Tuesday, August 6, 2019

‘THE OUTSIDER’ – THE NEW TRACE ADKINS WESTERN, REVIEW AND INTERVIEW WITH DIRECTOR, PLUS 3 JOHN FORDS YOU’VE NEVER SEEN, UPCOMING SILVER SPUR AWARDS, AND MORE!






THE OUTSIDER – A MOVIE REVIEW
By Henry C. Parke

With the Marshal out of town on business, a Deputy (Mitchell Johnson) jails Chinese railroad worker Jing (John Foo) so friend James (Kaiwai Lyman) can assault Jing’s wife (Nellie Tsay). Marshal Walker (Trace Adkins) returns to town to find Jing has slaughtered many of James’ friends, and won’t stop until James is dead. The Marshal sympathizes, but knows he must bring Jing in. He knows James is an unrepentant swine; but James is also his son.

THE OUTSIDER is a dark, grim, but involving revenge Western that avoids the trap of the endless clones of THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES by focusing more on the Marshal and company, and their motives and motivations, than on Jing, who we already understand. Relationships change in unexpected ways, and characters who seemed incidental don’t always stay that way.

The direction and performances are consistently strong, and Trace Adkins demonstrates again, as he did in both THE VIRGINIAN and STAGECOACH: THE TEXAS JACK STORY, that he can carry a Western, although here he has ample assistance. This is a physically dark movie: three quarters of it happens at night, half of it in the rain -- it’s the wettest movie I’ve seen since the original DJANGO. But cinematographer Pablo Diez’s gift for color and composition finds beauty throughout, working in perfect visual harmony with production designer Markos Keyto.  This third Western from director Timothy Woodward Jr. is his strongest yet.



‘OUTSIDER’ DIRECTOR TIMOTHY WOODWARD JR.

Off the top of my head, I can think of only three living directors who have made three Westerns: Kevin Costner, Simon Wincer (LONESOME DOVE, etc.) and Timothy Woodward Jr. Woodward is 36, or will be soon, and has already directed sixteen features, from Horror to Sci-fi to Crime Drama to Westerns. His first, TRADED, was a very impressive entrance into the genre, and his newest, THE OUTSIDER, is even better. “I love the genre. I grew up watching Westerns; my grandfather would have them on all the time after school. There's something magical about their kind of moral, where all the branches of government are on your hip. It was a simpler time in certain ways and more difficult in other ways. Just the complexity of it, the scenery -- I love all of it.”

In 2016’s TRADED, a father (Michael Pare) must find his daughter, who’s been lured with the opportunity of becoming a Harvey Girl, then sold into prostitution. It also stars Kris Kristofferson, Trace Adkins and Tom Sizemore. In 2018’s HICKOK, Luke Hemsworth plays Wild Bill at a time early in his career, when he becomes a lawman. It also features Kris Kristofferson and Trace Adkins, as well as Bruce Dern.

In 2019’s THE OUTSIDER, Trace Adkins moves from villain to lead. I was in Alabama recently, speaking to Adkins on the set of THE ULTIMATE COWBOY SHOWDOWN, which he hosts, and which premieres on INSP October 14th.  He was very excited about THE OUTSIDER, and told me, “It's a really interesting character to play because, well, I was a bad guy, but now I've kind of seeking redemption. But his seed is bad and there's just nothing to do about it. My son is a lost cause. It's a really interesting role.”


Trace in the rain


THE OUTSIDER arrives on Blu-Ray and DVD on Tuesday, August 6th. It’s already available digitally.

Henry Parke:   You said you watched Westerns with your grandfather. What were you watching?
Tim Woodward:  He used to watch GUNSMOKE all the time. And then, I loved TOMBSTONE, BUTCH CASSIDY.  We used to watch everything. He was a huge John Wayne fan, from STAGECOACH to THE SEARCHERS, but he would watch whatever was on TV, and there was always a lot of stuff on Saturdays.

Henry Parke:   Did the script for THE OUTSIDER come to you or did you develop it?

Tim Woodward:  My distributor was saying, we really would like for you to do another Western; here's a couple of ideas. So the idea was that, at this time period, the Chinese were coming through, building the railroad, and we just started doing some research.

Henry Parke:   This is your fourth film with screenwriter Sean Ryan. You two most to have a really exceptional rapport.

Tim Woodward:  I like Sean a lot; some of my earlier films are with him. I hadn't worked with him in a couple of years and I thought he'd be a great for this because his detail for action and his detail for character, he can create conflict. Sometimes it's not the word spoken, but the word unspoken that means a lot. So we kind of bounce off each other. And there's ideas that come to me, on-set, and Sean has no, no problem with that. Being able to allow me to adjust these things by saying, what if this character resists this way or that? We work really well together.

Henry Parke:   Revenge stories are familiar and popular, especially in Westerns, but the structure of yours is very unusual. Characters that seem to be minor become major; characters that traditionally would be there until the end, die. And revelations about characters change how you feel about them. So your story does not play it safe and predictable. Did the fact that you were not going on a traditional straight line for a Western concern you?

Tim Woodward:  It didn't, because I'd done two before, and my goal is always to challenge myself to do something different. TRADED was a very classical story, a nice throwback to some of the 1940s, 1950s westerns that I loved. Then with HICKOK we wanted a different approach. More of the myth, the way the comic books used to play Hickok, instead of the traditional, exact history of how he looked at things.  With THE OUTSIDER, this is a dark time for the Chinese. Let's take these characters and let's put them in a very bad situation, bad for everyone involved. Where the bad guy's not necessarily the bad guy, or at least he believes what he's doing, and everyone is affected by this. Our central protagonist, he's affected, but all these other characters, they're just as much in the mix and they have just as much conflict. Telling that kind of story was interesting and I think you hit it on the head: there's so many times where you know exactly what's coming. And I really just wanted to try something new where we just mixed it up a little bit and we said, okay, let's keep you engaged, but let's throw you off a little bit, not let you know the next step of what's happening, and let's bring certain character flaws to light later in their traits.

