Sunday, February 23, 2014
Born in Chengdu, China, the lovely and often outrageous Bai Ling began her acting career at age fourteen, as both a soldier and performer in the People’s Liberation Army, entertaining the troops in Tibet. She made a number of films in China before coming to the United States, and in 1994 made a splash opposite Brandon Lee in THE CROW. Since then, Bai Ling has been a busy actress, appearing in films of all genres that called for her exotic brand of beauty, and in 1999 she made her first Western movie appearance, as Miss East in 1999’s THE WILD WILD WEST. Fifteen years later she’s returned to the genre, this time not just as stunning eye-candy, in YELLOW HILL – THE STRANGER’S TALE.
Bai Ling in WILD WILD WEST
This time she’s a producer as well as the star. She’s collaborated with Ross Bigley, who wrote, directed and edited the short film, which has been successfully making the rounds of festivals in South Dakota and Wisconsin – it won for Best Short Narrative at the South Dakota Film Festival, and received the Founders Choice Award at the Wildwood Film Festival.
Ross Bigley tells me the idea for YELLOW HILL came to him a decade ago. “I have a love for the western genre, and years ago I came across a book detailing the gold rush. I read about the brutality and racism towards the Chinese immigrants coming to America for their own dreams of striking it rich, and about the ways the Chinese settlers came up with to hide their gold from those desperadoes. And it struck me as a fantastic story never told on the screen before. I needed a hero for this, and I thought about YOJIMBO and A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, the anti- hero type. That seemed perfect because if there were to be someone to help them, there should also be a level of mistrust.”
Ross pitched the idea to Bai Ling when he was directing her in the crime thriller PETTY CASH, and soon the two of them and Glenn Popple formed a production company to make the film. But before the feature, they decided to do a stand-alone short, a section from the full story, that could be used as a selling tool. It’s a small film – half of the $10,000 budget was raised by crowd-funding through Indie-Go-Go. But they used their dollars wisely – it’s peopled with professional actors, and shot in South Dakota, in the Badlands, and in South Dakota’s Original 1880s Town. The costumes, props and weapons look and feel right, although there’s a noticeable shortage of horseflesh.
The short’s story concerns Bai Ling’s Stranger character (the Leone influence is strongly felt throughout) coming out of the desert, into a town, in search of her father – she hasn’t seen him since he sold her to a brothel as a young girl. The flashbacks are unflinching and upsetting, and when the townspeople are of less than no help, the action is fast and bloody – in short, it’s brief, but a lot of fun, and Bai Ling’s character happily doesn’t veer too close Eastwood’s emotionless Stranger. While she’s chillingly determined, she lets her feelings flow unrestrained.
While the short film is only available to be seen by the public in festivals, but it may be more widely available soon. More to the point, hopefully the attention the short is getting will lead to the funding of the feature. I’ll have word on their progress from Bai Ling and Ross Bigley soon. In the meantime, click YELLOW HILL
to go to the official Facebook page, and below is a clip of Bai Ling discussing the movie.
‘NEW WEST’ CONCERT A HIT – MORE GIVEAWAYS ON THE WAY!
I just heard from Danny Ramblin’ Jack O’Connell, our winner of two tickets to last Thursday’s NEW WEST concert in Santa Clarita, courtesy of those fine folks and Round-up sponsors, OutWest. He brought along custom knife-maker to the stars (he made the knife for Tarantino’s DJANGO UNCHAINED) Chuck Stapel. Dan says, “I thoroughly enjoyed New West. They were spot-on and the audience extremely receptive. I discovered that their humor now rivals such mega Western acts ala Riders in the Sky!”
And more good news, I hear from Bobbi Jean Bell, who with her husband Jim are the purveyors of OutWest that they want to do another ticket giveaway for the March 20 concert by The Stardust Cowboys! I’ll have details in next week’s Round-up!
YES, THIS IS A REAL AD!
I had to share this uh…really unusual ad for The Pennsylvania Railroad, featuring the King of the Cowboys. It’s from the folks at COLLECTORS WEEKLY, from their article, ’28 Cringe-Worthy Vintage Product Endorsements’, which you can see HERE.
THAT’S A WRAP!
It’s a short Round-up tonight, because there’s been so much going on. Yesterday I interviewed screenwriter-turned-western-novel author C. Courtney Joyner about his first Western novel, SHOTGUN, and tonight I’m off to cover the Red Carpet for the opening night of the Los Angeles Italia Film Fest. I’ve also got three new westerns to watch and review, so keep your eyes peeled – more is comin’ down the pike!
All Original Contents Copyright February 2014 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved
Sunday, February 16, 2014
‘EL PURO 2’ GAINS STAR, DIRECTOR! PLUS COWBOY LUNCH HONORS ‘HOW THE WEST WAS WON’, L.A./ITAL FILM FEST!
‘RESURRECTION OF EL PURO’ GAINS STAR AND DIRECTOR!
Brett Halsey (right) with Dana Ghia
I was just checking in with Danny Garcia at Chip Baker Films, movers and shakers in the Euro-Western world, and got some good news. The previously announced ‘RESURRECTION OF EL PURO’, the sequel to 1969’s ‘EL PURO’, again starring Robert Woods (read my interview with Robert HERE l; if you haven’t read the story of how this sequel began as a gag and became a real movie, go HERE ) has acquired an additional star and a director.
Robert Woods in RESSURECTION OF EL PURO
Joining the cast is Brett Halsey, an actor with extensive credits both stateside and international. He made his first uncredited Western appearance in 1953’s THE MAN FROM THE ALAMO, starring Glenn Ford, and directed by Budd Boetticher, and was soon appearing in episodes of GUNSMOKE, ADVENTURES OF JIM BOWIE, DEATH VALLEY DAYS and BAT MASTERSON. In 1960 he starred in the adventure series FOLLOW THE SUN, and after, he headed to Europe, where he starred in films in France, Italy and Germany; considering the time, the place, and Brett’s broad shoulders and striking features, Euro-Westerns seemed inevitable. Soon he was starring in UCCIDETE JOHNNY RINGO; TODAY WE KILL, TOMORROW WE DIE; WRATH OF GOD; TWENTY-THOUSAND DOLLARS FOR SEVEN; ROY COLT AND WINCHESTER JACK, often billed as ‘Montgomery Ford’, before returning to the U.S. for film and TV work. A couple of years ago he returned to the Montgomery Ford moniker to star in the remarkable indie WesternTHE SCARLET WORM (read my review HERE ).
Currently Robert Woods and Brett Halsey are hard at work on a re-write of the RESURRECTION OF EL PURO screenplay, with the help of TV writer Ray Reese.
At the Spaghetti Western Film Festival, North Hollywood, 2011
l-to-r Robert Woods, Mark Damon, Brett Halsey
photo: Westerns All'Italiana
Also joining the production is director Rafael Romero Marchent, whose Spaghetti Western credits include PREY OF VULTURES (1972) with Peter Lee Lawrence, THE AVENGER, ZORRO (1969) starring Fabio Testi, and the very enjoyable DEAD MEN DON’T COUNT (1968), starring Anthony Steffan and Mark Damon. His most recent Westerns are three BLACK WOLF films from 1980 and 1981.
Joining them will be several actors familiar to Spaghetti Western fans: Antonio Mayans, of A TOWN CALLED HELL and MORE DOLLARS FOR THE MACGREGORS; Nicoletta Machiavelli, of NAVAJO JOE and THE HILLS RUN RED, and Simone Blondell, who co-starred with Robert Woods in PRAY TO GOD AND DIG YOUR GRAVE (1968), and HIS NAME WAS SAM WALBASH, BUT THEY CALL HIM AMEN (aka SAVAGE GUNS).
The link to the official Facebook page in HERE. They’re aiming to roll camera in September. And to whet your appetite for the sequel, here is a link to the original EL PURO – the entire film --
Also coming soon from Chip Baker Films, SIX BULLETS TO HELL is currently in post-production, and should be ready in the spring or summer (you can read more about that one HERE ). REVEREND COLT, a Neo-Spaghetti Western, like all three films, to be shot in Almeria, Spain and other classic Spanish locations, and starring villainous western icon James Russo, will be rolling camera soon (if you missed that article, go HERE ) .
WEDNESDAY’S ‘COWBOY LUNCH @ AUTRY’ CELEBRATES ‘HOW THE WEST WAS WON’ SERIES
This Wednesday, February 19th, Rob Word’s ‘Cowboy Lunch @ The Autry’, held the 3rd Wednesday of every month, will honor one of the great Western TV series, HOW THE WEST WAS WON, a.k.a. THE MACAHANS, which began as a three-part miniseries in 1977, starring James Arness, Eva Marie Saint, and Bruce Boxleitner. It became a weekly series in 1978, losing Saint while gaining Fionnula Fkanagan, ran through 1979, produced 28 additional episodes, and won two Emmys, Outstanding Supporting Actor for Ricardo Montalban, and Outstanding Make-up for Richard Cobos and Walter Schenk.
As always, the event, which starts at 12:30, is free – although you’ve got to buy your own lunch – and is followed by ‘A Word on Film’, with Rob Word leading a discussion among his guests, actors and other industry people associated with the show. Rob never announces his guests in advance, but he always comes through with an interesting and talented group – previous luncheons have been attended by Hugh O’Brien, Johnny Crawford, and many others. Don’t get there at the last minute – as these events have grown in popularity over the last few months, latecomers have had to be turned away. Last month’s salute to the 24th anniversary of LONESOME DOVE packed the house. Below is a sample of what you (and I) missed! This is part one of four parts, and the links to the next ones should be on the screen as each ends.
WINNER CHOSEN FOR THURSDAY’S ‘NEW WEST’ CONCERT!
