Saturday, July 6, 2013


"I'll ask you one more time. Where is the Lone Ranger?"
Upon seeing another news headline about the new movie The Lone Ranger, I was spurred into writing something on the 1981 film The Legend of the Lone Ranger.

I remember that debacle very well. Almost everything went wrong on that picture. A temperamental and neophyte actor, Klinton Spilsbury, playing the titular part, an out-of-control budget, and a bad misstep: The film's producers sought and got a court injunction ordering TV's portrayer-of-the-masked-man, Clayton Moore, to stop making public appearances while wearing his Lone Ranger get-up.  It was a public relations disaster and a portend of things to come for the obnoxious runners of the new and improved and big budget take courtesy of Hollywood.

Star Spilsbury's voice needed to be redubbed since his voice came across as something reading lines from the script and lacked any inflection of any kind. (The deed was done by actor James Keach.)

The film's director was William Fraker, the great cameraman of films such as Rosemary's Baby and Bullitt. Unfortunately, and according to people on the set, he was not an "actor's director"; not a good thing when you are dealing with newbies such as Spilsbury and Michael Horse (Tonto).

Not surprisingly, the film was heavily promoted (given the stream of bad luck, the producers must have been flogging a dead horse). The Legend of the Long Ranger was everywhere, supported and pushed in the way the only Hollywood can: in all its unconsciousness.

All the TV 'movie shows' interviewed the cast; I remember Michael Horse coming across as being very serious, and always running his hand through his ample flowing hair, perhaps with the knowledge or feeling that this was a tough sell.

I'd watched the old Lone Ranger television series as it was still in regular rotation when I was young. But I had no interest in seeing a big-screen movie version. And I'd take an old 1930s "Oater" anytime over Modern Hollywood Stuffing. (Sure they were low budget, but they were fun. Imagine that, Hollywood!)

"Bang!" No, that wasn't the Lone Ranger's six shooter; that was The Legend of the Lone Ranger detonating -- not exploding -- at the box office: Twelve million dollars, gross (domestically); 5 million, net, against an 18 million dollar budget (prints & advertising not included).

The Curse of the Lone Ranger was off and galloping...

It returns for the new film, The Lone Ranger. "Ssssssss" (the sound of the bomb's wick frying away)....

PS: What? Walt Disney Pictures? Didn't those (characters) learn their lesson with John Carter?
PPS: Johnny Depp? As "Tonto"?

Info on the television series The Lone Ranger...

Interesting reading -- better than mine -- from "Entertainment Weekly" on The Legend of the Lone Ranger...
Who was that masked man? The Legend of Klinton Spilsbury.


DonaldAR said...

Is it telling that I have never heard of Klinton Spilsbury? No surprise, since he apparently belongs to the exclusive "one film credit (ever)" club. A club which I feel is far too small...

Barry Smight said...

"A club which I feel is far too small..."


Mr. Spilsbury was really difficult; not a good way to start one's 'career'.