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New Mills Arts Trail (2016) call out


New Mills Arts Trail (2016) call outOnce again I encourage my creative friends and followers to submit to be part of a fast-growing arts trail in the Peak District – New Mills. Professionally run by artists who have become friends who have supported me since leaving art-school. They have built up a successful trail that has grown year on year. This year with an extra special treat that for one week will be home to James Cauty’s work “The Aftermath Dislocation Principle” (ADP) that was exhibited at Banksy’s Dismaland last summer.

“Recently displayed at Banksy’s Dismaland the work is now housed in a 40 ft shipping container on the back of a 30-tonne haulage truck ready to start an epic journey zig-zagging across the country stopping at sites of historic riots in the UK. The ADP will be on display in New Mills from the 19-26 September, its arrival and departure timed to coincide with New Mills Festival Art Trail Big Weekend and Lantern Procession Finale 23-25 September.

A totally self-contained off-grid artwork that can go anywhere, to be where it is needed, to seek its audience “The Aftermath Dislocation Principle” is a monumental post-riot landscape in miniature. Set somewhere in Bedfordshire, where only the police and media teams remain in an otherwise deserted, wrecked and dislocated land the installation is 1:87 scale and viewed through peepholes in the side of the container.

The origins of this piece lie in a series of works known as “A Riot in a Jam Jar”. Here Cauty constructed tiny scenes of a riotous nature inside upturned jam jars in which violence, humour and socio-political commentary vied for position in contained and domesticated bite-size portions. As part of the happenings planned around the installation, students from New Mills School and Sixth Form will create more than 100 “Riot in a Jam Jar” works that will also be displayed during the two-week festival.
“It’s really exciting to have this major work here for the Festival. We think it links back perfectly to the civil unrest leading up to the Kinder Trespass”, says Toby Hardwick, Festival Volunteer “.. it really is a coup for the Festival and it will be a great way to get people involved”.

I will be submitting my work once more for consideration, if you want to take part the check out the New Mills site. The deadline is midnight May 15th

Painting the Town… Update (1/5/16)


It’s been a slow day as I carry on trying to piece the original event together. I can easily translate it to a fictional Buffalo hunt which sees rich hunters letting off more than a little steam. I’m asking myself do I really want to translated it back to the West, what is the reasoning behind that? Is it so I am more engaged with the connection, or that I am making my own translation of the event.

I have been drawing on the maps I have of Melton’s town centre to help piece the event together. I could recreate it in the West but why is my big question, another big piece that would require more space as Making Revisions is. I could however loosely recreate Melton as a Wild West town which is where I can in create new models (all white) which will be fixed into a street plan. Again to the same scale I am working at with more detail, just in white.

I’ll still have to find the space and time to eventually light the town but that will come later on. This will be a chance to make in more detail at a smaller scale, and even place a few pieces among the town such as tying posts, a wagon or two. It will be interesting to see everything in white which is a big change, potentially I could project anything into the town.

Painting the Town… Update (30/4/16)


With my current work in hold I have time to look at something new, this might be the first of a number of pieces that I could be working on simultaneously (I have a few ideas going around at the moment). Today I took a research trip to Melton Mowbray home of the Pork Pie, Stilton cheese and the phrase “Paint the town Red” which caught my attention after High Plains Drifter (1973) which I’m using as a starting point for a yet undefined piece of work.

I spent an hour or so at the Melton Carnegie Museum where I found a wealth of resources to get me started on what I’m currently translating to a Western. I just can’t escape the genre can I? I’ll back track a little, so far my research, which are newspaper clippings of the event that took place 6th April (1837). I’m already picking up on a class structure; as the Marquis of Waterford were in town for a two-day Fox hunt, a typical activity of the upper class that went on at nigh to cause havoc. The event made the headlines in London which I have a copy of also.

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A western translation (ignoring the time period) is the Cowboy who came in town after a long hard drive, causing havoc then riding out not facing the consequences of their actions. However they weren’t exactly rich.. or for long at least, spending what they made in town before leaving. The damage that is caused however would translate over very easily.

The detail is well recorded and retold in poem and stage-play, which is something else I found out today, much like the Jesse James’s death which became a play, so did the events in Melton which shows that entertainment came from many sources even in the 19th century.

With this Wild West translation I don’t to ignore my initial idea of playing with light, which means I need to take another trip to photograph the town or the parts of it documented in the event. I want to see how coloured light on white objects changes them.

Another unexpected surprise was to find a local author who wrote over 130 Western novels, all paperbacks. J.T. Edson who I’ve been advised was also a postman. I’m now on the look out for the British written Westerns to see how the genre translated over the Atlantic in the eyes of an author.

Rawhide (1951)


Rawhide (1951)If I’m honest I wasn’t going to write about Rawhide (1951) I was only watching it as it sounded good from the description so there I went and recorded it on a whim almost. It doesn’t even conform to the themes I’m exploring in my work at present, or the exploration of that film I’ve mentioned far too often recently. It also bares no relation to the later long Western TV series (1959-65) which introduced us to Clint Eastwood the rest they say is history in regards that show. The film of the same name is much more forgotten today, with two actors that I have to admit aren’t my favourite either, Tyrone Power and Susan Hayward are two that have never really excited me. It seems the more I explore I find myself going in directions I never imagined. Part of that’s down to the film’s director Henry Hathaway who never failed to deliver a decent film which this is.

It’s a Western in the classical form which is something I’ve not been watching a lot of recently, wanting or finding more in the films I’ve been choosing. It’s a good old-fashioned good versus bad which is the foundation of the film, the setting of a stagecoach station is more familiar after both Comanche Station (1960) ans more recently The Hateful Eight (2015) which itself has stronger connections with the spaghetti Western The Great Silence (1968) which are more obvious and far stronger, I can’t say too much as I have yet to see the film, for now I’ll let this video do the explaining.

I can instead draw on the slightly weaker connections to Rawhide, so there will be a few spoilers here. Again most of the action takes place in a stagecoach station, yet we start at very different points. There’s a mythical introduction of the Overland Express, a stagecoach that ran from California to St Louis and back again, taking only 25 days. For the time revolutionary, today it’s incredibly slow, the nearest we’d get today is a bullet train, how times have changed. That establishes the world are going to spend the film in before moving into the characters that are treated more unconventionally. Unlike Quentin Tarantino‘s film that merely uses the stagecoach as a form of transport to bring half the characters to Minnie’s where they’re snowed in for the rest of the film. We don’t have that claustrophobia or collection of colourful characters in the earlier film which allows the characters to move more freely.

Where it really begins to show comparisons is in the big reveal in Eight when we have the long flashback and the previous parts are revealed. When the work that the four we meet at the making preparations to the guests who are yet to arrive. Of course its more overt in the later film, with the older its only a small portion of the film as Rafe Zimmerman (Hugh Marlowe) and his gang of fellow in-mates who have just escaped are preparing for the evening stage to come in. The act of fooling the passengers whilst Tom Owens (Power) and Vinnie Holt (Hayward) who are held prisoner have to fight for freedom, hopefully getting word to the morning stage which is carrying the gold that Zimmerman is waiting for.

Moving away from that connection I have to look at how the characters are dealt with, the order which they’re killed off, which is rather out of traditional sequence. We begin with Stage boss Sam Todd (Edgar Buchanan) who is usually the drunk comic relief, I’d have hoped he would have had more screen time looking at his billing in the film, compared to others. Shot down in the first 10 minutes which is quite brave for a popular supporting actor. Then at the end of the film (yes more spoilers) Zimmerman’s shot by one of his own men Tevis (Jack Elam) who is woman hungry and uncontrollable, leaving the last gunfight to take place between Tevis and Owens. Traditionally this should have been between Owens and Zimmerman, however a risks taken here, its more realistic to see infighting of a gang that crumbles at the end when it becomes all too much.

There is no real clear hero, at least a male hero as we find when the final shots come from the only woman (Hayward) in the film, much the same as Marshal Will Kane’s Quaker wife Amy Fowler Kane (Grace Kelly) who saves her husband. These two women break the mold of gunfighter’s, picking up a gun and saving the day. Owens is too much f a coward, dropping his gun at the sight of a child being shot at, instead of preventing that atrocious act being seen through. What this shows it a few things, that not all men are built to carry a gun and fight with it. Women are more than able to defend themselves. Children were also involved in these dangerous gunfight’s, something we also see in The Deadly Companions (1961) where a child’s death is at the centre of the film. The child in the earlier plays a much smaller part, which is built up for tension at the end, dangers being directed at the little girl whose in the care of her Aunt who was only trying to bring her to her paternal grandparents. This is years before we have women and children thrown into the action of The Wild Bunch (1969). Tame for sure but you have to start somewhere.

Looking quickly at the Susan Hayward who as beautiful her screen presence is she’s easily suits the West, adding both beauty whilst not being afraid to muck in as we see her digging a hole. Most women of the West are either farmers wives or dancers, she is clearly neither of those types. A single woman who takes a big risk to travel across the country with a young child in tow. I might be looking out for more of her work in future. The rests of the cast are all well-defined, I see similarities in Gratz (George Tobias) and O.B. (James Parks) yet the latter is more educated than the Mexican who simply follows orders and can’t see what is really going on around him.

Made at the beginning of the 1950’s we have a decade of more emotion and psychology entering the genre. Its a small injection of something different to the genre that is about to be shaken from its classic form to reveal more exciting imagery and ideas.

The Jungle Book (2016)


The Jungle Book (2016)Like many who had seen the original The Jungle Book (1967) as a kid who heard the news that one of the crown jewels in Walt Disney’s Studio’s back catalogue was being remade I sighed and wanted nothing to do with it, One of those classics that you know deep down shouldn’t be touched. Another symptom of Hollywood going back to the well of success, afraid to make something new, be brave and actually be original for a change. However a few weeks ago, yes the trailer won me over, the combination of a single actor in this CGI jungle, which allows for a more expansive film than being on location that really does work in this retelling of the Rudyard Kipling classic.

Disney can really do no wrong (most of the time) with the acquisition of both Lucasfilm and Marvel they are not to be messed with and know what they are doing when it comes to their properties. Gone are the days of the straight to video nonsense that lead to spoofs such as Jafar May Need Glass’s which was under the old leadership before John Lasseter and Robert Iger who has seen the company come back into good fortune.

Moving away from the politics of the studio to the classic animated film and the remake The Jungle Book (2016) which is more an expansion and reinterpretation of the source material. Having never read the book like most of us who grew up with the film we have only the animated film to go on. No other versions have been made, just showing how strongly Disney hold onto the copyright. The first notable difference is that there is only one actor on-screen, the man-cub Mowgli (Neel Sethi) who has to do one of the hardest things on-screen acting with very little, instead relying on his imagination, acting ability and whatever direction and visuals he’s given before all the magic really happens. But you soon forget he’s only one there against all the photo-realistic animals that remind me more of Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993) where the actors did voice overs for the dogs throughout the film. I have to admit that was one of my concerns as to whether the voices would be synchronised with the animation, which thankfully it was (more or less) you can forgive it for being slightly off. You are believing the characters exist in this CGI jungle along with the actors. There are times you believe that Sethi is actually swinging through the trees. I was won over on that score.

Another major difference was the absence of all but two of the songs, keeping two of the more popular ones which are worked in rather nicely. The Bare Necessities is worked in to be a natural part of the film instead of cutting from the action to have the musical number. Working it into the natural dialogue not as a diversion.

The original songs reworked in among the rest of the film which feels fresher, not relying on the classic, instead making the most of the feel of the film which was both fun to. With Bill Murray perfectly cast in the role of Baloo who takes advantage of his new friend, very much in Murray’s characters, all in jest of course, becoming good friends. Whilst the other song I Wanna be Like You which has developed racial undertones in more recent years takes on a darker tone when sung by Christopher Walken as King Louie the now oversized orangutans. It’s a more foreboding song, gone is the light jazz classic, replaced by a sinister deal maker. I’ll always stand by the original being a product of a its time and should be seen in that light.

Walken’s King Louie is not on-screen for long enough but leaves his mark on a film that moves at a steady pace. For those who grew up with the original you are constantly checking to see what is still there and how its been worked in, even just for reasons of nostalgia that is pulling in a lot of the audience at the moment. For the most part the lighter tone of the film is gone, instead replaced with the idea of being yourself and not being afraid of what you can offer society or even your friends. A strong theme for children to come away with as Mowgli’s prevented from developing his human potential in the jungle instead taught to live and think like the wolves who have brought him up.

If anything this retelling of the classic tale has encouraged me to take a look at last years Cinderella to see how the new one compares with the original 1951 animation. Am I softening to all these remakes of classic films? I’m not sure this is only one that has won me over. This is retelling of the original that draws on the original film version, its aware of the past and combines it playfully with a carefully chosen voice cast that matches the original characters. A part of me wanted Benedict Cumberbatch voicing Shere Khan instead of Idris Elba who I grew to like behind the menacing tiger, I guess I’m too attached to the original and George Sanders. I wonder no whats next in line for a remake from the house of mouse?

Making Revisions Update (24/4/16)


After yesterdays open studio was a very busy day, it’s always nice to engage with the public with my work. I’ve grown more comfortable with an audience looking at my work. I don’t think I’ll ever be completely at ease with that, once your work is on show there’s nothing else you can really do except to gauge their responses. I had some interesting conversations, one lead to a book recommendation, another to a surprising photo.

The day did allow me to exhibit my current work, sharing snapshots of the animation and the models in reduced forms, snapshots you could say. I have today taken photos of one for an upcoming sequence, which will form the basis for the set I will use for the animation, a piece I have entitled “Light Blue Tears”. For the Open Studio it allowed the public to see my work in few  levels, the animation, the toys, the façade of it all and the stronger context behind it all.

This is my first post during which time I have begun to compile a diary page for all my past posts relating to this work. You’ll be able to read them at your leisure as I make way for another work to begin. Thanks for your continued support for this work which is getting great responses.

The Magnificent Seven (2016) trailer thoughts


I’ve kept pretty quiet so far when it came to the remake of The Magnificent Seven (2016) which I will be doing until I sit down and see it for myself. Looking at the trailer, they tone of the film is pretty light on dialogue and heavier on actions. The casting looks OK too.

Of course the real test is if it will stand up to the original 1960 film Steve McQueen not the sequels. Very little has been given away so far apart from the making of the seven lead by Denzel Washington which is a good strong choice and will really spice things up. I’ll be looking out for it around its release of 23rd September in the UK. I am wary when it comes to remakes that are of classics that have not been considered for decades this maybe an exception.

Let me know what you think.

 

Buck and the Preacher (1972)


Buck and the Preacher (1972)A Western I have been aware of but have been purposely avoiding, mostly out of ignorance and not really wanting to see a Western with Sidney Poitier I just didn’t see him fitting into that genre easily. I’d only ever seen him in less than a handful of films. I guess what changed all that nonsense when I saw him being given a lifetime achievement Bafta award, a massive selection of his films made up his show-reel. He’s had a ground breaking career, during a time when African-American roles on-screen were relegated to butlers, housemaids, the help around the house, all using stereotyped voices that today is just plain embarrassing. I could go on about the history of the African-American on-screen plenty has already been written.

Instead I want to turn my attention to Buck and the Preacher (1972) which depicts the African-American in a new light. Gone are the stereotypes, the bumbling help who look up to their white employers who they idolize, with a few sayings that they have throughout the film. I get the sense more of a Black Spaghetti Western at times with this one. It’s not even that really, its something in between as it has a sense of something really important going on. We’re told in the prologue that the now free slaves after the Civil War are moving West themselves, in search of a better life, it’s already in the history of the genre. The war was fought for them yet we hardly see them on-screen in leading roles. The closest we get in Woody Strode in a handful of roles, even then its supporting at most. However these now free slaves are being treated nearly as badly as the Native American who are historically entering the closing days of their own freedom.

Enter our hero of the film, Buck (Poitier) whose paid to be wagon master to black wagon trains. They are the pioneers of the film, wanting to make their mark on the country that is still being tamed and won. It’s a story as inaccurate as it maybe that goes unspoken on-screen for the most part. You could call him the black Kirk Douglas of the film, who means as much business as any leading white actor, he knows what he wants, will do anything to achieve it, with a lot more drive behind him as he has both the history of his race but that of the genre and the medium on his shoulders. That’s a lot of weight to bring to the role. The nearest we get to his role today is Jamie Fox in Django Unchained (2012) his Tarantino‘s Blaxploitation meets Spaghetti Western. I’ll turn to that is more detail later. Back to Buck who is a serious man who you can see has a heart and will do what is necessary.

So a black man leading a wagon train is not just rare, at the time groundbreaking, the exclusivity of the white man and his family who’re lead by men who know the open country and can survive “Indian” raids without losing too many heads along the way. This the Native American as we know them, now they play a more substantial role that really brings them into the plot beyond being obstacles, they are substantial elements of the plot. First seeing them as the potential enemy before being revealed as the ally to the Buck and his partner Preacher (Harry Belafonte) – the comic relief. Buck is able to negotiate with the Natives for safe passage (see video) for his wagon train that is about to pass through. He could have easily just ridden along through, but he decides to ask permission, instead of taking his chances like his once slave owners may have done. He has learned respect where white man have not.

I don’t want to make this another study of the depiction of Native Americans but I can’t help it as their role’s transplanted to the Black characters who are wanting live the life of the White man, It’s all messing about with the genre that for decades had laid down the rule almost in stone of where everyone should be. The White men, for a while are ten men who are after Buck wanting to restore order, to pre-Civil war life, not accepting the changes, lead by Deshay (Cameron Mitchell) whose driven by racism, unable to the future like once town sheriff (John Kelly) who will allow anyone in his town as long as they obey the law, they can pass through unharmed. They are men from different sides of the war, most probably would have fought on different sides two. Its only when Deshay and most of his men are killed and robbed is the law on Buck’s back and rightly so, he’s broken the law, and wants to bring him in to face justice, a white man would face the same destiny.

It’s unusual to have a majority black cast, that’s supported by Harry Belafonte who is loosely a man of the cloth. Like most preachers in the genre, they usually carry a gun, or carried one in a previous life, ready to survive the open and dangerous wilderness which is the West. He is the other half of Buck, the excitement, the comedy and a more danger at his side. The opposite of determined Buck, are they the Black Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday, they are polar opposites yet work well together when pushed into a corner which makes the on-screen duo work. History would probably tell us differently.

Turning now briefly to Django Unchained you can see this is a very influential film. Again we have a freed slave, not so literally, the rise to glory is far quick, it’s an origin story to an extent. With Buck that’s already built-in with the prologue, he has a history of leading freed slaves to new lives, this time Colorado. The aim of Django was to find and free his wife Broomhilda von Shaft (Kerry Washington) yet he’s supported by a white man Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) he does enable him to get where other black men can’t. The White men are generally depicted as idiots and backward in their thinking, which is not so overt in the older film.

Looking at the film on the perspective as a Western it’s a bit of an oddity, the soundtrack is the first thing that hits you, it’s so unique, it doesn’t grate on your ears as much as it grabs you attention, informing you this is not your average Western, the protagonists not the usual white men, these are the underclass that are rising through, its a long fight that wont be won and some would argue is still not. In other respect the action and chase scene are as standard as any other Western, classical in style but modern in terms of themes which makes it really stand out in the genre.

Making Revisions Update (17/4/16)


Its been a while since I’ve shared my progress regarding this work. I’ve been animating as much as I can, grabbing an hour a night to get more done. Its paying off too as the grand finale is complete (minus audio) it has a running time of over 5 minutes, that’s from the initial discovery of the army to the fight back and with-drawl of the U.S. army. I have since completed the re-shoot of the first sequence which is shorter in length, whilst the 2nd sequence is now under way. I will soon be looking for a window of opportunity and something else to get my teeth into.

Ulzana’s Raid (1972)


Ulzana's Raid (1972)I’ve been looking out for Ulzana’s Raid (1972) ever since I read about it a years ago, discussed in relation to Native American’s once again. Focusing this time on an army company of men in search of a band of Apache who had left the reservation at the beginning of the film. Something which I can relate to in my current work. Naturally the army’s notified of Ulzana (Joaquín Martínez) and his braves who have left over night. Today you would rightly be behind the Apache’s to make a break for freedom. I noticed as the film progress as much as it has dated it has a new relevance in the age of ISIS and Islamaphobia which has gripped parts of the world. I’ll explain my observation as I carry on. My initial reading (literally) was a comparison with McIntosh (Burt Lancaster) and Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) yes there’s more discussion about The Searchers (1956) this time focusing on how the white man functions with his knowledge of the other.

Much like my review of The Stalking Moon (1968) we have an army scout with knowledge of “Indians” for Edwards the knowledge comes from an undisclosed place in a back story that fuels his hate, scaring those around him to the point of alienation leaving him with his unwanted mixed race Cherokee Martin Pawley (Jeffrey Hunter) who stick with him throughout, thick and thin. We can only presume his knowledge comes after leaving the Confederate Army, being absent from the surrender he follows a different path from everyone else who has seemingly adjusted to post civil war life.

With Edwards out of the army, I turn to those still in the army, Varner’s (Gregory Peck) seen as a knowledge, the army want him to stay, they feel safer with him and his partner riding with them. I can’t really imagine Peck ever being as dangerous as Wayne could ever portray. Even the white woman Sarah (Eva Marie Saint) feels safe in his company as her escorts her home. Turning to Mcintosh he is as worldly-wise as they others, you can see it on his face, he has seen a lot, done a lot and even married a Native woman for his wife. Something that Edwards would never contemplate, his racism wouldn’t allow it. He is more willing to share his knowledge as advise not to scare the cavalry men he is riding with. He wants to educate not fear them, he doesn’t need to do that as the trail of blood-shed speaks for itself. He instead explains what they do and why.

If anything the explanation for all the atrocities is better explained by the sole Apache Ke-Ni-Tay (Jorge Luke) whose allowed to have a good portion of the script. He’s better able to answer all the questions that the men have. Especially for wet behind the ears Lt. Garnett DeBuin (Bruce Davison) who sees all this death as meaningless, he wants to act without fully understanding his enemy. He’s Lt. Col. Owen Thursday (Henry Fonda) before the racism has set in, wanting to make a career and a name for himself in the army. Here’s the chance to learn and change his perspective and direction in life. With the motives for the Apache’s explained by Ke-Ni-Tay, acting as the others representative. Today he could represent the hunted ISIS (and rightly so to) he becomes the misunderstood Muslim who has done nothing wrong, whose labelled the potential terrorist in their absence. Racism without cause, fear is wrong directed to Muslims when 99% of them are as decent as everyone else we meet on the street. It’s the 1% who are disillusioned, radicalized and want to inflict harm on the rest of the world. Back in the Western of the 1970’s the Native Americans act as the Vietnamese who have been wrongly killed because of the fear of communism (I know there’s more to it than that).

I want to look at some lines from the film, something I do rarely, a few stood out for me that I have to interrogate.

Do you hate Apaches, Mr. McIntosh?Lt. Harry Garnett DeBuin

 No.McIntosh

Well, I do.Lt. Harry Garnett DeBuin

Well, it might not make you happy, Lieutenant, but it sure won’t make you lonesome. Most white folks hereabout feel the same way you do.McIntosh

Why don’t you feel that way?Lt. Harry Garnett DeBuin

It would be like hating the desert because there ain’t no water in it. For now, I can get by being plenty scared of ’em.McIntosh:

It feels like a conversation that could have taken place in Fort Apache if rank wasn’t a problem between Thursday and Capt. Kirby York (Wayne). Instead with have the advantage of age over experience. The time to consider whether there is enough time in life to devote so much to hating a race of people. McIntosh understand his commanding officers position but has given up on the emotion as it only gets in the way of living and functioning as a human being out in the frontier.

Turning now to the violence of the film, this isn’t one that young kids could watch and get a sense of fun, the cowboy and Indian dynamic of the past is not present in this film. The violence is more brutal. Animal rights groups would today have ensure animals were treated better. There’s nothing to suggest that any animals were harmed or not. This is a few years before Heaven’s Gate (1980) and exploding horses in the name of art. As much as the violence is tame in some respects, when you see a horses neck being cut you think twice about putting a young child in front of the screen. We are meant to see these violent acts, suggesting that the Apache are not civilised, they are capable of terrible acts, making the cavalry’s presence all the more relevant. The savages have to be tamed if possible at all costs. Although history would argue they only ever acted in self defense at the threat of losing their way of life. Once again I am mixing fact with fiction and in film that doesn’t always work.

The depiction of the Native American’s doesn’t really fare that much better than the animals, They are treated once again as savages with skills of the wilderness. They become more desperate over the course of the film, as if they are broken down. They way they treat their horses/ponies is not really as animals to respect but more as tools that can be disposed of. Practically seen as people you wouldn’t want to have dinner with. They are however seen as a people who can work together with only gestures, almost as if Ulzana is orchestrating his men from a distance which I can’t help but admire.

So to sum up as I explore The Searchers through other films I am building up a bigger picture of how it has influenced others films and the western genre. It’s clear that Edwards is a powerful and very human character that interests us even to this day. The role of the outsider and racist will always be a dangerous one. Lancaster doesn’t play that role, take cues from Peck, two trackers who are able to function, to take a step back from the other. Instead its given to the younger man Lt. Harry Garnett DeBuin who as much as he is eager to learn, he is being shaped in front of our eyes. This mission wont easily leave him, just as the 1956 classic will never leave me.

The Stalking Moon (1968) Revisited


The Stalking Moon (1968)A much-needed re-watch which has come a year after reading into The Stalking Moon (1968) compared to The Searchers (1956) (again) which I had to watch once more to see all the readings into the films depiction of the Native American for myself. It comes across as another possible narrative strand of The Searchers which really ends where Moon picks up. After a group of Apache are rounded up by the army, possibly having escaped a reservation or going to. Either way their freedom is over and future is determined. We discover a single white and blonde female captive Sarah Carver (Eva Marie Saint) who has been assimilated into their culture, she has assumed their language, dress and thinking.

For all intent and purposes she is a Native American, that is in the eyes of Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) who would more than likely left he to die or killed her himself. Not the army scout/Indian tracker Sam Varner (Gregory Peck) who readily accepts her as white or even just human and a woman (be that in 19th century terms). She is a free woman to do as she pleases, bringing her son with her, also that of Salvaje (Nathaniel Narcisco) which is Spanish for savage. If you know your Spanish you are already being given a pre-loaded conception of who this mostly un-seen figure is. Not unlike Scar (Henry Brandon) who we see a few times and interact with in the earlier film. The Spanish translation is cicatriz as the Mexican in the cantina tells Edwards.

I can’t really compare Varner and Edwards both are very different characters and that’s not the point of this re-exmination of the film. For me it’s about how the later film has been influenced, taking the same iconography and the depiction of the Native American. You could say they are one and the same film in some respects. A woman’s rescued from a life with the “Indians” which is either looked down on, mocked or pitied. In the genre you are better of dead than alive being a squaw. In reality women and children were only taken as prisoners, used as leverage with the army to stay on their land. Most of not all were later released, you can see where the myth begins though which has allowed the on-screen image to become bigger and more exotic. Being captured and living as one of a number of squaws with a one of the warriors or even chief, having a number of children, usually after being raped. Not a pretty picture but one that both dime novels and Hollywood and built up and reinforced.

So with this image built up on paper and on-screen, the Native American all but quieted on reservations the myth of conquest’s being formed and reinforced by clichés which we see in both The Searchers and The Stalking Moon, they are always seen through the eyes of the white man, usually the tracker who has a vast knowledge of them, which the audience dripped fed. Edwards is delivered with hate and disgust, whereas Varner’s more about the survival skills which he uses against them in order to stay alive. There is no real hatred behind his eyes, he is even close friends with his younger partner in the army a mixed race Nick Tana (Robert Forster) who looks up to him as a father figure. We can see that the fight between his two heritage was won by his white side, which in turn makes is easier for us to engage with him.

Going back to the depiction of the key Native American, both come from over-used nations – Apache and Comanche- the very names are more exotic on the ear, and sound more frightening than others. Scar the Comanche chief has lines and shares screen-time with Edwards, neither like each other and you can really feel it as they have a fruitless trading session. Whereas Salvaje is not even seen until the finale which is more about tension. He’s treated as an animal who has to be stopped in his tracks. There’s no eye to eye scene until it’s too late to do anything about, Salvaje is very one-dimensional and his only one goal to rescue his son from the white people, more able to accept his mixed heritage but not his circumstances. For the majority of the film he is only seen in the form of the aftermath of the victims he leaves as he comes in search of his son. He is the Apache Ethan Edwards going all the way to find his son, except it’s not over the course of seven years, more like a week if that.

The cost of the deaths could’ve been avoided as its pointed out to Sarah who is eager to get moving back home, knowing she needs to keep moving to survive with her son. She’s taken into the care of Varner who takes it on himself to escort her so far before getting to her destination of Silverton, her home town. She and her son (Noland Clay) who’re treated as second class citizens, with restricted travel and casual racism.

I must touch on the ranches that feature in both films, The Edwards ranch where we begin in The Searchers and with the Jorgensens as Debbie (Natalie Wood) is safely returned by to white safety and civilization, restoring her you could say. That restoration happens far earlier for Sarah, discovered at the beginning The Stalking Moon and is later invited to stay, possibly live at Varner’s ranch where we see inside far longer than the establishing scenes of Ford’s film. We only see the beginning of the Comanche raid, we don’t see anyone, nature discovers them first. The ranch is barricaded, cutting to Scar who has already found a young Debbie in the family graveyard, which is where her white life ends and “Indian” life begins. Back to New Mexico where Varner’s ranch and battle ground for the finale of the later film takes place. The danger is brought back to the homestead which eventually end with Salvajes death restoring order. Sarah’s able to adjust to White mans life along with her son, much like Debbie Edwards before her.

As I have found they share a lot of the same themes and imagery, just reordering them within the same basic landscape of the American West. It’s the last real conventional Western retelling of the same plot before we enter the modern world where Native American’s are replaced with criminals and other low-life that replace the previous obstacle. We have lost the racist in Edwards for a more well adjusted figure in Varner who can easily live among others. I guess the only true comparison would and will always be Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) whose an urban outsider, to dangerous for mainstream society. I think I know which film I’ll be watching again soon.

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