These were written over a three year period and only encompass H.T.'s oeuvre up to 1996 when I sort of got sidetracked by life. This accounts for the variances in length, style, what have you. If you want an up-to-date filmography, the internet movie database is pretty on the ball. (The guy just can't stop making go nowhere movies -- you tell me how many of these beauties you've actually seen in the theater.)
Riders of the Purple Sage
I orginally couldn't understand why this movie played at 5:00, 7:00, and 9:00 all on the same evening. I quickly understood why; after the first viewing you're completely lost, the second time the hazy plot becomes a little clearer, and by the third time 'round you're, ahem, actually kind of liking it. Yep, it's a movie based on the Zane Grey classic. Going against all common sense (and decency) they cast Hank Jr. in a major role. And once he gets in his element, does he ever shine!
I've never gone in for all that cowboys and indians jazz, but I got sucked into the storyline once I realized there was one. This is good to watch if you're looking for some majestic scenery or some southpaw sharpshootin' a la Henry, but you're probably not going to experience what was intended with the novel. I know, this is supposed to be a movie review and not a half-assed book report. I'm just letting you know right off the bat that this flick doesn't really do the original story much justice and some of the action depends upon prior knowledge of the western.
This is primarily the story of a head-strong, unwed, Morman, Jane Withersteen and the change that is brought when an infamous gun-slinger by the name of Lassiter (for a physical description of Lassiter, think Cryptmaster) rides into town. Really this isn't a typical western (and I've watched so many), but a chronicle about convictions, inner strength, and yes, deeply repressed passion. You could say that it's a tale of indentity and love that just happens to be set amid a rugged Utah backdrop.
You know things are going to be o.k. when the opening shot is a close-up of Henry's face with a cocked gun up against it. Quick as a wink, he's being strung-up and dragged behind the back of a horse. (Oh my, it sort of puts thoughts into my head that shouldn't be there). H.T. plays Bern Venters, a rag-tag social outcast, who is employed as a rider by Miss Withersteen. His crime is that he's a Gentile and a friend to Jane. This is all implied; never once in the film are the terms Mormon or Gentile used. You just gather that all these men in black suits are religious and intolerant of cute, scrappy boys like Bern.
Fearing for his life and in search of rustlers, Venters heads out into the canyons. This is very bold and dangerous, but it's o.k. 'cause Hank's at his gun-totin', steed-rearin' best. Eventually he meets up with noted rustler, Oldring, and his notorious masked rider. They're a bad bunch, but Bern blows away members of this band of thieves and wounds the masked rider. As this mysterious rustler is wheezing his last breaths, Bern runs over to check out the damage. He looks at the guy's bloody chest and realizes, gasp!, that this baddest of the bad has got boobs! (if that's what you want to call 'em). That mean Henry went and shot a lady and boy does he feel terrible.
To make a long story short, he nurses her back to health and they live like brother and sister in some hidden indian caves for a few months. One of the baffling things is that Bern remains clean shaven and their hair never grows (the other being how Bern tolerates this child/idiot he's decided to shack-up with). According to the book, after Venter's bout with cliff-dwelling he returns to town as a raggedy "wild-man". (The producers probably just naively assumed that a 24 yr. old would be capable of growing body hair and were forced to rewrite at the last minute).
As I said before, this was a time of great repression. We all know that Bern and Bess (the masked rider) have got it bad for each other. They're both being tormented by their secret burning passion. And whew, I was treated to this hot scene where Bern's giving this titless girl a sponge bath and she's babbling feverishly, on the verge of death. What a comfort to know that Hank was there with his big helping hands.
Oh, the focus of the movie is on Jane and Lassiter, not Bern and Bess, but who wants to hear about all that tumultuous business. Henry's role as Venters is closer to Brad Pitt's character in "Legends of the Fall" than the cultured character he played. H.T. can do the rough, living-by-his-own-rules guy fairly well. Clearly, he'll never be a romantic lead, and he still seems more boy than man. But he looks damn fine packing iron and whoop-whooping while riding off into the sunset. Nature loving Hank commented on Calgary, where "Legends" was filmed, "We were out there in God's paradise. No phone calls, no traffic, and mountains off in the distance". Ah, there's nothing finer than a boy and his love of the land.
Fuck yeah! These equines are practically more interesting than the human characters. No one thinks too highly of Wrangle, Bern's fave, but he goes and proves them all wrong. There's a heart-wrenching moment when Bern has to shoot Wrangle in order to kill the rustler who has stolen him. Oh, the injustice and cruelty of the wild west.
