Monday, July 16, 2012


Today there are quite a few working producers who have made a Western, a very few who have made two, but none have shown the commitment to the genre that Barry Barnholtz has in the past few years.  After producing TRIGGER FAST and GUNS OF HONOR back-to-back in 1994, he came back to the form with a vengeance: since 2009 he’s produced ALL HELL BROKE LOOSE, A COLD DAY IN HELL, AMERICAN BANDITS: FRANK AND JESSE JAMES, COLE YOUNGER & THE BLACK TRAIN, and just this year two more back-to-back releases, WYATT EARP’S REVENGE, and BAD BLOOD: HATFIELDS AND MCCOYS.  We talked about his start in the entertainment business, his personal feelings about Westerns, and his five-year-plan for the future.  

Barry Barnholtz at BAD BLOOD: HATFIELDS AND MCCOYS preview

H: Let me tell you first off, how much I enjoyed BAD BLOOD: HATFIELDS AND MCCOYS.  It was really solid storytelling and entertainment.  I also watched the Kevin Costner mini-series, and they did a very nice job, but I’ve got to say, I liked yours better.  I think your decision to compress the historical events into a shorter time period, rather than drawing it out, was crucial.

BARRY:  Thank you so much. I haven’t seen the other one, but I’ve been told that it had very limited action.  You know, LIONSGATE released ours, it was very well received, and I think everyone on the crew gave it 1,500%, not 100%.  I thought that the talent went over and beyond, and gave it their very very very best.  The writer-director, Fred Olen Ray, this was close to his heart, this was a passion.  He’s from that part of our nation.  He had a personal involvement in it, and really wanted to provide more than 1500%, and I think that he certainly delivered that.

H: I think his personal involvement comes through in that, and in AMERICAN BANDITS.

B: Right; exactly.  He delivered on HATFIELDS.  And the locations were outstanding; we couldn’t have shot this on the west coast.  This had to be shot showing Kentucky locations, where it happened, you know?  To be as real to the story as possible.  It was very cold when we were shooting there.  And they put up with the cold, with the rain.   This not the most pleasant thing to shoot, so you can see how over and beyond everyone went.  The director’s like the captain of the ship.  And when it’s rainy and cold outside, and the director’s willing to stand outside, in the rain, and be a part of that scenario, the talent will follow.  And Fred really proved himself to be the great director that he is.  A lot of research was done on the story.  Fred put a lot of detail into it.  The opening scene, the (Civil War) battle scenes with almost a hundred extras, really added to the production value.  And the film really delivers.

H: Let me back up a bit.  I hear a trace of a not-California accent.  Where were you born?

B: I was actually born in the Midwest, but I spent a lot of time in Europe.  Had an apartment in Cannes, France.  Spent some time in England.  I travelled a lot.

H: When did you decide you wanted to make movies?

B: I came out of the music industry.  Been there ever since I was in high school.  I knew I wanted to be involved in the entertainment industry.  I began actually, booking fraternity parties.  And then moving up to promoting occasional dance concerts, to then promoting larger concerts, like the Earl Warren Showgrounds in Santa Barbara, Old Spanish Days up there, Swing Auditorium in San Bernardino and larger venues.  Then I went on to producing records.  I guess I was semi- responsible for three platinum and fifteen or sixteen gold records.  What I did, when disco was hot, was I located all of these African-American tracks down at Muscle Shoals (note: the legendary Alabama recording studio).  Put Japanese lyrics to them, French lyrics, Italian lyrics, distributed worldwide.  I had a nightclub on Sunset Boulevard that became world-renowned, called Rodney Bingenheimer’s English Disco.  And it was responsible for breaking MOTT THE HOOPLE and SLADE.  We were responsible for that whole glitter sensation.  David Bowie was the chairman of the board.  We made the centerfold of PEOPLE.  We were in NEWSWEEK twice in a month; about 320 different publications.  Then I went on to booking films on TV; SPOTLIGHT, HBO, SHOWTIME.  TV in greater Washington, and handling independent films.  Then I started a (video) company called VIDMARK in ‘83.  And turned it into TRIMARK in 1985, so I was co-cofounder of TRIMARK.  We took it public, and it was a real success story.  And I was there for 14 ½ years.  The company was sold to LIONSGATE, and currently I’ve had almost a sixteen year relationship with LIONSGATE, in releasing films.  They have over 200 films that I’ve been involved with.  I teamed up with a fellow named Jeff Schenck almost four years ago, and with him started a company called HYBRID.  Jeff and I have made almost twenty films in that short period of time.  Mostly things for television; LIFETIME, SYFY, HALLMARK, ABC FAMILY.


H: As you know, my focus with the Round-up is Westerns.  Were you a western fan as a kid?

B: I think everyone is a western fan as a kid.  With the lack of Westerns in the market place, if you ask any director, or any talent, if they’d like to be involved with a western, they all jump in immediately, and are very excited about the project.  If the script is very good, it really isn’t a problem attracting talent, because it’s something they grew up with as well. 

H: I was just watching what I think is one of your first westerns, TRIGGER FAST, this afternoon.  You made that and GUNS OF HONOR in ’94.  Were they your first westerns?

B: I believe so.  They were shot in South Africa. 

H: They’re both based on ‘The Floating Outfit’ stories by English western writer J.T. Edson, and I notice they both have the same very strong cast; Martin Sheen, Corbin Bernsen, Christopher Atkins.  Are they different ‘cuts’ of the same story?

B: Each one is a stand-alone.  (One is a continuation of the other) but each can stand alone. 

H: How did they come about?

B: I was at TRIMARK when I was approached by someone that I thought was very capable of producing films, in London.  And their vision was to go to South Africa, and to make these films. 

H: TRIGGER FAST is a beautiful looking picture; South Africa works very well as the west.

B: It’s amazing, because of all the horses – it was less expensive to buy the horses and then resell them than to lease the horses. 

H: For the next several years you produced a wide range of movies: thrillers, horror films, Christmas pictures, family pictures.  But it wasn’t until 2009 that you made another Western.

B: I’m always looking at opportunities; and the opportunity didn’t come about until then.  Sure, a lot of scripts are introduced to me; I read a lot of scripts every week.  But I just didn’t feel that any were well-enough written, or they could not be negotiated, or I didn’t think the idea was strong enough to turn into a film. 

H: Well, in 2009 you returned to the western with ALL HELL BROKE LOOSE, which I understand is one of the last films of David Carradine. 

B: It was his last western anyway. 

H: Was that a project someone brought to you?

B: Yes; the project was brought to us, but we were instrumental in casting.  And I thought that David Carradine was a good choice. 

H: I’ve never seen when David Carradine was not a good choice.  I notice your company’s logo features a horse’s face. 

B: Yuh; I’ve had horses in my life now for twenty-five years.  That’s actually my first horse that I had.  I’ve retired him; he lives up in Ojai.  He was a cutting horse; grandson of Peppy San, a very famous cutting horse. (Note: Peppy San is the first National Cutting Horse Association World Champion to sire an NCHA World Champion.)   Sure made me a better rider, to get such a unique, spirited horse as my first horse.  I’ve always ridden in the past, even as a teenager.  Always had a passion to ride horses, and now I have four, right in my backyard.

H: In 2010 you and Jeffrey Schenck produced AMERICAN BANDITS: FRANK AND JESSE JAMES.  Since then, among the thrillers and Christmas movies and comedies, you’ve produced two more westerns back to-back: WYATT EARP’S REVENGE and BAD BLOOD: HATFIELDS & MCCOYS.  And that’s not even counting your other two westerns of the same period, COLD DAY IN HELL and COLE YOUNGER AND THE BLACK TRAIN.  Why have you decided that this is the right time for westerns?

B: Well, I think that there is a real lack of westerns in the marketplace.  In my library of films, I have HIGH NOON; I have STAGECOACH, THE LAST DAYS OF FRANK AND JESSE JAMES with Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash.  I had an opportunity to meet the ‘Highwaymen’ when they were around.  I also have ANOTHER PAIR OF ACES with Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson.  And a movie with Travis Tritt, THE LONG KILL, that we shot in Spain.  I’ve released nearly 900 films.

H: Most of your westerns of the past few years are based on historical figures: the James Brothers, Wyatt Earp, Hatfields & McCoys, Cole Younger.  Does this reflect your personal interest in Western history?

B: You know, if you make a film about an icon, people can identify it easier.  If you make a film about Billy the Kid, if you make a film about Wyatt Earp, they’re iconic, and people can relate to them.  So it’s easier to get that into the marketplace, than if you just make a western with a created character.  If you have Wyatt Earp or Billy the Kid in the title, it’s almost like having ‘A Stephen King Film,’ above the title.  It makes it a lot more desirable in the marketplace. 

H: Speaking of the marketplace, what is the worldwide market for westerns like?  What countries want to see them?

B: There’s a little bit in Canada, because of Calgary.  There’s Australia; there’s a little bit in the U.K., couple other territories.  Italy, because of the spaghetti westerns.  In Spain, somewhat.  But it’s really limited outside North America.

H: How about Germany?  I know they used to be huge,

B: It’s limited; it’s hit and miss.  And DVD has certainly changed the marketplace.  Video’s disappearing in the international marketplace.  So you have to have it in some form that people are willing and able to see. VOD and SVOD -- video on demand and subscription video on demand -- and things of that nature; it hasn’t taken off in the States yet.  It’s starting to take hold in the UK and France; slowly it’s expanding.  There’s a lot of piracy in a lot of the territories, international distribution.  Once it’s out there, it’s pretty difficult to stop it, because downloading entities are sprouting up on a daily basis.

H: I don’t think the audience has a very clear understanding of the executive producer’s role in filmmaking.  How would you explain your role?

B: I’m involved with raising or putting up the financing.   I’m involved with hiring the director, the producer, and a big part of the crew.  I make the decisions on the casting, because I have a distribution background, and that really helps in figuring out what names really mean something for all the different ancillaries, whether it be theatrical, video, VOD, television.  And of course I depend upon Jeff, who has a high degree of knowledge in the TV marketplace as well.  What we don’t know we have no shame in asking.  International sales companies, how they feel about certain talent, in order to be able to make intelligent decisions.  We’re not interested in making an art house film.  We’re not interested in making a film that has to go on a film festival circuit to find distribution.  With the contacts that we have, we’re making it with distribution in mind. 

H: How involved are you with script development?

B: Jeff has more of a handle on that than I do.  He has a better idea of what makes a good script than I do.  I’m better with the timing of the script.

H: I had an email from a woman who said she didn’t consider a movie to be a western if it didn’t have a barroom fight.  What things do you think a western must have?

B: It has to have a barroom fight.  People want to see gunshots, and they want pacing.  They don’t want to see too much before there’s a certain amount of action, to be able to keep their level of interest.  I certainly believe in starting out films with a ‘bang,’ whether it’s a western or a thriller; in most genres, except for a comedy or a romantic comedy.   It’s got to have a shootout; multiple shootouts.  They want to hear loud gunshots, they want to hear ricochets; they want to hear the guns sound real, not cap guns.  They want to see that the acting is good.  They want to see that the wardrobe is pretty authentic.  And the locations as well mean a tremendous amount.  They want to see talent that knows how to ride horses.  We had trouble with some of the people riding in a couple of the westerns, even though the actors said they were experienced riders.  We saw them bouncing on the saddle.  So we had to dress them in longer jackets so you didn’t see them bouncing.  You need people who know how to ride; audiences know the difference. 

H: It seems to me, just looking at your westerns, that there is a steady progression from AMERICAN BANDITS to WYATT EARP to THE HATFIELDS.

B: The movies have been increasing in size.  And they’re going to continue to.   And we’re stepping up, and trying to go for bigger and better talent all the time.    That’s our five-year plan.  It’s within our future, yes.

H: I had the pleasure of being on your WYATT EARP set, so I know how efficiently your sets run.  I was fascinated to see director Michael Feiffer finish a shot and, without cutting, literally pick up the camera and change the setup.  I thought, that could only be with digital; you couldn’t do that with film.  How has the move from film to digital affected your movies? 

B: Well, all the broadcasters now want HD.  And listen, it’s so much easier to shoot on HD now, where, if you made a mistake, you can see right away, instead of having to print dailies.  The future is right now, it’s here.  And the cameras are changing all the time.  You buy a new camera now, and in two years it’s outdated, because the progression of new cameras are coming out more than just yearly.

H: I know that Michael Feiffer has directed more than twenty projects for you.  What keeps you coming back to him? 

B: I started out with Michael doing the serial killer films.  And he has a long history of producing and directing.  He’s someone that I have faith with.  But we are diversifying, and at this point constantly seeking new directors to work with.  And new producers as well. 

H: Do you have a group of people in front of and behind the camera, a kind of stock company that you like to use again and again? 

B: We use some of the same crew on different projects – obviously it depends upon availability.  But having the luxury of shooting many of our films in and around Southern California, there’s a huge pool to be able to pull from.

H: Are you looking to get into theatrical releases, as opposed to home video?

B: We’ve been releasing things theatrically at BARNHOLTZ ENTERTAINMENT now for a long time.  Jeff and I, through HYBRID, we’re very secure in making TV-type of movies.   But our direction, within our five year plan, and with the type of elements that we’re bringing in, will certainly command theatrical opening and theatrical success, for the amount of money that we’re spending on them.  And the talent that we’re working with.

H: Where are you within your five year plan?

B: We just made a decision within the last year to make this five year plan.  And that’s why you see the natural progression of making bigger and bigger films. 

H: Have you chosen what your next Western project is?

B: No.  Not as yet. 

H: Have you considered doing sequels or follow-ups to any of the westerns you’ve done before?

B: I haven’t really thought about it.  We’re in negotiations on one; I can’t divulge the title yet. 

H: What are your favorite western movies?

B: I love STAGECOACH; I love HIGH NOON.  I like the movies I’ve been involved with in the past.  It was such a pleasure to be able to work with the elements on FRANK AND JESSE JAMES, and very exciting to be able to work with talented actors.  I’m noticing that there are a lot of country and western singers who would love to be given the opportunity to be in westerns as well. 

WYATT EARP’S REVENGE – a film review

WYATT EARP’S REVENGE, the new Western directed by Michael Feifer from Darren Benjamin Shepherd’s script, rewinds history to the very beginning of the Wyatt Earp legend and in addition to entertaining, to a surprising degree, it gives an accurate history lesson.  In 1878, a rich, spoiled, sociopathic thug named Spike Kenedy (Daniel Booko), angry at the Dodge City mayor, Dog Kelly, fires several shots through Kelly’s door, then rides away, thinking he’s killed the mayor.  In fact, Kelly is not home, and has let a couple of actresses sleep in his house.  One of them, Dora Hand (AMERICAN IDOL finalist Diana DeGarmo), takes a bullet meant for Dog Kelly, and dies.   

To see the cast of famous lawman characters that populate the tale, you might think screenwriter Shepherd was fantasizing – everyone but Wild Bill Hickock and Hopalong Cassidy are in the posse --  but that’s the honest truth.  When Wyatt Earp (Shawn Roberts) takes off after Spike, he’s accompanied by Bat Masterson (Matt Dallas), Charlie Bassett (Scott Whyte), and they’re soon joined by expert tracker Bill Tilghman (Levi Fiehler).  Granted, they do toss in Doc Holliday (HART OF DIXIE star Wilson Bethel), but it’s an amusing cameo that doesn’t really re-write history, and brings some much-appreciated levity to a very grim story.

Earp and his men are in a race against time to catch Spike and his brother Sam Kenedy (Steven Grayhm) before they can reach the property of their influential politico-father Mifflin Kenedy (singer Trace Adkins), at which point Spike will be all but untouchable.

Shawn Roberts as Wyatt Earp - 1878

There is a second, parallel story as well, where Wyatt Earp, in a San Francisco hotel in 1907, is being interviewed by a reporter about the events of 1878.  Here, Earp is Val Kilmer, old and dignified, and his thoughtful, introspective narration, heard at intervals throughout the story, adds a welcome gravitas to the proceedings.  Kilmer’s performance as a man haunted by his life-choices is quietly powerful. His dignity is all the more effective when faced with the arrogant questions of the callow reporter (David O’Donnell). 

Val Kilmer as Wyatt Earp - 1907

Shawn Roberts as Earp gives a sincere but understated performance, understated by necessity since Kilmer is frequently voicing his thoughts, and one can easily see the younger man growing into the older one.  Dora Hand is dead before we meet her, but in a series of flashbacks we learn that she was Earp’s woman, and on the way to being his wife, and while this is all invention, it gives important impetus to Earp’s hunt for Spike. 

Trace Adkins looks like he stepped right out of a Matthew Brady photograph, and although his role is brief, his fatherly quiet fury is moving and effective, complimented by Caia Coley as his wife, the too-indulgent mother of Spike and Sam. 

Trace Adkins as Mifflin Kenedy

While the members of Wyatt's posse are all familiar characters, the script doesn't give the actors  much chance to make an impression in their individual roles. Matt Dallas as Bat Masterson comes off the best, introduced with an elaborate fist-fight at the beginning of the story, before the chase is on, and later is effective as Wyatt’s best friend. 

Matt Dallas as Bat Masterson

Interestingly, the best role, and most memorable performance is by Daniel Booko as the villain of the piece, Spike Kenedy, whose treatment of people he meets along the way is the stuff of nightmares.  Spike may have a screw loose, or he may simply be a sadist, but Booko plays him with an smooth charm that chills, because you can easily see yourself making the mistake of trusting him. 

Daniel Booko as Spike Kenedy

There’s plenty of action, between the posse’s pursuit of Spike and company, the trigger-happy lowlifes Spike travels with, and Spike’s almost arbitrary homicidal tendencies.  An extended shootout between the posse and Spike’s gang, in a field with no cover except tall grass, is particularly exciting.

Michael Feifer’s direction is effective without distracting artifice.  Working with cinematographer Roberto Schein, the lighting and shot composition is always effective and frequently striking, as in the ‘forensic’ sequence at the crime scene.  Subtle use of a crane gives some scenes a considerable power-boost.  Christian Ramirez’s art direction gives a consistent sense of time and place, and Nikki Pelley’s costumes are correct, yet unusually varied, giving each character their own style.


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Paul Malcolm, who has been a programmer at the UCLA Archive since 2007, has a wide range of film interests, and describes himself as a ‘generalist.’  But as he proved with last year’s TRACKING THE CAT: ROBERT MITCHUM IN THE WEST, he has a taste for cinema-sagebrush.  “I think Robert Mitchum’s western films had been overlooked, overwhelmed by his noir and urban personality.  And I love his westerns because there’s so much of that noir element in them.  The Mitchum series did really well for us; the audience was really responsive.  I’m a huge fan of westerns, and I just wanted to do another western series.

“I met Budd Boetticher back in 2000 or 2001, when I was getting my masters degree at UCLA, and Professor Janet Bergstrom arranged a meeting with Budd and Mary at his home down in San Diego, for herself and three teaching assistants.  She was teaching a noir class, and she had screened THE KILLER IS LOOSE in the class.  I just found him to be the most gracious and engaging and amazing guy.  And he was just an incredible host to give us an afternoon.  He showed us his horses, and the ring where he did the bullfighting recreations.  I’d just always loved his films, so when I got the job here in 2007, it was always in the back of my mind, doing a Budd Boetticher series.  Because his films, both the crime films like THE KILLER IS LOOSE and THE RISE AND FALL OF LEGS DIAMOND, and the Ranown Westerns, I haven’t seen play around in Los Angeles, and I think they deserve to be shown.  THE TALL T, RIDE LONESOME, I think all of these films should be part of the regular classic circulating titles out there, in the way that the Howard Hawks, the John Ford films get circulated.  He’s had these peaks of attention, but he’s never really quite gotten into the regular pantheon, and I think he deserves to be there.  His films are pretty amazing.”   

On hand for the July 22nd screening of BULLFIGHTER AND THE LADY will be Mary Boetticher, and Robert Gitt, UCLA Preservation Officer, who did the restoration on BULLFIGHTER.

Just a side note; on Friday evening, as SEVEN MEN FROM NOW began, with applause for various credits, a man in his late teens, and his father, sitting beside me, applauded vigorously for composer Henry Vars.  After the movie, I learned that they were the grandson and great-grandson of the prolific and talented composer, far better known in his homeland of Poland, and most famous here for his music for FLIPPER.  SEVEN MEN was produced by Andrew V. McLaglen, and they told me that McLaglen used Vars frequently.  In fact, Vars composed the scores for five films that McLaglen directed: FRECKLES, THE LITTLE SHERHERD OF KINGDON COME, MAN IN THE VAULT, GUN THE MAN DOWN, and Vars’ final score, FOOL’S PARADE.  (You never know who you’ll meet at a screening in L.A.)


This week I received a message from Kristine Sader: “I am writing a book about my uncles, the Hudkins, and also my cousin Rich Brehm, who were stuntmen, and wranglers in many westerns.  If you know anyone who knew them, I would like to talk with them.  Thanks so much.”

John ‘Bear’ Hudkins, Ace Hudkins, Clyde Hudkins, and Dick Hudkins (I think they were all brothers) were legendary stuntmen, who owned a stable and Hudkins Brothers Movie Ranch in Burbank, across the road from Warner Brothers Studios – the movie ranch is now Forest Lawn Cemetery.  They’re said to have owned both Trigger and Hi-Yo Silver when they were rental horses. 

Thanks to Boyd Mager for this image

As Neil Summers writes, “When you watch classic action filled westerns and see a ferocious wagon wreck, or turnover as they are called in the business, chances are real good you’re seeing the expertise of Bear Hudkins, one of the best wagon men ever to perform in films.”

If you have knowledge of the Hudkins, or Rich Brehm, e-mail her at SADERWWJD@AOL.COM.  And please let the Round-up know, as well.

Well, that's it for tonight.  Have a great week!

Happy trails,


All Original Contents Copyright July 2012 by Henry C. Parke -- All Rights Reserved


  1. Awesome interview with Barry B and a great, positive review of "Wyatt Earp's Revenge". Great & enjoyable blog - a total MUST for the Western connoisseur!

    1. Thanks so much for your support and encouragement!