Sunday, August 26, 2012

'WILD HORSE' MAKES FOR A WILD RIDE!


WILD HORSE, WILD RIDE – Film Review

 

WILD HORSE, WILD RIDE, directed by Alex Dawson and Greg Gricus, is a documentary about kindness and decency.  I hope that doesn’t sound too sappy, because the movie isn’t at all.  Thousands of wild horses run loose on government land, and every year, thousands are rounded up and removed.  They all need homes and, as it says in the film’s introduction, “None has ever been touched by a human hand.”

 

The Mustang Heritage Foundation, whose mission is to facilitate and encourage wild horse adoption, sponsors an annual event called the Extreme Mustang Makeover Challenge, in which one-hundred people get one wild mustang, and one-hundred days to train it for a competition in Fort Worth, Texas.  The hope is that, the more tame the horse, the better the home it will find when it’s auctioned after the competition.

 

The movie focuses on nine individuals who take part, and they are an impressively mixed bunch.  There are experienced trainers who have done this before, and a biomedical engineer who has never trained a horse.  There’s the stunning blonde rodeo cowgirl.  And there are cowboys, from a pair of 20-ish brothers in New Hampshire, to a Mexican immigrant in Wisconsin, to a Navajo father and son from the res, to an ageing cowpoke taking part along with his seventh bride.     

 

Although there is an explicit ticking clock, the underlying theme of the film is patience, as each rider gentles and trains their animal, and the filmmakers, allowing their film the same tone as their theme, eschew rapid cutting and fast music to instead show the same calm and patience as the trainers.  There are many quiet moments in the movie, which are no less exciting for their lack of drum-beat.

 

The methods of the trainers are as different as their backgrounds.  Some are on the horses quickly; others ride for the first time just days before the competition.  Some train the horses blindfolded; some work from the center of the corral; some work the new animals side-by-side with a trained animal.   Though all that take part do so out of compassion, there are additional motives as well.  The older men in particular have a need to prove something to themselves.  These are all people of no great wealth who give selflessly of their time.  There is a respect and love that develops between human and horse during the process, even between the most cantankerous participants.  And there is sadness, and sometimes tears, with the realization that, the better the job they do, the less likely the trainer will be able to afford that horse at auction.

 

WILD HORSE, WILD RIDE is a beautiful, inspiring film which opened theatrically on Friday, August 24th.  To learn more, and to find out when it will be at a theatre near you, go HERE.  If you're in the L.A. area, the film will screen on Tuesday, September 6th at the Autry, at 6 pm.


And if you are inspired to take part in next year’s competition, here is who you should contact:

Mustang Heritage Foundation
PO Box 979
Georgetown, TX 78626

512-869-3225
Fax: 512-869-3229

For information about adopting a wild horse or burro:

1-866-4-Mustangs (1-866-468-7826)
www.wildhorseandburro.blm.gov

 




‘COPPER’ – Television Review

Tom Weston-Jones
 

On Sunday nights, while you’re enjoying season 2 of the post-Civil War Western series HELL ON WHEELS, you might find it worth your while to check out the new Eastern set in the same period on the opposite coast, COPPER.  The first original dramatic series to be produced by BBC-America, it premiered last Sunday, August 19th, with a strong opener to its ten-episode season.  Set in New York City’s infamous Five Corners District, the tale is as compelling as it is relentlessly grim.  Examining a world most viewers were introduced to in Martin Scorsese’s erratic film based on the brilliant history, GANGS OF NEW YORK, by Herbert Asbury, the story follows a Civil War hero and transplanted Irish cop, Detective Kevin Corcoran (Tom Weston-Jones), as he tries to see justice done on New York’s meanest streets and alleyways. 

Five Points, New York reproduced in Canada
 

No saint himself, we meet him when he and the other cops he works with ambush and slaughter a pack of bank-robbers, then gleefully pocket the loot until more disciplined police arrive.   Corcoran has an in-depth knowledge of the dregs of New York, but a connection with high society as well, through fellow war-vet and wealthy dilettante Robert Morehouse (Kyle Schmid).  He works overtly with Det. Francis McGuire (Kevin Ryan), and covertly with Dr. Matthew Freeman (Ato Essandoh).  Freeman is a black m.d., and while Corcoran turns to him for his forensic expertise, he must present the findings as his own, knowing a black doctor’s evidence would never be taken seriously by N.Y.P.D. of the time.  He is also a friend to various scarlet women, among them Madam Eva Heissen (Franka Potente).

5th Avenue Society
 

Corcoran comes with a personal axe to grind – he’s investigating the death of his wife and child (and if it sounds a bit like HELL ON WHEELS on that score, HELL ON WHEELS sounds a bit like OUTLAW JOSIE WALES).  And he’s got a case he’s drawn into – the appearance and disappearance of a street-urchin prostitute.  This is a story of corruption and evil, and I’d not recommend it for the kiddies, but for grown-ups who like their heroes tough, and their villains despicable, you can’t very easily top a necro-pedophile.    
 
Digging for clues

Lensed in dank, shadowy Canada, the show is created and written by a sterling trio of scribes: Tom Fontana, Will Rokos, and Barry Levinson.  It is grim, grueling fun, and gives a convincing and involving glimpse at one of the most tragic times in our greatest city. 

 Here's a teaser of tonight's tough-looking episode:

 




WHY ANTHONY LAPAGLIA QUIT ‘DJANGO’



"The people at Django, their attitude more or less was, 'Just dump the other film', but I couldn't do it out of respect to (director) Rob Connolly, out of respect to the material, out of respect to the material, out of respect to the commitment I’d made.” 

Thus Anthony LaPaglia left his small, much-postponed role in the Tarantino film to honor his commitment to UNDERGROUND, a film about Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, which had been financed based on LaPaglia playing the lead.  LaPaglia joins a slew of actors who were cast in DJANGO UNCHAINED, then walked, including Joseph Gordon-Leavitt, who was to play LaPaglia’s brother; Kevin Costner; Kurt Russell; Sacha Baron Cohen; and Jonah Hill, who agreed, then left, then returned as another character. 

While LaPaglia says he had a good time on the DJANGO set, hanging around and waiting to work, he said the production, “…was just out of control, over-budget, it was everywhere.”


REDBOX SIMPLIFIES FINDING ‘LEGEND OF HELL’S GATE’



If you plan to rent LEGEND OF HELL’S GATE – and you certainly should – and I don’t say that just because Henry’s Western Round-Up is quoted on the box – there’s a quick and easy way to locate a copy near you.  The good folks at Redbox contacted me and said that if you go here --  http://www.redbox.com/movies/the-legend-of-hells-gate-of-hells-gate -- and type in your zip code, ect to the commitment I'd made.''

Thus Anthony LaPaglia left his small, much postponed role in the Tarantino film to honor his commitment to UNDERGROUND, a film about Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, which had been financed based on LaPaglia’s playing the lead. LaPaglia joins a slew of actors who were cast in DJANGO UNCHAINED, then walked, including Joseph Gordon Leavitt, who was to play LaPaglia’s brother; Kevin Costner; Kurt Russell; Sacha Baron Cohen; and Jonah Hill, who agreed, then left, then came back as another character.

While he had a good time on the set of DJANGO UNCHAINED, waiting to work, he said the production, “… was just out of control, over-budget, it was everywhere.”
they’ll do the rest.  I tried it, and found ten copies from half a mile to 3 ½ miles from my home.  (If you’d like to read my review, go HERE.)

The general link to search for movies is this: http://www.redbox.com/locations?loc=91401&productRef=5497I

I tried it for another fine recent western, GOOD FOR NOTHING, and found six copies available in my neighborhood.  It’s a pretty handy tool! (The link to my review of GOOD FOR NOTHING is HERE.)
 



‘WILD BOYS’ – AUSSIE WESTERN SERIES IS WELL WORTH A LOOK!

As long as we’re being big-hearted and including Easterns like COPPER in the Round-up, let’s take it a little farther, and check out a ‘western’ set in and shot in Australia’s New South Wales, WILD BOYS.  The official synopsis for the series is: Australia 1860s, Wild Boys follows a gang of bushrangers as they stage hold-ups determined to keep ahead of the troopers or wind up at the end of a noose. 

There were ten episodes in 2011, and it appears that there is a second season, which has its finale tonight, but I’m not sure, and none of the videos posted on the official site will run in the U.S.  But the trailer is below, and I’ll be finding out more this week.
 



SATURDAY NOON MATINEE AT THE AUTRY

As they do on the first Saturday of every month, the Autry presents a free double-feature of Gene's movies.  This coming Saturday, September 1st, it's YODELIN' KID FROM PINE RIDGE (Republic 1937) and LAST OF THE PONY RIDERS (Columbia 1953).  The latter deals with the Pony Express being supplanted by the stagecoach business, and features a fine performance by Dick Jones.

ALL-STAR BIG VALLEY SADDLE-UP SATURDAY ON INSP

Saturday, September 1st, INSP will present a marathon of BIG VALLEYs with guest stars like William Shatner, Adam West, Richard Dreyfus, Bruce Dern, Charles Bronson, Leslie Neilsen, Milton Berle, George Kennedy, Ron Howard, Dennis Hopper and Regis Philbin!

That’s it for today’s Round-up!  Don’t forget to catch episode three of the second season of HELL ON WHEELS tonight on AMC.  Next week I’ll have, among other things, and interview with HEATHENS AND THIEVES co-director John Douglas Sinclair.

Have a great Labor Day Weekend!

Happy Trails!

Henry

All original contents copyright August 2012 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved

Monday, August 20, 2012

CAMERAS ROLL FOR ‘LAST DUANE’ AT MELODY RANCH!



On Saturday, August 18th, I had the pleasure of watching the first day of filming for Zane Grey’s THE LAST DUANE, at the Veluzat family’s (formerly Gene Autry’s) Melody Ranch in Newhall.







The film, based on the novel LAST OF THE DUANES, is the fifth screen-telling of the story.  The first, in 1919, starred William Farnum; 1924’s starred Tom Mix; the first talkie version, in 1930 starred George O’Brien opposite Myrna Loy; and the 1941 version starred George Montgomery, Lynn Roberts, Eve Arden, George E. Stone and, in the role of Texas Ranger Maj. McNeil (a fictionalized version of Leander H. McNelly), the star of the 1919 version, William Farnum.

George Montgomery


Zane Grey, who died in 1939, was a tremendously popular and influential Western writer in his day, and his novels and stories have been the source for 113 movies and TV shows, and some, like RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE, have been filmed many times.  Big budget and small, his stories were filmed frequently at Fox, Columbia, and a particularly fine series of about a dozen films were done at Paramount in the 1930s, many featuring Buster Crabbe or Randolph Scott.  From 1956 to 1961, Dick Powell produced and hosted ZANE GREY THEATRE, often showcasing Grey’s stories.  Though Grey is not much discussed today, a glance at Amazon.com reveals a tremendous number of his novels in print and available in paper, hardback, and e-book form – I recorded audio-book versions of one or two of his novels a few years back.

This newest version of the story, from Market Street Productions,  is being directed by Christopher Ekstein, and written by Ekstein, Jason Chase Tyrrell and Stacy Ownes Ekstein.  The lead has not yet been determined, but he won't be needed for filming this weekend because the twelve pages of script being shot center around a dramatic incident in his character’s youth.  His role will be played by a child actor, and you’ll see one of those ‘Ten Years Later’ titles, and then the story will continue.  The bulk of the movie will be shot starting in October.

Jason Patric

Danny Trejo

Rose McGowan


The stars of the opening sequence, who were hard at work at Melody Ranch yesterday, were heroic Jason Patric; villainous Danny Trejo; and beautiful Rose McGowan.  I’ve agreed to not post any pictures of the principals for now, and I don’t want to give anything away, but I was happy to arrive onset just in time to see someone shot to death in front of a saloon -- several times -- and there was a considerable amount of shooting and stabbing and riding throughout the day. 

Peter Sherayko & Anthony DeLongis

The Tiffany Grips



I tracked down Peter Sherayko, who in addition to being armourer, through his Caravan West outfit, supplies the horses, saddles, props and buckaroos.  I asked him what were the most interesting weapons in the show, and he said it was Danny Trejo’s pistols, or rather, their grips.  “Danny’s guns have 1851 Tiffany grips.  They made them for a lot of Civil War officers starting in 1865.  Jason Patric has an 1860 Army (Colt).”  Peter was ably aided by assistant armourer Heath Hammond and art director Christian Ramirez. 




I wasn’t familiar with the story they were filming, but historian Sherayko certainly was.  “THE LAST OF THE DUANES is one of Zane Grey’s better-knowns.  This part we’re doing now, it’s about Buck Duane as a nine-year-old kid.  He grows up later, and the novel really takes off with him being an outlaw at the beginning of it, and ends up with the Texas Rangers, one of Leander H. McNelly’s Rangers.”  Buck is fictional, but McNelly was the real thing.  Peter tells me that when the other Texas Rangers were issued Winchesters, McNelly insisted his men have Sharps rifles.  ‘But Winchesters are repeaters – with a Sharps you only get one shot.’ ‘I want my men to make every shot count.’  Sam Elliot is also going to be in the movie.  I don’t know who he’s playing, but I’d put my money on McNelly.

Chris Ramirez

Larry Poole, Willy Clark & Heath Hammond



As the day’s shooting progressed, Rose McGowan switched from a beautiful burgundy velvet dress to a black one.  The men who loitered on the street, or waited to be poker-players in the upcoming saloon scene, were an unusual collection that added to the atmosphere of the film.  Anthony DeLongis is an excellent horseman, and expert with whips and swords.  Ardashir Radpour is a great rider and professional polo player.  Larry Poole and Willy Clark, with his Gabby Hayes beard, look perfect in a saloon, but Willy is also an expert gunsmith.  Brian Herrington is a Western author (CAMPO – THE FORGOTTEN GUNFIGHT), and Tony Redburn is a quick-draw expert and gun-spinner. 


Addy Radpour

Brian Herrington & Tony Redburn


It was around three o’clock, about 100 degrees, when they started shooting the saloon interior, and between the art direction, the cast, and the smoky haze, the set looked perfect.  Danny Trejo entered from the street, and did what he does best: intimidate people.  They’d shot the scene of Danny and his two henchmen riding up to the saloon and dismounting that morning, and now, while Danny was doing the scene inside, a second unit was doing close-ups of Danny’s boots – on someone else’s feet – slipping out of the stirrups and hitting the street. 





With that shot done, the three horses were done for the day.  As they were being walked back to the stable area, Danny Trejo, between takes, caught sight of them passing by, and called for them to wait.  He dashed out of the craft services area with a yellow apple, and broke it into pieces to feed to the horses, talking to them and stroking their heads.  I’ll have more details on THE LAST OF THE DUANES in the near future. 



THE HIGH CHAPARRAL RETURNS ON INSP!
Beginning with an all-day marathon on Saturday, September 15th, the series about the Cannon and Montoya family, rarely seen in decades, will become a part of INSP’s SADDLE-UP SATURDAY programming starting September 29th, and join the week-day schedule as well.

Henry Darrow, well-remembered as fiery-tempered Manolito, says, “Folks never get tired of a good western. And The High Chaparral is one of the BEST. People often ask me why they can’t see it on TV anymore. Now, I can tell them, ‘You can! On INSP.’ I couldn’t be more thrilled.”

David Dortort, the show’s creator, had his first tremendous success with BONANZA, about a perfect family. He decided to try something new by creating a dysfunctional family, and the social and ethnic conflicts between Anglos, Hispanics, and Apaches were daring back in 1967, and seem remarkably fresh today.

The series, which ran for five seasons and 97 episodes, stars Leif Ericson, Cameron Mitchell, Henry Darrow, Linda Cristal, Mark Slade and Don Collier. 








‘YELLOW ROCK’ AVAILABLE EVERYWHERE!



The Western Heritage Award winner for Best Direction, Best Screenplay and Best Lead Actors is now available on DVD and a variety of on-demand and pay-per-view options.  The film stars Michael Biehn, James Russo and Lenore Andriel. 



I’ve been following YELLOW ROCK since they first rolled camera, and I reviewed it when it premiered at – and swept the awards of – the Red Nation Film Festival (you can read my review HERE )



When I reached writer/producer/star Lenore Andriel, she was just back from the Prescott Arizona Film Festival.  “We were there for four or five days, having the time of our lives.  They screened the film and we were very honored, it was right after their tribute film, which was DANCES WITH WOLVES.   The writer was actually there, Michael Blake, and I got to meet him, and tell him how his film influenced the heart and storyline of YELLOW ROCK.  It really made the entire festival for us – it was quite wonderful. 



“YELLOW ROCK was released August 7th, across all platforms.  It was released for video-on-demand on Time-Warner Cable, Verizon, AT&T, Comcast, COX, WTC, NBC-Universal.  It’s coming to DirecTV.  And it was also released the same day on DVD through Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Blockbuster, Family Video.  It’s available for pre-order on Nexflix, and it’s available at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, because that’s where we won Best Picture and all the awards.  It’s also available, streaming, on iTunes, Sony Platform PS3.  I believe in a month from now it’s going to be available in all the RedBox units across the country.  And it will also be available in WalMart the end of October.  We still have a couple more film festivals that we’re honored to be officially selected for.  One of them is the Almeria Film Festival, in Almeria, Spain.  That is October 11th through the 13th.  Then we’ll be looking at doing limited theatricals across the country in the New Year.”     



