Ride in the Whirlwind

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Ride in the Whirlwind
Ride in the Whirlwind (movie poster).jpg
Film poster created by Jack H. Harris Inc.
Directed by Monte Hellman
Produced by Jack Nicholson
Monte Hellman
Written by Jack Nicholson
Starring Jack Nicholson
Millie Perkins
Cameron Mitchell
Harry Dean Stanton
Music by Robert Jackson Drasnin
Cinematography Gregory Sandor
Distributed by Walter Reade Organization (released directly to television in 1968)
Release date(s)
  • October 23, 1966 (1966-10-23)
Running time 82 min.
Language English
Budget US$75,000

Ride in the Whirlwind is a 1966 western directed by Monte Hellman, starring Jack Nicholson, Millie Perkins, and Harry Dean Stanton. Nicholson also wrote and co-produced the film.

Plot[edit]

A trio of cowboys, Vern (Cameron Mitchell), Wes (Jack Nicholson) and Otis (Tom Filer), stop to rest for the night at the remote hideout of a gang of outlaws led by Blind Dick (Harry Dean Stanton). In the morning, they find themselves surrounded by a vigilante hanging party and are forced to become fugitives due to a case of mistaken identity.

Otis is killed. So are accomplices of Blind Dick, who is lynched. Vern and Wes take refuge at a farm belonging to a young woman, Abigail (Millie Perkins), and her parents, holding them hostage until they can plan an escape.

Abigail's father opens fire on the two cowboys as they steal his horses. He is killed, but not before wounding Vern. With the posse in pursuit, Wes and Vern ride off together on one horse. At a point where Vern can go no farther, he holds off the posse until Wes can safely get away.

Production[edit]

At a screening at the Cinemateque at the restored Egyptian Theater in Hollywood on November 18, 2006, director Monte Hellman was interviewed about this film and The Shooting.

The films were made back-to-back, with The Shooting first. Hellman said that Roger Corman had agreed to put up funds for a Hellman-directed western at a lunch meeting at the old Brown Derby on Vine Street, just south of Hollywood Boulevard, one of a small chain of famous restaurants in Los Angeles (the famous hat-shaped one was located on Wilshire). By the end of the lunch, Corman said to Hellman that since Hellman was making one western, he might as well make two – presumably because, in the mind of the budget-conscious Corman, this would allow them to make two films for less than the usual cost.

Hellman said that the crew and some cast members stayed on location, and, after a break for a week, they began filming Ride in the Whirlwind. However, except for savings on travel costs for the actors, there wasn't a lot of money saved by doing the two back-to-back. Hellman stated that both films were made for under US$75,000 each (approximate total of $150,000 for two, provided by Roger Corman). Hellman and Jack Nicholson, who produced, wrote, and acted in Ride in the Whirlwind, and had a smaller role in The Shooting, had agreed that if they went over budget on either film, they would pay the overage out of their own pockets. Thus they were very careful to keep within the budget for each.

The films were shot in Utah in an area that has since been filled in with an artificial lake. Hellman said that producers would sometimes hire him to find out where he'd shot the films, then fire him once they knew. He stated that he was the last to film there because it was filled with water soon after. Both Ride in the Whirlwind and The Shooting feature the same reddish low mountains with white lines in the rock (possibly water marks from a past age when the area was a sea or lake).

Hellman said that he tended to cut out as much dialogue as he could. He preferred to tell the story visually. He avoided the obvious in terms of dialogue. Hellman stated that he oversaw the daily progress by the writers of the two films – and that they rented an office in the Writer's Building in Beverly Hills on little Santa Monica Blvd. One personal thrill for Hellman was that their rented office was next door to Fred Astaire's.

Distribution[edit]

Hellman stated that both films were sold to a distributor who then sold them as part of a larger package of films to be shown on television. The films did play theatrically in France in 1969 and Hellman said they were hits, with The Shooting playing for a year in Paris and Ride in the Whirlwind playing for six months. Hellman stated that in the late sixties it meant a lot in Hollywood to be lionized in France and thus Hellman had a brief time of being very much in demand in Hollywood.

Thematic similarities[edit]

Both films involve a hunt. In the case of The Shooting, Nicholson is a hired gun and Warren Oates is a bounty hunter. Both men are working for a woman who is tracking someone. The entire film and the suspense is largely based on this mysterious hunt. In Ride in the Whirlwind, a posse that began by tracking a gang who robbed a stagecoach end up hunting down the Nicholson character and another man. Both films are considered acid westerns that express a rather bleak, minimalist quality that does not sentimentalize the Wild West. On the other hand, the violence is portrayed less graphically than, say, in the films of Sam Peckinpah like Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid.

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