7 April 1917 – 27 July 2012
The following is a review of selected film projects that R.G. Armstrong participated in; it includes none of his appearances on television series and features only those projects that we of A Wasted Life found worthy of noting.
Part II of R.G. Armstrong's career review is found here.
Garden of Eden
(1954, dir. Max Nosseck)
(1954, dir. Max Nosseck)
Theme song to the film, Let's Go Sunnin' (written by Jack Shaindlin):
(1956, dir. Elia Kazan)
Another film by the friendly witness in which an un-credited R.G. only appears for seconds as a TV prompter, but hell, its A Face in the Crowd! The feature-film debut of Andy Griffith – and what a fucking asshole he plays! (Lee Remick also debuts in this movie, briefly, as a teenage baton-twirling champion from Arkansas.) A Face in the Crowd was added to the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2008 for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
From Hell to Texas
(1958, dir. Henry Hathaway)
Cowboys & Injuns – scene from the film:
Leonard Maltin says "Chronicle of a racketeer, from Harold Robbins' novel; predictable all the way." But, hell, it stars John Drew Barrymore and Steve McQueen (of The Blob [1958 / trailer / title track]) – though the latter (like R.G., who appears in a small part as Flix) was still too unknown to make the poster. Director Robert Stevens died in 1989 from cardiac arrest after he had been beaten and robbed at a rented home in Westport, Connecticut. The film is based on Harold Robbin's debut novel of the same name. Plot from Wikipedia: "The noir film is about Frankie Kane (Barrymore) who is brought up in a Catholic orphanage. He befriends a Jewish law student named Martin Cabell (McQueen) and becomes romantically involved with Cabell's sister Julie (Lita Milan). Kane learns later that he is also Jewish, and when told he will be removed from the orphanage and moved to a Jewish home he runs away and turns to a life of crime. Later, after joining a major crime syndicate, he reconnects with Julie, finally deciding to join Martin, now a District Attorney in shutting down the syndicate."
Credit sequence with theme song by Dorothy Collins:
No Name on the Bullet
(1959, dir. Jack Arnold)
A Southern Gothic drama based on Tennessee Williams' play Orpheus Descending. Plot, from Wikipedia: "Valentine "Snakeskin" Xavier (some lousy actor named 'Marlon Brando'), a guitar-playing drifter, flees New Orleans in order to avoid arrest. He finds work in a small-town five-and-dime owned by an embittered older woman known as Lady Torrance (Anna Magnani), whose vicious husband Jabe (Victor Jory) lies on his deathbed in their apartment above the store. Both alcoholic nymphomaniac Carol Cutrere (Joanne Woodward) and simple housewife Vee Talbott (Maureen Stapleton) set their sights on the newcomer, but Val succumbs to the charms of Lady, who plans to set him up with a refreshment bar. Sheriff Talbott (R.G. Armstrong), a friend of Jabe, threatens to kill Val if he remains in town, but he chooses to stay when he discovers Lady is pregnant. His decision sparks Jabe's jealousy and leads to tragic consequences." Most critics seem to agree with Leonard Maltin, who says "the film goes nowhere."
Ten Who Dared
(1960, dir. William Beaudine)
Ride the High Country
(1962, dir. Sam Peckinpah)
He Rides Tall
(1964, dir. R.G. Springsteen)
If R.G. is on the poster, then you know it ain't an A-production... forgotten director R.G. Springsteen specialized in B and C films, most of which – like this movie – were Westerns. The plot, from TCM: "On the day before he is to marry Ellie Daniels (Madlyn Rhue) and give up his job, Marshal Morg Rocklin (Tony Young of Guyana: Cult of the Damned [1979 / trailer], Policewomen [1974 / trailer], Superchick [1973 / trailer] and Chrome and Hot Leather [1971 / trailer]) is forced to kill the son of old rancher Josh McCloud (R.G. Armstrong), who had cared for the orphaned Morg when he was a boy. Reluctantly postponing his wedding, Morg rides out to break the sad news to McCloud. En route he is ambushed by McCloud's foreman, ex-convict Bart Thorne (Dan Duryea, of The Burglar ), but manages to escape. Later, however, he is attacked by Thorne's men and knocked unconscious. Thorne then forces Dr. Sam (Joel Fluellen), a Negro physician, to operate on and cripple Morg's gun hand. Unaware that Dr. Sam faked the operation, Thorne elopes with Josh's mercenary young wife, Kate (Jo Morrow of 13 Ghosts [1960 / trailer] and Doctor Death: Seeker of Souls [1973 / trailer]), and steals the old man's money and cattle. In his flight Thorne sacrifices Kate to Indians who kill and scalp her, and he also stampedes the cattle, which trample Josh to death. Morg arrives in town and with his perfectly healed gun hand wipes out Thorne and his gang. He then throws away his gun and makes plans for a life of peace with Ellie." R.G. worked on another Springsteen western, Tiger by the Tail, six years later in 1970.
According to Classic Film Freak, "The boilerplate plot is rather straightforward. Charlton Heston (of Soylent Green ) portrays Major Amos Dundee, a military officer who has been demoted to prison duty after undue heroics at the battle of Gettysburg. (Exactly what these actions were is never explained.) The picture opens immediately after an Apache raid which during which several young children are kidnapped. Unable to muster enough blue-coats to mount a serious chase, Dundee is forced to impress many Confederate prisoners-of-war and freedmen to join in helping his efforts." R.G. plays "Reverend Dahlstrom" in his second feature-film project with Peckenpah, a big budget manly Western with lots of stars and bad Injuns.
(1966 dir. Howard Hawks)
This film might not be all that interesting, but the unknown director is: Gerd Oswald Mackray is the son of the Austrian director Richard Oswald who, being Jewish, fled for Hollywood when the Nazi's took power. Oswald was a prolific director of silent exploitation and genre films, including a number of forgotten films of note, including the early homosexual film Anders als die Andern (1919 / film); the perhaps first horror anthology film ever, Unheimliche Geschichten (1919 / trailer), the first film adaptation of Der Hund von Baskerville (1929); the third remake of the early science fiction movie Alraune (1930 / full film in German); the under-appreciated horror remake Unheimliche Geschichten (1932 / German trailer) and more. In Hollywood, he pretty much hung up his director's megaphone and his son Gerd took over, himself becoming a productive B-film and television director whose films include A Kiss Before Dying (1956 / trailer), Screaming Mimi (1958 / trailer), Bunny O'Hare (1971 / theme) and this total turkey here. To quote the great film magazine Shock Cinema: "How could anyone trash a movie about adorable blind children? It's easy when that film is also the screen debut of 27-year-old, future-Vegas-relic Wayne Newton. Littered with familiar faces, this wholesome, uplifting, hideously-manipulative, G-rated fiasco has the distinct stench of a shitty Elvis Presley project that ended up retooled for Mr. 'Danke Schoen.' [...] A hitchhiker named Mark Jonah Winters (Newton) gets into the wrong car and ends up mistakenly arrested for manslaughter and auto theft, only to escape from custody, retrieve his trusty guitar and stumble upon a summer camp for blind children. 'Jonah' is mistaken for their new handyman, and within minutes, all of these darling kids are in love with this kind stranger, including comely young camp owner Tracy (Diana Ewing), who lost her eyesight as a teen." R.G. is one of the two sheriffs tracking Newton, the other being Slim Pickens. Newton didn't make another film after this one for 20 years, when he appeared in the Bond film Licensed to Kill (1989 / trailer).
Wayne Newton – Danke Schoen:
(1970, dir. Alf Kjellin)
Angels Die Hard
(1970, dir. Richard Compton)
R.G. appears as "Quittner" in Peckinpah's tragicomic follow-up to The Wild Bunch (1969 / trailer); The Ballad of Cable Hogue, one of Peckinpah's favorites, was plagued by a troubled filming that included the firing of 36 crew members and a bar tab of $70,000. Less than successful when it came out, the movie is now generally held in esteem as an example, like Leone's more operatic Once Upon A Time in the West (1969 / trailer), of a "Death of the West" film, a film that shows the encroaching arrival of the modern in the Old West. Over at imdb, John Oswalt (firstname.lastname@example.org) offers the following plot description: "Double-crossed and left without water in the desert, Cable Hogue (Jason Robards) is saved when he finds a spring. It is in just the right spot for a much-needed rest stop on the local stagecoach line, and Hogue uses this to his advantage. He builds a house and makes money off the stagecoach passengers. Hildy (Stella Stevens of The Terror Within II ), a whore from the nearest town, moves in with him. Hogue has everything going his way until the advent of the automobile ends the era of the stagecoach."
The film that made film history by "Introducing Charo" – anyone remember her? She's still around, looking more and more like a transvestite with each passing year. R.G. Armstrong has a small part as "Ben Holmes" in Springsteen's swansong directorial job, starring that name for quality, Christopher George (of City of the Living Dead ), and a Tippi Hedron still on the run from Hitchcock. TV Guide explains the plot to this less than exciting "routine crime drama": "Vietnam vet Steve Michaelis (George) returns home to find his brother (Dennis Patrick), who was the principal shareholder in a successful California racetrack, has been murdered by two Mexicans during a robbery. It appears to George that the robbery was a cover-up for the murder, which must have been ordered by a rival shareholder. After a bit of digging, George forces a confession out of shareholder Del Ware (Lloyd Bochner), but Ware soon turns up dead. Accompanied by old flame Rita Armstrong (Tippi Hedren), George reveals Sheriff Chancey Jones (John Dehner), to be behind the scheme and kills him in a struggle for his gun. With all the shareholders eliminated, George takes over..."
Has nothing to do with the film, but here's Buck Owens singing Tiger by the Tail:
The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid
(1972, dir. Philip Kaufman)
R.G. Armstrong finally appears somewhere (as "Mr. Freeman") in a true, 100% "Us against the Man" Blaxploitation film, the directorial debut of Oscar Williams and the first feature film to give Billy Dee Williams (of Alien Intruder ) starring credit. Billy Dee, of course, is still around, but Oscar disappeared into teaching film school after his truly memorable fourth and infamously bad last film, Death Drug (1978 / supermarket freak-out). Oscar's other unknown directorial efforts are the cultural relic comedy Five on the Black Hand Side (1973 / trailer) and the forgotten Jim Kelly flick, Hot Potato (1976 / first 15 minutes). Amazon.com's plot description: "Johnny Johnson (Billy Dee) is a young black man with a promising future and an impatience for racism. This gets out of control when the job he applies for is given to a less qualified white man. As a result, he joins a radical civil rights group and takes matters into his own hands through a violent revolution and ultimate confrontation with the police." Also at Amazon, some guy named E. Drake says: "I wouldn't categorize this flick as a Blaxploitation flick [...]. It is a drama built on race and racism which may have targeted a black audience upon its release, but it simply isn't as polished [...]. In fact, it feels like a heavily funded student movie [...]. The movie starts off with a pretty intense scene/montage of the black ghetto and a war between blacks (as youths in the ghetto) and whites (as policeman in the ghetto). [...] Aside from some interesting conversations on black oppression [...], which still exists today, highlighting a pro-white stance vs. an against-white stance, this movie was not a good one." In 1976, the film was recut, augmented with new footage shot by Allan Arkush and rereleased as Blast! (directed by "Frank Arthur Wilson").
From the soundtrack by Grant Green – Battle Scene:
Oddly enough, considering the number of Westerns R.G. Armstrong made, My Name is Nobody is the only Spaghetti Western he participated in – but at least it also one of the best of the funny ones. Ironically, his name is misspelled in the credits as "R.K. Armstrong". My Name is Nobody is a comic take on the "Old" West (played by Henry Fonda, in his last Western) changing over to the "New" West (represented by Terrance Hill). The film was produced by Sergio Leone, who also directed a few scenes, but most of the film was made by Tonino Valerii, known for The Day of Anger (1968 / trailer), The Price of Power (1969 / Italian trailer), A Reason to Live, a Reason to Die (1972 / trailer) and My Dear Killer (1972 / trailer). "R.K. Armstrong", as Honest John, can be seen briefly in the trailer (he's one of the guys holding up the awning).
The plot, as supplied by lonamer at imdb: "Jack Beauregard (Fonda), once the greatest gunslinger of the Old West, only wants to move to Europe and retire in peace. But a young gunfighter, known only as 'Nobody' (Hill), idolizes him and wants to see him go out in a blaze of glory. He arranges for Jack to face the 150-man gang known as the Wild Bunch and earn his place in history."
(1973, dir. Joseph Sargent)
R.G. plays Deputy Sheriff Ollinger, who gets shot by an escaping Billy the Kid (Kris Kristofferson) fairly early in this movie, famous for its troubled production and post-production, for being the film debut of Bob Dylan (who also supplied the soundtrack), and for being a dud. The last, at least, until 1988, when Peckinpah's original edit was released; since then, the film has been reappraised by some as a modern classic. (Knocking on Heaven's Door, Dylan's famous song from the soundtrack, is oddly enough not used in the original Peckinpah cut of the film.) Video Vacuum, however, does not seem to find the movie a modern masterpiece: "Sam Peckinpah's Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid is a muddled and dull western that adds very little to the legend of the great Wild West outlaw. I guess Peckinpah was trying to 'demystify' the character of Billy the Kid by making him more of a regular Joe. But by doing so, it not only takes away his coolness, it makes him kinda boring too." The plot, according to Ed Sutton (email@example.com) at imdb: "It's 1881 in New Mexico, and the times they are a'changing. Pat Garrett (James Coburn), erstwhile travelling companion of the outlaw Billy the Kid (Kris Kristofferson) has become a sheriff, tasked by cattle interests with ridding the territory of Billy. After Billy escapes, Pat assembles a posse and chases him through the territory, culminating in a final confrontation at Fort Sumner, but is unaware of the full scope of the cattle interests' plans for the New West." Legend has it that Peckinpah filmed an alternative ending in which Dylan beats both Pat Garret and Billy the Kid to death with his guitar and then smokes a joint before riding off into the sunset.
Selig's cover version of Knockin' On Heaven's Door(from the great German film Knockin' On Heaven's Door ):
(1973, dir. Sean MacGregor)
Aka Camper John. R.G. plays Rupert Beeker, the owner of "Beeker's Bar." From the back of the original VHS release: "A small Arizona town, seething with racial tension, explodes when the stepdaughter (Betty Ann Carr) of its most powerful citizen (Kevin Hagen) cries 'Rape.' Camper John Allen (William Smith), a peaceful Indian, is wrongfully accused of the crime and imprisoned. Later, he escapes and returns to the reservation – only to find his house in flames, his people homeless and his brother (Ned Romero) murdered by a hate-crazed mob. Determined to clear his name once and for all, Camper replies in the only language the mob understands – violence!" This drive-in flick of the "violence for peace" mode – see any given Billy Jack film – has long been forgotten. Cinema de Bizarre says: "[Gentle Savage is] a film that goes beyond simple exploitation to put the treatment of Native Americans under the microscope. Gentle Savage is a shockingly thought-provoking film, and the fact that [the director] MacGregor cast real Native Americans in the supporting roles makes it all the more moving." MacGregor also directed the much more popular killer-kiddies cult film Devil Times Five in 1974 (trailer / full film) and wrote the script to the effective but totally forgotten likewise kiddy-themed horror film The Brotherhood of Satan (1971 / trailer).
Reflections of Murder
(1974, dir. John Badham)
First ten minutes:
The Legend of Hillbilly John
(1974, dir. John Newland)
The hero sings:
White Line Fever
(1975, dir. Jonathan Kaplan)
Credit sequence with the theme song Drifting & Dreaming by Valerie Carter:
Race with the Devil
(1975, dir. Jack Starrett)
"Enjoy your trip, have a good time, leave this up to me."
Sheriff Taylor (R.G. Armstrong)
Sheriff Taylor (R.G. Armstrong)
Jack Arnold's second Blaxploitation directorial job, and like the first one, Black Eye (1974 / trailer), Fred Williamson stars in it. Unlike with the earlier film, however, Williamson both wrote and co-produced this baby – this first of his many films in which he is given these credits. Somehow, we here at A Wasted Life find it hard to believe that anyone would have the cajonas to release a film with a title like this nowadays – needless to say, it was even re-titled to simply Boss for its 2008 DVD release. Cool Ass Cinema explains the plot as follows: "Boss (Williamson) and Amos (D'Urville Martin) are two bounty hunters trudging across the violent western frontier in pursuit of wanted men. They enter the dusty town of San Miguel and discover there is no sheriff and also learn that the town is lorded over by the vicious Jed Clayton (William Smith) and his gang of cutthroats. With much of the town against them, the two African American bounty killers launch an assault on Clayton's gang eventually rallying some of the town to take up arms against the ruthless bunch of outlaws." R.G. Armstrong plays the town's wimpy mayor.
(1976, dir. Lee Frost)
R.G. Armstrong in an (as always) small part, this time as Charlie White, the bank president. Dixie Dynamite is more redneck entertainment from Lee Frost, one of the great directors of cheap and sleazy exploitation – when he died in 2007, the world of trash cinema lost one of its true masters. Dixie Dynamite, however, is one of his lesser efforts... DVD Drive-In astutely observes: "Dixie Dynamite – A PG Lee Frost film? Yep, and it's not that good. Two buxom women [Dixie (Jane Anne Johnstone) and Patsy (Kathy McHaley), in the only film either ever made] take over their dead father's moonshine still and destroy the competitor responsible for his death using their sexy wiles and their trusty packs of dynamite. There are some exciting chase scenes, plenty of explosions, greasy villains, dirt bike racing, some brief nudity, character actor favorites Warren Oates and Christopher George, and Frost's regular producer Wes Bishop. Only in the 1970s could this Southern-fried action cheapie have made a killing at the box office." To list but a few of many other films of note by Frost: The Defilers (1965 / trailer), Mondo Bizarro and Mondo Freudo (both 1966 / joint trailer), Love Camp 7 (1967 / trailer), Chrome and Hot Leather [1971 / trailer], Policewomen (1974 / trailer) and The Black Gestapo (1975 / trailer)... True 42nd Street trash, one and all!
(1976, dir. Bob Rafelson)
Three familiar but young faces in a scene from the movie:
Mean Johnny Barrows
(1976, dir. Fred Williamson)
From the soundtrack: Gordon Staples – Sounds of The Zodiac: