Thursday, March 26, 2015

700th Blog!! Weird West Week: The Shadow of Chikara

Salutations youngins and welcome back for Day 4 of Weird West Week. Well we have had vampires, weeping women, monstrous gunslingers and even a dinosaur so what could possibly be next? How about we journey to Arkansas (only watching the film.. kind of a weird state) towards the last days of the Civil War, when one of the confederates knows he is not gonna make it so he tells two of his buddies of a mound of rocks that may be a treasure in the makings. This is The Shadow of Chikara a.k.a. Curse of Demon Mountain a.k.a. Demon Mountain a.k.a. The Ballad of Virgil Cane a.k.a. Thunder Mountain a.k.a. Wishbone Cutter a.k.a. Shadow Mountain.

Damn Yankees took all our bacon!!

Former Confederate Captain Wishbone Cutter (Joe Don Baker of Lancer, Wild Rover, Walking Tall, Mitchell, The Pack, To Kill a Cop, Fletch, The Living Daylights, In the Heat of the Night and GoldenEye) Irish Indian Half Moon O' Brian (Joy N. Houck Jr of Night of Bloody Horror, Creature from Black Lake, The Brain Machine and Down by Law) and mellow geologist Amos Raymond (Ted Neely of Jesus Christ Superstar, A Perfect Couple, Hard Country, Summer Camp Nightmare, Of Mice and Men and Django Unchained) decide to journey the remote regions of the Arkansas wilderness. Hopefully they avoid a collection of grossly disfigured inbred cannibalistic mountain men similar to the villains of Wrong Turn.

Rough mountain terrain moves deep into the cave their late compatriot described and discover a cache of diamonds. Wealth beyond their wildest dreams and thus far no disturbing hillbilly melee weapon wielding psychos. Then Moon recounts of a tale he has heard of demons that guard a sacred mountain and realizes it may possibly be this mountain (NOW A WARNING??!!!). Warnings aside the threesome collect as many rocks as possible but still light enough to move around the treacherous underfoot when they encounter a battered woman who claims to be the lone survivor of a vicious Indian attack. As shell shocked as she is, she tells the fellas her name is Drucilla Wilcox (Sondra Locke of The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, The Outlaw Josey Wales, Every Which Way is Loose, Sudden Impact, Ratboy and Clean and Narrow). Wishbone less than thrilled a damn woman (his words!) is along to get in the way and may make a play for their treasure reluctantly deals with her joining the party. Methinks he is just bitter because Amos and Moon are vastly prettier than he and more likely to get the girl.

So... live around here?

The long trek back the Untouchable Trio Plus One are ambushed and confused to what is laying these onslaught of attacks. Roving band of Apaches?? The moonshiners from Deliverance? Demons watching over their sacred mountain? The answers to these questions begin to frighten the hell out of them as they become scared, paranoid and loaded with firearms. Will they strike it rich only to die for their uncovered funds? Will life be more important than the diamonds? Why does Wishbone look like Meatloaf?

A few comments on the flick now. Factually speaking diamonds were not discovered in the hills of Arkansas until 1906, 41 years AFTER the Civil War and the use of dynamite for mountaineers, farmers and railroad workers won't happen until two years after the film's set timeline because Sweden hadn't developed it yet. Aside from these mildly interesting facts, this has all the hallmarks of a 70's slow build-up Horror movie. The gradual and meticulous tone that says something spooky is on the rise but we have no idea when the trap is sprung. Painfully staked with an excellent mood altering musical score this film is low key and definitely worthy of the term Ghost Story of the Old West.

The cast is superb, the film has a fair degree of violence for PG which would be bumped to R these days and the setting has a good creep factor. Frankly this is a forgotten gem that deserves a good DVD release. The copy I saw was grainy as hell, recorded in Technicolor and mono so adjust your speakers accordingly. Curiously enough, our director/writer Earl E. Smith also created The Legend of Boggy Creek, The Town That Dreaded Sundown (Original 1976 version) and Sudden Impact. Folks I am 4 for 4 this week and loving it!!! Easiest copy to find is the title Curse of Demon Mountain.

So I'm too doughy to be the Lone Ranger?  Damn.