Monday, December 15, 2008

Pony Expressionism

So I'm watching TCM Saturday night... uh, I mean... I'm out partying Saturday night with my peeps and hanging with my lady and... oh alright, so I'm home and we're watching TCM. Anyway, the first feature, 3:10 to Yuma, is over and it's only 9:36 so I'm thinking, "We're going to get a One-Reel Wonder to fill the time until 10," and wouldn't you know it, that's just what happens. As the One-Reel Wonder intro kicks in I start getting excited.

"Oh boy," I ask myself out loud, "what's it going to be tonight? Ooh, ooh, I hope it's one of those Boy Friends shorts they put on occasionally. Remember the last one, Ladies Last, directed by none other than George Stevens, where the boys refuse to go to the dance because the girls want them to wear tuxedos? Ha, ha oh my. That was hilarious!"

"Okay, okay," says my lovely wife, "calm down. Let's just wait and see."

"Boy Friends, Boy Friends, Boy Friends," I chant in wild expectation.

Then the short starts. It's in color from 1940 so I know it's not The Boy Friends but my disappointment is only temporary as I see the title, Pony Express Days.

"Hooray!" I exclaim, "A short historical narrative about the Pony Express!"

Then I see the cast and in the starring role is none other than Brent Tarleton/Clark Kent/Superman himself George Reeves.

"Oh boy, this is going to be good!"

As our story begins, Billy (George Reeves), is told he's too big for the Pony Express. The maximum weight allowed is 125 pounds because they ride those ponies fast across the plains and too much weight, along with the added weight of the mail, could cause events to occur that would be hard to work around. Like, for instance, the pony could die. And that would be hard to fix. So Billy is rejected but still gets to work for the Express at a relay station where he keeps the next pony ready. See what happens is, the rider switches ponies about every tenth of the way, and then takes the next pony to the brink of horrible exhaustive death all in the name of getting the mail from Missouri to Californ-I-A!

Billy is stuck at the relay station with some annoying old guy who claims he's a master buffalo hunter but he's really just a stupid drunken half-wit. Billy hates him. So anywho, there's this subplot going on over in California. Seems these Southern sympathizers are trying to get California to join what will become the Confederacy but there's a problem. They suspect that that meddling prairie lawyer from Illinois, Abe Lincoln, will get elected and if California gets the news in time they won't join the Confederacy, which hasn't even formed yet as South Carolina did not secede until December 20th of 1860, more than a full month after Lincoln's election. But somehow these guys just know there's going to be a Confederacy. They also know Lincoln will be elected. They further know that California is just itching to join the Confederacy, which doesn't exist yet, but if they find out Lincoln won the election they'll be all like, "No way Jose, we're not joining now!" So right there you've got some serious dramatic tension going down.

Okay, so, back to the Pony Express. They ride fast across the plains and the Indians there ignore them. I guess because they're so fast or maybe it's just because the Indians think they're totally awesome. Well, that's a problem for our Southern sympathizers. One of them finds some crooked Indians and pays them to kill the Pony Express riders so that word of Lincoln's election never reaches California (imagine if this plan had worked and people living in California today we're still asking, "So who was the 16th President? Doesn't anybody know?").

The Indians start shooting the Pony Express riders. Shooting them! One of the Pony Express riders rides into Billy's relay station shot. He can't go on and Indians have surrounded the cabin. Oh no! What's going to happen now? It was at this point that I hung my head low, "It's all over," I said, "Now California will join the Confederacy, when it forms I mean."

"Don't be so pessimistic," said my wife, reassuringly, "Something unexpected might just happen."

"Yeah sure," I said, utterly defeated, "I'm going to get a drink. I don't need this kind of downer right now."

"Wait!" shouted my wife.

I turned back around to face the screen and what do you know! Billy hops on the pony and takes off!

"Impossible!" I exclaimed, "He's too big! The pony won't last!"

And Billy didn't just jump on that pony. No. He didn't sneak around the back where the Indians couldn't see him. Hell no! He hopped on that pony, drew both six shooters from his side and rode RIGHT AT THEM!!! Man, there must have been 10 or 12 of them and not one, NOT ONE, managed to pull off a shot anywhere near Billy but Billy - oh boy! - he took 'em all out as he blasted his way through their defensive lines! I don't have to tell you (or maybe I do) that right about now my wife was readying a spoon in case she needed to hold down my tongue to keep me from choking on it due to all the excitement.

Then guess what happens. The pony, and Billy, become too exhausted to go on.

"I knew it," I said, bitter and resentful of being played for a fool by this short, "I knew it was too good to be true."

So there's Billy, exhausted and beaten, laying on the ground by his exhausted and beaten pony. All he needed to do was get to the border fort at California to drop off the mail but he couldn't do it. He just couldn't do it.

And then...

Are you ready...

Really ready...

He hears Reveille! Oh joy! Bliss! Rapture! The fort is just over the hill. He made it!!! The word goes out to California that Lincoln won the election and California decides against joining the not-yet-existent Confederacy. Whew, that was a close one.

So the story's over. Yep, what more could they possibly do at this point? And that's when it happens. As Billy walks away with that drunken half-wit we get the final AMAZING twist! The half-wit mentions something about buffalos and Billy thinks it might make a good nickname for himself. "I like it," Billy says, "Buffalo Bill. Buffalo Bill Cody."

Holy Crapola!!! It was Buffalo Bill the whole time! As the tears streamed down my face I turned to wife and said, "One day, I'm going to make a movie just like that, you wait and see."

"I know you will sweety," she said, reaching out for my hand, "I know you will."

Today marks the first day of what will be known in the future as my "Pony Expressionism" period. Pony Express Days, you will live in heart forever. Thank you. Thank you for everything.

Now how about an episode of The Boy Friends? Those guys crack me up.