Jon de Vos: Some not so fabulous Colorado movies
There have been some great movies filmed in Colorado, Downhill Racer, True Grit and Sleeper, to name just a few, but devotees of this column (thanks, Mom) know I’m more interested in the one’s that are so bad, they somehow become good.
Take 3 Ninjas, High Noon at Mega Mountain, filmed entirely at Elitch’s in Denver, apparently while Elitch’s management staff wasn’t looking. While arguably 3 Ninjas was the high point of Hulk Hogan’s acting career, this 1998 movie also starred Loni Anderson in a desperate comeback effort. OK, how bad was it? Suffice to say, you’d be better off renting Gigli or Battlefield Earth.
Taza, Son of Cochise, filmed in southwestern Colorado, must have raised some eyebrows, even in 1954. The movie starred Rock Hudson in red face with a husky West L.A. accent. As late as 1970, Burt Lancaster played the role of a Mexican in Valdez is Coming. Every time his hat gets knocked off, his head is white from the eyebrows up.
Another Colorado so-bad-it’s-good movie, Alfred Packer, The Musical, was written and directed by Trey Parker of South Park fame back when he was in college. The 1998 underappreciated, Decampitated, was another Colorado horror movie that failed to answer eternal questions like, “Why is America’s youth so dumb as to seek shelter in a creepy old cabin when their car breaks down in the woods? Why do survivors never flee when the first half of their party is chainsawed into burger bits?
Characters in this movie thrash around like actors with their heads cut off, pausing only briefly to bind up obviously fatal wounds with strips of duct tape.
Why do they always do it? In the 1988, Curse of the Blue Lights, a frantically smooching couple are completely oblivious to a creepy blue light wafting up from the grave of The Monster You Better Not Disturb. But first, we have 93 minutes to fill, the horror, the horror. And that’s just the acting.
Maybe the worst was Alien Seed, shot mostly in a deserted trolley barn in Colorado Springs. First, let me hasten to assure you that no extraterrestrial aliens nor brain cells were harmed in the making of this film. Aliens impregnate a woman in order to produce an offspring that will one day go on to rule the world and cause it’s ultimate destruction. OK, right now you’re thinking, Barbara Bush, but no. The one stand-up-and-cheer moment in Alien Seed comes when Erik Estrada is murdered, apparently for wretched acting.
Colorado has also been the location for truly great horror movies, too. The 1980 movie, The Shining, with Jack Nicholson was mostly filmed in Colorado while the equally good 1997 TV mini-series, The Shining, with Steven Weber was completely filmed in Colorado, mainly at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park. You should stop in at the Stanley some evening in the off-season. Have a drink at the bar. Stay for a few decades dancing in the mirrors.
Officially, there have been over 600 movies filmed in Colorado, but not counted in that number were hundreds of short silent films produced in the early 1900’s without scripts, or crews, just garage actors and a cameraman, making it up as they went along. One of the most prolific of these actors/writers/producers/directors was Gilbert M. “Broncho Billy” Anderson. Between 1906 and 1923, Anderson made about 400 of these American epics, already termed “Oaters” for the oats they had to haul around for the horses. Sporting lurid titles like, Red Blood and Yellow, and The Treachery of Broncho Billy’s Pal, these single-reel shorts filled theaters in the east with wide-eyed audiences hungering for manly action.
Whenever I watch a bad movie, I console myself by thinking about how proud the director’s parents must be.
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