Sunday, February 5, 2012



Treading ground reminiscent of B. Traven’s TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE is Tanner Beard’s THE LEGEND OF HELL’S GATE: AN AMERICAN CONSPIRACY. In spite of its unwieldy title, which neither suggests a western, nor really makes sense in context, HELL’S GATE is an extremely impressive feature directorial and screenwriting debut, and a visual feast.

Filmed in Texas, a Texas not of desert, but of green and water, it’s the story of a group of people whose initial connection seems slight at best, except that they are desperate and struggling, and largely dishonest: a young outlaw (Eric Balfour), of a wolf-pack hired to kill one Champagne Charlie Austin.  A young Irish railroad worker (Tanner Beard), with doubtful morals and an agonizing toothache.  A young and desperate thief and cut-purse (Lou Taylor Pucci) who manages to be at the wrong places at the right times, with an ear to every half-opened door.  It’s a triumph of writing, direction and performance that we care what happens to each man. 

What draws the three together is not accident or conspiracy, but fate, at its most sinister and relentless.  Along the way there are white buffalo; deadly bowling matches; beautiful women -- with morals and without them; shootouts between men too drunk to care about the danger to bystanders; and Indians that have always been friendly up until now.

It’s an ensemble piece, with roles for the supporting players so rich, and well acted, that it intentionally takes a long time for the viewer to figure who the lead characters are.  Among the notable performers are Buck Taylor as a businessman with political aspirations, Henry Thomas as a bartender with a secret, lovely and too sympathetic Jenna Dewan, and FIREFLY star Summer Glau.   One of the best scenes feature TUDORS star Jamie Thomas King as Doc Holliday, blissfully drunk at the card table, and amused at a poor loser.  Another standout performance is by YELLOW ROCK star Michael Spears as an increasingly menacing Indian the boys want to trade with. 

The photography by Nathaniel Vorce, making his feature debut as a cinematographer, is not merely beautiful.  It creates an idealized realism that makes everything that happens in the story all the more credible.   Likewise Kari Perkins’ handsome and accurate costumes and production design and art direction by Christopher Stull and Yvonne Boudreaux combine to draw the audience into the movie’s beautiful but grim world.

If I can give one warning to the audience, and I don’t think this is a spoiler, the opening scene is confusing because it is a flash-forward.  If you think of the movie as starting a couple of minutes in, when you first see buffalo, it will be chronological, and much more understandable.    

And here’s how you can save 20% when you see LEGEND OF HELL’S GATE!  The movie is available on-line at CONSTELLATION TV, HERE.  

If you go to the site and, when prompted, enter the discount code ‘henry’, the normal $5 charge will be lowered to $4.  The showings are hourly, and if you are, like me, not experienced with on-line movie watching, I’d advise you to buy your ticket several minutes before your showing, as you’ll have to register.  I think you’ll enjoy LEGEND OF HELL’S GATE.  I certainly did, and I look forward to interviewing writer/director/star Tanner Beard for the Round-up in the near future.  If you’d like to see the trailer, go HERE.

Update, August 14, 2012.  LEGEND OF HELL'S GATE is now in release!  Redbox has provided the Round-up with a link, so you can check and see if it's available in your friendly neighborhood kiosk:

WR Films has just disclosed that it is Russian-born Andrew Ilitchev who has been toiling away these many months, adapting and combining the first two Morgan Kane novels, EL GRINGO and EL GRINGO’S REVENGE, into the screenplay for MORGAN KANE – THE LEGEND BEGINS, the first of at least three motion pictures to feature Morgan Kane.  Raised in New York City, Ilitchev studied at Columbia University, and was associate producer on the acclaimed Iraq War documentary DREAMS OF SPARROWS, and has since relocated to the West Coast. 

MORGAN KANE, the creation of Norway’s most successful novelist, Louis Masterson.  Masterson, whose real name was Kjell Hallbing, wrote 83 KANE novels between 1966 and 1985, and WR Films has acquired publishing rights to all of them.  They’ve been issuing a new eBook in the series every month or two, and recently published numbers five and six, THE STAR AND THE GUN and BACKED BY THE LAW.  Both books, as well as the previous four, are available for download from and Barnes and Noble. 


Leon Rippy, well known to Western fans as Tom Nuttal in DEADWOOD, has signed to play a tracker in THE LONE RANGER, the mega-budget western from Disney, starring Armie Hammer as Masked Man and Johnny Depp as Tonto.  Coincidentally, Leon’s first western was the MOW called THE TRACKER, starring Kris Kristofferson.  His other westerns and historical films include YOUNG GUNS II, THE PATRIOT, and THE ALAMO.  A very busy actor of late, he was the angel in the series SAVING GRACE, Latimer in LEVERAGE, and can currently be seen as Dr. Beauregard in ALCATRAZ.  But on March 2nd he’s off for two weeks of ‘cowboy camp’ to prepare for The Hearty Hi-Yo Silver!  We’ll be having an interview with Leon in these pages very soon.


WESTERN X, writer-director Michael Flores’ on-line Western serial, is now up to chapter #7.  It’s one of the most ambitious web series I’ve seen -- you can read my previous write-up of the series HERE
The link to the official site, where you can learn more about the series, and see each chapter, is HERE, and I would urge you to start with chapter #1.  


Here’s a link to ‘Little Tombstone,’ a very clever five-minute animated spaghetti western.  I know that it’s by students from ESMA, but I can’t figure out which ‘ESMA’:  the French school, the Naval Academy, the Egyptian animal welfare society…  If you know, please fill me in.  And take a look HERE.


More and more, classic TV Westerns are available all over the TV universe, but they tend to be on small networks that are easy to miss. Of course, ENCORE WESTERNS is the best continuous source of such programming, and has been for years. Currently they run LAWMAN, WAGON TRAIN, HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL, LAREDO, RAWHIDE, GUNSMOKEandMARSHALL DILLON, which is the syndication title for the original half-hour GUNSMOKE.Incidentally, I see on Facebook that a lot of watchers are mad as Hell at losing CHEYENNE and THE VIRGINIAN.

RFD-TV is currently showing THE ROY ROGERS SHOW, first at 9:30 a.m. Sunday, Pacific Time, then repeated several times a week.They show a Roy feature every Tuesday as well, with repeats -- check your local listings.

INSP-TVshows THE BIG VALLEY Monday through Saturday, LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE seven days a week, DR. QUINN: MEDICINE WOMAN on weekdays, and BONANZA on Saturdays.

WHT runs DANIEL BOONE on weekdays from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m., Pacific Time, and on Saturdays they run two episodes of BAT MASTERSON. They often show western films on the weekend, but the schedule is sporadic.

TVLANDhas dropped GUNSMOKE after all these years, but still shows four episodes ofBONANZA every weekday.

GEB is largely a religious-programming cable outlet that runs at least one Western on Saturdays – the ones I’ve caught have been public domain Roy Rogers and John Wayne pictures –and sometimes have weekday afternoon movies as well.

For those of you who watch TV with an antenna, there are at least a couple of channels that exist between the standard numbers – largely unavailable on cable or satellite systems – that provide Western fare. ANTENNA TVis currently running RIN TIN TIN, CIRCUS BOY, HERE COME THE BRIDES, andIRON HORSE.

Another‘in between’ outfit, ME-TV, which stands for Memorable Entertainment TV, runs a wide collection: BIG VALLEY, BONANZA, BRANDED, DANIEL BOONE, GUNS OF WILL SONNETT, GUNSMOKE, MARSHALL DILLON,RAWHIDE, THE RIFLEMAN, and WILD WILD WEST.Some of these channels are hard to track down, but if they show what you’ve been missing, it’s worth the search.

And for those of you on the other side of the pond, our British correspondentNilton Hargrave tells me CBS ACTION has begun showing GUNSMOKE.


Built by cowboy actor, singer, baseball and TV entrepeneur Gene Autry, and designed by the Disney Imagineering team, the Autry is a world-class museum housing a fascinating collection of items related to the fact, fiction, film, history and art of the American West. In addition to their permenant galleries (to which new items are frequently added), they have temporary shows. The Autry has many special programs every week -- sometimes several in a day. To check their daily calendar, CLICK HERE. And they always have gold panning for kids every weekend. For directions, hours, admission prices, and all other information, CLICK HERE.


Across the street from the Hollywood Bowl, this building, once the headquarters of Lasky-Famous Players (later Paramount Pictures) was the original DeMille Barn, where Cecil B. DeMille made the first Hollywood western, The Squaw Man. They have a permanent display of movie props, documents and other items related to early, especially silent, film production. They also have occasional special programs. 2100 Highland Ave., L.A. CA 323-874-2276. Thursday – Sunday 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. $5 for adults, $3 for senior, $1 for children.


This small but entertaining museum gives a detailed history of Wells Fargo when the name suggested stage-coaches rather than ATMS. There’s a historically accurate reproduction of an agent’s office, an original Concord Coach, and other historical displays. Open Monday through Friday, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. Admission is free. 213-253-7166. 333 S. Grand Street, L.A. CA.


That's right, the segment I was interviewed for is now viewable here:

That's all the news for now!  Have a great week!

Happy Trails,


All original contents Copyright February 2012 by Henry C. Parke - All Rights Reserved


  1. CBS Action is a new cable/satellite channel here in the UK, as you prev post states, Gunsmoke is shown there, after it's run on TCM, it also shows Walker Texas Ranger and Kung Fu the Legend continues with modern day Cain...must admit, I never caught this first time around although I did enjoy the original series. TCM and a couple of terrestial channels continue to run old b movie westerns in the afternoons too, often starring TV Show stars, like Dale Robertson and Jock Mahoney who were in recent films. All good for us Brit cowboy fans :)