That’s El Capitan, but not the one in Yosemite, the one in Western Texas. The National Park Service website has a ton of great images of the National Parks by the way, if you like what I’ve been finding in this series. In any event, Texas movies are disproportionately Westerns, but that’s only because there are so many Westerns.
Modern Texas has given us a few fine movies as well. Boyhood (2014), North Dallas Forty (1979), Dazed and Confused (1993), and Reality Bites (1994) are all non-Westerns and all worth a look for various reasons.
Some recent movies set in the Lone Star State straddle the line between Westerns and modern Texas. No Country for Old Men (2007) may be the Coen Brothers’ finest film. Dallas Buyer’s Club (2013) contains numerous western themes while it tells its story of the AIDS crisis of the 1980’s. Bottle Rocket (1996) is a modern film about a very Western theme – bandits.
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s talk about Westerns. Sure this category has gone out of style in recent years (despite Quentin Tarantino’s endless quest to revive it), but it remains ones of the bedrock styles of American cinema. For a Few Dollars More (1965) and other Sergio Leone style “spaghetti westerns” were often set in Texas. Giant (1956), Rio Bravo (1959), Rio Grande (1950), Red River (1948), and the Wild Bunch (1969) are a few more examples.
John Ford’s the Searchers is one of the 3-4 most important films to come out of the Western genre. It’s a complicated and controversial film for numerous reasons. John Wayne typically plays the “white hat” in these films, but Ethan Edwards is a monster. Even if Edwards is taken as the villain of the piece, his quarry, the Commanche warlord Scar (Henry Brandon), is rightfully seen in most circles as more of the same from Ford – another Native American unfairly depicted as a violent barbarian. I went into Ford’s complicated relationship with the depiction of Native Americans in a previous post.
The Worst Film Ever Made
No discussion of Texas cinema would be complete without an honorary mention of Manos: the Hands of Fate (1966). When El Paso fertilizer salesman Hal Warren made a bet that he could make a cheap horror movie for under $20,000, the result was an incoherent mess of a film that sits on its own in the bottom of the cinema barrel. There it sits, soaking in its own juices like so much Torgo flop-sweat, waiting for unsuspecting viewers to be confused by its bizarre contents.
Next Up – the Great Lakes States
(c) 2015 D.G. McCabe