As for the reason, well, I've been clawing my way through scripts on HEMLOCK GROVE (for Netflix, out next year, more to come soon!) along with the usual production hoo-hah. I have been allowed a very pleasant room in Toronto (where we're shooting HEMLOCK) and when not on set I find myself spending quite a bit of time at the keyboard. Interestingly (sort of), from what I can tell, every room in this hotel has the same wall art prints of Sean Connery as James Bond and Marilyn Monroe as, well, Marilyn Monroe. Deciding which icon to face while writing has become one of the bigger management decisions of the day. (For what it's worth, it's Sean at the moment.)
But in those brief moments away from the keys, I've watched a little tube and seen a couple DVDs. AMC just ran another "all Westerns" weekend and I caught dribs and drabs of OPEN RANGE, TOMBSTONE and JOE KIDD. As as western fan, I've seen each of these more times than I should admit... in fact I find myself quoting JOE KIDD on occasion ("I should have knocked your damn head off!"), while rather enjoying the sheer cold-bloodedness of Clint's character. At least twice in the movie he sends some unfortunate to his maker and punctuates the demise with a flicker of a smile. Damn, Clint, that's a man's life you're tittering about! But Joe Kidd doesn't care. When Kidd and a gaggle of guys he doesn't like (long story) ride into a town that is festooned with riflemen ready to take them down, Kidd asks one of the riders he REALLY doesn't like to "ride ahead." The poor dope rides out a hundred feet and gets shot off his horse. Kidd shrugs. "Thought we were gettin' too close." Then the smile.
OPEN RANGE I like because it has a great performances by Robert Duvall and Kevin Costner, and a quirky story rhythm that doesn't fit the usual cowboy movie mold. Aside from that, there are odd cutaways, fade outs and transitions that are either trying for a different mood, or covering some sort of editorial mistake that I can't figure out. My only tiny critique is that the movie seems to end about four times, but the really great shootout at the end more than makes up for that.
And TOMBSTONE? Well, that's just sheer pleasure. Kurt Russell is dandy, but Val Kilmer is amazing as Doc Holiday. Again, the story sort of peters out toward the end, but the ride is great and I could watch this ten more times.
There were several other Westerns during Western weekend, including a couple of astonishingly sexist John Wayne movies. I may not have the details exactly right, but it appears that McLINTOCK ends with Wayne chasing Maureen O'Hara (in her underwear) around town, paddling her butt in front of the entire (laughing) populace, then SHE chases HIM as he leaves town, and the movie ends a minute later with the two of them silhouetted in a bedroom turning the lights out. No sir, they just don't make 'em like that anymore.
BTW, there was another recurring motif that arose from my paralytic viewings during Western weekend. Which is: badly injuring/maiming someone (especially if they're a significant cast member) but leaving them alive because "ahh, he can't hurt anybody now" or "if I see you again, I'll finish ya" is a big mistake. Actually, my favorite scene in this category was from the otherwise forgettable movie WARLOCK, where a bad guy smashed Richard Widmark's hand but allows him to scuttle away because "that hand's not good for anything." Yeah, buddy, but he's got two, and you don't need a lot of hand/eye coordination to toss a stick of dynamite or shove a shotgun (as opposed to a Colt 45) into somebody's face. When I write my villain's handbook (right after I finish my collection of limericks involving guys named "Peter"), rule #1 is going to be, "if you've got a chance to finish off your deadliest opponent, do it, dumbshit!" Actually, maybe I should call that the Joe Kidd rule...
Besides the westerns, I spent a moment checking out the recent blu-ray release of TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2. We're talking the 1987 Tobe Hooper film with Dennis Hopper, not the more recent remake(s). This movie was more or less trashed at the time, but I think time has been kind and it has survived to be regarded as a truly creepy, unsettling and quite funny masterpiece. And (*gasp*, prepare for the heresy) far more entertaining than the original. The opening bridge chase scene between some gun toting college brats and a saw wielding Leatherface (hidden behind a mummified corpse) is jaw droppingly weird. Leatherface's brother "Chop-Top" is a supremely bizarre and totally original character, with his "Sonny Bono" wig, crappy teeth and a predilection for heating the tip of a coat hanger so he can scratch pieces of raw flesh (!) from around the plate in his skull (!!) and then nibble on the pieces (!!!). And then finally there's Dennis Hopper as "Lefty", the Texas lawman determined to bring the "Sawyer family" to justice, strapping two chainsaw holsters to his belt as he prepares to deliver righteousness. This is about as deranged as it gets, and I doff my chapeau (sans coat hanger) to the old Cannon crew for financing this freak-show.
And now, play time is over!