Sunday, September 24, 2017
NEW FEATURE ‘BLOOD COUNTRY’AND NEW WEB-SERIES ‘C-BAR’ SHOOT UP THE SCREENS, PLUS GENE’S AUTRY’S B-DAY, NEW SHOWS ON INSP!
‘BLOOD COUNTRY’ REVIEW
Tough and elegant, set in Mississippi after the Civil War, and shot in a mix of eerie swamps and in many historical sites in that state, BLOOD COUNTRY is based on a real murder between brothers, and its spiraling aftermath for all those involved or in the vicinity. From the start, the filmmakers fill the screen with a quiet but troublingly intangible sense of menace. The troubles begin, incredibly, over the disputed possession of some cabbages, and soon a man is killed, a hearing is held, and a pair of black men who were unwilling witnesses find themselves in greater danger than the accused.
Written and directed by Ecuadorian-turned-Arizonan filmmaker Travis Mills, he and cinematographer Nicholas Fornwalt fill the screen with clever and often beautiful compositions and intriguing faces. Strong on mood, style and atmosphere, there are gaps in the story – why the cabbages?
While the shots are beautifully composed, most scenes are shot in a single long set-up, meaning that the camera rarely gets close enough to the characters to sense what they’re thinking, and to identify with them. The only characters we are truly invested in are the two witnesses (Markeith Coleman and Aspen Kennedy Wilson), and a reluctant lawman (Cotton Yancey). Further, by having no cutaways to other angles, there is no way to pick up the pace within the scenes. There is a good deal of killing, but it is shown so obliquely that the hoped-for Western action doesn’t really start until an hour in.
BLOOD COUNTRY, from Running Wild Films, will be in theatres October 7th. Here’s the trailer.
You can learn more at the official BLOOD COUNTRY site HERE.
C-BAR II – A TALE OF THE WILD WEB WEST
Mark Baugher, who’s been everything from a ferrier (horse-shoer) to a stock-broker, retired at 65 to pursue his life’s desire: move to Arizona, and write a Western novel. A college film student, Patrick Ball, liked what he read on his Kindle, and suggested they make a movie of it. After 38 days of shooting over eight months (when you’re not paying anyone, you’re at the mercy of everyone’s schedule), the movie C-BAR arrived in 2015. Baugher himself starred as Dockie, an old lawman who must go back to his outlaw roots to see justice done. (You can read my ROUND-UP review and interview with Baugher HERE. You can read my TRUE WEST B article on Indy Westerns including C-Bar HERE)
Mark and Patrick are back in action, continuing the saga, now as a web-series, and the first chapter of the new adventures is online. Badman John Doe (Charlie LeSueur), either by bribe or muscle, has escaped en route to Yuma Prison, and Dockie and company must track him down. Here’s the link to chapter one.
Below is the trailer for the original C-BAR feature.
You can learn more and see more, and get Mark’s novels, at the official C-BAR site, HERE.
‘HIGH CHAPARRAL’ 50TH ANNIVERSARY AT THE BURBANK MARRIOTT
On Friday and Saturday, September 15th and 16th, cast, crew, and about 150 dedicated fans of THE HIGH CHAPARRAL, the beloved family Western series of the late 1960s and early ‘70s, gathered, perhaps for the last time, to honor the series, and the folks who made it. While in recent years, gatherings have celebrated anniversaries of BONANZA, THE VIRGINIAN and GUNSMOKE, the dedication of HIGH CHAPARRAL fans is unique – hundreds of them have been gathering annually for several years now in Arizona at Old Tucson, the Western movie town where the series was shot, and where the Cannon family home still stands.
Camille Mitchell, Henry Darrow, Cameron Mitchell Jr.
The hosts for the two days of fun and nostalgia and stories were the delightful couple, Kent McCray and Susan McCray. He was the production manager of the series – and for BONANZA before it – and as Michael Landon’s partner went on to produce LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE and HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN. She was the daughter of series composer Harry Sukman; she started on CHAPARRAL as a receptionist and worked her way up to casting not only the series, but HAWAII 5-0 and the Michael Landon shows.
Kent & Susan McCray at the banquet
The McCrays pulled out all the stops, not only providing the promised two elegant banquets, but hosting elaborate breakfasts and lunches as well. Among the series regulars who attended were Henry Darrow, who starred as Manolito; Don Collier who played top hand Sam Butler; and Rudy Ramos, who played Wind, the half-breed teen adopted by the Cannons in the final season. Linda Cristal had intended to come, but suffering from vision problems, sent her son Jordan Wexler. Representing deceased cast members were relatives of Frank Silvera, Rudolpho Acosta, Robert Hoy, Ruberto Contreras, and Jerry Summers. Cameron Mitchell was represented by his daughter and son, Camille Mitchell and Cameron Mitchell Jr.
Also present was frequent series guest Marie Gomez, who played Manolito’s girlfriend Pearlita; Bo Svenson, who guessed in the well-remembered episode TRAIL TO NEVERMORE; and representing Yaphett Koto, who couldn’t get there from Manila in time, was his lovely daughter Mirabai Kotto. Yaphett’s episode, BUFFALO SOLDIERS, is the favorite of many, including Kent McCray.
This was not a ‘stars only’ event, with plenty of attention paid to folks whose identities are hidden, like attending stuntmen Neil Summers and David Cass, who both went on to be important stunt coordinators – Cass has directed several Western and non-Western films. I was personally delighted to meet Jackie Hummer Fuller, who doubled for Linda Cristal, and Steve DeFrance. I hadn’t seen either of them since 1978, when they worked on the first film I wrote, SPEEDTRAP, where Jackie doubled for Tyne Daley and Steve double for Richard Jaekal. It’s a small world!
There were many fascinating panel discussions, and I had the chance to interview all of the principals – I’ll have much more soon in The Round-up, and in TRUE WEST MAGAZINE.
INSP ADDS ‘BRANDED’ AND ‘MEN OF SHILOH’ SAT. SEPT. 30TH!
The INSP channel, which is currently presenting the remarkable reality series THE COWBOY WAY: ALABAMA, is adding two very interesting and rarely seen series to their weekend Western line-up, BRANDED and MEN FROM SHILOH.
Chuck Connors has his buttons torn off.
BRANDED (1965-1966) starred Chuck Connors in his follow-up to the legendary THE RIFLEMAN. He plays Jason McCord, the only survivor of the Civil War Battle of Bitter Creek. Branded (like the title) a coward, court-martialed and kicked out of the Army, he travels the West trying to escape his infamy, and to learn what really happened. Created by Larry Cohen, it looked likely to crash and burn until producer A. J. Fenady, who had created THE REBEL with Nick Adams, was brought in to take over, and fashion some logic into the story. Fenady remembers meeting the famously volatile Chuck Connors. "And I said, ‘Look Chuck, I just want to ask you one question. We go into production, who’s the boss?’ He said, ‘You are.’ I said, ‘Okay, just remember one thing: you came to see me; I didn’t go to see you.’ And you know what? Chuck was, in many ways, crazy. But he was also intelligent. You could sit down and talk to him. And if he had a point of view, and you had a point of view, and you’re point of view was better, he would acknowledge that. He’d say, ‘Alright, we’ll do it.’ I loved working with him, and I loved him." (You can read my whole interview with Fenady about BRANDED HERE.) It’s a very entertaining series, probably better for audiences right now, with their fascination with conspiracies, than it was in the 1960s.
THE VIRGINIAN, at eight seasons, had outlived most of its competition, but it couldn’t go on forever. As television Westerns had become less and less violent, in response to government pressure, the series were losing their audience to movies, especially the action-filled Spaghetti Westerns. The decision was made to reboot THE VIRGINIAN in the Sergio Leone mold. From the original show, only James Drury and Doug McClure were retained, and their wardrobe and whiskers changed considerably. Lee Majors, fresh from THE BIG VALLEY, was added. The title was switched to THE MEN FROM SHILOH, and a new theme was composed by Euro-Western maestro Ennio Morricone. And in the wise old man role that had started as Lee J. Cobb was movie star Stewart Granger as a retired British military officer.
As he revealed at the VIRGINIAN 50TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION, James Drury and others liked the changes at the time, but in hindsight, he didn’t. “They gave the show a new look, and everybody kind of signed on to it. I got myself a new horse and a longer gun. From a 5 ½ inch barrel to a 7 ½ inch barrel. Longer sideburns. Much bigger hat. A sense of accomplishment or…a sense of entitlement – let’s put it that way. I smoked cigars on the show. And I just mowed down anybody with my firearms. But the thing is, we all thought it was a good idea at the time; it was a terrible idea. And the worst of the terrible ideas was putting Stewart Granger in the same position that Lee Cobb had occupied, that John McIntire had occupied, Charles Bickford had occupied; that John Dehner had occupied. These were truly great western actors. Stewart Granger came in and decided that he was going to be the big star of the show: fired my crew, fired my Academy Award-winning cameraman, got all new people. He pissed off everyone in the entire organization. And he sunk the show. So thank you, Stewart, wherever you are.”
Granger’s casting was in one way a savvy move – though they were rarely released in the U.S., Granger had become a big Western star in Europe, starring in a series of German Westerns based on the novels of Karl May. His presence undoubtedly made the show more saleable overseas. The series actually holds up quite well, and what probably did it in was the title change: fans simply didn’t know that THE MEN FROM SHILOH actually was THE VIRGINIAN. The new title is more suggestive, at that time, of a spy series, like THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.
If you’d like to know more, HERE is a link to my review of THE MEN FROM SHILOH from when it was brought out on home video.
HAPPY 110TH BIRTHDAY GENE AUTRY!
Friday, September 29th, is the 110th anniversary of the great singing cowboy Gene Autry’s birth! Drop by the Autry Museum to celebrate, and if you’re among the first 110 visitors to enter, you’ll receive a free DVD of Gene is SIOUX CITY SUE. Even if you’re 111 or after, you’ll get a slice of birthday cake!
BOYD MAGERS ‘GATHERING OF GUNS’ SIGNING AT THE AUTRY
Come to the Autry on Saturday, September 30th at 9:30 a.m., and enjoy a Q&A with one of the most knowledgeable people in the world of Western film & TV, and author of Western Clippings, Boyd Magers. Maxine Hansen, Executive Assistant to Mrs. Gene Autry, will be interviewing Boyd about his new book, A GATHERING OF GUNS: A HALF CENTURY OF TV WESTERNS (1949-2001). After, he’ll be signing the book at the Autry Museum Store.
BEN TURPIN IN ‘YUKON JANE’
Grapevine Video, my primary source for high quality silent Westerns, posted this very funny silent (with music and sound effects) one-reeler starring the great cross-eyed comic Ben Turpin as a lawman trying to rescue a kidnapped damsel. Back around 1980, I met a fellow who grew up in Hollywood, and drove a beautiful 1956 T-Bird he’d bought new – I wish I could remember his name, but it’s been too long. A boyhood friend of his was future movie star Frankie Darrow, and when they were kids, they’d hitchhike to and from Malibu to surf. One time, heading back, Ben Turpin gave them a lift, and when he saw that they were nervous about his crossed eyes, he took pleasure is weaving all over the road.
AND THAT’S A WRAP!
All Original Contents Copyright 2017 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved