This past Tuesday, ‘DOC HOLLIDAY’S REVENGE’ was released for rent and sale, and streaming on Amazon Instant Video. It’s from producers Barry Barnholtz and Jeffrey Schenck, who previously brought you ‘WYATT EARP’S REVENGE’, and while it’s not a sequel, they are somewhat interrelated – think how Lippert Films teamed I SHOT JESSE JAMES and I SHOT BILLY THE KID, or JESSE JAMES MEETS FRANKENSTEIN’S DAUGHTER and BILLY THE KID VERSUS DRACULA. On second thought, don’t think of that second pair.
Actually, HOLLIDAY and EARP share some of the same real characters, and both movies focus on documented but not well-known incidents in the lives of their subjects. But it wasn’t the history that initially suggested the story to screenwriter Rolfe Kanefsky. It was current events. Kanefsky, who has 37 writing and 22 directing credits, had just completed his script of BONNIE & CLYDE: JUSTIFIED, for the same producing team, and director David DeCoteau, when the HOLLIDAY story occurred to him. His original title was STAND YOUR GROUND.
ROLFE KANEFSKY: It deals with Doc Holliday, the events after the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and the killing of his brother, Morgan Earp, which led to the hunt for the men responsible, on Wyatt Earp’s vendetta run. It follows two stories that parallel and then interconnect. Frank Stilwell, Pete Spence, Indian Charlie and a few others were charged with the murder (but were currently at large).
Frank Stilwell in real life had some brothers and sisters. What I created was a story where his long-lost sister and brother and father are trying to get together with him for a family reunion at Pete Spence’s ranch in Arizona. Frank Stilwell is on the run, and gunning for Wyatt Earp. When the family meets up, trying to reconnect, Indian Charlie, on the run after the murder, shows up at Pete Spence’s place, wounded, and they bring him in; but they don’t know who he is or what’s going on. And Doc Holliday shows up to kill Indian Charlie, and get information on where the rest of the gang is. At that point the family has to decide who is the good guy, and who is the bad guy, and do they give Indian Charlie up. And is Doc Holliday working for the U.S. Marshall’s office, because there’s a posse looking for Holliday at this point. Is he acting as a lawman or a vigilante? We know Indian Charlie is a bad guy, but who makes the decision of what’s right and what’s wrong.
The reality is Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp got Indian Charlie to confess before they killed him. In many ways, the story is symbolic of the ‘Stand Your Ground’ Trayvon Martin thing that (happened) in Florida, the whole ‘use of deadly force’ question. I took a fictionalized but real account in the history of the old west, and made it a contemporary analogy for what’s going on today. William McNamara plays Doc. His most famous role, he starred in CHASERS, the Dennis Hopper (directed) film with Tom Berenger. He was the killer in COPYCAT, with Sigourney Weaver. He was also in Dario Argento’s OPERA – he’s the guy who gets stabbed through the throat. Eric Roberts is playing Frank Stilwell’s father. The young actress who was sort of introduced with BONNIE & CLYDE, Ashley Hayes, she plays the young sister of Frank Stilwell. For a western, she winds up being the strongest character in the whole piece; sort of the focal point, which is unusual.
The scenes with her and Doc Holliday are really where you get into what’s right and what’s wrong. At one point he says to her, “Sometimes the only way to stop a bad man with a gun, is a good man with a gun.” And she says, “Yeah, but who gets to decide who’s the good man and who’s the bad man?” “In this situation, it’s me.” And you can take whatever side you want on the issue. It does imply that the legal system doesn’t always work. And, especially in the old west, if more people were convicted of certain crimes they couldn’t hold them on, then people might not have taken these personal vendettas, and there wouldn’t have been so much bloodshed. I think (the story) became much more powerful, definitely influenced by the events that were going on at the time. And it’s the first time I’ve ever written a western.
When I discussed the project with Rolfe, it was several months ago. The film was largely in the can (on the chip?), but there were still a few more days to shoot, and one major role had yet to be cast. I spoke to director David DeCoteau just a week before the film’s release. David is an astonishingly prolific director, with 115 feature films to his credit. He’s best known for his horror films like CREEPOZOIDS and PUPPET MASTER III, but he’s also done tons of crime films, family pictures, campy comedies, Christmas romances, and a couple of talking animal films.
DAVID DECOTEAU: I’m really proud of the movie; I’m really proud of the whole project.
HENRY PARKE: How long did you shoot it?
DAVID DECOTEAU: (Laughs) I’m really not supposed to say. But call it a Monogram or P.R.C. shooting schedule, and I’m sure the people who read the Round-up will probably know what that means.
HENRY PARKE: I know you’ve often given credit to a pair of legendary producers for helping you start your career, Roger Corman and Charles Band. How did you meet them, and how did they influence you?
DAVID DECOTEAU: I was writing fan-letters to Roger Corman when I was a teenager (in Portland,
Oregan), and his assistant at the time was Gale Ann Hurd, who went on to be a big-time producer( TERMINATOR, ALIENS, THE WALKING DEAD). She said, “Look, if you ever come to Los Angeles I’ll set up a meeting – you should really meet Roger.” I came down to L.A. when I was 16, and he took a meeting with me, for a couple of hours. He was very sweet, very helpful. I think he was impressed with me. He said, ‘Whenever you I move to L.A. I’ll put you to work.’ I ended up moving to L.A. when I was 18. He put me on a movie called GALAXY OF TERROR as a production assistant. It was an interesting group of people. Bill Paxton (TITANIC, APOLLO 13) was a carpenter on the set. James Cameron (director of TITANIC, AVATAR) was the art director. We were all just starting our careers. I was only with him for four or five months. To move up you had to work there for years. So I moved on, and worked for Wim Wenders, Ken Russell. Then I got some money together and directed my first feature, which was DREAMANIAC (1986). It was a nice little first movie, but it was enough to get me going. It was during the VHS explosion. They needed you to make a lot of movies back then, and I did. Not just horror movies; I worked in all the genres. It was Charlie Band who cofinanced that movie with me, and it worked out quite nicely. I worked with him on and off for several years with various companies.
I did direct an all-female (sci-fi)western actually, called PETTICOAT PLANET (1996). Which I shot in Romania on the sets of OBLIVION (1994)which my friend Sam Irvin was directing – we shot on the same sets. It was funny and sexy and campy, and a lot of fun. They still had western props and wardrobe from a western made in the ‘70s. It’s interesting how there have been so many westerns made all over the world. Obviously Spain, Italy, Israel. I’ve worked with a lot of actors who’ve done western in the past. I directed James Coburn in a film called SKELETONS. And just recently the western genre has really taken off. I don’t know if I’d callBONNIE & CLYDE: JUSTIFIED a western…
HENRY PARKE: It’s got a lot of the same rural appeal.
DAVID DECOTEAU: I did it for Lionsgate, and Barry Barnholtz seemed happy with it, and they
offered me DOC HOLLIDAY’S REVENGE. But I had developed the script on my own as a very small, contained western drama. I didn’t want a lot of action. I wanted a character piece with a very small cast. We had the role of the judge that still needed to be shot. We’d shot everything with Eric Roberts and Robert McNamara, and some young actors, Ashley Hayes, Oliver Rayon, Randy Burrell, all actors I’ve worked with. But I still needed the judge, so I called Merle Haggard. So I closed the deal with Merle Haggard, but then there was a death in his family, and he really could not find the time to do it. Which was unfortunate because I had grown up on Merle Haggard’s music. So I ended up going to Tom Berenger. I shot Tom Berenger’s scene in South Carolina. The majority of the film was shot at the old Cecil B. DeMille movie ranch. It’s now called Indian Springs Movie ranch, but it’s an old movie ranch from the silent days. I spent another day shooting with William McNamara in another movie ranch in Canyon Country; did a lot of wide vista shots.
HENRY PARKE: I did see the Vasquez Rocks come in there.
DAVID DECOTEAU: Yuh, we had a couple of shots of Vasquez Rock and Bronson Caves as well. I tried to populate the movie with as many iconic western locations as I could find.
HENRY PARKE: I’d talked to Rolfe Kanefsky a few months ago, about how the Trayvon Martin case was the impetus for DOC HOLLIDAY, which was originally STAND YOUR GROUND. How did one real event influence the dramatizing of another real event?
DAVID DECOTEAU: It’s all Rolfe. Rolfe is a very gifted writer, who does a lot of research, especially with telling true stories. He’d just come off BONNIE & CLYDE, where he’d had to do a lot of research there. And he found this story, and it just rang true to him, because what was going on in the news was the whole Trayvon Martin story, and it was shockingly similar. And even though it was a period western, he thought it was timely to tell this story. I thought it was a clever idea as well.
HENRY PARKE: Despite the ‘all characters are imaginary’ boilerplate at the end of the movie, Doc Holliday, the Stillwells and Florentino Cruz, alias Indian Charlie are certainly real, and the plot is based on fact. Why did you choose to tell this story out of Doc’s life?
DAVID DECOTEAU: Well, we had not seen it before, and we thought it would be clever. And I wanted to do something intimate, rather than an epic western. Rolfe is a director as well, and he always writes movies from a director’s point of view. And especially from working in independent, modestly budgeted genre pictures, he knows how to write something that’s do-able.
HENRY PARKE: It was an interesting choice, having Berrenger’s Judge narrate the story on-screen, so the story is told almost as an interview, or in the context of a law-school lecture. What made you think to do it that way?
DAVID DECOTEAU: That was Rolfe. I wanted to incorporate a judge into the movie as more of a story-teller. And Berenger has had his experience playing real characters over the years, and he just had that kind of authority, that gravitas, to make that work. We did rewrite that a little, so he had more to say and more to do once we had Berenger.
HENRY PARKE: And it was great to get him just coming off his HATFIELDS & MCCOYS Emmy.
DAVID DECOTEAU: It was a real coupe. He really liked the material; he really liked that I was coming to him, so he didn’t have to get on a plane. He had just finished SNIPER 5 in Bulgaria, and really didn’t want to get onto a plane anytime soon, and I made the offer, “Hey, I’ll come to you.” It was tough for him to say no, and we went right out to South Carolina, where he lives. We shot him there, with his judge’s robes, and the glasses are from when he played Teddy Roosevelt in ROUGH RIDERS. He brought them with him, and said, “These seem appropriate. What do you think?”
HENRY PARKE: I think this is your eighth time directing Eric Roberts.
DAVID DECOTEAU: Eric and his wife Eliza are good friends of mine. I worked with Eric like twelve years ago on a movie called THE WOLVES OF WALL STREET – not to be confused with THE WOLF OF WALL STREET. And we had a great time working together, so whenever I have anything appropriate for him, I give him a call. He’s a really nice guy, a solid actor. I loved him in STAR 80 and RUNAWAY TRAIN – just really great performances. Same thing with Willy McNamara – we’ve done a lot of films together, and he’s happy to be there.
HENRY PARKE: Ashley Hayes, a stunning redhead, is the only woman in the film.
DAVID DECOTEAU: She was my Bonnie in BONNIE & CLYDE, and I like working with her. She’s an up-and-comer, relatively new, and I want to help her any way I can, because she’s a star, and will probably be taking off soon. I got her two Lionsgate movies. She’s also managed by James Garner’s daughter, Gigi Garner, a very good friend of mine. One thing about Ashley is she’s timeless; she doesn’t have a modern look. That’s why I thought she would be great for that part.
HENRY PARKE: Almost all of the action takes place in one location, the farm, over a brief period of time – there are obvious parallels to THE PETRIFIED FOREST, DESPERATE HOURS or NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. What are the pluses and minuses to that sort of structure?
DAVID DECOTEAU: It becomes more of a play, especially if there is more dialogue and less action. Your canvas is smaller, more contained. But that hotbox environment can be used dramatically, too. It’s also helpful because I was very familiar with that location, because I’d shot a few films there. And as Rolfe was writing, he was also familiar with it, so he could write for it.
HENRY PARKE: Did you grow up with westerns? Which were your favorites as a kid?
DAVID DECOTEAU: You know, I was not necessarily a huge fan of westerns, although I did see the classics on television. My father was actually a full-blooded American Indian. (Chuckles) But he was a John Wayne fan, and whenever he was seeing a cowboy and Indian movie, he was always rooting for the cowboy. And he loved Gene Autry movies. That’s the household I grew up in.
HENRY PARKE: What is your tribal affiliation?
DAVID DECOTEAU: My father, who passed away on New Year’s Eve at the age of 88 was Chippewa. I am an adoptee which qualifies me as 50% native America. My birth heritage is Scandinavian.
HENRY PARKE: Do you have any favorite westerns today?
DAVID DECOTEAU: I love John Wayne. I loved RED RIVER because it’s interesting and complicated. I love SHANE. I love Clint Eastwood’s UNFORGIVEN. I even like some of the more exploitive ones like CUTTHROATS NINE. Because I like to mix the genres a little, and I like when something becomes more than one thing. I liked anything with Lee Van Cleef. Jimmy Stewart. I like Leone, especially casting Henry Fonda as a bad guy – that was brilliant. I like it when it’s unexpected and complicated and androgynous. The genre is so open and so different that you can wrap a western around any story. That’s why I want to make more westerns. I did a western, a very quick micro-budget western called 1313 BILLY THE KID, and I really enjoyed it. But the original plan was to shoot that in Almeria, Spain. And if I am going to do another western I would like to do it in Almeria’s standing backlots. It’s nice to make those movies on sacred ground; it kind of makes everyone get into the moment.
HENRY PARKE: It’s like going to Monument Valley.
DAVID DECOTEAU: Exactly!
SPAGHETTI WESTERN LUNCH CRAMS ‘EM IN LIKE PEPPERONI!
Robert Woods, Brett Halsey, Robert Forster
This past Wednesday’s ‘A Word on Westerns’ luncheon at the Autry drew an overflow crowd to eat pasta – and the occasional pulled pork sandwich – and to listen to the fond memories of stars of the genre . After a greeting by Maxine Hansen of Gene Autry Enterprises, host Rob Word introduced Robert Woods and Brett Halsey, who reminisced about their days in the Almeria sagebrush. Woods is known for films like STARBLACK (1968) and EL PURO (1969) Read my interview with Robert Woods HERE .
Rob Word with Robert Woods
Brett Hallsey starred in TODAY WE KILL, TOMORROW WE DIE (1968) and ROY COLT AND WINCHESTER JACK (1970) among others, and recently starred in the excellent SCARLET WORM (read my review HERE . )
Both men, already established actors in the U.S. when they went overseas in the 1960s, had trouble hanging onto their identities, or rather, their names. Robert kept seeing his last name change from Woods to Wood and back again, at the whim of the filmmakers. Brett, disappointed in a movie, appeared under the pseudonym Montgomery Ford, and when the movie was a hit, Montgomery Ford became his name on everything. The discussions were all videotaped by Rob Word’s crew, and you’ll be seeing clips here as soon as they are posted.
If things go as planned, come September both men will be back in Almeria, Spain, to shoot RESURRECTION OF EL PURO. Woods would also soon be in Italy to film THE SONS OF NICHOLAS Z, a ‘romanzo Calabrese.’
Also speaking were Tom Betts of the site Westerns…AllItaliana, discussing the challenges on tracking down movies that were often never officially released in the U.S. Bill Lustig, president of Blue Underground described his adventures acquiring and restoring the best of the genre – on Saturday Courtney Joyner and I were providing commentary for his newest release, COMPANEROS from Sergio Corbucci. The last man to take the microphone was Martin Kove, of KARATE KID fame, an actor passionately committed to the western who will soon be seen in SIX GUN SAVIOR. Though never having made westerns in Europe, he told a very funny story about meeting Sergio Leone, and another about the lengths he went to interest Israeli filmmakers in doing a western.
Top row - Martin Kove, Rob Word, Robert Woods, Brett Hallsey
front - Tom Betts, Bill Lustig
Also in the audience were Robert Forster, Darby Hinton, who played Dan’l’s son Israel in DANIEL BOONE, and is soon to be seen in TEXAS RISING, and Butch Patrick, little Eddie Munster, who also did DEATH VALLEY DAYS, BONANZA, RAWHIDE and two GUNSMOKES. July’s Third Wednesday of the Month will focus on comic books and Westerns, and I’ll have details as the date gets closer.
JUST BACK FROM ‘COMPANEROS’ COMMENTARY
BLUE UNDERGROUND has again flattered C. Courtney Joyner and myself by inviting us to do a commentary track on their new version of Sergio Corbucci’s ‘COMPANEROS’. Great fun, watching a one of Corbucci’s finest works, with flawless picture and audio quality, clever plotting, and terrific actors like Franco Nero, Tomas Milian, Jack Palance, Fernando Rey and Iris Berben.
THAT'S A WRAP!
It's three A.M.! I'm hittin' the hay!
All Original Contents Copyright June 2014 by Henry C. Parke - All Rights Reserved