Saturday, December 24, 2016



Three of our favorite networks – INSP, ME-TV and GET-TV – are celebrating Christmas by airing Christmas-themed Western episodes.  Here’s the list, and all the times are Western, so adjust your viewing accordingly. 
Christmas Eve, December 24th, at
7 a.m. – INSP -  EBENEZER – a 1997 TV-movie Western version of Dicken’s A CHRISTMAS CAROL, starring Jack Palance as Scrooge, co-starring Ricky Schroder
9:15 a.m. – GET-TV – THE TALL MAN – BILLY’S BABY (1960), starring Clu Gulager as Billy the kid, and Barry Sullivan as Pat Garrett
9:55 a.m. – GET-TV – YANCY DERRINGER – OLD DIXIE (1958), starring Jock Mahoney and X Brands.
10:30 a.m. – GET-TV – RESTLESS GUN – THE CHILD (1957), starring John Payne
11:10 a.m. – GET-TV – RESTLESS GUN – A BELL FOR SANTO DOMINGO (1958) starring John Payne
11:45 a.m. – GET-TV – CIMARRON CITY – CIMARRON HOLIDAY (1958) starring George Montgomery
1:00 p.m. – ME-TV – GUNSMOKE – P.S. – MURRY CHRISTMAS (1971)
2:00 p.m. – ME-TV – BONANZA – GABRIELLE (1961) 
3:00 p.m. – ME-TV – RAWHIDE – 25 SANTA CLAUSES (1961), guest-starring Ed Wynn
4:00 p.m. – ME-TV – WANTED: DEAD OR ALIVE – 8 CENT REWARD (1958), guest-starring Jay North
4:00 p.m. – GET-TV – MIRACLE IN THE WILDERNESS (1991), TV-movie starring Kris Kristofferson and Kim Cattrall
4:30 p.m.  – ME-TV – WANTED: DEAD OR ALIVE – NO TRAIL BACK (1959)
6:00 p.m. – GET-TV – THE CHRISTMAS STALLION (1992) contemporary Western TV-movie, set in Wales, starring Daniel J. Travanti and Lynette Davies
10:20 p.m. – GET-TV – MIRACLE IN THE WILDERNESS (1991), TV-movie starring Kris Kristofferson and Kim Cattrall
December 25th – Christmas Day
5:00 p.m. – INSP - EBENEZER – a 1997 TV-movie Western version of Dicken’s A CHRISTMAS CAROL, starring Jack Palance as Scrooge, co-starring Ricky Schroder
7:00 p.m. – INSP – 3 GODFATHERS (1948) – the John Ford Classic, starring John Wayne, Pedro Amendariz, and Harry Carey Jr. (obviously not a TV episode, but a great Christmas movie)
AMC will be showing some great, non-Christmas John Wayne and Clint Eastwood Westerns all-day Christmas Day.


After years of quietly refining his acting skills laboring in cinema’s boondocks, taking small roles in big shows, and big parts in films that go largely unseen, with STAGECOACH : THE TEXAS JACK STORY, Trace Adkins emerges as something we haven’t seen in more than twenty years: a genuine new B-Western star.  Despite his Country Music stardom, Trace would not have been a leading man in the days of the original crossover stars like Gene Autry and Roy Rogers.  His grim countenance would have earned him the parts played by Glenn Strange.   As scruffy as Willy Nelson, and as massively menacing as Ron Perlman, Adkins seems to have stepped out of a Matthew Brady photograph and onto the screen.  But his gruff, quiet, shoot-from-the-hip confidence and camera appeal is the stuff of movie stardom.

In STAGECOACH he plays genuine highwayman Nathaniel Reed, alias ‘Texas Jack’ Reed, whose gang robbed many a stagecoach and train in the Indian Territory during the 1880s and ‘90s, and who lived longer than any of his contemporaries, surviving halfway into the 20th century, dying an evangelist in 1950.

Making their getaway

The story begins with a stage hold-up pulled by Reed and his partners, including Sid Dalton (Judd Nelson, of ‘Brat Pack’ fame) and Frank Bell (Claude Duhamel, the demonic Anton Stice in last year’s WESTERN RELIGION). All goes efficiently, and no one gets hurt.  That is, until shotgun guard Calhoun (Kim Coates of SONS OF ANARCHY) takes shots at the fleeing bandits.  Reed returns fire, and Calhoun goes down.

Abruptly six years have passed.  The gang members have parted ways, and Reed, no longer an outlaw,  is now happily married to Laura Lee (Michelle Harrison), and facing more mundane concerns like paying his mortgage when his livery business has slowed down.  Without warning or welcome, Frank Bell appears to tip Reed that a deadly man is on their trail: Calhoun, the shotgun guard who lost an eye in the earlier robbery, is now a U.S. Marshall, with a personal vendetta against Reed and his gang: he’s already killed one of their accomplices, and is on Reed’s trail.

Claude Duhamel

Moments later, Calhoun arrives and all Hell breaks loose, in an exciting room-to-room gun battle that leaves Reed alive, but with nothing to live for.  Soon he’s back in business with Frank and Sid, robbing stages and staying a step ahead of the dementedly driven Calhoun, although a showdown is, of course, inevitable.  There’s plenty of action when called for, but it’s the real kind, not the CGI’d nonsense – the gunshots frequently sound like actual gunshots.  Director Terry Miles, who previously helmed the Westerns THE DAWN RIDER (2012) and LONESOME DOVE CHURCH (2014), brings a genuineness from his actors, and a sense of brooding, panic and sometimes despair, which one doesn’t usually get in a Western, but is highly appropriate to the story. 

The dialogue in the script by Dan Benamor and Matt Williams has a naturalness that helps us buy the characters, and unusually, allows what would normally be throw-away characters to shine.  When was the last time you saw a likable young banker in a Western?   The one sour note in the film is the character of psychopathic female bounty hunter Bonnie Mudd (Helena Marie), who works for the U.S. Marshall (!), and despite Ms. Marie’s best efforts, seems to have stepped into the wrong movie.  

Judd Nelson

Produced by Jack, Jacob and Joseph Nasser, STAGECOACH, like their DAWN RIDER and LONESOME DOVE CHURCH, and their surprisingly effective version of THE VIRGINIAN (2014), in which Adkins also had the title role, is filmed in Canada, and takes full advantage of the lush greenery and other visual values.   Their films are low-budget, but rather than being threadbare, they are self-contained and intimate, avoiding busy towns and containing few extraneous characters.  The art direction and costuming is not self-consciously elaborate, but is correct and attractively photographed. 

The strong performances by the criminal triad of Adkins, Nelson, and Duhamel, and their nemesis, Coates, are the core of this action-packed but thoughtful Western.  STAGECOACH – THE TEXAS JACK STORY is from Cinedigm, who brought you TRADED, starring Michael Pere, Kris Kristofferson and Trace Adkins earlier this year.  STAGECOACH – THE TEXAS JACK STORY is available on Amazon, iTunes, and other streaming services, as well as DVD.


It's the start of the dreaded 'Award Season' in 'The Industry', and the good news is, WESTWORLD and HELL OR HIGH WATER are getting the attention they deserve.   The Critics Choice Awards were already announced, honoring WESTWORLD's Evan Rachel Wood as Best Actress in a Drama Series, and Thandie Newton as Best Supporting Actress.  The Writers Guild announced their TV nominations, and WESTWORLD was nominated for Best Drama and Best New Series.  

Evan Rachel Wood

The Foreign Press Association announced their Golden Globe nominations, HELL OR HIGH WATER is nominated for Best Motion Picture - Drama.  Jeff Bridges is nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, and Taylor Sheridan is nominated for Best Screenplay.  Bridges has been Oscar and Globe nominated six times each, and won both in 2009 for CRAZY AT HEART.  WESTWORLD is nominated for Best Television Seris - Drama.  Evan Rachel Wood is nominated for Best Actress, and Thandie Newton for Best Supporting.  

Thandie Newton

The SCREEN ACTORS GUILD has nominated Thandie Newton not for supporting, but for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor for WESTWORLD.  Jeff Bridges is nominated for his HELL OR HIGH WATER supporting. Additionally, WESTWORLD is nominated for a S.A.G. Award for Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble.  And WESTWORLD’s entire featured cast is nominated for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series.  In case you’re wondering who some of them are, here are the names:   

ED HARRIS / Man in Black
LUKE HEMSWORTH / Ashley Stubbs
RODRIGO SANTORO / Hector Escaton
ANGELA SARAFYAN / Clementine Pennyfeather
EVAN RACHEL WOOD / Dolores Abernathy


It's been officially Christmas Eve and the first day of Chanukah  Eve for an hour and a half, and I'm setting the DVR, then hitting the hay.  I hope you find what you want in your stocking, and I hope 2017 is an improvement on your 2016.  And I thank you for your continued support of my writing in The Round-up and True West,  

Happy Trails,


All Original Contents Copyright December 2016 by Henry C. Parke -- All Rights Reserved

Sunday, December 4, 2016


I’ve decided to try something different this wintertime, and make some gift-giving suggestions for the Western fan.  Most of my recommendations are actually gifts I’ve received, that I was particularly taken with -- and I’m told I’m a difficult guy to shop for.  If you have any suggestions for gifts, please leave them as a comment!  And of course, while more American people celebrate Christmas at this time of year than the holidays of other religions, if you’re looking for gifts for Chanukah, Ramadan, Kwanza, or any other religious or secular occasion, these suggestions are for you as well.


Gene’s weekly Melody Ranch radio show ran from 1940 through 1956, a delightful blend of music, stories and humor.  Christmastime was always special on the show that starred the man who brought us Rudolph The Red-nosed Reindeer, Here Comes Santa Claus, and so many others.  The fine folks at Gene Autry Entertainment have cherry-picked from years of Christmas episodes to bring you the ultimate Gene Autry Christmas program.  Gene is joined by his frequent band in his movies and TV shows, The Cass County Boys, as well as Carl Cotner’s Orchestra, The Pinafores, Gene Autry’s Blue Jeans, Rosemary Clooney, and of course, sidekick Pat Buttram.  Pat sings All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth, and gives his own answer to Did You Ever Have to Sleep at the Foot of the Bed? 
Included among the twenty-four cuts are carols like Joy to the World, O Little Town of Bethlehem, and Silent Night, traditional songs such as White Christmas, Jingle Bells, and Winter Wonderland.  The included booklet tells the history of Gene’s Christmas shows, pointing out songs that were taken from The Sgt. Gene Autry Show, the show’s wartime title when Gene was serving in the Army Air Corps. 
Here’s a sample of the show, Gene singing a medley of Rudolph and Here Comes Santa Claus.

The album is from Varese Sarabande, and available direct from the Gene Autry Museum HERE,
as well as on iTunes and Amazon.  And Gene Autry now has an official Facebook page – check it out HERE.

By C. Courtney Joyner

Adventurous Westerners and Steampunks alike will enjoy this second adventure in the kick-ass series of paperback originals about the surgeon who lost his right hand and replaced it with a shotgun!   This time Dr. John ‘Shotgun’ Bishop and his Cheyenne sidekick White Fox are on the trail of the good doctor’s despised brother Dev, and going to work for John Chisum.  In recent years, the paperback original Western market has taken a serious beating, but the SHOTGUN series has pumped much-needed blood – literally and figuratively – into the genre, and the folks at Kensington Books have committed to several more volumes.  You can buy both SHOTGUN volumes, and the prolific Mr. Joyner’s other books, at Amazon, HERE.


On one disc are seven short documentaries made less than a year before the coming of sound would turn the movie industry inside out.  Sort of like ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT only not insipid, L.I.H. released a one-reeler every week, featuring tours of many long-ago vanished studios, views of Hollywood from the air, many on-set visits, animals brought from Africa to make jungle films, the opening of a Hollywood hangout – the celebrated Yamashiro’s – and much more.  Along with many forgotten faces, many of the top stars of the day – Tom Mix, Buck Jones and Hoot Gibson, Buster Keaton, Colleen Moore and Lupino Lane – are on hand.  German film titan Max Reinhardt visits the set of LOVES OF CARMEN, visiting with director Raoul Walsh, and stars Victor McLaglen and Dolores Del Rio.  It’s wonderful fun, and if the image quality is spotty, it’s remarkable that this footage still exists.  It’s one of many fascinating videos available from Alpha Home Video HERE.


If you’ve enjoyed the dazzling Technicolor travelogues TCM shows between features, you can now own them!  From the early 1930s through 1954, Fitzpatrick’s short films were America’s window on the world.  Now the Warner Archive has released three sets of these films, with sixty short films in each set – 66 in the final collection!  Beyond the sheer beauty of these wonderfully restored films, they freeze moments in time and place that are now gone.  Some of the pre-war visits to our soon-to-be Axis enemies are, by turns, poignant and ironic.  And because many shorts focus within our borders, the American West of the ‘30s and ‘40s is handsomely preserved.  They provide a first-hand introduction to 20th century history that you can find nowhere else.  You can order them HERE.


It’s amazing to think that Rod Serling didn’t believe that his TWILIGHT ZONE would last more than one season!  Not wanting to take any chances, and seeing the success of Westerns, he started planning his own Western series in 1960.  He put it on the shelf when TWILIGHT ZONE proved a hit, but in 1964, when TZ finally folded after five season and 156 episodes, Serling dusted off that Western script again, hired Lloyd Bridges, not exactly wet behind the ears after SEA HUNT, and produced one of the finest of one-season Western series. 

While Western stories are generally post-Civil War, THE LONER is specifically six months after Lee’s surrender, the country is still seething in bitterness, and Bridges plays William Colton, an ex-Union officer roaming the West, trying to get his bearings.  In today’s parlance he’d be diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.   Bridges was always an underrated actor, and in THE LONER half-hours he does some of the best work of his career.  There were only 26 episodes produced, and Serling wrote more than half of them himself. 

Among the guest stars were James Whitmore, Anne Baxter, Jack Lord, Sheree North, Burgess Meredith, Brock Peters, Dan Duryea, and Katherine Ross.  The whole series, plus two informative documentaries, is produced by Shout! Factory, and sold exclusively at WalMart.  You can order it HERE.


This very enjoyable 1949 Western from 20th Century Fox was unavailable for years, except in black and white, because it was shot in an obsolete color process, Cinecolor.  Now it’s been restored to its previous, heavily green but very attractive glory.  Scott is the railroad builder, Jane Wyatt is the ‘Lady Doctor’ who despises him (at first), and Victor Jory is, as usual, the guy who will stop at nothing to block Scott.  It ain’t CITIZEN KANE, but it’s a lot of fun.  And among the special features is the Castle Films 8mm home movie version!  You can order it HERE.

The Carolyn Sells Combo does a brilliant mash-up of Christmas and the West with their song, Ghost Reindeer in the Sky!  Enjoy!


Earlier this week, I was teaching a 4th grade, and I heard something wonderful that I rarely hear from young kids.  A boy saw that I was reading the William Dale Jennings novel THE COWBOYS, on which the John Wayne movie is based.  The kid lit up with excitement.  “I love THE COWBOYS!” he said, the words spilling out in a torrent.  “I love Westerns!  I’ve seen TRUE GRIT and THE MAGNIFICENT 7 – ‘1’ and ‘2’.  And I really liked ‘1’ much better.  With Yul Brynner.  And I’ve seen UNFORGIVEN – that is, I’ve seen the appropriate parts…”  I was thrilled; thrilled that his parents are obviously exposing him to Westerns, and being careful of how much of the darker elements he’s exposed to.  But I couldn’t help thinking what a pity it is that, as we are having a rebirth of Westerns, so few of them are appropriate for kids.   Most of the theatrical ones, many of them fine films, are far too brutal and sexual for young kids.  I loved HELL ON WHEELS, love WEST WORLD, and looking forward to season two of UNDERGROUND, but the last TV Western series I remember that I’d show to a kid was PARADISE, which went off the air in 1991.  We need a ‘gateway’ Western to safely bring kids into the genre.


A week ago today I was invited to see the premiere screening of a new Western, GONE ARE THE DAYS, starring Lance Henriksen, Tom Berenger and Steve Railsback.  I had a friendly chat with Lance – don’t believe the picture!  We got along fine!  Anyhow, more about GONE OUR THE DAYS, and Lance, coming soon to the Round-up!

Happy Trails,


All Original Contents Copyright December 2016 by Henry C. Parke - All Rights Reserved