On Depression and Westerns

Special guest Article by Leigh Evans KreuzThey say you never forget your first love.

I’m thirty-eight now and I’ve forgotten a big chunk of my life up until this point. Sometimes, if I’m especially #blessed, the right stimuli and the right amount of THC knock a few things loose. Being born before the turn of the century, I was a kid who, like my parents before me, was raised largely by television. Our story begins during the little slice of my life in which I was often sat behind the arm of a floral patterned sofa, staring in rapt attention at the rabbit-eared television; relic from the time when sets were advertised as being (holy smokes, Batman!) IN COLOR. I happened to be born into a culty Assembly of God church run by a guy who wore Jim Jones sunglasses without a single wit of irony and utilized information control in the guise of “keeping the children safe”.

That meant we weren’t allowed to just watch whatever we wanted because the stuff on TV would send demons through the screen or something. (For further reading and cringing so hard your back cracks read “Turmoil in the Toybox” by Phil Phillips). The selection of “Jesus approved” material was pretty slim for the child of “God and country” 1980s Reaganites.

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Young Guns (1988)

This is the story of The Regulators. No wait, this is the story of Billy the Kid. No this is the story of how Billy the Kid met Pat Garrett. Oh hell, it’s all of that and essentially a remake of “The Cowboys.” Rather than a small group of boys who avenge their mentor in a dramatic finale, this group of young men avenges their caretaker in the beginning and we’re stuck with them for the duration. And they do so in a very long and cheesy Western that jumps in and out of so many sub-plots that it becomes exhausting. Christopher Cain’s “Young Guns” is really only a film you’ll likely love if you were between 13 and 19 in 1988. It’s another attempt to tack the brat pack on to a movie genre, and it pretty much fails from the moment we’re introduced to various characters in a goofy opening credits sequence. Every character is essentially some kind of gimmicky contributor to the narrative, only delivering broad Western cliches.

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Wild Wild West (1999)

As we all saw with Tarantino a few years ago, the idea of Will Smith in a Western isn’t a bad one. Smith has a modern look that’s not accessible for every film, but with the right director Smith could shine. It’s just too bad he straddled himself to Barry Sonnenfeld who casts Will in one of the most poorly conceived TV to movie adaptations of all time. “Wild Wild West” is worse than “Beverly Hillbillies” and “Charlie’s Angels” combined. What’s worse is that director Sonnenfeld has absolutely no idea how to utilize Smith in a Western setting. So by the time the movie has started, rather than rely on the pulpy martial arts theme from the original series, the movie just becomes a showcase for Will Smith to be Will Smith. Even in the old West, Smith is the wise cracking, shade wearing, cowboy who is a hit with the ladies.

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The Magnificent Seven (1960)

mag-7John Sturges’ “The Magnificent Seven” is such a pitch perfect example of how to accomplish a remake. And Sturges has his work cut out for him as “The Magnificent Seven” is a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai.” Kurosawa’s film was already considered a classic by 1960, and was a juggernaut of foreign cinema that influenced filmmakers and studios worldwide. Even today its influence over cinema is immense. So it’s no small feat that “The Magnificent Seven” is just as good as the original and can stand side by side with it as another version of the tale that is as compelling and action packed. In fact Kurosawa loved it so much he allegedly sent Sturges a ceremonial sword as a bid a token of approval for his version.

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A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014)


I bet Seth McFarlane would love to fancy himself this generation’s Bob Hope, or perhaps even Mel Brooks. With the hollow smile of a car salesman, and the appeal of a commercial pitch man, in reality, McFarlane comes off as just another really desperate fan boy whose love for music, dancing, and comedy doesn’t equate to entertainment. The end result is a movie that holds our hands through every joke, and then holds our hand through the expected reaction. I imagine if McFarlane directed a remake to “Blazing Saddles” eventually someone would point to Sheriff Bart, look at the audience breaking the fourth wall, and mutter “But he’s a black man! And this is the old west!”

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