CINEMA.

HOW I BRIEFLY LOST MY HEAD FOR THE ADVENTURES OF A CONQUISTADOR
[posted 02.28.2005]

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IT’S THE MOVIE I can never remember the name of. It’s the one Tim and I saw one night, decades ago, high on Thai stick. The one we just call “the headless conquistador movie.”

See, it’s about a headless conquistador, ah, who walks the contemporary, American west — terrorizing a ranch house, my leaky powers of recall want me to say — in search of — what? His body, I think. It’s not important. Nor is it important that I remember anything else about it, its cast, its true narrative drive, its history, its marvelous special effects, its use of negative space, nor even its proper appellation. The important thing is the myth, the musical pause, that it has become in my head, a deliciously bad movie sprouting like a mushroom on the morning lawn, inside my brain, growing tendrils of sweet memory and ache. Like that girl I slept with in high school whose name I also can’t remember, only her hands, her friendly, tender hands, and the way her back swung nicely into her ass.

Of genres, I admit to being a fan of headless torso movies.Reanimator jumps to mind. And the one about the scientist keeping a head alive in a petri dish, while his freezer is full of cryogenic Nazis. What the hell is the name of that one?

OK, I emailed Tim. Here’s the name of the conquistador film: The Thing that Couldn’t Die.

One movie guide, I find, rates it a turkey. I don’t think that’s good. Its description of the film seems only mildly familiar. Another guide does not stoop to include it.

Here is its director: Will Cowan. Here is its solid cast, actors who have probably rightly faded away after their brief Hollywood sojourn: William Reynolds, Andra Martin, Carolyn Kearney. Perhaps this was their crowning, their defining moment. Perhaps so. Let’s say, though, for the sheer fairy tale quality of it, that Bill has gone on to other pursuits, perhaps chemistry, perhaps writing, putting out a series of Grade A mysteries under the nom de plume Norm DePlume. It’s a believable parable. Or, let’s say that Andra (Andra?) has made a killing on TV selling trusses in infomercials. That Carolyn, sweet Carolyn, is the Pope’s press secretary.

More likely though, like me, they, the once glittering cast, have been forgotten and have themselves nearly forgotten The Thing That Couldn’t Die, can’t quite put the right name to it, perhaps calling it “the headless conquistador movie.” They can’t even recall with whom they shared this particular stage. Maybe it’s a film best forgotten, a film which seems, well, filmy in memory. One that is good for late night television, when nothing else is on. When an oversized bag of cheep cheese puffs seems like ambrosia. A film gone from the mind an hour after consuming. A Chinese meal of a film.

A film for a night of Thai stick.

A film, moviegoers, for the pure, wending, imprecise corridors of memory.

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corey mesler has published in numerous journals and anthologies. his novel, talk, was released in 2002, a chapbook of poems, chin-chin in eden, in 2003, and another chapbook, dark on purpose, in 2004. he runs burke’s book store in memphis, tenn.