And I hope all you dads out there have a wonderful Fathers Day!
Saturday, June 20, 2020
THREE FATHERS DAY WESTERN PREMIERES! CASPER VAN DIEN’S “WARRANT” INTERVIEW, KEVIN COSTNER ON “YELLOWSTONE” CHARACTER’S APPEAL, “A SOLDIER’S REVENGE” AVAILABLE NOW, PLUS WILLIAM CASTLE DOUBLE-FEATURE REVIEW, GREGG PALMER ESTATE SALE!
KEVIN COSTNER ON “YELLOWSTONE” AND THE APPEAL OF THE DUTTONS
On Sunday night, Fathers Day, Kevin Costner returns to the Paramount Network for a third season of Yellowstone, the contemporary Western family drama that pits the Dutton family against the government, developers, American Indians, and anyone else who’d try to wrest away control of their humongous ranch. It is the most beautifully photographed show on the air today. Co-created and largely written by Taylor Sheridan, who brought you Sicario, Hell or High Water, and Wind River, it’s a highly entertaining, slick, loud update of the Dallas type of TV drama, and the body count is truly amazing.
On Tuesday I took part in a virtual screening and group Q&A with Kevin Costner, presented by Deadline Hollywood, and moderated by Peter Hammond. I had already covered much of what was discussed in my interview with Costner for True West magazine (you can read it HERE), but there were a couple of interesting questions about what he takes away from the role of John Dutton, and the appeal of the whole Dutton clan.
"It's a dysfunctional family, and what your take away is that if you don't pay attention, your children can go in (all) directions; and nobody's perfect. I want to try to avoid that kind of drama in my own life. And I probably don't need to be killing anybody in my life either. But what do I take away? Maybe just the joy of knowing that I have been able to do things that other people wish that maybe they had been able to do. I'm really aware of how lucky I've been.
“I think people enjoy watching a level of dysfunction. They enjoy hearing outrageous things come out of somebody's mouth in a really critical moment. There are moments in time we wish we were saying what these characters are saying. All of us are confronted with daily issues and we usually have to walk away from them. And it's only in walking away when we decide what we wished we would've said to somebody who really deserved it. In Yellowstone, we actually get to say things to people that I think people (at home) wish they could say to somebody else. I think one of the reasons why Yellowstone has caught air, is that we live in a world where, when we have problems, people turn to their lawyers to solve it. We turn to our agents to arbitrate a problem, to PR people to try to clean something up, when there's really nothing to clean up, when really in our own life, I'd like to confront the person who is really bothering me personally. We put so much distance between being able to find a level of justice that we feel is appropriate for somebody who is really bugging us. To be honest, I think that people would like to arbitrate their own problems. So when we see somebody like John Dutton arbitrating his problems, sometimes we can live precariously through people like that. I wish we could do that; I wish I would've said that; I wish I would've smacked that guy myself. I think that Taylor captures that level of escapism. It's tapping into a nerve where we wish we could solve some of our own problems. That might feel really good to tell somebody who's been bothering us really what time it is.”
‘A SOLDIER’S REVENGE’ NOW ON SALE AND READY FOR DOWNLOAD!
You may remember that back in March I told you about A SOLDIER’S REVENGE the post-Civil War tale of a former Confederate soldier, Frank Connor (Neal Bledsoe), whose PTSD has made him unable to adapt to civilian life util the unwanted responsibility thrust upon him by a chance meeting with two desperate children leads him to uncover a gun-running scheme operated by former friend and comrade-in-arms Briggs (Rob Mayes).
This week the film arrived in your choice of DVD and Blu-Ray at Walmart, Best Buy, and all of the major VOD platforms, including Apple and Amazon. If you missed my interview with Director Michael Feifer (or are just dying to read it again), go HERE. And you can order it direct from its distributor, Well Go USA Entertainment, HERE.
HOLLYWOOD STORY and NEW ORLEANS UNCENSORED
A Blu-Ray Double-Feature Review
Director William Castle is so beloved for his delightfully schlocky horror movies – Homicidal, Straight-Jacket, I Saw What You Did and I Know Who You Are – that few fans realize what a range he had. As a producer, he brought you Orson Welles’ Lady From Shanghai, and Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby. As a director of B programmers at Columbia, he honed his considerable skills on The Whistler and Crime Doctor series, gave Robert Mitchum his break with the noir When Strangers Marry, and directed a slew of Westerns (HERE is a link to the 8 film collection, Fastest Guns of the West, from Mill Creek Entertainment).
Bookending his 1950’s Westerns are a pair of noirish stories that Mill Creek has beautifully restored and released as a Blu-Ray set, Hollywood Story (1951) and New Orleans Uncensored (1955). Hollywood Story, scripted by Frederick Kohner (who penned Deanna Durbin musicals, created Gidget, and also wrote the first screen version of Donovan’s Brain, 1944’s The Lady and the Monster), and Frederick Brady (a prolific early-TV writer), it’s the story of independent producer Larry O’Brien (Richard Conte), who is looking for a story to film, and stumbles into the true unsolved case of a director who was shot while making a film, just at the dawn of talking pictures.
And more people start dying when O’Brien pulls together all the survivors who were associated with the film, a terrific cast that includes Henry Hull as the screenwriter, Paul Cavanagh as the aging leading man, and lovely Julie Adams as the daughter of the leading lady (you can read my interview with the late Julie Adams HERE), plus non-comic performances by Jim Backus and Fred Clark, and Richard Egan as the cop. Clearly inspired by the truly unsolved murder of Director William Desmond Taylor, this is Castle’s Sunset Boulevard, and he peppers the film with cameos by silent stars like William Farnum, Francis X. Bushman, Betty Blythe, Helen Gibson, and Elmo Lincoln.
The story and performances are solid, but in a way, the biggest star is the locations. Though a Universal film, it was mostly shot at the quaint old Charlie Chaplin Studio on La Brea, plus scenes during 1950’s Santa Claus Lane Parade on Hollywood Boulevard, and in the chic, now gone, restaurants in Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, all captured in wonderfully crisp black and white by Carl E. Guthrie. Edited by Virgil E. Vogel, it’s a pleasure from beginning to end.
New Orleans Uncensored is, sadly, not in the same league. An expose’ of longshoreman’s rackets in New Orleans, this poor man’s On The Waterfront is ploddingly plotted. It is cast with a mix of non-actor government and Union officials playing themselves, badly; and cultured actors like Arthur Franz, William Henry and Stacy Harris laughably miscast as tough-guys. Beverly Garland and Helene Stanton are pretty to look at, and Michael Ansara and Mike Mazurki are believably tough, but not enough to save this bore. On the plus side, like Hollywood Story, its location work features landmark’s like Café du Monde. I recommend the set, but Hollywood Story is the fun one. You can order it from Mill Creek HERE.
WESTERN ACTOR GREGG PALMER’S ESTATE SALE
Big, handsome, intimidating actor Gregg Palmer died on Halloween, 2015, at the age of 88. The son of Norwegian immigrants, he was a cryptographer during the Second World War. Afterwards he became a radio announcer, then decided to give acting a try, was a contract player at Universal for a while, and much more successful after he decided to freelance. Although he acted in all genres, he’s best remembered for his Westerns. He did four with his friend Audie Murphy: The Cimarron Kid (1952), Column South (1953), Murphy’s autobiographical To Hell and Back (1955), and The Quick Gun (1964).
Wardrobe test from Column South
He was particularly lucky to become part of the John Wayne stock company, and do six films with the Duke: The Comancheros (1961), The Undefeated (1969), Chisum (1970), Rio Lobo (1970), The Shootist (1976), and the one he’s best remembered – and reviled – for, Big Jake (1971). He’s the one who shoots John Wayne’s dog!
Last weekend there was an estate sale at his beautiful Hollywood Hills home. I was happy to pick up a couple of his scripts, from episodes of The Lawman and Gunsmoke. But I’m sure glad I didn’t have my heart set on a mug. Starting in the 1960s (I think), John Wayne famously commissioned a commemorative coffee mug for each movie, with a personalized mug going to each and every cast and crew member. They had four, Gregg’s mugs from Big Jake, Chisum, Undefeated, and Rio Lobo. I asked to see them, and they handed them to me in a shoebox. How much, I asked? $5,000. Each. I gave them all back. I told my daughter one would make a great Fathers Day gift, but I think I’m getting a necktie.
In case you’re interested in seeing what they had, I’m including a link to the estate sale HERE, but it’s just for your curiosity; the sale is over.
CASPER VAN DIEN ON ‘THE WARRANT’, WESTERNS, AND A LITTLE MOVIE CALLED ‘STARSHIP TROOPERS’
INSP’s The Warrant premieres on INSP on Saturday night. The new Western stars Neal McDonough and Casper Van Dien as former Union soldiers who now find themselves on opposite sides of the law: McDonough is a lawman, and Van Dien runs a band of outlaws still fighting the Civil War. And just to be clear, although Van Dien’s character is nicknamed The Saint, there is no connection with the Leslie Charteris detective stories. In the previous Round-up (the last Round-up sounds too ominous), I interviewed McDonough (HERE).
Here is my interview with Casper Van Dien. I told him that it was a beautiful day to be quarantined in Los Angeles, and asked him where he was.
CASPER VAN DIEN: I'm in Florida and it's just beautiful down here. I moved out of California.
HENRY PARKE: You're happier in Florida?
CASPER VAN DIEN: Yes, I am.
HENRY PARKE: Let me just say at the outset that I've always enjoyed your work. When I told my daughter at the interviewing you today, she said to ask you about Starship Troopers and I had to admit I hadn't seen it, so I watched it yesterday afternoon. What a picture!
CASPER VAN DIEN: Oh yeah! That's actually just like a Western in space. That's was a fun movie to do. And your daughter told you to see that? That's awesome.
HENRY PARKE: I particularly loved you riding on the back of that huge bug and throwing the grenade into it.
Van Dien and a bug in Starship Troopers
CASPER VAN DIEN: It's almost like the hull of a boat but upside down, on top of a Caterpillar truck, moving around on four pistons, going side to side, backward and forward. And I think the reason I was able to ride it at such a high speed -- and I did it for three days, like 12 hours a day -- was because I ride horses. So I think that helped. I also sail, and I surfed a little but, so I had a couple of different things that helped me to be able to stand up on that. I mean, I fell down a lot, and had wires attached so I wouldn't fall off because I was twenty-five feet up in the air on this thing while it was going. But it was a blast to do.
Dr. Quinn can tell Van Dien's up to no good
HENRY PARKE: So that just goes to show that The Warrant is not your first Western. But then again you did a Western Western even before Starship Troopers didn't you? I'm thinking of Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman.
CASPER VAN DIEN: Yes, I did a Dr. Quinn. Cattle Drive (1994); I was a cattle rustler. And then they came to me after two days of filming, and said they want to make this a two-part special. Can you work next week? That was a lot of fun for me. And then I got to do Aces 'N' Eights (2008), which was with Ernest Borgnine and Bruce Boxleitner. Which was a lot of fun to do as well. It was co-written by one of the guys who wrote Pale Rider (1985), Dennis Shryack. That was fun Western to shoot, too. I loved meeting, working with Ernest Borgnine, just being on set with him and hearing his stories. He was quite a character.
HENRY PARKE: Terrific actor. So, you had experience with horses?
CASPER VAN DIEN: I did. I had my own horse for a while, and I love riding. I rode for years over by the Equestrian Center in Burbank.
HENRY PARKE: Growing up, were you a fan of the Western genre?
CASPER VAN DIEN: Yes, very much so. I loved John Wayne, John Ford films. I just love Westerns; I watch them all the time. Edward Neumeier, who wrote Starship Troopers, and Robocop (1987), he is a huge John Wayne, John Ford fan. And we do little homages to them in that movie. We did things from They Were Expendable (1945) and Westerns like She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949). When I was reading the scripts, because I read all the different versions he wrote for that, and it was just amazing, because he'd write these different homages to different John Wayne and Ford films. And I was like, oh my God, you did that? And he's like, yeah: you remember everything! But it was fun for me because I just love old Hollywood and John Wayne's my favorite actor. So I love being a part of that. It was just a blast to be in The Warrant, because for me it's just like a wholesome, old fashioned Western.
HENRY PARKE: From Johnny Rico in Starship Troopers to the Saint in The Warrant, you've played a lot of characters with a military background. I read that you attended military school.
CASPER VAN DIEN: I did; I went to Farragut Academy in St. Petersburg, Florida.
HENRY PARKE: Did that experience help you playing characters with a military background?
CASPER VAN DIEN: I think it helped. I grew up in a family with a lot of men who served in different branches, Marines, Air Force, and I was in the Coast Guard as well. My grandfather, my father, my grandfather that I didn't get to meet was in the Navy, too. My brother-in-law was in the Army up until recently, and my cousin was in the Army Air Corps. My dad's a Navy pilot, so I grew up in that lifestyle. And I think it was a great, solid upbringing and helped me playing each character, and also just being an actor. So I attribute that a lot to military school and military family.
HENRY PARKE: You've played a wide range of characters, even a werewolf recently. But considering Johnny Rico and Tarzan especially, I usually think of you in good guy, hero roles. With that in mind, how did you like playing the villain in The Warrant?
CASPER VAN DIEN: I think The Saint, he has a lot of depth, and a lot of history. The way he's written, there was probably something a little bit askew with him from the beginning. But the tragedy that happens, the man he turns into, I had a lot of sympathy for him, and I think that helped me be able to play the character.
HENRY PARKE: That tragedy, of course, is the death of your son from a Confederate bullet, and you go AWOL to seek revenge. The scene where John Breaker has brought you back, and is lecturing you about how you shouldn't be going after revenge, and you break down. Your scene is, to me, the dramatic high point of the picture.
CASPER VAN DIEN: Thank you very much. I appreciate that. That scene was the one that really sold me on the picture. And when we were doing it, there was a Vietnam vet there, a relative of the guy who was in charge of our guns. He left the set while we were filming. And later he said, I'm sorry, I had to leave. You took me back to a place where -- I don't cry. But I did twice, once was for the guys in Vietnam, and the loss of my wife was the other time. I was sorry I, just had to leave, and I just want to say thank you. I appreciated that a lot. You know, you get older, you live through losses, and divorces, and life experience that helps you bring more depth to certain roles. You're not grateful for some of the things that happen in your life, but when you get to certain scenes in a movie, you can hit something like that, and where'd that all come from? You can feel it. I guess you learn to appreciate life's journey in doing that. But yeah, that scene was a day. My wife was, was there on-set, too, and she was just like, I was nervous, afraid that you were just going to be really destroyed. Afterwards I was okay. When you're doing a physical thing, all the fights and things, at the end you're just physically tired. But when you something where you cry, and you really go there, that's more draining. You get more exhausted from something like that.
HENRY PARKE: You also have some physically demanding scenes. You have a lot of good fighting. Did you enjoy that?
CASPER VAN DIEN: Yeah, and Neal really wanted to go with it. When you have an actor who steps up like him -- I'm a huge fan of Neal -- he's a really solid actor, and he really put everything into it when we were doing a fight sequence. We had so much fun doing it.
HENRY PARKE: With Neal as the hero and you as the villain, did you feel like you were playing each other’s parts?
CASPER VAN DIEN: Usually I would play the John Breaker role, but when they offered me The Saint I was really grateful for the opportunity. There's a lot to that character. You know, 32 years as an actor right now, and when somebody says something like, that's the highlight of the movie, that means a lot; I appreciate it.
HENRY PARKE: Any other people that you worked with on the shoot, that were memorable? Any other memorable events?
CASPER VAN DIEN: Well, I loved working with everybody on this movie. I mean, Steven R. McQueen, who's the grandson of Steve McQueen. I really loved Gregory Alan Williams, my sidekick or my partner or whatever. He's an actor who's been around a while, and I really just wish I had had more with him, but I liked all the characters that they had. I didn't get to work with Annabeth Gish, but she's awesome. But you know, it's good to be in the movie with her. There's a lot of good people in there.
HENRY PARKE: You've certainly done a lot of contemporary stories, as well as futuristic ones and period stories. Do you have a preference?
CASPER VAN DIEN: I think I probably watch more old Westerns than a normal person, (laughs), so I would probably say I liked period best. Because I love history. I look at history of films. Our film industry almost went belly-up during the Great Depression, and the only thing that kept us alive were Westerns. I think of Star Wars as like a Western. Paul Newman and Robert Redford -- I got my daughter to watch them in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and she just loves them, and watched all of their films. There are so many wonderful Westerns, from Blazing Saddles to Tombstone to Shane. I just love watching them, and I'm thrilled to be a part of them. Director Brent Christy is a great guy, and I'd love to work with him again, and do more Westerns. He started out as a cinematographer, and he had such beautiful shots; I only wish we had more time, and I think everybody always says that on films. And I wish I was on it for longer, but I was thrilled to be a part of it.
HENRY PARKE: Now this is completely off The Warrant, but in Sleepy Hollow (1999), you worked with two of my absolute film heroes. No offense to Johnny Depp, but I mean Hammer horror stars Michael Gough and Christopher Lee.
CASPER VAN DIEN: Well, I didn't work with Christopher Lee, but Michael Gough was amazing. Johnny was amazing on that film, and I got to ride a horse in that one. And funny enough, when I went over to England (to film), my horse was the original Black Beauty from the TV series. Steve Dent was the horse coordinator on Sleepy Hollow, and the horse's name was Sam. And then when I did an Outer Limits, we did a scifi Western thing called Heart's Desire, and the horse in that was also called Sam; that was in Canada. I had a horse for two and a half years, I rode her every day, and she was Sam. So I've, I've had a lot of experience with Sams. I did another movie not too long ago called Roped. There were all these Cowboys around, but I wasn't a cowboy, which was frustrating. I'm not the lead, I'm the father of one of the leads. It was a lot of fun. Modern day, so they're all modern-day cowboys, which I don't mind either, but I like the old west. I like that genre; I like that time period. And The Warrant was fun to do because we had the Civil War, and we had Civil War reenactors. And they have all their authentic gear, and uniforms. That's a cool part of our history. (laughs) I mean, it's cool that we got through it.
HENRY PARKE: The country survived it. The reenactors are great to work with because they just bring so much knowledge onto set
CASPER VAN DIEN: And they love it. They love being a part of the movie. They want it to be authentic, and they have so much pride and that's awesome. Sometimes you hire extras, and they're not that into it. I mean, most people want to do a good job acting. But when it's reenactors, it's just another level of commitment. I once had somebody at a convention going up to me and asking what do you think of these people that come to these cons and dress up as characters? And I'm like, what do you mean, what do I think of that? That's what I do for a living. (laughs) That's my job. I think that's awesome. Here's these people that're doing their reenactments because they really love it. I think that's just beautiful. And I get to hang out with them, and they were really supportive.
If you don’t get INSP, or if you’d like to own a copy of The Warrant, you can buy it at Walmart, or direct from Mill Creek Entertainment HERE.
…AND THAT’S A WRAP!
Ida Lupino directing
And maybe it’s a little early, but check out my article in the July/August 2020 issue of True West magazine, about the fistful of women who’ve directed Westerns, HERE.
And I hope all you dads out there have a wonderful Fathers Day!
And I hope all you dads out there have a wonderful Fathers Day!
All Original Contents Copyright June 2020 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved