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Ride in the Whirlwind is a 1965 western directed by Monte Hellman, starring Jack Nicholson, Millie Perkins, and Harry Dean Stanton. Nicholson also wrote and produced the film.


Plot

A trio of cowboys, Vern (Cameron Mitchell), Wes (Jack Nicholson) and Otis (Tom Filer), stop to rest for the night at the remote hide out of a gang of outlaws led by Blind Dick (Harry Dean Stanton). In the morning, they find themselves surrounded by a vigilante hanging party and are forced to become fugitives due to case of mistaken identity.

Production

At a screening at the Cinemateque at the restored Egyptian Theatermarker in Hollywoodmarker on November 18, 2006, director Monte Hellman was interviewed about this film and The Shooting.

The films were made back-to-back, with The Shooting first. Hellman said that Roger Corman had agreed to put up funds for a Hellman-directed western at a lunch meeting at the old Brown Derby on Vine Street, just south of Hollywood Boulevard, one of a small chain of famous restaurants in Los Angeles (the famous hat-shaped one was located on Wilshire). By the end of the lunch, Corman said to Hellman that since Hellman was making one western, he might as well make two – presumably because, in the mind of the budget-conscious Corman, this would allow them to make two films for less than the usual cost.

Hellman said that the crew and some cast members stayed on location, and, after a break for a week, they began filming Ride in the Whirlwind. However, except for savings on travel costs for the actors, there wasn't a lot of money saved by doing the two back-to-back. Hellman stated that both films were made for under US$75,000 each (approximate total of $150,000 for two, provided by Roger Corman). Hellman and Jack Nicholson, who produced, wrote, and acted in Ride in the Whirlwind, and had a smaller role in The Shooting, had agreed that if they went over budget on either film, they would pay the overage out of their own pockets. Thus they were very careful to keep within the budget for each.

The films were shot in Utahmarker in an area that has since been filled in with an artificial lake. Hellman said that producers would sometimes hire him to find out where he'd shot the films, then fire him once they knew. He stated that he was the last to film there because it was filled with water soon after. Both Ride in the Whirlwind and The Shooting feature the same reddish low mountains with white lines in the rock (possibly water marks from a past age when the area was a sea or lake).

Hellman said that he tended to cut out as much dialog as he could. He preferred to tell the story visually. He avoided the obvious in terms of dialog. Hellman stated that he oversaw the daily progress by the writers of the two films – and that they rented an office in the Writer's Building in Beverly Hillsmarker on little Santa Monica Blvd. One personal thrill for Hellman was that their rented office was next door to Fred Astaire's.

Distribution

Hellman stated that both films were sold to a distributor who then sold them as part of a larger package of films to be shown on television. The films did play theatrically in France in 1969 and Hellman said they were hits, with The Shooting playing for a year in Paris and Ride in the Whirlwind playing for six months. Hellman stated that in the late sixties it meant a lot in Hollywood to be lionized in France and thus Hellman had a brief time of being very much in demand in Hollywood.

Thematic similarities

Both films involve a hunt. In the case of The Shooting, Nicholson is a hired gun and Oates is a bounty hunter. Both men are working for a woman who is tracking someone. The entire film and the suspense is largely based on this mysterious hunt. In Ride in the Whirlwind, a posse that began by tracking a gang who robbed a stagecoach end up hunting down the Nicholson character and another man. Both films are considered acid westerns that express a rather bleak, minimalist quality that does not sentimentalize the Wild West. On the other hand, the violence is portrayed less graphically than, say, in the films of Sam Peckinpah like Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid.

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