29 June 2013

Riding the Rails and the Range

After last week's desperate measures, this week has proven to be somewhat of a golden gateway for UK terrestrial television. Series 1 of  Hell on Wheels is crossing our screens with a good head of steam.

I was in New Mexico when I first caught episodes of this tale of building a railway across the continent after the Civil War: revenge, racism, intimidation, mysogeny, graft... the story of everyday folk, all carrying a lot of emotional baggage. It'll be interesting to see if the multiple storylines rise above their basic descriptions.

John Ford's The Searchers certainly managed to, and still does nearly 60 years after it was made (1956), despite this week's TV guide's crass description of John Wayne's character as being in a "relentless search for his young niece". Watch the movie, mate. It didn't gather its 5 stars merely for the spectacular filming in Monument Valley. And while you're at it, read the book by Alan le May. A riveting use of colloquial speech.

The Searchers was, in fact, my first view of Monument Valley in both photograph and on screen. It made a great impression, so much so that when my young eyes laid sight on a map of the Southwest I traced not only its features but its names: Painted Desert, Mexican Hat, Vermilion Cliffs, Gila Wilderness, Grand Canyon. The surprise is that it took me so long to visit them.

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