Also on the agenda are plans to make two more westerns.  “They say the first baby’s the hardest, but I finally gave birth to it.  It was very difficult making the film, but it’s been a real dream, and a very blessed film.  Now we have a lot more knowledge of how to do a western, and what not to do.  One of the things we’ll probably not do is shoot it in the summer (laughs).  But we will be back at the Veluzat Motion Picture Ranch, and at Melody Ranch as well.  We’ll be back with Daniel Veluzat, who’s been a wonderful partner to us.” 



I caught up with Lenore’s writer/producer partner Steve Doucette as he was waiting for Lenore to come over so they could start fleshing out the other two western stories.  It sounded like possibly a prequel and a sequel to YELLOW ROCK, but Steve wouldn’t commit to that.  “And what’s exciting about it is we feel we can go bigger on the other two budgets.  So we can keep the production value at least on par, and hopefully bigger and better.” 



I asked him if YELLOW ROCK had turned out bigger than he expected.  “Yuh, it blew up on us from day one, from when we wrote it to when we brought in bigger names than we ever dreamed we could get.  For a small independent western like this; most definitely.  Bigger in a happy way.  We didn’t think that we’d be winning numerous awards with this, which we’re proud of.  We’re thrilled, and we hope we have the same financial success with the way that it’s been received.



“You know, it’s a real shout-out to independents who can do it right.   You never want to slack off on the production value, like the sound, and the way the movie is shot.  There are certain areas with independents, that makes them look weaker.  So that’s where I opened up my wallet, to make sure we had good sound, good score, good production value.   I was reading some of the reviews on Amazon.com.  There are maybe ten reviews there, mostly four and five star reviews, and some of the things it’s being compared to, whether it’s DANCES WITH WOLVES, or the grittiness of UNFORGIVEN; that’s a real compliment to us.  We want to make everything real.  Although we do think it’s more PG than the R rating that we got.  Quite frankly, I just believe this is one that the entire family can sit down and watch, which was our intention.  We wanted, and our director Nick Vallelonga felt the same, to make a movie that was a throwback to the way stories were told when you and I were kids.  We were growing up in the ‘60s.  There were good movies with a good moral message to it, that the whole family could watch.  So whether it was SHANE or some movie like that, that’s what we were shooting for.  I hope that everybody sees it that way.  We’re very proud to be able to tell the story about Native American Indians.  That’s a big, strong point for Lenore and I.”



You can buy the DVD from Amazon.com HERE. In addition to the movie itself, the DVD includes a ‘Making Of’ documentary, deleted scenes, and a commentary track by director Nick Vallenlonga and Lenore Andriel. 

You can order it from NBC Universal on-demand HERE. If you have Time-Warner cable, it’s on demand HERE. 

LAST DAYS OF THE‘MUSEUM OF THE SAN FERNANDOVALLEY!’



If you’ve been meaning to visit the Museum of The San Fernando Valleythis summer, but haven’t gotten around to it, do it now! The Museum is currently located on the ground floor at Westerfields Fashion Square Mall in Sherman Oaks, but it will be leaving at the end of August, and as of yet, it has no new home. Gerald Fecht, who frequently mans the Museum, told me that the group had been amassing a collection of artifacts for some time, but did not have a permanent – or even temporary – home until the Westerfields folks approached them. A California Pizza Kitchen had closed, and the Museum was offered the space, for free, until it was rented. Well, a Vietnamese restaurant is moving in on the first of September, so the Museum will be once again on the move.



Even before they had a physical home, the Museum was surprisingly active, hosting walking tours of various parts of the Valley, and sponsoring an oral history project, recording the memories of people who have lived or grown up in this once very rural farming area. They recently recorded the reminiscences of actor Biff Elliot, who passed away this week. Best remembered as detective Mike Hammer in I, THE JURY, he was also, as a soldier, part of every major battle in Italy during the Second World War.



The Museum and the Studio City Neighborhood Council ran the REPUBLIC PICTURES 75thANNIVERSARY celebration in September of 2010, which brought together fans and a bevy of Republic stars (I covered it extensively in the Round-up, if you want to search back a ways).

Busts of Clark Gable, Martin Luther King



“We’re still getting residual effects from that event. Monte Montana’s kids recorded their histories for us as a result of that event, and we’re still getting contacts from people who worked for Republic Pictures. There’s a really good museum in Burbank, one in Chatsworth, one in Canoga Park, and a really good historical society, the San Fernando Historical Society. But there’s no museum that encompasses the whole San Fernando Valley area; and that’s our mission, to present the history and culture of the entire San Fernando Valley.”



I asked him what the Valley’s most important historical contribution was. “For 30,000 years we had the Tonga people living here. It’s never been a desert, but it’s arid. In modern times the greatest two contributions would be aerospace, and the entertainment industry.”



Their interests are also literary. On Saturday, the museum ran an event at the TarzanaCommunity Center, once within the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate, celebrating the issuance of a postage stamp honoring Burroughs. There are also several large heads and busts on display, the work of a Van Nuys sculptor. They posses a growing collection of post cards and photographs from local, long-gone restaurants and businesses, film studios, and exotic wild-animal theme parks.



While they would dearly love a permanent address, they have also created traveling historical displays, such as the pictured one about water. Come by the museum if you have a chance. And visit their website for more information: http://www.themuseumsfv.org/

That’s it for this week’s Round-up.  Have a great week!



Happy Trails,



Henry



All Original Contents Copyright August 2012 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved


Sunday, August 12, 2012

ANSON MOUNT INTERVIEW -- ‘HELL ON WHEELS’ SEASON 2


On Sunday, August 12th, at 9 p.m., HELL ON WHEELS, AMC’s smash Western series from last year, returns for Season 2.  If you missed any of Season 1, or want to refresh your memory, AMC is running all ten Season 1 episodes starting Sunday morning at 11 a.m.  And if you’re one of those unfortunate DISH customers who no longer have AMC, go to the AMC website and you can stream HELL ON WHEELS on your computer!



