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Ray Pride

By Ray Pride

[OnePiece] Mark Rance on restoring The Whole Shootin' Match digitally

Most people don’t realize how fragile film history is, and it’s not about the third DVD in a row arriving in two pieces from Netflix. When I was a kid, Eagle Pennell’s 1978 The Whole Shootin’ Match (released in New York in 1979), made for around $30,000, was written up in all the film magazines that I read to read about the films that would never have come to my part of Kentucky. This slacker avant le lettre Austin fable was obscure then (even with a Vincent Canby notice) and would remain obscure to this day if not for the discovery of a mint print of the shot-on-16mm black-and-white film, and the digital restoration of its gamy glories by veteran DVD producer Mark Rance, who’s just launched his Watchmaker Films DVD label with a pleasing three-disc set devoted to the feature, its music, and a new documentary on Pennell’s slow, if spirited, dive into failure.

The DVD booket is rich with background, including bits from Austin’s legendary journalist Louis Black. Paul Cullum, an Austin peer, writes that “the man belonged in the Alcohol of Fame; he put pop alcoholics like us to shame.” Cullum got confirmation that this quote from Robert Redford was indeed about the troubled Pennell: “I thought a real service to the industry would be to provide a guy like that with a place to train, a place to go where he could develop his skills. It would shortcut a lot of the problems he was going to be facing.” Voila: Sundance.
But voila aussi: The Whole Shootin’ Match, which also inspired the similarly shaggy but much more prolific filmic ambitions of another Austin cineaste, Richard Linklater. This rambling, profane charmer of a film is still an inspiration, and it’s terrific that it’s out for a new generation of potential regional filmmakers to admire. (And a Texas-size cautionary tale to boot.) [Interview shot at Chicago’s Siskel Film Center.]

[Below, Rance describes “frame-based” restoration.]


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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon