Sunday, May 16, 2010



The new western from writer-director-producer Fred Olen Ray arrives at video stores on Tuesday, May 18th. See the review below.


Even as cameras are grinding away on the TRUE GRIT remake, Warner Brothers is planning a remake of THE COWBOYS (1972). The original is a classic, from the novel by William Dale Jennings, and a screenplay by him and the great husband and wife western team of Harriet Frank Jr. and Irving Ravetch, who also scripted HOMBRE (1967),THE REVIERS (1969), and THE SPIKES GANG (1974). In addition to non-western work, director Mark Rydell made THE REVIVERS as well as ten GUNSMOKE episodes. The story, about a rancher who hires a bunch of schoolboys for his cattledrive, showcased several fine young actors, including A. Martinez and Robert Carradine, and a wonderfully hateful villain in Bruce Dern. The excellent 2nd unit action was directed by Buzz Henry.

The new version is being produced by Donald DeLine, whose BURLESQUE is out soon, and who last year produced the comedy I LOVE YOU, MAN. Director Jonathan Mostow made last year's SURROGATES, and back in 1997 wrote and directed the excellent BREAKDOWN. Screenwriter Les Bohem is no stranger to the western form, having written 2004's THE ALAMO, and back in 1989 scripted the TV movie BADLANDS JUSTICE, part of the Elmore Leonard-created DESPERADO franchise. It all sounds promising!


Singer Clint Black, whose squinty eyes have oft been compared to Roy Rogers' pair (see photo above) will be playing Roy in a movie tentatively titled HAPPY TRAILS. Clint's beautiful bride, actress Lisa Hartman-Black will portray Roy's beautiful bride Dale Evans. Clint can currently be seen as the wrangler in the new FOX direct-to-video release FLICKA 2. Attached as director is Walter Hill, whose many fine westerns include LONG RIDERS (1980), GERONIMO (1993), WILD BILL (1995), the pilot for DEADWOOD (2004) and BROKEN TRAIL (2006). The script will be based on a pair of books by Chriss Enss and Howard Kazanjian.


This gritty western-themed video game for Play Station 3 and XBOX 360 has an elaborate website with a lot of clips and info -- to check it out, CLICK HERE.


Opening with the James gang’s murderous robbery of a military payroll, you know that you’re in for something unusual, because within minutes one of the protagonists is gravely wounded. With the brothers in need of medical help, and their accomplices in need of escape, there’s no time for a split of the loot. Amidst grumbling, they plan to regroup four days hence in a ghost town – not knowing that instead of being deserted, it's but populated with a handful of refugees from a recent stage coach hold-up, stranded without transportation.

That’s the framework for AMERICAN BANDITS: FRANK AND JESSE JAMES, an obvious labor of love from prolific writer/director/producer Fred Olen Ray. Unlike most westerns, the point of view is decidedly Southern, depicting border-state residents as much-abused victims of an occupying Northern Army. During Reconstruction, their men were not allowed to vote, to serve on juries, and their preachers were not allowed to preach. This goes a long way towards explaining the aid the James boys, veterans of Quantrill’s Raiders, received from much of the local populace.

The film stars George Stults, veteran of six seasons of 7th HEAVEN as Jesse, and Tim Abell, of Soldiers of Fortune Inc. (1987-1999) and Miracle of Sage Creek (2005) as Frank, and both men are well cast, good in action and on horseback. For a change, the title lists Frank James before Jesse, which makes sense as Frank carries the majority of the film’s action. Abell’s portrayal of Frank’s wise calculation makes a nice contrast to Stults’ playing of Jesse’s impulsiveness.

Among the fine actors featured are Lauren Eckstrom as the beautiful and chillingly bitter preacher’s granddaughter who tends Jesse’s wounds, Peter Fonda in a low-key performance as the Marshal who wants the James boys brought in, and Jeffrey Combs as Ed Bass. Combs, an actor with a large following for his RE-ANIMATOR horror films, is truly frightening as the James accomplice who wants to take over the gang, his antics bringing to mind the ‘heavy’ work of Claude Akins and Lee Marvin.

Cinematographer Theo Angell gets takes full advantage of the beauty of rural locations as well as Melody Ranch and Peetzburgh. Editor Randy Canter keeps the film moving at a steady clip, without rushing through the dramatic scenes that need time to build tension. Director Ray, with over a hundred features to his credit, draws thoughtful performances from his actors – one senses this is a much more personal project than most, and the care in production belies the fact that this is a film made with more love than money. To see a trailer, CLICK HERE.


To read my review of Sweetgrass, check out last week's entry. Sweetgrass is currently showing at the Mayan Theatre in Denver, The Ritz at The Bourse in Philadelphia, and opens at the E Street Cinema in D.C. on Friday, May 21st.


