Tuesday, 5 March 2013



Well, it's mostly a disaster, isn't it? After it crept out and died in May, 1981, it's a film more remembered for its failure than whether it's any good as a film in its own right - which it emphatically isn't. It's a mess: badly structured (the title character doesn't show up till well over halfway through the film and he isn't named as The Lone Ranger until the end credits are about to roll), cursed with a famously awful lead performance that killed its debuting star's career stone dead, with a shortage of decent action and narrated in rhyming couplets by Merle Haggard. Frankly it's the kind of film the Razzies were invented for (and it won three of them).

The Legend Of The Lone Ranger came out in the wake of the phenomenal success of Raiders Of The Lost Ark: old-fashioned matinee fodder inspired by the Saturday serials of decades past. Yet it's spectacularly unspectacular: devoid of fun, humour and thrills throughout. John Reid heads West to his childhood home and to visit his army brother, but the evil Butch Cavendish (Christopher Lloyd, pretty much the only person with any oomph in the whole show) is planning to set himself up as President of an independent Texas and has to abduct President Ulysses S Grant (Jason Robards, briefly) to do it. Only the mysterious stranger dressed in white and riding a magnificent white horse, along with his faithful Tonto (Michael Horse), can stop him....

Who was that masked man? Well, it's Klinton Spilsbury's one and only film role, not even followed up with the occasional "Second Man At Bar" bit part or a career in low-budget B-movies. He hasn't even had the kind of ironic cameo appearance like Sam Jones' in the worthless Ted, riffing on his similarly derided ride from obscurity with Flash Gordon. Maybe in the upcoming reboot (with Johnny Depp in facepaint as Tonto!) might find room for an injoke appearance? In the film's defence it looks terrific: the film's directed by William A Fraker, a longstanding and experienced cinematographer whose DP credits include Rosemary's Baby, Bullitt and 1941. And some of John Barry's music is fine, though decidedly not when it bursts forth with the William Tell Overture. But it's not enough: it's dull, and it just dies on the screen while you're watching it, wondering what the hell they thought they were doing. There is a DVD release, but it now looks to be out of print; the online rental outlets don't stock it and I saw it via LoveFilm's streaming service.



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