Archive for Major Dundee

Wagons, who?

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 18, 2021 by dcairns

My copy of Eureka! Masters of Cinema’s JOHNNY GUITAR Blu-ray arrived yesterday, chunky and resplendent with extras, including the video essay I made with Chase Barthel and featuring Jessica Martin as Joan Crawford, Jeff Johnson as Philip Yordan, Isaac Brooks as Nicholas Ray, and my crudely-animated plasticine sculptures of same. Also an interview I conducted with Ray’s widow Susan, covering Ray’s memories of the traumatic shoot, and his lessons as teacher.

The best writing I found on the film to drawn upon was by the late James Harvey in Movie Love in the Fifties, and, especially, by V.F. Perkins, who later collaborated with Ray on an unmade feature project. Must get his book.

Furthermore, Shadowplayer Tony Williams just sent me this link to his review of Arrow Video’s MAJOR DUNDEE, for which I also did a video essay, edited by Stephen C. Horne. Many thanks! Glenn Erickson, who contributes several of the disc’s best features, also reviewed me favourably here.

And I have THREE more exciting projects at various stages of development which I can’t talk about yet. Except to emphasise how exciting they are.

Shadowplay Goes West

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on July 1, 2021 by dcairns

Two more video essays —

For Arrow, I wrote and narrated and Stephen C. Horne edited a piece for the MAJOR DUNDEE restoration, entitled inevitably I suppose MOBY DICK ON HORSEBACK. If R.G. Armstrong’s famous phrase causes you to picture a top-heavy, untenable situation on the brink of collapse, that would not be entirely inappropriate. MAJOR DUNDEE is major Peckinpah but universally acknowledged to be flawed. But Peckinpah’s flaws are always interesting.

The main thing I wanted to avoid with this piece is weighing in too heavily on whether Peckinpah’s vision of the film would have resulted in a triumph had he been allowed to finish it the way he planned. I always get a bad feeling when anyone pretends to know whether footage none of us have seen would transform a film. It’s legitimate to ask whether perhaps the Indian raid intended to open the film was poorly filmed owing to time pressures, but unless you have awfully compelling witnesses — and even then — I don’t think you can draw any conclusions for sure.

My other western vid essay is on JOHNNY GUITAR, as contrasting a subject as you could hope for. Chase Barthel is editing this one. I was in the process of planning this one when I woke up one morning from uneasy dreams, mulling over how I was going to make Plasticine models of the characters. As I slowly woke up fully, I realised this would be madness.

A little while later, I decided to do it.

Well, Truffaut calls JOHNNY GUITAR “a dreamed western.” This will be in part a dreamed video essay.

Here comes the cavalry

Posted in FILM with tags , , on March 28, 2021 by dcairns

Stephen C. Horne and I collaborated on a video essay for Neil Snowden’s production of Arrow’s release of MAJOR DUNDEE. A fun job! Farran Nehme has contributed a booklet essay which I can’t wait to read, and Glenn Erickson is on commentary duty.

Went into it absolutely sure I was going to tell Charlton Heston’s story of being provoked to the point where he murderously charged Peckinpah on horseback, but then figured it was going to be covered everywhere else. So I found other things. The hardest part was adjusting back to the twenty-minute form after making a feature-length piece for WEIRD WISCONSIN: THE BILL REBANE COLLECTION. But it’s impossible not to have some fun in the mad world of Peckinpah: vicarious insanity.