Monday, May 23, 2016
‘DEATH VALLEY DAYS’ DVD REVIEW, PLUS ‘SCATTERED DESTINATIONS’ FIRST LOOK, SANTA CLARITA COWBOY FEST!
DEATH VALLEY DAYS – THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON – A Video Review
Anyone growing up in the 1950s or 60s remembers watching DEATH VALLEY DAYS on Sundays. Sponsored by 20 Mule Team Borax, the detergent booster that I still use in my laundry, the show actually dated back to 1930, when it began on radio, and continued until 1951. The television version began in 1952. The original host, Stanley Andrews, would look directly into the camera as he greeted viewers. “Howdy, I’m the Old Ranger, and Death Valley’s my stamping ground. Many’s the tale of adventure I’m going to tell you ‘bout the Death Valley country. True stories, mind you. I can vouch for that.” I don’t know how true they all were, but they were entertaining and plentiful – nearly 300 episodes in eighteen seasons. Shout!Factory has just released all eighteen episodes of Season One in a set that is exclusively available from WalMart, and the response has been so enthusiastic that a Season Two set is said to already be on the way.
Ruth Woodman, who created the radio series, has long been acknowledged as one of the great authorities on Death Valley history and folklore. She wrote every episode of the first TV season – in fact she wrote every episode for the first five years. Stuart E. MacGowan, who directed the entire first season, started out writing two-reel talkies for Mack Sennett, then scripted scores of Republic Westerns and musicals before switching to directing in 1950.
An anthology series, there are occasional modern-day plots about prospectors, but the vast majority are set in Death Valley in the eighteen hundreds. Some are clearly based on historical fact. The comedies are whimsical, the dramas melodramatic – few prospectors strike it rich, and many have their hearts broken. Men lose their limbs (THE LOST PEG-LEG MINE) and women lose their minds (CYNTHY’S DREAM DRESS). Contemporary to the rise of GUNSMOKE and the ‘adult western’, these shows were defiantly old-fashioned family entertainment, and an eighteen year run proves that they found a loyal audience.
The early seasons were produced through Gene Autry’s FLYING A PICTURES, and several of Gene’s stars from other series turn up – ANNIE OAKLEY stars Gail Davis and Brad Johnson both appear twice, and Jock Mahoney of THE RANGE RIDER stars in a particularly interesting episode, SWAMPER IKE, playing an Indian whose love of a white girl could lead to his murder by jealous Denver Pyle. Amusingly, the girl is played by his actual wife, Mary Field, mother of Sally Field. Among other familiar character actors in the series are Lyle Talbot – 3 times, John Ford stock company member Wallace Ford, and Gloria Winters, SKY KING’s niece Penny.
The season closes with a daring episode, LAND OF THE FREE, in which a pair of slaves get permission from their kindly ‘massah’ to prospect in the California gold fields, to earn enough money to buy their freedom!
A beautifully restored, historically informative, enjoyable series very much of its time, DEATH VALLEY DAYS season one can be purchased from WalMart HERE.
‘SCATTERED DESTINATION’ TRAILER REVEALED
Byron Cherry, Kevin McNiven
I recently went to the Van Nuys Elks Lodge to attend the premiere of a Western that was only three and a half minutes long. Entitled SCATTERED DESTINATIONS, it’s written and directed by singer/songwriter, novelist, poet and horseman Troy Andrew Smith, and it’s a proof-of-concept film for a feature. Of course you don’t get the whole story in 3 minutes, but there was a lot of plot, several scenes, action, lots of horse-riding , and stunning cinematography. And it was all shot in one day, for $1,500!
Troy and wrangler/actor/singer Kevin McNiven
entertain after the screening.
The shoot was done at Caravan West Ranch, but Troy hopes to shoot the feature in Wyoming. After the screening, Troy gave me a run-down on the plot. “Jack is an old cowboy that’s been busted up by a big steer, and he’s searching for his runaway daughter and wife.”
I told him I was amazed that they’d shot it all in one day. “We actually had daylight left over. There wasn’t a lot of time wasted. We started filming about 8 o’clock in the morning, and finished up 6:30 that evening. My cinematographer, Eric Scott, did an excellent job. The whole crew and actors – everybody came to work and everybody knew their parts, the weather was perfect – it was one of those days where God was smiling on us in every direction. ”
While this will be Troy’s first experience directing a feature, he’s no stranger to the film set. “I’ve studied directors, sitting and watching them on the set for twenty-plus years. The first (movie) job I had was as a stand-in for Richard Crenna in MONTANA (1990). The cinematographer on that, Dennis Lewiston, he really liked me, and I liked working for him, and he kept me on the whole movie. That was a good place to start, because being a stand-in, I could stand there, watching everybody else working, and see what the grips did, what the best boy did, what the prop people were doing. Then I got some acting parts in DIGGSTOWN (1992), THE BALLAD OF LITTLE JO (1993) and A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT (1992). I’ve done a lot of set construction and props. Then I got into wrangling and riding background. I worked on all three seasons of DEADWOOD, riding horses and driving wagons. I’ve done a lot on a movie set besides just being a pretty face.”
Knowing they’re looking for investors, I asked what sort of budget he has in mind. “We’re hoping to go from $400,000 to a million. If we keep it in that million dollar budget range, it’s a lot easier to recoup your money and make some money for the investors.” If you’re interested in being one of those investors, you can contact Troy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SANTA CLARITA COWBOY FESTIVAL 2016!
The Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival, held on April 23rd and 24th at William S. Hart Park, was once again a roaring success, bringing the West-loving public together with musicians, authors, performers, historic re-enactors, merchants – make that sutlers, grub vendors, and more. I first ran into Joey Dillon who, as you can see, was spinning his sixers so fast that you could hardly see ‘em!
A champion pistol manipulator, he’s taught many of the stars to look proficient, and recently was working on full-auto guns on STARZ’s SURVIVOR’S REMORSE, and was training a large cast with a dizzying array of period weaponry on HBO’s upcoming WESTWORLD. I asked him if the new show would much reassemble the 1973 film. “No, they’re taking it to an exciting, huge new level. It’s going to blow your mind, I think.”
Next up I visited the Buckaroo Book Store – where Jim and Bobbi Jean Bell had so much going on they had to hold some events at their OutWest boutique a block away. Among the authors taking part were --
Dale Jackson and Andrea Kidd --
Eric Heisner and Al Bringas --
Andrea Kidd, Peter Sherayko, Don Edwards,
and my radio buddies Bobbi Jean Bell --
and Jim Christina.
Stopping by a tepee --
I spoke with Paul Kicking Bear, who was amused that I thought his displayed headdress was decorated with owl feathers.
“They’re prairie chicken,” he told me. “The Lakota people would never decorate with owl feathers, because they’re associated with death.”
I looked in on the Buffalo Soldier encampment --
-- the new-this-year cowboy encampment --
-- and caught musical performances by The Old Salt Union --
-- The Devil’s Box String Band --
-- and the Band of the California Battalion.
Among the entertainments for the little cow-punchers were gold-panning --
-- a mechanical bull --
-- a stagecoach-shaped bounce-house --
-- and for kids and adults, a genuine tomahawk toss!
Sadly, I’d heard that the Visalia Cowboy Cultural Committee, who celebrated their 25th anniversary last year, and whose peach cobbler and cowboy coffee are a grand tradition at the SCCF, had gone under.
Happily, a local Rotary Club purchased their equipment, and provided cobbler and coffee in their stead.
A very welcome addition to the SCCF was located in the historic Pardee House. Silent Westerns starring William S. Hart and others were running continuously, thanks to Tom Barnes, who runs the Retroformat silent screenings at Hollywood’s Egyptian Theatre.
And as at the Egyptian, the films were accompanied by the keyboard virtuosity of Cliff Retalick (076). Using Pardee House, built in 1890, as a silent theatre was wonderfully appropriate, since it was used at times as a filming location by Tom Mix, Harry Carey and John Ford!
As always, one of the high points of the Festival were the Indian dancers.
The Art Directors Guild always has an informative and entertaining presentation. This time it featured a model posing for sketchers --
-- as well as designs from the movies – this is from one of the train sequences from the recent LONE RANGER (89).
After a little shopping --
-- it was time to hop on your favorite form of transportation --
-- or --
-- until next year. In the words of William S. Hart, “The thrill of it all!”
THAT’S A WRAP!
Just back from my local 7/11, where I looked at the Redbox machine in front, and was delighted to see featured on the front were THE REVENANT, JANE GOT A GUN, THE HATEFUL 8, and FORSAKEN. When I peeked under the curtain at the rest of the films available, I spotted THE TIMBER, KILL OR BE KILLED and DIABLO. Seven recent Westerns available from one vending machine! Next time someone says to you, “Gee, are they still making Westerns?” send them to Redbox. By the way, I’ve reviewed all of those films here in the Round-up except for THE TIMBER, and that’s coming very soon!
AND ONE MORE THING…
Tim Tomerson & Helen Hunt
On Saturday I went to a TRANCERS soundtrack signing and cast and crew reunion at the Creature Features bookstore in Burbank. For the uninitiated, the TRANCER films, which started in 1984 for the tiny indie Empire Pictures, were noir-ish stories about time-travelling detective Jack Deth (Tim Thomerson), and co-starred the very young Helen Hunt. It was particularly nice that Helen Hunt, who could easily have said, “I’m too busy polishing my Oscar to attend,” was there with Tim, co-stars Richard Herd and Andy Robinson, writers Danny Bilson and C. Courtney Joyner, and composer Richard Band. And remember, Helen Hunt’s first film, when she was around 10, was the Western PIONEER WOMAN (1973)!
Al Original Material Copyright May 2016 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved
Tuesday, May 10, 2016
NEW CHARLES LUMMIS DOC., ‘6 BULLETS’ FILM & GAME RELEASE, PLUS ‘UNDERGROUND’ FINALE, MEL GIBSON’S ‘BARBARY COAST’, AND MORE!
MUST-SEE TV -- CHARLES LUMMIS DOCUMENTARY AIRS ON KCET TUESDAY!
On Tuesday, May 10th, at 9 pm, the California arts documentary series ARTBOUND returns to KCET with CHARLES LUMMIS: REIMAGINING THE AMERICAN WEST. While not a name on the tip of many tongues today, Lummis’ contributions to the history of the Southwest United States, particularly Los Angeles, would be hard to overstate. On Saturday, a panel featuring many of interviewees in the film discussed Lummis and the documentary at the first museum in Los Angeles, which Lummis built, The Southwest Museum, surrounded by one of the world’s finest collections of American Indian art and artifacts, which Lummis collected.
Lummis watches over producer Juan Devis' shoulder
Charles Fletcher Lummis, born in Massachusetts in 1859, grew up at a time of individualists. He was classmate of Theodore Roosevelt at Harvard, but dropped out, wrote for a Cincinnati newspaper, but quit when he got a better offer – working for the Los Angeles Times. He proposed that he walk to L.A. from Cincinnati, and became a media sensation from the newspaper columns he posted en route. His contact with American Indians along the way would greatly influence the rest of his life.
Lummis' granddaughter, poet Suzanne Lummis
After 143 days afoot, he arrived and was made city editor of Times. It was 1885, which was, as Lummis’ granddaughter pointed out, the year that RAMONA-author and Indian rights activist Helen Hunt Jackson died. It was a passing of the torch. Los Angeles was in a time of transition – it had a population of only 12,000 when Lummis arrived – and he saw, with concern, that as the numbers quickly swelled, the history of the Indian and Mexican and Spanish people who had lived there before the Anglos was disappearing. While a sincere and enthusiastic booster for Los Angeles, he did not want to see a homogenized city, and used his skills as an anthropologist, writer, poet, and photographer to both preserve the rapidly fading past, and make a convincing argument that this past should be incorporated in the city’s future. Neither a paralyzing stroke – he healed, nor blindness – it proved temporary, could slow him down. I highly recommend this documentary, and hope it will soon be available for viewing outside of L.A.
‘6 BULLETS TO HELL’ MOVIE AND VIDEO GAME PREMIERE TUESDAY!
In a very clever bit of synergy and cross-promotion, Tuesday, May 10th marks the release of both 6 BULLETS TO HELL the movie on iTunes, and 6 BULLETS TO HELL the video game. The film stars Tanner Beard, Crispian Belfrage and Russell Cummings, and Round-up readers have been following 6 BULLETS since it rolled camera in 2013, and as I said in my review – read it HERE – 6 BULLETS is a new Spaghetti Western filmed in the holy ground of Almeria, Spain, and masterfully captures the spirit of the originals. Here’s the trailer from the movie.
CHECK OUT MY MOTHER’S DAY COLUMN AT INSP
I had the pleasure of writing a guest Mother’s Day column for the INSP-TV blog, honoring actress Barbara Stanwyck, and one of her most famous characters, Victoria Barkley from THE BIG VALLEY. It gave me the opportunity of interviewing her co-star from TROOPER HOOK, Earl Holliman, and Kate Edelman, whose father, Louis Edelman, co-created and produced THE BIG VALLEY, who both shared their memories of ‘Missy’ with me. You can read it (and I wish you would) HERE.
‘UNDERGROUND’ SEASON ONE ENDS WED. WITH A MARATHON
If you, like me, were late to discover WGN’s series about slaves escaping through the Underground Railroad, you can catch up starting Wednesday, May 11th at 10 a.m. (check your local times). As I reported in the last Round-up, UNDERGROUND has been picked up for a second season.
MEL GIBSON, KURT RUSSELL, KATE HUDSON TO STAR IN WESTERN SERIES ‘BARBARY COAST’!
Mel Gibson will be co-writing and directing as well as starring with Kurt Russell and Kate Hudson in BARBARY COAST, based on the history book of the same title by Herbert Asbury, whose GANGS OF NEW YORK was filmed by Martin Scorcese. The story of the wicked early days of San Francisco during the Gold Rush of 1849, it will be produced by the Mark Gordon Company , who currently produce QUANTICO, CRIMINAL MINDS and GREY’S ANATOMY.
While the beautiful and talented Hudson is a newcomer to the genre, her co-stars are not. Mel Gibson played the lovable scoundrel MAVERICK (1994), the Revolutionary War hero in THE PATRIOT (2000), and even voiced John Smith in Disney’s animated POCAHONTAS (1995). Kurt Russell is a Western icon ever since playing Wyatt Earp in TOMBSTONE (1993), has recently starred in both HATEFUL 8 (2015) and BONE TOMAHAWK (2015), but hasn’t done a Western series since he co-starred with Tim Matheson in THE QUEST (1976).
CELEBRATE JOHN WAYNE’S BIRTHDAY WED. MAY 18 AT THE AUTRY!
Rob Word’s Word On Westerns will salute the Duke with a gathering of friends and family, including son Patrick Wayne, granddaughter Anita Wayne LaCava Swift, and co-stars Robert Carradine (THE COWBOYS), Paul Koslo (ROOSTER COGBURN), and author and historian Chris Enns. These one-of-a-kind events have been so packed of late that there have been some wise changes made. It will begin at eleven – not noon – and at the Wells Fargo Theatre. The program will begin with a performance by Will Ryan and the Saguaro Sisters, and eventually everyone will segue across the courtyard to the Autry Crossroads Café for lunch. Doors open at 10:30 a.m. – don’t be late!
DOUG FAIRBANKS IS ‘WILD AND WOOLLY’ SAT. MAY 21 AT THE EGYPTIAN!
Douglas Fairbanks stars in this delightful comedy from nearly a century ago, as a sophisticated New Yorker who wants to experience the Wild West – and boy, does he! It was written by Anita Loos, the first brilliant screenwriter, and her husband John Emerson. Loos started her career young – some say as young as 12 – when, hanging out in her father’s nickelodeon theatre, she wrote a scenario and sent it to the name and address on a film can in the projection booth – to D.W. Griffith at Biograph Pictures. (Forgive my digression, but back in the 1970s, Anita Loos became a good friend of my mother’s, and although I only met her briefly, it was a thrill – and I can remember every word she told me about a nightmarish dinner party with Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.) The film is directed by Emerson, and the cinematographer is Victor Fleming, who in 1939 would direct both GONE WITH THE WIND and THE WIZARD OF OZ! Presented with a live piano accompaniment by the Cliff Retallick, this is part of the Egyptian Theatre’s long running Retroformat series, showcasing long-unavailable silent films shown in 8mm or 16mm. Learn more HERE.
THAT’S A WRAP!
Coming soon to the Round-up I’ll have coverage of my visit to the set of IMPULSION, the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival, the TCM Festival, and a bunch of great interviews I haven’t had a chance to transcribe. Have a great week or two!
All Original Material Copyright May 2016 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved
Wednesday, April 27, 2016
UPDATE! FIRST LOOK AT MAG 7 REMAKE, ‘UNDERGROUND’ SEASON 2 ORDERED, PLUS TCM FEST THIS WEEKEND, ‘STRANGE SANCTUARY’ REVIEWED
UPDATE! FIRST LOOK AT ‘MAGNIFICENT 7’ REMAKE!
This trailer is almost twice as long as the one I posted oon Facebook a week ago – check it out!
WGNA’S ‘UNDERGROUND’ RENEWED FOR SECOND SEASON!
This trailer is almost twice as long as the one I posted oon Facebook a week ago – check it out!
WGNA’S ‘UNDERGROUND’ RENEWED FOR SECOND SEASON!
UNDERGROUND, WGN America’s original series about the Underground Railroad, the secret channels that transported runaway slaves to the North in the pre-Civil War days, has been picked up for a second ten-episode season. Averaging 3 million viewers per episode, it’s the most successful new cable show of the season, and the most popular scripted series in the network’s history. Produced by John Legend, UNDERGROUND was created by Misha Green (SPARTACUS, SONS OF ANARCHY) and Joe Pokaski (CSI, DAREDEVIL). The series stars Jurnee Smollet-Bell from TRUE BLOOD, and Aldis Hodge from STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON and TURN, as slaves running from a Georgia plantation. Airing on Wednesdays, this one flew under my radar, so all I’ve seen so far is a few minutes of episode 2, which looks very good. But it’s available through Amazon, and presumably other platforms, and before the season finale on May 11, WGNA will rerun the entire season, so we can catch up!
TCM FEST OPENS THURSDAY!
Thursday April 28th through Sunday May 1st, the great cinema event of the year, the TCM Classic Film Festival will once again take over Hollywood! Movies will be screening at the Chinese Theatre, the Egyptian Theatre, several screens at the Chinese Multiplex, plus a few other venues. With five movies generally showing at a time, you can’t see everything, but you can see a ton! There will be special guests introducing films, including Alec Baldwin, Carl Bernstein, Francis Ford Coppola – who’ll get his footprints in cement at the Chinese, James Cromwell, Faye Dunaway, Elliot Gould, Darryl Hickman, Angela Lansbury, Gina Lollobrigida, Marlee Matlin, Carl Reiner, Eva Marie Saint, Adam West, and many more.
Most of the pass packages, which cost as much as $1,649, are sold out, but there’s still the Palace Pass for $299, and happily there are tickets for individual movies. Those are $20 a pop, and all the pass-holders are let in before they sell tickets for any remaining seats, so study the schedule, and have a second choice in mind in case your first choice is full.
Few Westerns are on the schedule this year, but the ones that are there are well worth seeing on a big screen. On Saturday, see THE YEARLING (1946), based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, starring Gregory Peck and Jane Wyman as parents who have doubts about letting their son (Claude Jarman Jr.) raise a young deer. The film won Oscars for Art Direction and Cinematography, and Jarman himself will be in attendance.
On Sunday, see LAW AND ORDER (1932) starring Walter Huston as Wyatt Earp (with a name change), in a script by his son John, from a novel by W.R. Burnett. It’s a tough but at times sweet pre-code Western, featuring Harry Carey, and a moving performance by Andy Devine.
Unless you’re cried out from THE YEARLING, see OLD YELLER (1957). Walt Disney’s heartwarming but uncompromising story of a frontier family, who comes to love and depend on a big-old dog, is from the Fred Gipson novel. It’s the perfect Disney family – mother Dorothy Maguire, father Fess Parker, sons Tommy Kirk and Kevin Corcoran. There’s a lot of joy and tragedy in this story, beautifully performed by the cast, including the neighbor-girl played by Beverly
Washburn, who will be in attendance.
Washburn, who will be in attendance.
Keith Carradine will introduce John Ford’s SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON (1948), and if you read the Round-up, you probably know more about the film than I do.
The Festival is a wonderful event; one of the highpoints is meeting so many people from around the world who have the same passion for and knowledge of film as you do. And did I mention they’re showing a movie in Smell-o-vision? To learn more, visit the website here: http://filmfestival.tcm.com/
‘DISH’ PUTS INSP BACK ON AIR!
I told ya – raising a stink can have a fragrant effect! DISH, who April Fooled their subscribers by
yanking INSP, and its 50 hours of westerns per week, has reinstalled the network, at least for now.
Thanks to everyone who sent snarling and snarky emails, Facebook comments and Tweets! Nice to
know the powers that be actually listen!
‘STRANGE SANCTUARY’ – LIVE TV WESTERN STARS MICHAEL RENNIE, CESAR ROMERO
Alpha Video has come up with a fascinating oddity from the early days of TV, a 1957 hour episode from the CLIMAX anthology series, STRANGE SANCTUARY. Live shows from the early years of TV are rarely seen today because the quality of image is less than people are used to today. Unlike today’s dramatic shows, where stories are shot and assembled like movies, live TV dramas were performed like plays, from beginning to end, and broadcast live. They were preserved as Kinescopes, films shot off of a TV monitor, and lack the sharpness we expect, but there is a treasure-trove of high quality story-telling out there that has been ignored for too long.
STRANGE SANCTUARY is the moving story of a pair of outlaw partners, Irish Michael Rennie and Mexican Cesar Romero, who are on the run after a bank robbery. Planning to start new lives in California, things go wrong when they decide to stop at a convent to retrieve Romero’s daughter. The strong supporting cast includes future Oscar-winner Rita Moreno, Noah Berry Jr. as the sheriff, Osa Munson, and John Ford stalwart Hank Worden. It’s directed by Buzz Kulik, who would go on to helm several GUNSMOKE and HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL episodes, as well as the Emmy-winning BRIAN’S SONG. It’s worth remembering, during shootouts, that while we’re used to seeing them in movies, assembled from dozens of individually shot pieces of film, here the staccato action happened live – it’s very nice work.
Also on the disk are a pair of half-hour Western episodes of another anthology series, SCHLITZ PLAYHOUSE. NO COMPROMISES (1953) stars Stephen McNally as a Texas Ranger transporting outlaw Robert Strauss, who would be Oscar-nominated that same year for playing Animal in STALAG 17. Although very contained – virtually all of it takes place on a train, director Arnold Laven, who would go on to produce and direct THE RIFLEMAN and THE BIG VALLEY, makes it entertaining. THE LONG TRAIL (1957) has a very similar set-up, with Anthony Quinn trying to take a fugitive back to Texas, but even with KING KONG’s Robert Armstrong along, it’s a tedious talk-a-thon with zero action. STRANGE SANCTUARY is available for $5.95 at oldies.com.
AND THAT’S A WRAP!
It’s been one of those strange and wonderful periods where I’ve been so busy doing interesting things that I haven’t had time to write about them – interviews with Earl Holliman, Constance Towers, Rafer Johnson, Chris Mitchum – visits to film sets, the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival, and now TCM at the end of the week! Details soon!
All Original Contents Copyright April 2016 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved
Tuesday, April 12, 2016
‘DISH’ PULLS THE PLUG ON ‘INSP’! PLUS ‘WESTWORLD’ BACK ON TRACK, WILD EAST MOVIE REVIEWS, COWBOY FEST PREVIEW!
‘DISH’ PULLS THE PLUG ON ‘INSP’!
INSP, the non-subscription channel that delivers over fifty hours of Western TV and movies every week, has been dropped by the Dish satellite network! INSP exclusively airs THE VIRGINIAN and HIGH CHAPARRAL, as well as showing BONANZA – THE LOST EPISODES, THE BIG VALLEY, DANIEL BOONE and LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE, and runs Western series and features all-day Saturday and Sunday. INSP is one of the most popular basic cable and satellite channels, and many Dish subscribers are furious, and letting their feelings know by email, on Facebook, and every other means possible. The irony is that INSP, a family-friendly outfit whose names stands for ‘Inspiration’, provides its signal free to Dish; instead of subscription fees, they make their money entirely from advertising.
The good news is, these decisions are not personal; they’re about business, and Western fans have fought them before, and won. You may remember from the Round-up that subscribers to Dish competitor DirecTV faced a similar issue in February of 2014, when DirecTV dropped INSP. We all went loudly nuts on the phone and social media, and DirecTV, seeing they’d underestimated INSP’s popularity with its subscribers, relented, and put the station back on. If you are a Dish subscriber, and want INSP Westerns back, the path is clear: call Dish at 1-844-Get-INSP (1-844-438-4677)! Visit the DISH Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/DISH and tell them you want INSP back! On Twitter, use the hash-tag #IWantMyINSP. Learn more and sign the petition at the INSP page here: http://iwantmyinsp.com/ .
HBO’S ‘WESTWORLD’ BACK IN PRODUCTION!
You may remember that in the November 16, 2015 Round-up, we revealed that with only seven of its ordered ten episodes in the can, production on the WESTWORLD miniseries had abruptly ceased. This was after a year of production at Melody Ranch, Gene Autry’s old western town in Santa Clarita, and rumors were rife that the series might never be completed and aired. Happily, production quietly resumed two weeks ago.
WESTWORLD continues as mysteriously as ever – crew members do not receive script pages for the scenes they are working on, and are baffled as to the story. The hours are long – they’ve been wrapping at 3:30 and 4:30 in the morning. The actual airdate for the show is yet to be announced. Rumors put it anywhere from late in the year to 2017.
The HBO sci-fi-western series is based on the 1973 movie from writer-director Michael Crichton, produced by Saul David. It’s about a resort where people pay a lot of money to live out their fantasies in various eras including the old west, in a town peopled by human-seeming robots who are programmed to cater to their every wish. The original film stars Richard Benjamin and James Brolin as tourists, and Yul Bryner – looking exactly as he did in MAGNIFICENT 7 – as a robot who develops a mind of his own, and won’t let the humans outdraw him anymore. The new version has a large international cast, including Brit Ben Barnes, Norwegian Ingrid Barso Berdal, Brazilian Rodrigo Santoro (from JANE GOT A GUN), Oscar-winner Anthony Hopkins, Thandie Newton, James Marsden, Evan Rachel Wood, and in the Yul Bryner role, Ed Harris. For the record, Hopkins plays Dr. Robert Ford – we don’t know yet if that’s a reference to a dirty little coward, or coincidence.
NEW SPAGHETTI WESTERN RELEASES FROM WILD EAST!
Wild East Productions is a wonderful New York-based outfit that specializes in releasing double-feature Spaghetti Westerns DVDs. While they carry many famous titles, what they excel at is impossible-to-find Euro-westerns, and they search the world for the best possible source materials. They’ve just released volumes 52 and 53 in their Spaghetti Western Collection.
Volume 52 features A MAN CALLED GRINGO (1965), and THE LAST TOMAHAWK (1964), both featuring Spanish actor Daniel Martin. With all of the attention that Spanish and Italian Westerns get, it’s easy to forget that the Euro-western actually started in Germany, with Karl May’s Winnetou stories, mostly shot in what is now Croatia. These two are both largely German productions: in GRINGO, the Rockies are portrayed by the Alps! Helmed by big-time MGM director (it didn’t hurt that he was married to Louis Mayer’s niece) Roy Rowland, it concerns a rancher who is going to lose his stage-line if the robberies don’t cease. LAST TOMAHAWK is particularly fun, because it’s a pretend Winnetou story, directed by WINNETOU-director Harald Reinl, actually based on James Fennimore Cooper’s LAST OF THE MOHICANS, with Daniel Martin as Uncas to soon-to-be Western star Anthony Steffen’s Hawkeye.
Volume 53 pairs GARRINGO (1969) and TWO CROSSES AT DANGER PASS (1967), both directed by journey Spanish action director Rafael Romero Marchent. Curiously, they are both tales of a boy whose parents are killed, who seeks revenge as an adult, one as a hero, one as a villain. TWO CROSSES stars Peter Martell (Pietro Martellanza) as the man seeking revenge for his parents, and the rescue of his sister, aided by adoptive brother Mark (Luis Gaspar), a Quaker whose non-violence, non-characteristically, is played with respect rather than contempt. In GARRONGO, Peter Lee Lawrence, a magnetic and handsome young German who died tragically at 30, plays a son whose parents deaths at the hands of Cavalry soldiers triggers a vendetta against all blue-coats, with Anthony Steffen as the soldier sent to track him down. Both films are packed with action and at times, befitting the plots, almost operatic operatic tragedy. In addition to trailers, a poster-art gallery, and liner notes by Westerns All’Italiana’s Tom Betts, this volume features a fascinating 22-minute interview with director Marchent, conducted by up-coming Western writer (6 BULLETS TO HELL) and director (THE PRICE OF DEATH) Danny Garcia. Marchent’s insights into this wonderful era of European filmmaking alone are worth the price of the DVD ($21.72). You can find these two collections, and many others, at the Wild Easy website, HERE. http://www.wildeast.net/
‘VIRGINIAN’ & AUTRY DOUBLE BILL AT THE AUTRY!
On Saturday, April 16th at 1:30 pm, in the Wells Fargo Theatre, as part of their continuing ‘What is a Western?’ series, see the 1946 version of Owen Wister’s THE VIRGINIAN, starring Joel McCrea as the man with a state but no name, Barbara Britton as the schoolmarm, and Brian Donlevy as Trampas. The first film directed by Preston Sturges’ favorite editor, Stuart Gilmore, it’s a good version of the oft-filmed story, and features Sonny Tufts, as the Virginian’s friend Steve, in the best performance of his career. The film is introduced by Robert Nott, author of LAST OF THE COWBOY HEROES: THE WESTERNS OF RANDOLPH SCOTT, JOEL MCCREA AND AUDIE MURPHY.
Saturday, April 23rd, at noon, go to the Legacy Theatre in the Autry’s Imagination Gallery, and catch a double-bill of Gene’s hits on a real screen! In WESTERN JAMBOREE (1938 Republic), bad guys try to swindle a rancher out of his property for its helium deposits, until Gene and Smiley Burnette step in. In HEART OF THE RIO GRANDE (1942 Republic), Gene and Smiley work at a dude ranch, and contend with spoiled brats and a vengeful ex-foreman.
ALMOST TIME FOR THE SANTA CLARITA COWBOY FESTIVAL!
Saturday and Sunday, April 23rd & 24th, Hart Park in Old Town Newhall will once again be abuzz with Western doings as the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival arrives at William S. Hart Park. There will be all manner of Western art, clothing and gear on display and for sale, good food, living history displays, and four stages will feature live music from over 35 acts of the cowboy, folk, and bluegrass persuasion.
For you lovers of Western literature, both fact and fable, the Buckaroo Book Shop will be along Suttler’s Row. Author’s who’ll there to sign their books include J.R. Sanders, Jim Christina, Eric Heisner & Al Bringas, Peter Sherayko, Janet Squires, Andria Kidd, Dale Jackson, Katie Ryan, Bob Brill, Gary Williams, Mark Bedor, and John Bergstrom. I’ll be around there Sunday, even though I don’t have any books to sign. John Bergstrom will also be supervising music at the OutWest Cultural Center and Boutique just a block away, where more will be going on – make sure you stop in while you’re at the Festival.
In addition to the music at the Festival, in the several days leading up, and on the days of the Fest, there will be a Lone Pine Tour, Reagan Library and Paramount Ranch Tour, Movie Night at the Hart Mansion, and several outside venues will be holding concerts for separate admission charges. Among the performers will be John Michael Montgomery, Syd Masters and the Swing Riders, The Quebe Sisters, and a bunch more. And it wouldn’t be the Cowboy Festival without David Thornbury twirling his ropes and Joey Dillon spinning his guns. And it’s all just $10 for adults, $7 for kids over three – under three is free, unless they cry a lot, in which case it goes up to $10 again (that’s not official; just my suggestion). You can learn more by going to the official website HERE.
THAT’S A WRAP!
Sorry I’m two days late! Have a great couple o’ weeks (okay, more like a week and a half), and I’ll see ya at the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival!
All Original Content Copyright April 2016 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved