Monday, March 25, 2013



The Hallmark TV movie WHEN CALLS THE HEART is in post production, and will serve as an introduction to a series of ten one-hour episodes of the same title.  Based on the best-selling CANADIAN WEST book series by Janette Oke, the movie stars Maggie Grace, Jean Smart, Lori Laughlin, Poppy Drayton and Stephen Amell.  The cast for the TV-series has not yet been announced. 


Set in 1910, it’s the story of Elizabeth Thatcher, a cultured teacher who, with misgivings, gives up her comfortable city life to become a teacher in a prairie town on the western frontier.  She’s determined to prove her independence to her doubting family, and her doubting self.  She’s helped in part by drawing inspiration from a late Aunt’s secret diary.  It seems the Aunt had a similar adventure, and similarly had a romance with a Royal Canadian Mountie. 


Author Janette Oke and the Hallmark Channel have had a long and successful partnership since 2003, when they first adapted her book LOVE COMES SOFTLY.  It’s led to a dozen titles from the series since then, most or all of them westerns, many with LOVE’S (ADJECTIVE) (NOUN) titles.  The WHEN CALLS THE HEART movie was written and directed by Michael Landon, Jr.      



Natalie Portman in COLD MOUNTAIN

But the good news is, when the music stops, it looks like they’ve still got a cast, plus a director.  It had been announced recently that Michael Fassbinder, of INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, JONAH HEX, and Magneto of the X-MEN movies, was exiting due to schedule conflicts with another X-MEN movie.  He had been replaced by Australian Joel Edgerton, who plays the Squadron Team Leader in ZERO DARK THIRTY, and will soon be seen as Tom Buchanan in THE GREAT GATSBY. Edgerton had initially been cast as the villain of the piece, but when Fassbinder left, Edgerton was switched to hero, and Jude Law came on board to play the villain.  But no one, least of all star and producer Natalie Portman, was prepared when they reached the set on Monday, March 18th, for the commencement of principal photography, and learned that director Lynne Ramsay had quit.    


The project had begun with an original screenplay by first-timer Brian Duffield, and was a highly touted ‘Black List’ script. (Note: this ‘Black List’ has nothing to do with politics. It is a list of highly respected scripts that haven’t been sold. Stupid name, considering the ‘Black List’ connotation, isn’t it?)  The story concerns Portman’s character, who is married to the head of an outlaw band.  When he comes home, badly wounded, pursued by former underlings who want to finish him off, she turns for help to a former lover, (once Fassbinder, now Edgerton).  Lynne Ramsay, who has garnered great respect as the director of WE’VE GOT TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN, had been actively involved with the project from day one, and her abrupt exit has left the town stunned.


Portman’s producing partner, Scott Steindorff of Scott Pictures, was livid, and told DEADLINE HOLLYWOOD: “I have millions of dollars invested, we’re ready to shoot, we have a great script, crew and cast.  I’m shocked and so disappointed someone would do this to 150 crew members who devoted so much time, energy, commitment and loyalty to a project, and then have the director not show up. It is insane somebody would do this to other people. I feel more for the crew and their families, but we are keeping the show going on, directors are flying in, and a replacement is imminent.”


Next to leave, it was revealed Wednesday, is Jude Law, whose interest in the project was based on his wish to work with Lynne Ramsay.  Among those being considered to replace him, according to the Los Angeles Times, are Tobey Maguire, Jeff Bridges, and Jake Gyllenhal.  Maguire starred in the rarely seen but excellent Ang Lee-directed western RIDE WITH THE DEVIL; Bridges has starred in a slew of westerns, most recently TRUE GRIT; Gyllenhal was nominated for an Oscar for Ang Lee’s BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN (if you consider sheep-movies to be westerns), and also played Billy Crystal’s son in CITY SLICKERS. 


Now it’s been announced that WARRIOR director and co-writer Gavin O’Connor will be sitting in the canvas chair.  He directed Edgerton in WARRIOR, which garnered Nick Nolte a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination.  He also directed TUMBLEWEEDS (1999), which earned a Best Actress nomination for Janet McTeer, and directed the hugely popular hockey film MIRACLE (2004).  With so much money and so many jobs on the line, this highly talented group should be able to pull it off. 




When I learned that the folks at Hulu, the downloading site, were making their own western series, I was excited.  They were shooting eight episodes over four weeks at the Paramount Ranch.  But all the people involved were a little…gun shy... when I contacted them.  They weren’t having any press on the set.  Then I learned they were casting dress extras, and I thought I might sneak on-board that way.  But it turned out to be a S.A.G. shoot, so I couldn’t get on that way either.


Then I learned that actor, musician and all-around good-guy Mike Gaglio had a part in the show.  Mike has more than forty film and TV credits, including AMERICAN BANDITS: FRANK AND JESSE JAMES, and I thought I might learn a little about it from him.   


“I was told I have a part in this movie.  I met up with some friends, and as soon as we got there, this guy goes, ‘So you’re our dead body extras, right?’  And half the cowboys are going, ‘Hell no, I’m not an extra; I’m an actor, and I was guaranteed lines in this movie.’  (Laughs)  They’re all pissed off.  And the kid who’s wrangling us goes, ‘We don’t have any use for that.  What we need is a bunch of dead bodies laying around, that the good guys have shot up.’  They put us across the stream from the big stars, the stream that runs right through Paramount Ranch.


“There’s six of us extras; he gave us each a number, and he said, ‘When I call out your number, you fall down dead.’  I was crouched down behind a tree.  They called out my number, I flipped over, dead.  And that was it.  And I laid there, and it rained on me for a little while, and I fell asleep for about an hour.  When I did wake up they had gone on to the dialog part.  But we still had to lie there.”

It turned out to be a comedy, and the actors were from Comedy Central.  “There was no script.  It’s all improv.  I was first told I had a week of work; but because I was killed off in the very first scene, they didn’t want me back.  Then I got a call that I had one more day on the show.  This time we were street people, just walking back and forth in front of the saloon.  They were really nice; they fed us extremely well. The costume lady was great.  She did some of the costuming for DEADWOOD.  The costumes were really ratty; they were rentals from Western Costume, but they looked very ‘DEADWOODY’.  A very accurate look to them.”   I guess I shouldn’t be too jealous about not getting to be a dress extra.       

That'll be it for this week's Round-up.  I apologize for the several changes of type in this posting -- the software is giving me a hard time for unknown reasons.  Have a great week!

Happy Trails,


All Original Contents Copyright March 2013 by Henry C. Parke -- All Rights Reserved

Sunday, March 17, 2013


Updated 3/19/2013



On Saturday night, March 23rd, a new Western movie, SHADOW ON THE MESA, will premiere on Hallmark Movie Channel.  Starring Kevin Sorbo, Wes Brown, Gail O’Grady, Shannon Lucio, Greg Evigan, Meredith Baxter and Barry Corbin, it’s written by Lee Martin, and directed by David H. Cass Sr.  I recently had a chance to talk with Kevin Sorbo about MESA, Westerns in general, and the role that made him an international star, HERCULES.


HENRY:  How did a Minnesota boy become an international star by way of New Zealand?


KEVIN:  (Laughs) It was written in the stars since I was eleven years old.  I told my parents I was going to be an actor.  I set that course at a very young age, came out to L. A. not knowing a soul, and I’m a thirteen year overnight success. 


Henry:  How did you get cast as Hercules?


KEVIN:  Typical audition, like anything else.  Your agent gets a breakdown, says we’re looking for these types of guys to do some movies in New Zealand.  I went to audition, then they called me back a second time, then a third time, a fourth time; over two months they called me back seven times.  They looked at over 2,800 people in North America.  I got the gig!  Originally it was going to be five two-hour movies down there, and I knew by the second movie that they were going to make it a series.  Just had a gut feeling that we had something that people were going to love.  Sure enough, they told us by the third movie that it was going to be a series.  I did seven years, and we ended up passing BAYWATCH as the most watched show in the world.

Kevin Sorbo as HERCULES

HENRY:  Outstanding.


KEVIN:  Pretty cool.  We shot from 1993 through 1999, and most of my crew went on to work on LORD OF THE RINGS when we finished shooting. 


HENRY:  I knew New Zealand was a great location for that kind of work, but I did not know that it was the same crew. 


KEVIN:  Yeah, Peter Jackson was coming to the set pretty much every year to see what was going on, kind of look at the progress of the crew.  Because initially we had a handful of people, heads of departments, who knew what they were doing, had done some things before, but things were pretty green down there at the time we started.  Peter Jackson said, if it wasn’t for HERCULES, we wouldn’t have the crews we have today.  We were a great training ground for them.  Great training ground for me. 


HENRY:  What did you like most about doing the series?


KEVIN:  I loved it – I loved the humor of the show, I loved doing the fight scenes – I’m an ex-jock, played football, basketball, baseball, all sports, and to me it was just all part of working out – doing all these fight-scenes and stuff was a blast.  I learned a lot about martial arts, and I’m the first to admit that if a real black-belt came up to me I’d get my butt kicked, but I got good at fakin’ it.  I had a great time doing it with my crew, and I still keep in touch with a lot of the guys in the stunt team.  And Michael Hurst, who played Iolaus, we get a hold of each other once a month to catch up on life.  It was just a blast; it was a wonderful chapter in my life, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.


HENRY:  Was there any downside, anything you liked least about it?


KEVIN:  I guess sometimes the distance.  But you know, when I went down there, I was not an attached person, and I wanted a career and I loved the show.  I can’t really say I got home-sick.  I got bummed out once the show became a major success, and I started getting invited to every major party in Hollywood, and I could never go, so being 7,000 miles away in New Zealand was kind of a drag.  But I had a great time there.  Wonderful people.  I’m a very outdoorsy kind of guy, and it was a good lifestyle.  


HENRY:  There’s a lot of humor in your work, a tongue-in-cheek feel. 


KEVIN:  I threw that stuff in on HERCULES early.  I started ad-libbing little one-liners at the end of each scene.  It wasn’t to piss the writers off.  I didn’t want to take anything away; I left it where they could take it out of they wanted to.  But they loved it, and Sam Raimi, who was our executive producer, that’s his style from THE EVIL DEAD and that type of thing.  He started telling the writers to throw that stuff in.  You couldn’t take HERCULES seriously; you had to have people laughing with us, not at us.  And I think that was a part of the charm of the show.  When I do these autograph shows – I get invited all over the world, and I pick three or four to do a year – everybody at the Q&A says it looks like you guys had a lot of fun, and we did. 


HENRY:  When the 111 episodes and half-dozen movies were over, did you want it to go on, or were you happy to let the character go at that point?


KEVIN:  I was ready to move on to something else.  Universal Studios offered a three-year extension, but at the same time I got a phone call from Majel Roddenberry.  I was a big STAR TREK fan, so I was flattered that she called to tell me about a project her husband wrote after the original STAR TREK series finished in 1969.  She said, “I think Gene would want you to be Captain Dylan Hunt.”  And like I say, I’m kind of a geek Trekkie in that way.  They gave me a two-year guarantee, and shoot in Vancouver, which I love as well, and you know, I wanted to do something different.  I didn’t want to become the Gilligan of my series, and never get any work again (laughs), so I had a nice five-year run on ANDROMEDA, too.


HENRY:  So the fact that it was created by Gene Roddenberry was a big attraction for you.


KEVIN:  Oh, no question.  I went to his house in Bel Air, that Majel had kept – she’s passed away too, five years ago.  They kept his office the same way it was when he passed away in the early nineties.  Saw his desk, saw his papers there, and it was pretty cool.  There are a lot of Trekkie out there who would pay a lot to do what I did.


HENRY:  While HERCULES was mostly outdoor action, ANDROMEDA was more soundstage-bound and often very intellectual ideas.  Did you prefer one over the other?


KEVIN:  I have to give HERCULES the nod because that’s where I got my break – that’s where it started for me.  Both series are still airing in about a hundred countries around the world.  It’s been interesting with HERCULES because it came out on Netflix a couple of years ago, and Hub TV, and all of sudden I’m getting these under-eighteen-year-olds coming up to me, who were too young when the series finished.  And now they’re watching it.  So this whole reprisal of the show’s going on.  And finally the Tribune Company came out of bankruptcy, so now ANDROMEDA’s going to be on Netflix soon as well, and that’s going to get another run going, too.     


HENRY:  You’ve worked a lot in Canada, and New Zealand, and the United States.  How do the countries compare?


KEVIN:  It’s funny, because I’ve been very fortunate to get the work that I’ve had.  But every time I work, I never work in California.  It’s very rare – I’ve done a lot of guest spots on sitcoms and they shoot here obviously, but for the most part I always shoot somewhere else.  Last year alone, I shot in Louisiana couple times, shot in Canada again. There would be just a little cultural differences.  But for the most part the crews, they all work hard, they’re all there to make something good, and have a good time.  And I like to have fun.  You’re working long days; let’s make something that people can enjoy, have a good time on the set, and not get all crazy with each other and cause tension.


HENRY:  As far as I know, 2007’s AVENGING ANGEL was your first western –


KEVIN:  Yup.


HENRY:  – where you’re playing a preacher-turned-bounty-hunter.  You followed a year later with PRAIRIE FEVER, with Lance Henriksen and Dominique Swain.  Now you’ve done your third western, SHADOW ON THE MESA.  What keeps bringing you back to the western form?


KEVIN:  I love ‘em.  I’ve got about six scripts that we’re trying to finance right now that are all westerns.  I think a lot of it had to do with my father, growing up as a kid watching the re-runs of GUNSMOKE, BONANZA, and all that stuff, so it’s sort of ingrained in me.  We romanticize about that, I guess.  There’s something amazing about the people that came out west, back in the 1800s.  I’m sure it was pretty brutal; (laughs) I’m sure they were all pretty stinky, but there’s just something about it that I think we all love.  I mean, after I shot AVENGING ANGEL I told Robert Duvall that I just shot my first western. He looked at me and said, “It’s the best thing, isn’t it?  Every actor wants to do a western.”    And I think there’s a lot of truth in it.  There’s something wonderful about them – like I said, I’ve got all these other scripts we’re trying to raise money for now.  I wish I could have done more.  Hallmark’s just the only one that keeps that genre alive.


HENRY:  I was just writing in the Round-up that there’s no one else you can point to and say they’ve made four westerns in the last year except Hallmark.


KEVIN:  There is the occasional feature that comes out, obviously, but they’re the ones who keep it going, and the biggest problem, they say, is it doesn’t translate well overseas for some reason, but I still love doing them; I hope we can keep on making them. 


HENRY:  The irony is that for years, overseas was the guaranteed box office for westerns, and that seems to have dried up.  Of course you did a lot of horseback riding as Hercules, before you became an official cowboy.  Were there any skills you had to learn, to do westerns convincingly?


KEVIN:  The whole gun action – which was fun.  Go to a range, shooting – I can see why people get hooked on it.  I wish I could have rode some more on this last one, SHADOW ON THE MESA.  I didn’t ride; the whole back-story on my character is that he broke his leg on a young horse he was trying to break.  The only time I didn’t get to ride a horse was on this one.


HENRY:  They’ll have to get you on two horses in the next one.  Now all three of your westerns have been directed by stuntman-turned-director David S. Cass, Sr.  Does he bring something special to the genre?


KEVIN:  David’s been around, you know.  All the stunts he did with Mitchum and Wayne; he’s got some great tales.  He knows what he wants; he’s very creative.  And obviously he’s learned his trade from other directors as a young buck, being on the set, throwing himself around, and getting beat up.  He’s used his training well.  I love Dave; we have a great camaraderie together.  He’s easy to work for, and he knows that I’m going to come prepared, that I’m willing to take chances as well. 


HENRY:  We touched a little on the fact that you grew up watching westerns with your dad.  Did you have particular favorites as a kid?


KEVIN:  You know, I’m a Clint Eastwood guy; I love Clint.  I’m very fortunate that over the last few years I’ve gotten to golf with him a few times, got to know him a little better; we’ve attended a few events together.  You look at HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER and all the Sergio Leone stuff.  He goes there (to Europe) and does those westerns that nobody said would do anything, and they became like the biggest westerns of all time.  And I like the Trinity guys, too, Terence Hill, Bud Spencer.  Love those things; totally crack me up. 


HENRY:  How about your favorite westerns as an adult; is it a new list, or is it the same group? 


KEVIN:  Probably the same group.  There are some good ones out there.  That one with Russell Crowe, 3:10 TO YUMA – I liked that one.  I enjoyed that one a lot.  But still, if I’m flipping channels and HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER is on or OUTLAW JOSEY WALES, I’ll stop and watch the rest of it, even though I’ve seen it twenty times.


HENRY:  And of course he’s so good not only as an actor, but as an actor-director. 


KEVIN:  I’ve told him, because we know each other now.  I’ve said, “Clint, if it’s one line, I don’t care.  I want to work with you one time.  Just want to be on the set, to say I’ve worked with Clint Eastwood.  So c’mon, throw me a bone!” 

Kevin with Shannon Lucio as his daughter

HENRY:  What western stars of the past do you connect with?  Do you see a Glenn Ford or a Randolph Scott role and say, I’d like to play that?


KEVIN:  I like Gary Cooper.   I think my acting style is similar to his in a way.  I just like the way he carries himself, and I’ve had other people tell me that in the past.  I grew up watching movies with my mom and dad, and Gary Cooper is one of the stars we watched a lot.  I’m a big fan of Cary Grant.  And Jimmy Stewart – I love his stuff.  BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID – I’m a huge fan of Robert Redford and Paul Newman; that’s really what kind of put it over the top for me to want to be an actor. 


HENRY:  Tell me a bit about SHADOW IN THE MESA, and your role in it.


KEVIN:  Well, my character is a solid man; typical of a lot of westerns, these strong, silent types.  He doesn’t mince words.  He finds out he’s got this son that he never knew he had, and the son is pretty much coming to assassinate him.  He’s played by Wes Brown, and we had a really good camaraderie – I really liked working with him.  He’s an up-and-coming kid; he’s a good actor.  And my character, he’s going through a lot of stuff – all the things country songs are written of, except the dog doesn’t die. 

Shannon Lucio and Wes Brown


HENRY:  I’ve read the synopsis, but not seen it yet.  But the plot is a lot more complex than westerns typically are.  There were turns in the story that I didn’t see coming.  It’s a nice piece of work – at least on paper.


KEVIN:  It is.  I think it turned out well. 


HENRY:  Now your in-laws are Meredith Baxter and Barry Corbin – a very talented pair.  Barry’s someone who always seems to fit perfectly in westerns. What’s he like?

Meredith Baxter and Barry Corbin

KEVIN:  Here’s the funny thing: I never got to work with either of them.  We never even saw each other on the set.  I worked with Gail O’Grady and Greg Evigan.


HENRY:  Well, tell me about Gail and Greg.

Gail O'Grady

KEVIN:  Well, Gail I’ve known for a long time, and it was great to work with her – we actually did a TWO AND A HALF MEN together years ago; she played my ex-wife in that one.  She’s a hoot, she’s funny.  She’s a beautiful girl with a trucker’s mouth on her.  And Greg was just a class act.  A nice guy, we’d never met before.  He played the guy who was my arch enemy.  And we didn’t get to work too much together either.  We were two days on the set together, but our scenes were pretty much at a distance, shooting at each other! (Laughs)

Greg Evigan

HENRY:  So you’d make more westerns if you had a chance to?


KEVIN:  In a heartbeat.  I’ve got a wonderful script called TRANQUILITY; we’ve got Dwight Yoakam and Ann Margaret attached.  So hopefully we can make this thing. 


HENRY:  Am I allowed to mention that?


KEVIN:  Sure; tell ‘em we’re looking for investors!  It may be a little too dark for Hallmark, which is may be why they passed on it.  They like a little more ‘blue sky’ type of stuff, which is fine, but this has a very interesting story to it. 


HENRY:  To switch to a much more serious topic, tell me about FDR: AMERICAN BADASS! 

Channeling Daniel Day-Lewis in

KEVIN:  Well, I did a movie with these guys (director Garrett Brawith and writer Ross Patterson) the year before that.  It was called POOL BOY: DROWNING OUT THE FURY, which I starred in.  They called me up and said, look, we have this cameo role with you as Abe Lincoln, do you want to do this?  I read this script and laughed and said yes.  Barry Bostwick plays FDR, and I get him stoned. 


HENRY:  All this stuff that Daniel Day-Lewis left out!


KEVIN:  I love doing it – I’m a big David Zucker fan as well, and I got to do a cameo in one of his films, AMERICAN CAROL.  I love AIRPLANE, NAKED GUN, all of that.  That sophomoric, stupid humor, it’s just fun to do.  We’ve got another one coming with the same group, where I’m going to have second lead, to a woman.  We don’t know who the actress is going to be, but it’s going to be Helen Keller’s life story, and she was really a spy, and a kick-ass spy at that, and I’m her sidekick. 


HENRY:  What else are you up to?


KEVIN:  I’d love to throw a nod to a movie of mine that’s out right now, called ABEL’S FIELD.  It’s from New Sony Studios, they’re the same division that I did SOUL SURFER with.  It’s a modern-day Cain and Abel-meets-FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS.  We shot it in Austin, Texas.  It’s a wonderful family movie.   You go to for a trailer on that.  And my book just came out in paperback.  It’s called TRUE STRENGTH, you can go to .  It’s a little bit of my life story. When going through the HERCULES years, between season five and six, I had an aneurism that caused three strokes.  Universal kept it very quiet because HERCULES was doing quite well for them.  But I went through four months of re-hab; learned to walk again.  Two strokes went to my balance; one stroke went to my vision.  The last two years on HERCULES were pretty tough for me.  I went from fourteen-hour work-days to one hour, then worked it up to two hours a month later, then three hours, and slowly worked my way back.  They did a lot of stunt casting and a lot of clip shows to keep the show alive.  It wasn’t fun; and I’ve been doing a lot of speaking at neurological institutions, hospitals and bookstores.  It’s been pretty amazing to see people’s response, because it’s about triumph over tragedy, and how you get through things that throw that curve-ball at you in life.  And GOD’S NOT DEAD comes out in theatres this fall.  Same people I did a movie called WHAT IF… with.  So you should mark that down – WHAT IF…  is a good movie.  Very proud of that movie; shot that with Kristy Swanson, John Ratzenberger.  And Debby Ryan plays my daughter – she’s on the Disney Channel.       


Ennio Morricone, composer of more than 500 film scores, startled students in a music, film and television class at Rome’s LUISS University by announcing that he would never work with DJANGO UNCHAINED director again.  According to the Hollywood Reporter, the composer elaborated.  “I wouldn’t like to work with him again, on anything.  He said last year he wanted to work with me again ever since Inglourious Basterds, but I told him I couldn't, because he didn’t give me enough time. So he just used a song I had written previously.” 

Morricone complained that Tarantino “…places music in his films without coherence.  You can't do anything with someone like that."  While four pieces of Morricone music are used in DJANGO UNCHAINED, all were composed for previous films. 

As I told you in last week's Round-up, Authors Bill Crider, James Reasoner and Mel Odom are collaborating under the name Colby Jackson to create a new series of Western novels, and to spread the word, they're giving the Kindle book away on Sunday and Monday March 17 & 18 -- just follow the link:

The smell of black powder will fill the air at 3 pm Saturday, March 23rd, when the deadly CAMPO GUNFIGHT of 1875 is reenacted at the Golden Acorn Casino in Campo, the bordertown near San Diego where it actually happened.  The event is free, and it should be a lot of fun.  The man behind the event is Bryon Harrington, author of CAMPO: THE FORGOTTEN GUNFIGHT, and he is a stickler for historical accuracy.  To learn more about the event, go HERETo learn more about Bryon's book, go HERE.  

HEY ROUNDERS, that's gonna have to be all for tonight's Round-up!  I know I told you that I'd also have an on-set report on  QUICK DRAW, but I didn't expect for my computer to be down for three days this week, so that'll have to wait until next week.  Hope you're having a great St. Patrick's Day!
Happy Trails,
All Contents Copyright March 2013 by Henry C. Parke -- All Rights Reserved

Sunday, March 10, 2013


RENEGADE -- Film Review


I don’t know how I missed this one.  This heartfelt little Western slipped out from Barnholtz Entertainment in September to very little fanfare, but it’s well worth a look.  RENEGADE, originally titled MATTIE, takes place during the gold rush, and stars fetching Kaylee Defer, of GOSSIP GIRL and RED STATE, as Mattie Springer.  In her late teens, her mother has recently died in a cholera epidemic, and she has taken her mother’s place in helping dad raise three younger sisters and a brother.


Then a handsome man named Zeb (Ryan Doom) comes to the prospecting community, sweeps Mattie off her feet, and she’s soon married to him, sharing his mine-shack home, along with his partner and brother Jacob (Ric Maddox).  But it’s a pity she didn’t meet the quieter, more steadfast brother first.  While Jacob stays home and works the mine, keeping house with his sister-in-law, husband Zeb is never home long, always searching for another, better claim. 

Mattie sees Zeb
Not surprising in a community looking for quick riches, the specter of danger is always lurking in the shadows, here in the persons of a band of comancheros who prey on the miners at their isolated claims, willing to kill for a sprinkle of gold dust.  Soon after she marries, much of Mattie’s family is slaughtered by the roaming band, and she then has the added responsibility of raising the survivors. 


RENEGADE has bursts of violence, but the story is more about Mattie’s personal struggles than the life-and-death kind.  While the action is sudden and often intense, the stand-out moments are not elaborate showdowns but character scenes.  Shot on locations and ranches around Tucson, much of cinematographer Winston Ashley Maddox’s work is startling beautiful; not just for his inclusion of stark and stunning landscapes, but also for creative use of lighting and composition.  Images of a sheriff rescuing a smoking Bible from a torched house, and a man weeping on a porch after learning of a loved-one’s death, linger in the memory.  Much of the story is told in unobtrusive narration by Mattie, and here both camerawork, and editing by Kyle Lovrein, primarily a visual effects specialist, shine in the seamless flow of scenes of the lives of the miners and townsfolk, helped in large degree by Brian Helms’ production design and art direction, and Georgia Goodwin’s costume design. 


First-time feature director Michael Dohrmann co-wrote the screenplay with fellow tyro James Purdy, and they did an admirable job, especially for a first-time effort.  There are weaknesses; the plot ambles along pleasantly, rather than charging ahead, and while George Chatalis looks and plays the sheriff well, you can’t understand why, as the locals are picked off, neither he nor anyone else makes a concerted effort to track the villains down.  In a particularly disconcerting choice, Lou Pimber plays Chuy, an outlaw who is clearly costumed as a Hollywood Apache, but speaks like a ‘stinking badges’ Mexican bandito. 


The performances vary.  Kaylee Defer, whose character must carry the story, is the greatest strength of the cast.  Interestingly, the women have the best-written parts, and are the best actors.  Quincy Cooper, in a small role as Mattie’s cousin Ellen, shines; and Danielle Demski as the Parson’s wife Clara is a delight, especially in the scene where she teaches Mattie to shoot.  Many of the supporting roles are played by obvious non-pros, and among the men only Ric Maddox gets to emerge enough from his stoicism to bring his character to life. 

Ric Maddox

RENEGADE is a very enjoyable look at a feisty (without being shrill and strident) young woman’s life in a mining camp, and well worth tracking down.  The budget clearly was tight, but every dollar is up on the screen.  And don’t be put off, as I was initially, by an opening sequence with jerky hand-held camerawork.  The vast majority of the picture is effectively-to-beautifully shot.  





Before you say, ‘I never heard of Colby Jackson,’ let me assure you’ve heard of at least a third of him.  Colby Jackson is the collective pseudonym of three writers who have written hundreds of novels, under their own names and house names.  Bill Crider’s western books include Galveston Gunman, Ryan Rides Back, A Time for Hanging, Outrage at Blanco, and Texas Vigilante.  James Reasoner has written, among many others, the Wind River series, Sons of Texas series, Patriots series, Civil War Battle series, Judge Earl Stark series, and several entries in the Longarm series.  Mel Odom has never written a western before, but he’s written over 170 books in every other conceivable genre.  

The first book is RANCHO DIABLO: SHOOTER’S CROSS, and here’s the official synopsis: Army Scout Sam Blaylock wasn’t looking for trouble when he rode into Shooter’s Cross, a small Texas town with a colorful history, but he found trouble in spades. After being nearly killed in an ambush, Sam discovers a patch of land where he thinks he can settle his family, put down roots, and build a future. Unfortunately, that land has poisoned water and rumors of ghosts. Sam’s figured a way to fix the water problem, and he’s never been a big believer in ghosts, but he hadn’t planned on running up against newspaperman Mitchell McCarthy, who’s willing to kill to take Rancho Diablo now that Sam has turned the land into a profitable enterprise. Sam enlists the aid of two friends from the army – fast talking Duane Beatty and gunhawk and fellow scout Mike Tucker – and digs in tighter than a tick to fight back.

On Sunday and Monday, March 17th and 18th, you can go to Amazon, and download the book for free. The link's HERE.  If you get it, shoot me a line at the Round-up to let me know how you liked it!




If you couldn’t get to the Autry for Saturday’s discussion and signing, on Monday, March 11th, Pulitzer Prize Winning author Glenn Frankel will be at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica to sign his book, THE SEARCHERS: THE MAKING OF AN AMERICAN LEGEND, prior to a screening of the film.  The signing is at 6:30 pm, the screening at 7:30 pm. 



Hal Needham, Burt Reynolds,
Bassett Hound, Jerry Reed

The man who went from taking falls for Burt Reynolds to directing him, and who just received an honorary Oscar for a career of bravery (you can read more about him HERE ) Hal Needham will be appearing at the Aero on Friday, March 15th, to sign his book, STUNTMAN!, prior to screenings of two of the twenty films he’s directed, SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT and CANNONBALL RUN. 



As part of the UCLA Billy Wilder Theatre festival of recently preserved films, on Monday, March 18th at 7:30 pm, the Wilder will be screening THE ARGONAUTS OF CALIFORNIA – 1849 (1916), a 12-reel story of the gold-fields shot in Monrovia, before Hollywood became the center of California film production.  It will be presented with a live musical accompaniment by Robert Israel.  This will be followed by a one-reel from 1914, starring the screen’s first cowboy star, Bronco Billy Anderson in BRONCO BILLY’S WILD RIDE.
On Saturday, March 23rd, at 4 pm, the Wilder will present an all-but-impossible-to-see TV episode from the anthology series ABC STAGE 67, NOON WINE (1966), based on Katherine Ann Porter’s story, written and directed by Sam Peckinpah, and starring Jason Robards, Theodore Bikel, and Olivia De Havilland.  And Theodore Bikel will attend.  It will be followed by another episode, THE HUMAN VOICE, starring Ingrid Bergman, and directed by Ted Kotcheff from Jean Cocteau’s play.  You can learn more about these and other screenings in the series HERE


Universal has announced that R.I.P.D., a summer 2013 release based on the Dark Horse comic of the same name, already in the can, will be post-adapted to 3D.  The film, a big-budget crime-comedy, stars Ryan Reynolds as a cop who is murdered and ends up in the Rest In Peace Department, a police department of the dead, and turns to Jeff Bridges, an old-West lawman, to help solve his own murder.  Also in the cast are Kevin Bacon and Mary Louise Parker.  

That’s all for this week!  Next week I’ll have a report from the set of QUICK DRAW, and an interview with Kevin Sorbo about his upcoming Hallmark Movie Channel western, SHADOW ON THE MESA!
Happy Trails,


All Original Content Copyright March 2013 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved