Deadwood '76


Year 1965

Arch Hall, Jr.   as  Billy May
Jack Lester as Tennessee Thompson  
La Donna Cottier   as Little Bird
Arch Hall, Sr. as Boone May
Richard Cowl as Preacher Smith
Robert Dix as Wild Bill Hickok  
 
Director - James Landis
Screenwriters - James Landis
  - Arch Hall, Sr.
  - Arch Hall, Jr.
Story - Arch Hall, Sr.

This movie, Deadwood '76 is better than it has any right being. The acting is terrible, the dialog is boring, and the incessant ballad singing is maddening. But if you can overlook those things, and the first ten mintutes of the movie, then it's watchable. It's still a clunky, erratic mess. But, it's watchable.

To get through it, marvel at Arch Hall, Junior's hair. It's the same hair that he had in Eegah. On the bright side, he doesn't sing in this movie, although he wrote the ballad, and it's the last movie that he "starred" in, so it's your last chance to get a look at those long locks. See the picture above? There's no CGI. That's his real hair.

As for the plot, it's a western. After the War of Northern Aggression, ex-rebel Billy May (Hall, Jr.) heads out west. Why? I dunno. But he does. He ends up in the town of Deadwood, which is a real city in South Dakota. According to an unimpeachable source (wikipedia, ahem), the city was founded illegally on Indian Territory. So, it was illegal AND lawless.

After befriending some Indians, Billy Mays Hayes heads to Deadwood where people think he's Billy the Kid. Willam H. Bonney never had hair like Arch Hall, Jr. so I don't understand the mix-up. Through it all there are gunfights, gold mining, prostitute hopping, dirty dealing, and plans for an Indian uprising. (Alright, someone out there is going to get bent out of shape because I'm using the word "Indian" to describe a "Native American" or an "Indigenous People". I've got news for you. None of the terms is correct. The pre-European locals weren't Indian, but they weren't native or indigenous. They outsted the orignal Americans the same way the Europeans ousted them. And if Indian is good enough for the U.S. Constitution, it's good enough for me. It should be good enough for you, too. So, get over it!)

Not all of the acting is bad. Richard Cowl and Robert Dix are good, although their screen time is short. Arch Hall, Sr. is better than a posterboard cut-out, but he's just weird. Even Arch Hall, Jr. is good as a gunslinger when he's not uttering a syllable. But once he talks, it's all downhill. And Jack Lester? He's got one of the biggest roles, but he's painful to listen to.

And the dialog? Near the beginning, we meet Preacher Smith (Cowl). His dialog is as clever as his name. In the five minutes the you first meet him, he prays and talks about building a church. Every sentence ends with "build a church". You know, I think he intends on building a church. Who'd a thought that a minister without a church might want to build one? Maybe everyone? But if you didn't, you'll realize it after about a dozen mentions.

Considering all of things that attempting to be accomplished in the movie, up to and including the plotting of the defeat of the 7th Cavalry at Little Big Horn, it's a testament (of some sort) that the viewer doesn't get lost. And I have to say that rape scene was effective and I felt anger. So, this movie, when it needed to, generated pathos.

The downside of having so much happen at once is that nothing ever develops. And Billy running into his father who is living with the Indians two thousand miles from home is more of a stretch than I want to forgive.

Like most movies made the father/son team of Arch Hall, there's a lot of self-indulgence. Maybe it's endearing in a midnight/cult movie kind of way.

The best thing about this movie is the last fifteen or twenty minutes. The movie suddenly becomes mature. The acting doesn't improve, but the scenes do and so does the dialog. The ending is appropriate and manages to make a moral statement. As mob justice is being dispensed, a plea is made for a trial. One of the villains asks says that Billy didn't provide that for the people he shot in revenge so why should he. It's actually poignant, which is not something that I thought I'd say for an Arch Hall film.

No blasphemy, nudity, or profanity. Limited chick flick potential. For a B-Movie western, you could do worse. It's at least no worse than, for example, than One Eyed Jacks.


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