this day in crime history: july 21, 1873


On this date in 1873, a group of western bank robbers known as the James-Younger gang tried their hand at train robbery.  The gang sabotaged the track just outside Adair, IA and waited for the Chicago Rock Island & Pacific train’s approach.  Around 7:00 PM, the locomotive derailed, killing the engineer.

Some of the robbers hit the express car while the rest guarded the train’s passengers and crew.  The gang believed that the train would be carrying tens of thousands of dollars in gold.  As it turns out, they were mistaken.  They left the scene about ten minutes later with a few thousand in cash.

Some have referred to the 1873 Rock Island &Pacific robbery as the first peace-time train robbery in US history, but this is incorrect.  The Reno gang beat the James-Youngers to it, robbing an Ohio and Mississippi train in Seymour, IN in 1866.

Further reading:

NY Times – “Daring Railway Robbery”

Old West Legends: The James-Younger Gang – Terror in the Heartland

Wikipedia – James-Younger Gang


rip, james garner


Sad news from the west coast this morning:

James Garner, Witty, Handsome Leading Man, Dies at 86

James Garner, the wry and handsome leading man who slid seamlessly between television and the movies but was best known as the amiable gambler Bret Maverick in the 1950s western “Maverick” and the cranky sleuth Jim Rockford in the 1970s series “The Rockford Files,” was found dead in his California home on Saturday night, the Los Angeles Police Department confirmed on Sunday. He was 86.

Sad news, indeed. I’ve always been a huge James Garner fan. I watched The Rockford Files when it first aired in the 1970s. It was, in my opinion, the best PI show ever. Later, I discovered Maverick, a western that had more comedy than shootouts. Then there were the movies; Support Your Local Sheriff, Support Your Local Gunfighter (they were essentially the same movie with several plot elements reworked), and The Great Escape. In his later years came Victor Victoria, Space Cowboys, and the big screen adaptation of Maverick. Garner just had this laid back screen presence that made him slip effortlessly into any role he played.

Here are a few of my favorite James Garner scenes. This one is from Support Your Local Sheriff:

Testing some moonshine for a 4th of July celebration in The Great Escape:

Jim Rockford, having at it with his frequent foil, Lt. Chapman:

And here’s a compilation of the answering machine messages from the first season of The Rockford Files:


this day in crime history: july 19, 1879


On this date in 1879, John Henry Holliday, an 1872 graduate of the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery, became former Army scout Mike Gordon’s Huckleberry. Mr. Gordon, it seemed, started an altercation in Dr. Holliday’s saloon in Las Vegas, NM. Big mistake. The argument spilled out into the street, where Mr. Gordon drew his pistol–an even bigger mistake–and fired it at Dr. Holliday. In what was sure to be the biggest mistake of all, Mr. Gordon missed. Dr. Holliday responded by drawing his own pistol and shooting at Mr. Gordon. He didn’t miss. Mr. Gordon died. And Dr. Holliday discovered a new favorite game: Play for Blood.

Further reading:

Wikipedia: Doc Holliday

Legends of America: Doc Holliday – Deadly Doctor of the West


friday movie quote


“Okay, you’ve had your fun. I’ll give you one more chance, and if you don’t clear out now, there’ll be real trouble. I mean it.”

-David Sumner (Dustin Hoffman), Straw Dogs (1971)


no springs!

One thing I neglected to mention during my review of Rifftrax Live: Sharknado is that the guys started the show, as they often do, by riffing an old short. This one was an “educational” film called A Case of Spring Fever. As it turns out, this one had been riffed back in the MST3K days. I found it on Youtube the other day. The riffs they did last week were completely different than the MST3K treatment. Here’s the original.


this day in crime history: july 15, 1997


On this day in 1997, fashion designer Gianni Versace was shot and killed outside his home in Miami Beach, FL. Versace’s killer, Andrew Cunanan, had gone on a killing spree that started three months earlier in Minneapolis. Versace was Cunanan’s fifth and final (known) victim. Cunanan committed suicide on July 24th on a houseboat in Miami. His motive for the killings remains unknown.

Further reading:

FBI: Serial Killers – Andrew Cunanan Murders a Fashion Icon

Crime Library – Andrew Cunanan: After Me, Disaster

Wikipedia – Andrew Cunanan


review – rifftrax live: sharknado


Last Thursday, I went to see Rifftrax Live: Sharknado. This is the third Rifftrax event I’ve seen, the other two being Night of the Living Dead and Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. As with the two previous shows, this one was preceded by a fake trivia slide show. These are always amusing. Here’s an example of one from Sharknado.


I hope he leaves it there too, by the way. Of course I haven’t even seen the first one yet, so…

The show itself was really entertaining. Mike, Kevin, and Bill were simulcasting from Minneapolis, which is where MST3K got its start. The home town audience was super-enthused, as was the audience in Albany.

One Rifftrax fan I know expressed some doubt that they could pull it off. After all, how do you riff a movie that was made as a satire in the first place? I mean, the whole point of riffing is to make fun of unintentional cheesiness. But they pulled it off. There were multiple riffs about Tara Reid’s career (such that it is), Ian (pronounced Eye-in) Ziering’s stint on 90210, and the expected barbs about the movie’s Jaws references. They even worked in the obligatory Nick Nolte joke. No Rifftrax show would be complete without one. All in all, it lived up to my expectations. There’s an encore on Tuesday night. It’s worth your time and money, if you’re a fan of this sort of thing.

They also gave us a brief preview of their next show, 1998′s Godzilla. That’s the one with Ferris Bueller. That one will be hitting theaters on August 14th. You can bet I’ll be there.



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