August 31, 2008

Reviewed by Rob Klein

I was huge fan of The Legend of the Lone Ranger as a kid. I have fond memories of the 1981 feature film, though I have never seen it…until now. To my knowledge this film had only been released once in the early 80s, when the world of video was new and innocent. I don’t recall ever seeing it on laser disc, or surely I would have had it in my $10,000.00-plus-investment laser disc archive, now worthless. (Hey, I guess owning an official Japanese release of the controversial and never to be released again in America laser of Disney’s Song of the South makes the collection worth something.) All I originally knew about The Legend of the Lone Ranger came from the 1980’s action figure line, with characters and accessories produced by Gabriel toys, and the schoolyard tale that the true legend of The Legend of the Lone Ranger was that the Lone Ranger’s voice in the film was overdubbed. Oddly after a few moments watching the film, I could tell his voice was not the only voice replaced, as one of the Indians sounded like Sean Penn…give me a break.

The Lone Ranger was played by Klinton Spilsbury who is just dashing, and resembles a Bonnie and Clyde-era Warren Beatty. Klinton – I’m going to call him Klint, – sadly never appeared in another film. Having his voice overdubbed couldn’t have been very easy or satisfying for him, though he is not the first actor to have this happen. Spilsbury should look to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s voice in Hercules or Mel Gibson’s in Mad Max for emotional support. Overdubbing Splisbury’s voice obviously did not help matters, as the film couldn’t even generate its initial costs back due to unanimous thumbs-down reviews. Perhaps this negative press kept moviegoers away, as it was common knowledge that his voice was overdubbed and even a kid at the age of ten was aware of it.

The support of Christopher Lloyd as the Lone Ranger’s archenemy Butch Cavendish or Jason “Something Wicked This Way Comes” Robards did not help put butts in theater seats. Maybe it was because Lloyd was unknown and yet to appear as “Doctor Emmett Brown” in the Back to the Future films, which no doubt is his crowning achievement, and the ultimate action figure worthy role. Strangely, he has an action figure for his Lone Ranger character, and none to this date for Doc Brown…it’s a wacky world!

I would imagine those who are hard-core fans of The Lone Ranger would support Clayton Moore’s black and white serial over this feature film version. It’s hard kicking The Legend of the Lone Ranger, but unfortunatly, the film starts off way too slow, and there are no gun fights 15 minutes into the film, and still no Ranger. Far too few redeeming qualities, along with a real corny approach make it hard to keep with it. There is even a narrator singing and talking throughout the film. This is a movie, not a radio drama: show us, don’t tell us. Isn’t the Lone Ranger the Batman of the Wild West? What opportunity; the flash of the powder blue suit, the black boots, tight pants, shiny chrome six-shooters in a double-gun belt rig and the iconic silver bullets…so lets see em’. Does this film qualify in the so-bad-it’s-good category? Not really, its just sort of there, and I am sure you would want to keep it that way as in… keep it over there, we are not going to watch this tonight, or in fact maybe never again.

On an up-note, The Legend of the Lone Ranger has one great story regarding its production, though it is not told in any connection to this DVD. Stunt man legend Terry Leonard was severely injured during a sequence where he went underneath a runaway carriage being pulled by a team of horses; the horses and wagon ran over Leonard. Luckily he healed quickly enough to make film history a few short months later to perform the famous Indiana Jones “under the Nazi truck” sequence in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

This DVD release features 1:33:1 full screen aspect ratio, not even wide-screen in a wide screen dominated age. Oh yeah, and this disc contains no bonus features, which is no surprise. I guess the film alone is the bonus feature. Speaking of Raiders of the Lost Ark in connection with this movie, the line “don’t look at it Marion” comes to mind.

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