Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Can the Bloody Benders Revive Western Film?

Western folklore
Bender General Store and Inn

In the early 1870s, the Bloody Benders were a family of serial killers on the Kansas prairie. The four members of the family could not be weirder. If they were a family. The only thing known for certain is that there were four of them and they killed over a dozen travelers that ate or stayed at their makeshift general store located along a popular trail to the West. One more thing is known, they escaped.

This is a fascinating story and now The Topeka Capital Journal reports that two Harvard graduates are making an independent film about this grotesque piece of Western lore. There may also be a Hollywood production about the Bloody Benders. I’m rooting for the indie film. 

When the resurgence occurs in Western film, it will come from solid storytelling. My money is on indie films because they can’t afford elaborate computer generated effects, so they have no choice but to concentrate on a great script. Western enthusiasts keep hoping that movies like Cowboys and Aliens or The Lone Ranger will rejuvenate the genre. Small films have a better chance.

Serial killers
Bender Knife

IMDB reports an estimated budget for Open Range of only $26 million, a pittance for a movie with two bankable stars. Dances with Wolves was only $19 million.  Quigley Down Under $20 million. And even the remake of 3:10 to Yuma was only $55 million. On the other hand, films with nine figure budgets have harmed the genre. Big losses sour Hollywood powers-that-be on Westerns and they’re too dumb to figure out they threw away their money on a lousy script because they believe CGI, fast cuts, and a pulsing soundtrack were the key to a blockbuster.

Good storytelling draws audiences into movie houses … and that’s the forte of low budget films. Since Hollywood is blockbuster obsessed, we’ll have to rely on indie films to have an enjoyable night at the movies with a box of hot, buttered popcorn.

1 comment:

  1. The indies do have the potential, but some of them just want to make a film and don't take the time for good script writing. Worked on a couple of those, but I don't give up hope.