47 FILMS: 45. THE LONG RIDERS

In our continuing series of 47 films to see before you are murdered in your dreams we present Walter Hills The Long Riders.

Walter Hill has had a strange career as a director. He’s produced some stone cold classics – 48 Hours, Extreme Measures, Southern Comfort to name a few. He’s directed the first episodes of the TV show Deadwood and was a writer and producer on the Alien franchise. He made Brewster’s Millions for crying out loud. And yet he never seems to get the recognition he deserves. Perhaps this is because some of his best work feels like it’s been influenced by past masters. The Warriors is a New York Clockwork Orange. The Driver has Bullitt written all over it. And The Long Riders is the best Western Sam Peckinpah never made. It also doesn’t help that he’s made some dross like gender realignment thriller The Assignment.

The Long Riders is another telling of the Jesse gang which takes as its gimmick the casting of real life brothers Stacy Keach and James Keach in the leads. Along with Keith Carradine, David Carradine and Robert Carradine as the Younger brothers. Randy Quaid and Dennis Quaid are here. Christopher Guest and Nicholas Guest play the Ford brothers. The overwhelming impressions is people had a lot of brothers in those days.

The story is familiar enough, but Hill films the action brilliantly. A protracted shootout in a town produces a bloodbath worthy of Peckinpah. The sound of the bullets played backwards creates a nightmarish ambience. And unlike Peckinpah there actually seems to be pain in the violence. The performances are all top class though it’s fun to notice which brothers come off best. James Keach has a dead-woodenness that actually suits his role. Soundtrack by Ry Cooder is also fantastic.

For more of our 47 Films to see before you’re murdered in your dreams CLICK HERE.

47 FILMS: 38. EXTREME PREJUDICE

In our continuing series of  ’47 Films to see before you’re murdered in your dreams’, we look at Walter Hill’s blood soaked border Western Extreme Prejudice.

Walter Hill has often been a director somewhat overlooked. His made a series of successful action movies, but there’s often the sense that he is too often written off as a meer action director. And yet a filmmaker who produce films as varied in scope as After Hours, The Long Riders, Southern Comfort and Brewster’s Millions, as well as having a large hand in the Alien series, obviously has more chops than your average second unit action guy.

Extreme Prejudice came out in 1987, the year after 48 Hours and starred Nick Nolte as a tough guy Texan peace officer Jack Benteen, who alongside his buddy sheriff (Rip Torn) is running in drug smugglers as his old boyhood friend Cash (Powers Boothe) sends them across from Mexico. There’s a shared girlfriend (Maria Conchita Alonso) between them as well and, to further complicate matters, a black ops squad are setting up a bank robbery to procure evidence against Cash. The team of ex-soldiers is led by Michael Ironside’s snake eyed Major… whoa! Stop there. Just look at this cast. Nolte, Ironside, Boothe, Torn and you can add to those Clancy Brown and William Forsythe as black ops men. The film has huge testosterone sweat patches and lines which are so much spoken as bitten off and spat out: ‘If you see the Major kill him. Kill him like an animal.’

The set pieces are great even if the plot gets so convoluted at times you get the feeling that no one is actually paying attention any longer. It doesn’t quite have the melancholy poetry of Peckinpah – in fact its Boothe’s doomed king pin who is the most Peckinpah-esque – but a blood bath is inevitable and suitably thorough.

For more of our ‘47 Films to see Before you are Murdered in your Dreams’ Click Here.

THE MAKING OF ALIEN

HOLLYWOOD – In the latest in our celebrated Making of… series, we look at the behind the scenes drama that went into the making of Ridley Scott’s Science Fiction Horror film “Alien”.

The Idea

Dan O’Bannon had been writing Science Fiction scripts for some time. He had scripted and had a small part in John Carpenter’s debut movie “Dark Star”, but O’Bannon wanted to branch out and make a realistic drama about truckers driving across America with a cargo of coal. He wrote to his agent John Stutter:

Dear John,

Please find enclosed the treatment for the new screenplay “Alan”. The story is simple. A trucker called Alan is taking a cargo of coal across America. I see this as very much “Convoy”, but with coal and not as escapist as that film. Let me know what you think.

However, Sutter had not properly read the treatment and his note to O’Bannon was apologetic.

Dan,

Sorry to tell you this but I just glanced at the title of your treatment and got straight onto the phone with Fox. I thought the title was “Alien”. I think it was an ink smudge. Bad news, when I read the treatment I thought it deadly dull. Good news, Fox are sold on having a script from Dark Star writer Dan O’Bannon entitled “Alien”!

A disgruntled O’Bannon got to work and he re-used several characters from his coal convoy story along with the grungy feel he had been aspiring to but he resolutely refused to add an Alien which saw the script taken out of his hands and given to Ronald Shusett who added the Alien. Walter Hill’s production company got involved and a British commercials director who had just made an atmospheric Napoleonic drama called “The Duellists” was also interested.

Pre-Production

The key to the film was thought to be the creature of the title and Jim Henson, the puppet master who created the Muppets, was called in. Following Ridley Scott’s instructions to ‘go dark’, Henson produced the face-hugger, the fetus and the final creature in one 48 hour bout of creativity. However, fearing for his child friendly reputation he hired Swiss artist H.R. Giger to present the work as his own, a decision Henson would bitterly regret for the rest of his life.

Production

Tom Skerritt, Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright,Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ian Holm and Yaphet Kotto were all cast after Ridley Scott got stuck in a lift with them in a Casino in Las Vegas and was impressed by the way they reacted diversely to the claustrophobic emergency. In keeping with the sense of immediacy Scott attempted to maintain a sense of spontaneity throughout the fourteen week shoot which took place between July 5 and October 21, 1978. Scott gave the actors only selective pages of script and would frequently spring surprises on them. The chest-burster scene was so disturbing that Yaphey Kotto pissed himself with fear. Harry Dean Stanton recalls:

The urine was everywhere and we were skidding around on it and almost falling on our asses, but Ian and John came from the British theater tradition and so they carried right on. And that was the take that Ridley used. Some of the looks of disgust on Veronica’s face for example, are because of the urine on the floor as much as the special effects.

Later filming the final sequence, Sigourney Weaver would shit her pants, though this was later revealed to be a prank she played on the rest of the cast and crew.

Reception

The advertising campaign for Alien was widely seen as one of the most successful of the late 70s although there is some controversy about who came up with the final tag line. Salman Rushdie claimed that he was the author and Gabriel Garcia Marquez said the line was his own. Scott settled the argument when it was revealed that Julian Lennon, son of Beatle John Lennon used to say to his father every night before he went to bed, ‘Remember dad, in space no one can hear you scream’ which would cause some of John Lennon’s most violent ‘bad trips’. The film was deemed a success and in 1987 the library of congress hired a video cassette of it and forgot to take it back the next day, which is considered by some to be the highest mark of honor.

Alien was released in 1979.

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5 FILM DIRECTORS WHO TAKE THEIR NAMES FROM GEOGRAPHICAL FEATURES

HOLLYWOOD – We know here at Studio Exec that the internet isn’t just about porn; it’s also about lists. Knowing more about films means making lists, lists, lists. We have more lists than a Hungarian pianist’s repertoire.

And so we’re proud to present our 5 directors who take their names from geographical features.

 

1. Michael Bay: He might be the most practiced air conditioning unit dodger and robot toy franchise director in the history of multi-angled explosions but did you know Michael Bay’s name actually means body of water by an isthmus of a river?

2. Steven Spielberg: You definitely don’t know that Mr. Jurassic Park has a surname which is actually German for ‘talking mountain’. Ironically, John Milius is Latin for ‘Jew in a baseball cap’. 

3. Oliver Stone: Admittedly the JFK director tends towards the geological, but Stone is proud of his geographic marker and makes a point of standing by standing stones whenever he sees a standing stone to stand by.  

4. Michael Moore: The Fahrenheit 9/11 director likes nothing more than eating a large curry and then warning everyone that there’s a wind on the moor tonight. He’s also famous for his sense of humor.  

5. Walter Hill: Inspired by the work of Benny Hill to become a film director, the young Walter Kubrick got himself down to the town hall and changed his name and the rest is history.