The title HELL ON WHEELS refers to the movable town that crossed the nation during the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad, its saloon-keepers, prostitutes and gamblers servicing the construction crew.  The protagonist is Cullen Bohannon, a Confederate veteran with no prospects who hires on, considered to be a valuable man because, as a former slave owner, he knows how to ‘work with’ black people.  But he has his own unspoken agenda: his wife and child were murdered by a group of Union soldiers, and it is his mission to identify, track down, and kill them all.  His work for the railroad provides an excellent cover.



Cullen Bohannon is portrayed by Tennessee-born, Columbia University educated Anson Mount, who has made a tremendous impression in the role.  He previously starred in the series CONVICTION, THE MOUNTAIN and LINE OF FIRE, and his features include the recent STRAW DOGS remake, BURNING PALMS, and the upcoming SUPREMACY and CODE NAME: GERONIMO.         On Wednesday morning I had the opportunity to talk with Anson about his new season in Hell (On Wheels).  Anson says that whereas Season 1 was mostly plot-driven, Season 2 will be character-driven, and the stories will revolve around the keyword to the Season, ‘ambition’.  When discussing the challenges of continuing a series over multiple seasons, his frequent touchstone is BREAKING BAD, which he calls, “The best show that’s ever been made for television.”


Anson Mount & Common


We’ll continue to see interplay between Cullen and Elam Ferguson, the ex-slave played by rapper-turned-actor Common.  “I think it’s becoming the most interesting relationship in the series.  From the very beginning, Common and myself and the writers were very adamant; we were not going to allow this to become Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder.  (laughs)  You know – ‘the black guy and the white guy are gonna be buddies!  And everybody’s gonna love each other!’  We wanted to be very true to the tropes, the stereotypes and the conflicts at that time.  Particularly between a former slave and a former Confederate.  And yet allow them to meet in situations where they have to meet on equal footing.  And I think we did a really good job of that in the first season; I think we’ve done an even better job of that in the second season.” 



Memorably, Season 1 ended with Cullen killing the wrong man.  “I decided long before Harper was going to turn out to be the wrong man, when Cullen does get to put his hands around the throat of someone, when he completes the deed, it’s not going to be the release or relief that he thought it was going to be: it’s a deeper hollowing out of himself.  He finds that there’s actually nothing there.” 



Henry – Your character is consumed with rage, and on a quest for revenge.  Was that hard to walk away from at the end of a shooting day?  And is it hard to return to it after the hiatus?



Anson – No (laughs), not at all.  Sometimes I feel like I’m launching a one-man campaign to change people’s minds about what we do as actors.  I think there’s a big misconception that actors are these shamans who channel characters and notions, and that we are somehow mortally affected by our work.  And I think that there are a lot of actors that play into that, because it makes them and their work seem more important.  It’s not the case at all.  We play make-believe.  I think it’s a process of playing intelligently, and playing well, but it’s a process of play.  And if I’m doing anything else, I’m not doing my job, and I need to spend time in the loony-bin.  It’s an enormous amount of fun for me, and I continue to have a great time this season.  And I’ve been having a good time finding ways of lightening Cullen up a bit, because I think we need to see different facets of him.


Henry – Did you grow up with westerns?  Do you have favorites, either past or recent?



Anson – Oh yeah, absolutely!  I’m a big Sergio Leone fan.  I really liked the remake of 3:10 TO YUMA.  It certainly is a helluvah lot better than the original.  I know some people had a problem with it but I thought it was a fantastic film. 



Henry – In what ways do you think it was better?



Anson – (incredulous) 3:10 TO YUMA?  Have you ever seen the original?



Henry – I know them both very well.  I like ‘em both.



Anson – The original plays out in very few locations; it’s very staid.  It plays almost like a teleplay, or a ‘play’ play.  And I think the plot demanded those action sequences that happened in the second film, that weren’t really played out that well in the first.  I just liked the pacing and the rhythm and the style; I thought the performances were fantastic. 


Henry – If you could give yourself the lead in any western film of the past, what would it be?



Anson – I would love to have played the (Schofield) Kid in UNFORGIVEN.  Jaimz Woolvett did such a great job; wonderful. 



Henry – How do you feel about horses and guns?  Any experience with either prior to HELL ON WHEELS? 


Tom Noonan & Christopher Heyerdahl


Anson – Oh man!  Yes, it’s the best part of the job, getting to ride a horse.  I grew up in the rural South, so I’m comfortable on a horse, but I’ve never operated a horse around a camera, which is a whole different skill-set.  Luckily we have really good, experienced wranglers who are able to teach me the ins and outs of that.  And the guns – we have an amazing armorer named Brian Kent, who has a wonderful antique gun collection himself – he can tell you anything you want to know about guns of the 19th century – so we’re blessed with that.



Henry – What is that pistol you usually handle?



Anson – The one from the first season was a Griswold, which was a Confederate issue sidearm; and this season I lose that, and I end up having to use a Union issue sidearm, which was the 1857 Remington .45 caliber.   


Awkward!


Henry – Which do you prefer, a studio kind of picture, or one where you’re outside and away from civilization?



Anson – I prefer where we’re shooting (outdoors).  You know, we’ve got a studio here, because we don’t have a lot of darkness, and sometimes we need to go into the studio for that.  But I think we’ve only used the studio five or six days the entire season, so far, and I think the next two episodes are pretty-much going to be entirely shot on location.  I prefer being out; even though it’s a commute -- it’s almost an hour each way -- but it’s so gorgeous where we are this year, and you can’t build what we have out there.  It’s 40,000 usable acres of ready-to-go set.  And there’s so much that the weather gives you, that the land gives you.  And I just like being removed from civilization when I’m doing a western. 



