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Plot: The true story of the formation of the Lonesome Dove Church in Texas.
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The Good, the Bad, and the Holy!!!
Oscar-nominated actor Tom Berenger of “Platoon” fame plays a paunchy circuit riding preacher in “Dawn Rider” director Terry Miles’ antebellum western “Lonesome Dove Church” who wants to start afresh after he embarks on a search for his wayward son. John Shepherd is prompted to find his son because another irate preacher shows him a wanted poster with Isaac Shepherd’s image on it with a bounty for $500. All of this came about as a consequence of John preaching against slavery. This brief moment in this western places it as an antebellum oater. Later, after the movie concludes, we learn that the church that John set out to establish in Grapevine, Texas, was started in 1846. John’s son Isaac (Greyston Holt of “See No Evil 2”) is a stagecoach robber. His partner Dutch (Geoff Gustafson of “The Interview”) and he hold up a four-horse drawn coach at the outset and ride off. They allow an accountant (Noel Johansen of “Primary”) live after they have gunned down everybody else defending the stagecoach. They mention a man named Henley, but this dastard doesn’t spring up until later when he captures Isaac for the first time. Anyway, John’s second wife Nancy decides to leave him since he is gallivants off on a wild goose chase around the countryside in search of his depraved son. Eventually, John finds Isaac and helps him escape from Henley’s gunmen. One of the most suspenseful scenes occurs when John is driving a wagon and Isaac is concealed in the bed under the tarp. Two gunmen at a gateway stop and question them. John explains that he is a preacher, and one of the gunmen who takes John’s Bible. To determine if John is a genuine preacher, the man demands that he quote a Bible verse from Matthew. Initially, John looks pained while Isaac cowers beneath the tarp with his pistol cocked. Happily, John quotes the passage perfectly and they are allowed to ride out. Henley (Alex Zahara of “Open Range”) searches for Isaac because he killed his son. As it turns out, Henley is a minister, too, but he is also a ruthless villain who leads women down the path of debauchery, making them use opium. He doesn’t like it when his men don’t perform up to snuff for him. Indeed, he shoots them on the spot without a qualm.
Mind you, this is a quasi-religious western because John wants to start a church. Nevertheless, John and Isaac get involved in several gunfights along the way to Grapevine. Miles stages his shoot-outs as if he watched Sam Peckinpah oaters. The action occurs in slow-motion, and you can see blood erupt from the bullet wounds. The tree-clad, mountainous, British Columbia scenery is suitably austere, and the cinematography is evocative. Historically, the firearms are post 1850s, but it is a neglitable price to pay for its lack of authenticity. Most period westerns produced today by small companies, “Hell to Pay” for example, are atrocious. “Lonesome Dove Church” qualifies as far above average, only the inaccurate firearms detract from the well-made film. Everything else is laudable, and Berenger is believable as a feet-of- clay minister. Religious movies for the most part not my favorites, but I found this one easy to watch. Thiekle doesn’t shove religion down your throat. The last shoot-out evokes memories of the Henry Hathaway sagebrusher “5 Card Stud” where evil preacher Dean Martin brandished a revolver concealed in a hollowed out Bible. Ostensibly, I don’t believe that this western has anything to do with Simon Wincer’s TV mini-series “Lonesome Dove” (1989) that co-starred Robert Duvall & Tommy Lee Jones. Quite possibly, “Lonesome Dove Church” is the best western in a spell.
Original Language en
Runtime 1 hr 29 min (89 min)
Genre History, Western
Director Terry Miles
Writer Joseph Nasser, Bob Thielke
Actors Tom Berenger, Greyston Holt, Alex Zahara
Production Company N/A
Sound Mix N/A
Aspect Ratio N/A
Film Length N/A
Negative Format N/A
Cinematographic Process N/A
Printed Film Format N/A