Tuesday, January 20, 2015
‘6 BULLETS TO HELL’ ONE HELLUVAH RIDE!, PLUS ‘HIGH NOON AUCTION’, CONTEST WINNER
‘6 BULLETS TO HELL’ – A Film Review
‘6 BULLETS TO HELL’ is one helluvah ride! I wasn’t sure if they could pull it off, but Tanner Beard and company have done it – made a movie that is both an homage to the Spaghetti Westerns of yore, as well as an exciting, involving and entertaining stand-alone Western in its own right. And they did it the traditional way – shooting in Almeria, Spain, on the same locations and sets that Leone, Corbucci, Clint Eastwood and Franco Nero made famous. They did it, as the Europeans did, without synch sound, featuring a cast speaking four different languages, all post-dubbed later. And they did it all in twelve shooting days!
To put you in the grindhouse mood, the movie opens with a pair of well-chosen 1960s Western trailers. Then, against soaring mountains, and a Western street some of us have seen a hundred times, into town ride Bobby Durango (co-writer and co-director Tanner Beard) and his gang (Ken Luckey, Nacho Diaz, Norberto Moran, Jack Queralt and Aaron Stielstra), who invade a church, terrorize the priest, and when he doesn’t have enough money to satisfy them, they head out of town for the bank where the church’s money is held. Their actions leave no doubt that they are without morals, and Bobby Durango has no respect for human life.
We move to the desert, where Billy Rogers (Crispian Belfrage), a former fast-draw lawman has hung up his guns, married the beautiful Grace (Magda Rodrguez), and is eking out a bare existence as a farmer. But they are in love, happy and hopeful, excited that she is carrying their first child. No sooner is Billy Rogers off to town for supplies then the Bobby Durango Gang appears, looking to water their horses, and finding Grace alone. She’s raped and killed.
Billy Rogers returns home to find his dreams shattered. Strapping on his guns, sometimes with the help of Sheriff Morris (co-writer and co-director Russell Quinn Cummings), he sets off to track down and kill the entire Bobby Durango Gang.
The rest of the story details the gang’s man-by-man pursuit by Billy Rogers, and manages never to be repetitive. There’s plenty of action – hard-riding, gunfights and fistfights – set against Olivier Merckx’s stunning cinematography. Merckx makes full use of the beautiful vistas and stark expanses of the Tabernas region, giving you a better sense of the vastness of the land than you usually had in the classic Spaghetti Western era, making extremely effective use of aerial photography and, when shooting indoors, allowing the white heat of the outdoors show unfiltered through the windows.
London-born Crispian Belfrage is no stranger to the cinema West, having previously appeared in DONNER PARTY, WEST OF THUNDER and DOC WEST. His character’s quest for vengeance must carry the movie, and he is utterly convincing in his pain and his rage. Tanner Beard is the self-obsessed villain who never cracks a smile, and his brutal confidence make him a worthy adversary – we’ve seen many an innocent used as a human shield, but the sight of him effortlessly carrying a squirming woman while firing around her is something lovely to behold. Other performances are all convincing, except when minor characters are purposely ‘over-the-top’, as is the tradition of the Euro Western.
Tanner Beard and Russell Quinn Cummings have previously collaborated on the fine LEGEND OF HELL’S GATE, shot in West Texas. 6 BULLETS is a film whose genesis was the result of chance meetings at the Almeria International Western Film Festival between Beard and Cummings, and festival men Chip Baker and Danny Garcia, both credited writers as well as producers on the film. The fifth writer is Jose Villanueva. Many from the same group of men are currently working to produce two more Westerns, THOU SHALT KILL, and REVEREND COLT, the latter to star James Russo.
6 BULLETS – The Red Carpet Interviews
CRISPIAN BELFRAGE – Lead Actor
Crispian Belfrage & Catherine Black
HENRY: Now, this is not your first Western movie.
CRISPIAN BELFRAGE: That’s right. I did DONNER PARTY, with Catherine Black, actually (Crispian’s date this night). That was more of a proper American history film, but it is a Western, isn’t it? Then I did another one, an Italian Western with Terence Hill, DOC WEST, for Italian television. So that was good fun. And now 6 BULLETS TO HELL. I think that’s it.
HENRY: So far. Most actors today haven’t had your Western experience. What draws you to the genre?
CRISPIAN BELFRAGE: I don’t know. It’s one of those things – I remember when I was a boy, looking at a poster of OUTLAW JOSIE WALES every day, when I was about 6, 7, and I just wanted to be Clint Eastwood in OUTLAW JOSIE WALES. And it’s just weird that I kind of have a slight affinity for that kind or area, that period. I have a great love for it. It’s one of those things that came around, one of those things in your life where you can go, oh my God, I actually get to do a lead in a – especially a spaghetti -- Western, shooting them where they did THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY, FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE, A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS.
HENRY: So that historical location really meant something special to you.
CRISPIAN BELFRAGE: Right there; it was really strange, Spain, the only desert in Europe. Incredible. And to have no licenses there? Well, there were licenses, but a license to do whatever you want. Making a cowboy film, a Western film in America, there are so many rules and regulations. Out there we could just do anything we wanted.
HENRY: What’s your next Western going to be?
CRISPIAN BELFRAGE: I’ve just been offered another Western; it’s actually being written at the moment. Five women in a gang, and five men in a gang, with a spiritual sort of ghost backdrop. It’s a film that I’m working on in London, at the moment, with the same director. And a couple of other movies – a horror movie called CUTTER, and one other film called THE RECTORY, about Harry Price, who was a parapsychologist in the 1930s, so a very different kind of odd character. Are you going to watch (6 BULLETS)?
HENRY: Absolutely. I saw the first twenty minutes, but then I had computer problems.
CRISPIAN BELFRAGE: It’s much better to see it blown up. You’ll love it.
TANNER BEARD – Writer, Director and Lead Villain
Russell Quinn Cummings & Tanner Beard
I’d interviewed Tanner Beard over the phone, and we’d exchanged many emails, but this was our first face-to-face-meeting.
HENRY: Hi, I’m Henry Parke from Henry’s Western Round-up.
TANNER BEARD: Henry, how are you – finally in the flesh?
HENRY: How are you doing?
TANNER BEARD: Great, really hard to complain.
HENRY: This is very exciting. So now tell me, now that you’ve shot a Western in Texas and one in Spain, how do the two experiences compare?
TANNER BEARD: Polar opposite, believe it or not. One thing about it, in Spain it’s called ‘Texas Hollywood’, which are the two places I’ve lived in my life. So when I got there, I thought the sign was for me at first. They’re both so historical. But shooting in Spain was like the Clint Eastwood version, and shooting in Texas was kinda like the John Wayne version, the different styles of filmmaking.
HENRY: In the original spaghetti westerns, they often had problems with people not speaking the same language when they’re acting together. Did you run into that?
TANNER BEARD: We had four different languages being spoken on-set, and that’s just between ‘cut’ and ‘action.’ That was the actors and crew. There were probably eleven or twelve different countries involved in the film as far as cast and crew goes. So it was very true to the way they used to make them back in the sixties.
HENRY: Now you shot in Spain, you edited in Texas. What was the editing process like?
TANNER BEARD: Familiar, thank goodness, because Silver Sail is also in Texas, we’re based in L.A. and Austin. So it was very cool for us to be working on footage from a different country, in your home-town neighborhood. Made it easier for us to do all the a.d.r. (dubbing) – we had three months of a.d.r. because we shot it in the tradition of shooting without sound, just like they used to do back in the day.
HENRY: What’s your next project, hopefully a Western?
TANNER BEARD: We do have another Western in the works, called THOU SHALT KILL, that we’re working on, but in front of that we have a Christmas movie called JUST BECLAUSE, that I co-wrote with the co-director of this one, Russell Cummings. Flipping the coin a bit, going 180 degrees and doing a Christmas movie, and jumping back in the saddle.
HENRY: Thank you so much.
TANNER BEARD: Thank you; so good to finally meet you, man.
RUSSELL QUINN CUMMINGS – Writer, Director and Actor
HENRY: This is your second Western, one in Texas, one in Spain. What are the differences.
RUSSELL QUINN CUMMINGS: Well, there’s no rules over in Spain, so shooting a western is very different. You’ve got people speaking different languages. Where we shot at was the only desert in Europe, so it’s a lot like America in a way, but you know it’s something special when you’re there. I can’t really explain it – it’s the lighting, it’s the spirit of all those old westerns that are there.
HENRY: Did you grow up watching spaghetti westerns?
RUSSELL QUINN CUMMINGS: I grew up watching all westerns.
HENRY: What are your favorites.
RUSSELL QUINN CUMMINGS: My favorites? Have to go TOMBSTONE, FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST. I love HONDO.
HENRY: I saw HONDO here in the Chinese a couple of months ago, in 3D.
RUSSELL QUINN CUMMINGS: Did you?
HENRY: Any more westerns in your future?
RUSSELL QUINN CUMMINGS: We have a couple in development. Hopefully we can go back to Spain and do another one.
JOSE VILLANUEVA - Writer
JOSE VILLANUEVA: Oh hi, Henry. Nice to meet you. I read your stuff all the time.
HENRY: What was it like making a Western in Spain?
JOSE VILLANUEVA: Actually I wasn’t there. I wrote it out here in California.
HENRY: I got tricked by your name – until you spoke I thought you were Spanish.
JOSE VILLANUEVA: I’m Cuban, I was born in Cuba, but I’ve been here for a long time. (Writer/Producer) Danny Garcia contacted me, and we started a collaboration, and this script came out of one of our collaborations. You know we love Spaghetti Westerns, so it’s our homage, and he wanted to shoot it al Almeria Studios, and so it’s really our love of that genre that got us to write the film. So I’m very proud. I haven’t seen the finished film – I’ve only seen a working print, so I’m very excited to see it tonight on the big screen.
HENRY: Do you think you have any other Westerns in your future?
JOSE VILLANUEVA: I’ve got three or four that Danny and I have been working on. And Tanner actually has one of them – he actually wrote the screenplay from our story. So hopefully in the next two or three years I’ll see my name on other westerns.
HENRY: I know that Danny’s been putting together REVEREND COLT with James Russo – is that one of your?
JOSE VILLANUEVA: That’s one of ours.
HENRY: Jimmy Russo and I worked on films together when we were in high school.
JOSE VILLANUEVA: Wow, that’s fantastic – I’m a big fan of his. So when Danny said, ‘Hey, I’m gonna give James Russo our script,’ and he loved it, that was a thrill. Hopefully we’ll see that film some day, get it made.
OLIVIER MERCKX - Cinematographer
Olivier Merckx and me
HENRY: Is this your first Western?
OLIVIER MERCKX: Yes; actually I did some music videos we shot at the same place, it was Western, but this is my first Western feature.
HENRY: What was it like shooting in Almeria?
OLIVIER MERCKX: I love it. It was the fourth or fifth time I shot there. The first time was in ’96, and nobody knew this place. It was really different at that time; no highway, no internet. I was not especially a western fan – I saw Westerns when I was a kid, and I saw SILVERADO in theatre, but after spending one week there I became a western fan, a true one. Finally I end up doing this movie there, and I hope I will do more there.
HENRY: How did you become part of this project?
OLIVIER MERCKX: It’s funny; because I love Almeria, and I heard about the Western Film Festival. It was the first one. I took a ticket and went there alone as a tourist. And I met Danny (Garcia) there, he was the organizer. And we talked, and he said, “I really want to do a Spaghetti Western here.” And I said I’m really interested to work with you on that. Give me a call. Two years after, he called me. “We had some problems; we were expecting to get more money. But we’re going to do it anyway, because the actors are coming. Are you in?” I said okay, I’m in. And I was not supposed to be the cinematographer. I was just supposed to do Steadi-cam. And like two weeks before we shoot, Danny calls me. "We don’t have a cinematographer because he got a bigger job. You want to do it?" I said, yeah why not?! And so I went there, and my biggest problem was that I didn’t have a lot of preparation for the project. But I knew the place, and I was such a Western fan I said, I want to do it.
HENRY: How long a shooting schedule did you have?
OLIVIER MERCKX: Only twelve days. I know it’s crazy, and I never worked so hard in my life. We had to shoot really fast, but that was the only way we could do it.
HENRY: Was a lot of this story-boarded in advance?
OLIVIER MERCKX: No – nothing! No storyboard, no shot-list! And sometimes you had to deal with the people there. Because we shot during the summer, during the tourist season, and they didn’t want to close the park for us. I show you an example. We are shooting the bank. And in MiniHollywood, they have this Coke machine in front of it. I said let’s move the machine. They move it in front of the window. What do you do, guys? I need the window for the light. “No more, buddy; we won’t change it anymore.” Every day was a surprise you had to deal with. Every day you were trying to find a solution. Sometimes you are supposed to have extras, and they don’t show up. That’s why I was in the movie, as the priest in the beginning. They were supposed to have an actor from France, but he got a more interesting project. So I did the lighting, set the camera, did the scene, then take off the costume and get back behind the camera.
HENRY: Do you think that it helped, working for speed, that you didn’t have to stop to record dialogue?
OLIVIER MERCKX: That’s all they did in the ‘60s, and it works in the spirit of Spaghetti Westerns. But the funny thing, because we were shooting that in a tourist attraction, whenever we start to shoot, they put on the music. But it was Morricone music! So you’re shooting a western and great Lord, you have Morricone music!
HENRY: That’s what Leone had done --
OLIVIER MERCKX: That’s right, for the third one (THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY) he had the music already recorded, and played on the set.
HENRY: I was struck by how much you used light contrast, how you let things white out in windows and doorways.
OLIVIER MERCKX: I didn’t have enough equipment, and we had to shoot so fast that I can’t put flags around the actors because it took too much time, so I had to deal with that.
HENRY: But it really worked; it was a great effect. That and the steady-cam, and some of the aerial photography gave it a very unique look. You really used the desert so well. Sometimes in films you get a quick look at the desert, and they zoom in on the character.
OLIVIER MERCKX: But it’s so beautiful there you have to use it. For the big screen you have to see the beautiful landscape. That’s what I like to see when I see a western. Even in the western town we try to use everything. Because we shot in two places. We shot in Mini-Hollywood, which Leone built for FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE. And the other one, Fort Bravo, it’s more like a studio, now. It’s a tourist attraction, but the other one is more like Disneyland. In Fort Bravo you can shoot every any direction almost. In Mini-Hollywood it’s more difficult. It’s still beautiful, but you have to be more careful. You think, ‘I’m going to shoot there,’ and suddenly there are fifty tourists there. And you cannot say, ‘Go away.’
JACK QUERALT - Actor
Olivier Merckx with Jack Queralt
HENRY: In the film you play Bad Boy, one of Bobby Durango’s gang. How did you get involved with 6 BULLETS?
JACK QUERALT: I’m from Spain, and it happened because I shot a movie called ORSON WEST, also shot in Spain – a kind of homage to Orson Welles, who wanted to make a film in Spain. Later on we went to the Almeria Film Festival, and one of the producers knew me, and said, “I want you to play one of the characters in my Western.” And I was so excited, because with my father I was always talking the Sergio Leone movies with Clint Eastwood. And I really as an actor was wanting to be a part of it. Especially in Almeria and Tabernas, where they had shot all of those movies – hundreds of them.
HENRY: What was the bst part of doing a Western?
JACK QUERALT: Just to be there, to feel that atmosphere when you are in Almeria, and you perceive all the people that passed their time there, all the shooting. It was a big challenge, because I was wanting to be my best. My father always said to me, “Son, you should do a Western, because your eyes get the right expression for it.”
HENRY: Has your father seen it yet?
JACK QUERALT: My father watched it in the Almeria Film Festival. He was real impressed.
HENRY: How do you like playing such a mean guy?
JACK QUERALT: The last movies I’m shooting in different parts or Spain and Italy, I’m always playing a bad guy. But I want to change a little bit, because my eyes and my expression can give a lot, and not just a bad guy; as a good guy too.
HENRY: What’s the next movie we should be watching for you in?
JACK QUERALT: Right now I’m shooting a scary movie called EVIL BEHIND ME. We’re shooting in English, but it’s a Spanish film. We shoot already the trailer last weekend, and I’m the lead character. The shooting starts in April, for about a month. Later on we’re going to present it at the Sitges Film Festival in Barcelona, just for horror films.
HENRY: There’s a lot of connection between Westerns and horror films. People who work in one often work in the other.
JACK QUERALT: Actually this is my second horror film. The first one was shot in Roma, SUHERIO, with Fabio Testi, one very popular actor in Italy. Do you know him?
JACK QUERALT: I think he shot some Westerns in the past.
HENRY: In the seventies, yes.
JACK QUERALT: Exactly, like with Franco Nero, too – I know him. My part was very short. I was the bad guy, just five or six scenes; no more than this. But good scenes are good enough.
MIKE SCHNAPP – DJ turned Actor
MIKE SCHNAPP: I was lucky enough to play Deputy Johnny Green in 6 BULLETS TO HELL. I’m somebody who grew up watching movies my whole life, and watched Westerns and Spaghetti Westerns. To be honored, to be able to be any part of that was so interesting. And rewarding, because I got to work with professionals and actors – and I’m no actor. I’m just some dude who looks kind of crazy. And Danny met me and said, “Hey, you’d look great in red underwear, with my hat on sideways,” and I said, okay. And it actually happened. I DJ’d for his film festival in Madrid, and he said, “Stick around and be in my movie!” And to be able to come to Hollywood, and see the movie become a real entity at the most real theatre ever is a freakout.
BAI LING – Actress
Not involved in 6 BULLETS TO HELL, Bai Ling is none-the-less a Western aficionado, featured notably in the WILD WILD WEST movie. She’s currently starring in and producing a Western, called YELLOW HILL (go HERE to see my Round-up article).
BAI LING: I like your shirt.
HENRY: Thank you. I’ve been covering YELLOW HILL in the Round-up. How do things stand?
BAI LING: We did the short film, and we want to do the feature film. Right now we’re in the process of making it. So I’m very excited, because it’s about this woman who comes back for revenge. So it’s very challenging, very very fun. Kind of like Clint Eastwood in the early movies. But it’s more than that. It’s really exciting.
HENRY: Well, I’ve spoken to your director, Ross Bigley, and seen the short version, and I was very impressed.
BAI LING: You like it? That’s cool.
HENRY: What other projects are you working on?
BAI LING: I’m very excited for 2015 – I have many movies to present to you. The first one is called THE KEY, based on a prize-winning novel. I got the lead, which was written for a white actress. It’s very provocative, very sexy, very sophisticated, so I’m looking forward to it. Right now I’m shooting SAMAURI COP 2, which is action and comedy – I’m very excited about that.
HIGH NOON AUCTION JAN 24-25 IN MESA, ARIZONA
Amsel's 'Shootist' art
Steve McQueen's MAGNIFICENT 7 gun
As it does every year, Brian Lebel’s High Noon Show and Auction presents an astonishing array of historical west and fictional west items up for bid. With 410 lots to bid on, I can only give you a taste of the variety of their offerings, but if you go HERE , you can preview every amazing item – and buy it, for that matter. There are pages of wonderful guns, but two stand out: Tom Horn’s Winchester Model 1894 30-30 (est. $125,000 - 175,000), and Steve McQueen’s MAGNIFICENT 7 prop shotgun (est. $12,000 -14,000). There’s a beautiful letter and sketch by Charlie Russell to Harry Carey (est. $90,000-150,000), many other items from the Harry Carey Jr. estate, and Amsel’s original painting for the poster from John Wayne’s final film, THE SHOOTIST. Among many items from the estates of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans is Dale’s charm bracelet presented to her on THIS IS YOUR LIFE (est. $12,000-16,000). There are spurs, saddles, beautiful Indian beadwork, a Dentzel carousel horse, Andy Anderson wood carvings, Bohlin bridles and Ortega hackamores. There are Kurt Russell costume and prop items from TOMBSTONE. Why not buy yourself a piece of history?
Dale Evan's charm bracelet
Charlie Russell letter to Harry Carey
Kurt Russell's Wyatt Earp costume from TOMBSTONE
Tom Horn's Winchester
LISA MCNUTT WINS OUR CALENDAR CONTEST!
There will be much celebrating in Gilbert, Arizona when word reaches its inhabitants that local favorite Lisa McNutt has won the beautiful Western Calendar from the delightful folks at Asgard Press. She correctly identified Max Brand’s most famous character as Dr. Kildare, Luke Short as the pen name of Frederick Gilley Glidden, and Zane Grey’s favorite sport as fishing. If you haven’t won, you might want to break down and buy one for yourself. Here’s their link: http://asgardpress.com/15-Westerns
AND THAT’S A WRAP!
Have a great week, and I’ll see you in the same spot next week!
All Original Contents Copyright January 2015 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved