Red River is the most legendary of Howard Hawks’ western epics. Less well known is The Big Sky, a Kirk Douglas vehicle which evokes the Western frontier of the 1830s.
In Red River, John Wayne leads the first big cattle drive, thousands of miles north to the railroad. In The Big Sky, French merchant Jourdonnais (Steven Geray) becomes the first keelboat captain to journey up the wild, unexplored Missouri river, to trade for furs with the Blackfeet Indians. Hawks takes his time, with even a musical number or two helping to develop his characters. Read More »
Plot (from AMG): The Ballad of Little Jo is based on a true story — several true stories, in fact. Suzy Amis plays demure young Josephine Monagan, who in 1866 is run out of her home town after bearing an illegitimate child. Fleeing westward, Josephine is terrified by stories of how treacherous the frontier can be for a woman alone. As a result, upon arriving in the muddy burg of Ruby City, she disguises herself as a man, going so far as to scar her face to suggest that she’s been in a few scrapes. In this guise, “Little Jo” does just fine by herself for nearly 30 years! Almost as good as Suzy Amis is Bo Hopkins as gunslinger Frank Badger, Little Jo’s best buddy (if only he knew….) Written and directed by Maggie Greenwald, The Ballad of Little Jo does a marvelous job conveying the people and places of its period; and, unlike Bad Girls (which was released around the same time), we aren’t bludgeoned to death by feminist revisionism. Unfortunately ignored when it went out to theatres in the fall of 1993, The Ballad of Little Jo has fared rather better on video. Read More »
Plot: After the Civil War, Union Major Clanton captures survivors of Quantrill’s Raiders, and gets them clemency at the cost of shooting a mob member. Convicted of murder by a kangaroo court, Clanton escapes and joins the former raiders in a gang devoted to robbing everything protected by the corrupt detective agency of his enemy Fowler; culminating in a personal showdown. Written by Rod Crawford Read More »
Plot Synopsis Definitely not to be confused with the 1949 Paramount release starring William Holden or the Larry McMurtry 1995 television mini-series, this 20 minute unfinished “western” marked the first helpless Hollywood effort of legendary bad filmmaker Edward J. Wood, Jr. Together with a friend, 18-year-old John Crawford Thomas, the 23-year-old Wood produced his little epic in 16 mm on a one-day shooting schedule at the Iverson Ranch in Chatsworth, California, apparently blowing Thomas’ inheritance in the process. A few other scenes ere filmed several weeks later in Griffith Park, but then Wood ran out of funds or acquaintances with ready cash (a recurring problem for the young auteur). Read More »
Quote: On the Oregon Trail in 1845, three couples travel in covered wagons with slippery guide Stephen Meek (an unrecognizable Bruce Greenwood), but days pass, and water remains elusive. Emily (Michelle Williams, who anchored Reichardt’s Wendy and Lucy) laments that “he’s gotten in over his head.” Meek insists that relief lies around the next ridge, but that’s never the case, until an alkaline lake appears. Unfortunately, it’s unsuitable for drinking, so they push on. Always attuned to the rhythms of nature, Reichardt has produced a meditative take on the genre that feels more enigmatic than most–with the possible exception of Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man–even if the period details always look right. With her focus on faded calico dresses and vast aquamarine skies, Meek’s Cutoff offers a beautiful vision of harsh times. Read More »