To read my review of The Good, The Bad and The Weird, check out last week's entry. It's currently playing at the Midtown Art Cinema in Atlanta, Shattuck Cinemas in Berkeley, Lumiere Theatre in San Francisco, The Ken Cinema in San Diego, Varsity Theatre in Seattle, E Street Cinema in D.C., Lagoon Theatre in Minneapolis, and opens on Friday the 31st at the Mayan Theatre in Denver and The Tivoli Theatre in St. Louis.


For one week only, Friday May 21st through Tursday May 27th, the Film Forum will be screening a brand-spanking-new 35mm scope print! John Sturges directed this excellent, tough, noirish post-war western from a script by Millard Kaufman, and Millard's son Frederick Kaufman will introduce the Friday 8:20 p.m. show. It start Spencer Tracy, Robert Ryan, Anne Francis, Ernest Borgnine and Lee Marvin.

Note:AMC=American Movie Classics, EXT= Showtime Extreme, FMC=Fox Movie Channel, TCM=Turner Classic Movies. All times given are Pacific Standard Time.


Every weekday, TV LAND airs a three-hour block of BONANZA episodes from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. They run a GUNSMOKE Monday through Thursday at 10:00 a.m., and on Friday they show two, from 6:00 to 8:00 a.m.. They're not currently running either series on weekends, but that could change at any time.


Check out your cable system for WHT, which stands for World Harvest Television. It's a religious network that runs a lot of good western programming. Your times may vary, depending on where you live, but weekdays in Los Angeles they run THE LONE RANGER at 1:30 p.m., and two episodes of THE RIFLEMAN from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m.. On Saturdays at 2:00 p.m. it's THE RIFLEMAN again, followed at 2:30 by BAT MASTERSON. And unlike many stations in the re-run business, they run the shows in the original airing order. There's an afternoon movie on weekdays at noon, often a western, and they show western films on the weekend, but the schedule is sporadic.

Tuesday May 18th

TCM 5:00 p.m. DAVY CROCKETT, INDIAN SCOUT (1950) One of Davy Crocxkett's decendants leads a wagon train through perilous territory. Georege Montgomery, Ellen Drew, Philip Reed. D> Lew Landers

TCM 9:30 p.m. A MAN CALLED HORSE (1970) An English lord kidnapped by Indians becomes a part of the tribe. Starring Richard Harris, Judith Anderson, Manu Tupou. Directed by Elliot Silverstein, who, to show his western range, also directed CAT BALLOU.

TCM 11:30 p.m. WINDWALKER (1980) A dead chief returns to help his tribe fight off invaders. Stars Trevor Howard, Nick Ramus, James Remar, directed by Keith Merrill.

Wednesday May 19th

TCM 1:30 a.m. THE VANISHING AMERICAN (1925) Rarely seen silent version ofthe Zane Grey novel. An American Indian college star meets with racial intolerance when he returns to the reservation. Stars Richard Dix, Lois Wilson, Noah Beery Sr. Directedd by George B. seitz.

FMC 3:00 a.m. RIO CONCHOS (1964) Richard Boone, Anthony Francisoa, STuart Whitman and Edmund O'Brien fight over a shipment of guns. Directed by Gordon Douglas. Clair Huffaker adapted his own novel, with the help of Joe Landon.

FMC 7:00 a.m. THE PROUD ONES (1956) Marshal Robert Ryan must protect his town when a Texas herd arrives with murderous Jeffrey Hunter. Directed by Robert D. Webb, also starring Virginia Mayo, Walter Brennan, Robert Middleton. Verne Athanas's novel was adapted by Edmund North and Joseph Petraca.

Thursday May 20th

FMC 7:30 a.m. TREASURE OF THE GOLDEN CONDOR (1953) The remake of 'Son of Fury' concerns a young man (Cornel Wilde) cheated out of his inheritance by his uncle (George Macready) who travels to the Mayan hills of Guatamala seeking a hidden treasure. Based on the Edison Marshall novel, written and directed by the excellent Delmer Daves.

TCM 1:00 p.m. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) The finest of John Ford's later films, and his last great film with John Wayne. James Warner Bellah and Willis Goldbeck adapted Dorothy M. Johnson's story, told in flasback, about a Senator (James Stewart) whose career turns on the fact that he shot outlaw Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin).

TCM 3:15 p.m. THE MAN FROM LARAMIE (1955) Tough-as-nails Anthony Mann/James Stewart story about a wandering cowpoke caught between an elderly rancher's ruthless sons. With Arthur Kennedy, Donald Crisp, Alex Nicol -- great performance. Story by Thomas Flynn, screenply by Philip Yordan and Frank Burt.

TCM 5:00 p.m. DEVIL'S DOORWAY (1950) An Indian Civil War hero returns home to fight for his people. Starring Robert Taylor, Louis Calhern, Paula Raymond, directed by the great Anthony Mann from Guy Trosper's screenplay.

TCM 6:30 p.m. LITTLE BIG MAN (1970) As a little big fan of director Arthur Penn and screenwriter Calder Willingham, I couldn't wait to see this adaptation of Thomas Berger's novel about an incredibly old Dustin Hoffman recalling his upbringing by Indians and fighting alongside Custer. But it's just ghastly, nearly unwatchable, and absolutely pointless, for 140 minutes! It strives to be funny on occasion, but fails utterly. Hoffman doesn't suck, but he can't save it. Faye Dunaway is fetching as she seduces Hoffman. Chief Dan George was nominated for as Oscar, in a performance that reminds you of Bela Lugosi's later work -- when he was at such a higher level of professionalism than those around him that you wondered how he could stand it. Great make-up by Dick Smith. Burn the negative.

TCM 9:15 p.m. THUNDERHEART (1992) An FBI man gets back in touch with his native roots investigating a murder on a reservation. Stars Val Kilmer, Sam Shepard, Graham Greene, directed by Michael Apted.

TCM 11:30 p.m. JIM THORPE - ALL AMERICAN (1951) The famous Native American athlete figts prejusdice in his pursuit of sports stardom. Burt Lancaster, Phyllis Thaxter, Charles Bickford, directed by Michael Curtiz.

Friday May 21st

TCM 1:30 a.m. THE LAST HUNT (1956) Two frontiesrmen clash over the slaughter of a buffalo herd. Stars Robert Taylor, Stewart Granger, Lloyd Nolan. Directed by Richard Brooks.

AMC 1:30 p.m. SILVERADO (1985) Larry Kasdan directs from a script he wrote with his brother Mark. Lots of good stuff in it, but at 133 minutes, it's at least a half hour too long. Starring Kevin Kline, Scott Glenn and Kevin Costner.

Saturday May 22nd

FMC 3:00 a.m. The Big Trail (1930) Raoul Walsh directed John Wayne in his first lead in this epic from Hal G. Evarts' story, and good as it was, it was a box-office disappointment, sending the Duke to do leads in Bs until Stagecoach (1939). Beautiful telling of the story of a wagon train, with Marguerite Churchill, El Brendel, Ty Power Sr., with uncredited early roles by Ward Bond and Iron Eyes Cody. Shot in 35 MM by Lucien Andriot, and 70MM by Arthur Edeson -- I don't know which version they show.

FMC 5:30 a.m. THE MARK OF ZORRO (1940) A delight! Rouben Mamoulian directs John Taintor Foote's adaptation of the Johnston McCulley story. Ty Power, Basil Rathbone, Linda Darnell et al have great fun, and the audience has even more.

AMC 8:00 a.m. THE COMANCHEROS (1961) John Wayne arrests Stuart Whitman, but they must join forces to defeat evil gun-running comanchero Lee Marvin. Great fun, written by James Edward Grant from a novel by Paul Wellman. It was Michael Curtiz's last film. When he became too ill, John Wayne took over the directorial reins, but refused credit. Fine Elmer Bernstein score. Biggest weakness: Lee Marvin is supposed to be horribly scared from surviving being scalped, but he actually looks like he's wearing a horse-shoe crab on top of his head.

AMC 10:30 a.m. THE STALKING MOON (1968) An aging cavalry scout (Gregory Peck) tries to protect a woman (Eva Marie Saint) and her half-Indian child. Directed by Robert Mulligan from Theodore V. Olsen's novel.

FMC 7:30 p.m. BROKEN ARROW (1950) James Stewart is an ex-soldier, and Jeff Chandler is Apache Chief Cochise, trying together for peace. D:Delmer Daves, W:Albert Maltz(another writer's name may be one the credits -- Maltz was blacklisted and had someone 'front' for him).

AMC 10:00 p.m. PALE RIDER (1985) Clint Eastwood directs and stars as a mysterious stranger (can you believe it?) protecting a town from bad guys. Moody and effective, script by Michael Butler and Dennis Shyrack, and featuring Carrie Snodgrass and Michael Moriarty.

Sunday May 23rd

AMC 8:00 a.m. PALE RIDER (1985) Clint Eastwood directs and stars as a mysterious stranger (can you believe it?) protecting a town from bad guys. Moody and effective, script by Michael Butler and Dennis Shyrack, and featuring Carrie Snodgrass and Michael Moriarty.

FMC 1:00 p.m. THE MAN FROM SNOWY RIVER (1982) An Australian 'western' based on a poem by A. B. 'Banjo' Paterson, scripted by Cul Cullen, directed by George Miller. Stars Jack Thompson, Tom Burlinson, Kirk Douglas, and the lovely gal from the under-appreciated series, PARADISE, Sigrid Thornton.

AMC 6:00 p.m. BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID (1969) Directed by George Roy Hill from William Goldman's original screenplay. This film and WILD BUNCH, about the same people, came out the same year. Very different treatment, and both excellent - this one won four Oscars. Starring Paul Newman, Robert Redford and Katherine Ross.



All contents copyright May 2010 by Henry C. Parke -- All Rights Reserved

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