  However, I guess this was attempted as a television pilot or something and the networks didn't want it.  So I guess I will give it a pass.  While I was sorting that out I think the narrator said something about how this was taking place some 2,200 some odd years ago (so far we have some proper historical reference as Alexander was around back then) or something.  After trying to get over the whole Special Guest Star issue, I was a little too busy looking at dead guys hanging from a tree and making the joke seen to the right.

Ol' Alex is no fan of what's going on here as he knows those damn dirty Persians did this to them.  One of the guys is pals with Alex and before he dies he says of their guys was taken prisoner by the Persians and they are amassing.  Shatner gives a some classic Shatnarian acting and vows vengeance.  I'm gonna hand it to Bill here.  This was actually filmed in 1964 before he was a gleam in Gene Roddenberry's eye to be our beloved Captain Kirk.  He's not yet given an over the top performance, but he's giving it a real shot.  This is a man trying to nail down a regular gig in acting.  He's not cruising on that sweet nerd money yet.  And it's not the 70s when he's doing shit like Kingdom of the Spiders or that gangster flick with Angie Dickinson where he see his nutsack in the sex scene.

Seriously, you do.  Go rent Big Bad Mama from your local Blockbuster.  There's a shot of his bean bag from behind.

Hope those Persians have their tickets to the gun show!
The Persians attack and Alexander and his army go off to basically slaughter them until they are run off.  Turns out the hostage the Persians took is Batman!  Adam West gets saved and all of a sudden all my (heterosexual) nerd fantasies have come true.  Shatner AND West interacting and kinda killing it.  It's like they are best buds, and now I wish they were in every movie.  In fact, it's totally throwing me off as the movie continues.  Yeah, yeah, they are talking about that Alexander is missing and no one was able to find him but if he went off to save Batman, then he might be in some area they point out on a map.

Whatever, let's talk about the things that Shatner and West could have done.

Adam West could have played a Starfleet Admiral pal of Kirk's in an episode of Star Trek.  Shatner could have played Two Face on Batman...

Okay, I'm out of ideas here, but think about it.  The combined might of Shatner and Adam West could have been amazing.  It would have melted heads each and every week on a regular basis.  Their combined might would have ended the Vietnam War.  Their combined prowess would have destroyed racism or sexism or any other -ism you can think of.  Except orgasms.  That would be on the rise.

These three all have something in common - none of them are
William Shatner or Adam West.
Back to the "movie", and I put that in quotes because this is more like a television episode.  I've basically frittered away a fourth of this movie by simply talking about how Shatner and West together could have done so many amazing things.  Anyway, the Persians did spring a trap for Alexander by leading him to Adam West.  They have a "Greek friend" who told them that Alexander would be brash in recovering his friend.  Back at the Greek camp, they all think Alexander is likely dead because a riderless horse returns with grass that indicates he went east and blood on the saddle or something.  So, fuck it, he must be dead.  Promote the next supreme general!

The new leader proposes leaving Persia and a return to Greece where he will build fortress cities to protect them.  He's all about leaving Persia to the Persians and that makes me think he's our spy in the ranks.  However, Alexander returns and he immediately resumes control of the Greek army and orders a bath to share with his woman.  Because he's Shatner and he wants into those Greek Isles under her dress.  His top aide, Joseph Cotten (last seen in White Comanche) isn't so sure why Alexander is so foolish about pressing the Persians and gives him a lecture.  Meanwhile, the guy who briefly took control, John Cassavetes, frees a Persian prisoner and gives him an order to kill Alexander.

I admit, I really don't know what the hell is going on here.  Alexander found some dead guys.  He got mad about it.  He chased after some Persians and found Batman.  Everyone thought he was dead, but he wasn't, and everyone is throwing a party with some hot women and Joseph Cotten ruining all the fun.  It's no wonder this thing wasn't picked up as a regular series because it's gobbledygook.  It's just an hour of things and Greek names.  Even when Alexander gives orders for something to happen in this turd, it's just Greek names and orders spouted out by Shatner.  He's pretty good in this but there's no real drive to the movie.  Stuff just happens.  Shatner says he wants to put an end to all wars by killing the Persian king, but John Cassavetes is resistant.  Because he's a traitor.  But there aren't any motivations.  It's kind of like a middle school play written about a paragraph on a Wikipdia page.

Naturally, Shatner has to go tits out. 
The Persian prisoner tries to assassinate Alexander while he's explaining to Adam West and Joseph Cotten that there's a traitor in their ranks.  When he fails, Cassavetes is there to kill him to cover his tracks.  This doesn't sit well with Alex because he knows this was a plot from within.  The next morning, the Greeks march per Alexander's orders - further into Persia.  Some of the men are weary and some question how many more of these battles they will survive.

Alexander is hurt because a wagon falls on him or some such shit.  His men really are starting to question his resilience and his sanity when he continues to push forward despite how thin his ranks are becoming as they conquer and subsequently needing to control areas of Persia.  Not to mention, Alexander wants to push forward with battle the next morning, but the distance the soldiers traveled to get this far is much farther than an army might march in an entire week.  They are exhausted and Joseph Cotten is concerned the Persians are going to slaughter them.  This creates enough cracks in the leadership for Cassavetes to start making his play for leadership.  Joseph Cotten, at first seems to be on board, but uses it to attack Cassavetes and his co-conspirator.  This leads to some men in tunics and caps rolling around on the ground.  Sadly, Cotten is too old to save himself and gets mortally stabbed.  He does, however, leave a note in the dirt for Alexander.

The Persians see Alexander's forces come and they are appropriately surprised at the brash advance from the young Greek king.  Alexander makes his plans to have people go here, go there, flank this, ride that, etc.  John Cassavetes realizes his plan has failed to end Alexander before the battle to avoid a massacre, but still feels he needs to die to protect Greece.  There's a bunch of stock footage of people riding into battle and stuff.  Cotten's body is found with the name of the traitor etched in the sand.  Alexander realizes his enemies are much closer than he thought.  He makes his way through the battlefield and battles Cassavetes, killing him.

That is some good matte painting work though.
Turns out Alexander's plans actually work out pretty well for the Greeks.  Despite being badly outnumbered, the Persians are forced to retreat when the Greeks prove too wily.  Alexander is forced to realize what his conquest cost him.

Ha! I'm kidding.  I doubt there was much contemplation considering this movie pretty much sucked.

I don't know what I expected from this movie.  I guess, at bare minimum, I would have liked a decent plot that made sense instead of something hacked to pieces as an attempt to start a television series.  I'm glad it didn't get picked up because we would not have had Star Trek or Batman as we know it.  They could have given it just 10% more consideration to the plot.  They could have had some narration that helped connect some of scenes that were weird from having so much missing connective tissue.

At least West and Shatner were pretty good.  They are two actors who have not been treated well by people who want to make fun of the inflections or pauses they put in their line readings.  However, they are actually talented actors.  They are framed by their most iconic roles but Shatner, at the very least, was classically trained using the style of acting he's known for.  It's a for real method.  For West, it's kind of hard to see him as something other than the goofy Batman from the 60s.  These guys had real ability, and they had looks.  Sadly, they couldn't quite get over the iconic roles which, ironically, made them more famous than most actors.

And this only gives us a tease of what could have been if they consistently worked together.

But this also sucked.

So I'm not sure if this is the tease we wanted.

No, I'm positive now.  This is not what we really wanted.

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