Friday, January 16, 2015

The Shadow of Chikara (1977)

Firstly, this has nothing to do with that other Chikara.  Changing its name more than a moody teenager, this obscure western/horror/action thinger is also known as Demon Mountain, The Ballad of Virgil Cane, The Curse of Demon Mountain, and (my favorite) Wishbone Cutter.  Joe Don Baker IS Wishbone Cutter in this film, a Civil War commander who sprints off after the South gets smacked down.  You'll probably know Joe Don from Walking Tall or the MST3K version of Mitchell.  Be assured that his performance style has not changed for this film.

Spoiler: The South loses the Civil War.  We see it here, inexplicably scored with The Band's "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down".  Informed of a cache of river diamonds by a dying comrade, Cutter heads out with his half-Irish/half-Indian scout Half-Moon O'Brien.  There are some very brief bursts of potential in these scenes, with the Indian delivering lines like "I don't know anything about stones, except arrowheads and flints!"

Along the way, they have all sorts of amusing adventures.  They find a presumably-raped woman in a red dress in the woods and learn that her name is Drusilla Wilcox.  This movie has wrested the absurd-name crown from Bloodsucking Freaks.  They also run into backwoods hillbilly mutants.  Parts of this seem proto-Sharknado in their apparently intentional badness.  But then other parts are just long and draggy.

According to Indian legend, the mountain is supervised by a giant eagle named Chikara.  Bad luck certainly seems to befall them once they start the upward climb.  In one horrifying scene, a bunch of horses and riders pitch off the mountain to their deaths.  Surely this is just movie magic!  If not, this film has wrested the crown of being-a-total-asshole from Cannibal Ferox.

One scene encapsulates the dull heart of the film.  Wishbone and Drusilla sit and stare blankly down a dark hole as their compatriot tries to put a bunch of diamonds in a bag.  But the first bag has a hole in it!  So they have to throw down another bag.  This takes a few minutes.  Then he drops his torch.  This is the climax of the film!  The lol is on you, the viewer, if you watch this.  So take my advice and don't.


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