We’re in Alberta.  Our location is about an hour southeast of Calgary.  We started earlier this year (than last).  We thought we were going to be doing the first two or three episodes with snow on the ground.  It ended up not happening that way: they didn’t have any spring snows.  Quite dry.  So it was a bit chilly at first, but we didn’t have to deal with the torrential downpours and hip-deep mud we had last year.  And we’ve had hail-storms.  We’ve had a couple of days where we had to stop because of that.  But we’re lucky, and we’ve got a brilliant director of photography, Marvin Rush, who somehow manages to make the light match, even though there are days when we’ll start in sunshine, then we’ll have cloud cover, then it’ll rain, it’ll hail, then the sun’ll come out, then it’ll go back in.  (laughs) Somehow he manages to make it all work. 



Henry – I was wondering if your story was going to cross any more than it has with Eddie Spears’ character, Joseph Black Moon.



Anson – You know, we’re actually talking about that.  I haven’t really had a lot of interaction with Eddie’s character so far this season, but there’s about to be a bit in number 9, which we’re about to shoot.  And Eddie’s character, Joseph, is continuing to question his place in this world.  Because his adopted father has taken to the bottle again, his ongoing affections for his adopted sister are newly brought into question, and he wonders if this is the right move to make, to be in this white man’s world.

Henry – Looks like you’ll be more involved with Colm Meany’s character – is that correct?


Anson – Well, Colm character is running the business that I end up working for, and he and I have two very different ideas about leading, and so by necessity we have a lot more head-butting this season. 
Henry – How many seasons do you see the show running?


Anson – I’ve heard five thrown out there; I wouldn’t mind six.  When you add together all the outlying projects that had to be completed when the rails were connected, it was a six year engagement.


Colm Meany & Dominique McElligot


Henry – So you see the series as actually paralleling the construction of the railroad.


Anson – I would like to.  I know you don’t necessarily need to, but I would like to.  There’s never been talk about getting into the Central Pacific side of the story; the whole contest between the two companies; the involvement of the Asian-American work-force.  You just can’t tell the entire story without getting the Central Pacific, and that opens up a whole new bag of worms in terms of story-telling.  And we haven’t even started drilling through the Rockies (laughs) – that’s a huge part of the story.  And then, we’ve also been talking about a season 7 in Utah, involving Brigham Young, and that’s a fascinating part of the story of the construction that I’d like to spend an entire season on. 


Henry – It sounds like you’re passionately interested in the actual history.


Anson – Oh yeah.  I’ve been doing my research. 



Henry – Would you be interested in doing another Western?


Anson – Yes.  In about another ten years I want to play (abolitionist) John Brown.  I think that’s a story that’s waiting to be made.  Now watch – somebody’ll pick up on this and they’ll hire Willem Dafoe to do it.   



WANT TO HELP FINISH A WESTERN 29 YEARS IN THE MAKING?



In 1983, nearly three decades ago, Rick Groat and his family and friends set out to make an old-fashioned black & white western.  In a vintage interview on ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT, Rick brags that his $15,000 movie will look like it cost a half million! 



Sadly, after a successful film-festival work-print screening, the movie, THE SHOOTING, was never seen again.  Now, filmmaker Rick Groat, who acted in 2010's 6 GUNS, is trying through KICKSTARTER to raise the $9,500 he needs to complete the film.  If you know the Kickstarter system, you know that the project will only be funded if all the money is committed within a limited time.  As I write, Rick has only eight days to go, and only $650 of his $9,500 committed. 



I was going to write about this project next week, but I figured it might be of more use to Rick if I did it right now, while there’s still time.  To learn more, visit HERE, where you can read more about the film, and see Rick’s presentation. 



That’s it for tonight, pardners.  I wanted to make sure you had a chance to read the Anson Mount interview before Season 2 of HELL ON WHEELS starts.  Next week I’ll have another ‘rush’ story about the Museum of the San Fernando Valley.  And if you want to visit it, you’ll have to be quick, because it’s closing at the end of the month!



Happy Trails,



Henry



All Original Contents Copyright August 2012 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved

Monday, August 6, 2012

'REDEMPTION' IS HERE!

Movie Review – REDEMPTION: FOR ROBBING THE DEAD



Those who say there are only six or seven Western plots had better hold their tongues until they’ve seen REDEMPTION: FOR ROBBING THE DEAD.  They haven’t seen this one yet. Although not a traditional Western, it is a legitimate one, focusing on a lawman, an outlaw of a sort, and their relationship.  Most remarkable of all, it’s a largely true story.



In 1862, Salt Lake City lawman Henry Heath (John Freeman) follows up a complaint by a dead outlaw’s brother who, in exhuming his grave to bring the body home, finds that his brother has been buried face down and naked.  Heath, having gone to the personal expense of providing a suit for the bandit, now goes to question the grave-digger, French immigrant Jean Baptiste (David Stevens), and at his home finds the man’s brain-addled wife, and evidence suggesting that the man has robbed hundreds of graves for their clothes. 



Baptiste was involved in the recent burial of Heath’s daughter, a loss that has crushed Heath and his wife (Robyn Adamson), and Baptiste barely saves his own life by convincing Heath that his daughter was not among his victims.  Despised by a horrified community, there is no shortage of people who would gladly kill Baptiste, but his grotesque crimes are not a hanging offense, and to punish him without actually killing him, the ghoul is exiled to Antelope Island, in the center of the Great Salt Lake. 



When someone must occasionally bring provisions to the exile, the job falls upon Heath, and the simple decency he shows in his treatment of Baptiste is all that keeps the banished man alive.  It also soon makes Heath nearly as despised as his prisoner. 



