This Blogathon, hosted by ‘Real Weegie Midget’, that I joined the last minute (as we just came across each others Blogs, just few days ago, and before I knew it, I was invited to take part in this new Blogathon), is in correspondence to actor Jack Nicholson’s 80th Birthday!! Thus, a VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY, to a legendary genius of modern cinema, Jack Nicholson!! Wish him all the best in health and happiness in his old age. For this Blogathon, I’m paying a ‘Double Bill’ tribute, featuring Nicholson’s TWO Film releases, of 1966 (both Acid Westerns, with similar story line)!!!!!
Ride in the Whirlwind (1966)

Directed by Monte Hellman, and Written, Produced & Starring, a very young Jack Nicholson; the story is about an innocent man on run from a group of vigilantes.

Three cowboys, including a young man called Wes (Nicholson) stop to break for the night, at a remote hideout of a gang of outlaws, led by Blind Dick (a young, Harry Dean Stanton). Come morning, they find themselves surrounded by a vigilante hanging party. It’s interesting to note, how the vigilantes here are portrayed in a realistic light. Unlike many films and television shows of today, where people taking the law into their own hands, are portrayed in a heroic light; here we see them, for what they actually can be. They are not necessarily the good guys. They not only kill off the gang they are after, but they are responsible for the deaths of two innocent people as well, assuming they are part of a gang of robbers. Plus they are on a hunt to kill off, another innocent person, Wes. It’s a hint on why people shouldn’t take the law into their own hands. Protecting oneself and other victims is a different matter, but going after someone, committing murder, in the name of justice, without any factual evidence, doesn’t make you a hero/heroine. Sure the law makes mistakes too, but that doesn’t give anyone the right to go around harming people in the name of justice. Vigilantes are humans too, and human beings are very flawed creatures.

A pretty good story, but just an OK film. Average Fare!!!
My Rating: 6/10!!!

Jack Nicholson in Ride in the Whirlwind (1966)

The Shooting (1966)

Directed by Monte Hellman, and Produced & Starring, a very young Jack Nicholson; this film is about a group cowboys going on a hunt, under the persuasion of a mysteriously secretive woman.

While, in Ride in the Whirlwind, Nicholson plays the hunted, here he is the hunter. The villain of the piece. Nicholson plays a gunslinger named Billy Spear, who’s been hired by a nameless woman (Millie Perkins). What’s really interesting here is, like most of the male characters in the film, we (the audience) ourselves, aren’t aware of what the hunt is for, until the end. The woman who hires them, is very secretive, and keeps changing her story, as to what they are accompanying her for. The ending of this movie is, unexpectedly, excellent.

Very good movie, very well told!!!!
My Rating: 8/10!!!!

Millie Perkins & Jack Nicholson, in a scene from The Shooting (1966)

Nicholson’s TWO Roles

Whilst, in Ride in the Whirlwind, Nicholson plays an innocent and kindly character, in The Shooting, he is sexier and scummier.

Young Nicholson is brilliantly different in the two very diverse roles he does. In Ride in the Whirlwind, you feel sorry for him, he is just a young man, who is afraid of being killed, for something he hasn’t done. He has his whole life ahead of him, but is being pursued by idiotic vigilantes; who assume they are being very heroic, by trying to kill him off. He’s just a kid. But in The Shooting, he shoots an innocent kid, Coley (Will Hutchins); and you wish to shoot him off. He is the monster, with a conniving smile, and an equally slimy body language, accompanying the smile. Amazingly Nicholson doesn’t look so young, despite the fact, both these movies were made back to back, in 1965, and released in 66’. Besides, he was in actuality in his late 20’s, when he made these movies. He’d turn 30, less than a year, after their releases. So, in reality, he wasn’t ‘just a kid’. But he looks really young, and with his innocence, in Ride in the Whirlwind, to complement him, he looks like he could be still in his teens even.

Out of the two roles, it’s his devious persona, in The Shooting, that shows potential for a more successful acting career. The acting career, we are used to, in some of his most defining roles, in films like; Easy Rider (1969), Chinatown (1974), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), The Shining (1980), The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981), Batman (1989), A Few Good Men (1992) As Good as It Gets (1997) and The Departed (2006); to name some.

Though Jack Nicholson, ventured into Hollywood, at the wee age of 17, in 1954; it was the 70’s decade that brought him into prominence. And his most notably, best performance to date, no doubt was in, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, for which Nicholson bagged his very first Oscar trophy, for ‘Best Actor’, at the 48th Academy Awards, held in 1976.

Jack Nicholson & Cameron Mitchell, in a scene from Ride in the Whirlwind (1966)

Behind the Scenes
As stated above, Jack Nicholson, didn’t just act in these low-budget movies, but he also produced them; plus he also wrote the screenplay for Ride in the Whirlwind. This wasn’t his first screenplay, yet success as a writer, was yet to happen. It was later, for The Trip (1967) that he would be commended for his brilliant literary skills, on a very 60’s, counterculture, film script, about a hallucinogenic acid trip. Speaking of counterculture and acid trips, both these acid westerns too, have a major influence of the 1960’s counterculture. But one of the major flaws in both films, happens to be the look of Millie Perkins’ character (yes she appears in both films, in a supporting role in one, and a lead in the other). Her hairdo feels very 60’s (but her head is mostly covered with a hat, in The Shooting). Luckily her makeup is that of a minimalist nature; which apparently Perkins wasn’t very happy about.

Monte Hellman and Jack Nicholson made decisions on the films together, including the lead cast. They together searched for locations for several weeks; before deciding on Kanab, Utah, USA. It was the perfect site to film both their films. The cinematography in The Shooting is wonderfully imaged. The entire film was shot in natural light.

It was producer, Roger Corman’s, idea, to make two films back to back. Corman financed the pictures, serving as the film’s uncredited ‘Executive Producer’. Nicholson was apparently worried about going over budget, while making these movies. But both films were completed in a total of six weeks of continuous shooting (three weeks per film). And thus, the films were completed for the original budget estimated. Yet, Hellman had to spend more than a year, editing the film footage.

These two Acid Westerns; which do not romanticise the west, rather shed a more realistically bleak light; one of which is just OK, and other really good; is an interesting insight into Jack Nicholson in the making. The Nicholson we came to know and love, today.

A Special THANK YOU, to my new found blogger pal, of ‘Real Weegie Midget’, for roping me in, for the Here’s Jack Blogathon 2017.

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