No, but a couple of the chracters mentioned having kin in the state of Texas.
No way. Contrary to what you may have heard, real cowboys aren't songbirds. Even Henry was able to abide by this rule.
Hell no. Real cowboys don't have penises. O.k., maybe they have 'em, but only a fruiter would go around talking about them.
But of course. I'm not an authority on the casual wear of 1871, but they had me convinced. All I know is that there weren't any Izods, stonewash, or feathered hair. That's a near miracle for an H.T. flick.
Courtesy of T.N.T. and created by husband and wife duo, Ed Harris and Amy Madigan. What's up with spouses who think they can make TV movies? First this, and then that laughable Gulliver thing with Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen in cahoots.
Oh yes, and was it ever exhilarating. Little Bess is oh so scared of the thunder and lightning. Bern must comfort her and he's suffering terribly because of thse new scary feelings he's having. just read these lines from the book and you'll see what I'm getting at:
Venters prepared for the day, knowing himself a different man.
"It's a glorious morning," said Bess, in greeting.
"Yes. After the storm the west wind," he replied.
"Last night was I--very much of a baby?" she asked watching him.
"Oh, I couldn't help it!"
"I'm glad you were afraid."
"Why? she asked, in slow surprise.
"I'll tell you some day," he answered soberly. Then around the camp-fire and through the morning meal he was silent; afterward he strolled thoughtfully off alone along the terrace. He climbed a great yellow rock raising its crest among the spruces, and there he sat down to face the valley and the west.
"I love her!"
Aloud he spoke--unburdened his heart--confessed his secret. For an instant the golden valley swam before his eyes, and the walls waved, and all about him whiled tumult within.
"I love her!...I understand now."
Indictment: The McMartin Trial
O.k. It's happened again and with circumstances eerily similar to a previous episode. I leave the country on May 10th and this HBO spectacular airs ten days later on the 20th. I was completely oblivious. And from what I've since found out, it appears that the movie was pretty hyped-up. So--if any one of you knew about this and failed to clue me in--you're dead. But guess who did hear about it, saw it twice and neglected to inform me? My pal, Lema, who's becoming notorious for her fibbing and general apathy to my cause. She claims that she was just flipping through the channels the first time and didn't realize what it was. And that the second time was in an Intro to Psychopathology class and that she wasn't paying attention. Well, nice try. For someone who claims not to remember, the amount of superfluous detail she can recall is appalling.
It's based on the 1983 McMartin child molestation case. Supposedly this family-run preschool was a front for satanic abuse and other sexual horrors. Enough evidence was provided through the childrens' stories to convict Ray Buckey (Henry Thomas) and his mother Peggy McMartin Buckey. They always claimed innocence and in 1990 were cleared of all charges. From what I gather it was an intense overacted movie with James Woods (again!) playing Henry's defense lawyer. The reviews I've read are pretty typical--the movie sucks, but Henry's not bad. "Variety" reports, "Thomas all but steals his scenes as the nerdy, bespectacled Ray Buckey". And despite the D+ grade from "Entertainment Weekly" Henry's performance is lauded.
The only interesting details I could coax out of Lema were that Henry was angry through much of the movie, wore prison garb (coveralls again!), was handcuffed, and was spitting and foaming at the mouth. I keep checking to see if they'll replay it, but no luck so far. Amazingly, "Indictment" won best TV movie at the Emmy's so you'd think they'd have to bring it back soon.
P.S. I've seen the movie since I originally wrote this, but I prefer to keep things in their original state. Some choice moments were getting to see Henry reading "Playboy" in bed, watching him sport the perfect molester glasses, and hearing the kids talking about playing "The Naked Movie Star Game" with The Hankster. Henry ended up with a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actor, but he lost to Donald Sutherland.
I don't know, but I don't think so. Maybe Ray gave some of the kids creepy horseback rides though.
The story takes place in California, but who knows where it was actually filmed.
I couldn't see how it would fit in and asked Lema to try and remember. She claims there was some scene where the kids were in music class (of course there wasn't one). It'd be pretty funny to see Hank playing the xylophone or something like that.
Yeah, he was a molester, wasn't he? The kids go into explicit detail about what he made them do. I'd kill to hear it. He also didn't wear underwear and had a stash of girlie mags under his bed. Ooh la la.
Of course. Henry doing the sweater and polo thing from 1983.
What else could it be? I'm crossing my fingers and hoping it makes it to video.
Curse of the Starving Class
I was starting to think that I was the one who'd been cursed with all these cable movie near misses. But my luck soon changed. I was checking out the new releases at American Family Video and, sweet jesus, there was Hank on a cover with a cello! Amazingly, both copies were rented out and I started having a fit. I hadn't been to this tore in over a year because I'd moved out of the neighborhood and some old houseguests turned unwelcome roommates had used my name to rent the embarassing twosome, "Suburbia" and "Slacker" then took their sweet time returning them. So, I had some strikes against me.
In a very socially inept manner, I go up to the counter and start freaking out. My friend, Jessica, suggested the logical, "Why don't you just ask when the movie is due back?". I did, and lo and behold a copy had just been returned minutes ago. Someone must've been pulling for me because as it turns out after five months you account is closed. All I had to do was simply onpen a new one and avoided milions in late fees.
Alright, I've got the movie and have convinced Jessica to watch it with me. (Normally I wouldn't subject another to an unpreviewed H.T. flick, but I'd been temporarily banished from my spot on my mom's couch due to an alcoholic binge from her clean and sober husband). If previews are any indication as to the quality of the main feature, I was nervous. Maybe you remember some movie about Hulk Hogan as a jungle commando trying to rescue his young daughter from some bad guys along with the help of his "Sports Illustrated" swimsuit-model wife, Kathy Ireland. I can't remember the title, but it was part three in a series.
Well, "Curse" opens with Henry lying in bed in a dark room, smoking (left-handedly), delivering a crazy monologue that starts out, "I was lying on my back. I could smell the avocado blossoms. I could hear the coyotes. I could hear stock cars squealing down the street". I knew right then that this movie was going to rule. You may ask, what does Henry actually do in this film? My reply, what doesn't he do?! Here's a brief run down: plays with model airplanes, urinates on his sister's 4-H project, gets pummled (don't worry, he fights back), dances with a maggot-filled lamb while serenading it in a falsetto voice, does a David Byrne impression, wears a cowboy hat and boots, plays the cello, eats toast off the floor, talks about his sister's period, and drives a tractor. Wow! What a guy!
The cast is surprisingly star-studded. Members include Kathy Bates, James Woods (again, the dirty bastard), Randy Quaid, Louis Gossett Jr., plus one unknown dwarf. Everyone knows you can't go wrong with dwarves. Henry plays, Wesley Tate, the oldest son of a very dysfunctional farm family. His character is a main part of the whole movie and he's in just about every scene. I'll try and do a quick plot summary. There's a mother and father and a son and a daughter. The daughter hates her family and wants something better. The son is complacent about his lot in life. The father's an alcoholic who can't hold a job and is always getting swindled in get-rich-quick schemes. The mother is plotting behind her husband's back. Mom and dad are both trying to sell off the farm and land without the other one knowing so they can get money and escape their pathetic lives. Of course much else happens, but it's unexplainable in print.
It's clear that the movie was adapted from a play, and would probably be stronger on a stage. Much of the speaking is in the form of monologues and long conversations which come off forced and hokey. A lot of the lines are supposed to have this underlying deeper meaning, but in this rendition they just make you laugh. The acting is melodramatic at times and tries too hard to be powerful, but that's why it's so entertaining. Jessica and I were laughing so hard we were almost crying. And a handful of scenes were so amusing we had to rewind and watch them again. One of the best parts is where James Woods gets completely naked, curses god, and throws his baseball cap into the air where it is dramatically struck by lightning. The whole time Henry is watching out the window while playing the cello. I almost soiled myself. I don't recommend this film unless you're a hardcore Henry fan or very easily amused. And especially don't watch it with someone who'll take it seriously. During a tender ending scene where Woods and Bates are saying goodbye to each other, I started giggling then looked over to see my mom bawling her head off. This was disturbing (but then, she was crying the other night when Radar had to leave his MASH platoon, so go figure).
If you're a Henry freak like me then this is the definitive film for you (it's been three years since I wrote this and I still agree). It made a convert out of Jessica, causing her to exclaim, "Now I understand why you like him. He's got great shoulders". And he does. He's all dirty and scruffy and beat-up. No one can wear coveralls and boots quite like The Hankster does. If only he looked like this in real life, things would be better.
Less horses than you might think. He's not solo, but taking the backseat on the saddle with his sister holding the reins. I wouldn't mind swapping places with her.
From the play I was under the impression that the story took place in California, but the only license I was able to glimpse in the movie said Nevada. The actual filming, however, was done in Dallas.
I wonder whose bright idea it was to throw in the arbitrary cello business. He is only shown with it twice and no explanation is given and it's totally out of character. I think they were going for some unnecessary zaniness, as it was not a part of the play. What if Hank threw a fit because he'd been making a habit out of showcasing his musical artistry in his films and didn't this to be an exception?
Wesley's mother makes a comment about how he and his grandfather were both circumcized exactly the same. He pees, but you don't really see it. In the stage version, Henry's character gets completely naked and walks around. No such luck in this rendition.
I'd say that this is contemporary setting, but if I wanted to push things I could suggest that maybe the whole thing is timeless. It speaks for all eras and generations.
Despite making it to video, this is clearly a cable production.
Uh huh. James Woods conjured up quite a storm with that nude rampage.
Legends of the Fall
I'll try not to get too heavy into this one because you probably know the premise (and have long since forgotten about it). Three brothers, one woman, and they all love her in this WWI setting in big sky country. I got myself and my sister into a Wednesday matinee for free, so it wasn't like we were paying good money or anything. I just wanted to see Henry's sweet little face and my sister wanted to see Brad Pitt (don't ask me why), and I got emotionally gypped. The movie is like twenty hours long and Samuel Ludlow (Henry) gets his idealistic ass killed in practically the first half hour. So I end up watching Brad cutting hearts out and scalping people and riding his horse all over like some wild thing for the next couple of hours. Samuel is the one who brings the female into the picture as his fiancee and he's the only one who doesn't get to fuck her. You absolutely have to love Henry in this. He's this Harvard educated, virginal, noble, do-gooder with big ears and a crazy grin. When asked by "Seventeen" if his performance would make people cry, Henry replied, "I hope so". Well, I did have to stifle a few laughter induced tears and this is absolutely no reflection on Henry's acting. His death scene was entirely stirring and his singing was nothing but angelic. It sucks though, because Henry doesn't usually get more than his name mentioned in most of the movie reviews. When he is mentioned it's usually some "E.T." remark or something like this from "Entertainment Weekly", "Thomas appears to be visitng from 'Dead Poet's Society'". Ooh, I can't stand Robin Williams. But this guy that I was stalking last year was described by a friend as "if he were a little bigger he'd look like some 'Dead Poet's Society' guy". So at least my taste is consistent. Despite the mixed reviews, there is something disgustingly pleasing about "Legends". There were horses aplenty and a tender musical interlude. All in all, a touching melange of fraternity and frontiermanship.
Fire in the Sky
I have this minor obsession with aliens (I don't so much anymore) and everybody had been telling me to see this movie, especially since it was based on a true story and filmed in the beautiful state of Oregon. I figured that it would be too hokey, but when I found out that Lone Star Thomas was involved I immediately rented it. Now, this movie is pretty hokey, but Henry is at his absolute dreamiest. He plays this 17 year old named Greg, who is one of the five guys involved with this alien abduction. Weirdly enough, the state of Texas is not the setting, but it is one of those period pieces. It takes place in a small Arizona town in the 1970's and Henry's super hot. He's got this shaggy hair with sideburns and wears baseball shirts with Styx and Fleetwood Mac iron-ons. His role is minor and he doesn't say much, which is o.k. because the storyline is pretty lame anyway. Absolutely no horses or singing in this, but don't worry, you'll be so enamoured that you won't even miss them. Maybe he got the role because as a child he'd developed such a strong bond with an extraterrestrial. Actually, in this movie he doesn't even come into contact with the aliens. But on "Unsolved Mysteries" they had the real-life "Fire in the Sky" guys and it turns out that they were all abducted and had just repressed the memory. It's too bad that Henry didn't get to work with aliens again, he probably would've done a darn good job.
A Taste for Killing
You old-timers may remember a blurb on this beauty in "S.C.S." #1. After finally seeing the darn thing, there's nothing very pleasant to add. I won't go into great detail since a taste of this movie is about all a person can stand.
As classy movies often do, this one aired at 2 in the a.m. Now, I regularly stay up 'til around 2 anyway, but by 2:30 I was ready to hit the hay. Maybe I wasn't in the right frame of mind, but Hank just wasn't working his magic on me. How strange, especially since the storyline was pure genius. In a nutshell, this is the story of two rich-kid college grads, Blaine Stoddard III (Jason Bateman) and Cary Sloan (Henry), who for some unknown reason decide to spend their summer before law school working on an off-shore oil rig. Boring premise, right? But throw in a little murder, mayhem, and good-lovin', and you've got yourself a fine USA Network flick (really, there weren't enough tits and ass, making it atypical USA fare).
These city slickers have some trouble fitting in with the rest of the boys. Blaine hooks up with smooth-talking, trouble-making, Beau. And Cary sets his sights on the only female (who's like some 40 yr. old truck driver), Tess. See, Cary's sweet and idealistic (Henry's trademark character) and Blaine's immoral and corrupt. A few days after a confrontation between Blaine and the mean boss, Elray, the boys take off on a wild drunken spree with Beau. Then they meet up again with Elray in some trailer park bordello and Beau beats Elray to death with a 2x4. Really, the boys should've then called the police, turned him in, and that would be the end of the whole, pathetic movie. But of course Beau convinces them that the crime would be pinned on them since they had a fight a few days before. The rest of the movie just goes on and on with Beau blackmailing them and doing supposedly creepy things like flirting with Blaine's fiancee and showing up unexpectedly wherever the kids are. Scary. The only thing that even comes close to being freaky are the characters' wardrobes, but I'll touch on that in a bit.
Finding anything of interest in this film was an exercise in tolerance. The barrage of 1-800-431-GIRL, Partnership For a Drug Free America ads interspersed every ten minutes were more entertaining. Fortunately, there were some tender scenes that I fully enjoyed. At one point Cary and Tess walk through a tree-lined path while he woefully reminisces, "So I come home and there's this shirt at the bottom of the staircase. A little farther up there's a sweater, and they all belong to this--well, my girlfriend. And so anyway, I follow the trail...bra, panties, a slip--they led right to my bedroom door. And so of course I opened the door. And there she is all right. My dad's right on top of her. I just wanted to kill him." Your typical prep school angst. But I do admire how Henry always gets to say "panties" in his movies. And though the scene was corny as heck, H.T. was looking like a cute 12 yr. old (he was 21). Seriously. He was wearing a giant, orange t-shirt with flags all over it that practically came down to his knees and with arms reaching all the way to the elbow. Think dorky middle-schooler, and you'll have the right idea. His whole look baffled me, but I'm not criticizing, he wore it well.
Another thrilling scene occurs when Blaine and Cary have it out on some desolate railroad tracks and Blaine pops Cary in the face, knocking him down. Cary shuffles off, deflated, hitchiking in the dark until he reaches the waiting arms of the only one who cares, Tess. The only disappointing thing was that Journey's "Separate Ways" wasn't playing in the background. But getting punched out by a friend and then having sex with a co-worker is a beautiful thing, regardless.
The movie gets pretty monotonous, but Blaine causes some excitement. He gets all hopped up on dope, then gets stabbed and thrown down a chute. Finally. Then for like the next 40 minutes, Beau chases Cary all over a scaffolding 'til a helicopter comes to the rescue. It all ends with Cary saying good-bye to his mom, hoping into a jeep, and riding off into the sunset with his new surrogate mother.
This may well be the worst Henry video of all time. At least that's what I thought until I got a lod of him in action on cable access. No joke. (Some time soon, you'll be rewarded with a glimpse into the real Henry Thomas.)
Techinically, no. But I bet that when Cary and Tess were doin' it he almost felt like he was riding an old gray mare.
In the extreme. The oil rig is in Texas City, which sounds like a fishy, made-up name to me. What do I know. However, their permanent residences are in Houston.
No. Henry's songbird privileges must've been revoked. But it's o.k. because there's this real cool party scene with a Huey Lewis and the News-esque band rocking out in a gazebo.
No. Henry's a little pussy. He has the opportunity to fuck a prostitute in a mobile home and the silly boy turns it down. "That's not my idea of a good time." You'd better take it wherever you find it, Hank.
Good god, yes. And unintentionally so, once again. If these boys were really rich, I don't get why they were wearing clothes from Mervyn's 1998 fall collection. I mean baggy suit-jackets and topsiders are pretty rad, but enough's enough. The ultimate was an ending scene showing Cary's room complete with a Cure poster from 1985 (it's a shame that I actually know facts like that). Let me guess--courtesy of Henry's personal collection.
There's just no beating the USA Network.
Yep, predictably placed at the murderous climax.