Monday, September 22, 2014



THE REDEMPTION OF HENRY MYERS is an unexpectedly powerful and effective Western, with uniformly strong performances by a largely unfamiliar but very talented cast.  Its co-writer and director Clayton Miller – he wrote with Charlie Shanian and Chris VanderKaay – has only directed one feature before, but he draws absolutely natural and effecting performances from the early-teenaged Jaden Roberts and Ezra Proch who, while not the leads, drive a great deal of the story.
Drew Waters, who had a small but showy role as Champagne Charlie Austin in LEGEND OF HELL’S GATE, plays Henry Myers who, with accomplices Clay (Beau Smith) and Mac (Rio Alexander), pull a bank job that turns needlessly bloody.  They separate, and Henry is trying to hide the loot in a church, when he’s startled by the minister (Michael McCabe), and accidently shoots and kills him. 

A year later, his accomplices track him down, looking for the loot and all but kill him before he escapes.  A family finds his nearly lifeless form, and the young girl, Laura (Jaden Roberts), overrides her brother Will’s (Ezra Poch) and their mother Marilyn’s (Erin Bethea) doubts, and insist they take him in and nurse him back to health.  And while Henry heals, now living with the first real family he’s ever known, he is being hunted by his ex-accomplices for the loot, and by Sheriff Tom (Luce Rains), for the robbery, and the murder of the minister. 

Erin Bethea & Drew Waters

This is an elegant production, and a savvy one.  The filmmakers have mounted the size of movie that they can effectively afford to produce: not too many characters, not too many locations.  Filmed at Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the breathtaking cinematography is by Reynaldo Villalobos, who also shot HOUSE OF THE RIGHTEOUS, which premiered on INSP in August (read my review HERE )  Special credit also goes to production designer Sean Cunningham and his crew for unself-conscious realism, and the make-up crew headed by Mandy Danielle Benton for giving us some of the truly dirtiest, scummy-bearded villains I’ve ever seen outside of a Sergio Corbucci Spaghetti Western.

This is a faith-based production, and while that used to be a warning to expect poor production values, amateur acting and sappy plots, faith-based filmmaking has improved tremendously over the last several years, I believe because Tyler Perry showed the way, his films bursting from church screenings to mainstream theatres by virtue of the fact that they were hysterical and accessible comedies.   Though not a big box-office name, Erin Bethea is a superstar in the faith-based film world, having starred opposite Kirk Cameron in the ground-breaking FIREPROOF, and several others.  Among the supporting players, Rio Alexander has been seen in INTO THE WEST, 3:10 TO YUMA, LONGMIRE and the modern Western THE LAST STAND.  Luce Rains has had the most sagebrush experience, having been seen, often with a star, in DESPERADO: AVALANCHE AT DEVIL’S RIDGE, INTO THE BADLANDS, THE YOUNG RIDERS, LIGHTNING JACK, WYATT EARP, WILD BILL, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, 3:10 TO YUMA, APPALOOSA, SHOOT FIRST AND PRAY YOU LIVE, DOC WEST, DEAD MAN’S BURDEN, and last year’s SWEETWATER! 

Jaden Roberts & Drew Waters

If I have any criticism of the recent crop of faith-based Westerns, it is that too many have ‘redemption’ in the title: there was 2011’s excellent REDEMPTION: FOR ROBBING THE DEAD, the current THE REDEMPTION OF HENRY MYERS, and last month I acted in BOONVILLE REDEMPTION.  It gets confusing!

REDEMPTION OF HENRY MYERS has appeared on the Hallmark Movie Channel, and is also available on DVD.


It’s been said that since the passing of the cinema’s Golden Age, roughly from the coming of sound to the 1950s, character actors are a dying breed – even a dead breed.  Author, interviewer and raconteur Justin Humphreys has given the lie to that claim, with his fascinating, informative, and wonderfully entertaining collection of interviews, NAMES YOU NEVER REMEMBER – WITH FACES YOU NEVER FORGET.  Published by Bear Manor Media, it should take its rightful place on your bookshelf, beside Leonard Maltin’s REEL STARS and Jordan Young’s REEL CARACTERS, tomes which interviewed and profiled the great character actors from previous decades. 

Mark Lawrence on THE RIFLEMAN

The final interview of the book, with the wonderfully villainous and delightfully gutter-mouthed Marc Lawrence, is the only conversation that goes back to the early 1930s.  The rest are with actors whose careers began post-war, and I was particularly surprised and pleased to learn quite a bit about two men I’d seen, but never known their names – Don Pedro Colley, whose imposing height and menacing presence made him a natural for sci-fi films and Blaxsploitation; and Buck Kartalian, whose diminutive stature on a body-builder’s frame has given him a long career in action, horror and sci-fi.  Both men have unforgettable roles in PLANET OF THE APES films – Buck as the cigar-puffing ape who abuses Heston, and Don, in BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES, as one of the ‘A’ bomb-worshipping mutants – and James Franciscus’ torturer.   

Royal Dano on THE RIFLEMAN

This is clearly a labor of love done over a long string of years – many of the books’ ten subjects are gone; one, Royal Dano, to whom it is dedicated, for two decades.  Western fans will be particularly interested in the interviews with Dano, R.G. Armstrong, Bo Hopkins, and L.Q. Jones – all Western specialists on the big and small screen, all frequent collaborators with Sam Peckipah, and L.Q. even wrote the forward. 

These are not Red-Carpet chats but detailed career discussions – R.G. Armstrong’s at 34 pages is only a little longer than average.  And in it you’ll learn about his desire to be a poet rather than an actor, how his time spent as a hobo would inform his performances as a lawman dealing with hoboes, how Peckinpah used Armstrong’s serious religiosity to create his hypocritical and fanatical religious roles in films like RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY. 

Dick Bakalyan takes the kill-shot in CHINATOWN

Dick Bakalyan, the pre-eminent juvenile delinquent of the 1950s, later Jack Nicholson’s nemesis, Detective Loach, in CHINATOWN, really grew up as a tough-guy – hence the famously flattened beak – and is endlessly cheerful discussing his strings of Sinatra films and Disney films.  But as with many of the interview subjects, his projections for the future of the industry are bleak for directors as well as actors.

Many of the subjects’ best stories are not about themselves, but about their co-workers.  Don Pedro Colley’s adventures working with Jack Palance in the deep south, and Palance’s sticking his neck out for the black members of the cast, are all the more impressive for being so unexpected.  High points of both Royal Dano’s and Mark Lawrence’s interviews are their memories of ‘Cookie,’ the great Elisha Cook Jr., the movies’ perennial victim and, to my surprise, a drunkard of epic proportions.  Another surprise is to find how funny in real life Royal Dano, almost always a tragic figure on-screen, really was.  His insights into working with directors Nicholas Ray on JOHNNY GUITAR and Alfred Hitchcock on THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY are revealing as well. 

Roger Corman made Jonathan Haze a genre star, casting him as the lead in the original LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, and he starred in easily a dozen more for the low-budget mogul.  But I was surprised to learn that, rather than sinking into obscurity afterwards, he moved behind the camera, often partnered with Oscar-winning cinematographer Haskell Wexler, and has had a series of successes.

Bo Hopkins in THE WILD BUNCH

Bo Hopkins had just as tough a beginning as Dick Bakalyan, a frequent runaway, in and out of homes, then reform schools, then given the choice of jail for a robbery, or joining the Army.  He fought in Korea, came back with acting scholarships that led to do plays from Kentucky to South Carolina to New York to Hollywood.  He made a smash in his first film role, playing Crazy Lee in THE WILD BUNCH, but he actually earned his S.A.G. card on THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW.


Speaking of THE WILD BUNCH, L.Q. Jones, half of my absolute favorite bounty-hunting team (with Strother Martin), reveals that he took his name from the character he played in his first movie, BATTLE CRY.  His story of how, as a non-actor, he got the part, and his dealings with director Raoul Walsh on BATTLE CRY and THE NAKED AND THE DEAD are too delicious to give away.  He also credits his buddy Fess Parker with getting him in the door and having his back (Morgan Woodward would tell me the same about Fess).  A man with many more facets to his personality than his screen villainy would suggest, L.Q. would also write and produce the wonderfully creepy THE BROTHERHOOD OF SATAN, and write, produce and direct the sci-fi classic A BOY AND HIS DOG, from Harlan Ellison’s novella. 

Buck Kartalian’s story of how we went, with no intervening steps, from being a professional wrestler, to acting onstage opposite Olivia De Havilland and Jack Hawkins in ROMEO AND JULIET is alone worth the price of admission. 
German-born, Canadian-raised Paul Koslo became a familiar, menacing face starting with OMEGA MAN, and has done a wide range of horror, action, sci-fi films, and Westerns like JOE KIDD, ROOSTER COGBURN and HEAVEN’S GATE.  His stories about Charles Bronson are as astonishing as they are disappointing – Mr. Deathwish comes off as an absolute bastard.  And yet, Bronson would hire Koslo for two more films!  Of equal interest is Koslo’s convincing analysis of the demise of the character actor: the tremendous rise of star salaries has reduced everyone else, regardless of their fame, experience and talent, to scale – take it or leave it.

It’s clear in the tone that some of the subjects were more eager to talk than others – Marc Lawrence continually interjects comments like, “I think you’ve got enough there to write fifteen articles.  What else do you want?”  But author Humphreys charmed and persuaded and cajoled the anecdotes out of them.  Along with the faces, there are a hundred stories you will never forget.  NAMES YOU NEVER REMEMBER – WITH FACES YOU NEVER FORGET, will give you hours of pleasure, ten unique perspectives on the film industry, and will send you searching for dozens of movies – ones that you’ve never seen before, and others you know well, but will appreciate on a whole new level.  I recommend it highly.    


Sam Elliot, the actor with the best ‘western’ voice to come along since Bill Conrad voiced Matt Dillon on radio’s GUNSMOKE, will be joining the cast of JUSTIFIED as a continuing character for its sixth, and final, season.  His character is Markham, an ex-gangster who has turned over a new leaf – the cannabis kind – and made a fortune growing legal weed in Colorado.  Also joining the cast is Garret Dillahunt, who played Ed Miller in THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES, Wendell in NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, and Sheriff Baskin in WINTER’S BONE.  His character, Walker (not a Texas Ranger), is a special ops-turned-security maven for a not-so-clean businessman.  JUSTIFIED returns to FX in January.


Fess Parker 

This coming Sunday, September 28th, INSP will bring back DANIEL BOONE, within four days of its NBC premiere in 1964. In the title role, Fess Parker had become a superstar on early television as Davy Crockett on a series of WALT DISNEY’S WONDERFUL WORLD OF COLOR episodes, and for insurance, NBC decided to have him wear the same wardrobe playing Boone, coonskin cap and all.  (As a result, virtually no member of my generation can separate the exploits of Boone and Crockett.) 

Fess Parker and Ed Ames 

For six seasons and 165 episodes, the series told the sometimes true, sometimes fanciful tales of the pioneer frontiersman who lived from 1734 to 1820, fought in the Revolutionary War, was captured by Shawnee warriors who planned to kill him and ended up adopting him, and who blazed his famous Wilderness Trail through the Cumberland Gap in the Appalachian Mountains.  Most of the stories take place in the town of Boonesborough, Kentucky. 

Starring along with Fess Parker was Patricia Blair as his wife Rebecca, Veronica Cartwright as their daughter Jemima, and Darby Hinton as their son Israel.  (For the record, Boone and Rebecca actually had ten children, and this past Friday at the Silver Spur Awards, host Darby Hinton explained that there were going to be two sons in the series.  But the producers were so pleased with his work in the pilot that they wrote the other son out.)

Over the years, Dan’l had several friends and sidekicks that drifted in and out, refreshing the series, including Ed Ames, of the singing Ames Brothers, as Mingo, Boone’s Oxford-educated half-Cherokee friend; crusty old Dal McKennon – incredibly, the voice of Archie Andrews in cartoons – as Cincinnatus; Albert Salmi as Yadkin; pro-football player Rosey Grier as Gabe Cooper; and country singer and sausage purveyor Jimmy Dean as Josh Clements.      

Patricia Blair, Darby Hinton, Fess Parker, Veronica Cartwright

Daniel Boone’s life, and hence the series, covered a period in American history that was not often shown, and the battles with the British military, and stories about slavery in a pre-abolitionist society, are pleasantly unfamiliar.  It started in black & white, and I prefer these tougher and darker tales than the later ones.  (I feel the same way about the first noir-ish episodes of SUPERMAN for that matter.) But there is plenty to recommend in the entire run of the series. 

As Doug Butts, SVP of Programming at INSP says, “DANIEL BOONE is not only entertaining. It embodies the timeless values and positive entertainment audiences have come to expect from INSP.  We couldn't be more thrilled to bring DANIEL BOONE to our lineup during the 50th anniversary of the series, and we believe it will be a great opportunity for a whole new generation of viewers to enjoy this family drama.”

INSP will begin with a star-studded 6-hour marathon on Sunday, September 28th, opening with the two-parter from the second season, THE HIGH CUMBERLAND, about the blazing of the Cumberland Trail.  It’s directed by Western specialist (he directed John Wayne eleven times) George Sherman, and written by D.D. Beauchamp, who started out with Abbott & Costello before becoming a Western pro.  The series will run Monday through Thursday at 10:00 a.m., ET.  If you don’t know if you get INSP, follow the link: <>.


On Saturday, September 27th, Get-TV will present an eight-film marathon featuring some of the very best of Col. Tim McCoy’s Columbia Westerns!  These were the absolute zenith of his career in talkies, and to have such a block of them is unprecedented!  It starts off with a bang at 9:00 a.m. PDT with 1932’s END OF THE TRAIL, featuring both an involving a story and, remarkable for its time, the Colonel speaking, as I recall, direct to camera, delivering a stunning indictment of the Federal Government’s failure to honor the terms of virtually any of the treaties it made with the Indian tribes.  It’s followed by THE PRESCOTT KID, SHOTGUN PASS, THE FIGHTING FOOL, TEXAS CYCLONE, TWO-FISTED LAW, DARING DANGER, and FIGHTING FOR JUSTICE, all from 1930-1933.  And they’re followed at 7:30 by three westerns I don’t know, RELENTLESS        (1948) starring Robert Young, THE PHANTOM STAGECOACH (1957) starring William Bishop and directed by Ray Nazarro, REPRISAL (1956) starring Guy Madison, and one we all know, THE OUTLAW (1943ish) starring Jack Beutel, Jane Russell, Walter Huston, Thomas Mitchell, and directed by the two Howards, Hughes and Hawks.  And here’s a link to find out if you can get GetTV:


This great picture from the ‘Spirit of The Cowboy’, held in McKinney, Texas on September 14th, was sent to me by CHEYENNE WARRIOR author Michael Druxman.  What a great gathering!
Upper row: Dan Haggerty, Michael Druxman, Clu Guhlager, James Stacey    
Middle row: Marshal Teague, Robert Fuller, Darby Hinton, Ken Farmer,  Bo Hopkins

In front: Alex Cord


Coming to the Round-up ASAP are an article on BOONEVILLE REDEMPTION, THE CINECON SALUTE TO CLAYTON MOORE, THE SILVER SPUR AWARDS, and tons of other good stuff! 

Have a great week!

Happy Trails,


All Original Content Copyright September 2014 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved