‘The term “acid Western” was first used by Pauline Kael in her 1971 review of El Topo. The film had just received its formal premiere after having played for some six months straight at a shabby theater in downtown New York named the Elgin, at which it received essentially no advertising and played exclusively at midnight. Nevertheless, the film did peculiarly strong business and became a curious fixation. El Topo was pulled from the Elgin and armed with a national distributor who aimed to replicate its success in other U.S. cities. Its belated premiere, at a theater in Times Square in November of 1971, is when Kael and other critics from the mainstream press would see the film for the first time, and it is here where they found themselves amid the film’s most integral component: its audience, perceptibly under the influence of some mind-altering substance.
‘For Kael the acid Western was a derogatory allusion to the pothead audience that extolled the film—an audience she admittedly did not belong to. In her review she expends many words in describing those in attendance with her, whom she observes unjudgementally but alertly, as one would animals at a zoo. J. Hoberman and Jonathan Rosenbaum elaborate on the phenomenon in their 1980 book Midnight Movies, in which an entire chapter is devoted to El Topo:
Although hip film buffs objected to El Topo’s graceless amalgam of Luis Buñuel, Federico Fellini, Sergio Leone, Sam Peckinpah, and Jean-Luc Godard, the movie bypassed cinematic sophistication to address the counterculture directly.
‘Rosenbaum reprised the term in his review of Jim Jarmusch’s 1995 film, Dead Man, and in conjunction with Kael’s writing delineated the rough parameters of the makeshift subgenre. For Rosenbaum the acid Western refers to Jarmusch’s film foremost, and retroactively to a slew of films from the late 60s and early 70s that share Jarmusch’s inversion of the Western formula. These films generally posit an individualist journey that ends not in triumph but often in suffering and death—a narrative trajectory Dead Man summates in its very title. Rosenbaum elaborated thusly:
What I partly mean by ‘acid Westerns’ are revisionist Westerns in which American history is reinterpreted to make room for peyote visions and related hallucinogenic experiences, LSD trips in particular. […] Both ‘acid Westerns’ and ‘pot Westerns’ depend on reevaluations of white and nonwhite experience that view certain countercultural habits and styles in relation to models derived from Westerns, but where they differ most, perhaps, is in their generational biases, which lead them respectively to overturn or ironically revise the relevant generic norms.
‘At the time of their conception, acid Westerns extended the already-incipient trend of Western revisionism that was underway in Hollywood, sometimes by the genre’s most popular and radical practitioners. The most abrasive of these would be Sam Peckinpah, whose 1969 The Wild Bunch itself appealed to the counterculture’s more politicized faction for its potency as an analogy of violence in Vietnam. “The Western is a universal frame,” Peckinpah remarked, “within which it’s possible to comment on today.” Traditionally, the Western was an index of America’s exceptionalism, a document of the U.S.’s imperialistic growth. Acid Westerns are a response to this tactic, in that they’re generally more concerned with the suppression and hostility enacted to facilitate that growth. The first and purist examples were made in the late 60s, in which the counter-culture asserted a brief yet emphatic hold on the Hollywood machine.
‘This audience engendered the success of films in which heroes were decidedly anti-authoritative (The Graduate) and their plights strewn in prejudiced opposition (Easy Rider). But unlike its mainstream counterparts, the acid Western caters more specifically to a bohemian audience befitted by the influence of a hallucinogenic substance of some sort, the same audience that would give birth to the ritual of the midnight movie in the 70s. It is in this regard that the acid Western is exemplified in Alejandro Jodorowsky’s El Topo. Kael describes the film’s phenomenon as such:
Jodorowsky has come up with something new: exploitation filmmaking joined to sentimentality—the sentimentality of the counter-culture. They mix frighteningly well: for the counter-culture violence is romantic and shock is beautiful, because extremes of feeling and lack of control are what one takes drugs for. What has has been happening, I think, is that the counter-culture has begun to look for the equivalent of a drug trip in its theatrical experiences. I think it still responds to non-head movies if there’s a possibility of direct identification with the characters, but increasingly movies appear to be valued only for their intensity.
‘This “intensity” is a response to the violence in Jodorowsky’s film, but in a general sense it describes the tone of a true acid Western: a film that amalgamates the violent with the absurd in such a way that the result, to a specific audience, achieves a certain profundity.’ — Rumsey Taylor, Not Coming
Special Monte Hellman issue of ‘La furia umana’
The Mondo Esoterica Guide to: Sergio Corbucci
Andy Warhol Films
The Shrine to Don Knotts
Sam Peckinpah @ Senses of Cinema
Pagina Oficial de Alejandro Jodorowsky
‘Zachariah: The Quintessinal Hippie Movie’
Audio: Listen to Robert Altman discuss his career
‘Luc Moullet, a Bootleg Filmmaker’
The Films of Robert Downey Sr. @ Persistence of Vision
In Praise of Michael J. Pollard
Westworld Headed Back to the Screen
‘THE AVENGING CONSCIENCE: An analysis of philosophical themes in Clint Eastwood’s HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER
Lady of the Cake: A Mel Brooks Site
‘Rancho Deluxe’ @ The Internet Movie Database
Welcome to Arthur Penn Fansite
Responding to some questions about “Acid Westerns”
We’re approaching the acid Western as if it could satisfy a chapter in your book, Midnight Movies. At the time of its writing, how might you and J. Hoberman have denominated the films that have retroactively become known as acid Westerns (The Shooting, Greaser’s Palace, The Last Movie, El Topo, et al.)?
Jonathan Rosenbaum: I can’t speak for Jim Hoberman. As nearly as I can remember, I simply coined the phrase in order to group together several countercultural westerns — which included, by the way, some of the novels of Rudy Wurlitzer as well as some movies.
The first instance I’ve found of the term “acid Western” occurs in Pauline Kael’s review of El Topo in 1971, and she employs it in derogatory fashion, alluding to the pothead audience that extolled the film — an audience she admittedly did not belong to. Being that your use of the term is more academic, do you think that the acid Western was meant to be viewed under the influence of hallucinogenic substances?
Jonathan Rosenbaum: Maybe Kael used the term before I did and I unconsciously borrowed it. I certainly was a pothead in that period, but I probably disliked El topo as much as she did. I don’t know what you mean by “more academic,” unless maybe you mean more thoughtful or accurate. But since Kael or I coined the term, I can’t see how one can ascribe intentionality to the Westerns she or I or both of us might have been talking about. “Meant to be”? I don’t get that. But yes, some of these movies–as well as other movies, of all kinds–were viewed under the influence of hallucinogens.
How do you feel the more acid-centric, drop-out faction of the counterculture aligns with the politically engaged, anti-capitalist, “make love not war” wing? Wouldn’t these factions have been largely opposed, or is the acid Western perhaps emblematic of their common aims?
Jonathan Rosenbaum: You’re speaking in journalistic and/or academic categories — clichés, actually — that correspond to advertising pitches, not people. Some people I knew took acid and/or “dropped out” and/or were politically engaged and/or were anticapitalist and/or countercultural (to varying degrees) and/or wanted to fuck rather than fight. To some extent, I belonged to all of these categories, and so did some of my friends and acquaintances, but I’d hate to reduce any of us to these slogans or demographics. You might belong to any one or two of these labels and still not like any of the “acid westerns,” or you might like one or two or all of them. Fortunately, there were several possibilities, because, rightly or wrong, we all tended to think we were free and not simply suckers in an advertising campaign.
One of your postulations about the acid Western is that it uses the Western genre as a framework in which to advance a critique of conventional models of capitalism. Wouldn’t this make the acid Western adjacent to some of Sergio Leone’s Westerns, specifically Once Upon a Time in the West, which is in a general sense a critique of Hollywood imperialism?
Jonathan Rosenbaum: Maybe it was that, but I didn’t take it as such at the time — I took it as a sadistic form of high opera that valorized macho violence as well as capitalism and was liked for pretentious and/or campy reasons. But my response probably wasn’t at all typical. I recall liking the Morricone theme song, but not much else.
Do you think that the acid Western has its most integral component in a 60s counterculture audience, and as such may no longer exist in its truest form? The poor commercial performance of Dead Man, for example, indicates that the film may have been orphaned from its proper context.
Jonathan Rosenbaum: It’s my own impression that Dead Man actually did quite well commercially, at least over time. (Somehow, I suspect that my Dead Man book wouldn’t have gone into a 2nd edition and been translated into French, Czech, and Persian if its subject had flopped commercially.) Don’t confuse the obtuseness of Harvey Weinstein at the time of the original release with the world market between then and now, or even necessarily with the American market. And what about the Native American market, which the film explicitly addresses? I think the film did and does address some countercultural currents in its audience, wherever and whenever these currents happen to be, which doesn’t make either it or any of its fans orphans. It never played for or to any 60s audiences, so it’s fruitless to speculate about that, but when it came out three decades later, it clearly wasn’t speaking to a void.
22 films (1964 – 1976)
Oldřich Lipský Lemonade Joe (1964)
‘Lemonade Joe is an unhinged take on western tropes going all the way back to the days of silents, shot through with song, joyful lunacy, and a wry mocking of the capitalist thirst for profit. Featuring the toning effects of the early 1900s, undercranked fights, rapid editing, and wild camera angles, the film’s techniques are as kitchen sink as its tropes, all to its great benefit.’ — sakana1
the entire film
Monte Hellman The Shooting (1966)
‘Hellman’s masterpiece asserts that individual choice is often subverted by the moral objectivity of others. The film’s ending is a favorite among cinephilles and serves as a paradigm of Camus’s thinking—both stoic and humane, it champions the power of nature over violence. Rather than exaggerate the likeability of his characters, Hellman is more concerned with their very human flaws. We mourn their deaths because of this realism. Hellman fabulously fools around with western archetypes—here we have a faithful sidekick with a penchant for comedy, a scruffy yet likeable hero, an obnoxious yet empowered female, and a mysterious man in black. Hellman’s spatial dynamics are disorienting and his compositions remarkably political. In one shot, Hellman uses a tree trunk to split his frame in two: on one side stands the character played by Perkins, on the other stands Oates and Hutchins. Most startling, though, is Hellman’s refusal to give evil a definitive face.’ — Ed Gonzalez, Slant Magazine
the entire film
Giulio Questi Django Kill… If You Live, Shoot! (1967)
‘Django Kill… If You Live, Shoot! was described by film historian Howard Hughes as “difficult to pigeonhole”, noting it encompassed the Western, horror film, psychedelia, and splatter film genres, describing it as “the weirdest Italian made Western”. It is well known for the surrealistic violence and for the psychedelic editing of Franco “Kim” Arcalli. Phil Hardy defines it as “the most brutally violent spaghetti western ever made”. Describing the film, Christopher Frayling says that “the violence was of an extraordinarily savage kind”. Antonio Bruschini writes that “this film is the first western to offer a sample of truly horrendous scenes”. Marco Giusti defines the film as the most violent and bizarre ever filmed in Italy.’ — Wiki
the entire film
Sergio Corbucci The Great Silence (1968)
‘The Great Silence (Il grande silenzio, 1968), or The Big Silence, is an Italian spaghetti western. It is widely considered by critics as the masterpiece of director Sergio Corbucci and is one of his better known movies, along with Django (1966). Unlike most conventional and spaghetti westerns, The Great Silence takes place in the snow-filled landscapes of Utah during the Great Blizzard of 1899. The movie features a score by Ennio Morricone and stars Jean-Louis Trintignant as Silence, a mute gunfighter with a grudge against bounty hunters, assisting a group of outlawed Mormons and a woman trying to avenge her husband (one of the outlaws). They are set against a group of ruthless bounty hunters, led by Loco (Klaus Kinski).’ — thespinningimage.com
Andy Warhol Lonesome Cowboys (1968)
‘Lonesome Cowboys was shot at the end of January 1968 in Tucson Arizona – on location in Old Tucson and at the Rancho Linda Vista Dude ranch 20 miles outside the city where some John Wayne movies had been filmed. It was edited by Andy while he was recuperating from the gunshot wounds inflicted by Valerie Solanas on June 3, 1968 and won Best Film at the San Francisco Film Festival in November. Unable to find a major commercial exhibitor, Warhol rented the Garrick Theatre where it opened on May 5, 1969. According to Morrissey, the film grossed $35,000-40,000 during its first week, with only $9,000 spent on advertising. It was also booked at the 55th Street Playhouse at the same time where it broke the “single-day housemark”, taking in $3,837 at $3.00 per ticket. In the same day it made $2,780 at the Garrick. It also ran for twenty weeks at various art houses in Los Angeles, and 2 1/2 months in San Francisco under distribution by Sherpix.’ — Gary Comenas, Warholstars
Alan Rafkin The Shakiest Gun in the West (1968)
‘This is a Don Knotts movie—and that says it all. It says, for one thing, that the plot deals with a weak little worm who turns and triumphs, after ten reels of old-style pratfalls. It also says that Universal City Studios will almost surely make $3,000,000 on an investment of $1,200,000. For Don Knotts comedies are what the trade calls “regionals”—movies turned out for rural audiences. In New York City, Chicago .and Los Angeles, the film Shakiest Gun was buried as a second feature after a Japanese-made disaster called King Kong Escapes. But it will pack them in as a feature in other areas, where Don Knotts is known and loved for his grape-eyed, slack-jawed frailty in the face of just about anything life sends his way.’ — Time Magazine
the entire film
Sam Peckinpah The Wild Bunch (1969)
‘The Wild Bunch (1969) is director/co-writer Sam Peckinpah’s provocative, brilliant yet controversial Western, shocking for its graphic and elevated portrayal of violence and savagely-explicit carnage, yet hailed for its truly realistic and reinterpreted vision of the dying West in the early 20th century. Peckinpah had earlier directed another classic western about the West’s passing, Ride the High Country (1962) and the epic western film Major Dundee (1965). Many of the film’s major stars, including William Holden, Edmond O’Brien, Robert Ryan and Ben Johnson, were veterans of westerns with a more romantic view of the West in the 40s and 50s. This hard-edged, landmark masterpiece of the Western film genre was beautifully shot in wide-screen by cinematographer Lucien Ballard. The film’s lasting influence has been seen in the imitative graphic violence of the films of Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, John Woo, and others.’ — Tim Dirks, filmsite
Excerpt: Final shootout
Alejandro Jodorowsky El Topo (1970)
‘With its druggy wanderings and inscrutable reveries, El Topo would be part of the revolutionary, post-’60s movement if its private mythology didn’t belong so obviously to its maker’s acid subconscious. “I am God,” El Topo at one point intones, and Jodorowsky completely means it: Playing deity in front of and behind the camera, the director uses film as a direct pipe into his own mind, and the bursting valise of ideas, images, and sounds that results is a veritable blur of ridiculous and sublime (and ridiculous-sublime) moments that defy ordinary readings while inviting (demanding, really) audience involvement via active interpretation. Whether one takes it as a staggeringly visionary work or a sadistic circus procession making an opportunistic grab for every artistic base (Buñuel and Zen, Eisenstein and pantomime, Antonin Artaud and Russ Meyer), there is no denying the immersive being of the film.’ — Fernando F. Croce, Slant Magazine
George Englund Zachariah (1971)
‘Zachariah (1971) is a film starring John Rubinstein as Zachariah and Don Johnson as his best friend Matthew. The film is loosely based on Herman Hesse’s novel Siddhartha, surrealistically adapted as a musical Western by Joe Massot and two members of the Firesign Theatre comedy troupe. The band Country Joe and the Fish perform as an inept gang of robbers (more adept as musicians) called “the Crackers,” who are always “looking for people who like to draw.” In the same vein, Zachariah boasts: “I can think, I can wait, and I’m fast on the draw.” This is a parody of Siddhartha’s famous line: “I can think, I can wait, I can fast.” This film is defined as being part of the Acid Western genre. More precisely, in its own publicity releases, it was called, “The first electric western.” This was, in no small part, because this film featured several appearances and music supplied by successful rock bands from the era, including the James Gang and Country Joe and the Fish. The movie also features former John Coltrane sideman Elvin Jones as a gunslinging drummer named “Job Cain.”‘ — jclarkmedia.com
the entire film
Robert Altman McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971)
‘If Robert Altman’s movies in the early Seventies –- M*A*S*H, Brewster McCloud, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, The Long Goodbye –- reveal the overall impact of dope on movie consciousness, representing a halfway house between the softer dope influence of the Sixties and the harder edge it would take on in the early Seventies –- this is because they reflect so many of the stylistic changes reflected above, at the same time that they frequently allude to drugs in their plots. The use of overlapping dialogue and offbeat musical accompaniments (such as the Leonard Cohen songs in McCabe, the bird lectures in McCloud, and the multiple versions of the title tune in The Long Goodbye) created a dense weave that made each spectator hear and understand a slightly different movie -– and, given that these were crowded, widescreen features, see a different movie as well.’ — Jonathan Rosenbaum
Excerpt: Opening Scene
Luc Moullet A Girl is a Gun (1971)
‘In 1971, Moullet made his first color film, Une aventure de Billy le Kid, also known by its English title, A Girl Is a Gun. A psychedelic Western starring French New Wave icon Jean-Pierre Léaud, the film was never released in France, but was instead shown abroad in an English-dubbed version. The dubbing, conceived by Moullet as a tribute to the “shabbiness” he always admired in American genre films, is intentionally bad, and the short, slight Leaud is given a mismatched deep voice. Despite most Cahiers du cinéma critics admired many western authors, when they themselves became filmmakers few dared to overtly revisit that genre. One year after Alejandro Jodorowsky’s El topo and as Sergio Leone premiered A Fistful of Dollars, Moullet charges full steam ahead with a wild western starring Jean-Pierre Léaud, taking this genre and one of its key characters to unexpected territory.’ — mubi
Jim McBride Glen and Randa (1971)
‘Post-apocalyptic movies were, apparently, quite popular in the late 60s and early 70s. Glen and Randa (GaR) is very different from ’71’s big post-apocalyptic film: The Omega Man. Yet, the indie production of GaR is as obscure as the big studio film OM is famous. There are no hoards of zombies to battle. Instead, the story focuses on the two title characters (more clueless than heroic) and their quest for a mythical city. The film, which has been described as a psychedelic post-Western, got an X rating for its full frontal nudity. GaR shares with OM, the use of Biblical imagery woven into this view of post-apocalyptic earth.’ — collaged
Peter Fonda The Hired Hand (1971)
‘The following is said of Peter Fonda’s character in Steven Soderbergh’s 1999 film The Limey: “You’re not specific enough to be a person. You’re more like a vibe.” That sentiment also applies to Fonda’s trippy 1971 Western, The Hired Hand, which is the closest anyone will come to getting inside of Fonda’s head without going blind on ’shrooms and pharmaceuticals. Having delivered a huge hit for Universal with Easy Rider, the studio did what studios in the ’70s did: It gave full artistic control to a hippie visionary with no commercial instincts whatsoever. Not surprisingly, Fonda’s phantasmagoric Western bombed at the time, but it’s since been revived as a fascinating curio, one that thoroughly upends a genre built on action and machismo. It’s the most gentle of the post-Wild Bunch anti-Westerns, and one of the more gorgeously abstract.’ — The AV Club
the entire film
Dennis Hopper The Last Movie (1971)
‘Edited with a jarring, lyrical style, the movie has more in common with the psychedelic midnight movies of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, like Alejandro Jodoworsky’s “El Topo,” than anything produced by a major Hollywood studio. However, in the wake of “Easy Rider” hitting the cultural zeitgeist and raking in box office receipts at once, Universal was all too eager to pick up Hopper’s tab. As a result, the actor went over budget and schedule, holed himself up in a private editing suite in New Mexico, and tore apart a more conventional edit to arrive at the final version. The shoot itself was as chaotic as one might expect from viewing the final product, infused with ample cocaine provided by the locals and free love antics. Ultimately, it became a documentary about its own production, the most meta movie in American history. The result may have been seen as a cautionary tale at the time, when it was maligned by critics and considered a flop. In retrospect, it’s a small wonder Hopper got away with completing the movie at all — and, decades later, it deserves to be seen as a rebellious masterpiece from a visionary artist at odds with the system consuming his fame.’ — Eric Kohn
Robert Downey Sr. Greaser’s Palace (1972)
‘I am about to embark on the most pointless exercise known to man and I’m not talking about teaching a pig to fly. (Which actually works with a mildly sedated porker and a small trebuchet.) I’m going to try and explain Greaser’s Palace to a group of people who probably have not seen the movie. Heck, even if you have seen the movie it’s pointless. You are probably thinking to yourself, “It couldn’t be that outlandish. Could it?” The entire movie is an anecdotal allegory for religion, Christianity to be precise. If you want to start splitting hairs, I think Catholicism is the basis for everything that comes to pass. Greaser’s Palace is a huge saloon in some tumbleweed town out west; we can identify it as being “a church” since people come running to watch the show whenever bells begin ringing. Seaweedhead Greaser is the Catholic Church as represented by a gunslinger with itchy trigger fingers. Why in the world does he have a mariachi band and his mother locked in wooden cages?’ — Badmovies.org
Stan Dragoti Dirty Little Billy (1972)
‘This is no typical, Tinseltown western. It’s more like The Making of a Sociopath, with Michael J. Pollard starring as displaced, 17-year-old Billy Bonney, in the days leading up to his evolution into the notorious Billy the Kid. Leaving New York City with his mom and (asshole) step-dad, the trio is first glimpsed arriving at a tiny Kansas cesspool named Coffyville; a DJANGO-like shanty town which keeps the entire cast continually ankle deep in dried mud, and with cinematographer Ralph Woolsey (THE MACK) bringing out the worst in the place. This is a true anti-western, without a character that you can totally warm up to, since they’re either inept, crazy, stupid or ruthless. Even the occasional moment of violence — like a barroom blowout — is quick, brutal and totally convincing. Unlike any western you’ve ever seen, this is McCABE AND MRS. MILLER’s evil brother.’ — Shock Cinema Magazine
Michael Crichton Westworld (1973)
‘Welcome to Westworld, where nothing can go wrong…go wrong…go wrong….Writer/director Michael Crichton has concocted a futuristic “Disneyland for adults”, a remote resort island where, for a hefty fee, one can indulge in one’s wildest fantasies. Businessmen James Brolin and Richard Benjamin are just crazy about the old west, thus they head to the section of Westworld populated by robot desperadoes, robot lawmen, robot dance-hall gals, and the like. Benjamin’s first inkling that something is amiss occurs when, during a mock showdown with robot gunslinger Yul Brynner, Brolin is shot and killed for real. It seems that the “nerve center” of Westworld has developed several serious technical glitches: the human staff is dead, and the robots are running amok.’ — Hal Erickson, Rovi
Clint Eastwood High Plains Drifter (1973)
‘Though occasionally amusing, in ways similar to A Fistful of Dollars and Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo, in which tough protagonists also manipulate weaker townspeople to humorous effect, High Plains Drifter is a brooding, surprisingly artistic Western, accented by a haunting score. Vigilante justice and broad depictions of good and evil tend not to work as well in stories set in the present day, because we’re all too aware of the damage Dirty Harry-style justice can do to the social fabric of the contemporary world. But it does work in Westerns, where the only law is the law of the gun. It’s a genre made for severe parables of justice and retribution like High Plains Drifter. At the end, Mordecai remarks that he still doesn’t know the stranger’s name. The stranger simply responds, “Yes, you do.” Mordecai understands, as do we. We understand that there are several ways to answer the question of the stranger’s identity, all equally valid.’ — AboutFilm.com
Sam Peckinpah Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973)
‘A companion picture to The Wild Bunch, being set in a similar period, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid takes an entirely different approach. Here the focus is upon people rather than situations, with the title characters casting inky shadows over a memorable selection of ruffians. Completing Peckinpah’s complex and all-inclusive vision, John Coquillon’s photography remains striking. Filling the generous screen width with people and their trappings, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid is beautiful in a downbeat way. The biggest weakness is the unstructured narrative, a major barrier to comprehending the story’s central third. Here the tale is difficult to follow, wandering aimlessly across the plain, intent on introducing a stream of bit parts. Interesting maybe, but also spotty and further clouded by the often-indistinct dialogue. In fact this last point is a real disappointment, given that the script is attractively dirty and direct — people say what they have too with little elaboration. So, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid is a terrific Western with rather too many studio battle scars. Oh for what might have been!’ — Damian Cannon, Movie Reviews UK
Mel Brooks Blazing Saddles (1974)
‘Vulgar, crude, and occasionally scandalous in its racial humor, this hilarious bad-taste spoof of Westerns, co-written by Richard Pryor, features Cleavon Little as the first black sheriff of a stunned town scheduled for demolition by an encroaching railroad. Little and co-star Gene Wilder have great chemistry, and the delightful supporting cast includes Harvey Korman, Slim Pickens, and Madeline Kahn as a chanteuse modelled on Marlene Dietrich. As in Young Frankenstein (1974), Silent Movie (1976), and High Anxiety (1977), director/writer Mel Brooks gives a burlesque spin to a classic Hollywood movie genre; in his own manic, Borscht Belt way, Brooks was a central player in revising classic genres in light of Seventies values and attitudes, an effort most often associated with such directors as Robert Altman and Peter Bogdanovich.’ — Robert Firsching, Rovi
Excerpt: ‘I’m Tired’
Frank Perry Rancho Deluxe (1975)
‘Rancho Deluxe is a comedy western film that was directed by Frank Perry and released in 1975. Jeff Bridges and Sam Waterston star as two cattle rustlers in modern-day Montana who plague a wealthy ranch owner, played by Clifton James. The film also stars Harry Dean Stanton, Richard Bright, Elizabeth Ashley and, as the aging detective Harry Beige hired to find the rustlers, Slim Pickens. The script was by novelist Thomas McGuane, who was married to Ashley. The film was described as a form of “parody Western” by critic Richard Eder in his Nov. 24, 1975 New York Times review. “It is so cool that it is barely alive,” he wrote of the film’s general tone. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave Rancho Deluxe only one-and-a-half out of four possible stars. He wrote: “I don’t know how this movie went so disastrously wrong, but it did.”‘ — imdb.com
Arthur Penn The Missouri Breaks (1976)
‘On first release, Arthur Penn’s 1976 western found itself derided as an addled, self-indulgent folly. Today, its quieter passages resonate more satisfyingly, while its lunatic take on a decadent, dying frontier seems oddly appropriate. Most significantly, the film provides a showcase for a mesmerising turn from Marlon Brando as the regulator hired to wage war on Jack Nicholson’s reformed horse rustler. At the time of shooting, Nicholson was fresh from an Oscar for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, his star in the ascendancy. And yet he appears happy to cede centre stage to his one-time acting idol. Not that Brando needs much invitation. Improvising his lines from beneath a series of comedy hats, he embarks on a merry dance from burlesque to menace and back again, while the picture frantically plays catch-up behind him.’ — The Guardian
p.s. Hey. Greetings from Los Angeles. First of all, I warn you that I have a bad head cold and the tail end of jet lag, so this will not be the most scintillating p.s. you’ve ever read for sure. Otherwise, for those interested in the film-related goings on, I’ve basically spent the week doing location scouting out in the desert area and lots of auditions and meetings, and all goes well so far. There are a bunch of potentially good things that are still little up in the air at the moment. I think we might have found our Director of Photography, which has been the most pressing task. He’s great, perfect really, and he seems enthusiastic to work on the film, and I’m hoping that’ll be cemented in the next day or so. We found a house location — 90% of the film takes place in one house — that we really like, and we’re waiting nervously to see if the owners will let us use it for a price we can afford. And we’ve found some exciting new people for the cast. And other stuff. So, so far so good. I’ll be able to be more concrete and say more in general the next time I see you here. ** CAUTIVOS, Hi. Yeah, those posts are a bit like ‘The Sluts, part 2’. But better written because I didn’t write them. Thanks, man, hope you had a good week. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi, David. That is quite a claim right there! Everyone, If any of you are in a position to help out the great writer and critic David Ehrenstein who’s going through rough period, please use this link to a Gofundme account set up for him and be as generous as your circumstances allow. Thank you! ** Bill, Psst, I had to look it up too. How was ‘I See Water’ all in all? I made it to here. My plane movies: ‘Elvis’ (attention filling and kind of very irritating), ‘Fast and Furious 9’ (fun enough), ‘The Woman King’ (okay), and ‘Ex Machina’ (did not like). What’s new on your side? ** Cody Goodnight, Hi, Cody! Thanks for coming back! Well, I love and share your tastes, so that’s cool. And me too: strangeness = comfort. How was your week? Find or read or see anything that knocked you out? ** Sarah, Hi, Sarah! Mm, I have the exact opposite of fondness for Machine Gun Kelly, and, like you, I can’t really explain that. Strange, isn’t it? I did like ‘Holy Mountain’. I think, ultimately, ‘El Topo’ is my favorite of his. How are you? What’s going on? Really nice to get to talk with you. ** Dominik, Hi!!!! Yeah, pretty busy and getting busier, but I guess that’s the point. Thank you for the wish. And for the love since I too wish I could figure out that escort’s name choice. What’s new? Tell me. Love making my head cold not prevent me from thinking of a clever form of love other than the good old fashioned kind, G. ** Kyle, Hi, Kyle! It’s very good to meet you. I’m very honored that my work impacted your film. And, sure, I remember Ryan, and I really like Maggie’s writing. Yes, I’d love to see the film, of course! Thank you! You can email it to me at email@example.com. I’m excited to discover it! I hope everything is great with you, and thank you again very much! ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, Ben! You’re an Oz ex-virgin, awesome. I’ll watch the Lynch/Oz doc as soon as my brain cells allow me to. You had a fine week, I hope? Fantastic news about the course! Listen, ‘Ben-like’ is an amazing compliment. Having something in your writing that’s recognisably yours may be the most important single thing a writer can possess. Great, congrats, man!!! ** Misanthrope, Thank you, kindly, sir. Me too! It’s make or break time. And your week? ** Cap’m, Cap’m! Way, way too long no see! HNY to you! How are you? What’s going on, old friend? Love quadrupled from me! ** Jamie, Hi, J! Apart from a very annoying head cold, things are good. We’re getting stuff done so far. The weather is very pleasant. People here think it’s cold, but, trust me, it ain’t if you’re from where we’re from. My week was not unlike a dark ride but not one designed by me unfortunately. Love having read that Madonna tickets are $1500 and wondering why you’re even considering forking out that much to see her. ** Robert, Hi, Robert. Things are pretty good, thanks. Still a little up in the air, but the signs are good anyway. My favorite place I’ve even been on a trip to? Japan, I think, pretty much hands down. I went to Antarctica, and that was pretty intense. But, yeah, I think Japan just in general. Iceland’s pretty amazing. Thanks for the train hoppers videos. I’ll get all over them. You good? I only drove through Mississippi, but it was pretty weird in the good way, at least from a car window. ** Ellie, Hi, Ellie! I have a very annoying head cold, but I’m good otherwise. Good lines you pulled out there. Um, I don’t know if they’re getting sweeter and funnier? I think it’s a crap shoot. I’m always looking for good sentences, nice or scary. The most exciting thing so far has been maybe finding our DP, this young Russian guy who’s so totally aligned with our thinking. Meeting with him was really invigorating. I hope he says yes. And getting to eat actual, really good Mexican food again was pretty great. What about you: excitement? I think of you as a friend too, so, yeah, let’s treat each other like ones. Oh, good, I’m really glad that meeting was chill and fun and even witchy. Very cool. I’ll look for Kenji’s new book, obviously. How curious. Oh, wow, the tumblr thing is awesome. Even with my horribly clogged head. You’re so nice and generous. Thank you! What else is new with you? ** shadeoutMapes🥐, Hey! This weekly schedule is weird. It reminds me of when you had to communicate with friends through delayed postal letters. Busy here too, but it’s going well. Given the money-determined smallness of our crew, I may have to end up getting people’s sandwiches. The ‘south’ is full of fiction writers, and some of them pretty good too, it’s weird. Or not? Great about the positive outcome of your obscure good news! Hm, how do you make coffee? Like what method? I just use one of those drip machines, and, yeah, the coffee is never better than serviceable/does its job. Can I just say the coffee here in LA is so much poorer than even the bleh-est coffee in Paris? I guess that’s not a controversial opinion. I think the person here who had the breakdown is or was about to return to school, so hopefully they’re okay or will let us know. I get up in California. I’m a big fan. It’s pretty much all over the place. You’ve got your gorgeous parts, you’ve got your very kind of ugly parts. I like SoCal/LA because it’s supposedly the only city on earth that’s famously two hours drive from every type of landscape the world has to offer. What do you especially like or not about NC? I hope you have a superb week, and talk with you soonish! ** Steve Erickson, Hi, Steve. If we shoot at the house location that looks likely at the moment, which is in Yucca Valley, near Joshua Tree, that’s about a 2 1/2 hour drive from LA. We’ll likely use people from the area for the smallest roles and as extras, but the main roles are played by people based in LA except for one French person we’ll be flying over from Paris. We’ll need to house the main cast and most of the crew, yes. As pleasantly for them as possible but very economically given our budget. We’re looking into that now. The weather’s very nice now, cool and only rainy in short stints. I haven’t seen any damage personally. Interesting and kudos about the B. Cronenberg interview. Have you see his new film? ** Nick., Hi, Nick.! Yeah, I was just saying to someone it’s like going back to snail mail. It’s interesting. Honestly, the highlight so far was finding a great DoP or cinematographer, this young Russian guy who has really great, wild ideas for the film and is exciting to talk with. Everything’s about the film work right now, and not much else, so that’s really the best thing so far. Food, hm … maybe this great Armenian/Lebanese food I had at a restaurant last night even though I ate way too much and am still suffering from that a little. Did you eat anything extraordinary lately? Awesome about the new friends and, of course, the cute boys. Nice, man! Your Kevin wish is very tender. I can feel the feeling from your wordage. Maybe you could find him? And Nelson Sullivan! I knew Nelson a little. I lived in NYC at the time he was shooting a lot of his videos. I saw him around a lot, and I think I’m in one of his videos, although I don’t know if that one saw the light of day. His archives, meaning all of his videos, etc., are at NYU/Fales Library. They have my archive too, and if you ever want to go look at them or anything, let me know, ‘cos I can probably get you in. Those were great, heady days in NYC, as you can tell. Thank god for Nelson or else so much would have just disappeared. I’m good, my friend, and you sound really good, which is awesome to hear here in my blackout phase. I would definitely be a silver guy and not a gold guy. Very nice about your silver accoutrement. I used to wear rings for a while. I liked them, but I don’t think I’ve worn anything jewelry-like in ages. I’m not sure that I could pull wearing them off at this point. I think I’m too much of a schlumpy dresser now. I should try, though. Hm. Here’s a question: if you ever made or were going to star in a horror movie, what would the evil villain/force be like? What or who, I guess? So lovely talking with you. Have an even better this week than last week. xo ** Ash Barrett, Hi, Ash! Welcome. First, amazing that my stuff inspired you. That’s like the dreamer’s dream. Your name sounds familiar, so maybe I’ve heard your work, but I’ll go find out for sure and investigate fully when I’m out of the p.s. and actually awake (I’m still in early coffeeing stages as I type). Yeah, if you play here, let me know. I’ll be in LA and/or environs a lot until late April, and unless I’m locked into film shooting out in the desert, I’ll love to meet and see you play. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org if you need me that way. Anyway, thanks so much, and, yeah, I hope we can talk more at the very least. Love on and off camera back to you. ** Right. Maybe because I’m spending a lot of time right now out in desert area or because I was talking with someone here recreantly about LSD or both or neither, I seem have decided to restore an old post dedicated to Acid Westerns for you this week. I hope it suits. See you next Saturday.
“”Zachariah” and “The Shooting: are masterpieces.
Also”Lonesome Cowboys” and “Horse”
Leave us not forget the yet-to-be-finished and released Ultimate Acid WeterN “Rust”
I’m very fond of both Rancho Deluxe (in big spite of the Buffett soundtrack)and Missouri Breaks basically everything Thomas McGuane was involved in in those days including the one he directed I like.
I have never seen Dirty Little Billy but I really like Pollard in Fulci’s western FOUR OF THE APOCALYPSE which I think I like more than any of his horror films.
Good luck with the prep and shoot!
How are you? I hope all is going well in California. I have always been fascinated by avid westerns ever since I discovered Alejandro Jodorowsky. I have yet to see El Topo, and many of the ones listed in this blog, but I do love seeing the surreal, often bloody and intense imagery based off the gifs here. I am doing pretty well, myself. I started my final semester at college, and all is going smoothly. As for things that knocked me out, I have started reading William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying for one of my classes that specializes in southern gothic literature. So far, I’m really enjoying it. It’s morbidly amusing and grim, which I always love. I also saw Robert Altman’s 3 Women at my local art cinema, my favorite Altman. Seeing it in a theater was spectacular. I hope you are doing well, Dennis. Have a lovely day or night!
Hi Dennis. Nice to see you here again after so many days. Unbeatable entry on your blog. I am not very familiar with what you expose, I know Jadorowsky and little else. He is a peciliar guy but I haven’t had the opportunity to appreciate his art. He is a writer and I have not read any of his books either, he has a circle of friends that do not excite me at all and a difficult personality. On January 17, the latest novel by Bret Easton Ellis was published. I don’t know if you’ve had time to take a look at his latest work. I don’t know how long it will take to publish it in Spanish, but I am quite impatient. What can take a year? It’s too much. Unlike you, Ellis has a fixed editorial in Spain and each of his publications, although it is not an event such as a best seller, has his audience. In other words, whatever you publish will be translated unceremoniously. It is a novel of more than 600 pages, so they must take their time when it comes to translation. I would like to know your opinion once you have read the novel that I presume you will read soon. A hug and do not take long to update your blog.
Have You Instagram?
Good to hear the trip has been productive, Dennis. Look forward to more filmic updates.
This post is an old favorite. I recall it goaded me to finally see McCabe and Mrs Miller, and Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, both of which I enjoyed immensely.
Months and months ago, I promised you an Alex van Warmerdam post. I saw Nr 10 recently (fun but not his best), so I’m finally ready to start working on it. (Still vaporware, I know, I know…)
Hope your head cold is better soon, and you’re able to locate some acceptable coffee. Funny, I’d always thought LA was overrun with good high-end coffee places, like the Bay Area.
Ahh hi I hope the headache gets better, I’ve been having these horrible migraines and they are horrible, literally forcing you to stay in bed most the day because of how agonizing they are. They usually come every two months and persistently stay for a while. I hate them because they make me so indolent, and I haven’t been able to read the other book I got as well as not able to work on my book. Anyways I say this to hope that they aren’t at that level for you because that would suck. I wouldn’t wish migraines even on my enemies its horrible, though that’s not to say that you are ahhh_ Oh, for the coffee idk it’s this machine we’ve had for years so maybe that’s a sign to get a new one?? What’s the movie about? I wanted to know for a bit, and I feel bad for forgetting to ask, I think you mentioned haunted houses I think…maybe?
The south is…well… we were at a funeral the other day and it’s probably the only place you’ll find someone wearing a biscuits and porn hoodie to a funeral. I’ve never been to one, but I did know the person but not enough to say I was terribly affected by it, although I know their dad was, who I sort of see as a dad too. It must be horrible to lose someone to drugs. As they were pouring their ashes into the river, they kind of flew back into the family members and it was as funny as much as it was sad. someone also had a seizure at the funeral. I think it’s crazy people can die so young.
Oh, on a lighter note I’m really really happy for tomorrow because I start dbt and that’s the greatest that I could ask for (oh and also that was the very obscure news that idk why I was so obscure about)
closing note, do you like animals? Cats specifically, I say that because we own 3 blacks and the two which are mine have been resting by my side throughout my horrible migraine fits and they are both so ugly I think I’m the only one who will ever love them.
Peacee !! 😀
(Also, I might be gone for a bit my eyes hurt and I think I’m going to convert back to writing my story on paper because I prefer that and its easier)
Ahhh omg sorry to comment again, but I’m in panic mode, and totally understand if u don’t really have any advice and don’t give any as most likely I might have this figured out by the time u see this.
Ok so…this is sort of a silly question but I’m too embarrassed to ask someone else! uhh ok so I think I mentioned I recently turned 18 and I kind of wanted to go this club and invite a friend or whatever but the thing is, this is weird, I feel…strangely terrified.? Like, I don’t consider myself a socially anxious person, the opposite tbh, but I realized that the thought of becoming an adult/ being in a room surrounded by them, judged, whatever is kind of scary. Of course, it doesn’t help that I’m way too short to look old and constantly am told by bitchless ROTC kids at school how I look 12. I do have a couple friends a little older than me maybe I can go out with them as they’ve been through it and will likely make it less scary?
You know tbh now that I kind of write it I’m sort of realizing how dumb this sounds and is easily solvable but idk, I guess if you have advice?? Ok byee I’m continuing my hiatus just had to get that off my chest~~< 3
(Also, not sure if you had something like ROTC kids back in school but be glad you didn't. They are the worst.)
Such amazing film news! I’m sure you’ll share more in the next P.S., but I’m gonna ask anyway: have you heard back from the owners of the house you picked? What about the new director of photography?
Do you know Matt Ox? Apparently, he’s a musician; I found him when I looked up one of your escorts (slaves?). I think his name was Getdown in the post. Anyway, if you don’t know him, here’s a video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WA1-hJHEj64
Other than this phenomenal discovery, there’s nothing special going on in my world, haha. I’m keeping my fingers extra crossed for continued film-related wonders in yours all week!
Love eating your head cold with a spoon, Od.
I loved INFINITY POOL. Brandon Cronenberg’s ideas are still so similar to his father’s that no one would blink if David was credited with the screenplay, but he’s developing his own style. (He frames violence with extreme close-ups of gruesome wounds, while also shooting blood so that it almost looks like Abstract Expressionist painting.) I interviewed him this morning, which went pretty well although we only had 20 minutes. It should come out later this week.
I finished THE SHARDS today. After IMPERIAL BEDROOMS and WHITE, Bret seems to have found his muse again. Like several of his books, there’s an embrace of excessive detail here – endless lists of songs from 1980-1 the characters are listening to, even Los Angeles streets. I always thought a key aspect of AMERICAN PSYCHO was that if you’re reading it in linear order just for gore, you would quickly get bored by the descriptions of clothes.
For Slant Magazine, I reviewed the latest albums by Meg Baird: https://www.slantmagazine.com/music/meg-baird-furling-album-review/ and White Reaper: https://www.slantmagazine.com/music/white-reaper-asking-for-a-ride-album-review/
Today, I finally bought tickets to visit my parents next week.
Steve, I am so envious you saw Infinity Pool. Look forward to your interview/review.
Thursday would’ve been Dad’s birthday so myself, Mum, Nick and my baby nephew Elliot will be going to a local Italian restaurant for lunch. The place is called Franco’s and I must say their menu looks pretty good. It will be the first time I’ve been to any kind of restaurant in forever, so I’m looking forward to this a great deal.
Yesterday’s meal at Franco’s was really good. I had a resolutely vegan-unfriendly dish that I’m advised was the kind of thing that that Dad would’ve ordered.
MEN IN LOVE
hey dennis. hope all is well in socal with the preparations. not much new happening on my end. wife, baby and i will be going to mexico for two weeks at the start of feb. looking forward to the break.
I often get sick after long flights, idk if it’s something to do with the dry air or what but I hope the jet lag and head cold disappear quickly! happy to hear film stuff’s coming together too
cool post, I’ve seen Dead Man but nothing else so I’m gonna check out a couple on your list. I’m usually not big on westerns but being big on acid I’m intrigued. Dead Man did have that blank, artificial clarity I sometimes enter on acid trips. Been meaning to watch El Topo and McCabe for years so this is a good excuse.
Also I mailed off the Safe zine to you maybe a week and a half ago so hopefully it arrives soon!
hey dennis –
love hearing about the film progress. hope the trip’s been uber-productive so far. excited to read more about it in a few hours once you post. not much to share on my end, just wanted to say hi and express support. my birthday was on tuesday, i had a nice lunch with friends, and i started reading infinite jest (which seems like the longest book in the world after months of reading your work haha). that’s it really. sending love and peace and warmth. be back tomorrow
Hi Dennis! My week was good. How was yours? Is making a movie easier the third time? I’m excited to see it. I told my friend who lives around LA who’s a fan of you that he should wander the streets searching for you. Obviously he’s not going to do that, though. I’m heading out to some club in like ten minutes, it’s going to be basically fun. I can’t really think of anything that actually happened in the last week but I know I’ve been writing a lot, so that means probably something has been happening. I’ve been thinking almost exclusively about love and about labor. No conclusions yet. If you have any let me know. I’m honestly relieved you don’t like Machine Gun Kelly, though I don’t know why. Obviously his music is terrible, not that that stops me from listening to it. I think if I knew him I would hate him, but as a person he seems pretty sincere, if a bit dumb and unattractive and obnoxious. Someone sent you Matt Ox this week – this made me laugh. Check out Jetlag by him if you get the chance. Are you into Chief Keef? Looking forward to hearing from you!
Hi! Hope your well can and only imagine what you’ve been up to so please tell me one fun or odd thing that happened recently! Had a week myself but good all around boy drama as always actually scary accurate to a literal page or two out of one of your books. So to avoid cliche since you got it so right I’ll just leave it at that and say I had a bunch of fun and learned a bunch! Oh that was a really good question and really hard to think about actually but I think I guess it would some kind of fog or even worse just an invisible force that sapped away any power you had so you were defenseless and it also made you abhorrently aware it was doing it to you. But that’s just off the top of my head but it’s pretty scary to me at least right now it is. What would yours be? And wow please I would absolutely really love that and it’d give me something productive to do! I can’t believe you also knew Neilson! I really really love that! I hope in the archive I can find the footage of you! What’s a memory you have from that time? I hope you’re well and resting friend! And oh another question did you have an imaginary friend as a kid if so what was their name if they had one? Alright can’t wait to hear from you!
Hey, Dennis. The past two weeks have been going pretty well. Made new friends at school and submitted to some zines. I also started messing around with virtual worlds in VRChat and making my own avatars. I’m glad it’s been going pretty well. There was supposed to be this Sanrio VR concert in VRChat that’s been happening, but I didn’t feel like shelling out the money. I have friends who are also making short films, and I expressed some interest in helping out, so that’ll be interesting and fun.
Hope your movie filming will go well!
Hi, Dennis! I just read your update about your LA trip for the film. Glad to hear that things are coming along well! How exciting. I hope to hear more news when you have that. Otherwise, please keep healthy and enjoy LA. Wishing you best for you & your film. -J
Dear Dennis! Hi, I’m Cesar, I don’t know if you still remember me hahaha sorry for not writing, these last two weeks have been hectic. Living with a friend (how hard is living together!), lots of dates, work, reading, progressing in a video game online (Genshin Impact is horribly addictive) and watching the last movies that were nominated for the Oscar (I don’t know if you’ve seen Decision Yo Leave but it’s a movie unfairly left out. Tar is very good). Hope you are doing well! How are you doing with the movie? Anything you can give us a sneak peek? How’s it treating you…were you in L.A.? I don’t remember, forgive me. My memory is a cabbage right now.
To continue with my tradition of questions I wanted to know what are your Oscar or similar industry award winning movies? if you saw any this year of note, you know
Another question I wanted to ask you is if you have any apocalypse movies to recommend. I’m looking forward to watching/reading/writing something about the end of the world. In tune with Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia or She Dies Tomorrow (amazing pandemic movie).
By the way! I love your posts that seem to be a part 2 of The Sluts, where do you get them from?
Sending you a big hug and a kiss. And good luck there!
PS: Your post about Acid Western is fabulous! I saw a lot of movies on the list but never imagined they were categorized like that! If you can, do one on horror/horror/queer movies !
Hey Dennis, just wanted to mention I emailed you a link to my short film that I mentioned last week, it’ll be from email@example.com. Looking forward to hearing what you think!