REDEMPTION is a haunting and thought-provoking study of one of the strangest crimes in the history of the American West.  Writer-director Thomas Russell, a Slamdance Award-Winning screenwriter, has told the often queasy-making story with a subtle but eerie tone.  While the only truly humorous moments happen early in the film, later scenes like Baptiste’s oblique evaluation of the clothing of a group of mourners are wonderfully sinister.  And Russell has learned, as Val Lewton and John Carpenter did before him, that the unseen but alluded to crimes are much more troubling in the imagination than if they were directly shown.



The leads, though largely unfamiliar, are up to their challenges, and John Freeman is impressive as the lawman who blames his past sins for his daughter’s death.  David Stevens as Baptiste manages to bring pathos and humanity to a character that is inherently revolting.  And there are very familiar faces giving strong performances in supporting roles.   Edward Herrmann appears briefly as the Governor, and Rance Howard plays the physician who can do nothing to save the lawman’s child.  Jon Gries, creepy Uncle Rico from NAPOLEON DYNAMITE, plays a hired gun.  Margot Kidder, Lois Lane to Christopher Reeves’ Superman, is Baptiste’s ‘tetched’ but endearing wife.  The best supporting role, and performance, is by Barry Corbin, as the judge who explains why Heath must protect Baptiste, in a heartbreaking monologue.



I hesitate to say that this could be classified as a faith-based production, as I don’t mean to suggest that you should lower your expectations.  It is not a preachy movie; it’s just that some of the characters are influenced by their faith. 



The art direction and costuming by Melanie Gardner and Bree Evans bring the Utah frontier to life.  Derek Pueblo’s photography is effective whether showing gloomy interiors or startling action, like Baptiste being dragged by the collar through a cemetery to identify each grave he defiled.  But Pueblo especially excels in some of the startlingly beautiful vistas of the sky over the Salt Lake.  You can certainly understand why Brigham Young saw the Salt Lake Valley and concluded this was the place to build his city. 

REDEMPTION: FOR ROBBING THE DEAD is available now from Monterey Media.




NATIONAL DAY OF THE COWBOY A RIP-SNORTING SUCCESS!



Last Saturday, July 28th, marked the 8th National Day of the Cowboy, and the celebrations are getting bigger and better with every year.  Last year, Western writer J. R. Sanders convinced the Barnes & Noble in Redlands, California to sponsor READ ‘EM COWBOY, to encourage kids to read about the West.  This year there were several READ ‘EM events in California, five in Texas, and others in Wyoming, Colorado, and South Dakota!



When I went to the READ ‘EM COWBOY event at the Santa Clarita Barnes & Noble, parked in front there was Western wardrobe-designer par excellence Nudie’s customized Cadillac, pulling a wagon he’d designed for Roy Rogers: a sure sign that Julie Ann Ream, who was in charge of the store’s event, was in the building. 


Peter Ford

 
Just beyond the cash registers was a table where Peter Ford, son of stars Glenn Ford and Eleanor Powell, sat signing copies of his book, GLENN FORD, A LIFE (reviewed recently in the Round-up).  I opined that Glenn Ford was one of the screen’s great cowboy icons.  “Thank you.  A lady just came by and bought a book, and said, ‘Your father was one of the three greatest horsemen,’ in her opinion, the others being Ben Johnson and Joel McCrea.  So Dad is in very good company with those two.  He was a quick-draw with his handgun.  Born in Quebec, Canada, it’s about as far away from cowboys and horses and gunplay as you can get, but he became quite proficient.” 


Kid Reno


Farther into the store, a performance area had been set up for a succession of western music-makers.

Ralph and Geri

Ben Costello

 
On the other side of the store, just outside the speaker’s room, author Ben Costello was signing copies of GUNSMOKE: AN AMERICAN INSTITUTION, the product of five years of research and interviews (soon to be reviewed in the Round-up).  Opposite Ben, DEADWOOD regulars Ralph Richeson and Geri Jewell were sitting, Geri signing her autobiography. 


Authors Mark Bedor and Jim Christina


Peter Sherayko


The speaker’s room was filled with a number of western writers signing their books, including Mark Bedor, Jim Christina, and Peter Sherayko, whose excellent TOMBSTONE: THE GUNS AND THE GEAR and THE FRINGE OF HOLLYWOOD were recently reviewed in the Round-up.  As Julie Ann Ream emceed, a succession of Western-related folks took the microphone.  Among them were THE SEARCHERS star Lana Wood; Republic western and serial star Peggy Stewart; Julie Rogers, who talked about grandparents Roy and Dale, and modeled a Nudie skirt; and Ken Berry, who starred in F-TROOP, a delightful comedic take on the cavalry western.  “I’ve been to a couple of these evenings.  As a matter of fact, Bob Steele (Trooper Duffy) was a dear friend.  I loved Bob.  And I went to an evening that was especially fun; Gene Autry was there.  And I’ve met Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.  They meant a lot to me, too.” 


Lana Wood


Peggy Stewart


Julie Rogers


Ken Berry


The very busy Martin Kove, a popular villain and hero, made a splash in CAGNEY & LACEY, and the RAMBO and KARATE KID films.  But his earliest credits include GUNSMOKE and THE WHITE BUFFALO, with Charles Bronson, and westerns have a special place in his heart.  “I was all the way in Beverly Hills, actually.  I said, do I want to show up?  But my commitment is to the rejuvenation  of the west, and trying to do as many westerns (as I can), trying to get our heritage back on track, so kids can remember what it was like when they saw a western, and the values of the western.  So I said, I’ve got to show up; the same reason you beat yourself to death trying to get a western financed; it’s a great uphill battle.  I think from 1920 to 1967, one of every three movies made in Hollywood was a western.  So it’s kind of an over-exposed genre.  I really care about the genre, and the future of it, and I don’t want it to disappear.  This is an indelible part, this National Day of the Cowboy, to keep it alive.”  I asked him about his most recent western project.  “I’m doing an internet series called SIXGUN SAVIOR, (a supernatural western).  I’m going to do a 1950s oil story, called THE FALCON’S SONG.  I leave in about two weeks to go to Montana.”  


Martin Kove


While a group was heading to the local Baja Fresh for lunch – Baja, like the local Ben & Jerry’s, were contributing a portion of the day’s sales to the NDOC – I drove over to the Autry to see how their celebration was going.  There was continuous entertainment in the courtyard, with square-dancing, music by bands like Triple Chicken Foot, and Miss Devon & The Outlaw.  Famed champion gunslinger Joey Dillon was back with his flashing .45 Colt single-actions, and nearby some kids were hammering designs in leather, while others were learning to toss a lariat.  The Wells Fargo Theatre was packed with Saturday matinee fans watching episodes of THE GENE AUTRY SHOW. 




Joey Dillon and a volunteer



Hurry up, kid!   There's a line for that horse!


Curator Jeffrey Richardson


Rarely seen quarter horse!


The gold-panning operators were doing a land-office business, and throughout the museum, docents were giving history demonstrations.  I ran into Jeffrey Richardson outside of the wonderful Colt Gallery, which he curated.  He told me the life-sized Gunfight at the O.K. Corral diorama would soon be closed to make way for an expansion of the gun collection.  I asked him about the importance of the National Day of the Cowboy at the Autry.  “One of the things we like to do here at the Autry, on the Day of the Cowboy and everyday, is let people know that, despite depictions in popular entertainment, cowboys were a really diverse group. It’s a day when people can come and explore the rich history of the American west, specifically seen through the eyes of one of the truly iconic figures of (our) history the American cowboy.”



Meanwhile, J.R. Sanders’ READ ‘EM COWBOY event at the Redlands Barnes & Noble and Starbucks, brought thirteen western authors, had plenty of entertainment for young and old, and featured a Young Writers Cowboy Fiction Contest.


Authors Chris Enss, Nicholas Cataldo and Paige Peyton

Young Writers Cowboy Fiction contest winners, with Jim Meals and J. R. Sanders

One of the very interesting out-of-California events was CRAZY DAYS, at Belle Fourche, South Dakota, the setting for the end of the classic John Wayne western THE COWBOYS (they actually shot it in New Mexico and L.A., but Belle Fourche is where the story is set).  Marking the 40th anniversary of the film’s release, Belle Fourche welcomed five of the original COWBOYS from the cast: Nicolas Beauvy (Dan), Al Barker Jr. (Fats), Steven Hudis (Charlie Schwartz), Sean Kelly (Stuttering Bob), and Steve Benedict (Steve).  Last week’s Round-up featured an interview with Nic Beauvy about the making of THE COWBOYS, and I called him this afternoon to find out how Belle Fourche worked out. 



“Bell Fouche was wonderful!  It was a treat to see the other COWBOYS, and everybody had a good time: we were treated like movie stars.  It was the first time in forty years I’d seen (them).  Everyone was eager to sign autographs and feel important and to know that you were in a movie that people loved.  It’s so revered over there: it’s like GONE WITH THE WIND in the Midwest.  The people who are fifty, sixty years old now, who were kids when the movie came out, they loved the movie so much that they’ve turned their children on to it.  So I met kids who were 8 years old, 12 years old, 15 years old who have seen the movie many, many times, and know it inside and out.  Because their parents love it.   



“It was just a great experience for me in that I met real Midwestern American people.  You know, coming from Los Angeles you don’t meet too many people like that.  They leave the keys of the car in the ignition.  They don’t lock their doors at night.  It’s a different way of life, not such a complicated life.  In some ways they enjoy life a lot more.  It’s beautiful to be around people like that.”  Like cowboys.



RUSSELL CROWE TO REPLACE JAVIER BARDEM IN ‘DARK TOWER


"Take that, Javier!"

Work comes from Deadline: Hollywood that Akiva Goldsman has delivered to Warner Brothers a draft of the script for the first part of Stephen King’s THE DARK TOWER, a sci-fi Western.  Based on eight books by King, the project is planned as three theatrical features and two TV miniseries.  Dropped by Universal when it got too expensive, Warners currently has the option, and should decide whether or not to proceed within the next two weeks.     



Imagine Films director Ron Howard and producer Brian Grazer, the team that won Oscars for A BEAUTIFUL MIND, are at the helm, and Howard is no stranger to the Western form, having starred in THE SHOOTIST before directing FAR AND AWAY and THE MISSING.  Javier Bardem, long attached to the project, is no longer, and the talk is that GLADIATOR Oscar winner and A BEAUTIFUL MIND star Russell Crowe will portray gunslinger Roland Deschain.  Crowe has previously ridden the range in THE QUICK AND THE DEAD and 3:10 TO YUMA. 



SPAGHETTI WESTERNS UNCHAINED CONTINUES AT EGYPTIAN



On Wednesday, August 8th it’s TEPEPA with Tomas Milian and Orson Welles and YANKEE.  On Thursday THE RUTHLESS FOUR, with Van Heflin, Gilbert Roland and Klaus Kinski, with REQUIESCANT.  On Friday, Sergio Corbucci’s COMPANEROS, with Franco Nero and Tomas Milian, with THE PRICE OF POWER, with Fernando Rey and Van Johnson.  Then Saturday, The Main Event: Corbucci’s DJANGO!  Starring Franco Nero, and Lee Van Cleef in THE GRANND DUEL.  Sunday it’s DJANGO KILL…IF YOU LIVE, SHOOT, and Corbucci’s HELLBENDERS, starring Joseph Cotten. 

That's it for this week!  Sorry I'm posting on Monday morning rather than Sunday night, but I lost the internet at midnight.  On the plus side, I got more sleep than I usually do on a Sunday night.

Have a great week!

Happy Trails,

Henry

All Original Contents Copyright August 2012 by Henry C. Parke -- All Rights Reserved