Sunday, November 2, 2014


Updated 11-6-2014 - see HELL ON WHEELS Returns! 


As regular Round-up readers know (they may not care, but they know), I’ve had the pleasure of doing commentary tracks, along with director, screenwriter and Western novelist C. Courtney Joyner (SHOTGUN is his latest), on a number of Western movies, the most recent being the beautiful Blue Underground Blu-Ray edition of COMPANEROS, starring the wonderful Franco Nero and Tomas Milian, and directed by the legendary Sergio Corbucci.  You can read more about it HERE.  

Those kind-hearted  Blue Underground folks have offered me two of the COMPANEROS Blu-Rays to share with Round-up readers who truly deserve them, and I figure the most deserving among you are the ones who know the most about Franco Nero and his Westerns.  So, here’s what you need to do to win:  match the Franco Nero co-stars to the correct movies.  I’m giving the movies numbers, and the actors letters, so put your answers in a “1a, 2b” type format, and send it to , and put COMPANEROS in the subject line.  And make sure to include your name, phone number, and snail-mail address. On Sunday, November 9th, I’ll randomly select two winners from among all correct entries. 


a. Lynn Redgrave
b. Donald Pleasance
c. Martin Balsam
d. Anthony Quinn
e. Jack Palance
f. Woody Strode

Granted, some of these movies are known under several different titles, but who told you life was fair?  Incidentally, Blue Underground offers several Franco Nero westerns, including DJANGO; TEXAS, ADIOS; KEOMA, and Franco Nero crime thrillers including HOW TO KILL A JUDGE, STREET LAW, THE FIFTH CORD, and HITCH-HIKE.  Check out their website HERE.  


On Thursday night, October 23rd, KAUBOJI, or COWBOYS, had its second United States screening at Santa Monica’s AERO THEATRE.  KAUBOJI is based on a popular comedy stage play written by Sasa Anocic, who stars in the film.  The direction, as well as script adaptation, is by Tomislav Mrsic.
Croatia’s official submission to The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the Best Foreign Language Oscar, KAUBOJI is a clever and touching comedy that might just reach that Oscar goal. 

Set in an ugly and unwelcoming industrial town, it’s the story of Sasa Anlokovic (Sasa Anocic), a frail and defeated-looking theatre director who returns to his hometown at the invitation of his old friend, the Mayor (Niksa Butijer), to produce a play, in hopes of brightening the existences of a people who haven’t seen a stage production of any kind in decades.  Sasa is dubious, but has no better offers and one senses that, like Julian Marsh (Warner Baxter) of 42ND STREET, he needs a success, and badly.  He holds an open-call for actors, and in a delightful reversal of CHORUS LINE, where the auditioners reveal their entire lives, here, out of excessive caution, fear or stupidity, the director approaches emotional collapse trying to get them to reveal anything about themselves.  What quickly becomes clear is that there is not a soul in town who is an actor, and there are only a handful of people willing to learn.  Therefore, every auditioner, no matter how clueless, is awarded a role in the show – even the girl who no one can understand, and her brother who cannot or will not speak, and whose fascination with anything electrical is a source of constant danger. 

The dubious director

A first-time meeting with the assembled cast reveals that almost none have ever seen a play.  Director Sasa quizzes them on what TV shows they like – they only watch news!  He hits pay dirt when one mentions he likes Western movies.  It turns out they all do – from STAGECOACH to RIO BRAVO, from Spaghetti Westerns to Winnetou, it’s their only common ground, and the director quickly begins fashioning a Western story for them, using every stock character and plot cliché known to the genre.

"You've got the part!"

Reminiscent in tone and humor and subject-matter to films like BILLY ELLIOT and THE FULL MONTY, where desperate people find hope in the theatre, KAUBOJI takes it one step farther, because the Western genre that unites all of these odd strangers is based on the struggles of right vs. wrong, good vs. evil, and the triumph of the individual.  These poor shlubs seem never to have had a triumph in their lives.  But all of them, from the pathetic Momma’s boy, to the hypochondriac, to the cowardly lackey of the mobster-deodorant king, grow themselves a pair, looking out for themselves and for each other.  Their bonding comes not over whiskey and poker and campfires, as in their play, but over bowling and weed – but it gets them there, and they manage to create something that gives them great pride, and makes them better people, better men -- and one better woman -- for the experience.   

The Mysterious Stranger

While some of the comedy is broad, and a little coarse, it is based in reality, and there is also a fair amount of wistfulness and sadness, and plenty of heart.  It ends leaving you as much touched as amused.  I strongly recommend it.

The saloon

KAUBOJI is part of the 14th year of the Kino Croatia: New Film series of the American Cinematheque, a program run by filmmaker Matko Malinger.  The movie was followed by a musical performance, on a saloon set, by Croatian and Czech singers and musicians who did a dynamite version of the Bon Jovi classic DEAD OR ALIVE, and a spirited pseudo-western song called WHISKEY, which I’m guessing was in Croatian or Russian. 

The funeral

This led to a reception in the lobby which featured a tasty selection Croatian pastry, Croatian beer, Croatian wine, and even Croatian bottled water for those with a long drive ahead of them.  I found myself chatting with the talented guitarist from the musical performance, Milan Skorjanec, who surprised me by telling me he’d only had a couple of days to learn the songs.  An immigrant from Croatia, he’s an electrical engineer by trade, but still a musician by compulsion, and he grew up with many of the same Westerns as we in the States did.  And as he reminded me, Croatia has its own history and heritage with the Western movie.  Fans of the Winnetou films of the 1960s, starring Pierre Brice as the Apache chief, Lex Barker as Old Shatterhand, and Stewart Granger as Old Surehand, know they were based on German author Karl May’s stories, and made by German companies.  They may assume that the films were shot in Germany, but they were in fact lensed in Yugoslavia, is what once was, and is once again, Croatia.  Milan tells me they’re now shooting much of GAME OF THRONES in the same locations. 

Guitarist Milan Skorjanec


The 24th Annual American Indian Marketplace will be held at the Autry next Saturday and Sunday, showcasing more than two hundred artists representing more than forty tribes.  I attend this event every year, and am always astounded by the range of art on display.  Whether your interests run to silver, beadwork, leather, painting, pottery, drums, jewelry – you’ll find it here, in a 25,000-square foot tent.  Best of all, you’ll find the artists, who are happy to talk about their work.  It’s free to members, $12 for non-members, and less for students and children.  There are a number of other events involved, beginning on Friday night.  For more information, go HERE.


From noon ‘til 4 you can time-travel to the days of the great Spanish ranchos as you stroll the grounds of Rancho Camulos, the very location that inspired Helen Hunt Jackson to write RAMONA, one of the most beloved romances in the history of California, and the subject of the annual Ramona Pageant (more about the pageant from an earlier Round-up HERE).

There will be costumed re-enactors, children’s activities, a book store, gift shop, food trucks, and best of all, a wonderful historical atmosphere in which to lose yourself!  I’ve attended this event several times and loved it.  HERE is a link to a write-up from one of my previous visits.    


Considered ‘lost’ for decades, the silent 1928 version of Helen Hunt Jackson’s RAMONA, starring the luminously beautiful Dolores del Rio, was recently discovered in the film archives of the Czech Republic!  I can imagine no more perfect place to see it – Helen Hunt Jackson’s brief visit to Rancho Camulos, in Piru, California, inspired the story, and provided its setting – and D. W. Griffith even shot the first film version at the Rancho, starring Mary Pickford.  Following tapas and wine, the film will screen in the Rancho’s 1930 schoolhouse, to a live musical accompaniment, and will be followed by a panel discussion of RAMONA experts, led by film historian Hugh Munro Neely.  The price is $50 per person, and you may learn more, and purchase tickets, by going HERE.


Following a maddening one-month hiatus, HELL ON WHEELS returns to AMC Saturday night, November 8th with BLEEDING KANSAS.  I just saw it last night, and it is very good – but in what is often a very tough show, it is the most sanguineous episode I can recall.  You’ll learn what happened after Church-lady Ruth fired on Sid.  You’ll find out why Thomas Durant is nicknamed ‘Doc’.  You’ll see what happens when Mickey McGinnes’ friends from the New York’s Dead Rabbits gang come to Cheyenne.   Like I said, it’s a tough one, so you might want to have a stiff drink first.  Or bite a bullet.  After this one, just two more episodes left for season four!

If you need to a catch up, HERE is a link that’ll show you several ways to do so. 


Tommy Lee Jones and Hillary Swank in THE HOMESMAN

Hope you had a great Halloween, and enjoy the week ahead.  I saw THE HOMESMAN this week and loved it, and I’ll be reviewing it next week!  THE HOMESMAN was first a wonderful novel by Glendon Swarthout, and I hope to have with my review, my interview with Glendon’s son, novelist Miles Swarthout, who adapted to the screen Glendon’s previous novel, THE SHOOTIST, and who has just published a SHOOTIST sequel novel, THE LAST SHOOTIST.

Happy Trails,


All Original Contents Copyright November 2014 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved

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