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Who was that masked man?
July 2, 2013 10:19 AM   Subscribe

The utter failure of the Lone Ranger movie - the 1981 one, that is.
posted by Artw (44 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
"Utter failure"? That was the first movie I remember going to see in a theater. Well, at least the first movie at night with the whole family anyway.

"A cinematic triumph."
- yerfatma, moron 5 year-old
posted by yerfatma at 10:21 AM on July 2, 2013 [9 favorites]


I remember my 10 year old self being stoked to see it (I had a retro streak even then) and coming home utterly bewildered.
posted by jonmc at 10:21 AM on July 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


The only thing that I remember from that movie was Tonto using a knife that was far too large to be a suitable instrument to remove a bullet from Lone Ranger. However, the horses from the promotional toy line augmented many GI Joe/Star Wars figure escapades.
posted by planetesimal at 10:32 AM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I somehow wasn't aware of this movie when it came out, but the only reason I remember this existed when I was younger was because of the Night Court episode based on what they did to Clayton Moore.

The article really dances around the "bizarre encounter" with Klinton Spilsbury that Andy Warhol had, but fortunately, Wikipedia summarizes it well:

Andy Warhol interviewed Spilsbury during his promotion tour, later describing the interview as "nutty," because Spilsbury was "blowing his whole image" during their conversation. Spilsbury told Warhol that prior to making the movie, he had been an art student married to a rich woman and that they had a baby together. He went on to state that they didn't spend much time together because he needed too much time with his own thoughts, a detail that Warhol found amusing. Spilsbury told Warhol that he was a friend of actor Dennis Christopher and had fallen in love with him, and that he also had later fallen in love with actor Bud Cort. Warhol described Spilsbury as "very drunk" during the latter part of the interview, when he also mentioned that "he'd been picked up by Halston and woke up in bed with Halston."
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:32 AM on July 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


But, was it as bad as Zorro: The Gay Blade?
posted by Atom Eyes at 10:33 AM on July 2, 2013


Zorro TGB was incredible. Don't badmouth it.
posted by planetesimal at 10:34 AM on July 2, 2013 [19 favorites]


Just watched the 1956 version last night. I was surprised at how well it held up.
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:44 AM on July 2, 2013


Wow, I have really clear memories of this movie as a child, mainly because it was the first time I saw violence in a movie. It's laughable now, but some of those gunshot wounds looked very real to my seven year old mind.
posted by SpacemanStix at 10:44 AM on July 2, 2013


However, the horses from the promotional toy line augmented many GI Joe/Star Wars figure escapades.

I had those action figures! But I never knew until now they were part of a marketing campaign for a movie. I've never heard of The Legend of the Lone Ranger; I knew the character from the old Clayton Moore show, which WRAL used to show on Saturday mornings.
posted by Rangeboy at 11:02 AM on July 2, 2013


Yeah, trashing Clayton Moore certainly could not have helped; I can't imagine where Batman would be if Adam West would have been given a similar treatment.
posted by buzzman at 11:02 AM on July 2, 2013


It gave us Michael Horse, who would eventually play Deputy Tommy "Hawk" Hill on Twin Peaks, so it wasn't a complete wash.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:04 AM on July 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


Who was that masked man?

Dammit, wasn't there a George Carlin sketch or similar parody of this that incorporates this line? It's on the tip of my tongue!
posted by KokuRyu at 11:05 AM on July 2, 2013


Zorro: The Gay Blade?

That was a real movie?? I thought it was only a made up, over-the-top title from Jack Chick. (It seems less over-the-top nowadays.)
posted by DU at 11:07 AM on July 2, 2013


Dammit, wasn't there a George Carlin sketch or similar parody of this that incorporates this line?

Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds. "Who was that masked man?" was a comedy staple on par with airline food, "where's the beef" and "I've fallen and I can't get up".
posted by DU at 11:09 AM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Dammit, wasn't there a George Carlin sketch or similar parody of this that incorporates this line? It's on the tip of my tongue!
Lenny Bruce, Thank You Masked Man?
posted by RobotHero at 11:18 AM on July 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


I remember seeing this Lone Ranger movie when it came out - in a theater, even. I don't remember it being that bad, although I remember nothing about it other than I was at the time just reaching the age where I was begining to notice that Mr. Spilsbury looked mighty nice in that cowboy outfit...
posted by dnash at 11:23 AM on July 2, 2013


Wow, this came out three weeks before Raiders of the Lost Ark. It's amazing how films can seem decades apart even when they technically contemporaries.
posted by Think_Long at 11:26 AM on July 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


I saw Zorro the Gay Blade at the theatre with a friend. I have no idea why the adults thought that would be a great movie to occupy a few 10 year old girls on a summer afternoon. The only thing I remember about it are a bullwhip, bright fruit colored costumes and some witty (?!) rapartee.

Come to think on it, that might have been a turning point in my development...
posted by pointystick at 11:58 AM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Say something like a sissy boy.
posted by planetesimal at 12:14 PM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I remember being in preschool and watching it. My friends and I at daycare would, between burying Matchbox cars in sand, become blood brothers, and call each other "kemosabe". I haven't seen it since, and I'm sure that I shouldn't.
posted by hanoixan at 12:15 PM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Dammit, wasn't there a George Carlin sketch or similar parody of this that incorporates this line? It's on the tip of my tongue!
Jay Thomas' Clayton Moore story?
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:16 PM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't remember the movie very much, but I do recall seeing the original Lone Ranger in wraparound sunglasses on TV. I think it was "Real People" or something like that where the whole story was explained. It seemed like quite the scandal at the time.
posted by xingcat at 12:33 PM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I love Zorro and other olde-tymey heroes, but I never understood the appeal of the Lone Ranger. MeFites who love the guy, I ask you: what's the source of his appeal? What itch does he scratch that other characters don't or can't?

The symbols are cool, sure: the mask, the silver bullets, the horse named Silver, the "Hi-Yo" call, the name. But it never added up to a compelling character. What am I missing? I want to dig him, but I just don't.
posted by Harvey Jerkwater at 12:40 PM on July 2, 2013


I saw this when I was about eight. Don't remember a thing, but I probably thought it was awesome. I do have vague memories of a cowboy being shot--maybe it was the LR himself--and bleeding out a lot and that stayed with me a long time...so long that I remember it now. That and the shots have this soft glow and the LR's gun and badge has these sparkles. Or maybe that was just one scene.
posted by zardoz at 12:56 PM on July 2, 2013


At least they had an actual Native American playing Tonto.
posted by Apocryphon at 12:57 PM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I watched Lone Ranger reruns in black-and-white on an RCA tuned to channel 5. I had no idea this movie existed! It must have been pretty bad, I was smack dab in the middle of the Ranger demographic.
posted by Mister_A at 1:13 PM on July 2, 2013


The symbols are cool, sure: the mask, the silver bullets, the horse named Silver, the "Hi-Yo" call, the name. But it never added up to a compelling character. What am I missing? I want to dig him, but I just don't.

The way I remember it, I was watching reruns of this at about the same time Airwolf was on TV, and it was sort of a similar dynamic: Bunch of stuff you don't really care about happens, but you keep watching until the end when (guy in mask with catchphrase | badass helicopter) makes an appearance.

I might be totally wrong about the narrative structure here. I wasn't especially perceptive even for a 6-year-old.
posted by brennen at 1:21 PM on July 2, 2013


badass helicopter

Eeeeeeeeeeeeyyyyyyyyoooooooooooh!

Sorry. /Inner six year old.
posted by Artw at 1:26 PM on July 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


The symbols are cool, sure: the mask, the silver bullets, the horse named Silver, the "Hi-Yo" call, the name. But it never added up to a compelling character. What am I missing? I want to dig him, but I just don't.

Well, for one thing, he was probably inspired by one of the most badass western lawmen of all time. An African-American, to boot.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:32 PM on July 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Silver bullets also act as a calling card for The Lone Ranger in his adventures. The masked man decided to use bullets forged from the precious metal as a symbol of justice, law and order, and to remind himself and others that life, like silver, has value and is not to be wasted or thrown away.

Where is the Lone Ranger vs. Werewolves movie?
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 1:38 PM on July 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


I mean "An African-American man," of course. "An African-American" is an odd way to phrase it.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:39 PM on July 2, 2013


I want to dig him, but I just don't.

Well take note that it all began, in 1933 at a radio station in Detroit.
posted by sammyo at 2:24 PM on July 2, 2013


Is that article all one paragraph, or is my browser being stupid?
posted by pxe2000 at 2:28 PM on July 2, 2013


Where is the Lone Ranger vs. Werewolves movie?

I'm not sure if Roger Zelazny actually wrote this story, but even if he didn't, you can pretty much extrapolate it anyway.
posted by brennen at 2:51 PM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


How in the wide wide world of sports did any of you manage to read this article? Line spacing, people!
posted by NedKoppel at 3:36 PM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


The symbols are cool, sure: the mask, the silver bullets, the horse named Silver, the "Hi-Yo" call, the name. But it never added up to a compelling character. What am I missing?

The Faultlessly Ethical American Hero, The Enigmatic Masked Vigilante, and The Cowboy were all dominant archetypes in juvenile pop culture between 1930 and 1955, and the Lone Ranger falls smack in the middle of the Venn Diagram. Why would you run around the vacant lot pretending to be Superman, the Green Hornet, or Hopalong Cassidy when, in the person of the Lone Ranger, you could portray the best attributes of all three at once?

But if you're not a eight year old kid in 1939, the appeal's going to be limited. His creators treated The Lone Ranger as an exemplar rather than a man. Any growth, turmoil, or moral challenge was left to the one-shot characters who crossed his path each week. This made him a decent role model - friend to Native Americans and Mexicans*, pacifist, defender of the weak - but it also means there's no complexity or surprise inherent in the character. The Lone Ranger always wants Justice, and, within one to two episodes, he gets it. Always without the slightest need to examine or compromise his principles.

Perhaps you could, Alan Moore-style, breathe new life into the character by subverting those principles. The problem there is that the Faultlessly Ethical American Hero, The Enigmatic Masked Vigilante, and The Cowboy have been already been deconstructed to hell and back over the last fifty years, several times each by Alan Moore himself. The deconstructions have been deconstructed, and the results reconstructed, ad infinitum.

The result is that modern Westerns, particularly, suffer from a tedious self-consciousness. Ignatiy Vishnevetsky observed that "the problem with modern Westerns is that so few are made nowadays than whenever someone gets around to making one, they feel like it should be the Western to End All Westerns" - which is to say that the Western has already ended.

[/thesis drift]

So: you shouldn't feel bad if, as a grown-up, you don't find the Lone Ranger compelling. There's nothing there with the power to compel a jaded adult, either earnestly or ironically. If you've got the rights and a nine digit imperative to turn out a watchable movie, the only real way forward is to create a compelling character first and gussy him up as the Lone Ranger second.

*Relative to the time, of course. The racial politics of the Ranger-Tonto partnership are fraught, to say the least; but at least the two had a friendly partnership going six years before John Wayne literally shot to fame gunning down Apaches in Stagecoach.
posted by Iridic at 3:46 PM on July 2, 2013 [9 favorites]


Why would you run around the vacant lot pretending to be Superman, the Green Hornet, or Hopalong Cassidy when, in the person of the Lone Ranger, you could portray the best attributes of all three at once?

Especially since the Lone Ranger is the Green Hornet's great-grandfather.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 4:40 PM on July 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


SPOILER ALERT!















ALERT SPOILER BELOW







Tonto's horse was named Scout.
posted by Samizdata at 7:19 PM on July 2, 2013


Ugh, can I buy a paragraph break please?
posted by Diag at 8:55 PM on July 2, 2013


At least they had an actual Native American playing Tonto.--Apocryphon

I like this quote:
“I told them I wasn’t interested,” says Horse, who later appeared in Twin Peaks. “Finally, they told me what they’d pay me… and I went, ‘Ohhhhh, Kemosabe.’”

My father grew up listening to The Lone Ranger on the radio. So the way they treated Clayton Moore really affected him, which meant we (and many others) didn't go see it. Apparently some of the movie reviewers were the same age as my Dad. The director clearly didn't think that one through. He should have at least figured out that there might be a problem with hiring a non-actor for the lead.
posted by eye of newt at 9:33 PM on July 2, 2013


Oh, and to read it I copied the whole thing into a text editor. I just found a more readable version here.
posted by eye of newt at 9:34 PM on July 2, 2013


I grew up aware of the Lone Ranger, but not someone who really had the opportunity to watch the Lone Ranger. My father, however, grew up loving the Lone Ranger on both the radio and on television; the former at the farm house at his grandparents' place - a place that held and still holds a very emotional importance to him. He seemed genuinely excited when I suggested we go see it when I visit, and so, I'm particularly interested to see how he experiences the new film and if he ever saw this one.

Also, without the Lone Ranger, we would never have had this exchange of dialogue:

Ian: So who are you guys?
Pip: My name's Pip...
Ian: The band. The band name.
Pip: Sorry about that.
Ian: He doesn't wear a helmet, does he?
Chazz: It's right there on the box. Read it.
Ian: (looking at the demo tape's box) The Lone Rangers? That's original. How can you pluralize "The Lone Ranger"?
Chazz: What's wrong with that?
Ian: Well, there's three of you. You're not exactly lone. Shouldn't you be The Three Rangers?

posted by Atreides at 6:56 AM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


The only thing I remember about this movie was seeing the ad for it in Rolling Stone.
posted by freakazoid at 9:02 AM on July 3, 2013


"...However, the horses from the promotional toy line augmented many GI Joe/Star Wars figure escapades."

Yes! The 1981 Lone Ranger movie didn't make much of an impression on me, but the Lone Ranger toys were a big part of my childhood. And it didn't stop there, because the movie publicity inspired other companies to do their own toys, like the Legends of The West. I remember having huge throwdowns between Jesse James, Bat Masterson, the Lone Ranger and Wild Bill Hickok, inevitably involving time travel and an ever escalating war that drew in GI Joe and Cobra. Sometimes toy dinosaurs and my Clash of The Titans figures would also make an appearance. (Never the Star Wars figures, though. They came from a long time ago and far away, and it would have been silly to pair them up with Earth people.)
posted by Kevin Street at 4:58 PM on July 3, 2013


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