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West Virginia related films

November 23, 2009
By Tony Rutherford
PSYCHOTRONIC WEST VIRGINIA FLICKS

(Taking its name from the flick, “Psychotronic Man,” this genre represents low budget independent horror and spaghetti western exploitation movies that are obscure, quirky and underappreciated)

• Teenage Strangler: The original Huntington High, former mayor Harold Frankel, a sock hop, and a serial killer combine in a campy spoof of horror films. Shot entirely in Huntington, the film came in shorter than planned after a reel was lost during shipping. It had a world premiere at the Tri-State Drive In and a retro premiere about a generation later at the Keith Albee. It’s available on Amazon.com. Shot in 1964 by Clark W. Davis (then an executive with WHTN TV), “Strangler” is considered the first independent film shot in the Mountain State. Prior to the proliferation of VHS, I remember that Greater Huntington Theatre Corp. president Jack Hyman contacted Davis to allow me to borrow his personal 16mm print of the production. 

• Paradise Park (A.K.A. Heroes of the Heart): West Virginia State University filmmaker Daniel Boyd tells the story of poor folk living at a West Virginia trailer park each with a reoccurring fantasy that will improve their lives. Cameo appearances by Johnny Paycheck, T. Graham Brown, Porter Wagoner and Wrestler Dusty Rhodes.

• Lost Love: Shot in Nitro and Charleston in 1995, filmmaker David Claypool dips into porno and snuff film communities to tell a story about murdering a flower girl and turning her into a giant puppet. Steve Fesenmaier claims this is one of the most explicit and perverse films he has seen. The West Virginia Library Commission has what may be the only public copy.

• Captured Alive: Here’s one of those stereotypes in full bloom: Passengers flying from Pittsburgh to Atlanta are shot down by a real Civil War cannon and must face West Virginia outbackers who turn them into toxic waste slaves. 

NO DRUMS, NO BUGLES/WHEN THE LINE GOES THROUGH

• Burning Annie: Shot a year before “We Are Marshall” and Warner Bros. brought big-budget filmmaking to Huntington, this indie told of a nerdy college student coping with the frustration of not landing a girlfriend. Oh, and he’s obsessed with Woody Allen’s “Annie Hall,” the ultimate relationship movie. Scenes shots in Drinko Library, WMUL Radio, Memorial Student Center, Jim’s Restaurant, Java Joint (the old location) and others. 

MAINSTREAMERS SHOT IN OR PARTIALLY IN WEST VIRGINIA

• Fool’s Parade: Written by state native David Grubb, James Stewart, George Kennedy, Strother Martin, Anne Baxter and Kurt Russell star in a 1930s period picture which was shot in Moundsville in 1971. Three ex-cons led by a glass-eyed Stewart attempt to open a general store, but a villainous religious fanatic played by George Kennedy wants them stopped. Catch Anne Baxter as a patriotic prostitute; Kurt Russell in a non-Disney early role.

• Night of the Hunter: Moundsville in 1955 got a taste of Tinsel Town noir with such stars as Robert Mitchum, Shelly Winters, and Lillian Gish featured in a tale that depicts depravity amongst the poverty of rural areas during the Depression. Rev. Harry Powell (Mitchum) plays a demented preacher who marries and murders.

• Deer Hunter: My first trip to a motion picture set was a glimpse of this shoot in Mingo Junction, Ohio, just across from Wheeling. The steel plant served as a backdrop for this 1979 Oscar winning production. When I visited, it was a hot summer day, but the script called for snow. Extras walked back and forth in steaming parkas and gloves while the real action occurred inside a tiny bar where Robert DeNiro was shooting. Group accompanying me had car troubles, so we arrived late. DeNiro did not do autographs, but when my frustrated, normally quiet and mousey girlfriend shouted in his face about the car trouble, he looked at me and said, “Do you have a pen?”

• Reckless: Adrian Quinn and Daryl Hannah in a wrong side of the tracks team romance shot in and around Ohio /Hancock County in 1983. Filmmakers must have liked “Deer Hunter” because they returned to Mingo Junction, as well as Wheeling, Weirton and New Cumberland, Stubenville and New Cumberland, Ohio, and Pittsburgh, Pa. Cemetery scene shot in Wheeling; see Old Route 2 in the finale.

• Sweet Dreams: A biography of Grand Ole’ Opry singer Patsy Cline contains scenes shot in Martinsburg. Jessica Lange stars as the ill-fated singer who perishes in a plane crash.

• Matewan: Legendary director John Sayles used abandoned towns in the New River Gorge to double for Matewan. One of those ghost towns, Thumond, had in reality been the location of one of five branches for the Baldwin-Felts Detectives who fought to prevent mine unionization. David Strathaim (who played MU’s president in “We Are Marshall”) played a police chief in this one. Crew set up and trekked back and forth from a motel outside Beckley during the 1987 shoot.

NOT SHOT IN WEST VIRGINIA

• Mothman Prophecies: This 2002 Richard Gere film explores the legendary Mothman creature that is a Point Pleasant urban legend. Filmmakers shot entirely in Pennsylvania; they did not shoot a scene in West Virginia.

• October Sky: Homer Hickam grew up in West Virginia as a coal miner’s son dreaming of firing rockets into outer space after Russia Sputnik was launched. Tennessee stood in for the Mountain State throughout.

• Patch Adams: Unorthodox physician played by Robin Williams uses humanitarian clowning as a weapon for healing, along with alternatives. The real life doc has land in West Virginia where he operates the Gesundheit! Institute, which has now treated 15,000 patients without medical insurance or payment. Film states that a free hospital has been built. Not.

• Wrong Turn: Although the third sequel arrives soon, the desolate West Virginia woods theme also worked its way into “Silent Hill,” and even a scene for Jodie Foster’s “Silence of the Lambs.” Infamously, “Wrong Turn” continues perpetuating the disfigured inbreds with redneck thinking and cannibalistic tendencies represent their idea of road kill. To be honest, aside from Texas, these stereotypical killers have roamed New Jersey and, of course, the Deep South too. Shot in Canada by Summit (“Twilight Saga”) Entertainment. Let’s start a grassroots campaign that after enduring three “Wrong Turn” labels, they should bring Belle and the vampires to the Mountain State for a shoot.Matewan: Legendary director John Sayles used abandoned towns in the New River Gorge to double for Matewan. One of those ghost towns, Thumond, had in reality been the location of one of five branches for the Baldwin-Felts Detectives who fought to prevent mine unionization. David Strathaim (who played MU’s president in “We Are Marshall”) played a police chief in this one. Crew set up and trekked back and forth from amotel outside Beckley during the 1987 shoot.



Contact Tony at trutherford@graffitiwv.com
 
 

 

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