Henry Parke:   I was talking to Trace Adkins a couple of months ago, and he was telling me how much he enjoys working with you. Trace has been in all your westerns, and now he's moved up from villain to protagonist. What does he bring to your films in particular?

Tim Woodward:  Trace Adkins is a star. I mean, he has such a big presence. In person, he's the nicest guy you'll meet. But when he gets on camera, I don't even think Trace realizes how good he is. He really is his toughest critic, but he has just an aura about him. He draws people in. I mean, it's the voice, the height, it's the intensity that he can bring. He's just got it, you know? Whatever character he is playing, he comes in and he just manhandles it. Without going too detailed in the story, he has a lot of inner conflict going on,  he's very conflicted, and I think he did a great job; I was super happy with his performance.

Henry Parke:   In addition to Trace, you work with certain actors a lot: Kris Kristofferson, Danny Trejo, Kaiwi Lyman, John Foo. Are you trying to do the John Ford thing and create your own stock company?


Jon Foo and Sean Patrick Flanery

Tim Woodward: (laughs) A little bit. You know, I like working with people that I trust. It’s such a collaborative effort. If I get along with them and I can see the picture with them, I continue to work with them. Michael Pare is another person that I've worked with a lot, and Johnny Messner. There's certain roles and certain films that I feel like soon as I read them, this would work great for them and I know they can bring performance. Kaiwai Lyman's a guy that's on the rise, he's a star in the making. And John Foo’s got something special about him too.

Henry Parke: Pablo Diaz has shot nine films for you. I'm just struck by the beauty of his work. What’s special about his work, and your working relationship, that you'd have done so many pictures together?

Tim Woodward:  Well, we have a friendship, we have a trust in each other. We have a bond. When I say hey, here's this western, and I want to shoot it where 75% of it's night, and I want 50% of it to be pouring rain. First thing is Pablo is like, “Uh, okay. Here's what we should do. Here's how we can make it look beautiful.”  And Pablo is also just extremely gifted in the fact that he doesn't like to settle. Neither one of us do. So we will sit there and we will try as hard as we can with the resources we have available to make something that we both feel like has a chance of being special to everyone else -- it's already special to us. We really push ourselves hard. I know it's gonna be cold nights and 30 degree weather, but I'm here with you. Pablo has been there for me on that journey and he's helped me grow as a director, and I've watched him grow as a DP. I hope I do 20 more 30 more films with Pablo. Cause I love being on set all the time, and I love working with him.

Henry Parke:   Speaking of how dark and how wet the film is, it's always more expensive shooting at night. And rain effects are tricky, and run up expenses. Why, when you're doing a film that you have to be able to deliver on a budget, were those choices so important to you?

Tim Woodward:  Because for me, it was the movie. This tragic event happens and it's dark. The future is uncertain. The rain blocks what we can see. So besides trying to do something completely different than what I'd done before, it's just not something you think about when we imagine cowboys and horses. The first thing that pops in your head, small town, the brown dirt.  We don't think about mud and a horse riding through the rain.  Visually, I think it's striking, but I also think when you had those components to it, it adds an element of, like “trappedness”.  I wanted you to feel the character's emotions, feel this darkness.

Henry Parke:   Do you storyboard a lot?

Tim Woodward:  I don't storyboard. I like to get on set. I want to breathe it in, I want to look at it, I want to feel around it. I want to communicate with my DP and my actors. And then figure out a way of making it look as good as we can with the environments we have.  I've tried to story board before and found that it traps me on smaller budget film because I get this stuck in my head, maybe it takes two hours to do the shot. I'm trying to build it from the ground up. We have this amazing landscape here already, that works great for the character. Now let's figure out within that world, how do we make this look amazing and work for the story.


Trace Adkins and Kaiwi Lyman


Henry Parke:   Do you have a sense of how many pages a day you do, or how many setups a day on an average?

Tim Woodward:  It really depends on what type of scene it is. I've done scenes where I've only done three pages a day because it's calls for tons of extras. And I've done some where we've been at seven to eight pages a day. It just really depends on what we're doing and how smart we're blocking it off. Usually in these types of budgets, we'll shoot all of our town exteriors over the course of a couple of days, where we've got 50 extras. What we don't have is a ton of time; we're talking three, four-week shoots for these westerns, and when you have live animals and action, all this stuff, it's definitely tough to do. But it's also really rewarding.

Henry Parke:   The majority of your audience will not be seeing it on a big screen, but at home. Does that change the way you shoot and compose your shots?

Tim Woodward:  Not as much, just because you really hope they're going to see it on a big screen. But it does make you a little more conscious of the close-ups just because with streaming especially things can get compressed.  Someone on a big screen, in a medium shot, standing tall, you can see him really well. Then you get to the small screen and it's a little bit harder to see. So sometimes we go a little bit tighter in certain conversations for that, but I just feel like content is content now. People are watching it every which way. So we just try to make it the best we can.

Henry Parke: You shot at Big Sky Ranch, Caravan West, and were you the last film at Paramount Ranch before it burned?

Tim Woodward:  Yes, we were. We’d taken a few days to shoot at Big Sky, and were scheduled to go back to Paramount Ranch the next Friday, and the fire struck.  I had to recreate certain buildings. Jon Foo in the prison cell; we had to recreate that prison set. We were able to use the wide shot from an earlier scene that established the two characters, a little bit of manipulation and split screening and then do the closeup somewhere else.

Henry Parke:   What was the biggest challenge to making THE OUTSIDER?

Tim Woodward:   The wind, the rain effects and the fire going at one time. The mountains were blazing while we were filming at Big Sky. We had the fire department down below, I'd come out from being under these rain machines, the wind was going about 40 to 50 miles an hour -- so it would blow the rain any which way. We had to have a rain-tower set up 30 feet, behind the actors, then one in another direction, one in another direction, just in case, whichever way the wind blew. But you would come out from this rain and then all of a sudden the mountain would be on fire and you're just looking at it in awe. So that was challenging for sure. And I did a lot of “one-takers” in this movie, where we were on one character -- there's a six minute one, a one take scene.

Henry Parke:   Do you know what your next Western's going to be?

Tim Woodward:  I'm looking at a few things. I've got a story of John Wesley Harden that I really like a lot, and we may incorporate some of the guys from HICKOK in that. Someone has brought up, but the idea of a sequel for TRADED, and then I've got a story about Belle Starr as well. I can say with certainty that I'm going to do another western for sure. 

Henry Parke:   Anything else I should know?

Tim Woodward: I just want to say that the cast did a great job. I think it's on screen. Sean Patrick Flannery, this is my first time working with him, but I was so impressed by him. Nellie NeeYa, who played John Foo's wife, she needs a tremendous amount of credit for what she gave to the story. And again, we're not on a soundstage shooting this where it's a nice environment. We have 40 mile-an-hour winds, we've got rain flying everywhere. We've got dirt, dust. We've got a very tough environment. I think everybody did really well in my crew.

THREE JOHN FORDS YOU HAVEN’T SEEN!

Alpha Video never ceases to amaze me! Month after month they come out with the oddest and most intriguing films, and they all list price for under $10! Here are three new releases, all directed by John Ford.



JUST PALS – a 1920 silent starring the formidable but endearing Buck Jones was the first film Ford directed when he switched studios from Universal to Fox. Jones plays Bim, an aimless layabout who wants to reform when he befriends 10 year old Bill (Georgie Stone). Bim sends Bill to school, to become something better than Bim himself has, an honorable act not unnoticed by teacher Mary (Helen Ferguson). It’s well-made and charming, and if the plot sounds similar to that of Chaplin’s THE KID, which made a star of Jackie Coogan, keep in mind that JUST PALS was made a year earlier.



SEX HYGIENE – In the collection SEX EDUCATION FILMS FROM WORLD WAR II is John Ford’s SEX HYGIENE, which is about – you guessed it – what not to do if you’re a soldier or sailor who doesn’t want to catch something awful. Ford directed the non-clinical scenes, mostly of military types shooting pool and discussing whether or not to go out and have a good time. The players include George Reeves, later TV’s Superman, and Robert Lowery, later the Columbia serial’s Batman. The clinical footage is done by Otto Brower, a talented Western director who helmed FIGHTING CARAVANS (1931) starring Gary Cooper, and many others. BUT BE WARNED, THE MEDICAL SECTIONS ARE NOT FOR THE YOUNG AND/OR IMPRESSIONABLE! You will see more diseased penises in ten minutes than a brothel-worker sees in a lifetime.  Also included in the set, directed by Oscar-winner Lewis Milestone is KNOW FOR SURE, featuring John Ford regulars Ward Bond, Tim Holt, and J, Carrol Naish. And TO THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES stars Jean Hersholt, of DR. CHRISTIAN fame, Robert Mitchum, Noah Beery Jr., and is directed by Arthur Lubin, of PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and FRANCIS THE TALKING MULE fame. Ford’s is the only one of the three you need to cover your eyes for.



THIS IS KOREA – John Ford had made a number of fine gung ho documentaries for the War Effort during Word War II (besides SEX HYGIENE), including THE BATTLE OF MIDWAY and DECEMBER 7TH, and in 1951 went to Korea to do it again. At first it seems like his WWII films, only in color, but it is a much more grim film as it progresses. Ford didn’t like anything he saw about how the war was handled. The conditions of the citizenry are awful, and those of our military were not much better. Some of the commentary on the action is jarring – a soldier fires a flame-thrower into a cave while the narrator says, “Fry ‘em out! Burn ‘em out! Cook ‘em! We found ‘em dug in ten feet deep!” Later the camera shows a large cemetery of American soldiers, as a narrator whispers, “Remember us…Remember us…”  The government wouldn’t release it, but finally Republic Pictures did. Not fun, but fascinating.


SILVER SPURS IN SEPTEMBER!



On Friday, September 20th, the Reel Cowboys will host the 22nd Annual Silver Spur Awards, which will celebrate three TV series marking their 60th anniversaries: BONANZA, LARAMIE, and RAWHIDE. After many years at The Sportsman’s Lodge, the event is moving to Burbank, and the Calamigos Equestrian Center. Honorees will be Bobby Crawford of LARAMIE, Clint Eastwood (hope he comes!), Darby Hinton of DANIEL BOONE, Margaret O’Brien of BAD BASCOMB (and MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS), stuntman Jack Gill, and RIDE THE HIGH-COUNTRY star Mariette Hartley. Others planning to attend include Morgan Brittney, Dawn Wells, Johnny Crawford, L.Q. Jones, Pat Boone, Cathy Garver, Rosey Grier, and Robert Carradine. 

There’s always a delicious dinner, a silent auction, lively entertainment.  This year the event will be benefiting The Gary Sinise Foundation. Tickets are $200 for general, $250 for premium. You can learn more, and buy tickets, by calling 818-395-5020, or going to SilverSpurAwards.com.

AND THAT’S A WRAP!
HAPPY TRAILS,
HENRY
ALL ORIGINAL CONTENT COPYRIGHT AUGUST 2019 BY HENRY C. PARKE – ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Sunday, June 9, 2019

‘LEGEND OF 5 MILE CAVE’ PREMIERES ON INSP TONIGHT! READ MY ON-THE-SET JOURNAL! PLUS ROY ROGERS DVD REVIEW, AND MORE!!





LEGEND OF 5 MILE CAVE
SHOOTING INSP’S NEW WESTERN AT OLD TUCSON
By Henry C. Parke

The INSP network has long been a home to quality Western films and television, beginning with their Saddle-Up Saturday, which expanded to include Sunday, and then chunks of the weekdays as well. They’ve been making original movies for a few years, and Western-adjacent programming, most notably the hit reality series The Cowboy Way, for some time. So it was inevitable that someday they would bite the bullet and make their own Western movies. Now they’ve made their first, hopefully the first of many, with The Legend of 5 Mile Cave. I was absolutely delighted when INSP invited me to come to Old Tucson for a couple of days, and watch the fireworks.

There is no other place in the world quite like the Old Tucson Movie Studio, just outside of Tucson, Arizona. It was first used as a filming location in 1939 for the Columbia Pictures Western Arizona. The epic tale of the 1860s settling of Tucson, which required the construction of fifty buildings, starred William Holden and Jean Arthur, and was produced at a then-staggering cost of $2 million. Actual ancient adobe walls were incorporated into the new Western streets, and they’re still visible today.

Over 400 movies and TV shows have been filmed there since then, including recent favorites like Tombstone and The Quick and the Dead, and classics like Winchester ’73 and Broken Arrow. John Wayne starred in four films there: Rio Bravo, McClintock!, El Dorado and Rio Lobo.  In addition to the dozens of Western TV series that visited there, it was home base for The High Chaparral, whose ranch house still stands.

To keep things going when the popularity of Westerns seemed to have crested, parts of the studio were turned into a Western-themed amusement park; coincidentally, that’s what was also done to Sergio Leone’s film locales in Spain, for the same reasons, and both are again very busy production locations.


Jeremy Sumpter, as Shooter Green, takes aim


The Legend of 5 Mile Cave is a story set in two time-periods. The 1880s story is about Shooter Green (Jeremy Sumpter), a dazzling marksman who takes on a dangerous job so he can afford to marry the woman he loves, banker’s daughter Josie Hayes (Alexandria DeBerry). The 1920s story centers on a young boy named Tommy (Jet Jurgensmeyer), whose dime-novel-fueled obsession with Shooter Green is enhanced by ranch-hand Sam Barnes (Adam Baldwin), who in his youth knew Shooter.
I arrived at Old Tucson at 8 a.m., two hours before the park opened to the public. There is always something magical about Western movie sets and streets, whether deserted, or in the midst of production. I made my way along the Rio Bravo Street, skirted a remaining piece of the O.K. Corral, to Town Hall, the base camp for the film.


Adam Baldwin as Sam Barnes


As I entered the rotunda, the pharmacy set to my left had been converted to the make-up department. To my right, the bank interior set – scene of countless hold-ups – had been commandeered by wardrobe. Straight ahead was town hall, or a courtroom, depending on how the set was dressed.  The man on the judge’s bench directed me to the assistant director, who introduced me to a tall young man who was one of the film’s producers, Jason White. We hopped into his RV, along with his assistant, and headed out to location.



The route into the Sonoran Desert was a baffling series of random-seeming switchbacks, hills and valleys dominated by countless saguaro cactus, mesquite plants, and creosote bushes covered with tiny yellow flowers and tiny cotton-like puffs. In a moment, all signs of civilization were gone. En route, Jason and I talked about movies in general, and 5 Mile Cave in particular, and producer Gary Wheeler gave me more details when we met up on location.   

GARY WHEELER & JASON WHITE - Producers

Henry Parke:   How did 5 Mile Cave come about?

Gary Wheeler:  I did a movie with Nancy Stafford called Heritage Falls a couple of years ago and she said, you have to meet this actor/writer named William Shockley. I live in Charlotte, and William was scouting Charlotte for a movie, and I said sure, how can I not? I knew William’s work from Dr. Quinn. We met at a little restaurant, and he started talking about all the scripts that he'd written with his partner, Dustin Rikert, that he wanted to get made, everything from a modern-day love story to an action movie, and kind of buried in the middle of them was, “and we wrote this one family Western about Legend of 5 Mile Cave.” And then he kept going, and I said, let's go back to that little one you mentioned in the middle. He vowed to send me all the scripts, and he sent a bunch, but the one I kept looking for was 5 Mile Cave, and I even said, hey, send me that one. And I read it, liked it, my executive producers liked it. We put a deal together quickly, and we're in production less than a year later.

Henry Parke: Wow -- that is fast!

Gary Wheeler:  You know, I've done movies where it's taken years to develop, and then I've done movies where it comes together very quickly, and usually when that happens, it turns out well.

Henry Parke:  How long have you been working together?

Jason White: Just about two years. Not too long, but we've done about five movies so far together, ranging from romcoms to action movies to family dramas. So, yeah, it's been fun.

Henry Parke:   Could you explain for a layman what a producer does?

Jason White:   It’s kind of like you’re building a house, and I'm a general contractor. It takes a lot of people to build a house; takes a lot of people to make a movie. We assemble a team, and I try to get out of their way, and let them do what they do best. We work together great; we always have good crews. This time in particular we're blending a crew. We shoot a lot of our movies out east, in Georgia, so about half our crew is from the east coast, and half our crew is from here, and they've just melded together great. Which, you know, doesn't always happen. It's kind of nice. It's kind of like a family.

Henry Parke:   How much of this film was shot in Georgia?


Tommy reads about Shooter Green


Jason White:   About two thirds. Legend of 5 Mile Cave is a retelling, from an older gentleman to a younger kid, who’s gotten a pulp novel, and thinks he knows the real story. But this older gentleman says, no, I'll tell you what really happened to Shooter Green. We have a lot of flashbacks, and that's what we're shooting here in Arizona.  Georgia is present day, which is 1920s, so not really present day, but within our movie it's present day. And it was fun, too. We had a lot of 1920s Model A Fords, a lot of period 1920s costumes. Amazingly, we found a 1920s house in Georgia totally redone inside, like the 1920s, which is hard to find because once electricity came in, houses changed. This one had electricity, but we worked around that. And it looks great.

Henry Parke: How did you go about casting the film?

Gary Wheeler:  Beverly Holloway is our casting director. We had several people in mind. You make your lists like any movie, and you find cornerstone people.  We had worked with Jill Wagner before, and I texted Jill, hey, we got a Western. She's in the Georgia portion. And Jet Jurgensmeyer plays her son, and he's a kind of a cowboy kid anyway, so he loved it. We called William (Shockley) and I said, how about playing this character? You wrote him. He was like, I'm in! And then we got Adam Baldwin, and I've always been a big fan of Adam’s dating back to My Bodyguard – that was a sentinel eighties movie for me. Then I have always been a Jeremy Sumpter fan, I liked him from Friday Night Lights. I knew he was a cowboy, and I saw footage of him cutting cattle, and I thought he would be a great Shooter Green.

Henry Parke:   How many horses do you have in this picture?

Jason White:   We have six on the stage-coach, and probably another five or six, so like 12 or 13. Jesse Bell has bred and trained all these horses. He's from Tombstone originally and he runs the stables here at Old Tucson.

Henry Parke:   What are the biggest challenges you found doing a period film with two periods?

Jason White:   That you can't show anything modern: can't show a power line, can't show a car, can't show a Coke can. When you shoot a non-period piece, if you happen to see a bicycle or a Ford Focus or something, it's not a big deal because you know those things exist. But we're in a time when there’s no electricity, no telephone. It's easier to make a movie if it happened World War II or after, because a lot of things existed from then on, that didn't exist before that. 1920s, not everyone had indoor plumbing.

Henry Parke:   So you've got two time periods that are both challenges.

Jason White:   Yes. As far as getting the period stuff right, the one in the West was actually the less challenging because at Old Tucson they've really preserved it. It's here on county park land where no one has built behind them. So it's very easy to imagine what the 1880s looked like, easy to get lost in that.

Henry Parke:   What are your favorite Westerns?

Jason White:  I love Glenn Ford; I love John Wayne. Lately I've been watching Rio Bravo and El Dorado a lot, and I know they get a lot of flak for being similar, but I kind of like that, because you get to see what (Director Howard) Hawks was thinking.  I always liked Westerns, but when I got older, the good versus the bad, that became stronger imagery to me. I just fell more in love with them, especially Clint Eastwood movies. My stepfather was a very John Wayne-esque type person. In fact, at his eulogy, my wife referenced John Wayne in comparison to him.  So John Wayne has a special place in my heart because it reminds me of him.

Henry Parke: What's your favorite movie that got shot here?

Gary Wheeler: I really loved El Dorado . I just rewatched it, and there's a scene where John Wayne has to come and tell the family that their boy is dead. He tells him and then he takes his horse and he backs up, covering the family with his rifle. He's such a large man on this horse and the way he backs that horse up is amazing. Other than that, I would say Tombstone. And then after I scouted here I went back and rewatched The Three Amigos and I loved itYou could tell that they had studied.

Henry Parke:  How do you like working at Old Tucson?

Jason White:  I love it. People here are great. I mean, this is where Westerns were made, and we're standing on what we call ‘film sacred ground’, where iconic American Westerns were born, where we have the idea of what a Western is and what a cowboy is. It's not just an American thing: people all over the world identify with the Western, and that idea was born here, created here. From 1939, from Arizona to Rio Bravo to TV shows like High Chaparral, those were made here, so people's idea of the what the west looks like is Old Tucson.

Henry Parke: Are you planning to make more Westerns?

Jason White:   I'm hoping to. We really love the Western, and I think audiences really love the Western, and kind of miss it. And I think it's making a comeback. I hope we're part of that comeback and I hope we make more,

Henry Parke:   Do you think kids relate to westerns today?

Jason White:   Oh yeah. There's always that adventure that comes from a western. Kids like horses, they like challenges they have to overcome. I think kids will always be drawn to those types of stories.


We crested a hill and were suddenly in the location’s parking area. “Always park by the porta-potties,” Jason advised me. “You can be sure your car won’t be in the shot.” Sound advice. A short, steep, winding desert path brought us to the black tent that shaded the pair of video monitors for the two cameras that covered the action.  Brent Christy was watching a scene replay. Brent is both the cinematographer and the director of 5 Mile Cave, a very rare combination. Satisfied with what he saw, he left the tent and returned to the action.

They were shooting a series of gallop-bys – Shooter Green rides by camera, pursued by a posse of more than half a dozen riders.  It was exciting stuff, with lots of pounding hoofs and dust and riding around saguaros. They did several takes.


Tom Proctor fires straight at camera


The next set-up featured the head of the posse – Virgil Earp no less – taking a shot at the fleeing Shooter Green. Tom Proctor, an experienced stunt-man and stunt coordinator as well as an actor, was playing Earp, and he was to fire the shot directly into camera. It was a blank, of course, but at point-blank range, a person or a camera can certainly be hurt by a blank. A sheet of thick, clear plastic was mounted on a stand between gun and camera, and it was the plastic that took the impact.

I got a lift to the next location from a man I’d met before, but didn’t recognize. William Shockley, co-author of 5 Mile Cave, has had a long and impressive acting career, starting with Robocop, and is best remembered from Dr. Quinn – Medicine Woman, where he played Hank Lawson, the long-haired, tough, cynical saloon and brothel-owner, who often surprised people with his basic decency.  In the last several years, he and writing partner Dustin Rikert have had quite a few movies made, including the Westerns The Gundown, Ambush at Dark Canyon, and Hot Bath an’ a Stiff Drink. Without his long, scraggily hair from Dr. Quinn, he was unrecognizable. He looks much more respectable, and much younger, without it. “I had to lose it for the part. That kind of hair wouldn’t go for a 1920s lawman.” In addition to co-writing the movie, he plays the antagonist of the 1920s storyline.

WILLIAM SHOCKLEY – Writer and Actor

Henry Parke:   What is it like, as a writer and actor, delivering lines that you wrote?

Wm Shockley: Well, I've had the privilege to be cast in many of the films that I've written with Dustin Rikert. This one, they cast me in the brilliant role of Sheriff Small, who's the bad guy ultimately. To be able to watch other actors, as a hired actor along with them, participate and see it come to life, it gives you goosebumps. I mean, it's a beautiful feeling.

Henry Parke:   When did you start specializing in Westerns?

Wm Shockley:  I was talking to the executive producer yesterday and he said, not every actor is correct for a western. So I think the western found me.  I think there's a sensibility that an actor and an actress have to have, and the look, to participate in the truth and authenticity of the old west. So I think they found me. I fell in love with Hank Lawsen on Dr. Quinn, clearly. And then, when I started working with Dustin, there's just such a beautiful truth about the old west that I can really relate to.

Henry Parke:  How do you like shooting at Old Tucson?

Wm Shockley: Well, this is the seventh time I've filmed here, and I love it. Honestly, I feel like a little kid the first day whenever I'm back. It's just awe-inspiring. Tucson's almost like my home away from home.

Henry Parke:   Where is your actual home?

Wm Shockley: Los Angeles. I've been there my whole life, since I left Texas. I claim Austin (as my hometown) because it's such a fabulous city. I went to school there and had a restaurant there.

Henry Parke:   It's seems that Westerns are going through a revival, and a lot of the really good stuff is on television rather than theatrical.

Wm Shockley: What's the golden age of television? You know, with the shrinking economy of DVDs, it's harder to monetize an independent film. And with the advent of Netflix and Hulu and Amazon and all the great opportunities in television, there's exposure for everything, including Westerns. In the perilous times that we live in, this unusual moment in history, I think the world feels great about watching something that feels authentic and good, like a western. There's such pure honesty in the old west, you know? Steal a man's cattle, you get killed. Straight up truth. And one man can make a difference. There were bad guys, (and that) creates drama. I think people enjoy looking back to a time with no cell phones, and no computers and no Facebook: none of the clutter.


The next morning, I caught up with Jeremy Sumpter, who stars as Shooter Green.  He first made a splash in 2003, starring in the title role in the live-action blockbuster Peter Pan, so I was startled that he had no English accent.  It turns out he’s all-American.  He gave me a bit of a walking tour of the main street, excitedly pointing out the sights.


JEREMY SUMPTER – Shooter Green


Jeremy Sumpter and Alexandria DeBerry
between takes


Henry Parke:   I understand that you were a fan of Westerns long before you starred in this one.

Jeremy Sumpter:  Absolutely. It's been a dream of mine to do a Western, and to finally have that dream come true, I mean, I couldn't be happier. And being a part of this, in Old Tucson, where they made, Rio Bravo -- like right over here is where Dean Martin went into the horse-trough. And you see some of these foundations, that's where the old original sets were, when they built the place in '39 and shot Arizona. Seeing it all here and being part of that, and making my stamp in the history of the place, it's pretty spectacular.

Henry Parke:  Did you grow up western?

Jeremy Sumpter:  Yeah, I did.  I grew up in Kentucky, but I really grew up in L.A.  Been out there for 19 years, so 10 years in Kentucky first, riding thoroughbreds.  And then I went to Texas, and did a lot of horse cutting, and using what I've learned over the years. I'm a modern-day cowboy in the sense of my whole mentality, so to take that into my character (Shooter Green), the period seemed pretty easy for me.


Shooter and Josie


Henry Parke:   What are your favorite Western films?

Jeremy Sumpter:  The Shootist is great. The Outlaw Josey Wales. But my favorite is Unforgiven. Clint, he's one of my favorite directors too.
Later that morning, I would be acting in a scene with Jeremy. It was Shooter and Josie’s wedding, and I would have to be costumed for it.


Meeting Jenna Miller  on-set, you would probably assume that she was an actress rather than the costume designer. Despite growing up with a mother who was a seamstress, she took a very circuitous route to costume design. “She tried to teach me how to sew when I was a kid, but I was out with the horses too much.” Jenna was a wrangler first, and eventually got interested in sewing her own period costumes at the ranch where she worked. She assisted another costumer designer for some time. 5 Mile Cave is Jenna’s second film as head designer. “I grew up here in Arizona, born and raised an Arizona cowgirl. I was immersed in the old west history growing up and it's always fascinated me. I've done a lot of research and learned a lot about the west, and I just really like doing this particular era.”

JENNA MILLER – Costume Designer



Henry Parke:   What are your biggest challenges in doing costumes on a Western?

Jenna Miller:    Making sure that we keep it as historically accurate as possible, and make the accuracy work with how we're filming it, to make it play into the scenes and work with the camera angles, as far as hats and things like that are concerned.

Henry Parke:   Which is a more demanding, the women's clothes or the men’s?

Jenna Miller: It depends on the scene. The men, like right now they're out riding and, in the dust and dirt. There's the challenge of making sure that their clothing’s aged enough, with the right amount of dust and the right amount of dirt. So it looks like they've actually been out there all day riding. The women's clothes are pretty simple and easy to do, unless we get into some of the more upscale scenes where they're wearing clothing with extra layers, the bustle skirts and fancier stuff. It gets a little more complicated.  I'm a specialist in women's clothing of that era. It was really important to me for female lead, Josie, to have period correctness all the way through the costume from every single layer. So I was painstakingly making sure that even her undergarments, that you don't ever see on film were historically accurate, because there's a certain silhouette that the women had to have in their clothing back then, that Victorian era silhouette. It's really important that the corsets and things that she's wearing underneath make the right silhouette for the outside of the clothing.


Alexandria and Jeremy - note she's standing on
an apple box to bring her up closer to him


The wedding scene was shot in the church set, a small, perhaps secret wedding attended only by the couple, the minister and his wife, and two seated witnesses seen from behind, a bald-headed man and a striking blonde. I am not the striking blonde.

Outside of the church, they shot the scene with Shooter leaving his bride to do that dangerous job that would give them financial security. After that I had a chance to talk with Director Brent Christy, and experienced cinematographer directing his second feature.


BRENT CHRISTY – Director and Cinematographer


Alexandria DeBerry and Brent Christy


Henry Parke:   Quite a few screenwriters and some editors have segued into directing, but it’s unusual for a cinematographer to do so. How do your camera skills help you as a director?

Brent Christy: I think what has worked for me is having a vision for where the light's coming from, and what I want to see from a camera move. That has helped give me confidence when it comes to the things that I'm still learning, which is having a relationship with the actors, and making sure that every little bit is as good as it can be.

Henry Parke:  This is your second film as a director?

Brent Christy: That's correct. The first one's called Legal Action.  It’s a courtroom drama that also has a little bit of detective work in it.

Henry Parke: How do you like doing a western?

Brent Christy: It's been a great experience, coming out to Tucson specifically. And doing my first western project really on any level, it's the scenery: it's hard not to make it look Western. And when it comes to a place like Old Tucson Studios, it's really built in. The same can be said for a lot of the set design, the costumes; it's all really here and the people here are great.

Henry Parke:   Growing up, were Westerns a favorite genre?

Brent Christy: No, Western fandom has come later in life. It's only been the last three years that I dove into Westerns, and really saw the potential in film history of good guy versus bad guy. A lot of it is entrenched in the things that John Ford and Howard Hawks did.

Henry Parke:   I think you’re pretty near to wrapping this film. What have been the biggest challenges?

Brent Christy: I'd say dealing with the elements. We've had some high winds, some high heat, and working out in the sun, making sure everybody stays hydrated, stays cool. And staying on time with the job ahead has been a difficult balancing act.

Henry Parke:   What particular challenges have you found in doing a period story rather than a contemporary one, and two different time periods at that?

Brent Christy: You know, regardless of the facility, everything is basically outfitted for electric these days. So we have a lot of help with our VFX (Visual Effects) department when it comes to light switches and light sockets and things like that. It's hard to make sure every one of those is disappeared. But overall, we've been very fortunate with the locations that we've had.

Henry Parke:   Except for Old Tucson, you’ve been shooting in Georgia?

Brent Christy: That's correct. They were all on location, preexisting buildings. So we had to adapt them to our needs, but thankfully the structures that we chose were all 1900 buildings, and we were very fortunate to be working with location owners that were excited to have us recreate something from that era.

Henry Parke: It's an unusual story in that you've got the same group of characters in two very different times in their lives. Did that pose any particular challenges?

Brent Christy: Casting is very important when you're doing a story where a character is decades older in one scene, and decades younger in the next. We've been very fortunate that the cast (members playing the same characters) wanted to collaborate with each other and find the little idiosyncrasies that make them who they are, and try to infuse a little bit of those into each other's roles.

Henry Parke:   How do you like working with horses?

Brent Christy: It's been a great experience working with horses, in really being able to respect an animal that you can tame. But at the same time, we have to respect their needs as well. It's been a good experience and a great challenge at the same time.


Stagecoach shootout


The last sequence I watched being filmed was a stagecoach chase and robbery.  I’d known that popular Western filming locations often had a “chase-road”, a long, straight path without obstructions, where running horses could get up a good speed, and an insert-car could drive beside them, filming, but I’d never seen a chase-road before. This one was a large perfect circle, meaning that a camera in the center could pan around, and always maintain the same distance from the coach – even if the coach drove endlessly. There was a shoot-out at the end of the chase, with a paint-ball gun providing convincing bullet-hits.  

All too soon, that last day of filming was over, and everyone was packing up and heading out. The Legend of 5 Mile Cave is completed now, and will have it’s world television premiere on Sunday night, June 9th, 2019, on INSP. Check your local listings to see when it’s on in your area.


LEGEND OF 5 MILE CAVE – A Movie Review by Henry C. Parke

In Kentucky, in 1929, it’s a few months before the Stock-market Crash, but the Great Depression is already here for recently widowed Susan Tilwicky (Jill Wagner) and her son Tommy (Jet Jurgensmeyer).  Without her husband to work the ranch and break the horses to sell, the mother and son seem destined to lose their homestead. Things are already bad enough that Susan is looking to take in boarders. Tommy escapes these worries by immersing himself in dime novels about the adventures of a fabled cowboy sharpshooter named Shooter Green. There’s a ray of hope for the Tilwickys when an older roaming cowboy named Sam Barnes (Adam Baldwin) agrees to break the horses in trade for room and board. Better still, Sam claims to have known Shooter Green in his youth, and happily gives Tommy the real story about his idol.

Interwoven with the 1929 story is the 1896 Tucson-set story of Shooter Green (Jeremy Sumpter), a young man who makes a living by demonstrating his shooting prowess to audiences for a price. He’s more than a little cocky, and would come off as arrogant except that he’s every bit as good as he claims to be. Shooter becomes smitten with lovely – and equally gun-skilled – Josie Hayes (Alexandria DeBerry), the daughter of the town banker. To earn the money to be able to marry Josie, Shooter tales on a dangerous job, which leads betrayal, disgrace, and loot from a robbery that’s still being sought in 1929.

Writers Dustin Rikert and William Shockley, and director Brent Christy have fashioned a Depression Western that is anything but depressing. It’s full of adventure and action and heart, engaging performances, with plenty of surprises along the way. Best of all, at a time when all the good recent Westerns contain little that would interest kids, or even be appropriate for them to see, Legend of 5 Mile Cave is a Western with an elegant balance of adult interest and kid interest, action and romance, so that the whole family can watch it, and enjoy it, together, not because it’s been rendered harmless, but because it’s good entertainment.  The bond that grows between young Tommy and Sam is particularly genuine.

Shot in the two beautiful, but very different, locales of small-town Georgia and Old Tucson, Arizona, the movie is handsomely lensed by Brent Christy, Cinematographer as well as Director, and shows off Arizona’s Sonoran Desert, at times using a drone to reveal that familiar landscape from a completely new perspective. The grand score by Tom Gire is in the tradition of great, stirring Westerns scores of Elmer Bernstein and Alfred Newman and Dimitri Tiomkin, without being derivative of any.  

The Legend of 5 Mile Cave makes its television premiere on Sunday night, June 9th, on INSP. It’s also available on DVD, as well as Amazon Prime and Fandango. 


THE ROY ROGERS ‘HAPPY TRAILS’ COLLECTION – DVD Review



If you’re a fan of the King of the Cowboys and the Queen of the West, this twenty-film collection for about a dollar a movie from Mill Creek Entertainment is an unbeatable deal, and it’s authorized by The Roy Rogers Estate, compiled with the help of Roy’s son, Roy “Dusty” Rogers Jr. and Jeffrey Kramer. 

While the movies themselves, almost all directed by Republic Pictures action wizard William Whitney, many guest-starring Gabby Hayes, would appear to be the main attraction, if you love Roy and Dale, the even greater appeal of this set is its source: the 1980s Nashville Network series, Happy Trails Theatre, which they hosted.  The introductions are heartwarming, and full of insights into the making of the films. Better still, the introductions usually feature guests, including Dusty, co-stars like Iron Eyes Cody, Penny Edwards, Ruth Terry, and Roy’s friend and rival Gene Autry with sidekick Pat Buttram. There are several good documentaries as well.

On four DVDs, and also featuring a digital copy, the shows have all been digitally remastered. But while I strongly recommend this set, I want to make a couple of clarifications. While all the movies I’ve viewed so far are perfectly watchable, these versions of the movies are the ones that were originally included in the TV series, and I know that in some cases there are higher quality versions now available.  And at least some of the movies are cut. Originally, B-westerns ran about 60 to 65 minutes. But when they were first sold them to television in the 1950s, they were cut to 53 minutes, to fit into a TV hour, with seven minutes for commercials. In some cases, the missing footage is simply lost. I don’t know if there is a more complete version of 1944’s delightful Along The Navajo Trail, but it was released at 66 minutes, and this version is 53, with at least one musical number obviously missing.

But it’s a wonderful deal, and even if I already had all of the movies complete, I’d buy the set for the intros. Disk one features Sons of the Pioneers (1942) and Trigger Jr. (1950) in color, and Pals of the Golden West (1951), Young Bill Hickok (1940), and Don’t Fence Me In (1945) – the only Roy Rogers Western with a Cole Porter theme – in black & white.  You can see the entire list of films, and order the set, here:


JONAH BLUE - by Jim Christina – a Book Review
Tuscany Bay Books – 280 pages


With Jonah Blue, author Jim Christina takes a break from his popular The Hunter Western novel series to tell a story that begins with 10-year-old Jonah Bleu, growing up in 1830s Ohio. One of three children, their father is so cruel to the family that his wife can take it no more, and hangs herself. Jonah finds his mother’s body. When his father shows no remorse, seeing it as an excuse to whup the boy, Jonah grabs his few belongings in a kerchief and takes off for the Rocky Mountains.

The bulk of the adventure tells how Jonah, with the help of a succession of Mountain Man mentors, starting with Rensfeld Dogget, learns to be a Mountain Man, to live off the land, to be self-reliant, to protect himself from enemies both White and Indian.  He must also, inevitably, deal with the fates of the brother and sister whom he left behind.

In his autobiographical appendix, Jim Christina notes, “If you are looking for Louis L’amour, you won’t find him here.” This is absolutely true. Eschewing pastoral passages and detailed descriptions, Christina’s prose cuts to the bone. There are no taboo subjects here. Heroes are not always heroic, language is coarse, and the details of action are unflinching: nobody is simply “stabbed in the gut.” You will learn precisely what happened to the victim’s entrails.  With a hero every bit as compelling as The Hunter, one must suspect that there will be many more Jonah Blue novels to look forward to.
JONAH BLUE is available from Amazon, in Kindle and paperback, here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B073NP2VP2



One More Thing...

I wanted to make sure I posted my article and review about The Legend of 5 Mile Cave before the show actually aired, and I'm down to the wire to do it. As I type these words, it's 2:42 a.m. , Sunday morning, and I still have to choose the pictures to go with the articles. In the next day or two I'll be updating this post with a book review (now included), a video review (now included), and some upcoming events. Please check back in during the week!

Much obliged,

Henry

All Original Contents Copyright June 2019 by Henry C. Parke - All Rights Reserved