Legend of the Phantom Rider

LEGEND OF THE PHANTOM RIDER. 2002

Director: Alex Erkiletian

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl



The "weird western" Legend of the Phantom Rider (aka Trigon: The Legend of Pelgidium) has enough going for it that I did enjoy it, though it's difficult to look at it critically & find it actually successful. Looking first at the nominal star Dennis Crosby, she walks through her role like a zombie, but she's not supposed to be a zombie, she's supposed to be the Standard Issue Spunky Heroine #1.

Of course, she previously walked through her Star Trek Generation role like a zombie too, & the odd thing about her in Legend of the Phantom Rider is that she still has the same butch hair-do as she had on Star Trek, so that the only Old West character she might actually resemble would be a hair-cropped nun, not a wife & mother. She delivers an unmemorable performance all round, not helped by the fact that she never even began to look the role.

The script has that adolescent feel to it that all too many B-horror films have, & the western shtick was for the most part already old hat in the silent film era. If one removes the supernatural element from the story & looks at the plethora of western cliche sequences that pad out the film tediously, there is scarsely anything original or interesting that happens.

The first third of the film before the arrival of demonic avenging angel Pelgidium is just boring as all shit -- a standard "nice family slaughtered, survivor wants vengeance" set-up with nothing new to say. But a half hour into the film Crosby's dull character finds a cool Indian character actor (Saginaw Grant) to conjure up Pelgidium. From the instant Pelgidium appears, there is at least one thing interesting in the film. In fact he's so grotesquely wonderful it makes one wonder why the rest of the film sucks so big-time.

The actor who plays Pelgidium is the same actor playing the evil snotrag bastard psychopath, Blade. Now Pelgidium has scarsely any speaking lines, he just stands there like Aguirre in Aguirre the Wrath of God at such an angle to the earth it's difficult to tell how he doesn't tip over, with his huge cool hat hiding his appallingly disfigured face.

He's the fastest gun from Hell, & the fact that he doesn't speak means actor Robert McKray only has to look good in costume, doesn't really have to act, & it's a tremendously successful performance on the part of the costume. Every moment that Pelgidium is on the screen the film has real life & excitement because of that costume. Too bad there wasn't an original story to go with the costume, but sometimes a horror fan has to settle for whatever little thing a film does right.

As Blade, however, McKray would've had to have been able to act. He's supposed to be Hell-spawn too, but he just seems an ordinary psycho killer who likes to shoot people & has a lot of fellow bad guys obeying him. Big deal. One suspects Crosby was cast opposite him only so no one would be able to out-act McKray. If they'd gotten someone with charisma to play the psycho Blade then the film might have had more than Pelgidium's costume going for it, but Blade is a boring character badly played.

McKray wrote the script, but unless he also designed the costume for Pelgidium, he is not the source of the little good the film has to offer. I would just so love to see a sequel with a competently written story & McKray wearing the Pelgidium costume keeping his bad-actor mouth shut.

Gotta mention geezer actor Angus Scrimm from the Phantom series. Here he is lost in a script that gives him very little to do, but he does everything with his Preacher role that could be done. At the moment when he makes the decision to kill bad guys for Jesus, he really does give the film a second good ingredient. Unfortunately there is no shoot-out choreography for his character to go out in glory, he just runs out of the church two guns blazing & gets wasted. The scene was thus wasted. It should've been something like the death of Wilem Defoe in Platoon. Due to that lost opportunity within the script, Scrimm's best scene is over before it gets going.

There were some other good character actors at the periphery of the story, so if McKray hadn't been such an egotistical non-actor thinking he could pull off two roles at once, clearly someone could've cast a skillful bad-guy.

I'm not sorry I spent the time on this film, because even despite the cliche western padding, the crappy acting of the two main leads, & script that can't even come up with better sounding names than "Blade" & "Pelgidium" for wild-west supernatural killers, I just hugely loved all those too-few minutes when Pelgidium was standing at that Aguirre-angle, ready to draw his ivory gun.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl



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