The Legend of the Lone Ranger (1981)

Our review of the last Lone Ranger movie to come out of Hollywood…and the reason why you wouldn’t see another one until July, 2013.

GHalf-G

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4 responses to “The Legend of the Lone Ranger (1981)”

  1. David Lee Ingersoll Avatar

    The idea of a masked gunman and an Indian warrior partnering up to deal out justice in the old west seems like it’s got potential but so far there hasn’t been a version of the Lone Ranger that has interested me. I think I’m too young (odd thought) to appreciate the original live action TV series. It didn’t rerun on any stations I watched as a kid so I’ve got no nostalgia attached to it. I must have seen the cartoon as a kid but, if so, I’ve no memory of it.This movie didn’t seem interesting when it came out. The current version looked too big budget and over the top even without Johnny Depp’s unappealing Tonto.

    Maybe the concept has passed its sell date? Some heroes only work in the time they were first popular.

    1. David DeMoss Avatar
      David DeMoss

      “Over the top” barely begins to cover it. New Lone Ranger barely acknowledges there’s a “top” to go over, since it’s stuck trying to top the three previous Gore Verbinski/ Johnny Depp collaborations.

      Thing is, we’re all too young to see the Rangers original show, or his 60s cartoon, or his early-80s cartoon from Filmation. Unless, of course, we made TV Land our religion in the mid-90s, and not many were willing to do that for anyone save Mary Tyler Moore and/or Batman. My mother’s the only person I know with any clear memory of the Clayton Moore/Jay Silverheels era, and she was a child at the time, dragged along to the old serials by her mother, who refused to go anywhere alone.

      None of which should matter. Both The Legend of and 2013’s Adjectival Phrase-less Lone Ranger are supposed to be remakes, created specifically to reintroduce old characters/themes/settings/ideas to a new audience. Both movies fail because they require a basic working knowledge of those old ideas. Otherwise, no one would “ooh” and/or “ahh” over the changes made…oh, wait: that’s right – no one did.

      There may be some truth to the idea that this whole concept’s “past its sell-by date,” but if so, I choose to resist that truth on general principle. The fault can’t lie in the conception itself, since Westerns and their storytelling tropes formed the foundations of the Modern American Action Movie. There’s nothing stopping anybody from making a Modern Western…apart from money, time, their own interest in the project, and the perception the Western is “dead” or “dying.” A perception that will remain in place until a Western makes a billion dollars, so you might as well do…whatever it is you want to do.

      Unfortunately, you have to want something more than “make another ocean of money for Disney/myself.” It won’t always work (see Jack Wrather’s first failed attempt to bring “magic” back to the movie theaters…if you can find it – which you can’t – I checked) but it’ll definitely help prevent your project from stinking to high heaven of semi-comatose clock-punching. That’s what turned me off Adjectival Phrase-less Lone Ranger before I saw it, over and above any incredibly stupid costume design decisions…which was really a stupid casting decision, without which the movie would’ve never even got off the ground, and the world would be a slightly happier place.

      1. Infinite Onion Avatar
        Infinite Onion

        Interesting, through a fluke combination of greatest generation grandparents and Late night reruns I saw a fair amount of the Moore/Silverheels era Lone Ranger when I was pretty young. If I remember correctly, what was strange was how little it fit into the Western genre. It’s true there was always a brawl and a bit of six-shooter gunplay, but I remember it as being more of a quasi-spy sort of thing. Moore would eat up screen time infiltrating the gang of the week in an unconvincing fake facial hair and the bad guys would get it in the end. The more I think about it the real Lone ranger remakes are network TV shows like Burn Notice. The westerns as I remember them were really more (As more informed people than I have already said) in the wandering samurai vein. Truth to tell, that sort of story could be told in any setting and many contexts, just think about what a writer could do with two or three giant robots stalking each other across a Mongolian steppe upon which they lack the necessities for self repair. It seems like the western is only ‘dead’ because it was the favorite of the Baby boomer’s parents and nobody wants to be as uncool as to really embrace it (as you said). If they are truly afraid of the PC implications of a western, they could just make an American Indian the hero, set it in Argentina, or (hell!) make your hero an American Indian in India during the Indian civil war, even. You could do the Seven Samurai anywhere, with anybody, it’s flippin’ timeless! But of course these are ideas that haven’t already been proven to make big money, and so they are anathema.

        1. David DeMoss Avatar
          David DeMoss

          Your description of the Moore/Silverheels era makes a lot of sense – his spiritual/genetic descendant, the Green Hornet, used pretty much the same MO to catch his weekly bad guy gangs and run out the episode’s clock. (This becomes especially apparent when you try, as I did, to marathon the show.)

          We’ve all been hearing about “dead” Westerns since before Unforgiven came along and made everyone eat their boots, but you’re right – the Western escaped its genre, so its tropes have achieved ubiquity. But even then, you can pick almost any old Western and follow the cinematic through-line right up to the present. These days, the one I like most goes Yojimbo > Fistfull of Dollars > Last Man Standing > Sukiyaki Western Django but one could just as easily go from High Noon to Dirty Harry and beyond, to virtually anywhere in the Action genre.

          I don’t think anyone’s really “afraid of the PC implications” of anything. If they were, we critics wouldn’t have had cause to waste most of July with asinine, pearl-clutching, nearly-inarticulate but always-inane questions like, “Just how racist is Johnny Depp/Gore Verbinski/Disney et. al., anyway?” And before anyone says, “But dude – these’re all reasonably functional adults! They had to have known what would happen!” remember that these are the same people who made Pirates of the Caribbean 3 and then opened it up with a mass-hanging.

          But even with all that, and the analysis paralysis at the heart of most current, fear-based marketing schemes, some of the best remakes of the last decade were honest-to-the-Crow-Nation Westerns. I’m supposed to mention True Grit here and prostrate myself before the Brothers Coen (it’s in the Modern Movie Critic’s bylaws and everything – “Thou shalt tongue-bathe the Coens no less than once a month.”) but I’m actually thinking of 3:10 to Yuma because I have much fonder memories of enjoying that with friends. And because: Batman.

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