TRYING TO SADDLE UP - Blogs
TRYING TO SADDLE UP
For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Sept. 23, 2016
EDITOR’S NOTE: I love westerns and I’ve written a number of columns saying so, and every time the studios come up with a new theatrical cowboy yarn — like the remake of ‘The Magnificent Seven’ that opens this weekend — I try to take an optimistic approach. But more often than not I’m disappointed, and even when I’m not, it never seems to lead to more. This ‘Hicks on Flicks’ column, published in the Deseret News on Oct. 21, 1984, under the headline ‘Good guys ’n bad guys are back,’ was written in anticipation of ‘Pale Rider’ and ‘Silverado,’ but neither was successful enough to revive the genre (of the others mentioned here, ‘Uphill All the Way’ bypassed theaters and played on TV, and the comedies ‘Lust in the Dust’ and ‘Rustlers’ Rhapsody’ flopped). There would be many more off-and-on attempts in the years that followed, so the genre isn’t dead, but it continues to limp.
Do you miss westerns? I do.
There’s something about the good guys and bad guys shooting it out on Main Street after swigging some red-eye at the local saloon that just isn’t captured in the western replacements — science fiction, sword & sorcery and urban cop melodramas.
If you feel the same way, take heart. There is something of a western revival on the horizon.
It began, I suppose, with Kirk Douglas’ made-for-cable TV movie, “Draw!” That was the first old-fashioned western to come down the trail in quite awhile (not counting a few ordinary made-for-commercial TV efforts, like Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler” and its sequel).
Douglas teamed up with James Coburn for a rootin’-tootin’, rip-roarin’ shoot-‘em-up like we haven’t seen in ages, almost worthy of Howard Hawks and John Wayne’s later efforts. Almost.
The fact that it was too padded, too vulgar in an ’80s manner and too enamored of itself, made it a bit less palatable than most of us would have preferred.
But it looks like theatrical films will attempt to make up for that, and it can’t be too much of a coincidence that they are following hot on the heels of “Draw!,” which, for all its flaws, had a rather successful HBO run.
Clint Eastwood is currently directing himself in “Pale Rider,” a western for Warner Bros. shooting in Idaho. The film costars Carrie Snodgress, Michael Moriarty and Richard Kiel. If successful when it is released next summer, you can bet Eastwood will have legitimized the western once again.
Meanwhile, another major-studio western is underway. Lawrence Kasdan, basking in critical and popular acclaim for “The Big Chill,” is again teaming up with Kevin Kline for a western called “Silverado,” for Columbia Pictures. Co-starring are Scott Glenn, Linda Hunt, Kevin Costner, Danny Glover and Rosanna Arquette. Some of those names may be unfamiliar to you, but all have received recent acclaim, and Hunt won last year’s best supporting actress Oscar for “The Year of Living Dangerously.” That film begins shooting in New Mexico next month.
On the independent production side, Mel Tillis and Roy Clark are teaming up for a western comedy currently shooting in Texas, “Uphill All the Way,” to co-star Glen Campbell, Burl Ives and Trish Van Devere. Tillis, Clark, Campbell and Ives will all contribute songs to the soundtrack.
In addition, Paul Bartel (“Eating Raoul”) is finishing up a western comedy with 300-pound transvestite Divine and Tab Hunter (who co-starred in “Polyester”), and another western called “Rustler’s Rhapsody” is also underway.
The most surprising element is that none of these films is being shot in John Ford country, otherwise known as southern Utah. But you can bet that if the western genre is revived to any real extent, we’ll get some being made here again.
In the meantime, fans of the old west, like myself, can sit back and relax. For a while at least, westerns cease to be neglected.