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Saturday, 6 October 2012

Franchise Fallout: The Lonesome Dove saga part 5

Streets of Laredo is the true sequel to the Lonesome Dove mini-series - author Larry McMurtry wrote this part of the story after being enraged at the way his characters had been treated in the mini-series, Return to Lonesome Dove which was made without any of his input.

This time James Garner steps into Woodrow Call's shoes while Sam Shepard takes over the role of Pea Eye. Sissy Spacek is on hand to portray Gus's old whore-friend, Lorena who is now respectable and a schoolteacher and married to Pea Eye. Newt, we learn, is dead and so is July Johnson. Clara also plays no part in this story, other than a few off the cuff mentions.

 Return to Lonesome Dove, was rushed out without author Larry McMurtry's input, but Streets of Laredo, which McMurtry scripted from his own novel, returns us firmly to his brutal West. Legendary Texas Ranger Captain Woodrow Call (James Garner,  has turned bounty hunter, and he heads off on the bloody trail of vicious Mexican gunman Joey Garza (Alexis Cruz), a sadistic, angry south-of-the-border rebel without a cause. Lonesome Dove echoes through the story: Call's former trail hand Pea Eye Parker (Sam Shepard) is enlisted in his posse and Parker's wife, Lorena (Sissy Spacek in the role Diane Lane created in the original ), follows in their wake with news that the psychopathic renegade Mox Mox (Kevin Conway), who once held her captive, is alive and back on the warpath.

Comedian George Carling gives a great turn in this as the grizzled old timer, Billy Williams and Dennis Quaid gives us a superb John Wesley Hardin. Judge Roy Bean also turns up, played with relish by Ned Beatty. All of these have some great character scenes and Streets of Laredo, like the other Lonesome Dove mini series, uses a rich and expensive canvas to tell an epic story. The West of Larry McMurtry is not a nice place and populated with sadistic killers and all manner of unsavory characters. This is a dirty, dusty and dangerous West.

'You got family. I don't.'

Sad new when spoken by James Garner at a pivotal moment in the film - we've followed Woodrow Call since he first joined the Texas Rangers in Dead Man's Walk. All these years later, all these struggles later and he is still alone. He's lost many people over the years - Maggie, Gus, Newt, Gideon Walker and now he finds himself an old man, making a living as a bounty hunter, while the way of life he knew vanishes by the day.

Streets of Laredo is a fitting end to the saga,and doesn't cheat the viewer by giving us a nice happy ending - instead we get a climax that remains true to the spirit of McMurtry's vision. And when taken as a whole the entire saga offers one of the most expansive stories of the West ever filmed. There are many people who claim that the original Lonesome Dove mini-series is the best western ever filmed, and I guess it does hold a claim to a position in the top ten.

Out of the entire saga I'd say that Return to Lonesome Dove was probably the weakest, but that's not because it was a bad film but because it feels different to all the others, the tone is considerably lighter than the original mini-series. Comanche Moon is a favorite because I love Steve Zahn's take on Gus but I also like Dead Man' s Walk for Jonny Lee Miller's Call - if Steve and Johnny had been teamed up as Gus and Call then the resulting mini series could have been as good as the original Lonesome Dove itself. It was of course Lonesome Dove  that gave us the prefect Gus and Call in the shape of Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones. Each and every one of the mini-series though are worth watching, they all have their high points and very few lows. To get the full Lonesome Dove saga you can skip Return to Lonesome Dove, but that one is still worth watching for an alternative look at the Lonesome Dove saga.


1 comment:

Davieboy said...

Thanks for this welcome overview of a truly epic collection; much enjoyed. Like you I'm a big fan (also of Ken Burns' The West, another series you've mentioned lately).
So when's the book-signing tour to promote the new Jack Martin book?