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The Shooting
The Epitaph

USA 1966
produced by
Jack Nicholson, Monte Hellman, Roger Corman (executive) for Proteus Films, Santa Clara Productions
directed by Monte Hellman
starring Warren Oates, Will Hutchins, Millie Perkins, Jack Nicholson, Charles Eastman, Guy El Tsosie, Brandon Carroll, B.J. Merholz, Wally Moon, William Mackleprang, James Campbell
written by Adrien Joyce (= Carole Eastman), music by Richard Markowitz

review by
Mike Haberfelner





When prospector Willett (Warren Oates) returns to the mine in the middle of nowhere he and his friends run, he finds one dead and buried, one, Coley (Will Hutchins), frightened out of his mind, and one, Leland (B.J. Merholz), has apparently gone on the run after having run over and probably killed a child by accident, and he's now fearing somebody will come after him.

Willett and Coley are soon joined by a mysterious woman (Millie Perkins) who never gives them her name but wants Willett, a former bounty hunter, to track someone. Willett doesn't trust the woman one bit - Coley falls head over heels in love with her - but as she offers a large sum of money, he can't really refuse. So the three of them go on a hunt, and it soon becomes obvious the woman's the boss, whether the men like it or not, and she seems in a hurry. Also she often acts weird, like firing her gun every few hours or so - and it eventually becomes apparent why, she hasn't come on her own but has brought a hired gun, Billy (Jack Nicholson), with her whom she has apparently hired to kill whoever they're tracking. Eventually Billy catches up with them, and he doesn't seem to be too nice a man.

Coley's horse breaks down in the middle of the desert, and for a while he's doubling up with Willett, but as that's hampering Willett's track-reading efforts, the woman and Billy soon decide to just leave him behind. Willett doesn't like this much, but as he figures whatever lies ahead of them might be even more dangerous than walking the desert on one's own, he agrees to ditch Billy, of course promising to pick him up again on the way back.

The further the trail goes, the more on edge everybody gets, and hostilities soon come to the fore. In the meantime, Coley has found a horse against all odds, and he decides to catch up with Willett and the others, but Billy isn't happy about that one bit, so he provokes Coley to pull his gun on him, upon which he, a quick draw if you ever saw one, shoots him dead "in self defense" - and this is where Willett really loses it ...

 

Legend has it that Roger Corman financed this film, along with Ride in the Whirlwind, 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.

 

Taken by its own merits, The Shooting is quite probably the most anti-utopian western of them all, here everything's dirty, there are no heroes, a moral compass counts little, and only selfishness will get you anywhere. The whole thing is bleak, fatalistic, nihilistic ... and quite simply wonderful. It's really a rare gem in the western genre, one that does away with all the glamour of classic western cinema as well as the more operatic approach of the then emerging spaghetti western and paints a grim picture, which Monte Hellman's very restrained directorial effort only adding to the atmosphere of constant gloom. And quite apart from that, casting Millie Perkins as the unlikely villainess of the piece is really a stroke of genius, and she totally lives up to the task.

A masterpiece for sure!

 

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review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.

 

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

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner

 

Out now from
Amazon!!!

 

 

 

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