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Ride in the Whirlwind

USA 1966
produced by
Monte Hellman, Jack Nicholson, Roger Corman (executive) for Proteus Films, Santa Clara Productions
directed by Monte Hellman
starring Cameron Mitchell, Jack Nicholson, Tom Filer, Millie Perkins, Harry Dean Stanton, Katherine Squire, George Mitchell, Rupert Crosse, John Hackett, B.J. Merholz, Brandon Carroll, Peter Cannon, William A. Keller, Neil Summers, James Campbell, Walter Phelps, Charles Eastman, Gary Kent
written by Jack Nicholson, music by Robert Drasnin

review by
Mike Haberfelner





On their way to their next cattle drive, cowhands Vern (Cameron Mitchell), Wes (Jack Nicholson) and Otis (Tom Filer) happen upon a shed pretty much in the middle of nowhere, occupied by Blind Dick (Harry Dean Stanton) and his gang, a group that seems reserved and suspicious, but they're also friendly enough to offer our cowboys food and drink and let them feed their horses and camp nearby for the night, so things could really be worse. Of course, what Blind Dick and associates haven't let the newcomers come on to is that they just robbed a stagecoach and shot a coachman and now a posse's after them. And indeed, the next morning the posse's here, and intent to lynch all the outlaws, they are not ones for talking and open fire rather quickly - with Vern, Wes and Otis caught in the crossfire. Seeing surrendering is not an option, our heroes try to make it to the ridge, and while Otis is killed trying, Vern and Wes succeed, and soon see that making it over the ridge on foot is their only way to safety, even if that means surrendering their horses - and they don't get away a moment too soon, as the vigilantes soon set fire to the shed to smoke the outlaws out, and once they're out they're quick to be hanged. Of course, some of the vigilantes are still on Wes and Verne's trail. They happen to lose them over night though, and actually manage to make it over the ridge. On the other side, they find a farmhouse, run by Evan (George Mitchell), his wife Catherine (Katherine Squire) and their daughter Abigail (Millie Perkins) that has the great advantage to having already been searched by the vigilantes. So Vern and Wes go there for food and drink and maybe get some horses - but they're met with great resistance, as the farm folks think they're indeed with the gang and dangerous, and them asking for horses pretty much makes them horse thieves, and nothing Vern and Wes can say or do will make them think otherwise, so eventually Vern and Wes start playing their roles as outlaws. And of course, things come to a head when one of the posse returns, checking up on the farm once more ...

 

Legend has it that Roger Corman financed this film, along with The Shooting, as a favour for his frequent collaborators Jack Nicholson and Monte Hellman, but after a Cannes premiere, both films failed to make much waves, and actually failed to find a US distributor. It wasn't until decades later that the films were rediscovered and given their proper place in cinema history.

 

But that story aside, and taking Ride in the Whirlwind by its own values, one can't but realize what a remarkable movie it is: In its very nihilistic approach it's a total opposite to the often operatic spaghetti westerns that were by then gaining popularity, while in story it's very existentialist, doesn't make a distinction between good and evil, and paints a very dirty picture of the Old West. And frankly, the low budget really helps setting the film's tone, as without any fancy sets or props, things remain much more focused on the main characters' plight, as does the scarce dialogue that often leaves things unsaid.

It's really a masterpiece, but on the other hand unusual enough to make one understand why nobody put much trust into it back when.

 

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review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
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love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
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a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
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tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
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Michael Haberfelner.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
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Out now from
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD