I was born in 1976 and yet I am a fan of a time period about 100 years before I escaped my mother’s body. I don’t remember the first Western movie I ever saw. I have vague memories of seeing those old John Wayne movies that ran on our local PBS station from time-to-time. I think my dad enjoyed westerns. I know he was a fan of Zorro and the Lone Ranger and we would watch those old movies or serials.
I do remember that feeling of being kinda bored with the Western movies from the 50’s in that they made very little sense to me and the outfits were weird and had lots of tassels. But I did like the shootouts (regardless of cheesy production) and horse chases. I grew up in the 80’s when playing Cowboys & Indians was still ok to do and say.
But the real first Western movie that I got excited for was Young Guns. Now, don’t come at me with historical inaccuracies and what not. I don’t care for that argument and, while you’re likely correct, I don’t care. I loved that movie. I remember wanting to see it in the theatres when it came out and being told that I wouldn’t be able to as it was rated R. And when it came out in 1988, I was only 12.
I remember walking into my local Video 99 store and seeing it on the shelf, months later. And I needed it. I needed to see that movie and I grabbed it and a couple others, hoping that the clerk wouldn’t stop my rental due to the age restriction. Which was silly because they never stopped me from renting any movie. Fuck I loved the 80’s…no one gave two shits. I went home and I remember putting that movie in and watching it and falling in love with it instantly. I then told my mom that I had the movie and she watched it, not because she liked Westerns but because she likely had nothing better to do. And then the next day I took it to my dad’s and we watched it and he liked it but thought it played too much to the Brat Pack era of movies. Whatever, dad. I’d take Kiefer Sutherland, Charlie Sheen, Lou Diamond Phillips and Emilio Estevez as Billy The Kid over John Wayne any day of the week.
I enjoyed the sequel, so aptly titled, Young Guns 2 but more because it was a Western and not so much for the actual plot. I watched Eastwood’s Spaghetti Westerns and The Man With No Name trilogy. When Unforgiven came out in 1992 I had to once again wait for it to drop on VHS but ate that one up, although it was much slower than I had wanted. I did re-watch Unforgiven about two months ago and while its a good Western, its still slow and plodding.
Tombstone dropped in 1993 and wow. WOW. What a movie. And again, historical inaccuracies aside, I loved Tombstone. What Val Kilmer brought to that movie as Doc Holliday was just amazing. “I’m your Huckleberry, Johnny Ringo”. Damn.
Recent Western’s haven’t failed to disappoint either, like 3:10 to Yuma or “modern” westerns like No Country for Old Men and, most recently, Hell or High Water.
I always thought that if I had the ability to time travel, like Doctor Who, I’d jump into my TARDIS and visit the Wild West. Of course, I would bring myself a bunch pf penicillin and maybe a bullet proof vest just to be safe, but it would be the one time period I would jump at the chance to check out. I got envious of the visitors to Westworld because I wanted to that idea to be real!
I don’t know what it is about Westerns and why I like them so much, but I do. From the great movies mentioned above to the arguably crappy ones like Back to the Future 3, I just really enjoy a good Western movie. Of course, I’ve never ridden a horse before and quite enjoy central heating, air conditioning and, you know, electricity.
There’s a new documentary series on Netflix The West, which is produced by Robert Redford that I recommend. I’ve watched the first 5 episodes but they’re good and much more historically accurate than, say, Young Guns.
But if I got a chance to travel in time to the time of Deadwood? Yeah, I’d suit up in a heartbeat. Except, without the tassels.