Daniel O’Connell of Glendora, California is the lucky winner of two tickets to the OutWest – sponsored concert, An Evening with NEW WEST, this Thursday night. It’s part of the OutWest Concert Series at the Repertory East Playhouse, at 24266 Main Street, Newhall, CA 91321. Award-winning NEW WEST brings their own brand of Western ballads, story songs and cowboy swing to entertain you. Raul Reynoso, Michael Fleming and David Jackson return to the Western stage with their engaging performance style! And if you’re not our winner, don’t despair – tickets are still available! Don’t miss this opportunity to enjoy Michael Fleming’s memorable original songs, the trio’s sweet harmony, Raul Reynoso’s world class guitar work and David Jackson’s show-stopping numbers. Dress up! SCTV will film, and you just may be on TV! Tickets $20. RSVP and Purchase tickets at OutWest 661-255-7087. The doors open at 7 p.m.
In case you haven’t noticed, we have a new sponsor here at the Round-up, the OutWest Western Boutique and Cultural Center in Newhall – just go to the top left corner of the Round-up, click their logo, and you’ll be magically transported to their wonderful store.
LOS ANGELES ITALIA FILM FESTIVAL - SUN. FEB. 23 – SAT. MARCH 1
Franco Nero at the Fest in 2012
Once again the Los Angeles Italia Film Festival is coming to Hollywood’s Chinese 6 Theatres for a week of Italian cinema and personal appearances. This is the third year I’ve covered this event, and it’s always a delight. And all of the screenings are free – tickets are available on a first-come, first served basis! If you love film, and you’re local, you’d be crazy not to check this out. Here is the link to the complete festival schedule: http://www.losangelesitalia.com/en/official-program-2014.html
While the past two years there has been considerable focus on Euro-Westerns, there does not appear to be any Westerns on this year’s agenda. However, there are some events that will still be of particular interest to Western movie fans. On Monday night at 9:45 pm, the documentary EUROCRIME! THE ITALIAN COP AND GANGSTER FILMS THAT RULED THE 1970S will be screened, and director Mike Malloy, Eurocrime and Eurowestern star Franco Nero, and others will be present. Mike Malloy produced the excellent indie Western SCARLET WORM, which is discussed elsewhere in this Round-up. Franco Nero is, of course, the original DJANGO, and Mike Malloy is producing the new Franco Nero Django film, DJANGO LIVES! Franco Nero will also be present on Thursday for the 4:10 pm screening of THE MYSTERY OF DANTE.
HAPPY PRESIDENTS DAY!
THAT’S A WRAP!
On Friday night, a friend called, asking my help to track down a movie. Her daughter having recently announced her engagement, they were in the mood to see FATHER OF THE BRIDE, but couldn’t track down a copy. Did I have one? Yes: a Beta copy. But I assured her that I could get her one on Saturday, which I did, from that great source for hard-to-find movies, Eddie Brandt’s Saturday Matinee, in North Hollywood. I’d forgotten that in addition to the Spencer Tracy MGM classic, there was also a remake starring Steve Martin. I got both, which was good, because they wanted the Steve Martin one, and my wife and I got to watch Spence.
My point is, people tell you that everything is easily available, especially online, and it’s not. FATHER OF THE BRIDE with Steve Martin was a big hit, and something of a perennial, but it wasn’t available from Netflix, except for a long, indefinite wait for a disk, nor from any of the other download services. And I understand that they have started dropping tons of movies from the lists of films they stream. Why? They don’t have to worry about competition from BLOCKBUSTER or HOLLYWOOD VIDEO, because they drove them out of business – so you don’t have a choice anymore. For that matter, remember how good BLOCKBUSTER was when it started? What a wide variety of movies they used to carry? And then, when they drove all the mom-and-pop video stores out of business, they started dropping everything except current hits and video games.
If you like a movie, BUY it, OWN it, KEEP it. Don’t count on anyone else to look out for you, because monopolies are not about service, they’re about ‘take it or leave it.’ And if you’re having trouble finding a movie, go to Eddie Brandt’s Saturday Matinee. Here’s the link to their site: http://www.ebsmvideo.com/
All Original Contents Copyright February 2014 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Red as Sheriff Deadeye with Terry Moore
‘THE RED SKELTON SHOW’ – THE LOST EPISODES – A Home Video Review
Although he seems to have dropped off of the radar of late, few stars have had a career to match that of comedian – or clown, as he preferred – Red Skelton: star of vaudeville, Broadway, radio, movies, and television. In 1951, when TV was in its infancy, his manager, who also happened to be his ex-wife, negotiated an unheard-of contract for five million dollars for seven years.
While he never appeared in a traditional Western, Red’s second screen appearance was starring in the 1939 Vitaphone short BROADWAY BUCKAROO, where his character builds a dude ranch on the Great White Way. Nine years later, he starred in MGM’s A SOUTHERN YANKEE, a partial remake of Buster Keaton’s classic THE GENERAL, with Keaton himself supplying some of the gags.
Always avoiding anything that seemed sophisticated or urban, his CBS series ran for a staggering 20 years. It could have gone on longer – the ratings were always good and frequently in the top ten – but 1971 was the year that CBS decided to shake itself of its ‘rube’ shows, getting rid of long-time hits like BEVERLY HILLBILLIES, GREEN ACRES, PETTICOAT JUNCTION (actually 1970), THE RED SKELTON SHOW, and GUNSMOKE. CBS head William Paley, a fan of GUNSMOKE, was out of the country when the decision was made, and when he came back, he blew a gasket, and insisted Matt Dillon return post haste, but he let Red and the others fade away.
Like contemporary Jackie Gleason, rather than playing a single character, Red had a raft of popular personas, among them Clem Kadiddlehopper, Freddie the Freeloader, con-man San Fernando Red, and western lawman Sheriff Deadeye.
Timeless Media Group has packaged eighteen previously unreleased half-hour episodes from 1959 and 1960, under the heading THE LOST EPISODES, and while perhaps not lost, they’ve surely not been seen for decades. While the quality of the prints is variable – apparently CBS didn’t see long-term value to preserving them – the shows are delightful, and very watchable, scratches and all. Of most interest to Western fans is DEADEYE TURNS IN HIS BADGE, with guest stars Billy Barty, Charles Ruggles, and adorable Terry Moore. Also, GUNSMOKE’S Miss Kitty, Amanda Blake, appeared frequently as San Fernando Red’s shapely accomplice, Ruby, and two of those episodes are included. SAN FERNANDO FOR GOVERNOR also includes a delightful late-in-the-career performance by Laurel and Hardy foil Billy Gilbert. And SAN FERNANDO’S TREASURE co-stars fellow westerner Guy Madison, just after his run starring as WILD BILL HICKOCK.
Because the series was extremely popular, and clearly a lot of fun to do – they were shot in front of a live audience with no retakes, no matter what – everyone wanted to be on, and the line-up of guests, from established stars to young people on their way up to long-time character actors, is a pleasure to watch. Keenan Wynn, Richard Deacon, Jamie Farr, Buster Crabbe, Slapsie Maxie Rosenbloom, Jackie Coogan, Barbara Nichols, Gerald Mohr, Fabian, Eve Arden, William Demarest, Vivian Vance, Anthony Caruso, Marilyn Maxwell and Sebastian Cabot all take part, often mocking their own established images.
The shows are written by a talented crew, including Sherwood Schwartz, who would go on to create GILLIGAN’S ISLAND; sight-gag wizard and PRC cowboy Dave O’Brien, who helped craft, and starred in, hundreds of PETE SMITH SPECIALITY shorts at MGM; and of course Red himself – it’s fun to try and guess which lines were actually ad-libs, and which were simply well crafted to seem spontaneous. The frequent off-hand references to Khrushchev, Kennedy and Nixon set the shows in a historical context.
Red with Vincent Price (not in set this set)
One element that startled and amused me was that Red was famous for ‘keeping it clean,’ and allowing no blue material. But the truth is, while playing the rube, he was very sophisticated and subtle, and it’s amazing what he got away with. In an opening monologue, he tells a story about a farmer milking a cow, and telling her that he’s got a surprise for her. The cow replies, “I’ve got a surprise for you: I’m a bull!” Although Red didn’t quite say it, the farmer is obviously pulling on something other than an udder. One of the San Fernando Red episodes opens with Red at his desk, scamming a victim over the phone, while playing with items on his desk; he keeps laying down a rubber stamp, and making it stand up by moving a pad of paper. Moments later, when Amanda Blake appears, and strikes an alluring pose, Red moves the pad, and again the rubber stamp stands straight up – the joke is obvious, but as he’s played with the rubber stamp innocently before, he has deniability if a censor objects.
Included in the eighteen shows are two episode in which Red does not appear – one in which Arthur Godfrey and Jackie Gleason fill in, and another where Danny Thomas and his TV kids Angela Cartwright and Rusty Hamer do the honors. Whether you’re a long-time fan of the red-head, or if you’re interested in TV comedy before formats became so limiting and inhibiting – in fact, if you simply like to laugh, I think you’ll get a huge kick out of THE RED SKELTON SHOW – THE LOST EPISODES. I know I did. Or should I say ‘I dood it!’
THE LEGEND OF THE RENO BROTHERS – A Film Review
It seems incredible that a family of outlaws that served as subjects for movies starring Randolph Scott (RAGE AT DAWN) and Elvis Presley (LOVE ME TENDER), and who committed the first non-military train-robbery, along with uncounted other crimes, could remain obscure, but indeed they have. But filmmakers Anthony Susnick, Morgan Raque, and David Distler have gone a long way towards righting that wrong with their documentary, THE LEGEND OF THE RENO BROTHERS.
The Renos were an Indiana-based family whose first criminal enterprise came during the Civil War, when a couple of the boys took up ‘bounty jumping,’ enlisting in the Union Army for a cash payment, then disappearing, reappearing elsewhere, reenlisting under assumed names, again taking the cash, and again disappearing. After the war ended, the brothers, four in all, began their criminal activity in earnest. It’s impossible to know the full extent of their felonious activities, because as they became well-known, they got blamed for everything. But it’s clear that they robbed and killed and burned – and pulled off the first three train hold-ups, earning them the enmity of the Adams Express company, which hired Allan Pinkerton himself to track them down. How they in fact met their end is so unusual that it would be a spoiler to discuss it here; but I assure their fates are memorable.
Reno Gang leader Frank
In spite of the fact that there are no living witnesses left, and few authenticated photos of the lads, the filmmakers do an admirable job of bringing the Renos’ desperate lives excitingly to life. Using a blend of historical photographs, narration, old movie footage, newspaper stories, and reenactments, RENO BROTHERS is a compelling movie that entertains as it informs. There are several on-camera historians, two in particular, who help to tell the story; and the amount of historical research, and the obvious passion of the filmmakers for their subject, makes it all the more engrossing.
There is considerable manipulation of the film image – altering color, adding shaking and scratches – that I normally find distracting but here, in most cases I felt it enhanced the experience. Some of the reenactment scenes went on a bit longer than necessary, but the fact is, you need a ninety-minute film if you’re going to be able to market it; sometimes, unfortunately, the extra screen-time underscored that not all of the reenactors, while good visually, were accomplished actors.
Costume test shot for LOVE ME TENDER
While many historical documentaries are informative but dry, RENO BROTHERS is a compelling movie, with good music, that will entertain the knowledgeable Western history fan as well as folks who want some excitement, and don’t mind learning a little in the process. Below is the trailer – take a look!
CALL DIRECTV TO PROTEST DROPPING INSP – THE VIRGINIAN/HIGH CHAPARRAL CHANNEL!
If you’re a DirecTV subscriber, and you haven’t yet spoken to a person, and registered your complaint at losing the station with the exclusive rights to both HIGH CHAPARRAL and THE VIRGINIAN, I urge you to do so. When I did so today, and spoke to a very polite and patient woman, she took note of my complaint and my account, and assured me that if enough subscribers complain, they’ll open negotiations with INSP. You’ll never get what you want if you don’t speak up! Please call 1-844-GET-INSP, and tell them you want INSP back; and also go to http://www.iwantmyinsp.com/ -- and sign the on-line petition. Thanks!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY IDA LUPINO
Ida Lupino was born February 4th, 1918. English theatre royalty, a dazzlingly talented actress, she didn’t star in many westerns, but the ones she did, like LUST FOR GOLD and JUNIOR BONNER, were memorable. But more remarkable was her skill in directing Western TV: HOTEL DE PAREE, eight HAVE GUN WILL TRAVELS, THE RIFLEMAN, DANIEL BOONE, THE VIRGINIAN, and DUNDEE AND THE CULHANE.
THAT’S A WRAP!
I had a couple of stories I planned for this week’s Round-up, especially an update on ‘RESURRECTION OF EL PURO’ and ‘SIX GUNS TO HELL’, but they’ll have to wait until next week. Have a good one!
All Original Contents Copyright February 2014 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved
Monday, February 3, 2014
ON THE SET OF ‘THE MAN FROM DEATH’
In the second week of the New Year I got a call from Peter Sherayko, the man who, in addition to acting – he was Texas Jack Vermillion in TOMBSTONE – runs Caravan West, his outfit that provides historically authentic weapons, props, saddles, the horses to wear them, and the men to ride them, for Western movies and TV. He was working on a new film, THE MAN FROM DEATH, which was shooting at Veluzat Movie Ranch in Saugus, and he invited me to the set on Saturday, the 12th. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse.
They were shooting in the Mexican Village set, which you’ve seen many times. The last time I was there, two or three years ago, they were shooting the award-winning Western YELLOW ROCK. It was kind of like old home week, not only being back on that set, but with YELLOW ROCK crew-members like Peter, who was doing props and guns, saddles and horses; Ardeshir Radpour, a talented actor and magnificent horseman was wrangling; and Christian Ramirez, who was armorer.
Also on-set was gunslinger Joey ‘Rocketshoes’ Dillon. A multi-award winner for his six-gun acrobatics, he trained Josh Brolin to handle guns for JONAH HEX, Joseph Gordon Levitt for LOOPER, the cast of GANGSTER SQUAD, and many more. For MAN FROM DEATH he was working with leading man Eric Lim on his fast-draw.
Eric Lim spins guns for teacher Joey Dillon
The composition of the crew was a bit unusual for a Western movie, for any movie really, and it’s encouraging to see how opportunity has opened up. The writer-director and actor-producer are both Asian-American, and the boom, first assistant director and Steadicam operators were all women.
Peter introduced me to art director Lawrence Kim, who gave me the low-down on the story and the production.
Art Director Lawrence Kim gets out of range
before the shooting starts
LAWRENCE KIM: The film is called THE MAN FROM DEATH. It was written, and is now being directed by Steven Reedy. It’s being produced by Eric Lim, who plays Strider, who’s known as ‘Death’. It’s kind of a mystical, supernatural tongue-in-cheek spaghetti western. It’s a proof-of-concept for a feature, we hope, and it’s going to be about fifteen to twenty minutes. I shot a recent feature here, on the Veluzat Ranch, the Mexico town, and coincidentally, my friends here, all the core group, had done a very successful short film before. Eric wanted to get everyone together to do this western. The design is kind of post-Civil War, around 1875. But it’s tongue-in-cheek, because cactus doesn’t really grow out of wells. Within our limited budget I’m trying to give the sense of a town; a general store, a cantina, a coffin-maker. Things like that. I’m an architect and a production designer.
Lawrence got called away to the set at that point. I haven’t seen the script, but the scene they were about to film looked pretty climactic. Eric Lim as Strider, and his friend, played by Dennis Ruel, are sitting in the middle of the street, tied side-by-side to a cactus. As Dennis explained it to me, “Strider has a list that the bad guys want to get ahold of, and it’s a very important, kind of magical list. And I’m the bait, so to speak.” And he’s also got a vest full of dynamite strapped to his chest. And quite a crew of bad guys surround them: black outlaws, white outlaws, lady outlaws, Confederate soldiers, Union soldiers, and a Samurai! After several takes, they took a break, and I was able to talk to star and producer Eric Lim about how the project came about.
Dennis Ruel models explosive fashions
ERIC LIM: I worked with Steve Reedy, the director, about two years ago. We did principal photography for a project called THE PORCH, which was more of social cause; it was a suicide prevention video. It was very personal. And now we wanted to get into a more narrative film. So we put together a western, a genre we both love, and now we’re working on THE MAN FROM DEATH.
HENRY: And this is something you’re hoping will expand to a feature?
ERIC LIM: Hopefully, yuh. I think there’s a lot of opportunities these days, with the market kind of changing, shifting towards video-on-demand. We’re developing the feature script concurrently with this. We’re hopeful that the idea, the style, the story will resonate into something that can work in a little bit more of a long-form.
Ticklish Indian gets a make-up touch-up
HENRY: How would you describe the tone of the movie?
ERIC LIM: I would say the tone is very edgy in the way, it’s very modern. It’s taking a lot of the tropes that I think people really love of westerns, of spaghetti westerns, the iconography, the aesthetics, trying to set it in a more modern style of editing, pacing, music, and trying to bring that into a new audience, the kind of people who are reared on new media, or watch some of the big tent-pole action movies. Our aim of the game is to capture some of that audience, while bringing some of the tropes and the style and the coolness of the spaghetti westerns that we love.
Transplanting a cactus
HENRY: What’s your favorite western?
ERIC LIM: You know, I just watched HIGH NOON; I really really liked that. I think it was a really strong story. You know, you have a lot of that spill-over, this parallel between samurai movies and western movies –
HENRY: Right, because the spaghetti western came out of the samurai in a sense.
ERIC LIM: They’re very synonymous with one another, kind of styled with those archetype characters. They’re so many. They’re some really cool modern ones like the remake of 3:10 TO YUMA, with Christian Bale and Russell Crowe. There’s a great samurai movie called 13 ASSASSINS; they’re really great, you know? I hope there’s a re-birth to those genres, this time and setting, where it was a little more lawless, with traveling warriors. I think there’s something really cool about that. Because everyone has to be armed, and everyone has to kind of adapt to fighting, be self-reliant.
Mike Gaglio, Joey Dillon, Ric Maddox
HENRY: How do you like filming at Veluzat Ranch?
ERIC LIM: This is amazing! Because you just get in here, the way it’s set up, and it’s so immersive. Especially being in front of the camera, there’s so little work to do to get yourself immersed in the setting. You look straight down the main road; you see the border town church. You look anywhere, you see the stucco, the southwestern look. There’re no seams. Pretty crazy that it’s just 30 minutes outside of L.A. All the crew can drive home and sleep in their own beds at night; that in itself is really amazing.
HENRY: You’re packing a couple of guns; what are you wearing?
ERIC LIM: Right now I’m wearing the Schofield Wells Fargo; I think it’s a five and a half barrel; a little bit easier for me to spin. I’ve been working with Joey Dillon, a great, great gun-spinner. He’s really filled me in, and we developed the character, the logistics of me drawing out the weapons, and so forth. We went for the Schofields because they have the top-loading aspect, as opposed to the Colt .45s, where you had to load one-by-one. Since we have a fighting scene, we wanted it to just pop open and be able to cram the bullets in.
John Wyatt Davis
HENRY: Tell me, if it really was the old west, would you be more comfortable drawing from the hip, or under the arm?
ERIC LIM: You know, I like drawing from the hip. For the shoulder rig, I see a very pragmatic value of being able to stand sideways, to minimize my surface area. So I do understand that; I like that a lot. But there’s something really cool about drawing from the hip.
I next talked to Eric Ruel about doing his first Western.
DENNIS RUEL: I’ve been wanting to do a western for a long time. I’m a martial artist, with a bunch of these guys here, and I always wanted to do a martial arts western, and this is exactly what it’s gonna be.
HENRY: What are your favorite westerns?
DENNIS RUEL: Tough call. I always liked UNFORGIVEN. I recently watched the original DJANGO, the Franco Nero. In Italian – I didn’t want to watch it dubbed. That was cool to watch. Sam Peckinpah’s THE WILD BUNCH -- that’s the one I remember watching first, when I was younger, and that was kind of my idea of what a western should be.
HENRY: It’s a mind-blowing introduction to westerns.
DENNIS RUEL: The reason I saw it was I was getting into Hong Kong action. And John Woo was becoming a big name. And I was reading articles about where he got his influences from. And Sam Peckinpah was a big influence to him.
As usual, the director is the most in-demand person on a set, so I just had a chance to ask Steven Reedy what his Western influences are.
Director Steven Reedy
STEVE REEDY: Oh man. 3:10 TO YUMA, which is kind of recent. But it’s an incredible movie. Because Christian Bale’s character is fighting just to be appreciated by his kids – which is so badass. And then of course you have Russell Crowe being such a badass on every actual physical level; and what a way to juxtapose it. And Sergio Leone is incredible because he’s such a creative genius. I think those are good ones that come to mind.
There were a number of familiar faces among the cowboys on the set. Actor and musician Mike Gaglio, from AMERICAN BANDITS – FRANK AND JESSE JAMES was there. He had a role in the first season of HULU’s web western comedy series QUICK DRAW, and they like him so much they asked him back for season two – a nice surprise, considering they killed him off in season one. I’d first met Byron Herrington, author of the non-fiction Western CAMPO – THE FORGOTTEN GUNFIGHT, on the set of THE LAST DUANE, and he tells me he, too may have a continuing role on QUICK DRAW.
Ardeshir Radpour and Willy Clark
I’d last run into Willy Clark a couple of months ago, when he was armorer on the set of WESTERN RELIGION. Since then, he and Peter Sherayko had been off to Old Tucson, Arizona, to work on HOT BATH AN’ A STIFF DRINK 2. They’re already talking about making HOT BATH 3, and they haven’t even released HOT BATH 1 yet (I saw a rough cut, and it’s a lot of fun). “Matthew Gratzner, the director, said this second one would definitely be a movie to go to a theatre to see. Between the stagecoach, the whiskey warehouse shootout, the explosions, there were about two-thousand blanks. We were going through 250, 300 blanks (a day); the Gatling-gun scene, and stuff like that. All in all, everything worked out well, no incidents, except we did have one horse run over a sound guy, knock him down. He went to the hospital; took twelve stitches in his chin, but he was back on the job the next day. The weather’s what beat us up. We were working some 6:30s to 6:30s, and we were down to the teens some nights.” I told him when my wife and I were in Old Tucson a couple of years ago, it was 104 degrees. “The time we were there, we were lucky to make the 60s. Mostly it was the 50s during the day, and went down at night. Down to the 30s, down to the teens a lot. We’re hoping the third one comes around. They might be coming to California in March.”
Me with Rick Groat
The fact is, most of the folks making Westerns know each other, most are friends, and they’re quick to help each other when a few more buckskinned bodies are needed. Ric Maddox, star and a producer on the DEAD MEN Western web series was there to shoot and ride. Likewise, Rick Groat was there, taking a break from his own film, currently in pre-production. “I’ve been working on this one for a year and a half. RIDE THE WANTED TRAIL. I’m the writer-producer-director on it. Right now we’re all set with it. We’ve got Wolf Brothers Entertainment co-producing. We’ll go into production on it mid to late summer. It’s looking pretty good. And most of these guys you’re looking at, you’re going to see in it.”
At 'Action!' all the cowboys run like Hell!
WIN TICKETS TO SEE ‘NEW WEST’ FEB 20th AT REPERTORY EAST PLAYHOUSE!
Hopefully you’ve noticed that we have a new sponsor here at the Round-up, the OutWest Western Boutique and Cultural Center in Newhall – just go to the top left corner of the Round-up, click their logo, and you’ll be magically transported to their wonderful store.
They also sponsor the OutWest Concert Series at the Repertory East Playhouse , at 24266 Main Street, Newhall, CA 91321. Coming up on Thursday, February 20th, SCTV Presents The OutWest Concert Series: An Evening with NEW WEST! Award-winning NEW WEST brings their own brand of Western ballads, story songs and cowboy swing to entertain you. Raul Reynoso, Michael Fleming and David Jackson return to the Western stage with their engaging performance style! Don’t miss this opportunity to enjoy Michael Fleming’s memorable original songs, the trio’s sweet harmony, Raul Reynoso’s world class guitar work and David Jackson’s show-stopping numbers. Dress up! SCTV will film, and you just may be on TV! Tickets $20. RSVP and Purchase tickets at OutWest 661-255-7087.
And one lucky Round-up reader will win a free pair of tickets to the concert. To enter, first make sure you live someplace where you can actually get to the concert from (we have lots of readers in Russia, but I doubt they can make here). Then send an email to email@example.com, with ‘New West ticket giveaway’ in the subject line. Make sure to include your name, snail-mail address, and phone number. And here’s the challenging part: Michael Fleming is Festival Director for a Santa Clarita event that will celebrate its 21st anniversary April 24-27. Make sure to name that event in your email! Please be sure to send your entry by 11 pm Saturday, February 8th. The winner will be selected randomly from all correct entries. And below is a sneak preview of NEW WEST.
DIRECTV DROPS INSP! NO MORE ‘VIRGINIAN’ OR ‘HIGH CHAPARRAL’!
(AND MAYBE WE CAN GET IT BACK!)
We DirecTV viewers who look forward to Saddle-Up Saturday had a rude surprise this Saturday morning: no Westerns – in fact, no INSP at all! The satellite company which recently made headlines when they jettisoned THE WEATHER CHANNEL has now dropped the station with the exclusive rights to a pair of the finest western series ever made, THE VIRGINIAN and THE HIGH CHAPARRAL, in addition to airing BIG VALLEY, BONANZA, and western-ish family shows like DR. QUINN and LITTLE HOUSE.
To be fair, DirecTV says they didn’t ‘drop’ INSP. A statement at their website says, “DIRECTV offers smaller programmers an opportunity to buy airtime on our programming lineup. Inspiration, channel 364, is one of the networks that paid DIRECTV to air its channel. Unfortunately, Inspiration decided to no longer purchase that airtime as of 1/31/14. DIRECTV did not drop the network, Inspiration simply decided they no longer wanted to purchase airtime. If you like classic TV shows like Little House on the Prairie, The Waltons, or Matlock, we suggest Hallmark Channel (Ch 312) or Hallmark Movie Channel (Ch 565). If you like religious programming like Billy Graham, Campmeeting, and other inspirational shows, we suggest GEB America (Ch 363) or God TV (Ch 365).”
And if you like Westerns like HIGH CHAPARRAL and THE VIRGINIAN, I guess you can drop dead. Does DirecTV have a point in claiming they didn’t ‘drop’ INSP? Sure, but it’s a distinction without a difference: either way, we’re not getting the series we want, from a network that has proved its value, and has steadily growing popularity. And while INSP apparently no longer wants to pay to have their network aired, they’re offering it for free to DirecTV. At the same time, DirecTV is paying licensing fees to air the many unpopular ‘junk’ networks we all zap past on our way to the good stuff.
I’m not saying the folks at DirecTV are bad guys – in fact, they’re one of the first TV services to add the new and very entertaining PIVOT network to their line-up. But the only chance we have of getting INSP back on is by letting them know that we value the quality Western programming that is synonymous with INSP, and we’re willing to go somewhere else if we can’t get what we want. Frankly, the way my DirecTV bill has been going up of late, we’d already been talking at my house about checking out DISH and the various cable companies.
I was a school-kid when these shows were originally aired, which was also when STAR TREK began, and we had to picket and write angry letters and generally raise Hell when, year after year, NBC cancelled that classic show. And we won for three years, not because we were pests, not because the network saw the error of their ways, but because NBC became convinced that there was money to be made off of us. Today there is money to be made off of INSP fans, and money to be lost if DirecTV doesn’t bring the network back. Please go to the following site -- http://www.iwantmyinsp.com/ -- and sign the on-line petition. And call and register your disappointment at DirecTV’s actions, and encourage them to pick up INSP, by calling 1-844-GET-INSP.
‘LEGEND OF JESSE JAMES’ STAR CHRISTOPHER JONES DIES AT 72
A handsome, charismatic and talented actor whose star burned briefly but brightly in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, Christopher Jones has died in Los Alamitos, California, from complications related to cancer. The son of a grocery clerk and a mother who would die in 1960 in a mental institution, Jones had a tough childhood, and lived for some time in Boys Town. His first big break in acting came in 1965, when he was cast as the title character in the Western TV series, THE LEGEND OF JESSE JAMES, opposite Allen Case as brother Frank.
Though the series lasted only one season, it was peopled with strong casts and directors, and put Jones on the map. This led to his starring in the feature CHUBASCO, where he met and married co-star Susan Strasberg. In 1968, Jones starred in the greatest of all scare-your-parents-out-of-their-wits movies, WILD IN THE STREETS, where he plays a pop-star who campaigns to lower the voting age to 14, is elected president, and sends everyone over 30 to concentration camps with an LSD-laced water supply. He went on to star in THREE IN THE ATTIC, THE LOOKING GLASS WAR, A BRIEF SEASON, and in David Lean’s second-to-last film, RYAN’S DAUGHTER (1970). The latter was his biggest film, but a disappointment for Jones – reportedly Lean had another actor dub his lines – and during the filming in Europe, his friend Sharon Tate was murdered. Jones said he had a nervous breakdown as a result. He lost interest in acting, and refusing Quentin Tarentino’s entreaties, came out of retirement for only one film, MAD DOG TIME (1996), for director Larry Bishop, who had acted with Jones in WILD IN THE STREETS.
Fortunately, Jones had saved his money, and was a talented painter, which is how he spent much of his time. His three-year marriage to Susan Strasberg produced one child. He also had a son by Cathy Abernathy, and four children by Paula McKenna.
‘MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST’ RED-BAND TRAILER!
Quick warning – this trailer is a HARD-R FOR LANGUAGE! Don’t share it with your kids unless you’d share the most coarse parts of DEADWOOD with them: it’s that rough. But it looks very funny, and beautifully shot. Let me know what you think!
AND THAT’S A WRAP!
Have a great week, folks! And if you’re a DirecTV subscriber, please take the time to complain about the loss of INSP.
All Original Contents Copyright February 2014 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved