Off the Beaten Trail
Westerns. No other genre of film is more loved by moviegoers, or more dismissed than by the critics. Whether the good guy is heading them off at the pass, or the rancher is struggling to keep his herd fed, film westerns tell stories about us in an earlier time. Violent, sentimental, and action-packed. Often with panoramic views of the geographic American West, the western has captured the attention of film-goers since “The Great Train Robbery” was first screened in 1903. But for every grand western like “High Noon,” “My Darling Clementine” or “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon,” there have been westerns made that are a bit more eccentric, or shall we say, “off the beaten trail.” This month the Packard Campus Theater looks at a number of westerns that, for one reason or the other, are not your classic tale but pretty darn fun to watch anyhow. July starts with James Garner continuing his “Maverick” persona on the big screen in “Support Your Local Sheriff,” and the funny side of the West continues with “Duck You, Sucker” and “Blazing Saddles.” While all the films have a twist to them, a few, like “Desperado,” have a more serious slant. In all, if you like the West and are willing to explore a different trail, then you are set.
Thursday, July 6 @ 7:30pm
“Support Your Local Sheriff” (MGM, 1969)
James Garner stars as a clever and supremely laid-back gunslinger that wanders into a town that just hit a gold rush. By accident, he becomes the de facto lawman in this outrageous, irreverent and very funny farce co-starring Joan Hackett, Bruce Dern, Jack Elam and the iconic Walter Brennan as the comic foil. (Color, 113 minutes.)
Friday, July 7 @ 7:30pm
“Desperado” (Columbia, 1995)
Who is the mysterious mariachi player that is hunting drug dealers with such style as to turn Antonio Banderas into one of world’s biggest heartthrobs? This bullet ballet was revolutionary when it came out for turning mid-90s independent film style into mass appeal. A non-stop whirlwind of action and romance that had audiences on the edge of their seats and swooning in the aisles. Directed by Robert Rodriguez and the film costars Steve Buscemi, Quentin Tarantino, Danny Trejo and Selma Hayek as a woman so beautiful that she “literally” stops traffic. (Color, 105 minutes.)
Thursday, July 13 @ 7:30pm
“The Valley of Gwangi” (WB-Seven Arts, 1969)
What is one thing missing from every western? Dinosaurs! The discovery of a midget horse, thought to be 50 million years old, prompts members of a Wild West show to venture into Mexico’s Forbidden Valley in search of fame and untold wealth. But, there, they are met by prehistoric monsters, including “Gwangi,” a giant dinosaur that decimates their ranks. Legendary stop-motion effects artist Ray Harryhausen (“Jason and the Argonauts”) did all the effects for this western that is fun for all ages! (Color, 96 minutes.)
Friday, July 14 @ 7:30pm
“A Fistful of Dynamite” (MGM, 1971)
The Caesar of the spaghetti western, Sergio Leone (“The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”; “Once Upon a Time in the West”), writes and directs this grand masterpiece that is a must-see on the big screen! In 1913, an Irish revolutionary explosive expert (Academy Award winner) James Coburn is riding his motorcycle in Mexico when he collides with a gun-toting family of outlaws lead by fellow Academy Award winner Rod Steiger. They join forces to rob banks and accidentally become heroes of the Mexican revolution! Filmed epically by Guiseppe Ruzzolini and with a stunning score by Ennio Morricone, this adventure film is one you do not want to miss! (Color, 157 minutes.)
Thursday, July 20 @ 7:30pm
“Buck and the Preacher” (Columbia, 1972)
Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte helped rewrite the history of the western, bringing Black heroes to a genre in which they had previously been sorely underrepresented. Combining boisterous buddy comedy with blistering, Black Power–era political fury, Poitier and a marvelously mischievous Belafonte star as a tough and taciturn wagon master and an unscrupulous, pistol-packing “preacher.” (Color, 102 minutes.)
Friday, July 21 @ 7:30pm
“Johnny Guitar” (Republic, 1954)
“There is really no other film quite like it. It is an intense, unconventional, stylized picture, full of ambiguities and subtexts that rendered it extremely modern. ”—Martin Scorsese. Joan Crawford is at her steely best as Vienna, an enterprising businesswoman who has opened a casino on the outskirts of a small town. Sterling Hayden plays Johnny Guitar, a guitar-slinging former gunman and Vienna’s old flame. But it’s Mercedes McCambridge (the voice in “The Exorcist”) who steals the film as an insanely powerful woman who wants Vienna dead. Director Nicholas Ray’s (“Rebel Without a Cause”) mastery of genre mechanics is on full display here, even as he deploys those mechanisms in service of unprecedented thematic and stylistic interventions. (Color, 110 minutes.)
Thursday, July 27 @ 7:30pm
“Destry Rides Again!” (Universal, 1939)
Marlene Dietrich and James Stewart ride high in this superb comedic western, both a boisterous spoof and a shining example of its genre. As the brawling, rough-and-tumble saloon singer Frenchy, Dietrich shed her exotic love-goddess image and launched a triumphant career comeback, while Stewart cemented his amiable everyman persona with a charming turn as a gun-abhorring deputy sheriff who uses his wits to bring law and order to the frontier town of Bottleneck. (Black & white, 95 minutes.)
Friday, July 28 @ 7:30pm
“Blazing Saddles” (Warner Bros., 1974)
Mel Brooks’ classic send-up of Hollywood westerns finds a railroad slated to be diverted through an existing town and a crooked Attorney General forcing a dimwitted governor to appoint an African-American sheriff to horrify the townsfolk, who all have the same last name. What happens next is quite unexpected. Directed by Mel Brooks (“Young Frankenstein”) and written, in part, by comedy legend Richard Pryor, this film has had audiences rolling in the aisles for almost 50 years. Starring Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder, Slim Pickens, Harvey Korman and Madeline Kahn (playing off of Marlene Dietrich in the previous night’s film). “This is the funniest film ever made!”—Mel Brooks. (Color, 93 minutes.)
Please note: Due to necessary electrical maintenance to the NAVCC facility, the film screening schedule for the next few months will be altered. The Packard Campus Theater will be screening films on Thursday and Friday nights only. Programs are free and the matinee shows will be family friendly. Children 12 and under must be accompanied by an adult. Seating at the screenings is on a first-come, first-served basis unless otherwise noted.
Wearing face masks is recommended as the theater is open to 100% capacity. Patrons must go through an “airport style” security check, and no large parcels, purses or backpacks are permitted.
Federal law (18 U.S.C. 930) prohibits the possession of any firearm or other dangerous weapon into this Federal facility. This includes in the parking lot, all roads, trails, and grounds as well as the building. This also applies to off-duty law enforcement officers (LEO) and concealed-carry permit holders.
The Packard Campus is located at 19053 Mount Pony Road in Culpeper, Virginia. Access to the campus parking lot begins one hour before show time; entrance into the building begins 45 minutes before the show, and the theater opens for seating 30 minutes before the curtain. Please do not arrive early and queue at the Packard Campus gate.
The Library of Congress Packard Campus of the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center oversees one of the largest collections of motion pictures in the world. Acquired primarily through copyright deposit, exchange, gift and purchase, the Collection spans the entire history of the cinema. Since 2008, the art deco theater located at the Packard Campus has shown films each week and screened more than 2,500 titles. The programs will again highlight the best in cinema, including silent films, Hollywood classics, kids’ cartoons and foreign films.
For more information on LC screenings, see this link.