Nether Regions 05.11.10: High Noon Part II: The Return of Will Kane
Posted by Chad Webb on 05.11.2010
Will Kane makes his way back to Hadleyville, in one more epic showdown, one that you have probably never heard of. Unless you want to live the rest of your life not knowing Kane's fate in this sequel, you must click now...
Nether Regions started as a segment of the Big Screen Bulletin that meant to showcase films that have been discontinued on DVD, are out of print in the United States, are only available in certain regions outside the United States, or are generally hard to find. Now it is a column all its own! You might ask "Why should I care about a film I have no access to?" My goal is to keep these films relevant because some of them genuinely deserve to be recognized. Every time I review a new film I will have a list of those I covered below so you can see if they have been announced for DVD release, or are still out of print.
HIGH NOON PART II:
THE RETURN OF WILL KANE
Starring: Lee Majors, David Carradine, and Pernell Roberts Directed By: Jerry Jameson Written By: Elmore Leonard Running Time: 96 minutes Theatrical Release Date: November 15, 1980 Missing Since: 1997 Existing Formats:VHS Netflix Status: Not Available Availability: Very Rare
The original High Noon, made in 1952, is on many people's list of the best westerns ever made. I am not one of them. I always viewed the film as a bit overrated. I respect its historical value, and other aspects such as the acting and the direction, but I had some problems with the story and with the character of Will Kane. Don't get me wrong, I'm not John Wayne, who had an extreme level of hate for the picture, so much so that he went out with Howard Hawks and made his response film, Rio Bravo. Wayne took the film as an allegory for blacklisting, which he and his good friends actively supported at the time. In an interview with Playboy Magazine, he said it was "the most un-American thing I've ever seen in my whole life."
I wouldn't go that far, but I would say that Wayne's efforts against it were probably not as successful as he hoped. It is still highly regarded, and for nearly 30 years, it was just fine the way it stood. But then in 1980, a made-for-TV sequel was made that begins approximately one year after the events in the original. Later, in the year 2000, a remake starring Tom Skerritt was made for cable television, and it really isn't that special (very run of the mill). Allegedly there is a TV pilot called "The Clock Strikes Noon Again" that was made in 1966 with Peter Fonda which takes place 20 years after the original, but I have tracked down very little about it. I do know one thing, every attempt to add to the Will Kane character and universe has been sloppy and misguided.
Will and Amy hold each other and decide what to do next.
High Noon Part II, in all honesty, could be a lot worse. The more you cherish the Gary Cooper classic, the less you will like this little diddy though. As far as made-for-TV movies go though, it sports a truly nifty cast, but more on them later. Elmore Leonard is given credit as the writer, and his attempt to extend the saga of Kane is admirable, but still a failure. The story picks up in Hadleyville where a new Marshall resides. His name is J.D. Ward (Pernell Roberts), and he wastes no time in hunting and killing outlaws. One day, Will Kane (Lee Majors) and his wife Amy (Katherine Cannon) ride into town preparing to buy some horses for a ranch they wish to start. At the same time, Ben Irons (David Carradine) and his pals have arrived in town. Ward's deputy spots Irons and realizes a wanted poster exists for him. He runs this information back to the Marshall so a posse can be formed on the double.
Meanwhile, Will has just finished buying his horses when Ben and company enter the store. They need horses, but Will has the best ones and will not sell them. After a brief attempt to look tough, Ben's right hand man Harlan Tyler (Tracey Walter) backs away when he discovers that it is Will Kane he is threatening. The posse then surrounds the place and a shootout commences. In the chaos, Ben and his buddies try to hide amongst the horses. Ward orders his men to fire away, and consequently many of Will's new purchases are dead. He is owed money, but cannot obtain it from the Marshall because he was just doing his "duty." He must get it from Ben, but he has escaped into the mountains. Ward and his posse immediately follow them with only death in mind. Kane must decide how badly he wants his money back. Should he trust Ward to arrest Ben and get the money then, or find Ben himself before Ward can kill him?
The first thing you should understand is that the climax of this tale does not take place at noon, and the time has very little to do with this sequel at all. This also does not go down in real time; a method the original was famous for employing. Obviously they had to use the title to attract viewers, but it is still an annoyance. Why not just shift the timeframe? Oh well. Though the performances are all satisfactory and inspired to a degree, the story lacks the urgency of the first film, not to mention a clear-cut point. When this was over, Will Kane was even more of an enigma than he was after his showdown with Frank Miller.
Lee Majors steps into the role of Will Kane for this adventure, and while most would categorize his acting as stiff and wooden, I appreciated his low-key approach since anything else would have been met with harsher criticism. Instead, Majors avoids excessive theatrics and ends up honoring Cooper's iconic turn as tastefully as anyone could under the confines of television. David Carradine is quite solid as Ben Irons, the wanted outlaw who already served his time and is now being pursued for an old crime. Carradine completed his share of westerns, one of which is The Long Riders, a decidedly mediocre flick from Walter Hill. What I enjoyed about Carradine's Irons was the truthfulness in the portrayal. He is a man who made mistakes, but has paid for them, and Carradine does not resort to outlaw stereotypes or cartoonish traits.
Beware of Marshall Ward's viciously alluring beard.
Best known as Adam Cartwright in the legendary show Bonanza, Pernell Roberts was an actor who could be spotted on numerous shows from 50's through the 80's. Roberts is a despicable villain as J.D. Ward, a Marshall who loves the chase and resembles General Robert E. Lee. He presents himself as a supreme lawman and will do anything to get another notch in his belt, no matter how corrupt or cruel the tactics might be. His exchanges with Majors are terrific, especially the scene where he describes his .44 Henry rifle that eclipses any desire Kane has for a court order on Irons. He is a calm, cool, and collected foe that is adept in owning a conversation. Roberts steals the show with a commanding presence and a deviously dry wit.
Katherine Cannon also has a long TV resume, but is probably best known for her role as Felice Martin on Beverly Hills 90210. As Amy Kane, she certainly captures a similar tone that Grace Kelly did in the original as a sort of Adrian Balboa persona. On occasion, it is difficult to discern who exactly wears the pants in the Kane household, and that is noticeable in this sequel as well. Cannon has nothing to do until the conclusion, but is adequate overall. Other winning supporting roles come from M. Emmett Walsh as Judge Harold Patton, Frank Campanella as Dr. Losey, and J.A. Preston as Ward's right hand black man Alonzo. There are some underlying elements of racism in High Noon Part II as Alonzo usually does all the work for Ward so he can sweep in for the kill.
Director Jerry Jameson, like the cast, has had a long and healthy career in television as a production manager, editor, producer, writer, and director. He also worked regularly on some made-for-TV movies of old-school western shows like Bonanza and Gunsmoke. His style is fairly straightforward for this venture. The shootouts are pretty dull as both sides fire back and forth hiding behind rocks and brush with dust sporadically flying up. One chase sequence stands out above the rest as somewhat pleasing when Kane and Irons jump onto a moving train. When the hunt for Irons gets underway after the horse death incident, Jameson integrates a binocular viewpoint which is rather lazy. These moments strike me as the same distant footage of two guys riding on horses through the desert.
This review has a lot of praise, but when you strip the story bare, it is insanely silly to have Will Kane in one final showdown over some dead horses. Aside from stubbornness and pride, it makes no sense for Kane to get involved except for his wasted money. However, he does realize that he will not be paid back at all halfway through, so then why charge on? Personally, I have never seen Will Kane as an estimable hero. One scene in particular shows this. He has a clear shot at Marshall Ward, but declines twice. He is a man who wants to receive the glory, but doesn't want to get his hands dirty. He plays the victim even when he isn't one, and that makes it hard to relate to or sympathize with his actions or him as a person. He is someone who enforces the law, but always seems to be afraid of confrontation.
High Noon Part II is a by-the-numbers TV western. The set design could have been recycled from any show, and many of the costumes do look like they were taken from The Big Valley or The Virginian. What drives this to mediocrity and not disaster is the acting, which is quite sensible and first-rate. Since I doubt you will find this on DVD anytime soon, I have posted the first part of the movie from YouTube below. Usually I don't do that, but if this were going to appear anywhere, it would have been as an extra on the High Noon anniversary DVD. The Dirty Dozen did this and it made for a fabulous bonus. Many will trash this just because it was unnecessary, and I understand that, but it does deserve a chance. The primary fault lies with the story, which could have used 100 other reasons to bring back Kane. I'll bet Hadleyville is praying Kane stays away. He always brings trouble!
Last week was a full one with numerous trips into the city. One was for The Human Centipede, which was…memorable. I'll leave it at that. Tune into the podcast for more thoughts. I also saw Willie Nelson for the first time in concert and sat 2nd row center. I had a blast, and the fact that he can play for hours with so much passion is great. Seeing him perform "Crazy" was an irreplaceable moment for me. I got a chance to watch some movies as well. Among them was: Ride with the Devil, the 1999 Civil War pic from Ang Lee, newly released on Criterion. I had some issues with it, one of which was the clunky acting. Thumbs down. On the other hand, I loved the Criterion release of Make Way for Tomorrow, a classic heartbreaker from Leo McCarey in 1937.
In terms of wrestling, I caught an ROH show, in the same room and building that Willie Nelson played, just a few days later, which featured some very good matches. It also allowed me to pick up the Joe vs. Kobashi DVD for a cheaper price. As crazy as I might sound, I'll probably be tuning in to TNA more often, if only because it is not routine. I feel that WWE is extremely stale right now. I caught the Betty White episode of Saturday Night Live and enjoyed it. I would call it a solid episode of the show overall, not a great one. Jay-Z played a little longer than most music artists, I'm guessing because "The Golden Girl" could not move as fast as the other cast members and needed some rest, but that's ok. The skits were funny. For music, I recommend picking up the new Godsmack and Deftones albums if you're a rock fan. Both are excellent.