What is the Corral about?

Well, simply, it is a place to round-up ideas, thoughts, comments and anything else you may like to hear about. My original intention was to have a forum but the time to manage such a gathering is really beyond me at this stage. But via email I can gather up your input and get it into the Corral.

So, would you like to make comment?

What is your favorite western story, either as a book or a movie?

Want to tell us why?

What are you currently reading, watching or listening to (regardless if it is a Western or not)?

What do you want to see in future Western stories (grit or romance, maybe both, gunplay or justice, grim reality or happy endings)?

Anything you would like to see in one of my stories?



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January 2013

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May 2013

June 2013

Well, I got along to see The Lone Ranger (2013) on its opening day in Australia on the Fourth of July and was not disappointed. I had done my best to keep my expectations in check, which is not easy as the release of a big box office Western can get the blood of a fan pumping. However, I stayed cool, just to see what it had to offer on its merits alone, and maybe that silly bird perched on Johnny Depp’s head helped to reinforce my wait and see policy.

So what did I think?

I loved it and give it four and half stars out of five. However, I may be in the minority, which is pretty normal for me as my tastes are often different to the mainstream. The next day reviews in the papers and over the weekend on the net were damming in their faint praise, and opening receipts in the US indicated that Disney may take a loss on this one, but for the life of me I can’t tell why? Yes, I know Despicable Me 2 (2013) was the big money earner on first day theater receipts, but hey, why not go and see both movies or does the buzz have to be super high to get people to make a decision? Or is this just an exercise in the power of the self-fulfilling prophecy? Who knows, but the lips of the critics can be a kiss of death!

In my opinion this is great storytelling at every level of the art, from screenplay and acting to music and cinematography. Screenwriters Justin Haythe, Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio have pulled together a good story and make for an interesting writing partnership. Haythe is a novelist with a Man Booker nomination to his credits for The Honeymoon, and adapted the Richard Yates novel Revolutionary Road (2008) to the screen, which I loved. Elliott and Rossio have worked with the director Gore Verbinski before, and while moviemaking is a collaborative affair, where the whole should be greater than the sum of the parts, it is the director who deserves some serious praise for this movie, along with his co-producer Jerry Bruckheimer.

Bruckheimer has a string of big A-grade action movies to his credit, which includes Beverly Hills Cops I & II (1984 & 87), Top Gun (1986), The Rock (1996), Black Hawk Down (2001), and the Pirates of the Caribbean series (2003, 06, 07 & 11). And it is Verbinski who directed the Pirate series and the brilliant computer-animated action comedy Western movie Rango (2011). This particular venture sees him once again with a big budget of $250 million, and the action sequences and cinematography of Bojan Bazelli shows where some of that money has been spent. It is spectacular.

To have such a sizable budget invested in a Western is certainly a show of faith by all those concerned. However, it seems that it was not without its problems as Disney announced in August 2011 that production would be delayed due to budget concerns, which I guess is code for, we can’t seem to find the money. Fortunately for me they did. For the financial backers it may end up to be a different story.

The Lone Ranger first appeared as a radio show back in 1933, now some 80 years ago. This was the same year that two high school students, writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster, created Superman, who is back on the big screen this year, bigger and better than ever. Although, it may be half an hour too long, as I was starting to get gravel rash from watching Superman being slung at lighting speed along the surface of roadways and parking lots by Zod and his malcontents. What I did enjoy with The Man of Steel was seeing Kevin Costner and would love to see him back in a Western again. I thought Open Range (2003), which he directed, co-produced and acted in, was a first class rendition of Lauran Paine’s book The Open Range Men (1990). If you missed it, do go and take a look as it has one of the best gunfights I’ve ever seen staged in a movie. Black Horse Western author David Whitehead, who knew Lauran Paine, has a great overview of this most productive author and is a must read if you are unaware of his work. You’ll find it at David’s webpage by just typing in David Whitehead – Western Author – Welcome then going to Fellow Writers then Lauran Paine.

But back to the movies. These two super hero/action/adventure/good verses evil films are made to be very much a part of the modern theater experience of fantastic, or should that be fantastical, stunts. Explosions with thundering sound and gigantic fireballs are very much the order of the day, but hey, why not? This is escapism in its most basic form and for this type of movie, I say bravo. This is our equivalent of what the Greeks loved in their entertainment of heroes, gods, myths and hubris. So, I guess little has changed in the human condition over the past few thousand years.

Now I have to admit that I was never a big fan of the masked ranger as a kid when he appeared in comics or on TV. I don’t know if it was the neat, clean, ironed lines of his shirt, or his mask, or the silver bullets, but it just never seemed to suck me in. I was more a Davy Crockett then Cheyenne Bodie sort of guy. Maybe, I was also getting a little older too. TV never came to my neighbor until 1959 so by the time I got to see the Ranger on TV and heard those piercing trumpet notes of the William Tell Overture, it all sounded a little cheesy to me. Although I must say, Tonto always seemed to be a most interesting character, and he has got really interesting with Johnny Depp in the role. In fact, this movie could have easily been called Tonto, a little like the Dark Knight could have been called The Joker.

The chemistry between Depp and Hammer as two buddies out for justice is clear to see. The humour and irony works a treat and leaves the door open for the re-establishment of the franchise and follow-on movies by going back to the very start to the story of how John Reid became the Lone Ranger. Of course Disney has to make a profit on this one first and I certainly hope they do.

If you do decide to go and see this movie then do so, like me, go with no expectations. However, if you are a rusted on fan of the original then holding a mirror up to this movie may be difficulty. It is spiced with a dry wit that pokes fun at the story, the characters and the situations, while at the same time it pays homage to its origins and previous Westerns like John Ford’s The Searchers (1956) with its setting in Monument Valley; the attack on the farmhouse; the relationship between the brother’s wife and the returning brother in law. The train station scene at the start of the movie with six marshals waiting for the arrival of the brutal outlaw Butch Cavendish is reminiscent of High Noon (1952) and a dozen spaghetti westerns that have plundered this scene and the camera angles before.  And there is even a link back to 1933 when it all started.

So all in all I would urge all Western fans to take a look for themselves while it is still on the big screen, and maybe do as I did with the approach that, after all, it is only entertainment.


Lee Clinton
July 2013 


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