Saturday, February 18, 2012

I did it. I watched Seven Alone


If you watch the Seven Alone/Meek's Cutoff double feature I suggested, watch Meek's Cutoff first and be prepared to fast forward through Seven Alone.

Meek's Cutoff is the critically acclaimed 2010 movie about an incident on the Oregon Trail in the 1840s. Seven Alone was a rather bad "family film" from the 1970s also dealing with the Oregon Trail. I had suggested in an earlier post that they be viewed as a double feature.

I watched Seven Alone. I probably should have watched it on TV on Roku rather than sitting at the computer. I might have hated it less.

As I said before, I saw it with my school when I was in the 6th grade. The kids didn't mind, but now I understand the sacrifice the teachers made sitting through that thing.

Some of it I remembered pretty well. Other stuff I didn't remember at all.

I didn't remember the adults addressing the kid, John, by his full name, John Sager, all the time.

I did remember John repeatedly threatening to knock people's heads off. "I'll knock your head off!" he kept saying. Not much of a catchphrase. A better catchphrase might have been, "I'll get right on it," or "I didn't want to move to Oregon."

I didn't remember the father being such a jerk. I know this is considered normal in certain communities. The belt-whipping scene was a bit worse than I remembered---it was off-camera, but I didn't remember the kid being so vocal. It may be that it just bothers me more now than it did when I was a kid. Later, the father kicks the son and knocks him into a stream. It was so much nicer after he died. Good riddance to him.

Kit Carson was played by a stuntman. This was his only dramatic role.

Four-walling

The movie was distributed by Doty-Dayton of Utah. They specialized in four-wall distribution. This is where they rent the entire theater, show the movie and keep all the box office revenue for themselves. Normally, money from ticket sales is split between the theater and distributor.

In the 'seventies, this form of distribution was used for a lot of G-rated movies and for crap documentaries like Chariots of the Gods and In Search of Noah's Ark.

The movies would only play for one or two weekends then move on before word-of-mouth took its toll. But for it to work, they had to saturate the after-school viewing hours with ads.

I was slightly acquainted with a producer who worked on the four-walled epic, Sasquatch, the Legend of Bigfoot. As she explained it, they made the movie cheaply and put their money into advertising. Sadly, it didn't work in that case---they went broke and took several ad agencies down with them. They wrecked people's lives, sacrificed them on the altar of cinema.

Joe Camp said he produced the movie Benji as an antidote to the cheap, crappy G-rated movies four-walling had wrought.

Another such movie I attended

I told this story before, but here it is again.

When I was 11 or 12, they started saturating the after school airwaves with ads for something called Bigfoot Man or Beast.[sic] I don't know if I had ever heard of Bigfoot before. So I went with my brother and his friends to see this thing.

Kids were lined up around the block to see it. We were standing there. There were two grown men with beards standing near us talking loudly and very, very enthusiastically about the movie. The kids I knew were excited about the movie, but we weren't that bad.

Then an usher came out of the theater. He wasn't one of their regular employees. He announced that the movie was sold out.

"NOOOOO!" the men yelled. "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"

One of them held up some bills.

"I'LL PAY YOU TWENTY DOLLARS TO SEE THIS MOVIE!"

The guy explained that there were no more seats.

"WE'LL STAND! WE'LL STAAAAAAAAND!"

The kids in the crowd started yelling this, too.

No, no, the usher said. But he suggested that people could buy tickets for the next show.

"TICKETS? WE CAN BUY TICKETS? WHERE CAN WE BUY THESE TICKETS?" one of the men said.

At the box office, the usher said. He seemed bemused.

So these two scumbags went off to buy their tickets. They were plants, there to make sure the kids bought tickets to the late show. It would be past their bedtimes, so they probably wouldn't have gone to the thing otherwise.

My brother bought our tickets.

It turned out that the Bigfoot movie itself was only about 24 minutes long. It was apparently intended as a TV episode, but it was so bad it didn't go anywhere.

To stretch it out, they showed it with a nature documentary. They barely mentioned it in the ads. It was a horrible, ugly, grainy documentary about some moron who lived alone in a cabin in the Alaskan wilderness. We see him hunting. We see him walking through the woods with blood-soaked bags on his back. It was the most vile nature film I've ever seen.

People cheered when it was over and the Bigfoot movie started rolling.

The first shot was a treetop. We see an eagle. It comes and lands on the tree. The audience became quiet. Was this another stinking nature documentary?

No, it turned out that the only decent shot these clowns ever got on film was the shot of the bird landing on the tree. So they used that as their logo, even though it was too long.

The movie started. It was over quickly enough. We went home.

No comments: