Sunday, March 9, 2014



Eric Roberts as Tanner

Over the years we’ve gotten used to seeing Westerns made in Spain and Italy; in Germany and Croatia – the Karl May films; Australia and New Zealand; and even the Canary Islands – okay, just once, with TAKE A HARD RIDE.  But somehow, making a Western in Maryland seems the most bizarre of all.  Yet Maryland-based filmmaker Wayne Shipley and his One-Eyed Horse Productions has recently completed their second Western feature there, DAY OF THE GUN.  GUN and his previous feature, ONE-EYED HORSE, along with several shorts, have all been set in the fictional frontier town of Singletree, Montana, and for this newest film, his crew actually ventured to Montana, though the vast majority was shot in that neighbor to New England, Maryland.   

For Shipley’s most ambitious, and I would assume most costly, film to date, he has reached outside of his stock-company of actors to Hollywood, and hired Eric Roberts to play a crucial role.  The story concerns a widow, Maggie Carter (LaDon Hart Hall), who has taken over the reins of the family spread from her late husband.  An opinionated and aggressive woman, she is not welcomed to the fold by the other local cattle ranchers, and when one of them (Jim Osborn) starts fencing in open range to combat rustling, a line has been crossed which she cannot forgive: a range war is inevitable.  Into this battleground comes her son (Ned Carter), still smarting from disfiguring face scars; and her daughter (Rachel McCall), just home from an eastern college.  And the daughter’s romantic interest is none other than the son (Jason Brown) of the fence-raising cattleman.  The son was once Maggie’s son’s best friend, and even introduced him to the girl who took a broken bottle to his face.

This is an unusually big story for recent westerns, especially low-budget ones, a throwback to family-centered Western stories like BROKEN LANCE and FLAMING STAR and TV’s BONANZA and BIG VALLEY.  Shipley succeeds in making the production seem big enough.  The Western town is extensive and well-detailed, the rolling stock and horse-flesh substantial.  The location is attractively lush and green, and the gun-action is long and loud, well-staged, with plenty of participants.  The weapons and, by-and-large the wardrobe, are attractive and, with the exception of some of the ladies’ hats, historically accurate.  

Cinematographer and editor Jeff Herberger frames his shots to good effect – sometimes spectacular effect in the Montana sequences – and edits well.  Standout sequences include an extended shoot-out with the rustlers, and an unusual climax filmed on a mountain-top.

Writer- director Shipley stages the action well.  His manner of writing dialogue is not the naturalistic style mostly favored today, but a much more literary one.  That calls for precise delivery to not sound stilted, and not all of the cast is up to that challenge.  And there is one bit of casting for a central role that seems so off-the-mark that it’s hard for the film to recover.  But when, late in the story, Eric Roberts appears as a hired gun with a personal stake in the events, the professionalism of the project is kicked up several notches. 
Very recently completed, DAY OF THE GUN is making the rounds of film festivals, and we’ll let you know when it’s available.  To learn more about One-Eyed Horse Productions, HERE’s the link to their site.  


The Stardust Cowboys, having played Western Swing at concerts, rodeos, conventions, fairs and cowboy gatherings all over Northern California for two decades, will make their much-anticipated premiere Los Angeles-area appearance on Thursday, March 20th.  It’s part of the OutWest Concert Series at the Repertory East Playhouse, at 24266 Main Street, Newhall, CA 91321.   The Stardust Cowboys draw their inspiration from the fabled Bob Wills who, with his Texas Playboys, invented Western Swing, that delightful mash-up of cowboy and big band music.  They play a mix of traditional western songs as well as their own originals, and their live shows are full of humor and high energy.

You can buy tickets for $20 by calling OutWest at 661-255-7087. This concert is part of the OutWest series -- in case you haven’t noticed, we have a new sponsor here at the Round-up, the OutWest Western Boutique and Cultural Center in Newhall – just go to the top left corner of the Round-up, click their logo, and you’ll be magically transported to their wonderful store.  The doors open at 7 p.m., and the concert begins at 8, and Bobbi Jean Bell, purveyor of OutWest, tells me that Newhall is having their 3rd Thursday of the month block party, SENSES (as in delighting the same), so you might want to arrive early for dinner from the food trucks, live music – and to find parking.   Bobbi also tells me that if you’re coming to the concert, you might want to dress up!  SCTV will be filming the show, and you just may be on TV! 

So you say you’d like to win a free pair of tickets to see The Stardust CowboysHere’s what you need to do.  Number one, before you enter, make sure you live someplace where you can actually get to the concert from (I just checked, and right now folks are reading the Round-up in Thailand, The Netherlands and China, but I doubt most can make it here).  Number two, send an email to, with ‘Stardust Cowboys ticket giveaway’ in the subject line.  Make sure to include your name, snail-mail address, and phone number.  And here’s the challenging part: name the band leader other than Bob Wills, who was also called The King of Western Swing, and who used to be a movie stand-in for Roy Rogers!  Please be sure to send your entry by 11 pm Saturday, March 15th.  The winner will be selected randomly from all correct entries.  And below is a sneak preview of The Stardust Cowboys. 


Monday, March 10th, at 7:30 p.m., you can see one of the best and most important Westerns of recent years, 3:10 TO YUMA (2007), to be followed by a discussion with director James Mangold, moderated by Geoff Boucher.  The film stars Russell Crowe as an outlaw being transported to jail, and Christian Bale as the failing farmer who agrees to put Crowe on the train of the title, no matter what the cost.  Also starring are Ben Foster (who’s so good he steals the picture) and Peter Fonda.  One of those rare cases where the remake is comparable to the original, the Elmore Leonard story was first filmed in 1957, with Delmer Daves directing Glenn Ford in the Crowe role, and Van Heflin in the Bale role.  Go HERE for more information, and tickets. 


DO go to the Paperback Collectors Show on Sunday, March 16th, but DO NOT go to that hotel on Sepulveda where it’s been for a decade – now it’s at the Glendale Civic Auditorium, 1401 N. Verdugo Road, Glendale, CA 91208.   Parking is free, admission is five clams.  This is a great annual event, and a wonderful opportunity to fill in the gaps in your collection.  This is where I track down all my hard-to-find Luke Shorts and Donald Hamiltons and the like.  You can find not just westerns, but sci-fi, crime, horror, and lots of pulps.  The pristine stuff gets pricey, but speaking as a paperback slob rather than a snob, I’ve never paid more than $2.50 for anything.  Authors will be there to sign your books for free, and while there are no big  western guys, some of the civilian authors of note include Earl ‘The Waltons’ Hamner, George Clayton Jackson, David Gerrold, Ib Melchior, William F. Nolan, Larry Niven, and Harlan Ellison (Harlie will sign two of your books if you buy one from him – and don’t tell him I called him Harlie!) To find the authors signing times, go here:


The two-month retrospective entitled Dark City, Open Country: The Films of Anthony Mann.  Which opened in January at the UCLA Motion Picture & Television Archive at the Billy Wilder Theatre, continues. Best known for his post-war western collaborations with James Stewart at Universal, he also directed many other excellent westerns, as well as gritty crime stories, at all of the major studios as well as the poverty row outfits.  On Wednesday, March 12th, it’s T-MEN (1947) and RAW DEAL (1948).  March 15th SIDE STREET (1950) and WINCHESTER ’73 (1950).  March 23rd THE TALL TARGET (1951) and THE FAR COUNTRY (1954).  And finally, on March 30th MAN OF THE WEST (1958) and THE TIN STAR (1957).


One of the high points of the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival, which will be April 26 & 27 at Melody Ranch, is the Buckaroo Book Shop, where author of Western fact and fiction will be signing their books and meeting their fans.  The Book Shop is run by the folks at OutWest, and they’ve just finalized their list of authors who’ll be attending.   Cheryl Rogers-Barnett (daughter of Roy and Dale), Margaret Brownley, Jim Christina, Peter Conway, Steve Deming, Edward M. Erdelac, J.P. Gorman, Dale B. Jackson, Jim Jones, C. Courtney Joyner (see my review of his SHOTGUN in next week’s Round-up), Andria Kidd, Antoinette Lane, Jerry Nickle (a descendant of Harry Longabaugh, alias the Sundance Kid), J.R. Sanders, Tony Sanders, Janet Squires, ‘Cowgirl Peg’ Sundberg, Miles Hood Swarthout (who scripted THE SHOOTIST), Rod Thompson, and Nancy Pitchford-Zee.  We’ll have a schedule as the date gets closer.


Held at and around the original Vallecito stage station, this one-day event will feature tours, a reenactment of California soldiers’ historic march along the southern Overland Trail at the start of the Civil War, how-to demonstrations for throwing a tomahawk, archery, flint and steel fire making, soap-making and how to cook on an open hearth.  There will be mountain man demonstrations as well.  You are encouraged to come in 1850s and 1860s attire, and encouraged to bring food, as none will be available.  Learn more details, including how to get there. At this link:


According to Deadline Hollywood, Chris Boal has been signed to script a new Zorro, to be produced by Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald.  Playwright Boal has lately scripted three upcoming films: sci-fier OLD MAN’S WAR for Paramount, and Viking pic VANGUARD for Wolfgang Peterson, and CESAR for Warner Brothers.


Just about cracked up the Toyota on the way to Sharky’s when I saw the ‘Grand Opening’ sign!  The new Video Hut at 13326 Burbank Boulevard in Sherman Oaks 91401, has been open just a week, still getting organized, so they don’t have a Westerns section yet.  But a casual glance around showed more than a dozen Western titles, including DJANGO UNCHAINED, new and old TRUE GRIT, A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT, OPEN RANGE, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, SWEETWATER, LAST RITES OF RANSOM PRIDE, GOODNIGHT FOR JUSTICE – MEASURE OF A MAN, GUNDOWN, the HATFIELDS & MCCOYS miniseries, and Fred Olen Ray’s film on the same subject, TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARAH, 3:10 TO YUMA, ACE HIGH, ACES & 8S, APALOOSA, AMERICAN BANDITS – FRANK AND JESSE JAMES, AMERICAN OUTLAWS, BLAZING SADDLES, BROKEN BULLET, and LONE RANGER both for rent and for sale.  I rented DEAD IN TOMBSTONE on BluRay, and will soon have a review (take THAT, Universal, who wouldn’t answer my requests for a review copy!).  They also had multiples of the Oscar pics, and the HUNGER GAMES movies.  They’re open 7 days a week, from ten ‘til midnight, and all rentals are $1.50, $1.62 with tax.  Their phone is 818-994-5878.


Every time someone has a monopoly, the customers get burned.  We saw it when Blockbuster drove the mom and pop stores out of business with their huge selection, then dumped 3/4s of their films.  Blockbuster got killed by Netflix, and now Netflix is dumping tons of their content.  I tried to catch up with Oscar movies through VOD on DirecTV, it worked twice, and then it took 36 hours to download half of 12 YEARS A SLAVE – during which my internet was dead (wish I’d realized the connection sooner).  And have I mentioned lately that DirecTV dropped INSP?  My point is, the more choices we have, the better.  Support your local video store if you still have one!

Happy Trails,


All Original Contents Copyright March 2014 by Henry C. Parke - All Rights Reserved


  1. C. Courtney Joyner: excellent.
    Eric Roberts: very cool.
    Video Hut: great!
    Man you are always full of good news! Thanks pal.

  2. Henry, really appreciating your insights! Having seen the film, I'm curious to whom you are referring when you say: "And there is one bit of casting for a central role that seems so off-the-mark that it’s hard for the film to recover."
    Thanks for clarifying!

    1. I don’t like to be unkind when it’s avoidable. It’s easy to criticize an actor as ‘bad’ when the truth is they weren’t right for the part, and all such judgments are subjective anyway. So no, I’m not naming them.

    2. Fair enough. It is so very much about casting sometimes!
      And in the interest of transparency, I played the rustler Caleb Earl Bateman.
      All things being subjective, I really enjoyed your article and appreciate your help getting the word out!
      ~ jb ~

    3. Hey John, I enjoyed you performance in DAY OF THE GUN. I was just watching your demo reel on IMDB. I've always enjoyed the Frick art collection, and had no idea Henry Frick was such a psycho and dirtbag! I've got to see you playing him in THE MEN WHO BUILT AMERICA! Much obliged, Henry..